Strange Logic From A Legislative Candidate

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Well. That’s strange. Elsewhere on this page, you’ll find a guest commentary by state Rep. Chester Crandell, who has represented Rim Country in the state Legislature for the past two years. All that time, Payson’s ambitious plan to establish a public-private partnership to build a prototype for a state college system has twisted slowly in the listless wind of legislative indifference.

In previous commentaries, we observed that Rep. Crandell and Rep. Brenda Barton didn’t vigorously support a change in the law that would have enabled Arizona State University to partner with Payson to establish a Separate Legal Entity to build the campus.

The measure did make it through both houses of the Legislature, only to have Republican Gov. Jan Brewer drive a veto stake through the poor little thing’s heart.

Crandell now objects to what he calls an inaccurate portrayal of the facts. So does he offer an accounting of all of the things he did to get the SLE bill through? Win state seed money? Convince the governor to sign?

Not a bit.

Instead, he renews his creative, but quixotic effort to revoke the 100-year-old terms of statehood in the fanciful hope that federal courts will allow Arizona to seize control of millions of federal acres.

We’ve been quite vocal on the absurdity of the Forest Service maze through which university backers have shuffled to buy 240 acres for the campus. Backers had to raise nearly $400,000 to complete a pointless environmental assessment of the purchase of land Congress earmarked for sale more than a decade ago. Rep. Crandell would undoubtedly point to the two-year delay in selling the land as a perfect example of how federal red tape can strangle economic growth. If so, we couldn’t agree more.

But we have to scratch our befuddled head upon reading his solution — a long, costly, probably futile effort to seize control of federal lands. Now, it’s certainly possible that if the state did take over federal lands it could sell the parcel quicker than the Forest Service. Hey, just look at what a bang-up job the Legislature has done at managing the state parks system.

But let’s not quibble. Suppose the state could sell off land quicker. Would that do us any good right now? Years of legal battles lie ahead if voters approve Proposition 120.

We need now precisely what we’ve needed for the past two years: State lawmakers who see that Payson offers the perfect model for development of a desperately needed state college system that will stimulate struggling rural economies — at minimal or no cost to the state. Instead, our AWOL representative wants promotion to the Senate in hopes we’ll all saddle up and charge distant windmills.

Well. That’s just strange.

School board candidates grapple with the issues

Gotta love elections. No, seriously. You probably think that’s sarcasm, setting up a lament about negative campaigning.

But actually we’re talking about the thoughtful way the nine candidates for the Payson School Board have grappled with serious and complex issues confronting this community.

On today’s front page, you’ll find a story about a searching but inconclusive discussion about an overhaul of teacher evaluations that took place at a recent candidates form for the school board election.

The field of forum candidates this year offers a wonderful diversity of former teachers and administrators, businessmen, grassroots activists and parents.

Interestingly, they virtually all agreed that mounting pressure by the state and federal governments to base teacher evaluations, promotions, layoffs and pay mostly on student test scores can to do more harm than good.

Certainly, schools must make it easier to get rid of bad teachers — and ensure struggling students don’t drop through gaping cracks. But we believe the answer lies in empowering principals to run their schools. An involved principal has a much better chance of rewarding good teachers and either inspiring or dismissing bad teachers than some legislative committee making up ever-more-burdensome rules.

Certainly, tracking tests play a valuable role in the process. But this obsession with standardized tests can only demoralize teachers and short-change vital but hard-to-test areas like art, music, athletics, drama and other topics essential to the well-rounded development of students.

So we were heartened to hear the candidates talking about real issues with such insight and seriousness.

We hope that the voters will now do their part, by studying the candidates’ positions and making those hard choices all the way down the ballot.

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