Tucson Tragedy: Giffords and 50th State Legislature

TUE, JAN 11, 2011 (16:36)

Before the November 2010 election, Rep. Giffords appeared on Horizon, where she talked about the need for politicians to work together on contentious issues like immigration reform. Hear what she had to say followed by a discussion about convening a new state legislature in the shadow of the Tucson tragedy. Guests include: political consultant Stan Barnes, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and State Representative Steve Farley.

+ BIO: Gabrielle Giffords

On November 4, 2008, Gabrielle Giffords was re-elected by the people of Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District - a diverse area that covers 9,000 square miles including a 114 mile border with Mexico. For almost ten years, Giffords has dedicated herself to public service as an elected official. A third generation Tucsonan, she represented her hometown in the Arizona Legislature from 2000-2005 where she was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate.

Upon entering Congress, Giffords quickly became a leading champion of solar energy, immigration reform, and the needs of military families and veterans. Consistently ranked as one of the most centrist legislators in Congress, she is a strong supporter of fiscal responsibility, bipartisanship and government accountability.

Involving southern Arizonans in shaping policies and strategically solving community problems is the cornerstone of her work. Giffords’ inclusive and collaborative approach allows her to bring all viewpoints to the table and the best ideas to Washington.

Before entering public office, Giffords took over her family’s tire and automotive business. As the President and Chief Executive Officer of El Campo Tire, Inc, she faced the struggles that many small business owners in Arizona and America face. In Washington, Giffords works hard to be a voice for small businesses and is a tireless advocate for spending restraint and honest budgeting.

Representing thousands of military families and veterans in southern Arizona, Giffords proudly serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Subcommittees on Air and Land Forces and Military Readiness. She works closely with Army and Air Force officials at Southern Arizona’s outstanding installations: Fort Huachuca, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and the 162nd Air National Guard. Bringing their interests and concerns to Washington is one of her top priorities.

On the House Science and Technology Committee, Congresswoman Giffords promotes an agenda of energy independence and solar initiatives in an effort to make Southern Arizona the “Solar-con Valley" of the nation. She is also Vice Chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.

In her district, Giffords launched a Community Solar Energy Initiative to mobilize support and action for the increased use of solar energy. It includes an advisory council of university researchers, business leaders, elected officials and interested citizens to make recommendations on how solar energy could be advanced in Arizona. This effort also led to the introduction and passage of legislation to encourage research and development and the training of a solar energy installation workforce. Giffords also fought for an eight-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit for commercial and residential solar projects.

In January of 2009, Congresswoman Giffords was selected to serve as Chair of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. In this new role, she is leading the conversation around future space exploration, including the University of Arizona’s Phoenix Mars Mission; expanding aviation research; and working to inspire the next generation of math and science pioneers.

Combining her work on the Armed Services and Science Committees, Giffords is taking the lead in Congress to promote increased use of renewable energy at military installations throughout the country.

On the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Giffords is focused on conditions in Mexico and Central America concerning national security, economic development and immigration. In particular, she helped reform a State Department initiative aimed at reducing drug trafficking and cartel violence along the U.S. - Mexico border. Her legislative effort ensured coordination with state and local law enforcement officials. Giffords also serves as Vice Chair of the U.S.-Mexico Interparliamentary Group.

Giffords holds a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning from Cornell University and a B.A. from Scripps College where she was awarded a William Fulbright Scholarship to study for a year in Chihuahua, Mexico. She is married to Captain Mark Kelly, a Navy Pilot and NASA astronaut, and is the only U.S. Representative with an active duty military spouse.

+ BIO: Stan Barnes

Stan Barnes is a political consultant that lives in Arizona.

+ BIO: Ken Bennett

Ken Bennett was appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer to replace her as secretary of state, and took the oath of office on Jan. 26, 2009.

The statewide office is the newest chapter in a record of public service that spans 25 years. It’s also the latest distinction for Bennett – an Arizona native and small-business owner.

Bennett began his legislative career in 1998 when he was elected to represent the residents of Legislative District 1. He served four terms in the state Senate – from 1999 to 2007 – and served as Senate president his final four years before being term-limited from office.

Earlier, in 2007, Bennett received the Polly Rosenbaum Award from the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records in recognition of his support for the State Library’s mission to preserve Arizona history and ensure access to state information and records. He served as Republican Floor Leader in 2002, and was chairman of the Senate Education Committee in 2001 and 2002.

Prior to joining the Legislature, Bennett was a member of the Arizona State Board of Education for seven years. He was president of the board in 1996 and 1998. Bennett also served on the Arizona Charter Schools Board for three years, and was a founding member of the Education Leaders Council in Washington, D.C.

Bennett’s career in public service began in 1985 with his election to the Prescott City Council. He completed a four-year term, and was named mayor pro-tempore in 1988.

After leaving the Legislature, Bennett re-entered the private sector to work with companies in the development of alternative energy sources and energy-efficient building technologies. Currently, he is chairman of the board of directors for Prescott-based Global Building Systems, Inc., and Energy Tech America. He also is a member of the board of directors for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Western Regional Medical Center, in Goodyear). Bennett was CEO of Bennett Oil Company, a family fuel-distribution business, from 1985 to 2006. He continues on its board of directors.

+ BIO: Steve Farley

Steve Farley is a 46-year-old small-business owner married to Kelly Paisley and father of Amelia, 14, and Genevieve, 10. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Williams College (Mass.) in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He was elected to the Arizona Legislature as State Representative from District 28 in November 2006. He now serves as the Ranking Democrat on the Government and Ways & Means committees, as well as Member of the Transportation committee.

Steve is well-known to Tucsonans as the artist who gathered personal photos from the Tucson community and turned them into those historic photographic tile murals around the Broadway Underpass, at the eastern gateway to Downtown Tucson, using a tilemaking process he invented.

Steve has been actively involved in City politics for the past seven years, in particular as a strong advocate for neighborhoods, downtown revitalization, and sustainable transportation improvements.

"He can make things happen, and it's not in the traditional political way," said Tucson attorney and political activist Clague Van Slyke III in an article in the Tucson Weekly. "He has great ideas; he has a lot of vision, and he can get things done by bringing people together. And he’s not hidebound by traditional political ties."

He is founder of the transit advocacy group Tucsonans for Sensible Transportation. In that role, he motivated hundreds of grassroots volunteers and donors to gather more than 18,000 signatures from city voters to place on the ballot a Citizens’ Transportation Initiative (that would have boosted transportation alternatives) in November 2003, and won over 70% of the vote in much of the central city, although it was defeated overall.

He didn’t give up. He went on to work with conservationist Carolyn Campbell alongside former rivals from the business and development community as a key member of the Citizen Advisory Committee that created the multimodal Tucson Regional Transportation Authority sales tax and plan on the ballot on May 16, 2006. He was instrumental in convincing an initially anti-transit committee to raise the portion allotted to public transit from $200 million to $532 million in the final plan. He served on the Executive Committee and was a chief spokesperson for the Yes!! for Regional Transportation campaign for approval of the tax and plan. That initiative won 60% of the vote, and was the first transportation tax and plan to pass in Tucson history, after four previous tries.

Farley has been Vice-Chair of the Pima Association of Governments Regional Transportation Plan (PAG-RTP) Task Force, a member of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Citizens Advisory Committee, and a member of the City of Tucson Major Transit Investment Study Citizen Advisory Group. The Arizona Transit Association honored him with the statewide 2006 Friend of Transit award. He is also a Board Member of the central-city Blenman Elm Neighborhood Association and the Tucson Downtown Alliance. He has collaborated with a broad range of Tucson environmentalists and government officials on various livability issues ranging from the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan to alternative modes of transportation to organic gardening to smart growth to water harvesting to urban design.

He has been named “Conservation Hero” by the Arizona League of Conservation Voters, “Legislative Champion” by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, and “Arts Hero” by Arizona Citizen Action for the Arts.

+ BIO: Ted Simons

Simons has worked in television and radio in the Phoenix area for more than 20 years, and got his start in TV here at Eight as a public affairs producer/reporter. He most recently hosted the afternoon drive news/talk show on KTAR radio. The long-time Valley journalist previously worked as news director/morning show host for KZON-FM and news/sports anchor/reporter at KPHO-TV. Simons was also sports director/anchor at KOFY-TV in San Francisco, Calif.

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