Vol. XXI, No. 1
February, 1983

A New 2nd Congressional District

Back in 1961, there was a line about Mo Udall being able to caucus with the entire Democratic congressional delegation in his bathtub. Arizona had just two members in the House of Representatives back then, Republican John Rhodes, who retired at the end of the 97th Congress, and myself.

What has happened to the state's congressional delegation since that time is another dramatic reminder of Arizona's phenomenal population growth in just two decades: the Constitution allows each state one representative for every 543,000 citizens and in 20 years, our delegation has gone from two members to five.

Twice in my career, I have found myself representing a 2nd Congressional District with new boundaries. For 10 years, the 2nd District stretched from southern Pinal County south through Tucson, and ended up at Nogales, on the U.S.-Mexico border, with large areas stretching to the east and west.

Every 10 years, of course, congressional district boundaries are redrawn, and the 2nd Congressional District today consists of pieces of Yuma, Pima, Maricopa, Santa Cruz and Pinal Counties. The urban centers form something of a triangle -- from Phoenix, through West Tucson and south to Nogales, west to Yuma and back to Phoenix.

It is a district that supports mining, agriculture and industry and all three have been dealt serious blows by a persistent recession. And Arizona border communities have seen firsthand how a situation beyond our borders and our control (the devaluation of the peso) can have a sudden and jarring effect on our lives.

* * *

The new 2nd Congressional District covers thousands of square miles. It at once embraces some of the most beautiful and some of the most grimly brutal parts of the Sonoran Desert that makes up much of Southern Arizona.

After years of working closely with the folks of the Air Force at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and with the Army at Ft. Huachuca, I now find myself with a congressional district that includes a Naval Air Station, replete with its own contingent of Marines, in Yuma.

And after what seems like a lifetime of living with the Colorado River and the Central Arizona Project, it seems only fair that part of that river at least touch my congressional district. There were times when all the Arizonans in Washington began to wonder if the Colorado River existed only in our imaginations.

Every member of Congress serves a congressional district in a slightly different way. Many of you in the new 2nd Congressional District are old and familiar friends, but many of you have a brand-new congressman and you'll want to know the ins and outs of the Udall operation -- where to go, who to call, when to write.

The Staff

Each member of the House of Representatives is limited by law to a staff of 18 people. It is up to each representative to decide how that staff is to be apportioned to best serve the congressional district -- and when a congressional district is as large and sprawling as is this one, the staff can be spread thin.

Ideally, the 2nd Congressional District ought to have offices not only in Phoenix and Tucson, but in Nogales and Yuma as well. Unfortunately, budget constraints prevented opening more than two offices, and they have been placed near the larger population centers.

The Tucson office, at 300 N. Main St., is staffed by four people, including Dan O'Neill, who oversees that operation. The Phoenix office, at 1419 N. 3rd St., Suite 103, operates with a staff of three, including Perry Baker, the Phoenix staff director.

Constituents in Yuma, Pinal and Maricopa Counties are encouraged to deal with the Phoenix congressional office, and those in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties, with my staff in Tucson.

The remainder of the staff is assigned to the Washington office, in room 235 of the Cannon House Office Building.

The mail (my office receives about 55,000 pieces of mail each year) is divided into general categories: mail that discusses a constituent problem (a lost Social Security check, problems with the Veterans Administration, a late passport) is handled by the Arizona office staff and mail that discusses legislative concerns is handled in Washington.

Matters that come my way in my role as Chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee are handled by a professional committee staff, directed by a Phoenix native, Stan Scoville.

The person most responsible for seeing that all of this is carried out effectively and efficiently is Bruce Wright, who in Washingtonese is known as my Administrative Assistant, but who in fact functions more as a chief of staff. Bruce is a Tucsonan who knows that a reference to "my beloved staff," means something usually has gone wrong.

I can't personally answer each letter, but every reply does come to my desk for my signature. The mail is a good barometer of what's on people's minds.

Staying In Touch

Because those budget constraints don't allow even small congressional offices in all the communities that I would like, there are several ways that we try to stay in touch.

One is to schedule as many visits to as many of the smaller communities in the congressional district as possible. A couple of staff people put together a schedule in advance that might cover several communities or suburbs. The schedule is publicized and the staffers then hit the road, and make all the stops along the way. That allows us, at a rather inexpensive cost to the taxpayer, to visit many more residents of the congressional district than we might otherwise, and to allow them to walk in and discuss that particular problem that might be too detailed or too complex to cover in a letter or a phone call. There are a lot of folks who can't take the time to drive all the way to Tucson or Phoenix, but who might easily find 10 or 15 minutes to stop by a shopping center or a public school, or wherever we happen to be. This has been a popular and effective approach in the past, and one that will continue.

Another regularly scheduled event is the Udall Town Hall. Again, well in advance, we select a community or a


 
neighborhood and invite area residents to attend a meeting -- a Town Hall, if you will -- where they can meet their representative, face to face, and talk about whatever is on their mind. Everyone may not leave completely satisfied, but just about everyone gets at least one shot.

In addition, I try to make regular visits home, because there is no substitute for the feedback on Main Street, and at least six times a year, I try to pick out one key issue of the day and discuss it in the limited space of newsletters like this one. The mail generated back to me by such newsletters frequently is helpful.

In the past couple of years, a number of constituents have asked why I don't set up a toll-free telephone number between Arizona and Washington. The idea is an appealing one -- the Senate, in fact, now allots money specifically for that purpose -- but the House operates under different rules, and has not yet seen fit to allow members to budget for such a telephone line. In the future, perhaps that will change. For the moment, we have to do with what we have.

Another few words about the mail. A few years ago, U.S. News & World Report asked me to offer some advice about writing your congressman. Some of it is worth repeating:

Address the letter properly: When writing, send the letter to "Hon. __________, House Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20515." Or, "Senator __________, Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510." While this may seem too fundamental, I once received a letter like this: "Mr. Morris K. Udall, U.S. Senator, Capitol Building, Phoenix, Arizona. Dear Congressman Rhodes."

Identify the issue: with thousands of bills introduced in each Congress, and a dazzling number of issues, it's vital to identify the bill by number or popular title -- "minimum wage," or "strip-mine bill," etc. -- in your letter.

Concentrate on your delegation: don't waste your time writing 535 members of Congress. Your Representative and your Senators cast your vote. Stick with them.

Be brief: letters have a much better chance of being answered fully and promptly if they are short and legible. You don't have to type, but write clearly.

Do write your own opinions, state why you are taking a stand, be constructive, share your expertise, don't demand

an immediate commitment, say "well done" when it's deserved, and avoid threats. Threatening mail rarely results in successful intimidation. It's been my experience that reason works far better than a threat.

Constituent Services

The civil servants who keep this government operating do a good job. As is the case with any large undertaking, there are occasional lapses -- a Social Security check misplaced here, a passport waylaid there, a small business loan delayed along the way. A fair amount of my mail is devoted to exactly those kinds of problems, and each is given careful attention.

Usually, the situation can be righted by a single telephone call or a letter. Many of these cases can be handled by a member of my staff, but if that still doesn't cut the red tape, I make the call myself.

The easiest way to sum up this part of the job is to tell you that if your problem in some way involves the federal government, there is a chance I may be able to do something about it.

This government doesn't belong to Washington, it belongs to you. Every taxpayer has a right to see that it works for them and not against them.

The 98th Congress

As this newsletter is mailed, the House of Representatives is well along into the First Session of the 98th Congress.

Jobs, the federal budget, the deficit, interest rates and the future of the American economy again will occupy much of Washington's attention as Congress looks for some answers to a recession that won't go away.

And I expect to be devoting a good share of my time to those issues that are particularly important to the folks back home -- water and water-related issues, the sagging economies of our border communities, peso devaluation, the stagnant condition of the copper industry and many others.

Through it all, I'll do my best to stay in touch.





Next Report: June, 1983 -- Keeping Social Security Secure


Section Contents: 98th Congress
Previous Section: 97th Congress | Next Section: 99th Congress

Congressman's Report Main Page


Congressman's Report
Newsletters by Morris K. Udall