More than 200 years ago, master political strategist Thomas Paine said: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”
We think the Gila Community College board members ought to get the phrase tattooed on their foreheads for future reference.
More to the point, we hope Gila County supervisors will set aside (read ignore) the GCC board’s last-minute questions about the proposed sale of 22 acres of county-owned land to the Rim Country Educational Alliance for phase one of a four-year university.
Certainly, we sympathize with the GCC board’s effort to represent the interests of future students in a land sale that will shape the future of both the community college and the proposed university.
But interjecting conditions surrounding the land sale into the process now will throw needless obstacles in the path of a project the community college should be working around the clock to bring into existence.
The maddeningly dysfunctional GCC board has spent a year ignoring plans to build a university next door, even to the point of refusing to return phone calls and e-mails seeking input and consultations.
Now, suddenly, the board has shaken itself awake — only to start talking nonsense, like a drowsy theater-goer stirring to consciousness at the end of a mystery.
First, the GCC board has challenged the 200-page, independent appraisal that set the value of the 22 acres in question at $550,000.
Independent appraisal already finished
Why should the 22 acres average $25,000 an acre while an adjacent one-acre parcel owned by Payson appraised at $50,000 ask GCC skeptics?
Might as well ask why highway frontage is worth more than an unbuildable hillside. Isn’t setting that value the whole point of spending $7,000 on an independent appraisal?
Besides: That’s just a quibble. Gila County got the land from the Arizona Community College Board after the Legislature wrote that board out of existence. The county received the land to hold in trust to provide higher education for local residents. The Alliance qualifies just as much as GCC. In truth, the county ought to sell the Alliance all the land it needs — and give the balance to GCC to accommodate future growth. So the proceeds from the sale would represent a welcome windfall for the community college.
Second, the GCC board wants the county to limit any future use of the entire parcel to an “educational purpose.”
GCC board members say they worry the Alliance will use the land next door for one of the spinoff businesses that will effectively write down the cost of the campus — like a solar cell assembly plant.
At first glance, that looks like a crispy pie crust of a rationalization — but in truth, the idea’s a gooey mess on the inside.
Public private partnership benefits everyone
For starters, the genius of the Alliance’s plan for a public private partnership lies in using things like a convention hotel and industrial park to reduce the cost of the university. So the GCC board’s condition would make the bulk of the land useless to the Alliance.
Moreover, the Alliance wants to use 10 acres adjoining the GCC land for the 1,000-student phase one campus. As a result, if GCC ever fills in its 33 acres, those buildings will lie next to the 10-acre campus, not the spinoff businesses. That makes the condition on the sale both unfair and unnecessary.
So we hope the county supervisors will ignore the qualms of the GCC board and quickly approve the land sale to the Alliance.
And we hope the GCC board will consult the wisdom of Thomas Paine and sign on for the revolution in higher education promised by the Payson campus. The construction of a university next door offers a precious opportunity to find a way for students to earn a high-quality degree at the lowest possible price. GCC should actually lead, not merely refrain from screwing things up.
So we hope that now the GCC board will throw itself into creating an partnership with the Alliance for the sake of its students, instead of raising more, pointless objections.