The Arizona We Want 2.0: The Case for Action
(reprinted from Az Republic, Jan. 19, 2013)
Lattie F. Coor, Chairman and CEO
Center for the Future of Arizona
Capturing a complete and accurate picture of Arizona is a difficult task for, in reality, we are a state of contrasts. We have vast, beautiful open spaces and yet we’re one of the most urban states in America. We have a significant number of senior citizens yet we also have one of the youngest populations in the nation.
So, too, are we a state of contrasts in our social and political endeavors. We have high educational aspirations, yet low investment and performance. We recognize the need for a diverse, balanced economy that will yield a larger number of high paying jobs, yet population growth and housing remain our dominant economic identity. We will be one of the first states in the nation in which our “minority” population will be the majority, yet we are not adequately educating the younger members of our new majority for success in the economy of the future.
How do we turn our contrasts into strengths as we chart a clear and coherent way forward? In The Arizona We Want 2.0, a new report our Center is releasing this week, we are presenting a roadmap that will enable us as Arizonans to sort through the elements of the future we want for ourselves and the state in order to direct our collective activities in a more coherent manner. Building on the insights gained from The Gallup Arizona Poll in 2009, and the vast array of meetings, discussions and activities that have occurred since the release of the original Arizona We Want report, the 2.0 report turns now to presenting very specific next steps we can take to move us toward that desired future. Those specific steps are organized around the 8 goals expressed by Citizens in the original report. Five of the goals – Education, Job Creation, Environment and Water, Infrastructure and Health Care — are leader driven requiring the collective action of leaders around the state. Three of the goals – Young Talent, Civic Engagement and Community Involvement – are citizen driven, requiring individual and collective action of citizens everywhere.
Making significant improvements in education and the economy are at the heart of the action plan presented by the report. “Fix Education – Fix the Economy” is the way the recent Morrison Institute report entitled Dropped put it.
Fortunately, major improvement in Arizona education is on the horizon with the full implementation of the Common Core Standards in the coming school year along with a more rigorous set of assessments, called PARCC, year after next. The 2.0 report calls for adequate funding for these steps as well as a substantial increase in the number of Arizonans receiving college degrees and certificate-based job training over the next 10 years. The recommendations not only tie education funding to student, teacher and school performance but also, seek to ensure that quality education is provided to all students regardless of socio-economic status.
Similarly, for job creation, the report not only calls for a significant increase in new jobs, 75,000, but also recommends focusing on jobs that will increase the average wage over time by 30% county by county. There is also an emphasis on strengthening and/or recruiting businesses that export at least 75% of their product, as well as a challenge to move our research and development expenditures into a ranking among the top 10 states.
Highlights of the remaining 6 goals of The Arizona We Want 2.0 include recommendations for the Environment and Water that 30,000 acres a year be thinned from our National Forests to reduce the fire danger and that at least 600,000 acres of State Trust Land be preserved for open space use. With respect to water, the report recommends the adoption of at least three new regional and community plans to ensure sustainable uses of water and it also urges Arizona to establish itself as the nation’s leader in water conservation and usage. The goals for Infrastructure call for high speed broadband to be available throughout the state and for citizens to support local community commitments to upgrade streets, water and sewage treatment facilities and public transportation. Health Care goals include a recommendation that we build upon the success of AHCCCS to provide coverage to more Arizonans, maximize federal dollars and that we develop a health workforce plan to meet Arizona’s future needs.
Since the Gallup Arizona Poll indicated that only 11% of our citizens thought Arizona was a good place for young college graduates, our report places major emphasis on recruiting and retaining talented young people. It urges communities throughout the state to demonstrate that they value young people and recommends that we involve young people on boards and commissions and foster spaces and events that attract young talent
The final two goals of the report focus on civic engagement and community involvement and present the findings of the 2012 Arizona Civic Health Index report to guide the development of programs in each of those two areas.
Having worked with individuals and organizations throughout the state in preparing The Arizona We Want 2.0 report, we believe key leverage points for action are now ready for implementation. We believe also that this is a critical moment for Arizona: we all have a vested interest in mobilizing around the citizens’ goals of the 2.0 report and aligning our efforts to achieve these goals. Success will be contingent on the collective effort of individuals and organizations throughout our state. In light of the urgency and significance of this work, we have created The Arizona We Want Institute, chaired by Don Smith, President and CEO of SCF Arizona, to lead our part of the effort. We strongly encourage individuals and organizations from across the state to join with us in forming alliances that will help us achieve the Arizona we want