Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dear Texas, Can We Keep Taylor Sanford Jr.? Sincerely, Arizona.

I paint a pretty picture of Arizona on Making Owls Cool, but all's not well in the desert and I'd like to take a moment and air some dirty laundry about our state. I promise I will not make a habit of it. I wouldn't want to read this stuff all the time. I'll get back to loving Arizona tomorrow, I promise.

Arizona's economy is really in the shit, and not only because of the housing crisis and recession. For years the state government has failed to raise enough revenue to provide adequate services to the citizens of the state and now overspending on a unsustainable budget has caught up with us. A lot of folks out here are living in La-La Land and care more about keeping their guns and keeping Mexicans out and less about education, civil rights, or conservation. We're the only state that no longer provides healthcare to uninsured children. As I write this our foolish state government is wasting its time trying to grant the governor the power to file a lawsuit against the healthcare reform bill. This is something our attorney general has refused to do because A. it appears the federal government is within its jurisdiction and B. because only one state would need to bring the lawsuit and win to overturn parts of the bill and other states have already done this, making AZ's suit unnecessary. The state's priorities are not just backwards, but ignorant. You may ask, won't the people get fed up and do something about it? Nope. They're too busy making undocumented Mexican immigration the scapegoat for every problem. Education no good? - we're paying for illegals. Job loss? - illegals taking them. Swine flu - illegals. Cloudy days - illegals. You get the idea; many people aren't involved in realistic, let alone productive, dialogue about improving the state.

Regardless your political standpoint, the 48th state isn't only near the end of the list in terms incorporation, but also in terms of legislation and management. We have one of the most severe budget deficits in the country and poorest funded education systems with results to match. Yet, we're near the top of the list in terms of natural beauty, unique landscapes, and historical sites. Luckily, many of Arizona's finest resources are managed by the National Parks Service, like the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Organ Pipe Cactus. Unfortunately, many of the amazing natural places cared for by the Arizona State Parks system are at the mercy of our Hindenburg of a state government. However, as is usually the case, there are enough resourceful people around to offset at least some of what the hyenas are up to. Local communities, often in rural areas, rely on state parks and tourism for revenue. The state parks board and local communities are working together to try to keep the state parks open. Many communities are taking over control of the state parks. For example, Tombstone will manage Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, the town of Payson will manage Tonto Natural Bridge until September 7th. Other communities, like Tubac and Flagstaff have also assumed responsibility or are working out deals. I for one will make an effort to visit the parks and help support the townships, historical societies, and citizens who are working to maintain that privilege for me.

In an extremely generous move, a fellow named Taylor Sanford Jr., a 76-year-old visitor from Katy, Texas, wrote a check for $8,000 to keep Lost Dutchman State Park open a bit longer. Lost Dutchman is a personal favorite of mine, too, so thanks Mr. Sanford. I'm glad to end this political rant with the example of Sanford's generosity. Arizona could use a few more Taylor Sanfords and a few less J.D. Hayworths and Joe Arpaios.