The queen is back, and this year she’s not happy about the state of her kingdom. If some things don’t shape up, it’s ‘off with their heads’!
THE QUEEN IS MAD THIS YEAR. I’M NOT TALKING ANGRY. I’m talking hopping mad, because Arizona is going to hell and we’ve got to stop it.
If indeed I could be Queen of Arizona – a fantasy PHOENIX magazine allows me to indulge in each January – the “kingdom” of Arizona would not be in this awful mess. And it’s not just that we’re facing a financial crisis – worse yet, we’re facing a crisis of governing. If only leaders had listened to me over the years, we wouldn’t be here.
I’ll get to our ridiculous Legislature in a minute, but first I want to proclaim this: If I were queen, I’d grow a backbone into the business community of Arizona. Where in the world are the “business leaders” who should be speaking up publicly about the sorry state of affairs going on at the statehouse? Who dares call out these men and women who are sitting inside their House or Senate chambers with little regard for the well-being of our state but are, in effect, destroying our government – the “starve the beast” crowd that has way too much control over state affairs?
We have some fabulous business groups in this state that do some fabulous things, but exercising a brave voice is not one of them. Oh, I’ve been in closed rooms where people are gnashing their teeth over what’s going on, but I don’t see any of those people standing up in public to voice their concerns.
I see Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon standing up to these junkyard bullies who are robbing the cities to balance their own budgets – forcing unbelievable cuts to everything from our Phoenix police and fire to our libraries and senior programs. But Mayor Gordon stands alone. An entire army of business leaders should be flanking him. He should look like a Verizon Wireless commercial!
I must say, The Arizona Republic has done a fine job of keeping lawmakers’ toes to the fire – and it isn’t often I praise the state’s largest daily. It has both reported on the problem and editorialized on how lawmakers have fallen on their faces because of ideological stands.
If this were the first year I’ve bemoaned the childish behavior of our 90 lawmakers, you could blame it on the recession. But this has been a persistent problem for years. Long ago I even offered to buy breakfast every Monday morning for the legislative leaders to break bread with then-Governor Janet Napolitano. I hoped that “fine, decent people” – as I called the leadership then – could resolve issues if they got to know each other better rather than reacting only to the “R” or “D” behind their names.
But they never came to breakfast, and Napolitano left the state to become Secretary of Homeland Security. (I certainly understand her answering the call of the president, but I have dear friends who think she “abandoned” us, and they’re right, too.)
I’ve begged lawmakers to “play nice with others,” talking to them at a level I thought they could understand. Last year I even said I was “encouraged” that new legislative leaders at least “sound like they want to work in harmony.” Boy, was I naive. There has been no harmony – Democrats in the statehouse are all but ignored, as are moderate Republicans.
Meanwhile, new Republican Governor Jan Brewer has shown an admirable regard for the well-being of Arizona but a remarkable inability to deal with lawmaking. She was once a lawmaker herself, but you’d never know it by her stumbles. I wish the Democrats had helped her more – they tell me they tried but, again, were ignored. Still, they could have played their hand with a whole lot more finesse.
A coalition of moderate Republicans, Democrats and Jan Brewer could have done wonders for Arizona this past year – but alas, all of these players are political creatures who have never learned to play nice together.
That brings me to Republicans. Not extreme right-wing ideologues, but real Republicans, the kind Barry Goldwater would have called friends. How could they let the religious right wing kidnap their party and continually bully everyone else?
The only ones who escape the queen’s wrath are former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who indeed is trying to do something with her bi-partisan O’Connor House Project seeking government reform, and members of Arizona Town Hall, a civic study group that for decades has been advising Arizona and in November advised widespread changes in the Legislature and the tax structure of Arizona.
But after them, it is extremely telling that the last real statesman I’ve seen in Arizona was the late Republican House Majority Leader Burton Barr (yes, the same man for whom the Phoenix Public Library is named.) Barr was Republican through and through, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t deal with Democrats and forge compromises where everyone wins. His bottom line was the good of Arizona. How I wish that were the bottom line for today’s lawmakers.
If I were queen, I’d take Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and the Maricopa Board of Supervisors – in that order – out to the woodshed.
These three are in constant battles. It’s like Arizona’s ugly daily soap opera. Arpaio and Thomas keep launching “investigations” into anyone who crosses them – the FBI is investigating if the sheriff is using his awesome police powers to harass county workers and media critics. (Good job, Channel 5, in investigating those charges.)
And when they can’t bully each other enough, they sue each other. Is it nine lawsuits so far or 10? Most are initiated by the sheriff or Thomas, but the board has sued, too. So far, the board is winning in court. But whom do I sue to get back the millions in taxpayer funds they’ve squandered on their squabbling?
If I were queen, there would be no question about preserving the land around Luke Air Force Base so the base could continue its mission of training Air Force pilots. Developers want to build homes within the noise zones – and Maricopa County says that’s OK with them – while state Attorney General Terry Goddard is blocking the building permits to keep the base viable.
Besides being an issue of national security – hello! – Luke brings in billions of dollars every year to the local economy. Somebody would throw that away for a developer to make a few bucks on single-family homes? Please, stop being idiotic and listen to Goddard.
If I were queen, Phoenix would never hand out enormous tax credits to lure developers to places they want to build anyway, like CityNorth in the snazzy northeast corridor. It looks like the courts may stop this, as they should.
I wasn’t queen when I signed up for “Friends of Bashas’” campaign, but the queen would sign up, too. This and other locally owned businesses need our support. As Bashas’ works through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, we need to remember how generous this Chandler-based company has been over the years to numerous charities.
If I were queen, everyone in Arizona would visit the new Urban Grocery and Wine Bar at 14 E. Pierce Street, on the same lot used for the Downtown Phoenix Public Market. This is the first Downtown grocery store in 30 years – the state tore the others down to make way for the Papago Freeway. It’s a sweet place and worth the trip.
If I were queen, we’d not only have a passenger train from Phoenix to Tucson, but one from Phoenix to Flagstaff! And for good measure, I’d have a bullet train from Phoenix to San Diego and Los Angeles.
I can’t be Arizona’s Solar Queen, because we already have one: U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, D-Tucson. She sponsored a bill in Congress last year to lay out a 15-year solar road map that pinpoints research and development money – a potential double whammy for Arizona, where there’s plenty of sunshine.
There’s no reason solar energy shouldn’t be a major power source here, so solar research and equipment should become a major industry here. There’s also no reason the state shouldn’t reap many of the millions the federal government will spend on solar energy. So far the bill has passed the House, where Arizona’s Democratic delegation voted for it and the Republican delegation opposed it.
If I were queen, Arizona’s Congressional delegation would be fair minded and decent enough not to embarrass us, like Republican Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain did with their shameful votes against a bill that lets women who have been raped while working overseas for defense contractors sue their employers. Many believe the “get out of rape free” card is what encouraged numerous assaults on American women who went to the Middle East to work. Thanks to new Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota for correcting this horrible dodge. Kyl simply refused to explain why he voted no; McCain’s explanation misstated the bill. Talk about adding insult to injury.
If I were queen, I’d make more people as big-hearted as the two Valley women who celebrated “big birthdays” last year by launching a $75,000 fund-raising drive to build an African village’s first school. That would be 55-year-old Phoenix attorney Debbie Hill and 50-year-old businesswoman Eileen Rogers, who are helping the village of Tourari near Timbuktu.
“Our Big Birthday Wish,” as they called it, originally sought about $44,000 to build a school for 90 children. But word spread and now 167 children want to go to the school. It’s nothing fancy – a brick and cement building with a couple classrooms. And then the women realized there’s a need for an adult literacy program, and that means night classes, and that means solar energy in a village without electricity. You can see how the “wish list” keeps growing. (They’re accepting donations online at turtlewill.org/donate.php. Donors should note it’s for the “Big Birthday Wish.”)
And the queen’s final wish for the Grand Canyon State in 2010 is that, by next January, Arizona’s future won’t look so lousy. Happy New Year.