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LAND OF THE FREE-FOR-ALL

Page 5 of 8

In the end, House Bill 2236 was attached to Senate Bill 1053, a bill titled "State Lands Adjacent to Mines," as a floor amendment, and the whole thing passed.

The bill went up to the Governor's Office. No one knew what to expect. Big business supported it, but Symington's agency heads hated the bill; even the Arizona Republic came out in strong opposition, calling it "a bit of mischief masquerading as protection for property rights." Killian worried that Symington might not sign, simply because the governor never thought the bill would reach his desk and hadn't planned ahead.

Symington did sign, and for a few days, there was speculation that Vice President Dan Quayle had twisted his arm. The governor denied it. Daily reporters cited the takings bill as an example of the governor's shift to the right--which coincided with the arrival of conservative Jay Heiler in the Symington inner circle.

His detractors called it "a 180-degree turn" on Symington's proenvironment stance, but after a while, everyone--including the governor, it seems--forgot that Symington had ever hesitated. After SB 1053 had been placed on the ballot as Proposition 300, Symington wrote, ". . . each of the guarantees against government tyranny in the American Constitution is important. But none is more important than the Fifth Amendment guarantee against the taking of private property without just compensation. . . ."

While the governor spurts rhetoric, his agency heads have clammed up. DEQ's Ed Fox? "He's just not talking about it," says DEQ spokesman John Godec. Ditto for ADOT's Larry Bonine, who has since replaced Charles Cowan (who was extremely critical of the bill), says ADOT spokesman Dan Galvin. Rita Pearson, who in 1992 was the governor's personal adviser on environmental issues and has since taken over at the Department of Water Resources, has announced that she supports Proposition 300. Betsy Rieke, who now works for Babbitt in Washington, D.C., is still opposed.

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission heard three and a half hours of testimony regarding Proposition 300 last Friday, and did not change its 1992 position, says commission chairwoman Beth Woodin. Woodin explains that the commission did not, however, take a formal vote to reaffirm its opposition.

Sara Goertzen, director of the Department of Commerce; Jerry Holt, commissioner of the Department of Real Estate; and M. Jean Hassell, state land commissioner, have come out publicly in support of Proposition 300.

Attorney General Grant Woods is also keeping quiet, according to his office.

It seems that Ken Travous, state parks director, is the only one steadfast in his opposition--and willing to admit it publicly, although he qualifies his statement by saying this is his personal feeling and does not reflect the view of his board, which hasn't come out one way or another. In 1992, Travous testified that the bill wasn't necessary; he still feels that way.

"It's kind of like beating up the bully's little brother. They're mad at the federal government, but they're regulating us," he says of the Proposition 300 supporters.

According to the Arizonans for Community Protection's contributor list, Travous isn't the only state employee who opposes Proposition 300. A manager at the Department of Health Services, a meteorologist at Commerce and a habitat specialist at Game and Fish all made small donations. David Bartlett, chief counsel for the attorney general's civil rights office, forked over $100.

Bartlett, a Tucson Democrat, was the state Senate majority whip at the time the law passed in 1992. "I was opposed to it then and I'm opposed to it now," he says. And he doesn't fear for his job. "The attorney general does not put political pressure on people in the office about their politics." Most supporters of Proposition 300 consider themselves friends of the environment. They have trouble convincing the opposition of that, however. And sometimes they get defensive.

At a recent meeting of the Arizona Travel Industry Association, David Johns represented Arizonans for Private Property Rights while Jeff Bouma spoke for the Arizonans for Community Protection. Unfortunately, as he explained to those assembled, Johns had a conflicting engagement, so he couldn't stick around to debate. He spoke briefly about the general themes of Proposition 300, and on the way out, someone asked what he did for a living. Johns answered that he's a developer and builder, and before another word was said, he spewed, "Don't give me the environmentalist crap." He's won four environmental awards for his developments, Johns said, his face flushed with anger, then left.

(For the record, Bouma is an attorney who represents both sides--the polluters and the pollutees--on environmental issues.)

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.