With early voting set to start next week, the heat’s on in the crucial District One Gila County Supervisor race representing North County.
Incumbent Tommie Cline Martin, a Republican, said voters can expect to see and hear more from her in the coming weeks.
“My race is in the general (election) and I’ll be running hard. I didn’t need to clutter the field in the primary and I wanted to be financially conservative (with the funds supporters have contributed),” Martin said.
Martin said she feels the top five issues facing the district are the poor economy and the significant loss of real wealth from the depressed housing market; long-term, major unemployment; natural disasters; public safety; and a fiscally irresponsible Legislature.
Regarding the poor economy and the significant loss of real wealth from the depressed housing market, Martin said, “I am and have been committed to Gila County not making the effects of the depressed housing market any worse on our citizens by not increasing our portion of the property tax bill. We prepared for a depressed economy so that we were able to maintain stable government services without increasing property taxes.”
Martin is a lifelong resident of Gila County and has served on the board of supervisors for eight years. Before her election, she worked for 24 years as a natural resource management educator, facilitator, consultant and advocate on both the national and international level. She also served as a legislative aide to the Arizona House Rules Committee chairman and rules attorneys and worked as a state and congressional lobbyist for the Arizona Cattlegrowers Association and Center for Holistic Management. Martin also was a Republican precinct committeeman in the 1970s and ’80s.
Catastrophic forest fire remains the single largest natural disaster threat to the district’s constituents, she said. “We continue to expand on my vision of sufficient, helicopter-available water with 5-minute turn-around times from Pine-Strawberry to Young. In tandem, is my involvement in the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), whereby stakeholders work collaboratively to bring industry back into our forests for ultimate forest restoration. The over-arching goal is to allow industry to profit from the removal of forest products while following sustainable environmental prescriptions. This effort, too, addresses a poor economy and unemployment.”
Continuing on the theme of the poor economy, Martin said a real consequence of a depressed economy is an increase in crime, particularly those crimes driven by frustration such as domestic violence, abandonment, driving impaired, drug use, disorderly charges, etc. Even though Gila County is insisting on a 6.5 percent average reduction on existing property tax revenues, it must at the same time make sure the criminal justice system can handle this increased activity. “Seventy cents out of every tax dollar currently goes to our criminal justice sector and the state indigent health care programs,” she said.
Beyond the district, and even the county, other issues threaten the rural residents of Arizona, Martin said.
“The more urban Arizona becomes, the more rural we become and we need to partner with counties with similar concerns,” she said.
Martin said rural counties must partner with the politically dominant urban counties, like Maricopa, Pima and now Pinal and Yavapai counties. Those counties now dominate in the Legislature and on the state transportation board, which distributes money for highway construction. Rural counties therefore need partners to receive their share of the money. With a strong partnership, rural counties have a better chance at funds for road maintenance and improvements, economic development and workforce development.
As an example of the concerns about funding solutions to long term, major unemployment she said, “The state currently has Gila County tied to Pinal County for all workforce development activity which may have made sense 25 years ago when we had similar interests. Today, however, just one of their unincorporated communities — San Tan Flats — has 1-1/2 times as many citizens as all of Gila County. Pinal is now an urban county and it is directing our collective workforce development and job training. I am spearheading a five eastern Arizona county consortium (all rural, all natural resource based, all with very similar issues, and all tied in some way to large urban areas who take all the focus and resources) to petition the governor to allow us to become a new Workforce Investment Area and address our workforce development needs that are very different from urban areas.
“Individually we have little impact, jointly we could make a difference. If I am re-elected, I am positioned to be the new chairman of the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization,” Martin said.
This group, organized in the late 1990s to address natural resource issues, includes Apache, Graham, Greenlee and Navajo counties, as well as Gila County. She said for the past year the group has built a foundation from which to begin educating the state legislators that representing the five counties.
“Before redistricting, most of us, shared one senator and two representatives. Now, there are at least four senators and eight representatives to educate (to our needs),” Martin said.