Melvin's decent, but schools are suffering

By Rex Scott, Special to The Explorer

Rick Cunnington writes in his Sept. 2 letter that State Sen. Al Melvin "cordially and politely" listens to constituent concerns at his public meetings. Having been to a couple of those forums, I would have to agree. Sen. Melvin is a good and decent man who does take the time to listen to all points of view. He is friendly, affable and, it appears, "takes his job as the people's representative very seriously."

However, any parent who has children attending schools in Amphi, Catalina Foothills, Flowing Wells and Marana (school districts that are wholly or partially in Melvin's LD 26) are seeing each day the direct result of his voting record. Increased class sizes, less money for supplies and teachers out of work are all current realities that came about because of the votes Sen. Melvin and his colleagues in Phoenix have cast. There is no denying these facts, and we who work in public education are offended and baffled when Sen. Melvin makes light of what he has wrought by his votes.

Call your child's school. Ask how many teachers were not called back this year. Inquire about the number of students enrolled in sections of academic courses at the middle and high school levels. If your child attends an elementary school, ask what the average class size is in kindergarten through fifth grades compared to last year.

After you have the data, ask yourself what Sen. Melvin could have been talking about when he said, in the March 11th edition of The Explorer, that "the way to fix education is to make schools, like the ones we have in LD 26, stronger." How can Al Melvin say that larger class sizes are improving the schools in LD 26?

Back when he was seeking our votes to represent us, Sen. Melvin said that he was "totally committed to funding K-12 education in Arizona." (The Explorer, 10/1/08). How do his votes since being elected match up with that pledge? Ask yourself that question if you are a parent or student in the four school districts he represents.

Try to reconcile his campaign "commitment" to schools and kids with the fact that Sen. Melvin was quoted in the June 10th Explorer asking the question, "Why cut education to a minimum?" Politicians who say one thing during election season and act another way when they are elected are nothing new to us. What is different about Sen. Melvin is that his voting record flies in the face of the proud history of LD 26 legislators of both parties who have been champions for education and children.

Sen. Melvin is an avowed advocate for private schools who states on his campaign website ( that "our public school system is failing to do its job and it is failing our children." He also blames this "failure" on "a lack of competition" or "waste." His votes, however, have stripped public schools of the resources they need to do their job in this, the second-fastest growing state in our union. Could it be that Sen. Melvin hopes that sticking it to public schools will make it easier to sell the private school vouchers he has long touted?

Nothing constructive can come from me calling Sen. Melvin names, as Mr. Cunnington does to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in his letter. Our politics have become too vitriolic and coarse.

I like Sen. Melvin personally and admire his willingness to fight for his beliefs in the political arena. His extreme views, however, are doing harm both to the students I serve and to my own kids, who are students at an LD26 high school.

For that reason, and because of the haphazard way in which Sen. Melvin's allies in Phoenix are running this state, I will oppose his re-election vigorously and encourage anyone concerned with the way our state and its children are being damaged to do the same.

Rex Scott is an LD 26 resident and a high school principal.

Arizona must end government favoritism

By Nick Dranias, Special to The Explorer

Two years ago, through a complex deal involving the rebate of anticipated sales taxes, a shopping mall developer was promised nearly $100 million from Phoenix to build a high-end mega-mall named CityNorth.

When local businessman Meyer Turken caught wind of it, he was outraged. Turken had spent decades building his property maintenance company from nothing to more than 40 employees, without one dime from the government.

Turken's belief in fair play, not favoritism, wouldn't allow him stand by while Phoenix taxed away the fruits of his labor just to hand it over to an another business owner. The Goldwater Institute took his case, eventually winning a ruling in the Court of Appeals that declared the CityNorth subsidy a violation of the Arizona Constitution's "Gift Clause."

But the battle wages on.

An Oro Valley economic development agency has placed five similar subsidy deals on hold while Phoenix appeals the CityNorth decision to the Arizona Supreme Court. And Mesa is rushing to build a convention center and hotel with tens of millions of dollars in public financing.

Even though the Arizona Constitution bans taxpayer-funded giveaways to private businesses, cities have been creatively skirting the law for decades. To stop the unfair practice of taxing some businesses and entrepreneurs in order to subsidize others, a fundamental reform needs to happen at the city level where most subsidies are handed out. The foundation of local law, the charter or statute that organizes a city or county, must be amended to eliminate favoritism. This means adopting a policy that prohibits all local subsidies, without exception.

Reforming local government to ban subsidies would not only vindicate basic fairness, it is a practical necessity. Local government fee and tax revenues are plummeting, and we just can't afford to have our cities giving away the tax money that should be spent on vital public services like law enforcement.

That's why the Goldwater Institute published "A New Charter for American Cities: 10 Rights to Restrain Government and Protect Freedom." It urges adoption of a "Local Liberty Charter," a local constitution meant to secure individual freedom and fiscal responsibility. If adopted, the "Local Liberty Charter" and its ban on subsidies would stop local officials from gambling public money on private ventures.

All business owners deserve the chance to make it, but they need to make it fair and square. Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to pick up the tab so a business can open its doors. It's time for cities to step back and let local entrepreneurs — the force that makes America great — get to work risking their own capital and rebuilding our broken economy, one idea and one hard-earned dollar at a time.

Nick Dranias is an attorney and director of constitutional policy at the Goldwater Institute.

No yielding the freedom to challenge

By Richard Feinberg, Special to The Explorer

This is in response to the guest column written by foot surgeon Dr. Gilbert D. Shapiro in the Sept. 2nd edition.

He starts off by saying; Healthcare reform should be based on expert recommendations, not special interest opinions. He goes on complaining about the contentiousness of the healthcare reform debate and about the misinformation, ludicrous catch phrases and ugly sound bites.

Certainly, these kinds of arguments existed when men and women first planted their feet on this planet. The passionate disagreements about the Healthcare Bill 3200 were because the administration's group of experts was trying to ramrod the bill through without Congress even reading it.

Too make matters worse, those few that did read it found the 1,100-page bill confusing, ambiguous and open to interpretation. And some of the adamant expert leaders in Congress said, if you don't go along with this bill we would pass it through "reconciliation." In other words, it's our way or the highway. The fact of the matter is, those are precisely the reasons that the majority of citizens attending Town Hall meetings were frustrated, fearful, angry and certainly distrustful of the way our government's experts were handling one of the most controversial bills in recent years.

And certainly, this bill would be changing the lives of American citizens forever. It's apparent that the doctor forgot that there was very little compromise by the self-proclaimed knowledgeable, highly qualified experts who created this bill.

What I personally found most offensive and insulting, which overshadowed all Dr. Shapiro's diatribe, was the comment that he made; my suggestion is to stop the Town Hall meetings and the incessant, repetitive and nasty talk radio and cable TV broadcast tirades. What? I cannot believe what he said.

Should we stop freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of talk radio and cable TV? And what does the doctor advise the citizens of the United States to do when they vehemently disagree with their local and national governments? Should we not protest against war or healthcare reform that we are opposed to? Should we wait patiently in the closet until the next election? No, Dr. Shapiro, this is not the American way. We will always demand the right to challenge anyone or any administration to respect our constitutional right to express our opinions, whether it is at Town Hall meetings or on radio, cable TV or the written media. No one will ever take that privilege away from us.

Richard D. Feinberg is a Marana resident.

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