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Garcia: 'Welcome to Nevada: The Grand Canyon State'

Arizona is a little tricky to figure out.

OK, for many in America, that's stating the obvious, like saying the Grand Canyon is "grand" or that it's located somewhere in southern Nevada.

Don't laugh. Many international and domestic tourists believe the Grand Canyon is in Nevada, thanks to some crafty marketing campaigns by the Sagebrush & Snake Oil State that essentially says: "Come to Las Vegas, hit the jackpot in the morning and lunch at the Grand Canyon in the afternoon."

If someone really believes they'll hit the jackpot in Vegas, it's quite understandable how they might also believe the Grand Canyon somehow is in Nevada, even if they "stole" it.

Millions of bus rides and plane flights from Sin City to one of the World's Seven Natural Wonders only perpetuate the disoriented belief of the Grand Canyon being in Nevada, not in Arizona (and, apparently, not in Utah either).

Well, in addition to having the actual mile-deep natural gem carved into layers upon layers of Arizona soil, we have the maps and license plate to prove the Grand Canyon resides mostly in Arizona.

Our license plate, plain as day, says so right there on the rear bumper: "Arizona: Grand Canyon State."

Who could miss it?

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Um, we soon could have more than 60 other specialty license plates in Arizona that instead declare everything from "Live the Golden Rule" to "Pets Enrich Our Lives" to "Street Rod."

In all, the state issued more than 500,000 such specialty license plates in the last fiscal year.

No wonder not everybody knows we're "the Grand Canyon State."

And why nobody's Arizona license plate reads, "Look out, I drive like a crazed demon," is beyond me. That would be useful information. Or maybe the "Street Rod" moniker should be sufficient.

Another mystery is the new so-called Tea Party license plate.

You know the iconic image: The "Don't Tread on Me" coiled snake that often can be seen on banners at Tea Party rallies calling for less government

In Senate Bill 1402, Arizona initially was willing to foot the $32,000 bill to produce the plates, which weren't even requested by the Tea Party. And many Tea Party members, despite their driven convictions, are opposed to the plates and won't buy them – even though profits from the $25 license plate would go to Tea Party groups.

"I've brought it up at Tea Party meetings, and there's been a lot of groans," Tea Party activist Jim Wise of Surprise told The New York Times. "There are a lot of e-mails going around. We're establishing a government organization to take taxpayers' money and pass it back to grass-roots organizations. Is that what we want?"

Surprise, New Yorkers! There really is a Surprise, Arizona.

Don't ask me why, but there's also a Why.

And up north, just down the road from Twin Arrows on Interstate 40, there aimlessly sits Two Guns, now little more than an abandoned trading post/filling station along old Route 66.

You'd reckon with a name like Two Guns, there'd be greater prosperity and state support. We're known far and wide for our love of guns in Arizona. And I'm of the opinion if some sure-footed legislator would present a wild 'n' crazy bill to make an Arizona license plate shaped like a pistol, with the moniker, "Arizona: The Gun State," it would have a decent shot at passing.

Arizona already has pulled the trigger on various gun-related legislation, including SB 1495 (which allows for the governor to create a volunteer militia for "any reason considered to be necessary") and HB 2146 (which removes the authority of the Arizona Department of Public Safety to regulate and certify instructors of firearms safety).

Maybe it was something about the name – "Department of Public Safety" – that was the turnoff. Arizona ranks dead last when it comes to gun safety laws, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Instead, SB 1610 glorified the Colt single-action Army revolver by deeming it Arizona's official firearm – even though Colt's headquarters are in West Hartford, Connecticut. (At the least the word "West" is in there somewhere.)

Arizona, where have you gone?

A better question might be, "Arizona, where are you again?"

We've become "The Grand Crayon State," allowing outsiders to color us inside and out and every which way:

  • Arizona Jeans Company, a JCPenney staple for skinny teens with an insatiable appetite for skinny jeans, is based in Plano, Texas.
  • Arizona Beverage Company, whose AriZona Ice Tea is the No. 1 seller in the nation, was started in New York by a couple of guys from Brooklyn. And despite its website opening with a friendly "Welcome to AZ" button, it's based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

International SB 1070 boycotts and fallout aside, if that's even possible to overlook, obviously Arizona has some major re-branding to do in newspapers, magazines, the Internet and TV – even the radio.

Mark Lindsay's 1969 hit pop song "Arizona (Cut Off Your Indian Braids)" was replaced by George Strait's 1987 "Ocean Front Property (in Arizona)," which in turn was replaced by Jamie O'Neal's 2001 "There Is No Arizona."

As O'Neal's No. 1 country hit lyrics go:

  • There is no Arizona.
  • No Painted Desert, no Sedona.
  • If there was a Grand Canyon,
  • she could fill it up with the lies he's told her.
  • But they don't exist, those dreams he sold her.
  • She'll wake up and find
  • there is no Arizona.

There is no Arizona? That can't be good for tourism.

Neither can Arizona cutting its tourism marketing budget for this new fiscal year to $8 million, down by 40 percent.

Hey, I don't know what the next Arizona ditty might be. Steve Martin's 1978 novelty hit King Tut managed to work in the verse "born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia." But I do have an idea for the next license plate:

"Arizona: Officially Meaner and Crazier Than Texas … Oh, Yeah, And We Just Stole Back the Grand Canyon. In Your Face, Nevada."

Or words to that effect. Like I said, Arizona is a little tricky to figure out.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

The director of communications for the Morrison Institute of Public Policy at ASU, Garcia is a longtime, award-winning journalist whose experience as a top editor, columnist and reporter included positions at The Arizona Republic, The Daily Times, Tucson Citizen, USA Today and The Associated Press.

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