Keep a close eye on the dynamics of the Cochise County Board.

Political uncertainty and the recent fear-mongering of a “crisis of epic proportions” has created an opportunity for proponents of extreme measures and could result in even the most basic public services being eliminated.

All three supervisors are likely to be challenged in the 2020 election, with two of the board members facing an angry Republican constituency that found fuel after the appointment of Pat Call as the justice of the peace.

Longtime Supervisor Ann English is a Democrat, and her continuing survival on the board, after numerous election challenges, is a testament to the loyalty of her constituency.

When politicians face uncertainty, they are more likely to appease the extreme than pitch to the moderate. The thinking is that satisfying the loudest voices will win, or at least split, the vote and improve the chances of winning on Election Day. We can point to Arizona’s U.S. Senate race in 2018 for evidence of this.

Martha McSally had little choice but to “out-conservative” her Republican opponents Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio, which won the primary but ultimately proved too extreme in the general election.

In Cochise County, conservatives are pushing for changes on the board and the announcement last month that there is a $33 million pension liability is creating a justification for drastic cuts in our public services.

Social media discussions have talked about eliminating the health department, making more county roads gravel instead of chip-seal and drastically cutting spending over raising taxes to afford the pension payback.

Here’s the thing . . .

County taxes are not outrageous, and the pension is not a new problem for Cochise County or local municipalities.

The average Cochise County resident pays $977 per year for a home worth the median value of $154,900, about 0.63 percent of the median home value. Pima County collects the highest property tax in Arizona, levying an average of $1,614, while Greenlee County has the lowest property tax in the state, collecting an average tax of $303.

The rhetoric about the public safety pension was aimed, in part, at state lawmakers who need to find a funding alternative for cities and counties that lessens the impact of annual contributions to the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System. Until the state gets involved, all local governments are facing “. . . a crisis of epic proportions.”

Reprinted from Sierra Vista Herald/Review


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