BY LINDA BENTLEY | AUGUST 8, 2012
District 1 legislators understand rural component of Arizona
Council praises town manager and renews contract for another two years with boost back up to 2008 salary
Photo by Linda Bentley
CAVE CREEK – Evelyn Johnson, executive director of the Cave Creek Museum, spoke during Call to the Public to thank council for its $10,000 grant and to invite them to the museum’s Sept. 29 opening reception.
Mayor Vincent Francia then introduced House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, (l) and Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, who are running for reelection in the newly redrawn District 1, which now includes most of Cave Creek.
Having interacted with both on behalf of Turf Paradise, Francia called them “good representatives,” and reminded citizens they had also heard from Rep. Karen Fann, R-Chino Valley, also running for reelection, during the last council meeting.
Tobin distributed a “Legislative Update” handout that summarized the budget history and update, the jobs initiative and outlook and a sample of the ballot proposals.
Pointing out he lives in Paulden, a small town in Yavapai County with a population of 5,231, Tobin said, “We understand the rural component of Arizona.”
He said he met his wife 28 years ago at the Carefree Inn and was serving his 6th year in the legislature.
Pierce, a native Arizonan and rancher in Prescott, said his grandfather and father homesteaded in Arizona.
Stating he’s lived in Prescott since 1959, Pierce said, “I know which end of a cow gets up first.”
Pierce, now serving his second term, said he’d been active in the Yavapai County Republican Party before deciding to run for office and said he was a conservative Republican.
He said the next two years will become very expensive. Currently education consumes 55 percent of the budget.
Pierce stated health care, and how it’s paid for, is going to be interesting.
He said there was too much complacency, adding, “You all need to become involved.”
During questions from the audience, Susan Clancy asked what their thoughts were about the extra money schools receive for turning their schools into charters.
Pierce responded by saying it only appears that they’re receiving more money but, in fact, charter schools actually save the state millions of dollars and from a cost standpoint he wished all schools would become charters.
As an advocate for school choice, Pierce said it gives students more options and saves the state a lot of money.
Tobin also stated he was a big believer in school choice.
Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch asked, “Now that we’re considered rural, can you go back and take another look at Area A (dust control area)?”
Bunch asked if they could revisit the mapped area to exclude Cave Creek.
Tobin responded, “We’d love to.”
However, Pierce stated the EPA was “coming down hard on us,” and had an “attack on coal burning anything.”
He said, “We have dust storms here, now called haboobs … They don’t take that into consideration.”
So, Pierce said the legislature probably could not do anything and stated, “The EPA has to sign off on it.”
Mike Smith asked if there was anything that could be done to straighten out Child Protective Services.
Tobin said CPS was given an increase of $4 million per year and stated Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery came up with a plan for CPS to work with law enforcement.
According to Tobin, 28 new, trained employees have been put back into the system, which he said was a “good start.”
Francia asked if there were indications the economy was improving.
Tobin stated, “We’re ahead of where we thought we’d be. We saw this coming with everyone flipping houses. We have debt service because we didn’t cut government when we should have.”
He said Arizona lost 300,000 jobs but have added back 50,000 and, according to his handout, is expected to add back approximately 103,000 between 2012 and 2013.
Tobin said, “When you’re running for public office, it’s disappointing when only 50 percent are registered to vote and only 60 percent go to the polls.”
He also noted 90 percent of the bills that pass are bipartisan, although they don’t receive as much attention.
Council took a five-minute break and reconvened to unanimously approve Town Manager Usama Abujbarah’s contract for another two years.
According to Abujbarah, the only change in the contract was to restore his pay back to the 2008 rate. Abujbarah took a 10 percent cut in pay when the economy turned sour.
Councilman Steve LaMar, who moved to approve the new contract, said, “We wouldn’t have made it through the downturn in the economy without the leadership of the town manager.”
A few members of council stated they didn’t always agree with Abujbarah, but had nothing but praise for his performance over the past for years.
Francia stated, “This community would not have made it through” without Abujbarah’s leadership, which was reason enough for him to approve his contract.