Strange Political Tale Of Two Roads

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Wait a minute. Let us get this straight.

Gila County doesn’t have enough money to maintain the dirt road into Young, unless it can snag some federal funds.

But it does have enough money to blade roads on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, in accordance with some long-ignored agreement.

OK. What are we not getting? Must be that the main road into Young isn’t all that important.

So maybe the Young Fire Department was mistaken in its letter pointing out that fire trucks and ambulances must slow to a crawl on that hair-pinned, washboarded road. The condition of the road causes frequent accidents and could cost lives in an emergency — not to mention wear and tear on emergency vehicles, according to the paramedics.

Surely Gila County wouldn’t ignore such a serious situation — especially if it has money to be nice and neighborly and blade roads on what legally qualifies as a sovereign nation.

So, must be something else going on here.

Hard to figure. What could it be? Of course, if we were cynical, we’d probably suspect political motives.

Please note that the current county district boundary lines lump as many north county voters as possible into Supervisor Tommie Martin’s district so that the Globe end of the county can maintain control despite having half the population and one-third of the assessed valuation.

So if we were suspicious sorts, we might even suggest this small matter of a washboarded road underscores the need to redress the current lopsided supervisor district boundary lines.

But then, maybe we’re just missing something.

You know what whiners those firefighters and paramedics can be when it comes to being able to protect property and save lives.

Legislature at it again

Just when it seemed like we couldn’t get any more upset with our Legislature — something else upsets us.

Consider this week’s Payson Unified School Board meeting, when the board members glumly, silently received the latest Legislative slap across the face.

The Legislature effectively scrapped teacher contracts, mostly to compensate for the effects of its own problems in finding a budget that balances. The new law is supposed to give school districts more local control over such things as tenure, teacher salaries and seniority rules.

The new law says school districts don’t have to consider tenure and seniority when laying off teachers to accommodate the latest state budget cuts.

Moreover, the Legislature also basically revoked many of the deadlines that require districts to let teachers know in the spring if schools don’t want them back in August. That latter change was necessary because the Legislature consistently ignores its own legal deadlines for adopting a budget.

Please note, the state still doesn’t have a real, balanced budget for the current fiscal year despite four legislative special sessions.

We have serious concerns about using a budget crisis and across-the-board cuts as a backdoor way to address admitted problems in the tenure and seniority system.

The attack on tenure and seniority in the form of new rules for layoffs appear unfair. We agree that the tenure system has gotten out of balance. We think the system intended to offer teachers vital protection when they do their jobs right has been distorted to make it so hard to get rid of incompetent teachers that too many politically fearful administrators don’t even try. We also think principals should have more power to give raises to the best teachers, instead of always spreading the salary money out evenly — without regard to effectiveness. And we think schools must solve that problem if they are to succeed and recruit and maintain the best teachers.

But those salary decisions must be based on reviews, measurements and performance — not inflicted capriciously in the midst of across-the-board budget cuts. Such a system would invite administrators to use budget problems as an arbitrary escape from contract provisions teachers have a right to rely upon.

We would welcome an open debate and responsible proposals for rewarding and retaining the best teachers. Instead, we have this sneak attack, slipped through in the rush of the budget crisis without committee hearings or open debate.

Meanwhile, waiving the deadlines for letting teachers know whether they need to start looking for a job is just another example of the Legislature’s dismaying disrespect for teachers — made bizarre and bitter because only the Legislature’s own refusal to do its job makes such a change necessary in the first place.

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