New Hope Brightens For Payson Campus

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Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops ... at all.

  — Emily Dickinson

This feathered hope has sat a long while singing, beside an unmarked path. Make no mistake, it should have died a hundred times by now.

Yet, the prospects for an Arizona State University campus in Payson seem suddenly more tangible than at any time in these past two impossible years.

ASU officials have confirmed that the chief question now comes down to the results of a marketing survey —which in perhaps a month will reveal whether a Payson campus could attract enough students to make sense.

The unreasonably persistent advocates for the plan led by the indefatigable Payson Mayor Kenny Evans have somehow surmounted every other obstacle. Most recently, they even engineered the purchase of 80 acres of land adjacent to Gila Community College so the project can go forward even if the U.S. Forest Service continues to move at its own, inexplicable slow pace in freeing its 300-acre parcel for sale.

From the start, the thing seemed impossible.

ASU had no money and no bonding capacity. But then Evans conjured nearly $400 million in gifts and financing.

Payson had a narrow tax base and leery residents fearful of getting stuck with the bill if it all went wrong. So Evans and the other backers conjured a legal framework that would create a taxing district to insulate town taxpayers.

And then the state budget collapsed into a steaming sinkhole, prompting deep cuts in state supports for the universities and a doubling of tuition. Even that backers turned to their advantage, since the Payson plan will help meet the need for more degrees a much lower cost.

Thanks to vision, creativity and persistence — advocates for the campus have met every objection. The offer to ASU remains too good to pass up — and the benefits to this community will prove transformative.

Then, suddenly, two weeks ago all the preparations and hopes and complex juggles came to a sudden halt with news of the tragic, accidental death of Mayor Evans’ son. Everything stopped: which serves as a measure of this community’s debt to Kenny Evans as well as to life’s heartbreaking injustice.

But after a time for his private grief, Evans returned to his toil on behalf of the community — and the talks and finagles have resumed.

Call it the triumph of hope — that feathered song in the darkness. For he has imagined this great thing for so long, with such persistence, that we all can see it now. He has brought us so far and now we have but this little ways still to go.

Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence. 

— Lin Yutang

Bullies pose big problem

A former Payson High School student on Monday rose courageously before the school board to recount the long trauma of the bullying he endured before he left the school.

We hope the school board and the administration listened carefully and moves decisively to investigate and intervene to prevent a problem the student described as shockingly common.

The national studies certainly bear him out. One comprehensive national study concluded that a stunning 42 percent of sixth-graders face harassment and bullying. For 14 percent of those students, the bullying involves physical injury.

For all of them, the effects can persist for years — resulting in trouble in school, absenteeism, depression and other problems.

The national figures show that the incidence of bullying and injury actually declines in high school — but still affect one in four children at those higher grade levels.

Figures available from the district appear to badly understate the extent of the problem. Even if students in Payson face fewer bullies than their peers nationally, it remains a vital problem.

So we salute the courage of the brave young man who had the courage to speak out. We hope that other students suffering from bullying will take their courage from him. Perhaps more important, we hope the silent majority of students who witness bullying will reclaim their schools by speaking up — and reporting this scourge when they see it.

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