The Coronavirus Has Revealed the Incompetence of Arizona’s Leadership

By Martín Quezada

April 6, 2020

This is the time Arizonans look to their elected officials at all levels for leadership. It’s time to step up.

During my eight years serving the people of Maryvale and Glendale as their state senator, they’ve asked me to be their voice in fighting for everything from public school funding to the humane treatment of our immigrant population. 

As I’ve worked hand-in-hand with my community, I’ve learned that most of my constituency — and many throughout the state of Arizona — are but one unlucky turn of events away from the financial crisis. Typically these events come in the form of a child with an unexpected medical emergency, a broken air conditioner at home, or an expensive, but desperately needed car repair in order for them to get to and from work. 

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When living paycheck to paycheck, those situations can lead to missed electric, water, car, and rent payments. From there, the situation can — and often does — spiral out of control. 

Families find ways to manage these crises every single day, but very few ever expect that the next crisis could be a runaway virus that shuts down the entire state for months on end. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening right now, and will result in lost jobs, months of lost income, sickness, and loss of housing. 

Give the People What They Want – Competent Leadership

This is exactly the time Arizonans look to their elected officials at all levels for leadership. In some ways, we’ve seen that leaders rise to the occasion. Many mayors and school board members across the state have taken bold, decisive, and in some cases controversial actions to protect their constituents even when state leaders advised a more relaxed approach. 

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In other ways, we’ve seen political figures fail to provide the leadership our state so sorely needs. They’ve acted hesitantly, only in response to local pressure or have taken actions motivated by political ambition rather than safety. 

The numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise, but there’s still time for our elected officials to show leadership by taking some important actions that will undoubtedly save lives. 

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More Testing

Leaders need to not dance around the fact there is a severe shortage of testing available right now. The tests are being rationed, causing many who suspect they may be positive to not be able to confirm it. 

This also gives us an inaccurate total number of positive cases, which gives the public a distorted view of the severity of the pandemic and the importance of the need for us all to change our practices to prevent spread. Leaders need to eliminate the red tape and do whatever is necessary to increase the production and distribution of test kits. 

Redefine Essential Services

Leaders need to adopt a more responsible definition of what is truly an essential service in Arizona. By initially adopting such an expansive list, we created confusion, and put our public in direct danger of getting sick and contributing to the spread of the virus. 

Although our governor later prohibited barbershops, salons, spas, and tattoo parlors from staying open after initially calling them essential services, golf courses are still allowed to remain open. 

The precedent has already been established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Arizona should follow suit and adopt a strict definition to only allow for the continued operation of services that are necessary to meet our medical, infrastructure, food, law enforcement, and public works needs. 

Addressing the Personal Protective Equipment Shortage

One of those major needs is the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so that healthcare personnel’s health can be protected while they provide care for their patients. PPE shortages are posing a tremendous challenge to our healthcare system.

Our elected officials need to address this urgent need before it spirals out of control and we start losing healthcare professionals to the coronavirus.

Relief for Families and Small Business

As the people of my legislative district are living paycheck to paycheck, as well as many others across our state, doing the right thing for public health means they are temporarily without an income. And for many, there is no forgiveness or protection for them as they experience these unexpected costs or loss of income

There are also just as many small businesses that are facing the same situation. Sooner or later, our elected officials will have to come to terms with the reality that major reforms are going to be necessary to keep small businesses and the working families who run them afloat. 

This will require major financial relief and protections for employees. It will also require protections from evictions and utility shutoffs. Businesses may require an amnesty on certain taxes and a ban on negative credit reporting during this time of crisis. 

It’s Time to Lead

I take pride in being the voice for my constituents. I look forward to continuing my efforts in calling for more investment in our public schools, treating health care as a human right by making it more affordable and accessible, taking a scientific approach to addressing climate change, empowering working families with equitable living wages and benefits, championing the reform of our criminal injustice system, and fighting for respectful and humane treatment of our immigrant population

But today, we need to come together and focus on the crisis that has closed our shops, compromised our health, and taken our loved ones. If our elected leaders don’t address each of these issues, not only will the sick perish, but many others will succumb to the ills of the coronavirus – even without testing positive.

I entered the world of politics because I wanted to be part of the decision-making teams that helped solve Arizona’s most pressing needs while adhering to our most precious values. I’m ready to get to work to provide this relief. I hope my colleagues at the State Capitol are as well.

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