Monday, May 09, 2016

Dear Governor Ducey--What to Do about Prop 123? Letter #80

Dear Governor Ducey,

            When I lived in Portland, I had a VW Jetta. It wasn’t like my ex-boyfriends’ Volkswagen round microbuses and beetles. The Jetta was square and gray and perfect. And then I moved myself and the Jetta to Portland where the stereo was ripped straight out of the dash. The thieves broke the window too. This whole smash and grab led to me and my best friend Misty riding our bikes to Fred Meyer rather than drive because we would not let some hooligans stop our dream of buying a kiddie swimming pool to fill with hot water so we could manufacture a hot tub-like situation in our college dorm. We went into Fred Meyer hoping to find an inflatable tub but could only find the fully formed plastic blue kind with pictures of orange fish painted on the bottom. We bought it. And then we went back to the parking lot. And then we thought. Hmm. How can we get this home?
            Misty is intrepid. “We’ll carry it,” she said. And she did, pedaling down 40th Avenue (39th was too busy) with a swimming pool for a hat. Not to be out intrepided, I said, “I’ll take a turn.” But then the wind kicked up. It lifted the pool like wind lifted Mary Poppins’ umbrella. The wind and the pool took me with them. For a bit. And then deposited me where I more likely belonged, on the ground. Elbow broken.
            Later, Misty successfully installed the hot tub but I could never partake because I wasn’t allowed to get my cast wet.
            By the end of the year, the painted orange fish had turned green with mildew. It took twelve people to throw it off the dorm room balcony. Look out below. Falling swimming pools. Falling mildew. Unseeable-orange fish.
            Also in Portland, the Jetta’s fuel injectors got stolen. I’d replace them. They’d get stolen again. I’d replace them. $1500 worth of fuel injectors later, I finally got a new car.
            Prop 123 is like this Jetta. This is a car we the people own clear out. But the legislature stole our car stereo and would like to sell us a new one. The legislature stole our fuel injectors and would like to sell us some new ones. They stole them again and again even though the courts have told them to give us our damn fuel injectors back. They won’t. Now, they’d like us to borrow some money against a car we already own.
            The State Trust Land is not the legislature’s. It is the land of the state. That means us, not them. It is our car. We shouldn’t need to borrow against it to raise the amount of money for education, especially since a) there is a 600 million dollar budget surplus and b) especially since the money we need already exists as long as we stop giving business tax breaks which do no good since no business except the prison business wants to do business where education ranks at the very bottom of investment and c) we already own the car, the fuel injectors and the stereo. We shouldn’t have to buy them again. Just stop taking them away.
            But listen. It’s tricky, I know. It is our car but if we don’t replace the fuel injectors, we can’t drive the thing. Teachers and students need money now. And, how will it look to the legislature if we abandon our car on the side of the road just to make a statement that says, look, you already owe us this money? The courts say you have to pay it!
            The thieves who stole the Jetta’s fuel injectors didn’t care what the courts had to say either.
            My ballot sits on the counter. I already sent it in once but I forgot to sign the envelope. I am so conflicted. I want students to have more money. Lots more money. But Prop 123 has these horrible triggers that say if in a recession, no money, if unemployment goes up, no money, and triggers permanent amendments to the constitution that says we’ll never spend more than 48% of the budget on education.
            The triggers scare me. They’re like saying you will own this Jetta forever. The thieves know how to crack the hood, pull the plugs. The triggers are like saying, we’ll give you this car you already own and let you borrow money against it and then if we want, we’ll take the car away. We can leave you carless, fuel injectorless, broken elbowed, with nothing but a mildewed old hot tub with fish on the bottom you can’t even see.  
            I know I have to decide soon but I’m having a hard time. I really do love that car.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Wolves are People Too--Letter #79

Dear Governor Ducey, 

When I was a kid, I loved the TV show “Kids Are People Too.” The program advanced the revolutionary idea that kids had brains and ideas for what they wanted, usually in the form of playing an accordion, but still, the kids had direction. Volition! I hated being told what to do. I was a righteous fifth-grader. My best friend, Jeff Whiting, who is now a director on Broadway, and I protested boys and girls being separated for everything: sports, maturation programs, lining up for recess or to sit in rows at assemblies. “This discrimination must end!” we claimed although I don’t think we used the word “discrimination” and I don’t think the justice we were looking for was entirely self-less. Jeff and I wanted to sit by each other. Still, we felt the injustice deeply. We wanted things to be less categorical, less divided.

I-40 is a dividing line for the Mexican Gray Wolf. None are allowed to cross it. If they do, they will be removed and taken back to “their” area in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and White Mountain Apache Reservation, in the White Mountains. This wolf, one of just 97 Mexican Gray Wolves, is having a hard time reestablishing his species. The pickings for females are low. He’s related to most of them. Confined to this smallish, space means his chances for ever being anything but a representative of a dwindling species whose genetic variation is so small that, eventually, the species will die out.

I know you hate being told what to do. I get it. So do I. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been court ordered to develop a recovery plan. You sent a letter saying you would not allow wolves on to cross I-40. But the problem is, it’s not really up to you. While some people still fear and hate wolves, many others see them as amazing creatures, able to withstand near eradication, form social bonds, use elegant forms of communication to maintain those bonds. The people who love wolves aren’t in charge either. It’s not a boy/girl, pro-wolf/anti-wolf kind of situation. It’s a situation where the will of one side can be balanced with the will of another side. Ranchers can be compensated for lost livestock. Farmers can be taught how to keep wolves off their property. Some wolves may be removed or killed. But that’s the point of government. To address the needs of the many individuals and try to find a way to understand how wolves are part of the wilderness and part of what we mean by “the west.”

The principal told Jeff and me that we would have to abide by the boy and girl divisions but he didn’t dismiss our concerns. He explained that it’s just an easy way to organize the class and get students to quiet down. Our gender didn’t really matter in the line. In fact, he whispered, if you plan ahead, you can line up so you’re right next to each other. We weren’t thrilled. We’d still sometimes be divided by what was to us as arbitrary a distinction as a freeway running through Coconino County, but we took his advice and managed to line up near each other and, when we got to recess, played four-square with an uneven number of girls and boys.

The wolf, after centuries of being reviled, now enjoys a sliver of hope that his point of view will be addressed. A metaphor for the loner, the alpha, the killer has morphed into a metaphor for the family man, the communicator, the wild order itself. The idea that wilderness can live beside civilization, can in fact make us be more civil, is the a revolutionary idea that isn’t really that revolutionary. People and wolves have lived together for a very long time. Supposedly, humans are smart. They should be able to stand in two lines peacefully next to each other.

But, my fear is, like the way you have defied the order by the court to pay the schools the amount of money they are owed, you will defy the order, if it comes, to allow the wolf on this side of I-40. My fear is, like the way you want state trust land to give the schools money that is already owned by the schools in replace of money you already owe them, you will sell the land upon which the wolf is meant to recover and kill two wolves with one stone. No land. No wolves. No justice.