Walker fumbles on student lobbying - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Walker fumbles on student lobbying

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Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 9:40 pm | Updated: 12:45 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: A board member for the Maricopa County Community College District has taken a legitimate concern about a training program for future lobbyists and turned it into an buffoonish disruption of at least one student’s education and peace of mind.

A board member for the Maricopa County Community College District has taken a legitimate concern about a training program for future lobbyists and turned it into an buffoonish disruption of at least one student’s education and peace of mind.

Tribune writer Ryan Gabrielson reported Sunday that board member Jerry Walker is at odds with his four elected colleagues over his objections to the types of issues that students lobby about when they visit Washington, D.C., with top MCCCD officials.

Walker’s objections have become so strong that he apparently heckled one student during the last visit in February, prompting her to file a harassment complaint and the majority of the board to write letters of apology.

Walker is right when he questions whether the taxpayer-supported college district should be funding the annual trips of the Student Public Policy Forum to the national capital.

Lobbying is a legitimate field of study. But there are plenty of ways closer to home for students to gain hands-on experience.

Along with the state Capitol and its hub of agency headquarters, every member of Arizona’s congressional delegation has at least one office in the state.

Traveling to Washington doesn’t seem to help these students gain access to certain lawmakers, as the latest group had to settle for meetings with aides to Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. Trent Franks. (Unless Kyl and Franks had truly serious conflicts, it’s a shame they couldn’t take the time to sit down with a group of civics-minded college students.)

Dropping the Washington trip from the program to focus on other options is an obvious way to economize in a period of ongoing budget cuts.

However, we must note that Walker isn’t upset that the Washington trips are part of the lobbying curriculum. In fact, Walker has make the trip himself as part of the MCCCD delegation five times.

What really bothers Walker is he doesn’t personally agree with the issues that the students choose to lobby about. Gabrielson reported that Walker believes the lobbying is part of a plot by district officials to push a liberal agenda.

But his views have been discounted by board President Colleen Clark, who has displayed enough backbone to stand up to district administration when necessary. Walker also doesn’t have the support of new board member Debra Pearson, and we know from her prior experience as a state lawmaker that she would happily join a campaign against liberal activism if it existed.

And regardless of the legitimacy of Walker’s claims, he had no right to publicly berate a student for doing exactly what the program expected of her to complete its requirements. The taxpayers deserve much better behavior from someone elected to represent them.

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