PHOENIX (AP) — There wasn’t any finger pointing this time when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer met President Barack Obama on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
A smiling Brewer exchanged a handshake with Obama on Tuesday after the president stepped off Air Force One en route to make a speech about housing and the economy at Desert Vista High School.
Brewer famously wagged her right index finger at Obama during a contentious runway meeting in January 2012.
Andrew Wilder, the governor’s spokesman, said Brewer pressed the president on her disaster declaration request for the Yarnell Hill fire near Prescott.
Nineteen firefighters died battling the blaze on June 30, and Brewer has been waiting for a response from Obama to her request since mid-July.
“She reminded him that it’s been nearly a month. He assured her that he would look into it,” Wilder told The Arizona Republic.
Approval would bring long-term federal recovery programs to Yavapai County to help survivors and businesses that didn’t have adequate insurance. It also would allow a federal team to do flood prevention work.
Wilder added that Brewer described her meeting Tuesday with Obama as “cordial and positive all around.”
Obama also shook hands on the tarmac Tuesday with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz.
Stanton hand-delivered a letter to the president from Tony Valdovinos, who is among the 300,000 young people now able to work in the U.S. as a result of the Obama administration’s “deferred action” initiative.
In the letter, Valdovinos thanked Obama for helping people live without fear and becoming productive members of society.
Outside of Desert Vista High, protesters were spotted with signs reading: “Secure Our Borders,” ”No Amnesty” and “No A.C.A,” referring to proposed comprehensive immigration overhauls and the president’s health care program.
Inside the school gym, about 1,000 spectators including high school seniors packed the risers on one side and the floor in front of the stage for Obama’s speech that noted the Phoenix metropolitan area is in the middle of one of the nation’s most rapid housing recoveries.
Just two years ago, the Phoenix region was in the throes of one of the worst housing collapses in the country, with prices down nearly 60 percent from their June 2006 peak and banks foreclosing on 70,000 homeowners a year.
Sensing a bargain when the median price hit $111,000, investors swooped in and prices were rising by early in 2012. Regular buyers who had been sitting on the sidelines then re-entered the market, and the boom was on.
The current median price of a home in the Phoenix market is $185,000 — up more than 60 percent from the lows. It still remains well below the $260,000 that single-family Phoenix-area homes reached at the market’s height.
However, Brewer said the turnaround has little to do with the Obama administration.
“Given President Obama’s recent interest in job creation and economic recovery, he certainly came to the right state at the right time,” Brewer said in a statement. “The Arizona Comeback is in full-swing and this was the President’s opportunity to witness firsthand a true economic success story.”
“However, I am disappointed that the president used his visit as an opportunity to lay out a plan for even more big government programs, while also trying to share credit for Arizona’s housing and economic recovery. That credit belongs to the hardworking people of Arizona,” Brewer added. “Instead of trying to share credit for Arizona’s successes, President Obama should learn from our example.”
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