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AZ Week Notebook


By Paul Ingram Arizona Week Intern

Though they are two separate states divided by an international boundary, Arizona and Sonora can be viewed as a single economic region, according to the Arizona-Mexico Commission which holds its summer meeting in Tucson this week.

The commission is a cross-border, nonprofit developed to promote trade, advocacy and information sharing between the two border states. Created 53 years ago as part of the University of Arizona's Arizona-Sonoran International Conference on Regional Development, the AMC includes 15 binational committees, including economic development, health, education, security, water, and environmental issues.

Both states are linked by economic, social and environmental threads.

Economically, the two states created a combined $258 billion in economic development, according to a 2009 economic report from the Eller Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona.

Border trade one of the primary issues of the committees, which will focus on upgrades to the Nogales and San Luis port of entries, including an expansion of equipment for the US Customs’ expedited traveler cards in southbound lanes, using a $1 million grant from the Arizona and U.S. federal transportation agencies.

Environmental protection of watersheds and species along the border is also covered.

During the meeting, the environmental committee will discuss new plans to protect the Las Ciénegas National Conservation Area, 45 miles southwest of Tucson, as well as protection for wild doves and turkeys, as well as black-tailed prairie dogs, and javelina. The committees will also focus on water issues, starting with flooding between Douglas and Agua Prieta, as well as a plan to evaluate the decline and overuse of the Santa Cruz aquifer.

Similarly, the exchange of air water data between the Sonoran Ecology and Sustainable Development Commission (CEDES) and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to exchange particulate data from air quality reports for the cities of Nogales, Sonora, Hermosillo, Obregon and Agua Prieta.

Committees will also meet to discuss a “International Border Games” project that will create an exchange of athletes from professional and semi-professional teams between Arizona and Sonora, as well as deal discuss new training and equipment donations for first responders in Sonora and the Tohono O’odham reservation.

Arixzona-Mexico Commission,


The Arizona-Mexico Commission's summer meetings will be in Tucson Wednesday through Friday.

The commission, which works on issues of competitiveness, sustainability, security and quality of life for the states of Arizona and Sonora, will focus on cross-border real estate issues, environment, economic development and other issues.

Arizona Week's Friday broadcast will focus on the key issues, especially economic issues, including ties to border logistics, trade and transportation.

We plan to speak with commission Executive Director Margie Emmermann, at least one official from the state of Sonora, an economist who is an expert on border trade and business issues and someone doing business across the border.

Arizona-Mexico Commission Margie Emmermann Sonora,


Was your drive home from work today a jolting experience?

Do you wonder why nearly every street in town has speed bumps on it – most of them not on purpose?

Is the ride so rough you think that you’ve become your car’s shock absorbers?

Well, strap in and prepare for more. There’s little relief on the way in this season’s round of government budgeting.

The state is still diverting money from the primary fund set up to pay for highway building and street and road repairs.

The counties and the cities are still complaining that the state is diverting money they need to make fixes.

And we’re still bumping along, putting lots more wear and tear on ourselves and our vehicles than we ought to.

So why is it that we can’t get our streets and roads repaired in a timely manner and properly?

After all, as taxpayers, we put $1.2 billion into the state’s fund for such projects every year, from our gasoline taxes, commercial truck and fuel vendor taxes and what we pay to register and license our vehicles.

A billion two.

Nearly half of it goes to cities and counties – last fiscal year, they got $556 million. Of that, nearly $39 million went to Pima County, another $43 million to the city of Tucson and a little less than $5 million was divided among other metro area municipalities, like Oro Valley and Marana.

Plus, we pay a half-cent transportation sales tax in Pima County that brings in tens of millions a year for road construction and public transit.

And yes, in a growing metro area, the transportation needs are great.

Yet, we’re giving local governments close to $200 million a year from all these and other sources.

And still, the drive home is teeth-jarringly unpleasant.

Makes one wonder what route the politicians and bureaucrats are taking to get to and fro.

It surely can’t be the same rugged byways the rest of us have to travel.


The gasoline tax in Arizona was begun in 1921, at one-cent a gallon. Now it's 18 cents, a level at which it has stayed for 22 years.

Last fiscal year, 2010-11, the HURF produced $1.2 billion in revenue, with $556.5 million split among Arizona's counties, cities and towns. The rest stayed with the state for the highway fund, Department of Public Safety and Motor Vehicle Division funding.

There was a move afoot in the legislative session this year to reduce the amount the state has been keeping -- an additional $1.5 billion over the last decade -- as its share. It fell short, and the "sweeps," as legislators and others call them, continue in thw 12012-13 bvudget.

Those sweeps came in both good times and bad, when both Republicans and Democrats oversaw the process.

What it boils down to simply put is that local governments have less money with which to fill potholes and repair deteriorating streets and roads.

On Friday's Arizona Week, we will look at the numbers, the political process and the results. On air will be:

-- Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.

-- State Rep. Vic Williams, R-Tucson, chair of the House Transportation Committee.

-- A representative of county government.

-- AZPM political correspondent Andrea Kelly, to help explain the numbers and the maneuverings.

Arizona Legislature HURF Ken Strobeck Vic Williams,


Transportation maintenance operations at all levels of government in Arizona has been severely curtailed in the last decade because the Legislature has used the dedicated transportation fund to plug budget deficits.

The state House Transportation Committee estimated during the recently ended legislative session that money swept from the Highway User Revenue Fund, known as HURF, has added up to $1.5 billion in the last 10 years.

Efforts to protect the funds from being swept again this year fell short, and an estimated $182 million was taken away to help operate the Department of Public Safety and the Motor Vehicle Division.

The fund is made up of revenues from the state's 18-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax, a business-use fuel tax and registration and licensing for vehicles.

When the gasoline tax was originally introduced in Arizona in 1921, it was 1 cent a gallon, and the split was 75 percent for counties and 25 percent for the state.

The latest formula has 50.5 percent going to the state highway fund, 27.5 percent to cities and towns, 3 percent to cities over 300,000 in population and 19 percent to counties.

Friday's Arizona Week will bring the big picture of what the funding shifts have wrought. We will talk with representatives of local governments, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and lawmakers.


Active wildfires this week in Arizona have consumed more than 22,000 acres of grasslands and forest, and officials across numerous agencies are worried that it will get much worse.

An early prediction that this will be a quieter season than last year -- which included Arizona's biggest ever wildfire, the 540,000-acre Wallow Fire in the White Mountains -- has yet to be proven or disproven.

But of course more than 1,200 firefighters are on the lines, land managers are taking steps to minimize human-caused fires and researchers are quietly wringing their hands over whether we've learned from our past land and forest management policy mistakes and whether it matters at all because of climate change.

We'll give it all an aring on Friday's Arizona Week, with these interviews:

-- Heidi Schewel, information officer for the Coronado National Forest.

-- Don Falk, a professor in the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment. His research focuses on fire history and fire ecology.

-- Gene Beaudoin, Tucson District forester with the Arizona Department of Forestry. The department has just imposed fire restrictions on all state lands, including state parks.

-- Shaun McKinnon, environmental reporter for the Arizona Republic. He has covered Arizona wildfires for several years, including the record breaking fires of last year.

Plus an update on the latest wildfires in the state.

About AZ Week Notebook

News and commentary from Arizona Week producer/host Michael Chihak and interns Melanie Huonker and Lucy Valencia.