The Arizona Desert Lamp

Melvin & Paton

Posted in Politics by Evan Lisull on 26 January 2009

Al MelvinJonathan Paton

Most of the letter-writing campaigns have focused on the heads of the Appropriations committees, Rep. Russell Pearce and Sen. John Kavanagh. Yet based on this article for the Arizona Capitol Times, the legislators who really need to be leaned on are freshman Sens. Al Melvin (left) and Jonathan Paton, both Republicans. Melvin, in spite of his freshman status, is the vice chair of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee. The piece contains an entire section devoted the issues facing the UA. First, a take from Paton:

The UofA probably plays a bigger role in their region than the Arizona State University, for example, plays in Maricopa County. That is, cuts to the UofA would have a different effect on Tucson, a smaller community, than relatively the same percentage of cuts to ASU would have on Phoenix, according to Paton.

. . .

He added: “I told them (university representatives) that I was going to do my best to fight for what my part of the state cares about. But I don’t want to make it just sound like we are just going to get what’s ours. It has to be fair for the whole state. It has to make sense for the whole state.”

Then, we have Melvin:

“I applaud all of our universities — the UofA, ASU, NAU — in the things that they have done to date as far as trying to make themselves more responsive to the economic conditions that we have,” he said. “I don’t share the gloom and doom myself.”

These guys aren’t entirely in cahoots with Shelton’s take, but neither are they opposed to the University in of itself. Winning these two over could turn the tide against the current proposal. This is why the various UA lobbying organizations cannot afford to focus only on  appealing to friendly, southern Arizona Democrats — a poor strategy even in good times, since these sorts of legislators are already on your side. Otherwise, the fight of the universities budget will feature a fight between “fiscal hawks” and “tax-and-spenders.” With the state government aligned as it is, the cuts will broadly be enacted, and the school’s official colors will become black and black.

But if you can convince Melvin and Paton that these cuts are so drastic that, rather than encouraging innovation, they will lead to the University assuming a fiscal fetal position; that Southern Arizonans, their constituents, depend on the health of the University; that destroying an institution older than the state itself is poor conservative form — then the UA might escape with a more palatable cut, and can start focusing on becoming less reliant on this madness.

I emphasize that the UA might survive relatively unscathed. The Paton statement on the relatively greater importance of the UA in Tucson is telling. Pima legislators on both sides of the aisles know that the UA is behind much of the region’s economic activity. Furthermore, Maricopa legislators owe relatively less to ASU — there are far more outside interests in the Phoenix area. The UA may benefit, at the expense of the other two schools; further, this may be the only way that the UA comes away “alive.”

While the current cross-state university solidarity is really touching, the UA has to come to terms with the fact that, when push comes to shove, it ultimately is in opposition with ASU. When the scraps at the table start to dwindle, sometimes you have to punch your own brother out.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention this article in the Wildcat, which includes the following lede:

ASU President Michael Crow leaned into a red and blue microphone on Friday and told the Arizona Board of Regents what educators see as an insult added to a laundry list of financial injuries.

“I was recently speaking with a state legislator, who will go unnamed, who wondered why Pell grants were important to us,” Crow recalled.

This anecdote of ignorance comes just a day after almost 1,000 concerned business leaders and UA staff and students crammed into the Student Union Memorial Center’s North Ballroom.

Add this to the annals of effective lobbying– publicly insulting the figures that write your checks.


2 Responses

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  1. […] Such a response from the University is about as callous as they come: we want our university with the increases that we want — even if we have to tax people already struggling and end or diminish the programs that help them. You legislators are a bunch of ignorant Philistines! […]

  2. […] for students, except when he doesn’t. Rather than attempting to build a coalition involving Republicans that might support less of a cut, ASA seems dedicated to irrelevancy and internships instead. It doesn’t matter what the fee […]

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