Ducey sounds hopeful note for post-pandemic Arizona The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Ducey sounds hopeful note for post-pandemic Arizona

February 2nd, 2021 Mesa Tribune Staff
Ducey sounds hopeful note for post-pandemic Arizona
Mesa
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By PAUL MARYNIAK
Tribune Executive Editor

There was no tinkling of silverware, no low murmurs of conversations and, in fact, no food at the annual breakfast visit from the governor last Thursday hosted by the PHX East Valley Partnership and the region’s chambers of commerce.

And in some ways, the virtual nature of the event underscored one of Gov. Doug Ducey’s central points in his message to business, education and community leaders who gathered around their laptops or cellphones instead of at a hotel of Mesa Community College, the usual venues for what has been a tradition in the East Valley for more than a decade.

“The pandemic remains the most significant threat to Arizona and it is going to require vigilant attention for months to come,” Ducey said. “This is a vicious virus and it has taken some 12,000 lives in its path in the state of Arizona alone.”

But Ducey is not wont to be a crepe hanger.

So, he quickly added a message of hope to his dire warning, stating, “But with the arrival of a vaccine, we’re hopeful that 2021 is going to look a lot different than 2020. Though local public health officials are working hard, I’m asking them to work even faster with more of a sense of urgency.”

He announced that a 24/7 COVID-19 vaccine distribution site is opening at Phoenix Municipal Stadium at 5999 E. Van Buren St. to serve the East Valley, complimenting a similar one at State Farm Stadium on the west side, where he said 6,000 doses a day are being administered.

“We’ve distributed over 500,000 doses of the vaccine and these are crucial steps in our continuing battle against COVID-19,” he said.

Ducey then switched gears to talk about the East Valley’s significance to Arizona’s overall economy, including some recent developments here, and his vision for this year.

Noting Commercial Metals Company’s announcement of plans to build a new manufacturing facility in Mesa, Amazon’s expansion in Tempe with 500 new technology jobs and NXP Semiconductor’s new fabrication plan in Chandler, Ducey said: “Arizona will emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever with the East Valley leading the way.”

He highlighted some of his legislative priorities, giving first place in his list to the issue of providing COVID-related liability protection for businesses “so a statewide emergency doesn’t line the pockets of trial attorneys with frivolous lawsuits.”

On other agenda items, he said, “We intend to work on broadband expansion, greater access to telemedicine, better roads and bridges, and, of course, continuing to be a global leader on water innovation.

“We want better equipment and training for law enforcement officers, criminal justice reform and guarding against wildfires so that we stay on guard against that ever-present risk.”

During a question-and-answer session that followed his brief prepared remarks, the governor said Arizona’s “biggest challenge right now is getting enough vaccine from the federal government” but that he anticipated the state would climb quickly out of the pandemic’s economic blowback.

That’s especially true, he added, since “when the pandemic hit…Arizona had 45 states behind it in terms of economic growth and personal income rising. Today, through the recession and through the pandemic, Arizona remains top five.”

When asked about the pandemic’s impact on education, Ducey again reiterated his increasing insistence that classrooms be open, stating “this online learning, this digital learning has not been good for our young people.”

“We need to get our kids back in the classroom,” Ducey said. “The Centers for Disease Control says it’s the safest place that the child can be.”

He noted that while the COVID’s impact has been measured in many ways, “what we aren’t measuring are the numbers around addiction and alcoholism and depression and isolation and suicide. These are all very real issues and the best way to deal with them is to get our kids back in school.”

Though he noted that education is “our top line in spending and investment,” Ducey did not mention any specifics of his budget proposal – particularly the difference in per-pupil reimbursement to school districts for in-class learners and virtual learners, which is costing some districts millions of dollars.

The State Senate Republican Caucus earlier last week said it will push to equalize that reimbursement rate for one year – a move that Mesa Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Scott Thompson applauded.

“We appreciate the Senate’s continued commitment to restoring the recession-era cuts to our base per-student formula funding and we support the funding of students who have been attending school remotely at 100 percent,” Thompson said. “We look forward to working with members of the Senate to find additional opportunities to address the loss of learning opportunities for our students.”

Ducey also was asked about how he expected to get along with President Biden.

“He will be my third president as governor,” Ducey replied.

“I’ve worked with Democrats before in the White House,” he continued. “That said, we’re going to be focused on what’s in Arizona’s best interests. My boss is right here in the state. It’s the people that I have to work with.”

He also maintained that the bipartisan rancor in Washington, D.C., is not reflected in the State Capitol and that “over 90 percent of the legislation that we passed over the last six years has been bipartisan.”

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