Saturday, October 16, 2010

Arizona Corporation Commission

Hello my legions of followers (ha!) I know you are not used to me waxing political, but, for the next couple of weeks, I am doing a political series. Why? Because I think voting is important, I want to provide some insight for my fellow voters in AZ. I have decided that as I go through my ballot, I will post blog entries on my decisions on who to vote for. Take it or leave it. I am a registered Democrat, and an elected Precinct Committeeman in Legislative District 20, so keep that in mind. I do have a bias, but ultimately, I want to elect officials who will do the job, and do it well. These are my candid opinions, do with them what you will. This blog post is my summary of the Arizona Corporation Commission.

What Is The Corporation Commission?

Article 15 of the Arizona Constitution establishes the Arizona Corporation Commission. Only 7 states have constitutionally formed Commissions. Arizona is one of only 13 states with elected Commissioners. In the 37 other states, Commissioners are appointed by either the governor or the legislature.

In most states, the Commission is known as the Public Service Commission or the Public Utility Commission. Our Commission, however, has responsibilities that go beyond traditional public utilities regulation. These additional roles include facilitating the incorporation of businesses and organizations, securities regulation and railroad/pipeline safety.

By virtue of the Arizona Constitution, the Commissioners function in an Executive capacity, they adopt rules and regulations thereby functioning in a Legislative capacity, and they also act in a Judicial capacity sitting as a tribunal and making decisions in contested matters.

What are it's term limits?

Officials elected to the Corporation Commission serve a four year term, as determined by the Arizona State Constitution, Article 15, Section 1.

How many people make up the Corporation Commission?

There are five members of the Corporation Commission.

What are the qualifications for this office?

There are none.

How does partisanship play out for the commission?

It would seem that because of the ability to regulate industry, politicians that favor business may be swayed to work in favor of the companies at the expense of the consumer. Inevitably we have to pay the rates, so this is an important office. It means your bills can go up or down depending on who you vote for, and the type of energy available to you (renewable, etc.) will be determined by your vote here.

Why do I care about this office?

I care about the environment. I also do not want my bills to go through the roof, and I believe that when I have a choice of utility providers, meaning COMPETITION in the market, this will provide better rates. I feel that consumers of energy have a responsibility to help pay for it's cost, including chipping in a bit for Research and Development. The Corporation Commission is one legislative body that can do more than many others to get the ball moving on renewable energy. It is my opinion that we need a little risk taking to make that happen, and someone who will stand up to corporations. I think that it is important to be well versed in business and industry to sit on this commission, I feel that energy does not have to have such a high environmental cost.

Terms to note:

RES - Renewable Energy Standard, which in short mandates that 15% of Arizona's energy be generated from renewable sources by the year 2025. You can read more about this here:

A good FAQ with a little more information on the Commission can be found here:

Also, if you have time, give a listen to KJZZ's coverage: - Republicans - Democrats

Meet the Candidates

My method for assessing the candidates and gathering information is as follows (in this order):

  1. I watched the Clean Elections Debates:
  2. I read the candidate statements:
  3. I looked at the candidate endorsements to see who
  4. I did a google search to get a sense of what people on either side of the aisle were saying about the candidates.

Below is my take on each candidate, and finally, how I am voting for this position.

Brenda Burns (R)

Endorsements: AZ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, NRA, John McCain, The rest you can find here:

Clean Elections Debate Summary

Brenda is a former state legislator who states her accomplishments as regulatory reform, former house Majority Leader and former Senate President. Brenda feels it is important to ensure that the industry has a reasonable rate of return, and the commission should look out for the employees of the companies. She would like to work with the legislature on overlapping issues to provide stability to the industry. Brenda would like to explore deregulation to have free market principles, but wants to be cautious to avoid harming the rate payers or companies. She agrees with RES and feels it is important to keep the energy diversified. Brenda thinks nuclear should be pursued and would listen to the company's recommendations on nuclear. She feels that nuclear can be considered renewable. Most important issue facing the commission: Planning for the future to provide energy needs at lowest possible rates

My opinion: Brenda consistently discusses her concern for the energy companies and mentions deferring to them on several issues, I am a little uncomfortable with that. Her endorsements include several business advocacy organizations and industry players. While I think that the Corporation Commission should work with energy companies to provide Arizonans the best rates and service, they should be independent thinkers. I respect the fact that she disagreed with Barry Wong (who THANKFULLY did not make it through the Republican primary) using the utility companies as a form of immigration law enforcement. In the articles that I read online. Burns is respectful in her disagreements and does not make inflammatory statements or derogatory commentary in a hard partisan manner. She stands on the merits of her own accomplishments and leaves it to the voters to decide what party they would like to represent them. I thought this article was a good summary of where she stands:

David Bradley (D)

Endorsements: Sierra Club, AFL-CI to name a few, the rest you can find on the main page of the candidates website

Clean Elections Debate Summary

David Bradley's focus is on developing clean energy standards and planning ahead for growth. He wants to push new industry standards to facilitate green industry growth. David feels that the Commission should not defer to the legislature and thinks it should set the tone, and then work with the legislature. He Agrees with RES, and does not think that nuclear energy is a good investment, it is too unstable. He states that the projects using it have gone over budget and that rate and tax payers would bear the burden. He feels the most important issue facing the commission is planning for the future and jobs.

My Opinion

I really like that Bradley consistently articulates his desire to use the Commission to champion exploration into new forms of energy, instead of relying on finite resources. In some instances he is a little overzealous in his desire to cut out the legislature, it is unrealistic to think that the Corporation Commission can make any strides toward change without having them onboard. Bradley speaks knowledgably about the issues facing Arizona including planning for future growth and the importance of ensuring that considerations are made when communities are built, not just afterward. A good article to read:

Gary Pierce (R)

Endorsements: AZ Chamber of Commerce, AZ Right to Life, Arizona Realtors Association to name a few, endorsements are not listed on his site. Google it.

Clean Elections Debate Summary

Pierce is the only incumbent on the ticket. He is a former small business owner and former AZ House Representative. He feels that the role of the Commission is to push agenda items and do rate making. Pierce thinks that the Commission should work with legislature on overlapping issues, and help them implement policies. He stated that utilities have a fixed cost no matter if they are deregulated. Pierce agrees that RES is a good idea. He believes renewable energy, starting out, needs a tariff to offset the cost of infrastructure, research and development as long as the cost does not increase out a reasonable range. Pierce states that line extension should be a compromise between the company and the consumer, local generation of power would benefit both parties. He feels that the most important issue facing the commission is keeping rates low to encourage economic development.

My Opinion: I think that Gary Pierce is well versed in the legalese of the Corporation Commission and has a firm grasp on the important issues that should be addressed. Gary Pierce is the only candidate on the ticket who resorted to party bashing in his statement, he uses the term "Obama-ites" to refer to his opposition, and in articles I found online, threatened to cut off power to Los Angeles (who gets 25% of their power from Arizona) when they boycotted the state over SB1070 ( I have no issue with people disagreeing, however, politicians should be respectful and recall that they represent a diverse constituency and should not alienate the people who they are supposed to represent. I don't think that the Corporation Commission should be used for political grandstanding, stick to it's charter, deliver energy at a reasonable cost.

Jorge L. Garcia (D) - Deceased 10/15/2010

My prayers go out to his family. Out of respect, I will refrain from providing my analysis of this candidate.

Rick Fowlkes (L)

Endorsements: I could not find any except for 2008 (when Fowlkes ran as a Republican)

Clean Elections Debate Summary

Fowlkes has an MBA from ASU and is a Structural Engineer by profession. He states that he has industry experience in the areas the commission regulates and wants to bring competition to the electric power provider slate. Fowlkes feels that it is most important look out for the rate payers and thinks that industry should not have monopoly status. One of his primary goals, if elected, would be to end the monopoly system for electric power industry in this state. He states that the legislature should work with the Commission, and reminds voters that the Legislature has already acted to end the monopoly system, but the commission has not followed through. Fowlkes feels that industry is rewarded for being inefficient. He thinks that competition will hold down rates better than the Corporation Commission can. He has done over 30 projects with solar, disagrees with RES because of tariffs, and thinks nuclear energy is more economic and should be considered, as well as hydro electric. Fowlkes considers nuclear to be a legitimate alternative to fossil fuels, and nuclear should be considered in the 15% for RES. Fowkles thinks that offline power generation should be considered in rural Arizona. He feels that the most important issue facing the commission is to end the monopoly system and bring about competition.

My Opinion

I am an engineer by profession, and thus, have a great deal of respect for Mr. Folkwes because he is not a career politician. He has really studied this material, and is passionate about making important changes. I do not like that he such a champion for nuclear energy. While I understand that over time, the cost of nuclear (in dollars) levels and becomes cheaper, the cost in the grand scheme is not worth it to me.

The other two

You'll notice on your ballot that there are two other candidates from the Green party: Theodore Gomez and Benjamin Pearcy. For those of you who follow Arizona politics, you will chuckle, because you will remember the controversy. The story goes that they were recruited by "Republican Party operatives" to "steal votes from the Democrats. " I have no opinion on the matter, however, Neither has a web site, and it is difficult to find ANY information on them. Their statements in the clean elections guide are summarized as such:

Pearcy: "I am a musician, not a politician"

Gomez: "We are homeless and live on Mill Ave"

That's all I have to say about that.

My Conclusions

During the debates, none of the candidates discussed new technologies for enabling consumers to monitor their energy use or incentives for builders to include infrastructure that will allow them to do so. I think that the Corporation Commission should try harder to engage the rate payers around taking accountability for energy use and educating them on effective ways of saving energy. Now, the good part, who am I voting for?

David Bradley and Rick Fowlkes.

Why? I respect Brenda Burns and any of my Republican friends who choose to vote for her have my stamp of approval, however, I am cautious about her constant mention of deference to the industry. I would never vote for Gary Pierce. While I do believe he is good at what he does, I think that the reason why so much does NOT get done in this country is because of the divisive practices in the two-party system. How can you sit down to work at a table of people who you publicly disrespect and alienate. I do not have a problem with anyone expressing their belief system, but in any other job interviewing process, would it be your strategy to bad mouth all of the other candidates in order to make yourself look good? No. You would do your best to represent who you are and what you stand for, and keep anyone else out of it. I am very tired of people who have no respect for their leadership and practice fear mongering and division. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. I hope it helps you!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding

I have been reading in the book of Proverbs lately, and since I write as I read, I thought I would share my musings from a few days ago.

There are three terms used distinctively throughout, and although I know what they mean, I wanted to understand the nuance, so I went to my handy dandy New International Webster' s Standard Dictionary (I don't read with my computer on):

knowledge - Information or awareness gained from study or experience
wisdom - An accumulated body of knowledge
understanding - comprehension, the ability to retain knowledge

I wrote these down, because of this verse: Proverbs 3:19
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding established heaven

I really wanted to dissect this to better understand and apply it to my life. This is a hidden gem. I can best explain my thoughts using engineering as a metaphor. I can learn math and science and the rules that govern them, how to apply those equations and in so doing, solve them. There are plenty of things that I can construct in my life simply by learning, but until I comprehend, until I internalize, until I do more than gather information and apply rules, I will never produce anything divine.

When you know an equation, you can solve problems, but when you can derive the formula because you comprehend the underlying concepts that the equation is based on, you can discover. Look at Newton, Einstein, Edison..all of the great scientists and mathematicians didn't just apply equations, they wanted to comprehend them. They sought to gain a deeper understanding so that they could deconstruct the mysteries. When that happened, they made transformative discoveries that revolutionised not only their lives, but the lives of countless others!

My take away in short: To learn is earthly, but to comprehend is divine. To approach life based on an accumulated body of knowledge will get me only so far. I tend to be something of a"jack of all trades," learning a little about a lot of things. This can be both good and bad. I am going to choose one thing that I love, and fully commit to creating something...divine! When I do, I will share that with you, and maybe, it will change our lives.

Monday, July 5, 2010

On Reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

I am not a crier. Not at movies, and certainly not at books. The first and last time a book made me cry was in the second grade, when I was reading "Where the Red Fern Grows." This is significant, because while reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," I was brought to the verge of tears at least three times. Every now and then, a story comes along that is so powerful, that you cannot believe you didn't know about it; such is the story of Henrietta Lacks.

The Immortal Life tells the story of the HeLa cells, the most widely used cell line in medical research, and the woman, Henrietta Lacks, who was the donor. She was a poor African American woman who developed cervical cancer in the 1950s and went to the Johns Hopkins hospital for treatment. A sample of her tumor was provided to medical researchers without her knowledge or consent, and the cells go on to live forever in infamy, while she dies, largely in obscurity. Through the telling of this story, by author Rebecca Skloot, we find out the effects that the death of Henrietta and the immortal life of her cells have on her family. I will not go into great detail about the particulars of this book because I think everyone should put it on their reading list, but I will share with you why it made me cry.

In the afterward of the book, Skloot discloses the question she is most frequently asked when talking about Henrietta Lacks, "Don't Doctors have to tell you when they use your cells in research?" The answer is no.

Earlier this year, I found a lump in my left breast. It wasn't of much concern to me, I had found what turned out to be a cyst in my right the year before, but upon ultrasound of this one, the report stated: "Intermediate suspicion of malignancy, biopsy advised." When I read that, my heart skipped a beat. There is a history of breast cancer in my family, and although I do everything in my power to lead a lifestyle that will minimize my risk, it is something I am acutely aware of. When Henrietta suspects that something is not quite right, and performs a self examination, I recall tracing my fingers across my breast in the familiar pattern. In the section of the novel when Henrietta is being tested and is later diagnosed, I could feel a connection with her, spanning the 60 years between her appointment and mine, and her anxiety was mine.

When Henrietta's cervix was biopsied and a tissue sample given to the researchers I was bothered. Something didn't feel right. Skloot explains this in the afterward:

When you go to the doctor for a routine blood test or to have a mole removed, when you have an appendectomy, tonsillectomy or any other kind of ectomy, the stuff you leave behind doesn't always get thrown out. Doctors, hospitals and laboratories keep it, often indefinitely.
She goes on to say that oftentimes, the paperwork you sign prior to a procedure has a section buried in the fine print discussing what may be done with your discarded tissues post procedure. The procedure I had done, was as follows:

Ultrasound Needle Core Biopsy - An ultrasound needle core biopsy is a biopsy taken with a needle that is introduce into the breast by guiding the needle into the mass that was picked up on an ultrasound (sonogram). The radiologist will numb the area, put the needle into the skin of the breast and launch the needle into the mass under direct vision. The radiologist will show you how the needle enters the mass on the monitor. The needle is fired and tissue is retrieved, so-called core tissues, and this tissue is sent out to the pathologist for a reading on whether it is cancerous or not.

When I had my biopsy, they took 5 samples. It was an emotional procedure on many levels. I don't live in the same state as my immediate family. I had spoken with my mother on the phone, but she couldn't be there with me, the nurse was the woman who held my hand. I tried not to think about my grandmother's mastectomy or my aunt's death, but those ghosts haunted me as I waited the week it took to receive results. The tissue that was removed was an intimate part of me, and the idea that a researcher could just take it without my knowledge was disturbing. I pulled out my paperwork and tried to see what I had signed away, what did I give permission to someone to do with my samples? I couldn't find anything.

As the story of Henrietta unfolded through Skloot's journey, my heart went out to the family, but especially to this woman, an unsung hero who unknowingly gave her life to save millions. Her cells were responsible for the vaccine for polio, numerous studies on cancer research, yet ironically her children could not even pay for basic healthcare. I was reminded that it is sometimes easy to dissociate the human element from clinical research, but there is a person behind those stem cells, there is an anonymous name behind many of the medical advances we take for granted. How many other stories exist, how many Henriettas? This was a story that needed to be told.

While Henrietta's tumor was an aggressive cancer that eventually killed her, the autopsy brought me to tears, my mass was thankfully benign. I don't know Henrietta, I don't know her family, but I feel forever connected to her and I am not the same person for having read this book. I thank God for her sacrifice, and I will donate to the foundation set up in her honor to assist African Americans seeking to pursue a degree in medical science.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Faintest Ink

I have a general policy of surrounding myself with people who are positive, uplifting, and challenge me to be a better person. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge a friend of mine who has reinvigorated my relationship with books. First, I must give a little background on how this love affair all started with a librarian, also known as, my mother.

As a child, my idea of a fantastic weekend was to have the privilege of accompanying my mother to work at the various libraries where she was employed throughout my youth. I can recall spending hours upon hours with stacks of books, hungrily devouring the pages, sometimes reading through the night to find out how it all ended. My mother had to take away my books to get me to sleep. In recent years, my reading list has tended to outpace my ambition. I slowed to perhaps a book every other month then along came

When you live with a librarian, you take for granted the continuous stream of good book recommendations, new releases and glowing reviews, so I was delighted when my friend, announced his plan to launch a site dedicated to collective reading. I may not always be on track with the reading schedule, well lets face it I usually read the books a month after everyone else, but I know that when I get around to it the reading lists will be available and the forums are ready and waiting for my thoughts. I am currently mulling over Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita which, in short I will say, is a beautiful monstrosity. I will close with the quote gracing the front page of

The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.
My friend, thank you for tatooing your ink, I am better for it, and better for knowing you.

Next up: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A dress story

I have a dress in my closet. It was gifted to me by my sister, who inherited it from my mother. So this dress, which started in the 70s has found new life in 2010.

My Aunt sent me a couple of pictures of my mother in her youth a few months ago, and I was just tickled to see my mother wearing THE dress in the photo. I sent a photo of me in the dress to my Auntie! Her response:

is it??..... Could it really be..?? .... the same dress??
When was this picture of you taken? If it is the same dress, it held up very well! Do you still have it?
Did you know that it was I who took young Brenda, California Xmas shopping the day the dress found its way into her life? In fact, I only agreed to her having the ensemble because it came with the matching sweater... for a little cover up. :-) I didn't want your grandma upset with me because of the neckline. That long ago day,.. in the boutique (it was owned by a lady who was a friend of Joes.).. I could see in your mom's young face and eyes that she reallllllly wanted that outfit. She might remember, that I was hesitant with my approval because she was only 17 years old. But,... I relinquished... she looked so cute... how could I say NO. She might also remember,.. I wanted to discreetly 'pin' it in front so the neckline wouldn't be so revealing. She agreed,... but the picture of her in it says she tossed my 'pinned' idea.(that little rascal) LOL
She also chose a couple of other items for purchase that were nice,... but this particular dress is the stand out memory maker!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

...and that's why i love

I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking in the new year. I am reading "The 7 habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey and I am taking my time. I like to digest my reading and internalize it as I would a good meal. In order for you to follow me on the remainder of this blog post, I must first provide you the passage that caused me to sit back and carefully evaluate my behaviors toward those that I care for.

In his section on Principles of Personal Vision, Covey writes:

At one seminar where I was speaking on the concept of proactivity, a man came up and said, "Stephen, I like what you're saying. But every situation is different. Look at my marriage. I'm realy worried. My wife and I just don't have the same feelings for each other we used to have. I guess I just don't love her anymore and she doesn't love me. What can I do?"
"The feeling isn't there anymore?" I asked.
"That's right," he reaffirmed. "And we have three children we're really concerned about. What do you suggest?"
"Love her," I replied.
"I told you, the feeling just isn't there anymore."
"Love her."
"You don't understand. The feeling of love just isn't there."
"Then love her. If the feeling isn't there, that's a good reason to love her."
"But how do you love when you don't have love?"
"My friend, love is a verb. Love --the feeling--is a fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?"

Okay. Let it marinate.

Now, when I reflect on this, it says to me: If you want love, be more loving, if you want respect be more respectful...a sentiment summarized beautifully in Matthew 7:12 (do unto others...). There is nothing profound in this statement, and yet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. People are not mind readers, nor do they absorb things by osmosis. If I want someone to know that I love them, I love them. The verb. If I am thinking about someone, I tell them. When I love, I do not know how to do this any other way but to let it ooze out of every pore. I love not because people always deserve it, but because I care so much for who they are and their well being, that I want them to succeed. Because when they glow, I shine, and when they fall, I stumble, because I care.

I remember the first time I knew that I was head over heels in love. I arrived home from school on Christmas break of 1998 and walked into the house to greet my family. Sitting on the couch was my older sister, holding this tiny little person swaddled in soft pink blankets with only her cherubic brown face showing, well, that and a massive tumble of dark curls. She was so quiet and in her slumber she appeared to me to be the closest thing to heaven on earth. The moment I saw my niece I knew I would do any and EVERYthing in my power to keep her safe and happy no matter what it cost me. I was a goner. My heart was so full of love that I thought it might burst. She could hate me, and I would love her because I had no choice. So this was love. That is when I truly understood. My parents would love me no matter how mean, disrespectul, forgetful, ungrateful, selfish, or imperfect...they would love me in SPITE of my flaws.

I was praying this morning, and I am so thankful for every single one of my friends and all of their quirks, for my family and it's dysfunction, because they love every little piece of me, even when I do not; and so I must love them the way God loves me...flaws and all.