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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson congressional candidates fail to address poverty problem

    Tucson’s congressional candidates love to build up their plans for regional issues, such as the economy, immigration and veteran affairs. But when it comes to Tucson’s disturbing 20.4 percent poverty rate, mum’s the word.

    The Arizona Daily Star asked Southern Arizona’s congressional candidates to answer the question, “What Southern Arizona-specific issues will you champion in Congress?” this weekend. Each candidate responded to the question in a letter to the Daily Star.

    Tucson’s candidates — those running for districts two and three — include Rep. Ron Barber (D), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D), Blanca Guerra (Lib), Martha McSally ® and Gabriela Saucedo Mercer ®.

    They were quick to discuss national hot-button issues like the economy, jobs, immigration, defense and veterans. As expected, they spoke in vague and over-used terms about their plans to “rebuild a stronger economy that works for everyone, not just the richest 2 percent” and “reform our cumbersome immigration system.”
    They talked about their histories of “lifelong leadership.” They tore down their rivals and told voters that they “deserve better” than what the incumbents have given them. They pledged to fight for the people of Tucson and Southern Arizona.

    But not a single candidate proposed a solution to one of the area’s most glaring problems: Tucson is the sixth-poorest metropolitan region in the United States.

    Tucson’s 20.4 percent poverty rate is the result of multiple factors, including a low-ranking education system and high unemployment rates, as reported earlier this month by the Arizona Daily Wildcat. Further complicating the issue, poor education and unemployment are linked to immigration and the economic and social situation of Tucson’s Hispanic population.

    Obviously, Tucson’s poverty rate is the culmination of Southern Arizona’s most dire issues. As such, finding a comprehensive solution to the problem should be our representatives’ top priority. Yet candidates have failed to do so much as mention it.

    To be fair, the candidates spoke about separate facets of the poverty problem. Guerra spoke of reforming the immigration system and re-evaluating the role immigrants play in the community. Grijalva emphasized job creation in the border security sector and job preservation in the public school system.

    These policies may put a small dent in the problem, but in order to significantly decrease Tucson’s poverty rate — not to mention the state’s poverty level as a whole — and bring it in line with the national rate of 15 percent, congressmen and congresswomen will have to create one comprehensive solution that tackles job creation, public education and immigration reform under the same umbrella.

    Immigration reform needs to not only focus on border security and citizenship, but also help the children of immigrants stay in school and graduate. Education reform needs to include a movement to improve vocational training within and beyond high school so that Tucson students possess marketable skills that will allow them to compete in the work force. Job creation should include putting Tucsonans to work improving our infrastructure, especially the trade corridor between Mexico and Southern Arizona.

    A multi-faceted approach to decreasing the poverty rate is the only way to solve the problem — simply creating jobs doesn’t mean our young people will have the skills to fill those positions. Improving our education system doesn’t mean the children of immigrants will have the right to participate in it.

    However, if any of that is going to be taken into consideration, it is necessary that our congressional candidates demonstrate even an inkling of concern for the more than 100,000 impoverished Tucsonans they claim to represent.

    If we’re going to fix the issue, we need to talk about it. One in five Tucsonans living in poverty is too many to go unmentioned.

    — Savannah Martin is a junior studying journalism and political science. She can be reached at on Twitter via @SavannahJual .

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