Tucson’s Tragedy – The Impact and Implications on Arizona’s Government in the Last Five Days

There’s been plenty of media attention on Arizona the past five days, and for those of you across the country, you may not have heard about how our state government has come together and been torn apart by Saturday, January 8’s unthinkable event in Tucson.


I think all of us agree that tragedy is not partisan. I saw this first hand, right down the street from where I work. The view from my office looks over to our state capitol. It was there this past Tuesday (the day before last night’s Memorial), that the legislature worked hard and fast on a bill which Governor Brewer signed – all done in one day. No easy task considering Arizona’s legislature has a history of being divided, sessions extended, and the Governor requesting special sessions. Senate Bill 1101 created a “funeral protection zone” which bans portesters withing 300 feet of a funeral service – one hour before, during or after a funeral serivice. A violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill passed unanimously in both houses of the Arizona Legislture. No one in Arizona wanted to see 9 year old Christina Taylor Green’s funeral today (hers is the first of the six people who were killed) picketed by Reverend Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Chruch of Topeka Kansas, as Rev. Phelps vowed to have his followers do, much like they did at Elizabeth Edward’s funeral last month. In Tucson, Republican and Democratic parties in Pima County are urging people to form a human barricade along the funeral routes to protect the victims’ families from any protestors.


Hours after Saturday’s events, Legislative District 20 Republicans (approximately 100 miles away from Tucson, here in the Phoenix area) several individuals resigned from their posts. One such person was District Chairman Anthony Miller who last month been re-elected and was the first and only African-American too hold the party’s precinct chairmanship. His reasons for resigning include verbal attacks after the election and internet blog posts by some local members with Tea Party connections made him worry about his and his family’s safety. Prior to that, he was a member of McCain’s campaign staff. During this role he was criticiszed by more conservative party members who were supporting republican opponent J.D. Hayworth, and witnessed a critic form his hand in the shape of a gun and point it at him. Three others in District 20 have resigned – Republican secretary Sophia Johnson, first vice chairman Roger Dickinson, and Jeff Kolb the former district spokesman. These events are also tragic. One shouldn’t be hounded out of office – they should be applauded for their public service. This is one trend I’d like to end!

I think people need to see public service as Christina Taylor Green did. As President Obama said in the Memorial Service last night in Tucson, “she saw public service as something exciting and hopeful”. I, like President Obama want our democracy and our country to be as good as Christina imagined it – we all should. I’m keeping my eye out for it now, and have seen my first instance of exciting and hopeful public service – 5 days after that horrible day in Tucson, and I’m proud to say it was here in Arizona, right down the street.

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PostScript – Can’t forget the make-up of Arizona’s U.S. District Courts has been altered as well.

Judge Roslyn O. Silver will replace Judge Roll.