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Editorial: Confrontational Stance vs. Feds Borders on Irresponsible

Arizona Daily Sun, April 20, 2014

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It’s clear that a lot of conservative Republicans in this country think the federal government interferes with what should be the prerogatives of the states.

And not only does it interfere, they say, but the current administration comes down on the wrong side of issues like health care, immigration, education reform and climate change, to name a few.

That’s nothing new. What is different is how far Arizona Republicans are willing to go to subvert and even overturn federal policies with which they disagree. This includes bills that require the federal government to turn over federal lands to the state, deport protected Mexican gray wolves, check in first with the county sheriff before making a mine inspection, and have federal health care reform navigators get state licenses.

Some of these bills are seen for what they are — grandstanding for conservative constituents and special interests — and never pass. Others pass but are vetoed. Almost all are unconstitutional on their face and will cost the state plenty in legal fees if they are enforced.

TROUBLING TURN

This past, week, though, the anti-federalist rhetoric took a troubling turn, and it was led by Flagstaff’s own state representative, Bob Thorpe. He and several other lawmakers traveled to Nevada to show support for rancher Cliven Bundy of Bunkerville, whose cattle were ordered seized because he had grazed them on federal lands without paying the required fees.

It is certainly troubling enough that Bundy has become a folk hero even to people outside the sovereignty movement, which denies federal authority under a convoluted and irrational theory of states’ and individual rights. For others who simply don’t like paying taxes to lionize someone who is clearly breaking the law makes a mockery of all the other ranchers in the Southwest who dutifully pay their grazing fees, even if they don’t like them.

Thorpe, however, used a two-minute point of privilege Tuesday to read into the record a resolution decrying the violation of “civil rights, property rights and free speech rights” in Bunkerville and asking for a congressional and state investigation into “any and all violations” to assure that “constitutional rights” are upheld.

It’s of course disturbing that Thorpe chose not to read into the record the history of Bundy’s failed lawsuits against the BLM and his refusal to pay grazing fees. What’s worse, though, is that Thorpe’s incendiary statement came two days after a confrontation between BLM officials and armed sympathizers of Bundy spoiling for a fight. The federal agents backed off seizing Bundy’s cattle Sunday rather than risk bloodshed to allow the situation to cool down.

That is all the more difficult when elected officials like Thorpe who are sworn to uphold the law throw oil on the fire of confrontation instead. Worse, demonizing federal employees for the sake of making a political point can endanger their safety, as we’ve seen in other western states. If Thorpe and others contend the BLM has no right to charge Bundy grazing fees, they need to take it to court or to Congress, not encourage an armed standoff.

RIDICULE AND DISMISSAL

But as we noted above, Thorpe’s conduct is part of a pattern of antipathy toward the federal government in the Legislature that only sets up Arizona for ridicule and dismissal. How many CEOs rule out the state as an expansion possibility because its Arizona legislative opponents believe the Common Core — adopted by 45 states — is a federal conspiracy to further a “collectivist” and “anti-family” agenda?

If the Republicans were consistent in their defense of self-determination against an overbearing federal government, at least Arizona cities like Flagstaff could rest easier in the knowledge lawmakers would leave them alone. But just the opposite has taken place in recent years as the Republican majority has played Big Brother to municipalities in setting local election dates, gun laws and rules for traffic cameras. They even talked of regulating chicken coops in city back yards.

As a result, it’s difficult not to conclude that Republicans are simply playing obstructionist politics with federal laws and programs they don’t like, including voter registration, health insurance, immigration and wolf reintroduction. That’s not principled, it’s pandering to a narrow, ideological base that simply doesn’t represent the vast majority of Arizonans.

As we have noted before, state elected officials who refuse to engage the world on broader, collaborative terms not only risk enacting unworkable policies but also discourage civic engagement. Most voters occupy in their daily lives a vast middle ground of negotiation and the accommodation of diverse views and inconvenient facts. When politicians dismiss that middle ground, they undermine the possibility of even arriving at a concept of the common good. That’s a threat to the future of representative democracy itself, and it is a trait that voters should oppose in their elected officials in the strongest possible terms.

Serving this week on the Daily Sun’s Editorial Advisory Board were Publisher Don Rowley, Editor Randy Wilson and citizen members Stan Sutherland, Susan Cooper, Roman Lewicky, Janis Klinefelter, Ken Lamm and Jean Richmond-Bowman.

Our View: State Rep. Bob Thorpe and others who condone armed resistance undermine democratic engagement.

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This Editorial was published in the Arizona Daily Sun on April 20, 2014.


Although federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, Arizona State Legislature is actively working towards reducing protections for Mexican wolves in Arizona.   Please write a letter to the Editor of the Daily Sun thanking them for this timely editorial and express your support for wolf recovery in Arizona.

Please Act Today to stop anti-wolf bills!

The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers. Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. These are also good talking points for contacting your legislators.  Submit your letter to the editor or the Arizona Daily Sun here.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points
  • At last official count, only 37 Mexican gray wolves were found in AZ, and only 83 were found total in the wild, making them critically endangered. We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to ensure their recovery and not push them closer to extinction as these bills aim to do.
  • The proposed legislation will waste taxpayer money on litigation to impede wolf recovery and embarrass the state by attempting to illegally override federal laws that protect endangered species.
  • Polling showed 77% of Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Legislation to impede wolf recovery is a slap in the face to the majority of voters who want wolves to thrive.
  • Mexican wolves are native to Arizona and were reintroduced in Arizona over 16 years ago. They are part of our natural heritage and we should do everything we can to protect them, rather than trying to again extirpate them.
  • People who care about wolves should call on AZ's Governor and their AZ Legislators to oppose anti-wolf measures. Information about how to do that can be found at mexicanwolves.org.
  • Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.
  • Wolves generate economic benefits - a University of Montana study found that visitors who come to see wolves in Yellowstone contribute roughly $35.5 million annually to the regional economy.
  • Wolves once lived throughout Arizona and played a critical role in keeping the balance of nature in place. We need to restore this important animal that has been missing for too long.
  • The livestock industry has a responsibility to share public lands with wolves and other wildlife. Funds are available to help livestock growers implement nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict.
Make sure you:
  • Thank the paper for publishing the article.
  • Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “cows may have been killed by wolves, but…” Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article.
  • Keep your letter brief, between 150-200 words.
  • Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.”
  • Provide your name, address, phone number and address. The paper won’t publish these, but they want to know you are who you say you are.

Please also contact  the Governor and your AZ Legislators directly and tell them politely that you expect them to oppose these bills that embarrass Arizona, waste taxpayer money and fly in the face of overwhelming majority public support for wolf recovery.

CLICK HERE for contact information and talking points.

Thank you for speaking out to save Mexican wolves!
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