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Lawmaker wants to allow nonlethal campus weapons

PHOENIX -- A Gilbert lawmaker wants to give those on public university campuses more self-defense options.

Including Tasers.

Republican Rep. Travis Grantham said he isn't asking for guns on campuses. That perennial proposal by other lawmakers has never made it into law, though a 2016 statute allows people to have firewarms on the sidewalks, streets and other publicly accessible rights of way that run adjacent to and through campuses.

But Grantham said the policies at the state's three universities prohibiting virtually all weapons on campus property itself leaves students, faculty, staff and others at the mercy of attackers.

His HB 2172 would require schools that get public funds to allow "non-lethal weapons.'' That is described as devices "explicitly designed and developed to incapacitate or repel a person with a low probability of fatality or permanent injury.''

Most immediately, if the measure is enacted into law it would overrule a Board of Regents policy that bans virtually all weapons, including Chemical Mace.

Regents spokeswoman Sarah Harper said the board had no immediate response to what Grantham is proposing. But she noted the policy does allow "normally available over-the-counter self-defense chemical repellents.''

But Grantham said the wording of the policy prohibits those repellents from containing sufficient quantities of a key ingredient: oleoresin capsicum, essentially a chili oil extract.

He contends virtually all effective forms of what is commonly called "pepper spray'' have that chemical. Put another way, he believes those without that chemical are virtually useless.

"It's kind of like saying you can have a gun, but you can't have bullets in it,'' Grantham said.

The first-term lawmaker said there should be no objection.

"We're not talking about guns,'' he said, saying the only aim is to let someone disable an attacker.

What would that include?

"It's kind of at the discretion, quite honestly, of the user,'' Grantham said. But he said it definitely would include the pepper sprays containing oleoresin capsicum.

"You could probably lump stun guns into that,'' he continued, "anything that's meant to incapacitate somebody just long enough so you could get away from them if they're trying to commit a crime against you.''

Grantham said there is a need to overturn the regents policy, especially with "sprawling'' university campuses.

"Some of these students are coming out of these campuses at 10 or 11 or 12 o'clock at night, in downtown parts of the city,'' Grantham explained.

"And they do feel a little bit uneasy because there's a lot of people out,'' he continued. "And you don't know who it is. You're not confined to the safety of the university campus.''

What gives lawmakers the power to override policy is money.

"If the universities are going to take state funding, and if they're going to expand rapidly like they're doing now, and if they're going to be in various parts of the state throughout our metropolitan areas, I think it makes perfect sense that students should be able to carry the same non-lethal type of weapons that you're able to carry when you're walking down a city street,'' he said.

Grantham said his definition of what kind of non-lethal weapons would be permitted is designed to take into account other kinds of things that exist -- or may in the future.

That includes special flashlights already available which are advertised as being able to blind and confuse attackers. It also would pave the way for personal devices designed to emit certain sounds which could confuse and stun someone.

While Grantham said his focus is on university campuses, his legislation also would affect community colleges.

The measure has been assigned to the House Education Committee. No date has been set for a hearing.

Courtesy of the City of Flagstaff 

This artist's rendering shows the different styles of homes that will be available in the Timber Sky development on Woody Mountain Road off West Route 66. Timber Sky will include a total of 1,300 residential units. 

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Fee waiver clears way for 1,300-home Flagstaff subdivision

A 1,300-unit subdivision on the far west side of the city, which was stalled over a dispute about engineering fees, is “full steam ahead” after the Flagstaff City Council opted to waive an estimated $1.6 million in fees.

The development off Woody Mountain Road, called Timber Sky, was approved by the city council in November 2016. In August 2017, the increased fees, which require that the city reach 100 percent cost recovery for most services. At the time Timber Sky was approved the city’s policy for most services was 50 percent cost recovery.

In his presentation to the city council, Deputy City Attorney Kevin Fincel said Vintage Partners, the developer of Timber Sky, told the city “without the amendment, there will be no development of Timber Sky.”

Walter Crutchfield, one of the partners with Vintage, said the issue arose because the development agreement was finalized nearly a year before the fees increased.

Crutchfield said Vintage agreed to public improvements, such as sewer extensions and FUTS trail connections.

“We gave all those things in a transparent negotiation,” he said. “Apparently it wasn’t transparent though.” Crutchfield added that city staff was in the middle of the process to propose increases to the fees and did not mention the increases to him or his associates.

The amendment brings the fees back to the rates they were when the original development agreement was approved, which Vintage estimated was $1.6 million less than the developer would pay with the increased fees.

“It’s an estimate, but it’s an estimate based on the engineering department’s numbers,” Crutchfield said.

Delivering the promised subdivision with the affordable units was never a problem until the fees increased, he said.

“It was when they changed the rules that we came back and said, ‘Doggone it, why did you change the rules?’” Crutchfield said.

As part of the development, Vintage Partners has promised to deliver 100 affordable housing units. The city offers incentives to developers, including decreased fees, for developments that contain at least 10 percent affordable housing. If Vintage creates the maximum units allowed, 1,300, and creates 100 affordable units, it will not have created enough affordable units to reach the incentive limit set by the city.

“The developer did not want to use the incentive policy,” Fincel said. “They did not explain why.”

The amendment the council approved, which waived the increased engineering fees, also changed the affordability requirements for the affordable units. If the affordable units are not selling to owners who make 100 percent of the area’s median income, the affordability plan can be amended to allow people who make 125 percent of the area median income to buy the affordable homes.

At the meeting, eight members of the public addressed the council, and their comments were evenly split in favor and against amending the development agreement.

One speaker, Charlie Silver, said the council needed to look at an unbiased cost estimate of what the additional fees would be for Vintage, instead of a figure generated by Vintage.

“I can think of a number of nonprofit organizations that could provide the affordable housing that our community is seeking,” Silver said.

Other members of the public who spoke in favor of the development discussed the need for more affordable housing.

“I am in complete favor and have always been in complete favor of Timber Sky,” said Daniel Williamson, who said his son has found more affordable housing in Huntington Beach, Calif. than he could find in Flagstaff.

If Vintage does not deliver 75 percent of the affordable units before the fourth phase of the development, the developer will have to pay the city a fine per unit that has not been delivered, as well as complete the required number of affordable units.

Councilwomen Eva Putzova and Celia Barotz voted against the amendment to waive the fees.

Putzova said the development agreement, with the new amendment left the “exchange of values insufficient.” She added that everything she has heard in executive sessions with the city attorney “has led me to believe this is not the best use of $1.6 million.”

Barotz said she agreed with Putzova that the waiver was not a good way to use the city’s money.

“I believe in trust and verify, and nothing has been verified,” she said.

Vice Mayor Jamie Whelan said moving the Timber Sky project forward will increase competition for housing options in the city and increase the supply of housing, which she said would benefit the community.

Mayor Coral Evans said she would like the council to discuss the city’s incentive policy to look at ways to better incentivize affordable housing, because developer have often been unwilling to use the existing policy. The council could be willing to look at reducing fees for developers that are wanting to deliver affordable units, she said.

“This council has said that affordable housing is something we want,” she said. “What we have in front of us is a proposal that delivers that.”

Flagstaff anti-wall resolution drops business 'blacklist' provision

Confronted with charges of “blacklisting” by contractors, the Flagstaff City Council has approved an anti-border wall resolution that will not prevent wall-related companies from doing business with the city.

Instead, the amended resolution, called “far less severe and stringent” by Councilman Jim McCarthy, requires the city to withdraw investments in companies that work on the creation or maintenance of the wall. The amendment passed on a 4-3 vote, with Vice Mayor Jamie Whelan and Councilmen Scott Overton and Charlie Odegaard opposed. The new resolution then passed on a 5-2 vote, with only Overton and Odegaard opposed.

The new language is similar to a resolution by the Tucson City Council. With it, the city could do business with a company associated with the wall, but could not buy stock or other investments in such a company. The final wall contract has not been awarded, but the city would end any existing investments in a company involved, McCarthy said

The city contracts with a private company, PFM Asset Management, for investment advising. According to a report released in October, the ending value of the city’s managed portfolio in June 2017 was $93.6 million.

During public participation, Robert Neustadt, a member of the immigrant rights organization Keep Flagstaff Together, asked that the council retain the language that the city would avoid doing business with companies associated with the wall.

“What brought apartheid down was not marches,” he said. “It was divestment.”

Three other people spoke at the meeting in favor of the resolution, with one speaker calling the wall “an aggrandizing monument” to Trump. Others said the wall would be expensive and ineffective, and would be devastating to wildlife that live in the area, as well as to cultural traditions of native people who live on both sides of the border.

The Coconino County Democratic Party sent a letter to the mayor and council in favor of the resolution, but it did not support the provision that would keep the city from procuring services will some wall-related companies.

“While we as Democrats and citizens of Flagstaff and Coconino County support the proposal for the City to denounce ‘The Wall,’ we prefer a resolution that includes protections for Flagstaff-based businesses who may innocently derive income from some association with Wall-related construction projects,” the letter said.

"'The Wall' is a symbol of hate and oppression that is insulting and terrifying to members of the Flagstaff community," the letter said.

At the meeting, David Martin, the president of the Arizona chapter of the Associated General Contractors, said not doing business with wall-related companies violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and the Arizona Constitution by creating a blacklist.

Martin also sent a letter to the mayor and city council prior to the meeting, which included letters sent from the CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America Stephen Sandherr to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In the letters, Sandherr said state and city governments’ threats to not do business with the companies are having their desired effect by dissuading companies from bidding on work related to the wall.

“While the current threats are narrowly intended to prevent the Administration from achieving its signature goal of extending the border wall, they will, if successful, set a broad and more dangerous precedent,” Sandherr wrote to Kelly. “Unless checked, they will embolden state and local officials to discriminate against companies that perform any number of critical tasks for the federal government.”

In a report to the city council, Rick Compau, the city’s purchasing director, wrote, “There are no current regulations precluding debarment for participation in the construction of something. However, a debarment of this nature could stifle competition and have other ancillary and unforeseen consequences.”

Councilwoman Eva Putzova said she would prefer the city not do business with companies that profit from the wall, but she voted in favor of the amendment about divestment.

“Conducting business with the city of Flagstaff is a privilege,” she said. “We are responsible for taxpayers’ money and we reflect the values of the city of Flagstaff.”

Putzova, who immigrated to the United States from Slovakia, said, “I’m here because a wall collapsed; the Iron Curtain was taken down.”

Councilmen Scott Overton and Charlie Odegaard voted against the resolution.

“Every resolution we’ve had has been within the city of Flagstaff or our near neighbors, except the resolution we have in front of us,” Odegaard said. “For me, we’ve got to have some parameters on what our resolutions should be on.”

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Flagstaff’s Easten Skinner works to pin his Lee Williams opponent in the 132-pound weight class Wednesday night at Flagstaff High.

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Killip teacher, chess coach arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor

A Flagstaff elementary school teacher was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of child molestation.

Killip Elementary School teacher and chess coach Ted Komada, 37, was arrested by Flagstaff Police on suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor, according to the Flagstaff Police Department.

In a joint statement issued by Flagstaff police and Flagstaff Unified School District, the alleged sexual misconduct by Komada is said to have taken place outside the school setting.

Police and FUSD would not disclose if the victim was a student at Killip, citing an active investigation and privacy concerns.

According to the statement, Komada was arrested twice – first on Sunday morning on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor, then on a second charge of child molestation.

Komada was being held late Wednesday at the Coconino County Jail and a bond has been set at $25,000 cash or secured.

The statement said Komada resigned via email before the start of classes Tuesday. The school district has made all required reports about the arrest and resignation to the Arizona Department of Education, and has taken steps to ensure that Komada is no longer allowed on campus or otherwise involved with the District.

FUSD Spokeswoman Karin Eberhard said that the school district was unable to disclose the details of Komada’s resignation email at this time.

Flagstaff Superintendent Michael Penca wrote in a statement that “We are shocked and saddened to hear of the charges and the investigation into conduct occurring out of school by Mr. Komada.”

Eberhard said that letters were sent out to all Killip parents, alerting them of Komada’s arrest on Wednesday afternoon. A school PTA meeting has been called for Thursday.

An emergency meeting was called Wednesday morning to inform the faculty of the situation, according to multiple teachers who attended the meeting, but they declined to comment about Komada.

Komada taught at Killip for 14 years and was named STEM teacher of the year by FUSD in 2016.