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Collaboration is key strength for southern Arizona lawmakers

Not long ago, southern Arizona legislators worked together to serve the needs of their communities, regardless of their political affiliations. Today, the willingness to collaborate is gone.

Instead of supporting their own communities, some southern Arizona legislators have sworn allegiance to Maricopa County leadership; sworn allegiance to those leaders who deny Tucson its fair share of state taxes, deny us money for law enforcement and deny us money for K-12 and higher education; sworn allegiance to those who interfere with our health decisions, meddle in local education policy and limit our ability to provide adequately for child welfare.

Consider the following questions:

• Do you want accessible, affordable health care?
• Do you want public schools that prepare children for college or employment?
• Do you want UofA to be a world-class university?
• Do you want children to be safe?
• Do you want the poor to have a chance to raise themselves from poverty?

A “no” answer means you’re happy with the way business is being done at the Legislature.  A “yes” answer means you think change is necessary.

When we represented the former District 14 in the Legislature, we had colleagues who had a certain illness known as ideological impairment. The illness prevented civil discourse, compromise and any ability to work across party lines. It was an illness hazardous to the health of our state.

Today, this illness has spread to epidemic proportion, but there is a cure. The cure is we the people. As we approach the 2012 elections, consider the following three courses of action:

Check facts:  Just because you’ve read it or heard it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.   Remember Sen. Jon Kyl’s aide, who said that Kyl didn’t intend a statement he made on the U.S. Senate floor to be factual.

Ask the right questions: Candidates talk the talk, but do they walk the walk?  No one is against good education, but ask candidates direct questions about what they support now and what they will support once elected. If they are elected, hold them to what they’ve said.

Speak out: Tell them what you expect. Tell them when you agree and when you disagree.  Tell them in letters, by telephone, by email and in person. Remember, you can withhold the one thing they want from you — your vote.

Seek out those who believe that Arizona can be more. Former Attorney General Grant Woods once said: “Arizona is a wonderful place to live unless you’re a child.” It’s still true today. Don’t let that stand.

Finally, join together with others who are sick of our state being at the bottom, becoming fodder for comedians and an embarrassment. We know that government can’t do it all, but government can do it better.

Together, we can.

— Ruth Solomon is a former Tucson state senator. Marion Pickens and Herschella Horton are former state representatives from Tucson.

4 comments

  1. This opinion article sounds like a campaign hit piece for the 2012 elections.

    Republican and Democratic members of the legislature agree on many issues. Two legislative sessions ago, staff told me that 90% of the bills passed and signed by the Governor had bipartisan support. I haven’t analyzed last sessions bills yet, but I imagine the same will be true.

    Attacking opinion articles like this one certainly don’t help the cause that the authors seem to support.

  2. Rep. Lesko wasn’t even in the Legislature when the S. Az team worked for the good of our community!
    She knows that the critical, crucial bills and state budget that control our public schools funding, that attack women’s rights, that attack on children and the working poor are where the 2 parties differ.
    This opinion article by our former legislators, one of whom worked for a Republican after serving in the Legislature, is so very true! Don’t be fooled by statistics. On critical issues, the Republicans don’t work with the Democrats for the good of the entire state! They take care of their corporate buddies first!

  3. The authors are nice people and very good Democrats. With all due respect, however their premise might be wrong. Is partisanship really an ideological or a epidemic problem? If that is the diagnosis, then do we get very far by both sides calling the other “sick”? And will more emails, letters and phone calls break either the state (or national) gridlock. They know, as do others who were or are now in office that most often pounds of communication does not a vote change.

    My bet is that we are dealing with a sociological problem of group-think, where the penalties for breaking party lines are serious. And extremes are rewarded with reelection.

    Not a single independent has yet been elected to the Arizona legislature since statehood. And now independents outnumber Democrats who have been losing market share since 1940! Don’t gloat, Republicans, you have been losing market share since 1985 and will soon be in second place.

    It may be time for more basic, structural reforms in how people get into office in the first place. Californians and Washington State voters have shifted to open primaries, enfranchising all voters to select the top two, who the run in the general election. No longer will a hyperpartisan minority of the voters elect the winner in a primary. Taxpayer funded, party primaries are GONE for all congressional, state and legislative races.

    Ted Downing
    Recovering politician and independent

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