Thu, April 02

Editorial: Doing nothing is what government does best

One of the things government at any level is best at doing is nothing.

Next up on the list is delaying the inevitable.

Case in point is the effort to rename Arizona’s Jefferson Davis Highway in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or recently deceased former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford.

This effort is not at all unlike a similar attempt that began in 1992 to rename Phoenix’s former “Squaw Peak.” While most lawmakers acknowledged that nomenclature was offensive to Native Americans, they still found one reason after another to cling to the name “Squaw Peak.”

It wasn’t until 2003 at the urging of then Gov. Janet Napolitano to officially change the summit’s name to “Piestewa Peak” in honor of Lori Piestewa, an Arizonan who was the first known Native American female solider to die in combat in U.S. military history and the first female soldier to be killed in action in the 2003 Iraq War.

For similar reasons, lawmakers are now being asked to rename the Jefferson Davis Highway. Having an Arizona highway named in honor of Davis is offensive not only to African Americans, but to people of all races who view any memorial to the Confederacy as an affirmation of racist policy.

In true legislative form, Arizona lawmakers found a way to dodge the issue and debated whether the highway even exists, never mind the fact that there is a memorial along the roadway declaring it the “Jefferson Davis Highway … Erected 1943 United Daughters of the Confederacy Arizona.”

Some lawmakers danced around the issue of propriety by pointing out that the number currently on the highway named for the president of the Confederacy is not the same as it was when the road was first designated. They ignored the fact that there is an official 1992 Arizona Department of Transportation map that shows the highway as the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway.

Others pointed to different documents that labeled the highway as the Jefferson Davis Highway, the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway, and the Jefferson Davis National Highway.

As if it’s really that important to decide which of those names is its official one.

In the end, lawmakers did the predictable thing, just as they did throughout the 1990s when Native Americans protested one of the best known summits in Arizona having a racist, derogatory name.

They stalled. Asked for more studies. Sought legal advice. All of which adds up to doing nothing. The very thing government is best at.

Similarly on the local level, we are now more than eight months into latest effort to consolidate the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts. From the onset of this effort, consolidation advocates have sought to have the two school boards form a task force committee to research the issue and advise the boards on how to proceed, or not to move forward with a marriage of the districts.

After eight months, this week the Mingus School Board agreed to form such a committee, but at the same time not actually form it.

That will take at least one more meeting to debate the structure and function of the committee. And then probably a few more to finally getting around to deciding who will serve on this board-advisory group.

Never mind the fact that there have been countless consolidation studies over the past 30 years, including a comprehensive thesis on the merger by highly respected former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Warner. Further, never mind that there already is a group in place that has mountains of research material available on district consolidation.

No, as government most often does, Mingus is doing its best to drag this out for as long as possible.

It’s your tax dollars at work.

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