I was educated in Arizona’s public schools, my mother was a school teacher, my daughter attended Arizona public schools. I taught an English as a second language class. I know that a quality education is a key to the success of our children and our communities. A well funded educational system provides an opportunity for every child regardless of how well off their parents are, they provide extracurricular activities, advanced learning options, and a place to build community. Furthermore, law enforcement officers agree education is key to safe, healthy communities.
I believe we need to broaden the conversation around education. Teacher pay is important, and at 49th in the country for elementary school teachers, and 48th for secondary school teachers it is criminally low. We need to talk about the entire education ecosystem. Beginning with quality affordable childcare that allows parents to work without worry and children to thrive from the beginning, through our community colleges and universities. We need more funding for all of it. Teachers deserve a raise, they also deserve to have enough desks and up to date materials. Arizona spends less than the national average on every category of education spending, infrastructure, transportation, instructional support, every single one. Furthermore, we have more foster children than any other state and the lowest in the nation number of school counselors. Arizona is 46th in the country for high school graduation rates and the majority of our third graders are not reading at grade level. Education in Arizona is broken and we need legislators that are serious about fixing it.
During the last legislative session, the state legislature passed the largest budget in Arizona’s history and still failed to restore education funding to 2008 levels. The budget included $386 million in tax cuts and $304 million to private schools, but failed to adequately address the $420 million needed for building repair and maintenance. Voters have overwhelmingly rejected vouchers time and time again and yet our legislature keeps trying to take money out of public education and put it into for profit schools. This is a system built for corruption.
This is unacceptable, we all agree it’s unacceptable. The question is do we have the political will to do something about it. We need representatives that will do more than talk about education funding then vote to prioritize just about everything else. We need representatives that will talk the talk and walk the walk. I promise I will do everything I can to get more money into our classrooms, pre-k through college, to make more money available to fix leaky roofs and broken down school buses. I will work to make it easier to find affordable quality child care, and to go to college without taking on crippling student debt. Furthermore, I will be open and honest about my priorities with the voters of northern Arizona, and I will vote accordingly.
99% of Arizona businesses are small businesses and nearly half of all Arizona employees work for a small business—especially in northern Arizona communities.
I am a small business owner, and I believe that one of the most effective ways to create a strong economy is to make it easier for small businesses to start and thrive—not stall them with legislation designed for large corporations. As the executive director of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association I headed efforts to create the Market of Dreams, a small business incubator that now has 50 members- all local people building their businesses, and predominantly women and people of color. Rural Arizona is home to outfitters, restaurants, retail shops, healthcare companies, and many other locally grown businesses that give our towns their unique feel. Investing in these efforts should be our top priority, not tax cuts for massive Phoenix based corporations.
These corporations have influence with the Arizona Legislature that is out of proportion to their contribution to employment and the economy, especially outside of Maricopa county. Legislation and tax cuts that only help large corporations and the very wealthiest among us does nothing to help the entrepreneur around the corner, or the owner of your favorite local restaurant (did you know that dining at that local restaurant generates produces twice the economic benefit than a corporate option?). When we invest in small, local business we invest straight into our communities, creating jobs and local wealth that stays in our towns, building prosperity for the many over the few.
As your state house representative, I will be a strong advocate for small businesses—for the vision and hard work that makes them such an important part of the economy of northern Arizona communities.
Over the last ten years, I’ve watched the Arizona Legislature negate local decisions by passing legislation specifically designed to restrict communities from implementing local solutions to solve local problems and consolidating decision making power at the state legislature. Too often the legislature overrides the will of the voters and takes power for themselves and their greedy corporate backers. When Tempe voted by a 9 to 1 margin to mandate disclosure of political spending in their local elections the legislature passed a law preempting it. When Flagstaff wanted to look at reducing plastic waste – an issue that costs the city over a hundred thousand dollars a year, the legislature passed a law preempting it.
I believe this is a terrible way to govern, the rights of voters should be respected, regardless of whether or not you agree with them, it’s fundamental to our democracy. The rights of cities and towns should be respected. We know what is best for our communities, not Phoenix politicians and their dark money donors. Furthermore, cities are policy laboratories—they can try out innovative policy solutions much easier than can be done on a state or national level.
Communities need to address their specific issues, for instance, affordable housing is something towns across northern Arizona are struggling with as we increasingly lose housing stock to Airbnb and vacation rentals. Longer, warmer summers in the middle and southern parts of the state look to encourage even more of this as people seek relief up north. However, feeling that they know better than people in Sedona, Jerome or Flagstaff cities and towns were preempted from doing anything to regulate them. Resulting in the creation of mini-hotels, large structures with multiple master suites, being built and rented out as vacation rentals. These are not second homes or a spare room, these are unregulated, untaxed, unaccountable hotels.
Preemption laws hurt our ability to govern ourselves. I have over a decade of experience in local government, I get that cities are often the best place to try out innovative solutions to our unique problems. I certainly believe that the good people of Sedona know more about how to best integrate vacation rentals than lobbyists. As your representative in the state house, I will stand up for northern Arizona – her towns, cities, and voters.
Northern Arizona is home to the most spectacular landscape in the country. It is also a fundamental part of our daily lives. Growing up my grandfather would take me fishing in Lake Mary and hiking out on the Mogollon Rim and they remain some of my most treasured memories.
Our public lands provide endless opportunities for recreation and cherished family time away from the screens. Just as importantly, they also drive our economy. I recently testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands concerning uranium mining at the Grand Canyon. Let me be clear- we cannot risk the contamination of our water nor our economy by allowing uranium mining at our very own natural wonder. A recent report from the National Park Service shows that annually Grand Canyon National Park brings 6.3 million people to northern Arizona and those visitors spend $947 million in northern Arizona communities, supporting 12,558 jobs, and contributing $1.2 billion to the local economy.
Locally we’ve made investments in our forests, thinning projects not only protect northern Arizona’s watersheds, they also save money. Decades of fire suppression resulted in dense, unhealthy forests. This combined with a changing climate means that the risk of forest fire is not an if, but a when. The Schultz Fire of 2010 cost local businesses and residents $147 million in post fire flood damage.
Investing in conservation and protective measures not only mitigates the risk of disasters that cost money, it generates money throughout the region. Healthy forests in northern Arizona sustain Arizona’s surface water by capturing snow and rain and sending it downhill into rivers and streams. A recent report from the Audubon Society found that outdoor recreation along water contributes $2 billion dollars a year to Coconino county’s economy, generating 17,000 jobs. In Yavapai county 216,000 people participated in outdoor recreation along waterways contributing $1 billion a year to the local economy and supporting 9,400 jobs.
We in rural Arizona know that water is life, and that it is our most precious resource. Here in northern Arizona it’s also a significant part of our local economy. Federal, state, and local policies should work to protect and conserve our public lands and wild spaces. Not only for future generations, but for the health of our economies and our towns.