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November 17, 2010

Arizona Boycott: The Other Side

Kevin E. Dayhoff

“I’m glad you are not boycotting Arizona,” observed New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson last Saturday at a breakfast presentation at the Capitolbeat statehouse reporters’ annual conference in downtown Phoenix, AZ.


Governor Richardson spoke to Capitolbeat, an association of reporters and editors who cover state and local governments that was in Phoenix for a two-day annual conference. His talk was frequently interrupted by laughter, as he wowed those attending with his sense of humor and infectious personality.


During his introduction, it was noted that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was invited to speak; however, she had declined, citing scheduling problems. To which Governor Richardson observed: “I commend you for inviting Jan Brewer. I could’ve told you that she would not come…” He added that his relationship with Governor Brewer and Arizona have “remained good “even though the Phoenix’s governor’s office changed from Democrat Janet Napolitano, now the secretary of Homeland Security.


Governor Richardson is known to have worked well with former-Governor Napolitano. However, with Governor Brewer: “There has been a bit of a rift over the immigration issue." However, cooperation on environmental and other issues has continued….”


A boycott of Arizona was called for by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D., AZ,) days after Governor Brewer signed a tough new immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, on April 23.


Representative Grijalva, who represents a district in the Tucson area in southern Arizona, called the measure “racist,” and further elaborated in April: “Our economic sanction is do not do business with a state that is propagating the idea separate but equal treatment under the law can be codified,” according to various news accounts.


“The governor and legislature are blind to what this bill will really do to citizens, law enforcement, and the state economy. Tourists will not come to a state with discriminatory policies on the books. Businesses will not move here. Hispanic workers and taxpayers will leave. If state lawmakers don’t realize, or don’t care, how detrimental this will be, we need to make them somehow understand. Conventions are a large source of visitors and revenue, and targeting them is the most effective way to make this point before it’s too late…”


However, the ill-advised boycott was not a consideration for me as to whether or not to embark on a pilgrimage to the annual conference. The economic sanction will only hurt all the wrong people. Besides, after the conference, I decided to visit the Grand Canyon, which I have never experienced. How in the world can you boycott the Grand Canyon?


Taking food off the table for Arizona’s working families because of a public policy rift brought forth by the state’s political ideological elite is not my cup of tea.


Quiet sidebar discussions with colleagues that equated a boycott of Arizona with that of boycotting South Africa because of it apartheid system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government between 1948 and 1994, were lost on me as were similar pious nods to also boycotting Iran and North Korea.




Ay, caramba.


Meanwhile, Governor Richardson, a Democrat and currently the only Hispanic governor in the country, is nearing the end of his second term in office. He was first elected governor of New Mexico in 2002.


He said last Saturday that although he is opposed to SB 1070, the boycott “makes no sense… You’re boycotting Hispanics…” A boycott will hurt Hispanics the most because of “their numbers” working in the tourism, service and hospitality industry in the state.


The Arizona Hotel and Lobbying Association said in April that “the Tourism Industry was not part of the development of this legislation, but unfortunately is certain to experience the unintended consequences of the economic backlash. Instead of driving our state’s economy even further into decline and punishing the 200,000 families who rely on tourism for their livelihoods…”


Governor Richardson is a pragmatic western-state-Democrat, who supported legislation in New Mexico in 2003 that allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons. He applied for, and was granted, a permit after he signed the measure into law.


He is certainly a curious study in all-things Democrat, but has never been mistaken for a wide-eyed pitchfork-carrying conservative.


During his tenure as governor, he cut taxes because, he said, “I believe it incentivizes business (and) it creates jobs.)


He had previously served as energy secretary and United Nations ambassador for President Bill Clinton, and sought the Democrat presidential nomination in 2008, only to eventually dropout of the contest and endorse Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s successful bid for the Oval Office – much to the chagrin of the Clintons.


As an aside, when asked about his relationship with the Clintons in the question and answer session, Governor Richardson said that he “can’t criticize his relationship with Bill Clinton (because) I have no relationship… (He’s) still a little sore… maybe we'll repair it, maybe not.”


However, in spite of the fact that Governor Richardson and President Obama do not talk, he said that he works well with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Meanwhile, his position on the boycott last Saturday stands in sharp contrast with Representative Grijalva who told MSNBC political pundit Keith Olbermann, in April: “We're asking organizations civic, religious, labor, Latino, organizations of color to refrain from using Arizona as a convention site, to refrain from spending their dollars in the state of Arizona until Arizona turns the clock forward instead of backwards and joins the rest of the union.


“Indeed, Arizona needs to be quarantined from the rest of the nation, isolated, and sanctioned until there's a regime change; much like South Africa under apartheid was in the 1980s.”


That’s nuts. Maybe we ought to boycott the thinking of people like Representative Grijalva and look for positive community building solutions to immigration reform. Meanwhile, visit Arizona.


I’m just saying…


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