Rim Country's Own Little War

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It's a ragtag band -- with right on their side. But they're up against the empire -- out-gunned and out-manned. The sensible folk don't give them much chance. Still. The time has come to pitch our tents in Valley Forge and launch the war of independence.

Starting on, say, Friday -- at the Gila Community College Board meeting.

That's when the board will discuss an extension of the current contract with Eastern Arizona College (EAC), providing education on a shameful shoestring.

Due to a strange and implausible history, Rim Country wound up with Arizona's only provisional community college district. That has two consequences.

First, the local college operates under the legal umbrella of EAC, which provides key services for a 25 percent overhead fee. Irritating -- but not outrageous.

Second, Gila Community College collects from the state half as much per student as every other college in the state. That's definitely outrageous.

Time for a tea party.

Today's front page story details the strange twists and turns that brought us to this point. Suffice to say, EAC has proved a good partner and the current improvised arrangement at least got the system launched.

But striking enrollment gains demonstrate that it's time to take the next step. The college already plays a vital role in work force training -- in addition to enriching the lives of residents. The fire sciences, nursing and business incubation programs offer an alluring glimpse of the possibilities.

So if this absurd discrimination against Rim Country students isn't actually illegal -- it certainly ought to be.

But winning fair treatment will require a protracted political struggle and a change in state law.

We hope the college board will start the struggle on Friday, by making sure the proposed 10-year contract contains an escape clause should the district win its independence.

And we hope every voter will fire a shot heard round the statehouse by refusing to vote for any legislative candidate who will not fight for fair and equal treatment for Rim Country students.

For our part, we promise to report to you on the positions of our legislators on this one, vital point.

We're still working on the slogan. Gotta be something catchy. No taxation without representation? Live free or die? Don't tread on me?

Kind of has a ring -- don't you think?

County steps up on Blue Ridge

The county supervisors are making it hard on us, editorially. They may force us to say nice things about them.

You know how it goes normally: Those darn Globe-dwelling, Payson-bashing, way-off-yonder politicians and bureaucrats don't really love us up here in Rim Country -- except for our assessed valuation. So just when we had gotten used to county-bashing -- what do they up and do?

They take some far-sighted, public-minded action -- like promising to kick in $4 million to ensure Payson can make the pipeline from the Blue Ridge Reservoir big enough to carry water for various other communities that haven't yet gotten their what-not together.

It's downright cooperative. Leaves us feeling kind of optimistic and misty-eyed.

Of course, Supervisor Shirley Dawson voted against the plan -- for reasons that remain deeply mysterious -- something about making sure Star Valley had a seat at the table. And supervisor-elect Mike Pastor rose from the audience to express his own doubts. But for the moment, at least -- the county did the right thing.

The federal law that gave Payson the right to negotiate with the Salt River Project for 3,000 acre feet of water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir also gave other northern Gila County communities rights to 500 acre feet. In addition, the pipeline could enable the Tonto Apache Tribe to swap its current entitlement for water from the Central Arizona Project for some Blue Ridge water of its own.

So far, most of the smaller communities haven't moved forward to cut a deal. That includes Star Valley, now that it has dropped its bid to buy the local water company.

Still, Payson's clock keeps ticking.

Fortunately, the county's far-sighted move will enable Payson to move forward -- while giving those other communities time to work things out.

Even better, Supervisor Tommie Martin has repeatedly challenged the participants to find some way to let water run down the East Verde as part of this whole process -- once again a visionary move.

So we didn't want to miss this opportunity to compliment the county for acting on behalf of Rim Country.

Of course, Pastor could get in there and somehow vote to take it all back -- and then we'd be back to sputtering indignantly.

But for the moment -- this feels pretty good.

Milk and cookies, anyone?

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