Does any incoming president in history have more to deal with than Barack Obama? Two wars of our own, an erupting Middle East, the greatest economic meltdown since the 1930's. Only thing missing are the locusts.
Southern Arizona has a few items to add to the agenda. and though no one says 'as goes Arizona, so goes the nation,' some of the items would be echoed by quite a few other states. Some are uniquely ours.
Arizonans are an independent bunch. If you asked 100 Arizonans you'd get 100 different lists. This one's mine: "AZ 5 for '09" (I was going to do 10 but, hey, the guy has his hands full):
5. Promote scientific research and make it a priority. Thanks to our still-president, who considered science something to manipulate toward political ends, there's a real concern the U.S. could relinquish (some say already has relinquished) its position as the world leader in scientific discovery. It doesn't have to happen, and we need presidential leadership to ensure that it doesn't. The world knows we're #1 at waging war and making movies, but wouldn't we rather be known as the country that cured cancer? And from a purely small-lens perspective, scientific breakthroughs happening in your own home town can be as much a source of pride as a winning football team. Case in point: In 2008, the University of Arizona in Tucson led the brilliant Phoenix Mars Mission, successfully landing what was essentially a robotic scientist on the Mars surface. The mission captivated Tucson, and thousands turned out on a hot summer day to celebrate the landing with the scientists who headed the mission. Other U.S. towns should get the opportunity to enjoy a day like that too, and I'd like to see it be a yearly occurrence here in Tucson.
4. Take long-term action on The Border issue. The Mexican/U.S. Border is a complicated, difficult issue that ain't gonna be fixed by platitudes and walls; we desperately need a long-term approach that addresses all sides. Arizona needs a safe and secure border, and we need to have a healthy trusting relationship with our neighbor to the south. We all know we need the labor that streams across The Border and that it's got to be legal, and we also want to make sure our southern neighbors feel welcome, (and keep infusing our retail establishments with their hard-earned cash: read Mexicans saved Tucson retail this Christmas). And this administration has to acknowledge both sides of the humanitarian crisis that proximity to the Border has brought to Southern Arizona. Ranchers near The Border feel like they live under siege; they need help. Out in the desert, immigrants are abandoned to die. This is the United States. Surely we can do better.
3. Make solar technology a viable option and start right here. Guess what? It's sunny here. Most of the time, for most of the year, Tucsonans bask in the sunshine under clear cloudless skies. I'd love to see this administration make Tucson its test subject for solar technology. Come on, I dare you. Help us cover all the parking lots of our malls with solar panels, power our schools with solar energy, and make it affordable enough that every homeowner can produce more solar power than they need and has to sell it back. Think big. Make everyone think solar when they think Tucson. Hey, we're home to Biosphere 2. Being a little ahead of our time is nothing new for us.
2.Be serious about environmental protection. There's more diversity in plant life to be found in Arizona than any other state in the country. We are a microcosm for the country's habitats, and for the challenges facing those habitats. We need strong central leadership to protect and sustain our lands because places like the Grand Canyon and the Sonoran Desert don't belong to Arizona, they belong to the country, to all Americans, and the American government should protect them as ferociously as the Queen of England protects her crown jewels. Arizona is a state of magnificent natural beauty, but local officials often lose sight of that beauty and instead see empty land that could be the answer to a budget shortfall or a gridlocked highway system. We need to develop a national mindset that considers American land to be precious; that needs to start from the top.
1. Inject some optimism into our economy. I am not a native Arizonan, but one reason I love it here is that I love Arizona's attitude. This is a state with tough people who take what life gives out, Arizonans look challenges right in the eye without flinching. Yet even the toughest Arizonans are faltering these days. This economy is battering us; Phoenix now leads the nation in the drop in home prices. Arizonans don't need much, but they know from experience that you don't survive tough times or tough places without help. We could use a fresh injection of the can-do spirit.
So, there you are, Mr. President-Elect, a wish-list from the Old Pueblo. Even though you're facing a mountain of challenges we have high hopes for the next four years. Check in on the southwest every now and then, see how we're doing, and ask us how you're doing. Guarantee you'll get an honest answer.