We’re just a few days away from 2018. Our annual Legislative Forecast Luncheon is set for another packed house on January 5. Gov. Doug Ducey will deliver his State of the State address on January 8, and then we’ll be off and running in the next legislative session. But before we tear out that last page of the 2017 calendar, we look back on the year that was with Glenn Hamer’s 2017 Hammer Awards.
These annual awards are Glenn’s way of highlighting the individuals who made a difference in the year. If you’re a winner, sorry, there’s no actual hardware for the mantel or the bookshelf. But this column is always suitable for framing.
Cool Hand Luke Award
For his continual grace under pressure, this Hammer Award goes to Sen. Jeff Flake.
What a year for Sen. Flake. Keeping his cool in a Mesa town hall full of hundreds of angry constituents. Keeping his cool on a Washington-area ballfield as a deranged gunman came this close to carrying out a massacre. Keeping his cool on the Senate floor as he made the case for decency whenoverheated rhetoric was (and is) en vogue. Sen. Flake showed us in 2017 how one ought to conduct oneself in public life.
The distinguished senator finally had enough and blew a gasket – in the most respectful, gracious way possible – in the form of his book, Conscience of a Conservative, now a New York Times bestseller in its second printing. The book is full of great stuff, but its chapter on trade would make Milton Friedman proud. The criticism of the president got all the newspaper ink, but there’s plenty of good material for conservative policy wonks.
Francis Albert Sinatra Award
This Hammer goes to former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. He looks like Sinatra, sounds like Sinatra, and has the coolness of the Chairman of the Board, with a touch of Gary Cooper.
Moderating a conversation with him in November at a Chamber luncheon was a treat. He outdid Frank by knowing how and when to go out on top. (I’m still traumatized by Duets II). Boehner is a great American. If you were organizing a Political Rat Pack, he would be the leader.
Lost in the Noise Award
Lost in this year’s real news (and its fake news), was the important news of the governments of the U.S. and Mexico signing Minute 323, which will help keep Lake Mead at a level that will not trigger serious water reductions for Arizona. It’s an accomplishment that deserves a Hammer. Kudos to Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke for his leadership in representing Arizona at the binational talks.
The Inaugural Ed Kranepool Award
Speaking of Director Buschatzke, he wins a Hammer named for Ed Kranepool. Baseball fans will recognize Ed as the player who came up as a very young rookie with the expansion Mets in 1962, played on the Miracle Mets of 1969, and eventually retired with the team in 1979.
Like Ed, Tom started as an intern at ADWR, and now he runs the agency. Arizona is lucky to have this water expert at the helm.
The Tough as Nails Award
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is one tough guy. He deserves a Hammer.
He took us on in a challenge to the minimum wage law and won. That one still hurts.
It was more pleasant to be on the same side as the AG in his response to plaintiffs lawyer abuses of state and federal disability access laws, where he’s been a national model. Heshut down a serial scam artist and created an environment that allowed for passage of an important reform bill through the state Legislature to prevent future sleazy attorneys who present themselves as advocates for the disabled, but who are more interested in a shakedown.
Investigator of the Year Award
The Hammer goes to ABC 15’s Dave Biscobing, who has won national recognition for his reporting that exposed the fraudulent attorney who filed thousands of lawsuits in an attempt to extract lucrative cash settlements from business owners over highly dubious ADA claims.
Biscobing’s reporting in 2016 and 2017, along with General Brnovich’s hard work, led to important legislative reforms and put an end to the bogus lawsuits. Applause to Channel 15, too. This kind of reporting is expensive and it takes time, but it’s so incredibly vital.
Biggest Win of the Year Award
The U.S. tax code has been as competitive as the Cleveland Browns for too long. Highest tax rate in the industrialized world. Trillions in earnings trapped overseas. Overtaxing small businesses. Enough! Give a Hammer to the White House and the U.S. Congress for pulling off a minor miracle of actually passing a tax reform bill, which included a huge corporate tax rate reduction from 35 percent to 21 percent.
A special shout out to Rep. David Schweikert of the powerful Ways and Means Committee for his work on this landmark bill. Hundreds of thousands of workers are receiving $1,000 bonuses and higher wages thanks to his work.
The president and team, including Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin, deserve a lot of credit, as does Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey.
The importance of the bill’s passage can’t be overstated. The U.S. was facing economic contraction if Congress didn’t get this job done.
The Capt. James T. Kirk Award
Gov. Ducey wins this Hammer for his steady-as-she-goes leadership. I have no idea if the governor is a Trekkie, but I still have a tricorder, communicator badge, and a phaser (set to stun for safety reasons) always ready to loan.
What’s not to like about Arizona and the governor’s leadership? Our population exceeds 7 million, our unemployment rate is at a 10-year low, our budget is in strong shape, our education system is achieving nationally recognized improvements, and strategic investments are being made.
The New York Times recognizes us as the leader in the world for driverless cars, and we are home to the best tech companies in the world.
Combined with federal tax reform, no state is better positioned for prosperity in 2018 than Arizona.
Best Guys to Have on the Bench Award
Now that we’ve exceeded 7 million residents, the state has been fortunate over the last few years to welcome lots of new, talented individuals who have come to ply their trade in Arizona, including some of the hottest stars in coaching. Torey Luvullo and Bobby Hurley both deserve Hammers.
Luvullo snagged MLB’s Manager of the Year Award for 2017 for the Diamondbacks’ surprising, edge-of-your-seat run to the playoffs. Sure, it’s no Hammer Award, but it’s still a nice recognition. Two thousand seventeen was just Luvullo’s first year on the DBacks’ bench. I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store.
And how about Bobby Hurley? Now in his third season as head coach of the Arizona State men’s basketball team, his Sun Devils are number 3 in the nation (as of this writing) and undefeated as they begin conference play, notching wins over powerhouses like Kansas and Xavier. The Republic editorial board is spot-on to call college hoops – including the Arizona and Grand Canyon programs – one of the best stories in Arizona sports.
The Wonder Woman Award
Jessica Pacheco wins this Hammer for her super job as president of the Arizona Mexico Commission. The two plenary meetings she has presided over have been record-breaking in attendance and have featured highly productive committee meetings. (From what I heard, anyway. Sonora native and baseball pitching great Fernando Valenzuela stopped by our last meeting in Rocky Point, so naturally I had to step away to spend some time discussing pitching technique with him).
Jessica is razor smart and always in action. She was my first hire at the Chamber, for which I remain eternally grateful. While I was hiding under my desk, she was rebuilding the organization.
The Basketball Ambassador Award
Suns owner Robert Sarver wins a Hammer for his genuine appreciation and embrace of Mexico, and for his recognition of the NBA’s potential for growth south of the border.
It was a thrill to be in Mexico City early in the year to see the Suns play and defeat the Spurs in front of a record crowd.
At an event where NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made remarks about basketball’s global reach, Robert spoke eloquently about why the visit to Mexico City had special meaning to him. As a youngster, he carried guests’ luggage at his dad’s hotel in Tucson, the Aztec Inn. The guests’ bags were full of the stuff they’d purchased in the Old Pueblo’s stores. He saw the powerful binational relationship up close in the simple acts of shopping and lodging.
His comments reminded us not only that we are neighbors with Mexico, but at a time when NAFTA’s future is more precarious than ever, that we all win with trade. Sports are an export industry. Let’s embrace the opportunity to make all of our cross-border transactions faster, cheaper, and more frequent.
Credit to the Suns for making their stars accessible to the Mexican fans. It was great fun talking with many of the players before the game and discussing basketball’s impact. And if the front office needs some new talent off the bench, my height listed in the program might be south of 6 feet, but my hook shot makes me the equivalent of a 7-footer.
The Lights, Camera, Action! Award
Movie producer Gaston Pavlovich earns a Hammer for sharing with Arizona audiences his deep understanding of the modern movie industry.
The cousin of Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich, Gaston wowed audiences at the Phoenix edition of the Arizona-Mexico Commission plenary. He understands the global nature of the film business, and recognizes the potential to turn production into the next big thing in the Arizona-Sonora relationship.
The Sporting World’s Classiest Act Award
The Hammer goes to Larry Fitzgerald. The reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year penned a tribute to Sen. John McCain for Sports Illustrated that was beautifully written.
I’m proud that the Chamber recognized Larry with our Heritage Award, which honors those Arizonans who have made a tremendous impact in their respective fields. In receiving our award for 2017, he joined the ranks of Barry Goldwater, Sandra Day O’Connor, Jerry Colangelo, and other luminaries.
He’s also a pretty good receiver…like the best of all-time in my book.
The character that Larry puts on display each week is also testament to Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, who has created an atmosphere where talents like Larry can thrive and where it’s not unusual to see leaders like Sen. McCain stop by practice from time to time. Michael is one of the state’s true business community leaders. He’s known for running a football club, but he’d be successful in any venture.
Our Greatest American Award
This Hammer for our greatest American goes to Sen. John McCain. It’s not a close call.
Over the course of my career, which has afforded me the opportunity to meet many powerful and influential people in all walks of life, I admire no one more than John McCain.
His courage made him a household name before I was born. The courage he displays today will live on forever. There is no American who captures the nation’s spirit and emulates who we are more than John McCain.
Watching Sen. McCain enter a room is different than a lot of other politicians. It’s not pompous. He doesn’t need to be admired. Instead, the senator is in constant motion, always ready to work, to solve problems.
He runs circles around his aides who are in their 20s. If you want to keep up with John McCain, better eat your Wheaties. He went to Washington in 2017 ready to work hard – like always. He was fresh off a decisive 2016 election victory where he covered every corner of the state, shook every hand, posed for every picture. If any incumbent deserved a breather, he did. But he didn’t take it. Instead, it was back to debating and passing legislation, covering the globe in the name of spreading freedom, and reminding us all of America’s unique and special role in the world and of the value of our institutions.
John McCain is both humble and confident. The fighter pilot in him relishes fighting for the underdog. He occupies the spot today once occupied by President Ronald Reagan as the most consequential person on the planet for those who aspire to live in freedom.
Like all of Arizona, I’m praying and wishing him a return to good health in 2018. His leadership and his wisdom are desperately needed.
To all of our readers, all the best for a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2018.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.