|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.
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
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