You won't find a lot of enthusiasm, much less agreement, among Rim country politicians, movers and shakers for most of the 13 propositions on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.
But mention Proposition 202, which would make wholesale changes in how Arizona grows, and they become a unified force willing to go to any length to stop its passage.
Prop. 202, also known as the Citizens Growth Management Initiative, would require cities and counties with populations over 2,500 residents to institute voter-approved growth management plans according to the ballot proposition guide booklet published by the state.
If passed, Prop. 202 would require each county or municipality to draw an "urban growth boundary" within its incorporated boundary no larger than necessary to allow 10 years of population growth based on state population projections. The extension of water, sewer and other services outside those boundaries would be prohibited except under some "extraordinary and compelling circumstances."
The initiative would also permit anyone, regardless of residency in the community, to file a lawsuit against any public official or community alleging a violation of Prop. 202.
Other changes the initiative would mandate include requiring developers to pay the full cost of water, sewer, streets, parks and other public services, and giving counties the power to control "wildcat subdivisions" including lot splits.
Proponents like Joy Herr-Cardillo, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, believe that uncontrolled development is being subsidized by Arizona taxpayers. Homes on the fringes of urban areas require $1,500 more in services each year than they generate in revenue.
"You are subsidizing the development that's occurring on the fringes. The economics of that are real important for people to understand," Herr-Cardillo said.
As a case in point, she said that Pima County spends over $35 million a year "just to provide infrastructure for lots that are established without meeting subdivision requirements." Not only will Prop. 202 give counties the authority to address such lot splits up front, but it also requires developers to pay for roads, sewers and other facilities currently subsidized in most Arizona communities.
Another economic issue, proponents say, involves the state's No. 1 revenue generator: tourism. By losing more and more of the desert to encroaching subdivisions, that $12 billion-a-year cash cow is being seriously threatened, according to Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club.
Yet another argument made by proponents is the decreasing quality of life Arizonans must endure as a result of growth.
Catherine Wyman, a professor at DeVry Institute in Phoenix, resents the smog that makes breathing difficult and the subdivisions that are replacing our deserts. Her husband, an amateur astronomer, must drive for 90 minutes to get far enough away from city lights to see much of anything.
Is the cure worse than the disease, as foes of 202 charge?
"We're in desperate times," Wyman said, "and desperate times call for desperate measures." What, she asks rhetorically, are developers and politicians so afraid of?
Raul M. Grijalva, a Pima County supervisor, wonders the same thing, pointing to the effect of similar regulations in other states.
"Urban growth boundaries like those in the initiative have not dampened local economies or slowed construction work within them," he said. "And there is no reason to believe they will in Arizona."
Grijalva's comments strike at the heart of the arguments used by foes of 202, primarily that the initiative will halt growth in its tracks and cause the state's economic boom to come to a screeching halt.
As a result, they say, countless Arizonans in the construction industry can expect to lose their jobs. In fact, opponents of 202 predict a loss of 250,000 jobs statewide.
A letter in the state guide signed by such political heavyweights as Sen. John McCain and Rep. J.D. Hayworth points out that a vote for 202 is a vote against people. "Proposition 202," they say, "will dramatically increase housing prices and cost jobs. The initiative discriminates against middle and lower income families."
But discrimination is just one of many charges foes level against 202. Another major argument is loss of local control.
Navajo County Supervisor Lewis Tenney points to the provision allowing virtually anyone to sue over alleged violations.
"Prop. 202 supporters say that it will allow local control over the planning and growth management process," Tenney said. "In fact, one of Prop. 202's provisions permits any person to sue to enforce...the initiative.... That is not local control; that is a blatant attempt to control our futures through special interest lawsuits."
Urban sprawl is yet another charge that foes level against 202. Clarence Rice, a resident of Miami, puts it this way: "By drawing boundaries around existing communities which are still growing, the Sierra Club fails to realize what the effects will be: Arizona will keep growing, but the new arrivals will have to squeeze into already-allotted space. The result? Be prepared for high-rise city apartment buildings, traffic jams, and increased air pollution," Rice said.
Local politicians, like District 4 Representative Jake Flake, join in the clamor. "In our area," Flake claims, "it would mean we would have to stay the way we are now forever, except for a slow in-fill within the growth circles of each community.... Building lot prices within the circle would skyrocket and affordable housing for the common wage earner would become a thing of the past."
Gila County District 1 Supervisor Ron Christensen believes 202 puts roadblocks in the way of progress, especially in smaller communities.
"It's going to make it more difficult for the various local governments to function effectively in providing the services we need to," Christensen said. "It puts rural communities at a real disadvantage."
Payson Mayor Ray Schum agrees. "This thing has gone entirely too far," the mayor said. "If municipalities have a problem with expansion and growth, it should pertain to them. But don't make it state wide.
"In my opinion this violates the constitution. It violates my right, for example, to move wherever I want," he said.
And because Prop. 202 would make politicians personally liable, he believes it will discourage pro-active people from seeking public office.
"You'll just have those people running for office who will do nothing but maintain the status quo," he said.
Then there's Prop. 100
Further complicating the issue is the presence on the ballot of a related initiative, Proposition 100, also known as The State Trust Land Conservation Reserve. This referendum was placed on the ballot by the state legislature as part of Gov. Jane Hull's Growing Smarter plan.
Prop. 100 would allow a maximum of three percent of state trust land to be protected from development, allow grazing leases on trust land to extend beyond 10 years, and authorize trades of trust lands for other government lands in the interest of conservation.
State trust land makes up 13 percent of Arizona, 9.3 million acres given at statehood by the federal government to raise money for education and other public services. Prop. 100 would, for the first time, allow this land to be preserved at no cost by taking it off the market and placing it in an Arizona Conservation Reserve.
Parts of the Growing Smarter plan previously approved by the legislature include provisions giving local governments more tools for managing growth such as the option to set urban boundaries and requiring cities and fast-growing towns to adopt general plans every 10 years.
Rep. Flake is a strong proponent of 100.
"This would provide continued open spaces of some designated state trust land that meets very stringent criteria...and continues to allow grazing or whatever use it is presently in," Flake said.
Others who support 100 say that it would set aside some of Arizona's most distinctive places. Those who oppose it counter that it is a preservation smokescreen, and that fully 97 percent of state trust land would remain available for development.
Christopher Thomas, a Phoenix lawyer, is against Prop. 100 because it fails to go far enough. He believes 10 percent is a more reasonable amount of state trust land to preserve.
And he notes in a column in The Arizona Republic that in designating the three percent, the state legislature merely "set aside a collection of undevelopable peaks and washes. For instance," he noted, "the legislature designated for protection the bottom of Rogers Lake near Flagstaff. Not the lake and its surrounding shoreline just the lake bottom."
Schum agrees that three percent may not be enough, but, he argues, you have to start somewhere. "Proposition 100 is not an alternative," the mayor said. "It is just a way of trying to maintain some open space."
But many of those who, like Flake and Schum, oppose 202, do see 100 as a viable alternative. Conversely, many who favor 202 are against 100.
And when Gov. Hull originally pushed the legislature to draft Prop. 100 and put it on the ballot, many saw the move as a way to turn the anti-growth momentum building in the state away from the much more stringent Prop. 202.
As Thomas puts it, " ... it (Prop. 100) was crafted not to provide meaningful state trust land reform, but, cynically, to draw support away from Proposition 202..., an initiative which deals not with trust land reform but with urban sprawl.
"The two propositions are unrelated, and objecting to one does not mandate supporting the other," he added. From a legal standpoint, the two measures are mutually exclusive, and both could pass and be adopted without conflict.
That appears to be what is happening. In a poll by the Republic taken in mid-September, both 100 and 202 were overwhelmingly favored by the state's registered voters. Over two-thirds of those polled indicated they planned to vote for 100, while 62 percent said they would vote to pass 202.
Like many initiatives on the ballot, 202 and 100 are complex enough without charges and countercharges confusing them even further. How can the average voter sort through it all and make an intelligent decision?
Some who deal with state government say 202 is necessary because of a combination of frustration and mistrust on the part of the public. People are increasingly concerned about rampant growth and the resultant decline in quality of life, and they see state government as either unwilling or unable to do anything about it.
Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Kaleta returns the argument to the Rim country. "Up here, we are tied to construction for our economic tax base and for our quality of life. We all understand the need to manage growth, but stopping it is not the answer.
"Most metropolitan areas already have a land use plan in place, whereas, many rural communities have not yet addressed the issue. This is not the time to draw a line around rural communities," he said.