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27th October
written by madge

The entire redevelopment mess is a case of:
1. Elected officials that have no idea what they are doing. The Gaylord Resorts people left town (and built in Mesa) for a number of reasons including a provision that required only union labor to operate the hotel, sort of makes you wonder what else is coming out of the woodwork.
2. An original 4 person puppet Rio Nuevo board put in place to rubber stamp.
3. Too many cooks in the kitchen. We’ve now had our 3rd City manager in charge of Rio Nuevo. Each has their own vision.
4. A weak mayor political system that puts tremendous power in council peoples hands. There are 3 council members that have claim to Rio Nuevo and each wanted their piece of the pie. Meanwhile we have a number of dirt lots, plans on top of plans that never got done. Drive west of the freeway and you’ll see how politicians can squander an opportunity.
5. We missed the real estate boom because our process to build (development services and neighborhood input) is so bad it takes forever to get anything done.
6. A business community that is very fractured and weak and can’t come to agreement on anything.
7. A couple election cycles with hotly contested races, including the election of Steve K where an R won in a city with 3 to 1 D’s.
8. An economic downturn that slowed the TIF dollars considerably. Walmart to the rescue!
9. Our largest tourism attraction is the Gem and Mineral show. It brings in $100m per year. The mayor is now saying the gem show will pull out if we don’t build the hotel. Tucson has and will continue to be on their trade show circuit. They like the funky tents and hodge podge of the way Tucson is laid out for them. 
10. Our MTCVB has little accountability. Giving them a shiny new hotel should scares the crap out of you. The TCC staff is just shy of inept. The Hilton talked about building their hotel and managing the Tucson Convention center. City Council blocked their plan because it would mean laying off TCC employees. We lost $3m last year on the convention center. Makes you want to give the job of selling this thing to this team doesn’t it.
11. Overbuilt, utlra-competitive convention market. Phoenix is offering 45% off convention bookings thru 2014. Markets around the country have built convention facilities only to find that the size of the market is shrinking as more convention space is coming on line. Classic supply demand issues. With Phoenix investing $650m in their convention center and building a 1000 room convention hotel facility how are we ever going to compete?  If a convention is comparing Tucson to Phoenix they’ll look at cost, size, availability, air transportation, attraction’s downtown (restaurants, sport venues, museums etc). We loose on all accounts.
12. Powerful neighborhood associations that allow a couple of crazy ideas like; entire floors dedicated to low income housing, use of a new buildings pools and laundry facilities and requests for community herb gardens as a condition to blessing a development. Those developers that are unlucky enough to have not high tailed out of town are wishing they had, or looking for a politician to donate to.
13. Crazy development agreement terms like giving a $300,000 to a youth facility 5 blocks away from your development as a condition of zoning approval scares sophisticated developers away.
14. Hook ups to a selected few while others are drug through the maze of bureaucracy. Going $15m over budget on an underpass to accommodate a preferred developer or free rent, rent extensions and law breaking gifts to preferred, politically connected people at the expense of others without political clout.
15. Cheap land on the outskirts of our community. Why would someone pay $300,000 for a two bedroom condo when you can pay the same for a three bedroom home with a pool. Quaint, cute, artsy and urban are great but when the decision comes, residents can get so much more for their money away from the city core. Downtown’s died for a reason.  Downtown are working when their is expensive land that is locked in, typically near water.  Downtown’s work when their is night life and private sector jobs. We have neither.

It’s over, move on and get back to the basics. Set the table for the private sector and focus on reopening the community pools, trimming the weeds in the median and protecting your citizens.


  1. Delusional Bill


    As long as it is politically profitable for the elected leadership to meddle in private sector the pools, weeds and law and order will always take a distant second place. Unless and until the taxpayers make the politicians pay a price that is higher than their ‘earnings’ from meddling you will not see a real change.

    One of the common themes of this site, the radio show and other similar places is that government has a true responsibility to ALL the citizens. We must demand that they follow through on their obligations. The media must be called to task for failure to illustrate the problem. People like you need to continue to hammer away at both the elected and non-elected leaders. Point out on a regular basis when an organization fails to fulfill the Mission Statement of the group. Call out a councilperson that meddles directly or indirectly in the application of the rules of this or that division of the city, county, etc… Show up to meetings and ask questions about the relative of the director of this or that department serving as the Public Relations officer of an elected official. Ask why conflicts of interests aren’t a problem for an administrator hiring the wife/husband of a large contractor working for that government.

    When these questions become the norm you will then see fewer weeds, more cops and fire trucks and a more prosperous community as a whole.

  2. James L.

    I’d be interested in knowing the sources of all the facts in this post. I also found this quote interesting, “Set the table for the private sector…” when the author slams the private section in paragraphs 6 and 14 (and a sideways glance in 12). The biggest problem is that less than 20% of the voters in this town vote in council races. Want to blame someone-blame the voters.

  3. Cactus Bill


    I believe the author is pointing to the fact that if Business wants a more friendly attitude from the City they have to get INVOLVED. Sitting on the sidelines or pretending that what happens at City Hall doesn’t effect them is blind and silly. You reap what you sow. For the voters of all stripes in Tucson they have sat back for decades and pretended that it doesn’t matter. That its best to go along to get along. I believe that the economic results that face all of Tucson speak for themselves. If you want to change things you HAVE to change the folks that got you to this point or that sat on the sidelines and allowed it to continue both in office and out.

  4. Downtowner

    Now on Starnet:

    New audit critical of Tucson’s Rio Nuevo district

    By Rob O’Dell Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010 2:28 pm |

    Tucson’s Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment district was beset by mismanagement, a lack of internal financial controls and oversight that led to a majority of its projects to remain unfinished despite pending $230 million, a much-anticipated audit says.

    While the audit conducted by private auditor Crowe Horwath for the Auditor General of Los Angeles is not the smoking gun some had expected, the 76-page report confirms that much of the money has been spent on planning or projects that stalled, money went to projects that while not illegal were not in the spirit of Rio Nuevo’s mission and that the city’s financial record keeping was disorganized, making tracking the spending nearly-impossible.

    The audit’s findings mirror those made in Star investigations of Rio Nuevo over the past three years.

    The audit is expected to be released to the Rio Nuevo Board, the city, and public either later today or next week, said Rio Nuevo Chairwoman Jodi Bain. The Rio Nuevo Board submitted their final comments on the audit to the Auditor General late this week.

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