Proceed With Caution

Special Interest Group Misleads Residents of Pinal County into Signing Botched Petition

Kamille Ritchie, Cactus Editor

Garland Shreves. Pinal County Citizens for Fair Taxation. If either of these names sound familiar, you might be aware of their opposition to increasing property taxes. If so, you probably also know their call to recall CAC Governing Board member, Gladys Christensen. The Pinal County Citizens for Fair Taxation (P.C.C.F.T.) is a group concerned with the economic growth and the recovery of Pinal County. While the P.C.C.F.T. does not necessarily want to take funding away from schools, they have an issue when it comes to taxes; if they find an increase unreasonable, they will have something to say. If you read the Cactus during last semester, you’ll know the P.C.C.F.T. was in our spotlight.

It wasn’t until March 22, 2016 at the governing board meeting that our interest in the group intensified. During the meeting’s call to the public, a man stood and shared with the audience an incident he had with P.C.C.F.T. in which he signed a petition that he would later come to regret. Upon exiting a grocery store, a man with a big wooden sign saying stop 40% percent tax increase caught Craig Hiscox and his wife’s attention. While neither Mr. Hiscox nor his wife are very political, they were curious about the sign. Heading across the street, they inquired what the sign meant. The man told them he was out of pamphlets, but he did have a petition to sign to stop a big increase on property taxes for CAC. “We fully support schools. There’s no reason to deny anyone an education, at any level.” When they tried to inquire more information, the petitioner merely elaborated more on the tax increase. “He [the petitioner] was a very good talker,” said Mr. Hiscox, when interviewed for this article. Who was that petitioner you may ask? “Garland Shreves.” Shreves was so convincing that the couple ended up signing the petition. “We signed it, and didn’t have any idea it had anything to do with Gladys Christensen.”

Longtime friends of Gladys Christensen, the Hiscoxs’ were surprised when she called inquiring as to why they had signed the petition. The petition calling for her recall from CAC’s Governing Board. Having known her for years, as well as working with her husband in high school, they supported and voted for her year after year, they felt awful they had made this mistake. They explained to her that they had been misled. “We had no idea that that [her recall] was what it was about.” Had they known, they would not have signed that petition. “She’s a very kind, intelligent woman. She’s been out there at CAC for 30 years. [CAC] has progressed into something wonderful.” When Mr. Hiscox’s daughter applied to CAC’s Radiation Program, Ms. Christensen even wrote a letter of recommendation for her. Many members in his family, he and his wife included, have attended CAC at one point in their life. “I learned a very hard lesson. You just don’t sign things,” he warns. “At our age, we should know better.” Let this be a lesson for you young folks.

Upon hearing this story, I was curious if other people had similar experiences. With some help from my colleagues, we indeed found more encounters. We made contact with Kelly, who has chosen to keep her last name anonymous, a resident of Coolidge. During an outing with a friend at Anthem Parkside Community Center, Kelly was approached by a female petitioner. The woman informed Kelly that she was collecting signatures to stop the taxes from being raised in that area and that she would be affected. When the woman asked if she would be willing to sign her petition, Kelly told her she wasn’t from that area. “She [female petitioner] said it didn’t matter. As long as I was from Pinal County.” At the time, Kelly was hesitant. She wasn’t registered to vote. While this woman too had no pamphlets to give, she was armed with a clipboard full of names. Upon learning Kelly was not registered to vote, the female petitioner actually went to her car and brought back a voter registration form. Eventually, both Kelly and her friend signed the petition.

Similar to Mr. Hiscox’s experience, Kelly was surprised when Ms. Christensen came to her place of work asking why she had signed the petition. When Kelly explained the petition was to stop taxes from raising, Ms. Christensen, without disclosing the purpose of the petition, told her that was not what it was for. It wasn’t until one of the Cactus’s associates reached out to her did Kelly find out she too signed the petition to recall Gladys Christensen. Although she does not know Ms. Christensen personally, she interacts with her from time to time through her profession and events in town. “She’s a very nice lady.” Like the Hiscoxs’, had she known this petition was directed towards Gladys Christensen, she would not have signed.

Another gentleman interviewed, and he wishes to remain anonymous, had a slightly different encounter. He was approached by a petitioner who told him CAC will be charging more for students to attend. This concerned our interviewee greatly as he has family currently attending CAC. “Anything that’s going to cause a young person to spend more money, that’s not right.” While this petitioner also did not have any physical information to offer, they did mention they were against the school charging more for school. Like others before, he signed. Having no interaction with Ms. Christensen, he learned about the recall through the paper [not this one].

While these are just a few stories, this just shows how the power of someone’s words can disable one’s better judgement. It’s a shame this group had to use the guise of stopping a tax increase to accomplish their goal of attempting to recall Ms. Christensen. Their intention was to stop this tax increase, that’s true, however, they were not completely honest. A half-truth is not the whole truth. Would the P.C.C.F.T. receive as many signatures as they did had the public known the petition would also recall Ms. Christensen? Probably not, considering the wave of support of her and the board expressed during the April 19th board meeting’s call to the public at the Aravaipa campus. Let this article remind you to be cautious next time you interact with a petitioner.}