PHOENIX – You may have heard I got a promotion of sorts. This year, I’ll be leading the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as Chairman.
In many ways, it’s like being the captain of a ship that has already charted a good course. I’m there at the wheel, looking out for rocks, ready to make small adjustments here or there; but thanks to the strong leadership of previous chairmen of the board, I don’t see the need for major course corrections.
I’m honored my colleagues chose me for this role in such an important year for our region, and I wanted to share my vision for the county as a whole – and the West Valley in particular – in 2020.
As a county government, our job is not to solve every problem or be involved in every issue; it’s to bring stability to a diverse and dynamic region. It’s to make this a place where prosperity lasts and democracy flourishes. Nowhere is that more important than in the West Valley, which is growing faster than any other part of Maricopa County. That’s saying something since Maricopa County is the fastest-growing county in the nation.
Buckeye’s population is up 60 percent in the past decade and more than 7 percent in just the past year. Surprise and Avondale each grew by about 2.5 percent over the past year, and many other West Valley cities topped the average statewide population growth of 1.6 percent.
The good news is we’re not just getting more people; we’re adding jobs and building infrastructure so families can thrive. I want that growth to continue.
That’s why I’ve asked my colleagues to stand with me and approve a new moratorium on government rules and regulations so that we are working with businesses rather than against them. I believe we can do this while also protecting public health, safety and the environment.
I’m also encouraging our departments to expand their outreach efforts to local vendors, so we get a greater variety of bids for county contracts. When more vendors bid, residents get better service and we can keep more jobs local.
However, growth can have consequences, as anyone who commutes with me on the I-10 knows. That’s why I support the work being done by my colleague, Jack Sellers, and others to create a comprehensive regional transportation plan to replace Prop 400. We need a plan that considers the impact of future growth, factors in new technology and balances it all with the diverse needs of our people, many of whom live here because they like a more rural lifestyle.
Protecting open space is another way we can improve quality of life at a time of incredible growth. A recent study of our parks’ economic impact conducted by Arizona State University found that every dollar invested in the county park system returns $1.42 in economic impact to the region.
This year, we’ll begin phase one of the new 71,000-acre Vulture Mountain Recreation Area near Wickenburg. When the park is completed, it will have the county’s first formal off-highway vehicle recreation area and provide quality amenities and training opportunities for this popular sport.
Maricopa County needs well-managed open space like our regional parks now and for future generations. Working with our Parks Department has been one of the great pleasures of my service on the board and will be a priority of mine in 2020.
With all that said, I still believe the most important thing we’ll do as a county in 2020 is to plan and run elections. The Board of Supervisors partnered with the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office last year to ensure joint oversight of elections not seen in the county in more than 50 years. The board now oversees election-day activities and emergency voting, while the recorder is responsible for voter registration and early voting. These duties align with what is written state law.
This year, the Board of Supervisors invested millions of dollars in new technology to ensure ballots are counted accurately and as quickly as possible. In recent weeks, we’ve been able to show this new equipment to state legislators, so they understand how it works. The goal with any piece of technology should be to improve outcomes, and I believe the new machines will serve voters better than the outdated vote-tabulation equipment we previously had.
Knowing when and where to vote has never been easier. The Maricopa County Elections Department recently launched a new website which provides a personalized dashboard so you have everything you need to know to make your vote count at your fingertips.
BeBallotReady.Vote allows you to make changes to personal voter information, learn which upcoming elections you’re eligible to vote in, find voting locations, sign up for text alerts, explore the new ballot style (you’ll fill in ovals instead of arrows) and much more. In short, it’s a one-stop shop for voters unlike anything the county has provided before.
Remember, the Presidential Preference Election (PPE) is March 17. Only registered Democrats are eligible to vote. Since this election is not a primary, registered independents are not eligible to participate. The Republican and Libertarian parties have chosen not to hold a preference election. You can read about our plan to inform and support voters in the PPE by visiting Maricopa.gov/2020PPEPlan.
And don’t worry. Everyone will have a chance to cast their vote (multiple times) in 2020. I am doing everything in my power to make sure the experience is a good one for all voters in Maricopa County, whether you vote early or on election day, in person or by mail.
Government’s role should be to build communities where individuals have the opportunity to create a high-quality life knowing that their government is spending their money in responsible ways that enhance health and safety and give residents a voice in the process. The year 2020 is going to be a great year for Maricopa County.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Clint Hickman, District 4, Chairman
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors