A different Kari Lake came to our office on Tuesday.
She was, well… kind of boring.
We like that Kari Lake.
What you probably already know about Lake is anything but dull. She believes Joe Biden is an “illegitimate president,” has trashed pretty much every COVID protocol, even asking college students to ignore mask mandates; and said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — the likely Democratic nominee for governor — should be locked up over undefined allegations tied to election fraud. (Lake also wants Dr. Anthony Fauci arrested.)
Then there was her former drag queen friend calling Lake a “phony” (did you catch the irony?); revelations she’s given to Democratic candidates and had her photo taken with former President Obama; and her knock-down, drag-out debate June 29 with GOP opponent Karrin Taylor Robson (worth digging up online). Then (sigh), Lake’s baseless contention that “mules” brought 200,000 ballots into Arizona to throw the 2020 election.
If you’re interested in more gossip, craziness and mud-slinging (she gives, she gets), there’s plenty online. Lake gets a lot of attention for all of that but generally not for her stand on the issues. So we figured we’d stick to that since, you know, they’re important.
It's a big issue for all of Arizona and particularly us, since Hudbay Minerals is considering digging five really big holes to mine on our side of the Santa Ritas.
“I think the problem is really big but I don’t think it’s crisis level,” Lake told us. She says a lack of “big thinkers” in Arizona is adding to any pain we might experience over this.
“We obviously are in the middle of a drought and we have been for some time, but we can’t regulate our way out of it,” she said. “We have to look at bringing water in.”
New water sources. That could include piping it in from the Missouri and Mississippi river valleys; desalination plant collaboration with Mexico (California’s too screwed up politically to partner with right now, Lake says); and look at cleaning up brackish water underground.
“We can’t just continue to regulate and give our agriculture the short end of the stick or we’re going to have a food crisis before we have a water crisis,” she said.
A Senate hearing June 14 mentioned several of these ideas and gave a detailed report of drought conditions across the west. It’s serious, to put it mildly.
Drawing water from the Mississippi or Missouri rivers is a possibility, Lake says, and that has been talked about for a while — kind of like building the CAP canal all over again. Only a lot longer.
“How hard can it be to lay pipe. It really isn’t that hard,” she said. (Except, of course, building across land you don't own; securing rights isn't a quick process in the hands of government.)
“We’re sending $60 billion over to Ukraine… How much more money are we going to send overseas to deal with their problems before we starting taking a serious look at ours,” Lake said. “We have to prioritize water in the Southwest.”
Conservation is part of the answer, she said, but we can’t conserve our way out of this.
The longer we talked, the more important the issue seemed to become to her.
“We do have water issues, I don’t want to downplay that,” she said, adding that political leaders have been kicking the can down the road for years.
“We’re not going to do that. We’re going to take it up, we’re going to take it up day one and we’re going to get some action.”
I told Lake the Sahuarita Unified School District is looking for teachers outside the country because there aren’t any here.
Her answer: Who’d want to be a teacher today? Pay is stagnant, teachers are “being forced to teach outrageous, stupid curriculum that’s not advancing our children,” and the pressures are higher than ever. She also said teachers are political pawns used by the Democrats and teachers unions every election cycle.
“Every four years they drag them out, sympathetic characters, and they are. They’re working the hardest, they’re in the classrooms with the children, the students. They’re doing all the work and the money always ends up going to administrators. We’ve grown the administrator class and raised their salaries to a level that’s really unconscionable.”
Lake wants to align state education standards to the Hillsdale 1776 curriculum, touted as a classical education. It’s tied to Hillsdale College, a small Christian liberal arts school in Michigan.
No word on how much more she’d put into the state budget for education, though her website says “there is no evidence that increased funding of government-run schools results in student gains.”
Sounds like she’s asking schools to reallocate the dollars they have, though she supports additional Prop. 301 money for teacher bonuses.
Note that Gov. Ducey last week signed a budget for an extra billion dollars for education and much of it likely will go to teacher raises. Ducey hasn’t exactly been a friend to public education during his eight years in office, but maybe the next governor will keep this last-second momentum going.
Nothing concrete on this one, though Lake (correctly) noted that the pandemic was a boon for some rural areas, where city types wanted to escape and breathe for a while. Some workers learned they could do their jobs remotely and opted to move out of clogged cities into Arizona’s mountains and open deserts.
That said, Lake's fully aware the Phoenix metro area gets the bulk of attention and dollars.
“Maricopa County gets a lot of attention, squeaky wheel, the population base there. We get road money, infrastructure money and it goes to Maricopa County, and that’s really outrageous because last I heard, people in our smaller communities are paying taxes as well," she said.
Lake, who is from rural Iowa, said farmers and ranchers "are being ignored by politicians who know they can get all the money and votes they need in Maricopa County. I will not do that."
The promise? Reduce property taxes, secure "a new long-term source of additional water for our ranching and farming communities to benefit from," and push back against EPA overreach.
I ask every politician who comes through about this. It's a tough one because so many scams are offshore and it's hard to reach the thieves.
The state AG's office has a lot of resources but getting them into the right hands just hasn't happened. (Green Valley is better protected by the Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteers' Scam Squad.)
Lake says it's all about education — and for all ages, not just seniors. She says it's a job that mainly falls to the AG, but figuring out the best way to get information into hands is important — via churches, community centers, wherever.
It's a frustrating answer, but the fact is we need to defend ourselves with information. I hope she makes it a priority.
Under a new law signed last week by Gov. Ducey, anybody filming within eight feet of a police officer can be thrown into jail for up to 30 days.
The constitutionality of the law was immediately questioned but Lake said she'd have signed it, too.
“They’re trying to do the hardest job out there, and it’s harder than it ever has been because they’re understaffed, our streets are more dangerous, the leadership we’ve had — I should call it the lack of leadership including this illegitimate president we have in the White House — encouraging violence and protests that become violent... I would sign that and fight to protect our police," she said.
The law came about after police were harassed by activist groups screaming ugly things at them and putting a camera in their faces as they worked cases. But the law goes beyond restricting the activists. Journalists have raised free speech and free press questions, and, as I told Lake, eight feet can become 20 feet, then 50, then...
Lake, a former television journalist, said she understands the concerns but nonetheless supports the police on this one and is content to let the courts sort out the legalities.
Our summer intern, Brianna McCord, asked Lake about growing higher-education costs. She's in college and feels the pain from the state every semester.
Lake noted the state Constitution requires tuition be as close to free as possible for Arizona students and said it's impossible for students to work their way through college anymore because of the high costs.
“They will raise, raise, raise tuition as long as we let them and I’m not going to let them anymore," she said of the Board of Regents.
Her plan? Push non-college options in the form of what she calls dual-track education: After 10th grade, you're on the trade/certification track or the college track.
It's an interesting idea, versions of which are already in place in some school districts, but it doesn't directly address spiralings costs at Arizona's bloated universities.
“We’ve got to reform our education," she said. "Right now, they just always want us to pour more money into it without reforming it. And right now, our education system is not churning out kids who are ready for the world."
— Dan Shearer