Reports detail what Arizonans want, but we need leaders who will take us there

Our view: Reports detail where we'd like to go, but we need leaders to get us there
2013-03-27T00:00:00Z Reports detail what Arizonans want, but we need leaders who will take us there Arizona Daily Star
March 27, 2013 12:00 am

The Arizona We Want 2.0 report makes a powerful, even disturbing, case for urgently needed action - but it leaves unanswered this key question: Who will put themselves on the line to make change happen?

Some background: The Arizona We Want Institute was established in 2009 and is an offshoot of the Center for the Future of Arizona (check it out at arizonafuture.org), an organization founded in 2002 by former Arizona State University President Lattie Coor.

The idea was for the institute "to implement the citizens' agenda based upon the findings of the center's … Gallup Arizona Poll" that spelled out in detail what Arizonans wanted, "a citizens' agenda" for the state, according to the center's website.

What Arizonans wanted is no surprise. In a nutshell: more and better jobs, especially for young college graduates; a better educational system, especially one that trains workers for 21st-century jobs; access to health care for all Arizonans; improved elected leadership; more citizen engagement; protection for the state's natural environment, including especially its water resources; and so on. You can read that first report at www.thearizonawewant.org/taww.php online.

"Ideally," it concluded, "we would see a near universal embrace of The Arizona We Want by citizens and leaders alike at local, regional and statewide levels. Even that, however, will not occur without leaders and leadership organizations aligning their agendas with those contained in this report and working in concert with others to accomplish the larger goals."

And The Arizona We Want 2.0 seems to suggest that little of this has been achieved in the past four years. That's too bad, we think, because its findings do, as we said above, make a striking case for change, much of it urgently needed.

Highlights:

• Young, talented people want to live in "vibrant, prosperous communities," but in Arizona both average wages and per-capita income are below national levels, and the poverty rate is higher than the national level.

• Latinos make up 30 percent of the state's total population, and 43 percent of K-12 students, and they're on track to soon become the majority group in Arizona. Yet the high school graduation rate for Latinos is 72 percent, compared with 85 percent for white non-Latino students.

• Studies suggest that 61 percent of Arizona jobs will require post-high school training by 2018.

• The report notes that the state's per-student spending on public education has decreased by 21.8 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2012.

• Though Arizonans want better transportation systems and highways and roads, "more than $500 million of state transportation revenue has been diverted to the state's general fund, deferring $370 million in construction projects." Gridlock and potholes, anyone?

• Arizonans want everyone to be able to get health care, but, since the first report, some 300,000 childless adults have been locked out of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (Gov. Jan Brewer is seeking to reverse this inhumane, short-sighted decision) and the Kids- Care program has been cut back.

• Though the 2009 poll found Arizonans believe we need more primary-care doctors, state cuts of $15.3 million in support for their training since 2009 have triggered federal cuts of $29.6 million - and now the state ranks 44th in the nation in primary-care doctors per population. Oorah.

There's more - and you should check it out. Visit thearizonawewant.org for the online link to read the full 2.0 report.

The report says its priorities "can be achieved if citizens and leaders work together and stick with the goals over time."

But that's an enormous "if." We're reminded of what we were taught in first-aid classes - that you don't leave helper roles to chance. You don't say, "Someone call 911!" Instead you say, "Sally, call 911. Billy, fetch a blanket."

We're impressed with the institute's work. We support most of the reforms and priorities it's identified.

But we're concerned that no one's going to dial 911 unless they're assigned to the task - or step up and volunteer to do it.

The Southern Arizona Leadership Council is engaged, and so are some large companies and other state and regional groups. We hope they'll bring clout, political savvy and commitment to the table, because brilliant analysis isn't going to do the trick.

Arizona Daily Star

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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