On Sept. 1 the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, acting as the board of directors for the Public Health Services District, turned down $3.2 million of federal grant money to help the county with the COVID-19 pandemic. In my opinion, this decision was shocking and disappointing. I’m sorry.
The purpose of the grant was to ensure greater accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the public health district, now and in the future. Why my colleagues could not see the benefits to our constituents would need to be asked of them. I believe the decision to turn down the agenda item for the grant revolved around two things, misleading information from a fellow supervisor and the term “equity.”
To begin, during the Sept. 1 Board of Supervisors meeting, it was mentioned that 320,800 of our constituents have been vaccinated. This misleading information was presented in the public meeting and also placed on a public blog by Pinal County Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, District 1. This deceptive statement was intentional to create a false perception to show that a majority of Pinal County residents have been fully vaccinated; however, that is far from the truth.
The 320,800 number presented by Supervisor Cavanaugh was reflective of the amount of vaccines administered, not the total of people fully vaccinated. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, only 165,160 citizens in Pinal County are fully vaccinated. I am not sure why a supervisor’s office with a staff of five does not understand the concept that the major vaccine Pinal County distributed requires two doses to be considered fully vaccinated.
The second issue that appeared in the discussion was the word “equity.” This word has created strife in this country and in everyday dialogue. Equity is a word I do not fully understand as it is commonly viewed with multiple interpretations.
I was taught the meaning of equity as a term of “net worth” described in economics and accounting as, assets minus liabilities equals equity. I also view equity as the measure of value in relationships built. After my research, equity in my perspective as it relates to this issue is fairness, which I would define as “equality.”
The word “equity” has become a divisive word that has inflicted animosity among our country and county. Ultimately, I believe it was the driving force as to why the grant was denied. Had a different word been used to identify the role, I firmly believe the agenda item would have passed.
As an elected official, I am given the charge to represent my constituents, not to impose my personal beliefs or philosophy that would impede on a worthy opportunity for the people I represent. I will make it a priority to secure the finances needed to ensure our residents get the vaccine, no matter their location or socioeconomic status. Opportunity is the one thing that our country will grant you, and I will fight to ensure each citizen in our county has the opportunity to get vaccinated.
In the future, let’s hope my colleagues understand our mission and job as county supervisors, which is to create and facilitate policy that is conducive to our constituent needs. We must do our best to represent the people who elected us. Collectively, we need to put aside our personal beliefs to overlook the divisive verbiage and focus on the foundation of this grant, and that is to provide critical resources to meet the needs of public health, now and in the future. Moving forward, I will explore our options as a county to implement a similar program that will afford the opportunity to anyone who wants to get a vaccine, and to get one in the comfort of their own community.
I am optimistic that we will all come to an understanding and prioritize public health. There should be no room for personal agendas when dealing with the health and wellness of all the great citizens of Pinal County. If you are interested in further discussing my stance on the issue, please feel free to contact my office at 520-866-7401. Thank you and God bless.
Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, is chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.