An article recently appeared in the Ahwatukee Foothills News about Proposition 107, which seeks to do away with equal opportunity programs in Arizona. I am the chairman of Protect Arizona's Freedom, a coalition of Arizona businesses, faith leaders, community organizations, students and education leaders working to defeat this divisive initiative brought to Arizona by California businessman and lobbyist Ward Connerly.
Our coalition believes that everyone should have the opportunity to compete and succeed in Arizona. We've all seen the signs posted throughout the Valley that say "Yes on Proposition 107 - Do Away with Preferences/Government Quotas." On reading the really fine print on the signs you'll find a disclaimer that the signs were "Paid for by out-of-state contributors." The truth is that government quotas for hiring, promotions or getting into school are illegal in Arizona today. What we do have are equal opportunity programs that enable young women, Native Americans and people of color to succeed once they get into college based on merit.
In state after state the Connerly campaign has faced allegations of shady and misleading practices in trying to force this initiative on state ballots. The same happened in Arizona in 2008 when the initiative was ultimately removed from the ballot.
This time around Connerly skipped the citizen initiative process and convinced the Arizona Legislature to do for him what he could not do for himself in 2008. The Arizona Legislature put Proposition 107 to amend Arizona's constitution directly on the ballot, along with several other proposed amendments to our state constitution.
Proposition 107 would make it unconstitutional for the state (and local governments, schools and universities) to offer any type of equal opportunity initiatives for underrepresented communities, including women, men and people of color in Arizona in the areas of public employment, higher education and contracting.
If Proposition 107 were in the constitution, important programs that benefit our local communities and help underrepresented communities, including men, women and communities of color, would be prohibited - programs that are important to Arizona's economic future. Some examples are:
• The Phoenix Teen Parents Program: This program helps teen mothers learn life skills so they can get off welfare and provide for their children.
• Programs to encourage women to pursue academic majors and careers in science and engineering.
• Domestic violence prevention programs.
• The YWCA Bright Futures Program: A leadership development, recognition and scholarship program for young women in Pima County. Bright Futures participants are either high school seniors who have demonstrated determination in overcoming an obstacle or Pima Community College students.
• The Summer Bridge Program, which helps Native American students prepare for the academic challenges they face in college in science, math, engineering and technology.
• The Native American Achievement Program designed to increase the graduation rates of Native American students and the Upward Bound Program, which helps Native Americans.
Businessmen and women understand the importance of a diverse workforce in building a brighter economic future for Arizona. Groups like the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Business and Professional Women, Arizona Association of University Women and the Arizona Education Association are opposed to this dangerous and ill-timed initiative. Proposition 107 seeks to divide us when we should be coming together.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Mel Hannah is chairman of Protect Arizona's Freedom. Reach him at (480) 234-6792 or visit www.protectarizonafreedom.com.