This week, Rep. Walter Blackman introduced HB 2253 into the Arizona State Legislature, calling for a Joint Study Committee to form that would determine the feasibility of Sitgreaves County, as I successfully proposed it in my presentation to the House State and International Affairs Committee on March 20, 2019.
Within just a few short days, there have been a number of positive and negative reactions to this announcement. There are many in the White Mountains for it while some are against it, but my view is that many of those who are against it are either misinformed or do not understand what the Sitgreaves County Project is and has been.
The largest misinformed reaction I’ve come across is people saying they’re not going to support HB2253 until I, or someone, can explain how much decentralizing the counties is going to cost. This is the same as saying “I am not going to support you finding out how much it’s going to cost until you find out how much it’s going to cost.”
I admittedly cannot answer questions such as “What will each county’s treasury be?” or “Will we need to build new county buildings? What happens to our taxes? What happens to our county services?” without assistance from the State. This issue was brought up during my presentation. It would take me, or any one person, years to assemble all of the data to be able to determine how all of that would work.
This is one reason why we need HB2253. It gives the Study Committee until June of 2021 to complete their research. If it shows that Sitgreaves County is feasible, we could have a bill to create Sitgreaves County by the 2022 legislative session, and then the process of decentralization would likely occur until 2024’s general election in November, when voters would then choose the new Sitgreaves County’s first county board of supervisors, other elected officials, and a county seat. As I predicted, the transitional supervisory districts would form in the interim between 2022 and 2024.
My research, as presented in the Northeastern Arizona Development Act, was meant to show that Sitgreaves County as I’ve designed it can exist according to present AZ law, specifically Title 11, which regulates the creation of new counties. My hypothesis is that by decentralizing the counties from two into three to better reflect the needs of each region, we will be empowering the region to lift itself out of poverty as each’s county government will be more localized to better meet the needs of the communities they represent. This means that local populations can elect supervisory boards and other elected officials who have their best needs and interests at heart. This is what we want for Sitgreaves County, for the White Mountains, and HB2253 is the means by which we can answer those hard questions to even see if county decentralization is possible.
Sitgreaves County is not just the latest attempt to create a new county in Northeastern Arizona, it is the most legally and fiscally possible way that it could happen without needing to write new laws, rewrite old laws, or sign petitions, and the old arguments used against the previous failed attempts do not work against Sitgreaves. These and other facts are what has propelled HB2253 into the 2020 Legislative Session.
If we could answer the question of is Sitgreaves possible, or the question of whether its creation would help, not hinder Northeastern Arizona and the White Mountains, or answer the question of how it would empower Native American tribes in the region, and local, smaller government, and help facilitate business and economy in the region, and help reverse the decades-long trend of consistent poverty, in some of the most impoverished counties in the United States, what if Sitgreaves was a first big step to fix this problem? Why not pursue that?
And why not find out better what our counties are up to now? What if the Study Committee were to determine how Navajo and Apache Counties spend taxpayer money, down to the last cent, in a comprehensive report? HB2253 would give the Study Committee access to all of the data for Navajo and Apache Counties, and in order to figure out how these will be split to create Sitgreaves, we are going to have to look at each county’s spending – their budgets, their overhead, at each department’s needs and areas of influence. We need to see where all the money goes so that we can know how much of it will have to be allocated to the new county instead of the affected counties. We also need to determine what assets each county has, and how much county employees are paid. HB2253 will help answer all of these questions.
HB2253 will also dispel, once and for all, all of the misinformation and lies that have been spread about our movement. We want Sitgreaves County, but we also understand that the State needs to determine if it is feasible on behalf of the people of Arizona. We support HB2253 for this reason.
I hope you join me in supporting HB2253!