Financing the future of Arizona is something that takes more than just the legislature to decide, it’s a group effort involving people from all different backgrounds.
Arizona Town Hall rounded up people from different cities, ethnicities, genders and backgrounds for the 109th Arizona Town Hall in Mesa this week on the topic of “Financing Arizona’s Future.”
After three days of meeting, the participants came together on Wednesday and adopted over 20 topics of recommendations that will go to members of the Legislature. The participants said they know there’s only so much money, but they called for more money to education, and taking action.
Out of all the topics discussed, Town Hall participant Bonnie Humphrey said she believes that the most important issue discussed is education in all levels—from elementary school to the universities. She said she hopes the Legislature makes plans for everything discussed; it’s difficult to make plans when you don’t know where you’re going.
Tara Jackson, president of Arizona Town Hall and Chairman of the Board Linda Elliott-Nelson said the Town Hall participants want short- and long-term plans made. They also want Arizonans to realize that if they want better education, roads and more, they’re going to have to pay for it. Improvements can’t come around if taxes don’t increase.
The benefits of the Town Hall go far beyond making recommendations to the legislators, Ms. Jackson and Ms. Elliott-Nelson said. It’s a unique and fun way that Arizona brings its citizens together to discuss issues of importance to the whole state. People make new friends, and get to know one another on a personal, human level; and sometimes, opinions on important community and state issues change after they hear another’s perspective.
Ms. Jackson decides who participates in this and also puts the people who come into the four separate panels of Saguaro, Agave, Hedgehog and Ocotillo.
“You want all the panels to be as diverse as the whole group is,” Ms. Jackson said. “You get some people from Yuma, Flagstaff, some experts, some non, students, you want each panel itself to represent the state.”
Each panel is in their own room and members discuss different aspects of the same topics, in this case, financing the future of Arizona, debating in their panels and all together, then making recommendations. They receive a packet containing what can be changed and adapted. They use that as a jumping off point to discuss what they’d like changed or want to stay the same.
Then each panel gets together and if the consensus on each proposed change is overall positive, then the change is approved. This is what happened Wednesday morning at Hilton Phoenix/Mesa, in Mesa.
Every panel was able to come to a positive consensus easily in most cases. For ones where there were debates over wording, or what they wanted in the sentence, people from the panels involved went into the hallway and discussed exactly what they wanted and how it should be worded.
Although the topics are very serious, each panel was having fun, even during the Adoption of Recommendations that happened Nov. 16. Almost every person who spoke on behalf of their panel made a comment about how amazing their panel is and they were all able to joke around. Ms. Elliott-Nelson believes that this fact is very important to the process as a whole.
“These are serious topics and if you enjoy it, then it helps move the process along,” Ms. Elliott-Nelson said. “After three days these people truly enjoy each other.”
Ms. Jackson agreed with this, saying that they connect as humans through dinner, making jokes and even creating art pieces. Panel Agave created the Agave plant with duct tape. These groups obtain a certain level of bonding in those three days that they’re with each other.
To check out more details about the Mesa Town Hall, check out their website: http://www.aztownhall.org/
Editor’s note: Cassidy Rust is a journalism student at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and wrote the article as a class assignment.