Two of the most critical issues facing Arizona voters on the Nov. 7 election ballot will be debated at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 24, in the Payson High School Auditorium.
In a forum that harks back to America's early days when participatory democracy was the rule rather than the exception, teams of debaters will square off to consider the pros and cons of Proposition 202, which would make wholesale changes in how Arizona grows, and Proposition 301, which proposes a state sales tax increase of six-tenths of one percent to support education.
Opposing Prop. 202 are Bill Feldmeier, the Governor's representative for Northern Arizona, and Tom Farley, a lobbyist. Squaring off against them are Ken Sweat, a college instructor and Valley businessman, and a second debater to be named later.
Then Feldmeier will change hats, joining Jeff Thomas of the Arizona Department of Education to defend Prop. 301 against Barry Hess, senatorial candidate for the Libertarian Party, and Jeff Daniels, secretary of the Maricopa County Libertarian Party.
Proponents of Prop. 202, which would require communities of more than 2,500 persons to draw a 10-year growth boundary based on state population projections, say it is time to end unchecked, unabated, taxpayer-subsidized growth in Arizona. Those on the other side reply that each community should make its own decisions about growth, and that the proposition will cost thousands of jobs in the construction industry and lead to more, not less, urban sprawl.
Those who favor Prop. 301 argue that it is time to stop shortchanging Arizona's children and teachers (the state ranks 50th and 34th respectively in expenditures in those categories), especially with a critical teacher shortage looming on the immediate horizon.
Opponents counter that too little of our education dollar ends up in the classroom, and that the "state education department is a huge suction pump that swallows up our tax dollars and spits out poorly educated children."
Payson Mayor Ray Schum, who originally proposed the debates, said, "We're not trying to persuade anybody of any one position. This is going to be a straightforward, down the middle of the road presentation that will help people make educated decisions on two issues that will impact our future here in the Rim country."
Sponsored by Payson's two Rotary Clubs, the debates will be moderated by Payson Roundup Publisher Richard Haddad. The evening will begin with a brief summation of all the ballot propositions by Alberto Olivas of the Secretary of State's office.
In the best tradition of participatory democracy, there is no charge for the debates.