Tag Archive: Arizona


I’m so annoyed!!

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, but I’m annoyed and need to get it off my chest. 

I was on Facebook this morning and saw that my friend, Mike Shaldjian (aka lafinguy), posted a link to a podcast.  The podcast contained John Jay, a local morning show personality, calling Mike a cheater and then (I felt) he insulted the publication that’s promoting him.  

Arizona Foothills Magazine is running a “Best of Our Valley” Poll.  One of the categories is “Top Twitterer.”  I’m proud to say that I’ve been nominated.  To me that’s a huge honor.  I’m no where near the top of the poll and that’s okay.  There is; however, a neck and neck race between John Jay (@JohnjayVanEs) and Mike (@lafinguy). 

I thought it was really cool that Mike pulled ahead of John Jay.  Mike is an awesome guy, well networked and deserving of the title of “Top Twitterer.”  He uses Twitter for what’s it’s for and that’s social networking.  We meet on Twitter and he’s actively supported all the nonprofit agencies I’ve worked for through giving and donating of his time. 

Despite being nominated for two other categories and “crushing” the competition in those categories, John Jay uses his morning show to promote himself and bash Mike’s character. All because he’s not winning the “Top Twitterer” category in the poll.  Seriously!!

I use to listen to John Jay’s morning show.  I use to follow him on Twitter, but I stopped listening and stop following him because he annoyed me.  Both on the show and on Twitter, he would talk about himself ALL the time.  He did not interact with fans and he tweeted about nothing, so I stopped following him.  I think that was over a year ago.

I’m all about healthy competition, but I feel John Jay took it too far and it’s very disappointing.  Mike embodies what social networking is all about.  He’s networking!! Networking is not a one-way street.  That’s called self-promotion (something I feel John Jay does ALL the time).  It’s about interacting and Mike has that down and actually a lot of people on the “Top Twitterer” list have it down.  Way better than John Jay and even more deserving of the title of “Top Twitterer” than him.

 John Jay has over 22,000 followers, Mike has nearly 2,000.  And it goes to show, just because you have a lot followers, it doesn’t mean they’ll go to bat for you.

All in all, please vote for Mike (@lafinguy) in the AZ Foothills Magazine, “Best of Our Valley Top Twitterer” category.  He truly deserves the title.  You can vote everyday until November 30th.    If you feel so moved, you can also vote for me as well @ireneaugustin. (LOL! Throw me a freakin’ bone)

I am deeply concerned about Arizona’s future.  Last week, I learned that cuts to critical funding for early childhood programs and activities may lay in the hands of Arizona voters.  First Things First is an initiative that dedicates a tax on tobacco products to be used on expanding early learning and health programs for children birth through age five.  Arizona voters approved First Things First in 2006 by a landslide. This demonstrated that Arizonans value early childhood as the foundation of a child’s learning and are committed to investing in children to be more successful in school and in life.

In November, Arizona voters may be asked to vote to dismantle First Things First.  This will effectively wipe out Arizona’s investment over the last three years in early childhood education and health programs.  The elimination of First Things First will impact literally tens of thousands of children and their families throughout Arizona.  This will also effect hundreds of jobs supported by First Things First funds.

Arizona has traditionally ranked in the bottom 20% on almost all areas of child well-being.  Even in prosperous times, State funding for children’s services has not begun to meet identified needs.  Funding from First Things First has helped to keep essential human services intact.  If it is eliminated, I wonder where will vulnerable children and families in our community turn for help?  The State has eliminated or significantly cut funds to human services and education.  Nonprofits struggle to secure revenue to sustain their programs.  The loss of First Things First will only create a greater disparity.  Recognizing the current economic crisis Arizona faces, First Things First has offered an interest free loan to the State $3,000,000.  To date this potential win-win proposal has not been accepted. 

I encourage all of you who are concerned about the children and families to voice your concerns to our elected officials and at the ballot box in November. Our children, families and the future of our community are depending on all of you! 

 To learn more about First Things First, visit their website at azftf.gov.

Is Arizona a Lost Cause?

About four years ago, I moved to Arizona.  And I won’t lie, I moved here from Missouri for a guy. Even though the relationship didn’t last and he moved back to Missouri.  I continue to live here.   I love Arizona; from the weather (ok not the summer but the other seasons) to the hiking to the great nightlife and restaurants.  What’s not to love about this state?

While there’s a lot of glitz and glam, I believe this facade only hides some big issues this state faces.  Everyone hopes that the recession will pass, Arizona will get out of this economic slump and become a thriving and bustling state.  But this seems like a “pie in the sky dream” when Arizona is considered one of the worst states in the nation suffering right now.

While politicians debate about how to balance a nearly $2 billion deficit through exploring budget cuts and increasing taxes, real children and families are hurting.  As I work to help raise awareness and funding for a children’s welfare organization, I constantly question the measures taking place to balance the budget.  Is it in the best interest of ALL who live in Arizona?

I would like to think that the state and community I live in cares about the most vulnerable children and families in our community, but I’m consistently disappointed by decisions made by lawmakers.  Today Gov. Janet Brewer signed a package to cut $300 million in state spending to reduce the budget deficit.  Through this package, DES is facing yet another significant cut.  This time it’s $155 million dollars.  Education is facing another cut of $144 million.  My concern lies within how our state continues to operate essential human and educational services after imposing more budget cuts.  Also, is cutting programs that help children and families the only way to balance the budget ?

When the government makes cuts, it’s not a gradual process.  It’s quick and swift, and action takes place immediately. It takes a lot of time for programs and services to recover from these hits.  Time human services and education in Arizona has not been afforded.  While some would say that the current human services and educational system lack skilled workers, proper management and leadership, one has to wonder can programs be adequately operated and maintained when resources and funding continues to be cut?  Just because budgets are cut and programs and services are reduced or eliminated, that doesn’t mean these issues and/or people go away.  It just adds to the growing problems and increasing number of struggling children and families in our community.

Many people feel that in order to resolve all the problems Arizona faces, we need to stimulate the state’s economy.  While I agree that’s part of the resolution I don’t think it’s the end all be all to save Arizona from total despair.  We all want  businesses to move and remain in Arizona.  Economic packages are being created to try and stimulate our economy. But is that enough of an incentive to move or live in this state?

Great economic package helps to bring business here, but who actually moves to this state?  People.  Would you want to move to a state that actively does not support families?  The actions taken by the state makes it evident to me they don’t support families.   If I had kids, I would not want to send them to schools in this state, especially with the current budget cuts.  Unemployment, loss of housing, substance abuse, untreated mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence will continue to run rampant with an inadequate human services system.  And at this point, can we truly rely on nonprofits to totally pick up the slack.  They too are suffering with losses in government funding and flat and waning charitable giving. 

As a fundraiser, I constantly think about the future.  My organization has been hit by cuts in government funding.  We struggle day to day on how we are going to make up these losses and it’s been a real challenge to fundraise.  While I and my co-workers hope the economy will turn around and our government will rebuild the educational and human services system, some of  more experienced co-workers I know seem to think it won’t make a difference.  The tell me, “Look at what happened to education.  This is a issue that hits everyone.  They rallied, signed letters and talked to politicians, yet they cut education even more.  If they are willing to do that to education, they won’t think twice about cutting human services.  They just don’t care.”

It’s unacceptable to me that Arizona is ranked 40th (out of 50 states) for overall children’s well-being (Kidscount 2009).  We have some of the highest teen pregnancy, dropout birth and death rates in the nation.  The list of very disappointing statistics for Arizona children and families goes on and on.  Despite these dismal facts and statistics,  I don’t agree with my co-workers.  I believe there is hope and if we work together as a community we can change these outcomes.  Call me an optimist, but I belive something can be done.  I’m ready and willing to work for a healthy, strong and thriving Arizona.  Are you?

Da Lou

The Arch

The Arch

I didn’t realize how much I loved St. Louis until I moved away.  I was born and raised there and of course, I took it for granted.  I wanted something more, something bigger and I found it in Phoenix.  However, the small town feel of this mid-size city has me yearning to one day go back.

Don’t get me wrong.  I really like the Valley.  I love the mountains and the hiking.  I also love the glitz and glam of the Valley.  It’s kind of like a little L.A., but without the L.A. prices.   It’s cool to walk around Scottsdale Fashion Square or Kierland Commons with the possibility of running into a celebrity.   It’s also in close proximity to some great cities.  This makes it cheap to go to Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco and Rocky Point for just a weekend. 

Despite all the advantages of living in the Valley, I still get quite homesick.  There is a certain charm to St. Louis that I miss.  I miss my friends some of whom I’ve known throughout grade school, junior high and high school and remain friends to this day.  I miss St. Louis’s small town feel.  It’s not unusual for me to attend a major event such as baseball game or concert and run into at least three people I know.  It’s kind of funny when I run into a St. Louisan in the Valley.  The first question you always have to ask them is “What high school did you go to?”  It’s a weird question, but it’s one we always ask and know the significance of. 

There’s no other place in the country where you can get such great local fare.  The closest thing to St. Louis food in the Valley is Frasher’s in Scottsdale.  They have St. Louis Style Pizza, Gooey Butter Cake, Toasted Ravioli and much more.  I highly recommend going there if you would like to try what foods St. Louis has to offer.  Of course it’s better to go to St. Louis, but Frasher’s represents.  But I do miss my favorites:  Cunetto’s, BARcelona, Imo’s Pizza and the list goes on and on.

I love the many places St. Louis has that you can walk around and chill.  University City, Central West End, Maplewood and Washington Avenue are all great locations to  stroll around, shop at local stores/boutiques and catch a quick bite to eat.  There are so many local cafes that you can sit outside; some even have live music and it’s an awesome just to chill with your friends and have a drink.  Phoenix is working to grow in this area.  With the light rail and the developments going on along the route, local business is booming in Phoenix.  I’m excited to see what’s in store for Phoenix in the next few years.  But until then I will enjoy my day trips on the light rail and continue to visit the local fare.

I love the various recreational opportunities St. Louis has to offer.  There is free admission to the  Science Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, History Museum and Zoo.  Honestly, the St. Louis Zoo puts the Phoenix Zoo to shame and what makes it worse is that you have to pay $15 to get into the Phoenix Zoo.   One of my favorite places to go in St. Louis is to the City Museum.  That place rocks!  The Children’s Museum in Phoenix pales in comparison.  Everytime I go back to St. Louis, I makes sure I hit up the City Museum.  I feel like a kid again when I go.

City Museum Outside

City Museum Outside

City Museum Inside

City Museum Inside

When times are hot here in Phoenix, I get very homesick.  It could be that I lock myself indoors as the temperature rises in the Valley.  As soon as it cools off though, I’m out and about in the Valley.  I’m back to my old routine of hiking and hanging out with friends at outdoor cafes and restaurants. There are only a few more weeks of summer left and I’m looking forward to cooler weather.

I know I love St. Louis, but I love the fact that I live in the Valley right now.  When I settle down more in life, I know that St. Louis is more my speed.  But until then, I will enjoy all that the Valley and Arizona have to offer.