Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tucson democracy is alive

Yesterday I went to not one, but two, public political meetings. The first was held at Ward III and the purpose was to get feedback from neighborhood leadership about the draft City of Tucson General Plan/Plan Tucson. The room was full with over thirty folks and there was a shared and expressed appreciation for the effort of City staff to involve the public in this process. However, there was also expressed reticence, and also some direct opposition, to support the draft plan. In particular, one neighborhood person emphasized how the new element to the Plan, Governance and Participation, has to be acknowledged as key to building trust with the Tucson community. To date, the staff reported, over 750 comments have been generated on the Plan, with more expected to come as the Plan moves to public hearings and to a public vote, currently still scheduled for November, 2013. The second meeting was held in an urgent care/community room in the Catalina foothills. It was a joint meeting convenend by State District 9 Senator Steve Farley, and Representatives Ethan Orr and Victoria Steele. The tone, they stressed, was to be civil, respectful of differences and also acknowledge areas of shared purpose. Steve Farley said, and the two others agreed: "We need to think more pragmatically about government instead of hating it." In general, I would say that tone was consistently demonstrated by them and, for the most part, by the participants during the Q and A period. I noted that almost half of the Q and A time focused on two issues: healthcare/Medicaid and mental health legislation. The legislators agreed that there is a strong possibility of passing a "mental health first aid bill" that would "train the trainers" to identify potential mentally ill behaviors before those behaviors become a public danger and that, while it may be contentious, support for the Governor's decision to accept the Affordable Health Care Act, will probably also pass. If not, they explained, there will be a significant hit to the state's economy. I am glad to be able to express here a cautious optimism about the "state of" local and state politics and hope that this week's State of Union speech by Pres. Obama will further demonstrate pragmatic policies for our Nation's future.

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