The Continuing Adventures of Big Red

Jane wins--now will she finally dump the Granny Hull act and spring into action?

It's time for action, Governor Hull.
But nowhere is action more needed than at the Department of Environmental Quality.

In the coming months, Jane Hull will have to work hard if she wants to reverse the reputation she's quickly earning as the Anti-Environment Governor.

Hull didn't win any Green friends for one of the few pointed remarks she made on the campaign trail: "Some day the federal government will realize jobs are more important than small animals."

And she's infuriated environmental activists who are still waiting for an answer to the letter they sent Hull last Earth Day, calling for the removal of DEQ chief Russell Rhoades.

Even the enviros who complained bitterly about Ed Fox when he headed DEQ are begging for his return--that's how unhappy they are with Rhoades, who's been nothing more than an apologist for industry. Rhoades supported the so-called Polluter Protection Act, a measure that would have allowed polluting industries to self-regulate their own pollution. Even Fife Symington vetoed that one when it hit his desk.

Privately, the activists were told: Wait until after Election Day. Election Day has come, and the rumor mill says Rhoades will be out within the week. Of course, it appears Hull's already trumped that move with her rumored Rhoades replacement: Jim Norton, vice president of the big-business-boosting Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Appointing Norton head of DEQ would be like asking Hunter S. Thompson to head up the Food and Drug Administration. Bad idea.

Apparently, no one--including Norton--is salivating over the spot. But there's no shortage of qualified candidates. For starters, how about water attorney Karen Peters, hydrologist Jim Lemmon, state legislators Herschella Horton or Chris Cummiskey?

Even if Hull doesn't have replacements in mind, there's no point in waiting to remove unsavory agency heads. Get 'em out and put acting directors in their place, and do it in the afterglow of the election.

Hull's biggest task in the coming years will be to keep the development community--the self-described "dirt guys"--from bulldozing her.

The potential is there. Del Webb CEO Phil Dion was Hull's campaign finance chairman, and although the final figures won't be in until December, we already know that Hull took more than $75,000 in contributions from developer types.

Even last spring, before the fund raising began in earnest, the dirt guys' fingerprints were all over Hull's work--particularly the Growing Smarter initiative and legislative package. Now Hull will have a hand in appointing the Growing Smarter Commission, charged with preparing recommendations for the state's growth by September 1999. I hope she'll avoid dirt guy lawyers like Steve Betts, or at least temper such appointments with a real conservationist, someone like David Baron, of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.

And the water issue won't go away. Paul Johnson made much of Hull's cozy relationship with Nevadans, in light of the fact that Arizona and Nevada will likely enter into formal water-banking negotiations soon. Johnson picked the right issue, but the wrong area. Local water policy experts say that while state officials have been focusing on Central Arizona Project water, attention has been diverted from the real crisis area: rural Arizona communities that don't have access to the CAP, and are running out of water.

The community at the top of this list is Prescott Valley. Guess who had to put a huge development there on hold earlier this year, because there is no water to sustain it?

Del Webb.
That could present a challenge for Hull.

There's a piece of wisdom passed down among schoolteachers that Jane Hull, the ex-teacher, should recall: Start the school year off as a strict disciplinarian. No nonsense, no wiggling, no smart talk. At first, the kids will think you're mean, but you'll have control. Then, as the year progresses, you can ease off. You'll win the students' respect, and get them to perform, teachers say. It's a fine art, and one that Hull might consider adapting to her work as governor, whether she's dealing with bureaucrats, legislators or dirt guys.

This is Jane Hull's last term and her only shot at creating a legacy. Granny Hull is surely not up to the challenge. This is a job for Big Red.

Contact Amy Silverman at her online address: asilverman@newtimes.com

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