Wonder Of Wonders: Sensible Candidates

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Every now and then, candidates — and citizens — actually give Democracy a good name. Last week offered one such moment when the three Democrats running for the State House District 5 showed up at a forum sponsored by the Citizens Awareness Committee in Payson.

Now, you might have expected educational psychologist Elaine Bohlmeyer, career counselor Prescott Winslow and retired railway engineer Bill Shumway to spend most of their time attacking their opponents.

Bohlmeyer, who lives in Payson, is up against an entrenched incumbent — Sen. Sylvia Allen from the White Mountains. And Shumway and Winslow have mounted an admittedly long-shot bid in a district that most often votes Republican.

Certainly, most of the high-visibility candidates running for offices like governor, senator and Congress, are going for the jugular, with blizzards of ads designed to grab the attention of a disillusioned public.

Yet, here were three candidates talking to voters for hours, in a good-humored, deeply informed, well-mannered give and take.

Members of the CAC did their part. They presented each candidate with a two-page list of questions, all insightful, well-informed and pointed. Payson Councilor Ed Blair moderated the discussion with courtesy and humor. And the members of the CAC waded in with great follow-up questions, full of context and depth.

The candidates responded in kind.

Not a single candidate launched a personal attack against an opponent. They did criticize the Legislature’s response to the state’s unprecedented fiscal crisis, but that’s fair comment. All three candidates also criticized positions taken by fellow Democrats as well. In truth, it took the concentrated efforts of both parties to get us into this mess — and it will take an equally bipartisan effort to get us out of it.

Perhaps more impressive, all three candidates demonstrated a detailed grasp of the issues and a command of some common sense solutions. They spoke in detail about improving the education system, rationalizing the state tax structure and overhauling the state’s expensive system for providing medical care to impoverished children and medically bankrupt nursing home residents. They even all spoke rationally and calmly about immigration reform — a topic that has inspired near-hysteria on both sides of late.

So we’d like to take this strangely civil political moment to congratulate the members of the CAC for taking the responsibilities of citizenship so seriously.

And we’d like to thank Bohlmeyer, Shumway and Winslow for treating the voters like adults and talking straight about the issues.

All that smoke on the horizon is good news for Rim Country

Yesterday, smoke smudged the horizon to the northeast of Payson. Now, at certain times of the year this would scare us. But yesterday, it made us very happy. Makes us want to sing something sprightly.

The smoke rose from a controlled burn near the Blue Ridge Reservoir, started by crews from the Coconino National Forest. That burn will only cover about 200 acres, but will help protect the watershed that feeds into the Blue Ridge Reservoir. Other well-behaved fires continue to burn in the region, including a 1,000-acre fire near Williams that fire crews are watching without fighting.

Why would this make us happy?

Only a host of such controlled burns can protect Rim Country — and its water supply — in the years to come.

An uncontrolled wildfire in the months before the summer monsoon season remains the single biggest threat to the future of Rim Country.

An unchecked monster like the Rodeo-Chediski Fire remains an ever-present threat. Such a fire can burn everything in its path and leave behind a sterilized moonscape, where the soil can’t even absorb water. Such a fire this summer cleared a path for monsoon mudslides that damaged hundreds of homes around Flagstaff.

But a wildfire need not come roaring right into town to devastate the local economy. A monster fire in the Blue Ridge watershed would cause a massive increase in erosion for years afterward, significantly reducing the lifespan of the reservoir that Payson hopes will solve its water problem permanently. A big crown fire would also snuff out the tourist industry within its boundaries for years.

So the smoke plumes of fall from those controlled burns and smoldering slash piles actually offer comfort. So, now that the weather outside is not yet frightful and the fire is so delightful, we’ll be a caroling, “let it burn, let it burn, let it burn.”

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