Democrats try to change system

I would like to congratulate Steve Pierce on his election as chairman of the Yavapai County Republican Committee.

He has a monumental task ahead of him to unify the various factions in the local bipolar Republican Committee. I do not envy him the responsibility to "rally the troops" in a situation where each side denies that the other even comprises "true Republicans".

In Mr. Pierce's "Talk of the Town" March 23, it appears that he is trying to attract Independents and others of non-party status by calling them complainers and inviting them to join his party. With their participation, he contends, the already fractured Republicans suddenly will fix the world's problems and live in harmony.

While I applaud his call for all citizens to join the process and help guide our nation, I believe he has missed the point of the so-called complainers' message. Now serving my third term as the Yavapai County Democratic chairman, I have spent a great deal of time reaching out to Independent and non-partisan voters as well as many who have chosen to not register at all.

All too often, the reasons they give for lack of interest in party politics is their belief that most politicians are crooked and that generally special interests control our elected representatives.

They think our elected leaders more often serve special interests, more often serving the corporations that wine them, dine them and provide huge amounts of money to re-elect them, rather than providing legislation that truly helps to protect and serve the citizens.

Sadly, I have no arguments that can deny the history of the past couple of decades in American politics. I will, however, say that things are changing. The Democratic Party has heard the voice of the people and, in fact, agrees with much of what they are saying. If the political parties want to regenerate Americans' interest and participation politics, they must clean up their acts first.

This is where the parties of Mr. Pierce and myself differ most. In Arizona it is rare indeed to find a voter who has been proud of state government or even happy with it, especially the Republican-led Legislature. In fact, the voters have expressed this position several times recently in elections.

A few years ago citizens, disgusted by a lack of voice in state laws, began a movement to reduce the stranglehold that people of wealth have on state policy.

Several years of grassroots citizen action led to term limits for holders of statewide elected offices (enacted by voters in 1996); The Lobbyist Gift Ban, (enacted by the Legislature in 1999 under fear of a more strict citizens' initiative); The Clean Elections Initiative (enacted by voters in 1998); and an Independent Redistricting Commission (enacted by voters in 2000).

These citizen-based laws have begun returning the government of our state to the will of the people. The Yavapai County and State Democratic Committee endorsed each of these initiatives, while the local and state Republicans vehemently opposed them.

In the 2000 election the Republican Party spent a great deal of money and effort to fight the Independent Redistricting Initiative; they preferred to continue the system of the past that ensured their incumbents election-proof seats for life.

Worse yet, in the current legislative term, despite the clear intentions of the voters over the course of four years, the Republicans are seeking to extend voter-approved term limits. They also have fought tooth and nail against a more strict version of the lobbyist gift ban and proposed three different bills to cripple or eliminate the publicly mandated Clean Elections Act.

The Republican Party also defeated legislation Democratic Prescott Rep. Henry Camarot submitted to eliminate the use of the unconstitutional and illegal "strike-all" amendment. This trick that lawmakers often use to rush through special interest bills with no review or public comment led to last year's alternative fuel fiasco, which may cost taxpayers a half billion dollars or more. At this point a bit more than two-thirds into the legislative session, lawmakers have proposed an astounding 203 strike-alls, and approved 105 of them. Watch your wallet.

The Democratic Party is fighting to bring back clean, open government and uphold the will of the voters. Mr. Pierce suggests that Independents and those who are unhappy with the system join the Republican Party and talk about the problem. Yavapai County Democrats suggest that if you want to make a difference, please join the many Independents and reinvigorated Democrats who have flocked to our party where the work of cleaning up the system has been going on for several years.

The Yavapai County Democratic Committee has opened a year-round headquarters at 505 S. Montezuma; the phone number is 541-0413.

For those of you on the other side of the mountain, look for our Verde Valley Democratic headquarters to open this month. We update our web page frequently, and I invite you to visit it to find out about our activities at http://www.prescottarizona.org/~dems/

Finally, I can't resist suggesting that if the local Republican leadership wants to attract people to the party, it might consider ending the tradition of offering criminals (Liddy, Symington, North, etc.) as the featured speakers at your dinners.

(Stan Turner is chairman of the Yavapai County Democratic Committee and serves on the State Democratic Executive Committee.)