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By Thomas Sowell

Recently former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice added her voice to those who have long been urging the Republican Party to reach out to black voters. Not only is that long overdue, what is also long overdue is putting some time -- and, above all, some serious thought -- into how to go about doing it.

Too many Republicans seem to think that the way to "reach out" is to offer blacks and other minorities what the Democrats are offering them. Some have even suggested that the channels to use are organizations like the NAACP and black "leaders" like Jesse Jackson -- that is, people tied irrevocably to the Democrats.

 Voters who want what the Democrats offer can get it from the Democrats. Why should they vote for Republicans who act like make-believe Democrats?

Yet there are issues where Republicans have a big advantage over Democrats -- if they will use that advantage. But an advantage that you don't use might as well not exist.

The issue on which Democrats are most vulnerable, and have the least room to maneuver, is school choice. Democrats are heavily in hock to the teachers' unions, who see public schools as places to guarantee jobs for teachers, regardless of what that means for the education of students.

There are some charter schools and private schools that have low-income minority youngsters equaling or exceeding national norms, despite the many ghetto public schools where most students are nowhere close to meeting those norms. Because teachers' unions oppose charter schools, most Democrats oppose them, including black Democrats up to and including President Barack Obama.

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From the New York Times:

The message implicit in the prizewinning documentaries “Detropia and “Searching for Sugar Man,” in Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy in 2013 — in even a casual drive along Gratiot Avenue, past mile after mile of burned-out or boarded-up houses and stores — is that Detroit is in a pitiable state.

Yet when Toby Barlow reflects on Detroit, his adopted hometown, what he describes is potential, not pity — cheap real estate being the major reason.

“It’s fun to be here and be a part of those things that are re-emerging,” says Mr. Barlow, creative director at the advertising agency Team Detroit. “There are just a wealth of things that don’t exist in Detroit — and should.”

To create those things in the Motor City, Mr. Barlow, 48, who moved from New York to work on a Ford Motor account and stayed, has become an entrepreneur. He has opened a design store in Midtown, founded a nonprofit at Eastern Market that trains people in letterpress printing, and plans to open a restaurant in Corktown soon.

He has even found time to publish two novels since moving to Detroit from Brooklyn seven years ago. But his newest, headline-grabbing venture — with Sarah Cox, his partner in the project and another Brooklyn transplant — is one that aims to revitalize the city’s art community and potentially be a model for post-blight Detroit.

The project is called Write A House, and it is giving free houses to writers.

Starting in April, a prestigious panel of writers and poets will review applications from literary authors, poets and journalists; winners will receive free houses.

They need to live in the renovated structures two years, pay modest fees ($500 monthly) for insurance and taxes, make low-cost interior improvements and participate in Write A House’s blog and literary readings.

They must also be of modest income. “If you were making a good living as a writer, you probably weren’t going to want to move to Detroit,” Mr. Barlow jokes.

The first three houses, in ramshackle but salvageable shape, have already been acquired. They are clustered in the neighborhood north of Hamtramck called Banglatown, for its large Bangladeshi community. One house was donated; two were purchased for $1,000 each.

Over 12 weeks, starting in April, these three classic Detroit bungalows will undergo overhauls by construction trainees from the nonprofit Young Detroit Builders, supervised by a professional contractor. Each renovation will cost $35,000 to $70,000.

The first $30,500 for the renovation work was raised in December via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo; a second appeal is online at Fundly.com and a matching grant is expected.

While Write A House pursues tax status as a charitable organization to seek foundation grants for what Mr. Barlow calls a “realistic” goal of three or four houses a year, the Indiegogo effort has already spread the word. Hundreds of writers have contacted the group.

“We were very thrown, in a good way, by the positive responses,” Mr. Barlow says. He says some have come from South America, Northern Europe and India, “not to mention across town and in the suburbs, and places like New York, Pittsburgh and Texas.”

Mr. Barlow’s partner, Ms. Cox, 31, is a journalist and another Detroit booster. She works for the real estate website detroit.curbed.com and relocated from New York three years ago because “I found the cost of living there a little prohibitive.”

She, too, cites Detroit’s low-cost real estate and improving safety. “There’s more going on than just burned buildings and foreclosure,” Ms. Cox says. “It is a good and interesting place to start a business, and I have friends who have come from Brooklyn or Toronto or other places to start a business in Detroit.”

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By David N. Smith. 2014 Candidate for Scottsdale City Council

Dear Friends…

Last week, I became involved in a citizen initiative to save Scottsdale…pretty exciting stuff!

What it really involved was appealing to the Scottsdale City Council not to sell the historic little church building that now functions as the Community Design Studio.

 

You see, the city has a problem:

Depreciation in city assets continues at a pace of $100 million per year. But, because the Bond Election was defeated last year, there is very little new money for capital reinvestments. To his credit, City Manager Fritz Behring challenged his staff to find ways to consolidate employees into fewer city buildings. He believed some city buildings could be emptied, then sold to raise a token amount of money for new capital expenditures; the Community Design Studio was one of three buildings identified through this exercise.

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Broader school choice is as inevitable as the great civil rights fights before10_6-Stanton it. Individual battles may be lost along the way but history’s tide unquestionably flows in its direction.

Most Democrats have yet to realize this. They are exemplified by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the blunt instrument of unions always seeking self-interest over student achievement. Data, parents and charter school students be damned, he governs.

Across the country a different big-city mayor is taking a difference approach. That’s Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. When well-known school choice advocates announced plans to proliferate charter schools throughout the core of Phoenix Stanton embraced the idea, unlike de Blasio.

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A new type of urban warfare among Valley cities is upon us. And it is taking place in the West Valley. There, the City of Peoria has announced plans to greatly expand its commercial core around the Peoria Sports Complex, with the unquestioned intent of seizing spending from the current entertainment epicenter just down the 101 at Westgate.

If successful, the Peoria gambit would cost the City of Glendale, Mayor Weiers and the Glendale City Council millions of dollars at a time when it can least afford it.

Peoria officials are trying to play their counterpartglendale-az-shame_-800x530-westgates in Glendale for fools. The Peoria plan, not unlike Westgate’s, relies on a proliferation of new billboards to help pay for parking garages and other infrastructure to get the project going.

The only problem? A local business—Becker Boards—isn’t a part of anyone’s grand plan. They just want to build a couple of billboards in a commerce park, at a depressed site, next to the freeway.

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Forget those foolish people who parrot the line that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. There is. There is an even greater difference between conservatives and liberals. The challenge for conservatives is that they want to give people liberty, which is often the freedom to go get your own stuff without interference, and liberals want to simply give you stuff. When a majority in a country realizes they can vote themselves “free” (meaning someone else paid for it) stuff, liberals win. When enough people get hooked on free stuff and lose the ability to go get their own stuff, then liberals are really happy.

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During a heated 2012 campaign between Scott Lemarr and Maria Syms to be Paradise Valley’s Mayor a well-known couple was murdered in the province. It shocked the Valley. Around that time too were a rash of burglaries in the northern part of the community. While Mayor Lemarr won re-election there was undoubtedly nervousness in the town. Paradise-VAlley-RED-Senior-Living

But he acted. And the town acted. Led by Town Councilman Michael Collins, the Paradise Valley Public Safety Task Force involved numerous stakeholders committed to improvement and reform.

The results are starting to speak for themselves. While any crime is one too many Chief Bennett’s latest monthly report shows a 50% drop in crime from this February, compared to last year.

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You’ve probably heard Doug Ducey say that one of the top lessons he took from his private sector career is the importance of building coalitions. As he often says, “If I’m only hearing one side of the story, I’m not doing my job.”

The Ducey 2014 team takes that lesson to heart. Nowhere is that better illustrated than today’s announcement of endorsements from both Congressman Trent Franks and Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio.

Each brings a unique perspective to the governor's race. Councilman DiCiccio has won over even the Arizona Republic in his fight for pension reform and defense of taxpayer dollars at the city level. Rep. Franks is a broad-spectrum conservative, staunch advocate of school choice and longtime West Valley leader.

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By now most of you are familiar with the dust up over John Kavanagh’s use of as few ethnically based jokes to roast Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the Western Conservatives Conference. KAVANAGH

For some reason the Southern Poverty Law Center felt it necessary to send a ‘monitor’ there and secretly record the event, even though the event was live-streamed. Afterwards the SPLC sent out a breathless account of how offensive Kavanagh’s remarks were. The Republic then dutifully parroted the SPLC’s claim and rounded up a left leaning attorney to wag his finger. You can read the report here.

Nowhere in the story was the question posed why was the SPLC spending time and resources on ‘monitoring’ a harmless conservative gathering or why the group was flailing its arms in moral outrage over fairly tame, but pretty funny material.

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Sure, a Super Bowl is coming and Spring Training is underway but that probably just reminds Glendale that they need to get their bill through the legislature seeking public safety reimbursements for the big game, and that Camelback Ranch is an enduring financial migraine.

And today the Arizona Republic reported the City of Glendale’s bond ratings were downgraded, again. Taxpayers will be hurt as the cost of borrowing money now goes up.

Climbing out of its money hole will not be easy. Things little, medium and big need to be undertaken. It is a city that must be relentlessly pro-business, in so many ways.

The city’s recent, unanimous decision to invest a little to attract a big-selling furniture store was a smart move. It sent a message to the market that Glendale is open for business. There’s a smaller project being debated in the community that could do likewise.

Putting two outdoor billboards at the 101 and Bell, in a commerce park, would seem like a matter for the consent agenda, not contention. After all, it will mean some revenue to the city, but more importantly allow more Glendale businesses to advertise effectively and prominently. According to industry reports some 70% of billboard advertisers are local and in this case Becker Boards is incentivizing that further with a 20% discount for local businesses.COG_Logo_Color

And even though there has been a lot of support from the business community, including from the owner of the commerce park who sees the investment as a way to jumpstart his development, there has been opposition. From two curious quarters.

The first is from the City of Peoria across the street. Why? Because they want to put up their own billboards to help pay for Peoria Sports Complex improvements that will compete directly with Westgate. And take sales tax revenue away from it. Why the financially-strapped Glendale City Council would want to hurt its community by enabling Peoria is a good question.

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