Hello, Flagstaff! It’s February, which means we’re solidly into another winter. It’s too early to tell if this one will last until May or if warm days will return sooner than ever. Council is back at work, and in Phoenix, the state legislature has reconvened.
As of this writing, the federal government is still partially closed and many federal employees are not being paid. Health care and transportation on our region’s native nations are suffering and preparations for fire season are stalled. The utter lack of governance at the federal level is disturbing and frightening. We need a functioning federal government to maintain and protect the West’s massive public lands, to prepare in case of unmitigated disaster. No governance is irresponsible.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Arizona state legislature that continually steps in and overrules the rights of cities and towns to govern themselves. Recently, I’ve been asked about rent control as a tool to address our high cost of housing. It’s prohibited by the state. Or the idea of limiting vacation rentals (also prohibited). Someone asked me the other day about what the city could do to regulate driverless cars (also prohibited). And, of course, we all remember the state stepping in to protect plastic bags from the voters of Flagstaff. Time and again, the state steps in to tell us how we must – or, more accurately, must not – govern.
Reasonable governance is not a bad thing. Compromise and collaboration are in fact good for democracy. Reasonable, deliberate governance gave us some of our most valued institutions, it gave us public schools that are based in and accountable to local communities. Compromise and collaboration gave us Medicare. Reasonable governance built public universities, energy and transportation infrastructure, and makes sure our food is safe to eat. Governance is not about protecting corporate interests, or dividing the world into us versus them. Good governance is about building the institutions we need to ensure all of us have access to the promise of this great nation – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
And so, while City Hall is not as grand as the state house, or as imposing as the buildings on Capitol Hill, it is where we, your local representatives, diligently pursue our work of making Flagstaff work for everyone, trying to set up programs and institutions to address climate change, protect workers and care for our public spaces.
As always, I urge you to reach out to us with your ideas, to bring your talents to a commission, or volunteer with one of our amazing local groups. Governance is not something done to you or for you, governance should be something done with the community. FBN
By Coral Evans
Coral Evans is the mayor of Flagstaff.