Can we count on same old lawmakers for new results? - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Can we count on same old lawmakers for new results?

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2010 3:30 am | Updated: 11:28 pm, Wed May 25, 2011.

The Sunday Tribune editorial “What role should government play?” pointed out that people clearly want smaller government. Over the years Arizona government has become bloated, wasteful, top heavy, inefficient and in some ways highly ineffective.

The people have spoken and last week voted in Republicans to the state’s top offices. From the governor’s office on down, Republicans completely control state government. Many of those who were elected and re-elected already qualify as career politicians.

For as long I can remember, Republicans have controlled the Legislature and with the exception of the six years Janet Napolitano was governor (2003-2009), they’ve held the governor’s office since 1991. Just-elected Gov. Jan Brewer has been in power almost two years.

Republican politicians have enjoyed a level of power in Arizona that has allowed them to have their way with state government. They’ve been driving the bus and taking us where they want to go.

The Republicans’ mantra has always been for smaller government, and look at what they’ve given us. Arizona government is horribly broken and the state is facing a deficit of nearly a billion dollars.

And now the same old elected officials are promising to fix it.

Newly-elected state Senate President Russell Pearce has vowed to run that legislative body with a tea party philosophy of lower taxes, smaller government and states’ rights. It sure sounds appealing, especially when he throws in his trademark line of “For God, family and the republic, stay free, stay safe and never surrender ... God bless America.”

But can he pull it off, or will Pearce do the same thing he’s done for most of the last decade while in legislative power?

For eight of the last 10 years Pearce has held onto Arizona’s purse strings as the chairman of both the House and Senate appropriations committees. In those powerful positions, Pearce has almost singlehandedly picked and chose what got spent, what didn’t, the growth of state agencies and how much was allowed to be mismanaged and wasted.

Agency heads would parade in front of then-chairman Pearce and his committees like jesters in hopes of getting more money or keeping what they had. Even fellow legislators had to kiss the chairman’s ring to get support for legislative funding. And the chairman had his favorites. While he threw millions at the immigration enforcement unit he takes credit for creating at the Arizona Department of Public Safety, critical statewide police services were decimated or allowed to stagnate and devolve. DPS officers I’ve spoken with told me Pearce shares heavily in the blame for the agency’s inability to effectively combat the growing organized crime problem that has made Arizona the gateway for Mexican organized crime to the rest of the United States.

DPS is now reportedly short 300 highway patrolman and 100 detectives who should be working narcotics and organized crime investigations. Over the last 10 years, Arizona’s highways have become critical components for the Mexican mob’s North American supply chain that moves contraband north and profits south. One veteran federal agent told me last week, “Arizona is ground zero for the drug cartels expansion into the United States.” He added, “Organized crime from Mexico has put down roots in Arizona and they aren’t planning on leaving.”

After years of legislative and gubernatorial mismanagement, Arizona doesn’t have the cash or the manpower, or maybe even the leadership, to effectively combat the mob’s presence in our state.

Following his election as senate president, Pearce — who some see as being more powerful than Gov. Brewer — sent out an e-mail touting, “I have been vigilant in service to our citizens, in reducing cost, improving efficiencies... I promise to be as committed and vigilant, as the Senate President.”

Can we really afford any more of Pearce’s vigilance over Arizona’s future?

Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net

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