Foxes Campaign for "Henhouse Reform"
This week's column compares and contrasts two different state trust land initiatives on the ballot in November. You can figure out which one I'm supporting. My proposed headline is above, but the editor went with something more basic.
PROP. 106 CRITICS HAVE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH
East Valley Tribune, Sept. 24, 2006
Arizona voters face a very clear choice this November between two competing constitutional initiatives on state trust land. Proposition 106, Conserving Arizona’s Future -- supported by a broad coalition of educators, environmentalists, and business leaders -- would save 690,000 acres of beautiful, undeveloped state trust land for recreation and conservation, and would improve land sales and leases procedures, generating more money for education.
Meanwhile, Proposition 105 -- bought and paid for by the Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona and the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association -- would force the State Land Department to move convicted sex offenders into your neighborhood.
That’s not exactly correct, but that’s the high level of regard for truth that HACA and ACA are bringing to the state trust land debate.
PANTS ON FIRE
It starts with the campaign committee that HACA and ACA formed, called “Protect Teacher Pay,” which doesn’t really have any actual teachers involved, and certainly none protecting their salaries. (Real teachers, and the Arizona Education Association, instead are supporting Prop. 106.)
Then there are the HACA and ACA campaign materials that claim that Prop. 106 would “severely restrict” school funding and teacher’s salaries. In reality, Prop. 106 would give the State Land Department additional tools and funding to generate more money for schools by selling and leasing more infill parcels.
HACA and ACA also claim that Proposition 106 would create a “politically appointed board” with “no experience” to make “extremely complicated land use decisions” -- as opposed to HACA and ACA, which want to keep the legislature in charge.
Yep, the people who brought you alternative fuels are the alternative to “political” types with “no experience” in “extremely complicated land use decisions.” Like five names picked at random from the phone book wouldn’t have a higher median IQ than the Legislature. Prop. 106 actually creates an oversight board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate -- much like the Arizona Board of Regents -- with requirements that members have substantial experience in the board’s areas of responsibility.
HACA and ACA allege that Prop. 106 prohibits any improvements, even for recreation or access, to lands set aside for conservation -- but Prop. 106 specifically guarantees public access and specifically allows construction of roads, parks, and trails. That one isn’t a matter of interpretation; HACA and ACA just ignored language in Prop. 106 to try to scare voters. (That’s the polite way of putting it, but if you see Connie Wilhelm, HACA’s executive director, with her pants on fire, you’ll know why.)
LOOKING OUT FOR WHOM?
HACA and ACA also claim that Prop. 106 allows trust land anywhere in the state “to be considered for conservation,” which is deceptive at best. Apart from the 694,000 acres designated for conservation, Prop. 106 allows additional conservation if master planning by the State Land Department and local communities show the need for additional acres -- and any additional conservation areas must be acquired at market value.
By contrast, the HACA and ACA initiative sets aside only 40,000 acres, and has nothing for any future conservation planning efforts by the Land Department, no matter how much development, how many more people, and how much more need Arizona has in the future.
But the real question voters should ask themselves in evaluating these two propositions is why the homebuilders and the cattlemen -- whose businesses depend on using state trust lands at the lowest price possible -- would have the best interests of teachers, students, hunters, campers, and hikers in mind, especially when all those other groups support Conserving Arizona’s Future, Prop. 106.
The Prop. 105 campaign’s difficulty with truth becomes understandable when you realize that HACA and ACA want to bamboozle voters into letting the foxes run the henhouse. Deception? Dissembling? Out-and-out lying? Don’t get upset, it’s what foxes do. Instead, vote “no” on 105 and “yes” on Conserving Arizona’s Future, Proposition 106.