As a resident of East Santa Cruz County, I am disappointed that HB2486 to formulate a study committee on County boundaries between Cochise and Santa Cruz failed in the Senate this week.

The arguments presented by Senator Dalessandro to influence a “no-vote” are flawed and misrepresent this part of the county. I am offended by her ploy to use the ranchers in the county by stating a yes vote for the study committee “is anti-Republican ranchers.” The majority of the county ranchers are on the east side of the county, in the grasslands and many are equally frustrated with the county who constantly challenges agricultural status for tax purposes.

Although invited, Dalessandro failed to attend any of the many town halls sponsored by the local community. We reached out to her on several occasions to engage with the community concerning the then-proposed closure of the courthouse in Sonoita and abolishment of Justice Precinct 2, yet she failed to return even one phone call. Dalessandro campaigned to maximize business opportunities in southern Arizona and has favorably represented the produce industry in West SCC, but has totally neglected her constituents
in East SCC. Her claim that a yes vote is “anti-produce” clearly reflects her “us versus them” attitude, rather than a proactive, vision based strategy that more than one industry can contribute to the success of this county and the state. She stated that we are “misinformed people down there”; however, based on her lack of concern and involvement in local
significant issues, one could perceive her as the poster child behind our request to initiate a study committee.

Although we provide significant tax dollars, our infrastructure in East SCC is substandard and declining due to lack of county support, yet it is critical to our tourism industry as we are located at the junction of two state scenic highways, in the grasslands, with a vast opportunity to grow our wine and beverage industry. Attempts to collaborate with the county and draw attention and support to the tourism industry has fallen on deaf ears because the county’s focus is largely dedicated to, and economically dependent on, the import and transportation of produce across the international border in Nogales.

Tourism is Arizona’s number one industry. In 2017 the wine industry generated over $56.2M in revenue, with $3.6M in state and local taxes and 640 jobs, and the industry continues to boom. Our needs are well aligned with Cochise as they are largely focused on tourism, ranching, and agriculture. Cochise support to their wine industry is well established and identified as a top strategic goal. The Cochise County Tourism Counsel
has extensive media outreach. SCC government relationships with winery owners and other business in East SCC is sub-optimal and often contentious. Many of our needs and interests are clearly not being met and are impeded by the county government.

Small communities need a venue to raise awareness of significant issues impacting their economic wellness and move forward with responsible and economically sound solutions. Because of the small population of the area, local voters have little to no impact on the outcome of elections making us an easy target for our legislative representatives to ignore. When our county and elected officials failed to engage, we sought dialog with our next higher elected official, Senator Dalessandro, for assistance and hit a wall. Kudos to Representative Gail Griffin who does not even represent this district but took the time to listen to our concerns, attend our town halls, and sponsor HB2486. Shame on Dalessandro!