Washed Up

It's Time The Opponents Of The Water Consumer Protection Act Learned To Compromise.

By Emil Franzi

FORMER CONSTABLE and lifer Marine Steve Sherrick has always been a great fountainhead of fundamental wisdom. Back in his rowdy days, before he married Paula and settled down, Steve used to pick up a lot of extra money arm-wrestling guys. His arms are bigger than most people's thighs, and he probably would've been an Olympic weightlifter if he'd chosen that career.

Steve would sit down at a bar or a car hood, lock-up with the other guy, and put him down in less than a second. That would always draw a look of incredulity from the vanquished, who would invariably ask, "Can we try again?" Steve would agree and repeat the performance.

"You always gotta beat 'em twice--otherwise they think it's a fluke," says Big Steve.

Currents That principle applies to politics. The proponents of 1997's Prop 201 have now been beaten twice, so maybe it's time for them to reconsider some of their assertions and consider genuine compromises with the victors.

There's a lot of pop-psych babble going around over "conflict resolution." The best--and often the only--way to resolve a conflict is for one side to kick the living shit out of the other. That's what brings about real compromise--when one side recognizes it has to back down or get stomped some more.

We hope the proponents of Prop 201 recognize this. The people of Tucson have now spoken twice.

While many of the claims on both sides of Prop 201 were deceptive and outrageous, there was some merit in the arguments of some of the proponents. We can't endlessly pump our groundwater, Subsidence problems are real. We really don't know how much recharge will cost. And CAP water sent directly into our aquifer will eventually reduce its quality.

What we really have isn't a water problem--it's a too-damn-many-people problem.

What the 201 supporters failed to recognize: The public is fed up with every issue--from water to roads--being designed to accommodate the Growth Lobby. The public is telling us they want policies designed to accommodate them and not some family in Ohio who might move here in the future. This cannot be done without first implementing restrained-growth policies.

Restrained growth isn't--as some pretend--no-growth. It simply means--as Ann Holden so eloquently and simply stated in her 1996 county supervisor's race--that you quit encouraging it, quit subsidizing it and quit believing it's good for you.

That principle applies to water. Intelligent water policies can be designed, but they must take into account the simple fact that this a desert. We can't continue to maintain massive population growth without ever-higher taxes, water costs, and the debilitation of the lifestyles of current residents. And most of the current residents have figured that out.

There is no question that whatever we do, it won't be cheap. The CAP was designed as a subsidy for farms and the mines. To take them off groundwater may well mean we have to subsidize them some more. Life is a series of imperfect options. Present residents and taxpayers will have to cough up just to cover the costs of all the growth we've already had.

And those industries that make up the Growth Lobby are going to have to grasp that they're working in a diminishing political market and it's time to back off. They've blown enough elections for even the slowest-witted cementhead to detect a trend. They need to figure out how to make a reasonable profit and knock off the greed. There's enough land zoned for high density in this valley right now to hold the entire population of several small states. The problem is the costs of infrastructure all that growth will bring, from roads to schools to water. Accelerate that growth and watch the costs rise even more; retard growth and reduce the cost.

The days of buying politicians and pimping ballot props are over because the public has wised up. It just doesn't work any more. Hopefully, the Growth Lobby's leaders will grasp this.

Hopefully. There were a few really dense dudes Big Steve had to beat three times. TW

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