By Scott Skinner
It’s a rare moment when average ordinary people can actually place limits on overdevelopment. Voting against Prop 416 affords just such an opportunity.
While ostensibly about new roads, 416 is really about laying the foundation for the urbanization of Pinal. It’s predicated on the idea that we all want growth, that growth is good, and that we’re all willing to subsidize it. Just so we’re clear: growth means more people, more sprawl, higher population densities, and more — not less — congestion. It’s a vision for Pinal that is the polar opposite of its rich rural character.
In other words, 416 is not about roads to make your commute easier, as it’s designed to encourage growth, stimulate development, and increase traffic. And that is why some of the largest donors to the 416 campaign initiative are in fact land developers. They’re chomping at the bit to profit from this once-and-forever-gone opportunity to transform our wild and open spaces into more urban sprawl. So, if you love city life, enjoy subsidizing new residents, enjoy subsidizing developers and large corporations, enjoy big government, and want Pinal to ultimately resemble downtown Phoenix, then by all means support 416. Let your reps know that you can’t wait until every last acre of prickly desert is paved over, along with all the chittering wildlife that lives there. But don’t delude yourself. No matter what you’re told, it’s not possible to strip-develop Pinal while at the same time preserve its rural qualities. And don’t believe any nonsense about growth being “inevitable.” If it was, then they wouldn’t be asking you to pay for it. They wouldn’t be resorting to hard sell scare tactics like, “VOTE 416/417 BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!” — pitched with all the finesse of a used car salesman (or, more likely, insiders that stand to profit considerably from its passage).
How bad do they want this? So bad that they’ve even split the mandate into two votes, so that you can approve development while seemingly avoiding any cost. Rest assured that if you accept the 416 urbanization plan, you will be paying for it, and Prop 417 is only the start. Rest assured that if these roads are built, you will be sharing them with Maricopa and Pima County drivers who won’t have to shoulder the regressive three-quarter-billion-dollar tax burden. I’m sure they’ll give you the right-of-way, and thank you for your generosity. Ultimately, this vote isn’t about roads; it’s about values. It’s about different visions for the future of Pinal. One vision endorses growth and urbanization; the other honors and respects our rustic heritage. Are places like Phoenix so bad? Certainly not. But if Pinal residents wanted to live there, then they wouldn’t have moved to Pinal. Voters who want urban life have endless options. But for those of us who don’t, the choices are dwindling fast.
Pinal’s cowboy country character is what distinguishes it from other counties. It is in fact Pinal’s greatest asset. And once it’s gone, there’s no going back. City life or country life — the choice is yours — at least until there are no more rural places left.
Scott Skinner is a Pinal County resident living in Gold Canyon.