Black Politicians Weigh in on Arizona Boycott

Black Politicians Weigh in on Arizona Boycott

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African-American politicians held a press conference on May 14 at the Arizona State Capitol to discuss the impact of the recently closed state legislative session. Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, Representative Cloves Campbell Jr., and Phoenix City Councilman Mike Johnson shared their perspective on four key legislative points of concern, as well as the growing movement for an Arizona boycott.

“This is not just an undercurrent of bad legislation. This is a tsunami against minorities, African Americans and women-owned businesses,” said Campbell. One such contested piece of legislation is Senate Bill 1070, an unpopular measure intended to shore up lackluster federal efforts to stop undocumented immigration. The signing of the bill elicited numerous protests from the local community and nationally over the past several weeks, including serious talks of an Arizona boycott.

Representative Campbell also believes “leadership rushed through budget issues” in the state legislature, instead of thinking Senate Bill 1070 through.

“There are close to 25 conferences (canceled), close to $100 million in revenue lost,” Campbell said, estimating the fiscal consequences of the law's signing. “And that's without an official count and boycott.”

Advocating for a national boycott on Arizona would certainly place any state-level politician in a precarious position, but the three spoke frankly on their views toward those efforts.

“Boycotts are going to impact those who are working,” said Councilman Johnson. He noted that when national conferences take their business outside state lines, the employees of hotels that are losing revenue are equally hurt through lost wages and shifts. “It does more to hurt than help those on a lower economic level, living paycheck to paycheck—not just people of color.”

“Sometimes you do have to hit people in the pocket,” said Campbell, recalling a past boycott to force Arizona to acknowledge Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as an official holiday. “I'm still torn on it personally, but it worked in 1987. I guarantee you because dollars are scarce in Arizona, it can work again.”

Senator Landrum Taylor voiced her concern that Arizona small businesses will be affected just as much as large corporations if boycotts cuts into the $18 billion a year that tourism generates for the state. Landrum Taylor also emphasized that voters and advocacy groups should keep Senate Bill 1070 separate from other issues, namely Proposition 100—which goes to the ballot on Tuesday.

“Some people are linking the sales tax of Proposition 100 to SB 1070,” Landrum Taylor said, citing voters who intend to protest SB 1070 by voting no on Prop 100. The proposition will allow for a temporary one cent sales tax increase, which lawmakers expect to generate an additional billion dollars in revenue and curb the loss of additional programs which are “already cut to the bone” according to Landrum Taylor. “We are talking about our children getting the best education we can offer.”

The trio of politicians asked for vigilance and awareness from the community on more than just the upcoming Proposition 100 vote and Senate Bill 1070. The recently signed HB 2281 effectively bans ethnic studies in Arizona classrooms, as it “prohibits a school district or charter school from including courses or classes that either promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people.”

Landrum Taylor, Campbell and Johnson also cautioned residents to be wary of Ward Connerly-themed initiatives to rescind affirmative action resurfacing in the legislature.

“We have to be cognizant of the fact that it’s not just about 1070,” said Campbell. “We still haven't addressed our biggest issue, which is balancing our budget.”

“Don't be blindsided and don't be fooled,” cautioned Johnson. “Get involved and make sure we are protecting all of our civil rights and liberties in the state of Arizona.”