- MORE MONEY FOR SCHOOLS
- School funding is severely below the national average in the region.
- It is crippling to both Navajo and Apache counties for them to try and finance over 22 school districts across over 21,000 square miles. That’s almost 1,000 square miles per school district, about the size of Rhode Island.
- Creating will give the region a better shot at consolidating its resources in order to better finance their schools.
- The school districts included in Sitgreaves County are: Heber-Overgaard, Snowflake-Taylor, Show Low, Blue Ridge, Whiteriver, Round Valley, McNary, Concho, Vernon, and Alpine.
2. COUNTIES THAT WORK FOR THE PEOPLE
- Creating Sitgreaves County will ensure that that both the tribal and non-tribal communities of the White Mountains will have their voices truly represented in government at the County level, united in their shared interest for the future of the White Mountains as we focus on rebuilding our community in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Navajo and Apache Counties will similarly benefit from decentralization, in that they will be able to reform and reshape their own county governments to better reflect the needs of their own diverse communities.
3. STRONGER INDIGENOUS REPRESENTATION
- Northeastern Arizona has one of the largest Indigenous populations in the Continental United States.
- County government in the Northeastern Arizona region will historically see an increase in Indigenous representation with the creation of Sitgreaves County.
- The respective County governments will be more empowered to work with Indigenous communities, as well as tribal leaders, in the interests of each’s mutual benefit.
4. HURF FUNDS INCREASED
- Increased HURF funds will be available to Navajo, Apache, and Sitgreaves Counties, where the development of highways and roads on Indigenous and rural land is vital to the economic growth and health of the region.
- This would improve overall access to goods, services, and education, and provide a path forward to attract business and industry to the region.
5. REGION-SPECIFIC POLICY
- All three counties will be better capable to handle zoning and county tax policy with regards to the helium development already underway.
- The Sitgreaves County Project successfully lobbied the Arizona State Legislature to defeat overreaching anti-fracking legislation, and to instead work with the growing helium industry in the Holbrook Basin, securing Northeastern Arizona’s future as the helium capital of the world.
6. LOCALIZED CONTROL
Localized Control. Navajo County, Apache County, and Sitgreaves County will be able to focus county resources on dealing with the various issues affecting the citizens living in each region today, such as public health initiatives, fighting domestic violence, methamphetamines, child hunger, and other issues relevant to Northeastern Arizona’s impoverished populace.
7. OPPORTUNITIES FOR INDIGENOUS STUDENTS
- School districts are the primary recipients of county funds.
- All three counties will be able to finance their school districts and infrastructure more effectively to the benefit of Indigenous students living in all three counties, with the creation of Sitgreaves County.
- For example: under Representative Tsosie’s sponsored HB 2268 (2019), all three counties would have received $500,000 in community college grants rather than just the two current counties if it had passed.
- By creating Sitgreaves County, all three counties in Northern Arizona could see an increase of funding for local community colleges by 33 percent.
8. FIRE DANGER AND FOREST MANAGEMENT
- The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is a high risk for fire potential.
- Creating Sitgreaves will help consolidate emergency and police resources in the region in the event of another devastating fire.
- A Sitgreaves County Board of Supervisors whose interests are focused in the White Mountain region will be better prepared, and more accessible to the people, to help coordinate and administer emergency and disaster relief.
- Enforcement of fire restrictions during fire season is vital to the continued preservation of our forest lands and economy. Sitgreaves County will be able to address these and other issues related to fire safety efficiently.
- Sitgreaves County will contain the largest portion of the forest for which it is named, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, empowering county resources to be focused on preserving the local ecology and environment.
- Creating Sitgreaves County will facilitate greater communication and management between county, state, and federal governments with regards to all Apache-Sitgreaves County National Forest issues.
- The largest consistent forest management issue in the Northeastern Arizona region is the threat of devastating forest fires, such as the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire and the Wallow Fire. We must do everything we can to make sure the forests are safe and protected to our best ability, and ensure their cleanliness and safety for continued use.
9. HOLDING PUBLIC OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE
- Citizens in Sitgreaves County will be able to elect local candidates that work for them, that work for the White Mountains, and that will work to develop county policy that will be of benefit to those living in the White Mountains, on White Mountain Apache land, or in communities throughout the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest region.
- Both the Navajo and Apache County governments have come under scrutiny for their mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, as scandal after scandal has erupted in local media of abuses of public funds and widespread corruption by public officials.
- Electing White Mountain locals to offices solely for the White Mountains will ensure greater accountability.
10. DECENTRALIZATION WORKS
Decentralizing the counties equitably into three by creating Sitgreaves will be according to already existing law, come at the lowest possible cost to the state, will put control of all three regions into the hands of the people who live and work in them, increase Indigenous representation at all levels of government, and boost county funds for all three new counties.
11. FIGHTING POVERTY AT THE COUNTY LEVEL
- As a result of decentralization, economies in each county will improve, median incomes will rise, and Northeastern Arizona will put itself on a path to lift itself out of poverty.
- Citizens in all three counties will be able to vote on property and sales tax policies that reflect the needs and values of their communities, and reform county departments to best serve the needs of those who need help the most.
12. THE HELIUM CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
- All three counties will benefit from helium and natural gas development.
- One of the largest achievements for the Sitgreaves County movement has been successfully lobbying the Arizona legislature to kill 2018’s overreaching anti-fracking bill, successfully fight a disinformation campaign against helium drilling, and connect the state legislature to the helium industry.
13. SMALL BUSINESSES WILL THRIVE POST-COVID
- The citizens of Sitgreaves County will be empowered to elect county officials who will look out for small business owners and help the White Mountains thrive.
- If Sitgreaves County had already existed, businesses in the White Mountains would have had an additional 2-3 weeks to prepare following Gov. Ducey’s March 2019 lockdown order. COVID-19 was not detected in the Sitgreaves region until April of 2019.
14. REGIONAL FOOD SECURITY
- When the pandemic hit the White Mountains, the Sitgreaves Network mobilized along with several local community leaders, elected officials, and food banks to form the Southern Navajo County Community Feeding Collaborative. Through our website, we provided a database of local food banks where underprivileged citizens could access much-needed food and supplies as hoarders absorbed shipment after shipment at local grocers.
- Navajo County and Apache County were unprepared to provide such support to the White Mountains. A new Sitgreaves County government will better ensure that all citizens of the White Mountains have access to nutritious food.
15. INCREASED TOURISM
- The White Mountains are one of Arizona’s most popular destinations for outdoor recreation.
- A Sitgreaves County Department of Tourism would be best equipped to promote tourism in the White Mountains.
- The Sitgreaves County Project advocates for the creation of a regional chamber of commerce that will look out for the best interests of businesses throughout the White Mountains.
16. BOTH BI-PARTISAN AND NON-PARTISAN
- The Sitgreaves Network is a coalition of citizens living in the proposed new county who are from a variety of political and ethnic backgrounds and support this initiative.
- The idea is not a Republican or a Democratic idea, but a Federalist one, a continuation of the American experiment originally envisioned by the Founding Fathers.
- Through our partnership on this bill, we will be taking a great step forward into Arizona’s future.
- Sitgreaves County will be both Arizona’s 16th county and the first county created in the United States in over twenty years.
MYTH #1 – SITGREAVES COUNTY IS RACIST AND SEGREGATIONIST
WHY THIS MYTH EXISTS: Because the northern halves of Navajo and Apache Counties comprise a significant portion of the Navajo Nation, there is a false perception that the proposed county is intended to be segregationist against Indigenous Americans, specifically the Navajo people, or that the intent is to deprive the Navajo Nation of property tax revenues. There have also been previous attempts to split the counties in the past, but many of them were poorly designed or based on malicious or racist intent. The opposition’s argument is that Sitgreaves County is merely another attempt at a racist county. This could be farther from the truth.
THE TRUTH: Those who use this argument willfully ignore that there are multiple tribes throughout Navajo and Apache Counties in addition to the Navajo Nation. In Navajo County, there will be the Hopi Nation in addition to the Navajo Nation, and in Apache County, the Zuni tribe in addition to the Navajo, and a significant portion of Sitgreaves County will be comprised of White Mountain Apache Tribal land. Even so, there are significant and diverse non-tribal populations in all three regions, and the county boundaries are not designed around Reservation boundaries, but school district boundaries, as schools are the primary recipients of taxpayer funds. There are also stark geographical, environmental, and cultural differences between the Sitgreaves region and our northern neighbors. Furthermore, tax policy in the new county will not be punitive against any tribe or Indigenous community, but all three counties will be able to craft new policies moving forward that best reflect the needs of their regions.
2. SITGREAVES COUNTY IS A BACKDOOR TO GERRYMANDERING
WHY THIS MYTH EXISTS: Simply put, a misunderstanding of the different levels of government and voting districts.
THE TRUTH: Changing a county boundary has no bearing on legislative or congressional districts. The only offices that are affected are county-level offices and departments.
3. SITGREAVES COUNTY WILL COST THE STATE
WHY THIS MYTH EXISTS: The creation of La Paz County in the early 1980’s cost the state a vast amount of money because the residents could not finance basic county operations. As a result, the Title 11 mandates were passed.
THE TRUTH: To ensure that creating the new county would not cost the state as creating La Paz County did, Sitgreaves was developed according to the theoretical framework of Title 11 to show that the new county would be viable, and that the affected counties would not be so adversely affected as to also cost the state more money. Our governmental infrastructure has evolved since the 1980’s to be able to support such a transition.
4. SITGREAVES COUNTY IS A PARTISAN IDEA
WHY THIS MYTH EXISTS: Because Republicans in the Sitgreaves region were attracted to the idea of being in charge of their own tax policy locally, they quickly supported the idea, which in our hyper-partisan times led to local Democrats smearing it for the other reasons listed, making it a partisan football.
THE TRUTH: Sitgreaves County is a non-partisan, and arguably bi-partisan idea. The method and theoretical structure behind NADA’s intent and design isn’t segregationism or partisanism, but decentralization. By dividing the counties from two into three, each region will be better equipped to lead its respective communities out of the pandemic and develop policies specific to themselves to efficiently fight poverty.
NADA is a continuation of the American experiment, and a refinement of our State Constitution that both Republicans and Democrats alike can find opportunity in.
5. COUNTIES CAN’T BE CREATED BY THE LEGISLATURE
WHY THIS MYTH EXISTS: When all of the other myths have been dispelled, the opposition tends to fall back on the argument that because counties can be created through petition, that the “law is clear” about the county creation process, and that there is therefore no need for the legislature to create counties themselves. The law is actually quite clear.
“A.R.S. 11-132. A. Counties may be formed or divided either by legislative enactment, by statewide initiative pursuant to article IV, part 1, section 1, Constitution of Arizona, or by county initiative pursuant to this article. The requirements of this article, however, do not apply to counties formed or divided by legislative enactment or by statewide initiative.”