Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Education is the key to changing Arizona's political landscape

I've been trying to write this post for nearly a week, but every time I try to write it, it goes off in a direction different than the one I had expected.

And then I have to re-write.... :((

On Thursday evening, the LD8 Democrats hosted a 'meet the candidates' night.

Making the journey to north Scottsdale were Gerald Richard, candidate for County Attorney, Dan Saban, candidate for County Sheriff, Joel Sinclair, candidate for County Supervisor, Sandra Kennedy, Kara Kelty, and George Arredondo, candidates for Corporation Commission, and Stephanie Rimmer, candidate for LD8 House.

The evening's discussion was fairly standard, especially for candidates appearing in front of a friendly crowd. The candidates briefly covered their positions and visions for the offices they are seeking, and then there was an open question-and-answer period.

One of the questions, while seemingly innocuous, actually highlighted one of the biggest reasons for the insane nature of the Arizona political scene - ignorance about the very existence of many of the offices, the people that hold them, and of their relevance to the average Arizonan.

Don't think that's an issue? Just ask your friends and neighbors to name the members of the Corporation Commission, or to tell you the name of their representative on the County Board of Supervisors.

Hell, most people can't even name their legislators.

Anyway, the questioner asked the candidates how they address the situation when they speak to voters who are not only unfamiliar with them (the candidates) but also with the offices they're campaigning for.

While their answers varied in content based on the offices they are seeking, all of the candidates believe that education is the solution.

When voters ask why they should care about the ACC, Sandra Kennedy advises them to look at their ever-rising APS bills; when asked about the County Board of Supervisors, Joel Sinclaire advises voters that Maricopa County has a budget of $2.2 billion dollars.

For some reason, those things get the attention of voters. :))

Anyway, part of the job in their campaigns isn't just to introduce themselves to voters and to persuade the voters to support them, but to also bring home to the voters why these offices that most of them have never heard of or just don't care about have a daily impact on their lives.

In some ways, Dan Saban and Gerald Richard (and Tim Nelson, too!) have it easier - most people know about their races and the offices they are seeking. While they have uphill battles against entrenched and desperate incumbents, the vast majority of voters are already familiar with the antics of Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas, their opponents.

They may be facing the dirtiest campaigns in the state this year, with all of the problems that go with that, but "under the radar" is *not* going to be one of those problems.

Which still leaves the board and commission candidates needing some help in getting out the word on why their races are important.

Up for consideration this evening? The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Want to know why the Board is important, and why the voters should take the opportunity to change the complexion of the board during this year's election?

Start with fiscal responsibility.

From the Board's agenda for today's meeting -

Approve spending $1.6 million on outside legal fees because Andrew Thomas gutted the County Attorney's Office Civil Division to funnel money to his former law firm;

Approve spending $97,000 to maintain two MCSO aircraft that have fallen into disrepair while the Sheriff would rather spend money on junkets to Honduras than on proper maintenance of equipment vital to the safety of MCSO staff and prisoners.;

Accept grants and enter into contracts, totalling millions of dollars;

Oh yeah, and approve a tentative annual budget of $2,258,887,593.

Actually, there are over 70 items on the Board's main agenda, and another 11 on the supplemental agenda. The items cover the length and breadth of the county, covering public safety, schools, libraries, water delivery, planning, land management, solid waste, flood control, public health, and more.

In short, it's basically a city council for an area that's approximately six times this size of the entire state of Rhode Island (9200 square miles vs. 1500) and no one is paying attention to it.

Time to change that.

One brief candidate note: A Democratic candidate has stepped forward in Supervisor District 4 (western and northwestern Maricopa County). Wayne Pearson, a Glendale businessman, has filed to challenge Max Wilson. I don't have any info on him as yet, but stay tuned.

He will be uniting with Ed Hermes (SD1), Joel Sinclaire (SD2) and Marilyn Fox (SD3) as they work to join incumbent Mary Rose Wilcox (SD5) on the Board.

Next up: The Arizona Corporation Commission, probably within the next week or so.


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