Governor's visit highlights annual conference - Tucson Local Media: Import

Governor's visit highlights annual conference

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Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2004 11:00 pm

Sept. 8, 2004 - Governor Janet Napolitano took center stage at the annual conference of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns Sept. 2 to thank mayors, councilmembers and town staff present for the work they do every day to assure Arizonans have access to important services and protections.

"As the governor, I am behind you 120 percent in what you are doing," Napolitano said.

She said she has supported the state's municipalities in the budget by continuing to make sure they receive state-shared revenue, a statement that was met with applause from the audience of more than 600.

The 2004 Annual Conference was themed "Today's Horizon, Tomorrow's Vision" and was held at the Tucson Hilton El Conquistador Hotel and Resort Aug. 31 through Sept. 3.

Nearly 900 mayors, councilmembers and town employees from across the state convened in Oro Valley to discuss legislative advocacy, education, training, technical assistance and information sharing for and among the cities and towns in Arizona.

During the governor's luncheon, Napolitano praised the group for giving up their nights and weekends to serve their local governments and said with the experience and talent in the room, she is confident Arizona is up to facing the challenges she sees in its future. She included the future of water use and conservation among the biggest challenges, as well as decreases in fiscal support from Washington, D.C.

Napolitano en-couraged the representatives at the conference to "leave a legacy" by creating services and policies that will best serve the people in their communities.

The crowd had many questions for the governor on topics ranging from homeland security to trust land reform.

Oro Valley Councilmember Connie Culver directed a question about the future of the health care profession to the governor, saying she is concerned that with the number of malpractice suits being filed, qualified physicians are retiring earlier or leaving Arizona altogether because the costs to stay in business are so high.

Napolitano said she has been working on that issue all summer and does not see tort reform as the only answer, as has been the discussion in some other states. Generally, tort reform refers to proposals to limit the prevalence of legal claims prosecuted with the assistance of personal injury lawyers, which are perceived by some to unfairly burden insurance policy holders with high premiums.

She said the key is to bring everyone to the discussion, including the lawyers and courts as well as the doctors. And she said there is hope in projects such as the combined medical school slated to be built in Phoenix that will allow more doctors in training to conduct their residencies here.

Culver said her first experience at the conference was a rewarding one because of the opportunity to network and the quality of the information disseminated.

"It gave us an opportunity to meet many of the other elected officials and share ideas," she said. "It was very productive and very positive."

She said she was particularly helped by information from one workshop that discussed how elected officials best communicate with constituents.

"That's very important to me," Culver said. "It is part of the platform I ran on."

One pointer she took away is to always acknowledge the person that contacts you whether you agree or disagree with what they have to say.

"You need to let them know you value their opinion of what would make the community better," Culver said.

She was "impressed" that the governor took the time to come to the conference and said that she is making an effort to be more available to elected officials around the state. At the conference Napolitano's staff had a room where councilmembers could stop in and get information on the best ways of reaching her staff.

However, Culver said she was disappointed with Napolitano's response to a question she asked about health care. Culver said health care providers are leaving Arizona now and it is an issue that needs serious attention now.

"How long will it be until we don't have the numbers we need?" she asked, suggesting that Arizona take a hard look at what states such as Texas are doing with tort reform.

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