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Arizona needs a unified vision for the future

For Arizonans, the centennial presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past and envision the future of our state, as these are serious times. Based on a number of factors, it appears a unified vision is sorely lacking, and without it, we run the risk of declining prosperity and intractable problems with the ultimate consequence being a significant decline in our quality of life, which is at the very essence of Arizona.

Trends indicate a preference for smaller government, and the state Legislature, among many governing bodies statewide, is accelerating this trend. So what are the consequences to our quality of life if we persist in the idea of “vending machine” government? We often know what we don’t want government to do, but conversely, do we have a clear and shared understanding about the role of government as an enabler to our quality of life?

As an entrepreneur, former city manager, conference speaker, author, blogger, ASU grad (MPA, 1986), adjunct faculty member at ASU, father, husband, and resident of Arizona, I offer the following observations on several key issues that current and future leaders throughout the state should focus on.

Growth and economic development: The preoccupation with increasing numbers as a sign of prosperity and progress hopefully has leveled off. Thanks to the Great Recession, governments throughout the state have engaged in significant revisions to their growth strategies.

The challenge is, unless additional well-paying jobs of all collars — white, blue and green — descend upon our state, we remain over-reliant on housing construction, consumerism (i.e. spending) and service- related businesses as pillars of our economy. We must also recognize that states like Texas and California — which use a unified approach to building their economies and enlist active participation of the public, private and financial sectors — will continue to leave our state and its economy in the proverbial dust.

Effective and efficient government: To continue to provide necessary services, organizational leaders need to seriously consider merging some operations with other jurisdictions. The city of Reno, Nev., and Washoe County, Nev., are attempting to merge “back office” operations such as human resources, information technology and procurement as a way to share resources and ultimately cut costs. Taking an ax to government budgets is a lot like dieting — we may lose weight but we’re not always healthier as a result. Increasingly, the idea of using regional districts for the provision of water, sewer and even parks and recreation services is being examined by governments nationwide and should be explored more intently here in Arizona.

I remain amazed but not surprised at how so many pundits exist out there who seemingly make government employee-bashing a contact sport.

We should remember that public service is a noble profession, and providing effective and efficient government will have a major role in our continuing quality of life.

Community building: It’s a new world — a digital world. The days of public hearings and physical petitions being submitted to demonstrate the general public’s concerns are rapidly fading and being replaced by new citizen-engagement tools. Outlets like Facebook and Twitter are no longer a luxury for the public sector, especially at a time when government is front and center on so many significant issues. There are still government leaders, both elected and appointed, who view the entire subject of social marketing as something government doesn’t have to deal with. However, the idea that social media is a fad that leaders can simply wait out is risky. Social currency has always been vital to the credibility of government, and with the explosion of social media devices, governments need to accelerate their timetables for adopting and implementing contemporary strategies and tactics.

So, there it is — a version of the future of Arizona as fashioned by peering out the front windshield. Now is the time to stop longing for the good old days, looking in the rear view mirror. Opportunities exist all around us — we must decide whether Arizona’s future is already written for us or will it be written by us? It’s our choice.

— Patrick Ibarra owns and operates The Mejorando Group, an organizational improvement consulting firm.


  1. Arizona does have a unified vision for the future as it turns Arizona into a \prison state\. The legislators, prosecutors, private prison corporation lobbyists, special interests and their suppliers refuse to reform outdated and failed mandatory minimum sentencing laws and to reform criminal justice laws. Until that changes Arizona will continue in its downward spiral, as few businesses families with children will want to live in a state that favors mass incarceration of its people over education.

  2. Arizona does has a unified vision for the future with respect to HOAs — the public policy of Arizona is to protect HOAs with special laws that deny individual freedoms and liberties enjoyed by those not living in HOAs. And to say that homeowners agreed to a contract that omits material facts and binds the homeowner without his having to ever see or read the CC&Rs makes a mockery of the law, and the “sacred” contract. Especially when your neighbors can change it without your consent and go backward to alter the terms of that contact.

    This session, just look at those 19 HOA bills, many of which attempted to hold the HOA board and managers accountable, that have gotten nowhere. Only one dealing with political and for sales signs has an awkward penalty against liens for six months, if any.

  3. Concerned Citizen

    ALEC, the corporate backed out of state law writing organization is no secret, but the fact that so many of our legislators are part of it isnt well known.

    Here are the members of ALEC serving in our legislature:
    Debbie Lesko, Public Sector Chair of ALEC
    State Senators-All Republicans
    Sylvia Allen
    Nancy Barto
    Andy Biggs
    Rich Crandall
    Adam Driggs
    Gail Griffin
    Lori Klein
    John McComish
    Al Melvin
    Rick Murphy
    Steve Pierce
    Michele Reagan
    Don Shooter
    Steve Smith
    Steve Yarborough
    Russ Pearce and Scott Bungaard are members
    State Representatives-All Republicans
    Cecil Ash
    Brenda Barton
    Kate Brophy Mc Gee
    Judy Burges
    Steve Court
    Chester Crandall
    Jeff Dial
    Karen Fann
    Eddie Farnsworth
    John Fillmore
    Tom Forese
    Doris Goodale
    David Gowan
    Rick Gray
    Jack Harper
    Russ Jones
    Peggy Judd
    John Kavanagh
    Nancy McLain
    Javan Mesnard
    Justin Olson
    Frank Pratt
    Terri Proud
    Amanda A. Reeve
    Bob Robson
    David Burnell Smith
    David W. Stevens
    Andy M. Tobin
    Steve R. Urie
    J. Ted Vogt
    James P. Weiers
    Kimberly Yee

  4. Concerned Citizen

    Arizona’s business model that harms tourism and new business growth.

    Private Prisons Gone Wild — In These Times

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