As a resident of East Santa Cruz County, I am disappointed that House Bill 2486, which sought to formulate a study committee on county boundaries between Cochise and Santa Cruz, failed in the Arizona Senate last week.
The arguments presented by Sen. Andrea Dalessandro to influence a “no” vote are flawed and misrepresent this part of the county. I am offended by her ploy to use the ranchers in the county by stating a “yes” vote for the study committee “is anti-Republican ranchers.” The vast majority of the county ranchers are on the east side of the county in the grasslands, and many are equally frustrated with the county constantly challenging their agricultural status for tax purposes.
Although invited, Dalessandro failed to attend any of the many town halls sponsored by the local community. We reached out to her on several occasions to engage with the community concerning the then-proposed closure of the courthouse in Sonoita and abolishment of Justice Precinct 2, yet she failed to return even one phone call. Dalessandro campaigned to maximize business opportunities in Southern Arizona and has favorably represented the produce industry in West Santa Cruz County, but has totally neglected her constituents in East SCC.
Her claim that a “yes” vote is “anti-produce” clearly reflects her us-versus-them attitude, rather than a pro-active, vision-based strategy that more than one industry can contribute to the success of this county and the state.
Dalessandro stated that we are “misinformed people down there.” However, based on her lack of concern and involvement in locally significant issues, one could perceive her as the poster child behind our request to initiate a study committee.
Although we provide significant tax dollars, our infrastructure in East SCC is substandard and declining due to lack of county support. This is despite the fact that we are located at the junction of two state scenic highways, in the grasslands, with a vast opportunity to grow our wine and beverage industry.
Attempts to collaborate with the county and draw attention and support to the tourism industry has fallen on deaf ears because the county’s focus is largely dedicated and economically dependent on the import and transportation of produce across the international border in Nogales.
A 2017 Arizona Office of Tourism study estimated that the state’s wine industry generated more than $56.2 million in annual revenue, contributing $3.6 million in state and local taxes and supporting 640 jobs. The industry continues to boom. Our needs are well aligned with Cochise, as they are largely focused on tourism, ranching and agriculture. The Santa Cruz County government’s relationship with winery owners and other business in East SCC is sub-optimal and often contentious.
Because of the small population of the area, local voters have little to no impact on the outcome of elections, making us an easy target for our legislative representatives to ignore. When our county and elected officials failed to engage, we sought dialog with our next-higher elected official, Sen. Dalessandro, for assistance and hit the wall. Kudos to Rep. Gail Griffin, who does not even represent this district but took the time to listen to our concerns, attend our town halls and sponsor HB 2486. Shame on Dalessandro.
(Crockett is a resident of Elgin.)