From outside the Arizona political process, it can be tempting to bemoan the strident partisanship that creates so much dysfunction around our state’s key issues, from creating jobs to bettering our schools to keeping our communities safe from crime.
Too often, political gamesmanship holds sway, leaving diametrically opposed sides screaming at top volume and standing their ground without giving an inch. As the chairman of Greater Phoenix Leadership (GPL), an organization that represents over 105 top companies with more than a quarter million employees, I’ve learned firsthand that solving massive problems requires an open mind and a commitment to another “p word.” “Practicality.”
Being practical has been the hallmark of the 13-year legislative career of state Rep. Bob Robson, a Chandler Republican who has recently come under attack by one of those partisan political groups that lob explosive propaganda at leaders who don’t agree with them or who they don’t deem extreme enough — leaders like Robson, whose brand of moderate problem-solving has driven the fringe partisans to the point of anger and abuse.
My kind words for Robson and his leadership style have little to do with our agreement on the issues — because, truth be told, we don’t always agree. But the representative’s door has always been open to the Valley business community and he’s always been an honest broker in our efforts to create jobs and improve the climate for small business growth. The same goes for GPL’s efforts to improve our state’s K-20 education system. Time and again, Bob Robson has been there to help us with our efforts to balance giving schools the resources they need with the accountability and rigorous standards a quality education requires. Writing this piece, I reached out to Dr. Michael Crow and asked him for his thoughts about what Robson has meant to Arizona State University and Arizona’s public schools. His response?
“Bob Robson has been a champion of developing the state’s high-tech economy, of job creation and of education at all levels,” said Crow. “It was Bob who solved the inequity of the funding of the state universities, a problem that defied solution for 40 years. Bob is the kind of elected official who crafts solutions for the problems we face in Arizona. He sees his role as that of a problem-solver, not as someone elected only to further his political agenda.”
The same goes for support of Arizona’s public safety community, according to Tim Hill, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona. “I’ve been around hundreds of legislators in my years pushing to improve Arizona public safety,” said Hill. “Bob Robson has been a consistent advocate for safer neighborhoods, more effective emergency response and the men and women on the front lines. If we had a few dozen more legislators like him in the Legislature, our state and our 911 response efforts would be a lot better off.”
Partisanship may drive political consultants, but it’s not the answer to solving our problems. The Valley business community knows that — and lives it. So does Rep. Bob Robson. We hope you know it, too.
• John Graham is chairman of Greater Phoenix Leadership.