What Does Arizona Want?
The Hot Spot is Western Free Press’s forum for letters to the editor and opinion pieces submitted by readers. If you would like to submit a piece for consideration, email us at email@example.com. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of Western Free Press.
When conversations first began about how to achieve the Arizona we want, we set an ambitious goal: Identify a vision and set of goals for Arizona that could mobilize people and communities throughout the state. With the help of Gallup, we asked Arizonans to describe the future they want for our state. The objective was never to just capture a picture of what citizens think about life in Arizona communities, it was always to identify a set of common goals that would mobilize people and survive transitions in leadership over time. Ultimately, we are seeking to identify the changes that have occurred, the lessons learned and the steps that must be taken next to achieve the Arizona we want.
The Arizona We Want 2.0 report being introduced this week presents very specific next steps to move us toward that desired future. Those specific steps are organized around 8 goals: Education, Job Creation, Environment and Water, Infrastructure, Health Care, Young Talent, Civic Engagement and Community Involvement. Some of these goals are citizen-driven, requiring individual and collective action of citizens everywhere. Others are leader-driven, requiring the collective action of leaders around the state.
Goal #1: Education. We need to increase Arizona’s education performance to meet State, higher education and national goals. This can be achieved by funding and implementing Common Core Standards and PARCC. It should also include the creation of an education funding investment model that is tied to student, teacher, and school performance.
Goal #2: Job Creation. Arizonans want increased job opportunities and higher wages. This can be done through a commitment to training programs and workforce development, increasing research and development spending, and developing incentives to attract entrepreneurs, small businesses, and major companies.
Goal #3: Environment and Water. Arizonans have cited the need for a comprehensive water plan that balances population growth with preserving open spaces. Our plan includes a mix of conservation, forest thinning, and modernizing of our state trust land laws.
Goal #4: Infrastructure. Increase citizen support of municipalities and their efforts to upgrade streets and other public transportation is critical. Organizing Arizona into “economic zones” will allow each region to capitalize on their own distinctive infrastructure opportunities.
Goal #5: Health Care. Build upon the successful parts of the state’s AHCCCS program. Identify strategies and incentives for health providers and employers to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle, so that we can collectively lower costs and improve access.
Goal #6: Young Talent. Young Arizonans want and deserve the best opportunities we can offer. We need to engage them in their communities by valuing their input on the type of city they want to live in and making Arizona an attractive state to live and work.
Goal #7: Civic Engagement. Just 10 percent of Arizonans believe their elected officials represent their interests. This voter apathy can be reduced by starting civic engagement at the local level and promoting the benefits of becoming an active, engaged Arizona citizen.
Goal #8: Community Involvement. According to our study, Arizona is a state whose citizens feel a lack of community connection. We can change this by encouraging associations and foundations to position themselves as “conveners” to support community involvement statewide.
The Arizona We Want 2.0 report provides further detail on all of these goals (www.thearizonawewant.org). We believe that these goals can be achieved if citizens and leaders work together and remain committed over time. The rapid transformation of Arizona is underway. How we respond will be key to building a better future for our state.