Editorial: Homework Required

By Dana Trumbull

Acton Ousted from JP Election

John R. Acton is no longer on the ballot for Justice of the Peace.

While I am not a big fan of Kevin Cavanaugh either, he has done us the service of picking this one fly from the ointment. Cavanaugh challenged the signatures of all four of his Republican opponents for the Apache Junction Justice of the Peace position (District 6), accusing them of submitting petitions with invalid signatures. Candidates Doug Coleman and Glenn Walp withstood the sortie, while Mr. Acton and Bianca Sanchez fell.

Pinal County Elections has asked the booted candidates to remove their campaign signs from the collection of roadside clutter; however, “there really isn’t much we can do to force them to take them down until after the primary.”

Elections is working now to update their website with current candidates. You will be able to find them at: http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov/elections/Pages/UpcomingElections.aspx; or follow Pinal County Elections on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/PCElections or on Twitter at: @Pinal_Elections.

Dirty Water

For those of you following the saga of Johnson Utilities, wondering what the heck is taking so long, don’t give up! At this point, Administrative Law Judge Sarah Harpring has issued a recommendation that the Arizona Corporation Commission should, indeed, appoint a new manager for the San Tan Valley water and sewage company. “Although JU’s current manager may have sufficient managerial skills to operate the utility at the macro level,” Harping wrote in her 326 page finding, “JU has a culture that accepts as normal the unique arrangement involving JU, Ultra, and Hunt, under which more than half of JU’s revenues go to Ultra, and more than half of the revenues that go to Ultra are used to enrich Chris Johnson and Barbara Johnson rather than to provide JU with workers through Hunt or to maintain and improve JU’s infrastructure and operations.”

The judge’s decision, however, is not the final say-so. The ACC still has to give the water company 10 days to respond before they vote. That vote could come as early as July 24.

If it seems like we’ve already been at this crossroads, you’re right. In the last week of May, the commission issued a statement that, yes, an interim manager should be appointed. Rebuttals were due June 1. But additional spills and water pressure issues occurred while the hearings were in process, and the ACC held off taking action until all complaints could be heard by the judge.

Citizen complaints against the utility include raw sewage spills, toxic gas emissions and water pressure so low that residents can’t count on being able to flush their toilets and firefighters’ ability to adequately respond to calls is impaired – all symptoms of the Johnson family preference for profits now, rather than investing to insure the long-term viability of the utility and service to their customers.

Meanwhile, on July 17 Judge John Tuchi declared a mistrial in the bribery case against George Johnson and former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce. The jury could not agree as to whether the $31,500 in “salary” paid to Mrs. Gary Pierce (Sherry) after lobbyist Jim Norton directed his then-wife to hire Mrs. Pierce at her firm, KNB Consulting – to lobby on behalf of Johnson Utilities.

Bribery? Or just the good’ol’boy network at it finest? The jurists could not come to a consensus.

Homework Required

I’ve been wondering for a while now why candidates running for certain county offices make a point of clearly affiliating with their political party, even though the office has no basis or influence in party politics. Finally, I called the Pinal County Elections Office to ask: “Aren’t these offices non-partisan?” NO! I was surprised to learn that only municipal elections are non-partisan.

It makes no sense to me.

For instance: Why, Mr. Cavanaugh, does it matter if a candidate for Justice of the Peace is a, “Conservative Republican, Protect Second Amendment, Pro Choice/Pro Family” as your campaign signs state? Yes, you are running as a Republican candidate, but do you really think that, if elected, your decisions as JP will involve anything even remotely related to these poster-child platforms of the Republican Party?

Mind you, this is not a commentary on the merits of the party stance, but rather a question as to the relevance for the job.

As described at www.azcourts.gov, the Justice of the Peace presides over a justice court that hears cases involving, “…civil lawsuits where the amount in dispute is $10,000 or less, landlord and tenant controversies, small claims cases and the full range of civil and criminal traffic offenses, including DUIs. Justices of the Peace also resolve other types of misdemeanor allegations (e.g. shoplifting, writing bad checks, violating restraining orders) and, like other trial judges, also handle requests for orders of protection and injunctions against harassment.”

Where does your position on gun control or abortion come into play as you endeavor to perform the duties of JP? And why would a candidate for a job that has nothing to do with such issues campaign on a platform that is unrelated to the job?

Unless it’s a calculated move, believing that the conservative majority who generally decide the election results in Pinal County will vote for whomever they perceive to be the most Republican of the Republican candidates. Perhaps you believe that a few party line mantras on a poster will bind your name in the minds of the voters so they will be compelled to vote for you on August 28 for the primary, and then again on November 6 for the general election. Perhaps you believe these magic words will mesmerize voters so they won’t even bother to check your background.

Perhaps you’re right.

How else do we explain the 2014 win of Republican John Acton over Victor Rodas (Independent) in the Constable election, even though Rodas had the most relevant experience and the Arizona Constable Association had already requested that Acton drop out of the race due to false claims about his background and experience?

How else do we explain the 2014 election of Republican Diane Douglas for State Superintendent of Public Instruction over Democrat David Garcia when Garcia has a doctorate in Social Sciences (Educational Reesarch, Institution and Policy Studies) and more than a decade of experience, including a role as a consultant for the US Department of Education; and Douglas had nothing except an R next to her name on the ballot. No teaching experience. No experience working in the belly of the governmental beast. And many of the traditionally conservative Republican groups such as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry backed her Democratic opponent.

As a society supposedly based on democracy, complete with checks and balances intended to ensure that all citizens are treated equally, have we come to define ourselves so exclusively by party affiliation that we no longer bother to consider character, integrity, experience or ability to perform the job?

If so, then we deserve what we get: a bully Constable, a clueless Superintendent of Schools, a “studboi” (ex) sheriff and members of the Arizona Corporation Commission who sleep with utility company lobbyists (ok… married to them) and work within the good’ol’boy network with the likes of George Johnson to line their own pockets while the residents of the area don’t even have enough water pressure for the fire department to do their jobs.

Please. I don’t care if you are Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Green or Independent: qualifications don’t need any such labels. Integrity, honesty, intelligence and ability are the references I am looking for. And a simple “R” or “D” won’t tell me that. It takes homework to find who has them and who does not. Let’s do the homework this election year.

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