Archive for October, 2009
The Republican Party has squawked at the assertion Steve Kozachik opposes building the Convention Center Hotel, apparently forgetting that he held a press conference to say: Stop building the convention center hotel. The owners of the biggest event in The Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase promised to leave the gem show if Tucson followed Kozachik’s advice.
Jeff, you’re right. I do object to this mayor and council obligating the taxpayers of our city to a risky real estate deal that includes a $63 million negative cash flow until at least 2017, requires 72% occupancy @ $185 p/night to even start to tip that cash flow in the right direction, takes 8% site specific taxes from the general fund, and all $189 million in bonding is back stopped by the citizen’s of Tucson if/when the hotel fails to meet those goals – and all of those data “require reassessment” if there is not a newly remodeled TCC and a new arena. Given that your council and mayor have squandered over $91 million in Rio Nuevo cash over the past 4 years on nothing that the Gem Show Operators care about, it’s odd that you are now taking the side of Mayor Walkup when he states that “after the first of the year we will consider if we can afford the hotel, and how we can finance it.” And it’s interesting that you’re taking the side of Nina Trasoff when she states that “we will not move forward unless all research indicates the hotel model will be successful.” What part of that model looks to be ‘successful’ to you, Mr. Rogers?
Mr Rogers, in my neighborhood we understand the fiscal mismanagement that this represents. We understand that had the M&C done the TCC remodel (announced today @ $38 million) in the past 4 years instead of the frivolous non-revenue generating projects on which they elected to spend our money, the Gem Show operators wouldn’t be threatening to leave. And in my neighborhood we see through the transparent ploy of redoing a parking lot entryway @ yet another $15 million of taxpayers money in a lame attempt to show the Gem Show Operators that M&C finally ‘get it.’ Mr. Rogers, won’t you be my neighbor and join me in speaking out against this foolish waste of taxpayer money, in support of a hotel pro forma that doesn’t pencil out, and wait for the Guaranteed Maximum Price that the Garfield Traub management has yet to produce before obligating my other neighbors for nearly $200 million in debt?
Come on, Jeff. You’re smarter than that.
…you should stick to “sleeping”.
SPOTLIGHT ON THIS WEEK’S COUNCIL AGENDA (Business Friendly Tucson Study
Session Item) – As you may recall, time and again I have spoken about
the importance of making Tucson a more business friendly community. I am
pleased that Ward 6 Council Member Nina Trasoff, joined me on the
concept of making the City a “how can we help you” place as opposed to a
“no, no, no” kind of place to do business.
That said, this Tuesday we placed a resolution on the agenda that will
show our support for local businesses by resolving to make our city a
better community in which to do business, by adopting a more
customer-service oriented approach to working with the business
community, by providing a balance between businesses and neighborhoods,
while respecting our diverse culture and providing high-wage jobs with
benefits to raise the quality of life for Tucsonans.
This will be an interesting discussion and I am hopeful that everyone
will be on board. There are very few things more important during a time
of economic crisis than having a strong and vibrant business community
that can help generate jobs and sales tax dollars to keep our community
hopping! I am pleased to be helping the Council and leading the way in
this effort. This is simply the first step. Just like working on losing
weight or achieving a great goal, the first part of the process is
acknowledging the problem and setting a goal. This is a wonderful way
to start making Tucson a “business friendly” community simply because
it’s the right thing to do!
It must be election time when candidates resort to slandering a group of people who are in opposition of their campaign. I thought our “leaders” were above this but apparently I was wrong.
Vallejo was pushed over the brink as the economy tanked and the downturn in the housing market produced a large drop in city revenues. At the same time Vallejo’s public safety expenses grew to 75% of the general fund and were largely locked in via collective bargaining agreements. There simply was not enough revenue to cover the mandated obligations.
“But the largest share of the blame in Vallejo has centered on public-safety salaries and benefits, which make up about 75 percent of the city’s general fund budget. (Governing.com article)“
For Vallejo, the tipping point was 75% of general fund revenues obligated to public safety. Where is Tucson and what will be Tucson’s tipping point? (Please note that in no way do I expect Tucson to be the next Vallejo. However, we need a financial tachometer so we know when we are getting close to the redline)
Public safety now represents 65% of Tucson’s general fund (police, fire, courts, public defender, City Attorney). If Proposition 200 were to pass, most of these costs would be mandated and grow over the next few years. In addition to public safety, are there any other expenses that the City is required to make each year? – Oh yes there are; quite a few!
Let’s have some ‘fun’ now and dive into the detail of the various financial reports from the city (make sure you have some extra strength Tylenol because these will definitely give you a migraine). What you find is that over 90% of general fund revenue would be mandated, pledged, or contractually obligated if Prop 200 passes. And this is before you fill a pothole, turn on the lights at City Hall, or mow the grass at Udall Park. …If 90% of your revenue is already spoken for this leaves very little money for other services…I think this is a problem…
Here are some other contractual obligations you find in the financial reports:
$400 million of outstanding General Obligation bonds and Certificates of Participation for Governmental Activities. Bond holders are kinda funny in that they expect the City to make annual debt service payments on time. (pg 53, ‘08 CAFR)
$28 million/year of annual lease obligations. (pg 55, ’08 CAFR)
$600+ million of underfunded pension and retirement obligations. The City has made promises to employees but has not set aside sufficient money to pay for these. The $600 million has to be paid off over time as these are contractual obligations to employees. (pg 63, ’08 CAFR)
$40+ million Structurally Imbalanced Budget. The City is running a deficit but has balanced its budget through spending their Rainy Day Fund, borrowing more money, and other one-time windfalls. The City Charter requires a balanced budget. (Budget Revenue Presentation 9/15/09)
$18 million deficit in the Self Insurance Fund. This has to be paid off before the City loses a big legal claim and has no money to pay for it. (pg 93, ’08 CAFR)
$22 million shortfall in Unreserved Fund Balance (Rainy Day Fund). This is critical in maintaining our credit rating and needs to be fixed ‘promptly’ according to Fitch (FY 2010 Adopted Budget)
Those are the easy ones to find, I suspect there are other contractual obligations. It just seems to me that Prop 200 pushes too close to the financial tachometer redline.
Let me to anticipate some comments from the Yes on Prop 200 folks. Yes, some of these contractual obligations are already in the public safety budgets. I believe they still add up to over 90% of revenue. Yes, I expect City revenues to increase somewhat as we claw our way out of the recession. Even if you factor in better revenues, I can still show you that almost 90% of revenues are spoken for before you even fix the first pothole.
Allow me to offer some free advice (yes, I know free advice is often worth what you pay for it)
Elect the people who share your priorities and who will make sound decisions. Do not try to micro-manage them – let them focus on the big priorities. Allow them some financial wiggle-room to navigate the economic cycles. If they do no perform, throw them out. Or, better yet, how about you run for office?
If your organization receives money from the city and you are not a core service, I suggest you start figuring out how to live without these funds.
If you receive below-market rent or subsidized services from the city and are not a core service, you may want to adjust your budget to pay fair market value. If you can’t pay market rent, please contact “Two Men and a Truck” to help with your move.
If you drive in the city, don’t expect the potholes to be filled any time soon. You should get to know your local tire dealer and alignment specialist – you will be seeing more of them. Ask if they have a ‘frequent flyer’ program. Provide them with liberal amounts of donuts so you receive priority service.
Expect your garbage fee to go up as Environmental Services is carrying a $58 million deficit, even though it is an Enterprise Fund and is supposed to break even every year. (pg 120, ’08 CAFR)
Adopted Budget 2010:
Directly from Tucson Tea Party.org – October 22, 2009 by Robert Mayer
I would like to take a few minutes to update you on the press conference we held downtown on Monday, the purpose of it, and to follow-up with a report exposing the current City Council incumbents wasting of taxpayer money.
Please read the entire report and share it. It is crucial in understanding why the incumbents (Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich) need to be voted out on November 3.
The purpose of the press conference was to expose a sweetheart deal between the City Council and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), in which MOCA was given a five-year lease of the old Fire Station One for only $1-a-year. This is a facility worth millions of dollars and will require yearly maintenance costs in the six figures and more than $80,000 in upgrades.
The Tucson Police Department had requested use of the old Fire Station One on 265 S. Church Ave in order to use it to properly store expensive vehicles and equipment. Given that Fire Station One is already equipped with the necessary technology and infrastructure for this use, upgrades would be minimal.
Larry Lopez, the president of the Tucson Police Officers’ Association, said that TPD informally offered to take over the building three times — in 2006, 2008, and 2009 — and was turned down.
City Manager Mike Letcher, who was assistant city manager back in 2006, said, “”All I can go by is what I’ve got documented, and there was never any formal request made for those uses.”
However, on March 7, 2006, the Tucson City Council unanimously by a vote of 7-0 approved Fire Station One to be used by TPD for the purpose of their headquarters/crime lab expansion.
Please see item 10, “Public Safety: Downtown Building Projects,” located between pages 13 – 16 for the full minutes of the City Council meeting in which the council, including incumbents Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich, voiced strong approval of the measure and unanimously voted in favor of it.
Incumbent Democrat Nina Trasoff, a member of the Neighborhoods, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee, praised the measure repeatedly back in 2006: “Council Member Trasoff praised staff for having worked with the neighborhoods, Barrio Viejo and Barrio Santa Rosa, to hear their concerns and keep them informed. She said she was pleased to see expressions of support from the two neighborhoods… Council Member Trasoff reiterated that she was pleased by the efforts to reach a conclusion, as the facility was certainly needed.”
So what happened there? Mike Letcher says the city halted the plans for a new, combined headquarters and crime lab because of the city doesn’t have the money. Fair enough. So wouldn’t it make sense to put some real effort into finding the most economical use of the building?
This is where the story begins to unfold.
Councilwoman Trasoff also serves as the Chair of the Rio Nuevo / Downtown, Arts, Culture and History Subcommittee. Essentially, she is in charge of leading the discussion and is highly influential in all decisions made regarding Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment and any arts projects that are funded.
Trasoff’s influence was crucial in making the $1-a-year deal happen. According to her election campaign website, Trasoff is “proud to have led the way in making this partnership a reality!” Yes, she is proud to have led the way in signing over a multi-million dollar building for $1-a-year!
Something obviously smells fishy here. How could the city lease a multi-million dollar building to yet another art museum for only $1-a-year?
Here is another very important fact that you need to know.
The Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District is under the jurisdiction of a four-member board that includes Chairwoman Anne-Marie Russell, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)! That’s right — Nina Trasoff oversees that board that makes all of the decisions regarding Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment funding, and the chairwoman of that board is none other than the director of MOCA!
I think we can finally understand how MOCA got such a sweet deal for $1-a-year rent in a multi-million dollar facility!
City Manager Mike Letcher blamed “economic realities” for the decision: “What’s the rental vacancy rate in town? Let’s get real. We have problems renting facilities right now at market rent and everybody else does, too.” He also says that MOCA will be taking on the enormous expenses of renovating the building, not the City of Tucson.
How does MOCA intend to shoulder the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in yearly maintenance? Mark their words: “ALL of these operating and maintenance costs will be shouldered by MOCA with private support, with NONE of the money coming from the City of Tucson. ” Interestingly, they repeat multiple times that none of the money will come from the City of Tucson, and I believe that because there are multiple project funds (see full list) from which the money can be derived aside from the City of Tucson general fund that MOCA is referring to. They are being extremely careful with their wording on this one.
If not from the City of Tucson, then where? One such fund could be… the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District! And, as we all know very well now, the executive director of MOCA serves as the chairwoman of the district’s board, and Nina Trasoff oversees that board!
Or could the money come from a land-swap deal that Trasoff initiated with developers Scott Stiteler and Don Martin in exchange for money for downtown community groups like MOCA? The terms of the deal were this: “The Stiteler/Martin proposal calls for the city to give the developers $4 million worth of city properties in exchange for guarantees they will promptly complete the commercial development of properties they already own and spend $5 million on affordable housing and Downtown community groups.”
Essentially, Trasoff is giving away city-owned land for free in exchange for “private money” for downtown community groups like MOCA. Given that MOCA claims that they will be renovating the Fire Station One using only private money, you have to wonder if this is where that money is coming from.
It’s hard to say, because neither Anne-Marie Russell of MOCA nor Councilwoman Trasoff are answering as to where this “private money” is coming from. They need to answer to the public about this now, because if it’s coming from a land-swap deal or the Rio Nuevo fund, then they are being crooked in their dealings with publicly-owned property.
Certainly, the city could have rented the building for more than $1-a-year! In fact, MOCA was previously paying the city $550/month for rent (see item 2) at 174 and 191 E. Toole Ave, which are much worse locations. That’s 6600 times what it will be paying now.
The city continues to insist that the bidding process was open and competitive, yet MOCA was the only organization to apply. In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star, Lou Ginsberg, the city’s director of real estate who is in charge of making these decisions said: “The request for proposal was advertised on the same day for three weeks in a row in The Daily Territorial. That is standard practice for anybody looking for real estate transactions,” he said. “That was open to everyone and everybody, and the fact is we had only one response.”
So Lou Ginsberg thinks that advertising the old Fire Station One in only three issues of one of the least read newspapers in Arizona is good practice for a city trying to lease a multi-million dollar building? And further, it’s even better practice to lease that building for only $1-a-year?
The Tucson Tea Party is informed that the true standard practice for this sort of “competitive process” is to advertise the property in The Daily Territorial to comply with legal standards, and then privately notify a favored lessee either directly or through intermediaries that the property is available. The favored lessee, in this case MOCA, submits a proposal and is accepted on the basis of being the only applicant. Given that the director of MOCA is also chairwoman of the Rio Nuevo board, which is overseen by Nina Trasoff, it is easy to see how this conversation would take place.
City officials, including Nina Trasoff who “led the way” in this sweetheart deal, failed the city of Tucson miserably. They should have actively sought out potential stakeholders (such as TPD) or private investors who could make more economical use of the building. They should have done everything they could to get the most money back for the city, yet they did not.
Instead, they gave the building away from $1-a-year. This is either incompetence or corruption, both of which are inexcusable.
Jeff Rogers, Chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, in a recent press release has laughably tried to defend the deal by saying that the old Fire Station One was too expensive to renovate in 2006, and that’s why TPD will not longer get the building. While the rumor that DHS wanted to purchase the building has not been backed up by paperwork, Rogers and Trasoff believe that MOCA’s new location will bring “hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in much-needed revenue to the city, while making sure that a prime piece of downtown real estate does not sit vacant.”
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue? Really? Of course, that’s after they spend hundreds of thousands on yearly maintenance and upgrades! These revenue predictions are so far out of this world that it makes you wonder if Jeff Rogers and Nina Trasoff have lost their minds.
The reality is that almost every development project the City Council has dipped its grubby hands into is running a massive deficit. The Tucson Tea Party has put together a detailed report of the nearly $200 million lost on Rio Nuevo, as well as the structural deficits running in most city project accounts so that you can see just how poorly managed our city really is.
The current incumbents on the Tucson City Council are not fit for service. This is now wildly apparent and well-documented. We MUST vote them out of office and encourage everyone we know to do so as well. The city is embroiled in a stagnant culture of corruption that must be remedied with new leadership.
Remember these names: Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich. And then vote against them on November 3.
The Tucson Tea Party will continue investigating this sweetheart deal and others in the coming days. Stay tuned and encourage everyone you know to vote!
Rhonda Bodfield from the Star reported that Mayor Walkup will be holding bus tours of Rio Nuevo. The goal is to accentuate the positive…. The comments to the story are often the best part:
Jacques L. (The Ragin Cajun) left a comment on the tours script:
“OK, ladies and gentlemen, if you look to your left you’ll see an empty lot. Someday a hotel will stand there.
Coming up, on the right, is a vacant lot where the Santa Rita Hotel once stood. It was torn down so the Tucson skyline has a “minimalistic” look to it.
Just around the corner here we see a gutted building that was going to be condominiums for the ultra-rich. That project is on hold for now.
And, here, we are passing one, two, three, whoa, four empty storefronts — just waiting for the surge of businesses downtown!
Coming up is our crown jewel, the Fourth Avenue Underpass. It went slightly over budget, but as you can see it provides emergency shelter for Tucson’s homeless population and some day we may have a trolley that can climb those rails!
Next up, the McArthur Building, being renovated so it can sit empty with nice new offices.
If you look down there, over by the tracks and on the other side, you’ll see our world-famous Warehouse Arts District. People come from as far away as Benson and Marana to buy the artists wares. I’m not exactly sure what they produce. I’m too scared to go in that area, to be honest, but I think if I did I would be safe because we don’t charge them any rent!
Coming up is our illustrious Tucson City Court, painted a stunning shade of gray.
Ahead of us, you’ll see the domed Pima County Courthouse, that now houses the Pima County Justice Court on the second floor. Behind it is a park where virtually every weekend thousands of visitors flock downtown for festivals like Tucson Eat Yourself or the Folk Festival.
OK, up ahead you can see our unique jewel, the Tucson Police Department headquarters. Behind it, on Cushing Street, is the new Fire Department headquarters. It’s unbelievable. yes, it cost far more than estimated, but we hope the citizens of Tucson will ignore the largess and vote to pass Prop. 200 on election day!
OK, here we are back at the TCC, where our tour began. Some day, a grand new entrance will be built to this, and it may be expanded, so Tucson will be able to attract class acts like AC/DC, the Police, and Fleetwood Mac! Right now, those acts would only go to Phoenix, but we’re hoping to change that — and someday we’re going to get major league baseball back here, too!
I hope you enjoyed your tour of Rio Nada, I mean Rio Nuevo. Please watch your step as you get off the bus. Tucson can’t afford any lawsuits
WUT radio spent Friday morning at the Viscount watching a candidate forum put on by Metropolitan Pima Alliance (MPA). The crowd of 70+ was made up of engineers, architects and land planners mostly affiliated with the growth industry. The audience sees first hand day in and day out how challenging it is to get projects through the maze of Tucson bureaucracy.
The forum was moderated by Bud Foster from KOLD News (see the video news coverage here) The format was commentary by candidates on predetermined questions. The topics discussed were predominately business focused. Each candidate and incumbent took their valuable time explaining just how business friendly our community is or will be in the next four years.
The program ran out of time for question and answers but one audience member asked why so many Rio Nuevo design contracts were being sent out of state even with a room full of qualified professionals willing and able to do the work. If you follow Rio Nuevo over the past few years you’ll notice there are a lot of plans on top of plans on top of plans. Keeping that money local is a justifiable concern.
I couldn’t help but leave the forum thinking that if Tucson were in fact as pro business and business friendly as the candidates had expressed we’d really have something to be proud of. If we were just HALF as welcoming to business as the candidates claimed we’d have other communities visiting us from around the country to learn from our best practices. If we were 10% as business friendly as the speeches we heard that morning our shiny city on the hill would have smooth streets, low crime, rising property values, safe neighborhoods, after school programs, a vibrant art community, full employment and a growing middle class.
Posted: Oct 23, 2009 1:50 PM MST Updated: Oct 23, 2009 1:50 PM MST
By Bud Foster – email
For Tucson city council candidates, election day has become like the move “Groundhog Day”. Every day, is election day.
Candidates shake more hands, speak to more groups and do more “one on ones” than they did in the past.
That’s because this is the first election in Tucson where the permanent early voting list is being used.
“In a city race which doesn’t get a lot of attention, these kinds of events are very important,” says Joe Higgins, host of the Tucson radio talk show, Wake Up Tucson. “Because it gives the candidates and elected officials to actually get one on one interaction with the people in the business community and neighborhood associations or whomever it might be.”
This morning local politics was at it’s finest at the Viscount for the Metropolitian Pima Alliance Tucson city council candidate forum. The crowd was made up of mostly business people from the growth industry. Architects, planners, engineers and general contractors that are on the front line were in attendance to hear a report of how our City Council is doing and to hear the agenda for the next four years.
The question and answers session was limited to one comment on Rio Nuevos propensity to hire out of area experts to do much of the design work – a lot of designs and redesigns and redesigns.
The candidates in attendance included Nina Trasoff, Karin Uhlich, Richard Fimbres and Ben Buehler-Garcia. Absent were Sean McKlusky and Steve Kozachik. The candidates recieved the questions prior to the event and read or embelished on written notes. Bud Foster from KOLD 13 News moderated the forum.
Most of the questions were business in nature and most revolved around fixing cultures, making the city more business friendly and removing barriers to getting projects moving forward. Each candidate out did the other on how much has been done in the past four years and how great it’s going to be in the next.
Let’s just say that if Tucson were half as pro-business as we heard today we’d be a national example on economic prosperity. We’d have city planners from around the world beating a path to our door to learn from our best practices.
If we were 10% as easy as we heard this morning to grow and expand a business we’d have fully staffed police and fire, low crime, amazing parks, open space, low taxes, smooth streets, unlimited after school programs and virtually 0% unemployment. You get the point.
Bookmark this blog post and check back in 4 years and we’ll see if the promises made on the campaign trail actually came true.
Ballot changes cause campaign changes
In the past, the candidates would just blast the media a week before election. They can’t do that anymore.
“Some of the talk I’m hearing,” says Guymon, “some of the information I’m getting from people who conduct these polls suggests, that this could come right down to the wire.”
And in races where a few votes here or there could make a difference, each small forum could make the difference when the votes are counted.
That means tens of thousands of Tucson voters will get a ballot in the mail even if they don’t ask for it.
For some it’s a convenience they welcome. For others, it will be a reminder an election is just around the corner whether they welcome it or not.
But once it arrives in the mail, it will most likely be filled out and mailed back. It will probably mean a higher voter turnout.
But for the candidates themselves, it means election day runs from early October to November 3rd.
“So every day they have to be on message, they have to be on target and they have to be sure they get their message out to the voters,” says Michael Guymon, executive director the Metropolitan Pima Alliance.
Guymon and the MPA held a forum for the Tucson city council candidates so the membership, made up mostly of business people and owners, could hear what they have to say about business and business operations in Tucson.
Some of the candidates say they attend and speak to as many as three forums a day.
It’s difficult to tell how many votes might be in a small audience.
66,908 of the ballots have been sent out. 20,315 have been returned and mail-in usually exceeds a 90% return. So many more are yet to come and the candidates have no way of knowing when or by whom.
So every day, they campaign.
By Joe Higgins and Chris DeSimone, special for Inside Tucson Business
Published on Friday, October 23, 2009
Has anyone else besides us noticed the past six weeks — since our column headlined “Until they fear us they won’t respect us” — that the conversation in this year’s city elections has turned to ‘who is the most pro-business city council candidate?’
Like many of you, when we read the Arizona Daily Star’s editorial endorsements, we weren’t surprised but we were amused. While endorsing the Democratic slate, the editors used the rest of the column to detail the anti-business culture in Tucson and this council’s failures over the past four years to fix it.
We commend the newspaper’s decision to raise issues that most of us in the private sector deal with day in and day out. From the Star’s editorial: “They need to take on the land-use code and fix it. They’ve had four years in office to mull it over and they’ve taken itty-bitty steps. Since when is taking four years to “mull it over” and “itty-bitty steps” acceptable? In the private sector four years of no results and we’d be out of business. In the government sector that’s worthy of being re-elected.
If you listen to talkradio, read newspapers and pay attention to the party and campaign rhetoric you’ll see a loud chorus building to change the Tucson business climate. The pressure is on for the city to make it easier to help a business through development services, redo the land use code, and, in general, push to be more responsive to the small business person. Is this just election season pandering? Do they really mean it this time?
The incumbents now have a four-year track record. They made promises on the campaign trail and slung a lot of mud. What do they have to show for it?
• The garbage fee that was such a big deal four years ago is still here and has been increased.
• Many of the big bad business people that supposedly controlled former council members Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt are now contributing to Nina Trasoff’s campaign. And there are inside deals — the $47 million Fourth Avenue Underpass, free rent on top of free rent in the city-owned train station, development deals that kickback money to select nonprofits and tax increment financing-funded projects benefitting Rio Nuevo board members.
Except for a push to buy local and an attempt to fix a horrendous certificate of occupancy process there hasn’t been much action on the business front.
Take a look at our neighbors in Albuquerque. Their downtown revitalization kicked off about the same time as Tucson’s. Their tactic was to set the table, streamline the process, lay out the plan and get out of the way. The private groups came in and timed the real estate boom perfectly. Albuquerque has a growing downtown with hotels, condos, restaurants and entertainment.
What did Tucson do during the same time? City leaders second-guessed and put government in the middle of everything. City officials backed projects for rainbow bridges, museums and mud walls. They refused to fix the maze of regulations that chase away all but the most determined private sector capital.
Our other neighbor El Paso, is rebuilding its downtown by formulating a plan with stakeholder input and then demanding an up or down vote from the city council on the entire redevelopment. El Paso didn’t piecemeal each project. It didn’t make each developer have to go before the buzzsaw of neighborhood associations and beg for permission or give away concession, to a point where the deals didn’t make economic sense.
At a candidate forum this month with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the crowd of 80-plus was upset. We interviewed four past presidents of NAWBO who ranked Tucson’s business climate no higher than a 3 out of a possible 10. We heard comments like ‘we wish they would be more helpful during their four years not just a few months before elections.’
The question and answer sessions were emotional and showed the frustrations of small business owners. Delays and red tape at the city translate into real economic hardship. Crazy unclear regulations and inconsistencies can mean the difference between hiring and expanding or being able to make the car payment.
As election day approaches — one week from Tuesday — let’s hope we are in a community that is realizing the “big bad” businesses and little local shopkeeper play a vital role. Our enterprises put most of the money into local government.
Business people believe in arts and social programs and youth activities. We support police and fire and want a city that is vibrant, clean and going somewhere. Since we pay for most of these things we would like to be treated like a valued customer occasionally.
Who better than a local dry cleaner or neighborhood deli to realize that if you don’t take care of your customers someone else will?