Many of you know that I have been a huge advocate for our area's right to vote on whether or not we become a city. After drafting legislation last year, with Senator Barbara McGuire as the ONLY elected official in our area willing to sponsor the bill, we were close to changing law in 2015. Unfortunately, even after the bill passed the Senate with overwhelming support, it was stopped in the House by many of our local elected officials. I promised everyone that I would "be back" in 2016 and as a woman who is true to her word, I am.
This year, Rep Eddie Farnsworth is our sponsor and we are on our way to passing our new bill in the House this month, after which it will head to the Senate for a vote. While I have stressed time and time again that our mission is NOT about incorporation, but simply about our American Right to Vote on the type of government that governs us, there are still residents, cities and even legislators who are confused about our effort. This article, written by Mark Cowling with the Florence Reminder, does a pretty good job explaining our goal.
No active effort to incorporate
BILL WOULD GIVE STV RESIDENTS THE ‘RIGHT TO VOTE’
By MARK COWLING, Staff writer | Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2016 1:00 am
SAN TAN VALLEY — There’s currently no group actively working to incorporate San Tan Valley as a city; the current bill pending in the state Legislature “is just about the right to vote,” a leading local businessperson said.
Requiring the sprawling area of more than 90,000 people to obtain the blessing of every city or town within six miles before it can vote to incorporate is a burden it wouldn’t have in most other parts of the state, Tisha Castillo said.
“We’re trying to level the playing field to say we want the same right as if we were in Pima County, or Cochise County, or other counties. We would already have this option,” Castillo said.
Castillo said she doesn’t call herself an advocate for incorporation, but an advocate “for San Tan Valley’s right to vote.” She said the pending legislation is anything but an automatic path to incorporation. Some people who support the bill are actually against incorporation.
“We have a pretty large percentage of people supporting this bill that are adamant against incorporation. They want to be able to go and vote ‘no,’” Castillo said.
During San Tan Valley’s last major push to incorporate in 2010, it was bound by the six-mile rule. The Florence Town Council said no, putting the kybosh on the effort. “It was a huge effort and it obviously didn’t move forward. It was very taxing.”
Since then, there hasn’t been a big movement toward incorporation, essentially because the six-mile rule makes the question moot, Castillo said.
“One hundred percent of the people in San Tan Valley could want to incorporate, and without the (law) changing, it wouldn’t make a difference,” she said.
Incorporation supporters had some hope in 2011 when State Sen. Frank Antenori introduced a bill to change the rules. Some of his constituents in the Vail area wanted to incorporate and were running into the same issues. His legislation provided that if a community had more than 15,000 people, it didn’t need permission from cities and towns within six miles, as long as the county’s incorporated population was between 60 and 65 percent.
“That excluded Pinal County because we’re about a 50-50 split,” Castillo said. “So by doing that, we were removed from the table. I understand compromise has to take place, and Antenori’s main purpose was to get those options for Vail.
“Vail was able to go through the process. They actually put it on the ballot and the residents voted it down. Vail is still unincorporated. … So the legislation, in no way, shape or form, equates to incorporation. It just lets people decide if they want to put it on the ballot so they can vote.”
Castillo said she worked last year with another senator to try to pass a bill. “We made it through the Senate really well, and unfortunately It didn’t get anywhere in the House. “Really the biggest issue is San Tan Valley continues to grow and we can’t even have a discussion about what we want the city to look like, or if we want it to be a city or not. So the change in legislation would allow us to be like most of the other communities across the state. If we wanted to be able to put an effort together to get a vote on yes or no for incorporation, we could finally do that.”
Florence officials have said they’d like a meeting.
“We’ve actually had a number of meetings with Florence. I’ve personally had a number of meetings with Mayor (Tom) Rankin and we actually had a stakeholder meeting last year; a number of representatives from Florence were actually at the meeting. I think a lot of the hesitation or concern, even just about this legislation, is that some people in the cities are convinced that San Tan Valley is going to incorporate if this law goes through.”
It’s “a huge process” to work towards incorporation, Castillo said. If and when San Tan Valley is in that process again, “of course we want to be able to sit down with our neighbors, we want to sit down with anybody who’s incorporated in the last 10-15 years, and learn from them, to see what the pros and cons are. … “
When the Florence Town Council voted no in 2010, it was worried about a loss of almost $1 million in annual state shared revenues when the new city claimed its share. Castillo said San Tan Valley sympathizes.
“Last year when we tried to put the bill through, if everything had moved real smoothly, there would have been a two-year window of getting ready for the shared-revenue change to hit.” What’s the motivation for the state to change its law?
“Most of the feedback that I’ve gotten from the representatives who are in favor of the bill is really not so much the incentive for the state. … There’s just kind of a broken law on the books. (The pending bill) allows the majority to rule, it allows the residents in a community to have the right to vote. So the legislation that’s being introduced simply states that if you have over 15,000 people in your community, and you’re larger than the community around you that’s trying to veto it, you as the majority population get a chance to move forward without their permission.
“… Again, this is not a San Tan Valley issue, this is a statewide law change. It would allow the majority to rule, and give residents their American right to vote on their future, and their government that governs them.
“The community has been talking about wanting this right for many years, but the community can’t give this right; it’s the legislators who have to change the law. So that’s really where all the lobbying and all the focus has been. There’s a very large population out here, and many of them don’t even know this is happening. If anyone wants information, they can call, they can email, or find us on Facebook.”
Residents may call (602) 348-0238, send email to: support @ SanTanValley.com or follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/voteforsantanvalley .
Castillo stressed that if the bill passes, the work has only just begun for anyone wanting to incorporate San Tan Valley.
“If the community decides they want to move forward after the legislation is changed, and they want to put this on the ballot, all those pieces are going to have to come together. There are going to be pros and cons to incorporating, there are pros and cons for staying as-is, there are pros and cons to being annexed by our neighboring municipalities.
“But this will be the first time — which I think will be huge for our area, as a community — we can actually come together and instead of just being reactive, we can be proactive and now we can put all the options on the table and decide where we want to go from here.”
If you support our effort to change Arizona law so that we can finally have the right to decide, for ourselves, whether or not we want to become a city, please click here to contact our legislators and ask them for their support.