Suddenly, County Wants Reports

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Well. Well. So Gila County Supervisor Mike Pastor wants to set high standards for county fiscal accountability. To be specific, he wants to make sure the Rim Country Educational Alliance reports carefully on how it spends the pocket change the county has offered from its economic development accounts.

Couldn’t agree more. Fine idea. Absolutely. Wouldn’t want to spend the precious economic development money carelessly.

After all, Gila County continues to struggle to recover — whether it’s the becalmed housing market in the north or the still battered mining operations in the south. The county gives out substantial sums to local projects every year — so it makes sense to account for that money.

Leastwise, that’s the rumor. Up north, we don’t get enough county money for economic development to really understand the system at all. Cynics might say that Globe’s domination of the board of supervisors might have something to do with the lopsided distribution of money. But we’re sure it’s just that Supervisor Pastor wants to raise the accountability standard. Just a coincidence he wants to start with a Northern Gila County project.

Northern Gila County hasn’t gotten more than a fitful pittance of the county’s economic development help in years. And it took something like a universally supported university plan that could pump $150 million annually into the county’s economy to get even a proposed $12,500.

Make no mistake, bringing a 6,000-student university to Gila County will benefit residents throughout the region. After all, Northern Gila County residents now pay 80 percent of the property taxes in the county and account for about 55 percent of the population. So anything that boosts property values here will swell county coffers.

Still, Pastor’s absolutely right.

Got to provide accountability and report back on where the money went. That’s just common sense.

So we’re glad he’s adopted a new standard, given the complete lack of reporting and accountability that has characterized the county’s economic development grants in the past. We’re not saying the money has been wasted — lawyers gotta eat too, you know. We’re just saying no one seems to have any clear idea as to where the money’s gone up until now.

But heck: We’re all for standards.

So long as they’re not double standards.

Dreams can come true

And while we’re on the subject ... we’re starting to believe after all.

This week the dogged, tenacious, visionary backers of the plan to build a university campus here in Payson made another heartening announcement: The supervisor of the Tonto National Forest has signed the environmental assessment that will allow the direct sale of 253 acres to the Rim Country Educational Alliance.

Granted, in a reasonable world Tonto Forest head Neil Bosworth could have signed that assessment back in December, when the consultants reported the sale of the land won’t affect any endangered species, significant historical or archaeological sites or other resources protected by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

But federal rules dictating Forest Service actions have grown so senseless and encrusted that the eight-month delay needed to approve a direct sale and figure out what to do with a scattering of pottery shards and other artifacts actually qualifies as quick work. The effort would have taken much longer — and perhaps faltered — without the persistent, savvy, far-sighted support of both Bosworth and Payson Ranger District Head Ranger Angie Elam, who has become Rim Country’s patron saint in the hellish Forest Service bureaucracy.

But we didn’t mean to go on another Forest Service rant. In fact, we have reached this vital milestone thanks in large measure to Bosworth and Elam and the incredible persistence and insight of people like Alliance board members Steve Drury and Judy Lyons and the guidance and imaginative stubbornness of Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.

Granted, we won’t feel safe to take a full breath until we see ASU President Michael Crow grinning his Cheshire Cat grin at a press conference saying the Sun Devils are on the way.

But in the meantime, we salute the persistence, public spirit and hard work of the core of people who have willed this dream into reality, despite all the setbacks and disappointments. Soon, we’ll have the land and a partner and the financing. Already, the Alliance is laying the groundwork for next year.

Now, we know we’ve charged Lucy’s football before — and ended up flat on our backs trying to catch our breath.

But each setback has summoned forth only renewed determination from the supporters of this dream, in which the future of our region and our children are bound up.

And that is why we believe, we believe, we believe.

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