Same old issues riding the merry-go-round
Jul. 28, 2005
Wanted: a new issue.
I don't know about you, but lately I've been feeling rather dizzy as I try to
follow the goings-on around here. Like a dust devil, the issues keep swirling
around and around and around. Nothing ever seems to get resolved. Nothing ever
seems to go away.
We just keep gagging on the stirred-up dust and wonder whatever happened to . .
• State land reform. A coalition of education and conservation groups last week
launched the Arizona State Land Conservation Initiative, a ballot proposal aimed
at preserving 700,000 acres of state land, including a sizable chunk in north
But wait, wasn't 1996 the year of the Arizona Preserve Initiative, a new state
law aimed at preserving state land, including a sizable chunk in north
Scottsdale? As I recall, that proposal also set out to preserve 700,000 acres
but was whittled down to a fraction of that by the time ranchers and developers
got done with it.
Then last year, it was scuttled altogether when a pair of property rights
advocates complained it wasn't fair to designate some state land as open space.
Apparently all property has a right to be carved into mini-malls and gated
communities and so the state dropped API, preferring not to fight for it,
leaving the preservation efforts of Scottsdale and other cities in limbo.
• Official English. The GOP-controlled Legislature earlier this year passed a
bill that would have designated English as Arizona's official language,
requiring that government business be conducted in English. Gov. Janet
Napolitano vetoed the bill, saying - not without some justification - that it's
not fair to require English when you've long ignored a federal judge's order to
adequately teach English. The veto enraged some legislators, who hinted they
might just take the issue to voters. Again, that is.
In 1988, Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment declaring English
the state's official language, but it was in court before the ink was dry on the
ballots. Two years later, U.S. District Judge Paul Rosenblatt ruled that the law
violated the First Amendment rights of public employees. After 11 years of legal
wrangling, Arizona's Official English law finally limped into its grave in 1999.
• Scottsdale's sixth high school. Superintendent John Baracy began pushing for
it even before he took over as superintendent last July. Never mind that voters
had stoned a request for $54 million to build a sixth high school three years
Baracy didn't believe in the need for a sixth high school strongly enough to
suggest yanking the district's biggest funding request ever off last November's
ballot. That bond called for rebuilding four of the district's five high schools
at $50 million a pop, but said nothing about building a sixth one and for good
reason. Enrollment was dropping and projections showed the north Scottsdale area
would never supply enough students to support a full-service high school.
Despite that, Baracy suggested starting a "transitional" high school for
freshmen in an existing building in August 2005, then returning to voters later
to ask for the money to build a sixth high school.
He convened a task force of parents to study the issue but they nixed the idea
last October, saying they don't want a transitional school unless the money is
there to build a real one. So, naturally, Baracy in June proposed the idea of
starting a transitional high school for freshman in an existing building in 2006
and asking voters in 2007 to pony up for a sixth high school.
Baracy says new enrollment projections would allow the district to build the
school. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that many of those new kids are
ones he's bringing in from outside the school district.
It seems one thing to ask Scottsdale voters to subsidize roughly half the cost
of an education for students from outside the district when you have existing
space. But using them to justify asking voters to hand over $50 million for a
I'd ask him if that's something he believes voters would embrace. But hey, since
when has that mattered?
Reach Roberts at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-6873