Archive for June, 2011
Ms. Uhlich, Ms. Romero, Ms. Scott, and Ms. Walkup are now mandating how Koz uses his Ward’s discretionary funds. Is this the same crew that swept $12 million out of the road paving fund to build the Cushing St. bridge so they can get their magic choo-choo(a choo-choo that further increases the taxpayers’ transportation subsidy burden)? If Rawson and Vogt are smart, I would do my best to inform the Ward 6 residents that Ms. Scott and Ms. Romero voted to block fixing the streets of their neighborhood. Hey, Karin, we know you are butt-hurt because Steve is making you like bad. Let it go. There are plenty of Ward Sixers that voted for you.
Fixing Ward 6 roads becomes a contentious council item
Rhonda Bodfield, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Monday, June 27, 2011
City Councilman Steve Kozachik has money left over in his office budget that he wants to useon road repairs in his ward.
He doesn’t take a city car. His chief of staff works part time.
So before the fiscal year calendar clicks over in July, when leftover dollars are swept into the general fund, Kozachik wants to use it to fill some potholes in his territory.
There is historical precedent.
Over the years, council members have routinely dipped into their office budgets to help neighborhoods pay for such things as street lighting or road humps or park improvements or festivals.
Just look back to 2008. Councilwoman Karin Uhlich reallocated $10,000 from her office budget to support Habitat for Humanity. Councilwoman Regina Romero similarly was granted approval to put $5,600 toward a long list of organizations, from Little League to nonprofits to the Sunnyside and Menlo Park neighborhood associations.
So Kozachik had reason to think the vote on his plan would go down the same way.
Instead, on a 5-2 vote, with Paul Cunningham voting with Kozachik, the council continued the item to July 6 to explore a “pooled” approach.
“People in my ward aren’t real amused by the rest of the council members dipping their hands into the Ward 6 cookie jar,” an incensed Kozachik said. “The hypocrisy is just dripping off this thing.”
Each council office gets the same amount of tax dollars. Kozachik said he doesn’t care how any of the council members want to spend theirs. But his residents are deeply unhappy with the state of the roads. The city’s own transportation staff has indicated that 50 percent of residential roads fall into the “poor” or “failed” categories.
He said he thinks politics are at play. “All I have is speculation, but it appears to me this group has just been disinclined to let me take the lead on something. And it’s really getting old.”
Uhlich, who made the move to put on the brakes, said it’s about equity, not politics. She’d prefer council members pool their resources into one big pot for a more comprehensive paving effort.
“I’m simply suggesting we have a coordinated approach to make sure one resident over another does not get a different level of service,” she said. Saying the council has been moving in recent years away from what she characterized as a “parochial or Balkanized” manner, she added that a pool would mean all residents get their fair share.
Uhlich said it’s not because she’s afraid Kozachik will look better than she does. Her own office is on track to have $49,000 left over, not including $80,000 in unused Back to Basics money. The offices, which used to have $425,000 in funding, are now allocated $323,000.
But she said some offices won’t have any money left.
Plus, she said, she wants the Transportation Department to determine where the roads are in the worst shape. Maybe they’re in Ward 6, she said, maybe not.
“That should be done by an objective approach. It shouldn’t be just because one council member happens to not need a car for whatever reason.”
Won’t that be a disincentive for council offices to be frugal? “If we end up doing it for less, then it should benefit all the taxpayers in the community,” she said.
So what about some of her office’s earlier requests? That was then, she said, before times got tougher on city finances and council members pooled their Back to Basics money.
You can make the argument that council members are elected at large, even though they’re nominated by ward.
But the way Kozachik sees it, the system is designed for council members to advocate for their wards.
He’s hosting a neighborhood meeting on Wednesday at the Ward 6 office to prepare for the July 6 item. We’ll see if Ward 6 residents see it his way.
Has a good idea by a pioneering Congressman from Arizona, Mo Udall, been taken to an extreme that has diminished the intent of saving endangered species? Is it time for Congress to reign in the run away legal industry that uses tax payer funds to sue taxpayers?
Like many things in America a good idea can turn bad when left unchecked. One such idea is the work that Arizona Congressman put into the Endangered Species Act to protect animals at the edge of extinction at the hands of evil developers. What he started was marked a monumental for the environmental movement. Sad to say his idea has turned into a billion industry for groups like the Center For Biological Diversity.
Tucson is on the front lines of this fight and has been completely nuetralized and over taken by the environmental groups. We talk about pygmy owls, orchids, snails, jaguars or any series of animals not because we love to see them flourish but because these law suits and the plants and animals that Mo Udall fought so hard to protect are used as pawns to churn huge fees and obstruct growth.
xFrom: Environmental litigation gravy train – Opinion piece by Karen Budd-Falen, Budd-Falen Law Offices – September 16, 2009 between 2003 and 2007 a fund paid out to environmental based groups was as follows:
• In total, $4,716,264,730.00 (that is billion with a “b”) in total payments were paid in taxpayer dollars from the Judgment Fund from 2003 through July 2007 for attorney fees and costs in cases against the federal government.
Published in The Tucson Weekly:
By harassing the feds to make a profit, the Center for Biological Diversity makes environmentalists look bad
by Ted WilliamsTed Williams is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News. He writes in Massachusetts.
It has taken me decades to be recognized as an environmental extremist. My “attack” on Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, a National Rifle Association board member, in Sierra Magazine fomented a mass exodus from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. I serve on two foundations that award major grants to groups defending land from developers, and I write a muckraking column for Audubon called “Incite.”
Actually, I’m an extremist only as defined by people who perceive fish and wildlife as basically in the way. For those folks, all environmentalists are extremists. But radical green groups do exist—and you and I are a major source of revenue for them.
The Interior Department must respond within 90 days to petitions to list species under the Endangered Species Act. Otherwise, petitioners like the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) get to sue and collect attorney fees from the Justice Department.
For 2009, the CBD reported income of $1,173,517 in “legal settlement.” The center also shakes down taxpayers directly from Interior Department funds under the Equal Access to Justice Act, and for missed deadlines when the agency can’t keep up with the broadside of Freedom of Information Act requests. The Center for Biological Diversity has two imitators: WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project.
Kierán Suckling, who directs and co-founded the Tucson-based CBD, boasts that he engages in psychological warfare by causing stress to already stressed public servants. “They feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed—and they are,” he told High Country News. “So they become much more willing to play by our rules.”
Those rules include bending the truth like pretzel dough. For example, after the center posted photos on its website depicting what it claimed was Arizona rancher Jim Chilton’s cow-denuded grazing allotment, Chilton sued. When Chilton produced evidence that the photos showed a campsite and a parking lot, a court awarded him $600,000 in damages.
“Ranching should end,” proclaims Suckling. “Good riddance.” But the only problem with ranching is that it’s not always done right. And even when it’s done wrong, it saves land from development.
Amos Eno runs the hugely successful Yarmouth, Maine-based Resources First Foundation, an outfit that, among other things, assists ranchers who want to restore native ecosystems. Earlier, he worked at Interior’s Endangered Species Program, then went on to direct the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Eno figures the feds could “recover and delist three dozen species” with the resources they spend responding to the CBD’s litigation.
“The amount of money CBD makes suing is just obscene,” he told me. “They’re one of the reasons the Endangered Species Act has become so dysfunctional.”
A senior Obama official had this to say: “CBD has probably sued Interior more than all other groups combined. They’ve divested that agency of any control over Endangered Species Act priorities and caused a huge drain on resources. In April, for instance, CBD petitioned to list 404 species, knowing full well that biologists can’t make the required findings in 90 days.”
Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and his Fish and Wildlife Service director, Jamie Clark, together saved the Endangered Species Act from a hostile Congress. One way they did this was with brilliant habitat-conservation plans that rewarded landowners for harboring endangered species.
A few plans were flawed, but the center scarcely saw one that it didn’t hate.
Clark offered this: “Back then, the suits came mostly from CBD. Now I think CBD and WildEarth Guardians are trying to see who can sue most. … Citizens need to be able to petition for species in trouble, but this has become an industry.”
Acquiring the public’s attention seems to motivate environmental extremists almost as much as acquiring the public’s money. Recently, the CBD petitioned the EPA to ban lead ammunition and fishing weights. There are lots of inexpensive, non-toxic alternatives, and lead projectiles for hunting and lead sinkers small enough to be ingested by birds do need to be banned.
But the Center for Biological Diversity sought a ban on everything—no exception for the military, target-shooting or deep-sea sinkers that ostriches couldn’t swallow. It seems inconceivable that the center didn’t know its petition was going nowhere. But for a year, its name has been all over the news, and now the center is suing the EPA.
The Center for Biological Diversity gives every environmentalist a bad name.
(From Romney for President)Reuters: A Third Straight Monthly Decline In Small Business Sentiment – As Measured By NFIB – Puts Current Levels “Squarely In Recessionary Territory.”“Small business sentiment in the United States fell for a third straight month in May, landing squarely in recessionary territory due to consumer reticence, high unemployment, and inflation worries, according to a monthly survey released on Tuesday. … Consumer spending is weak, especially for services, an area in which small business plays a major role, the NFIB said. It cited weak job market indicators and investment plans that are at recessionary levels.” (“Small Business Sentiment Dims: NFIB Survey,” Reuters, 6/14/11)
“Almost Two-Thirds Of Business Owners Polled View The Current Period As A Bad Time To Expand, And 71 Percent Of Those Blamed The Weak Economy.” (“Small Business Sentiment Dims: NFIB Survey,” Reuters, 6/14/11)
The Percentage Of Small Business Owners Forecasting Capital Spending Over The Next 6 Months Is At “A Recession Level Reading.”“Capital spending remains historically low in spite of very low interest rates and all sorts of expensing incentives. Fifty percent of firms reported making capital expenditures over the past six months, and the percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next 3 to 6 months fell 1 point to 20%, a recession level reading.” (“Small Business Economic Trends Survey,” National Federation of Independent Business, www.nfib.com, 6/14/11)
In Noting “Very Little Job Creation On Main Street,” NFIB Said The Obama Administration Fails To Understand Small Business And That Its Policies “Have Not Been Very Effective.”“The May survey indicated that there was very little job creation on Main Street in May and that the unemployment rate would rise and, unfortunately, this turned out to be the case. … The Administration has offered tax breaks for hiring and equipment investment with few results. Failing to understand the reasons small business owners are not hiring or investing has resulted in a set of policies that have not been very effective.” (“Small Business Economic Trends Survey,” National Federation of Independent Business, www.nfib.com, 6/14/11)
FACT: Overall Lending To Small Businesses Continues To Decline Under President Obama:
Bank Lending To Small Business Plummeted By $15 Billion In The First Quarter Of 2010, Continuing A Three-Year Downtrend.“Bank lending to small businesses fell $15 billion in the first quarter of this year, according to a report released this week from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. The report shows that small business lending has declined steadily during the last three quarters. The SBA report also found that lending has fallen on a yearly basis since hitting its peak in 2008.” (Catherine Clifford, “Small Business Lending Plummets,” CNNMoney, 6/16/11)
Small Business Lending Declined In 2009 And 2010 And Continues To Lag.“As the recession continued, banks sat on cash and lending to small businesses sank in 2009 and 2010. The pain of the credit crunch dragged on for small businesses even as larger businesses started to gain easier access to loans. … [L]ending to small businesses by the biggest banks is still lagging, the report shows.” (Catherine Clifford, “Small Business Lending Plummets,” CNNMoney, 6/16/11)
Business leaders missing in action in Tucson election
By Hugh Holub, Inside Tucson Business | Posted: Friday, June 24, 2011 5:00 pm
The question is…with all the complaints about Tucson city government…Rio Nuevo….hostility to business…where is the GOP? Where is the Tea Party? Where is the business community?
It says a lot that the GOP couldn’t find a credible candidate to run for Mayor and provide financial support for that candidate.
I would have anticipated a very strong GOP – business backed mayoral candidate who really wanted to lead the city out of its trivial pursuits.
The Tea Party in the Tucson area is non-existent. My guess is that either Tea Party leaders don’t live inside Tucson, or they haven’t got a clue what local government is all about.
And the local business community really needs to take a hard look at themselves.
There are a lot of legitimate issues with how the City of Tucson is managed or mismanaged.
Blowing $230 million on mad schemes for rainbow bridges should have resulted in a bunch of criminal indictments. It did result in the state legislature stepping in to take Rio Nuevo away from city control.
If that wasn’t a sign that a major house-cleaning was needed at City Hall….then I guess it will take rats the size of elephants being caught at City Hall before anyone gets serious about fumigating the place.
When push comes to shove Tucson’s business leaders are missing in action when it comes to running for the city council, the Mayor’s seat, or the county Board of Supervisors.
I don’t know Jonathan Rothschild…do know his dad. Good folks them. But I really don’t consider Rothschild any kind of business leader or reformer.
OK business guys…if you want to complain about City Hall then one of you has got to step up to the plate and run for office.
You cannot sit on the sidelines throwing rocks at Tucson and expect anything to change.
Tucson city government is run by its staff . Elected officials are usually micro-focused on little stuff so the big stuff gets decided by the staff and rubber-stamped by the council.
That style of government has been going on for decades in Tucson.
That is a major reason why Tucson keeps slipping farther and farther behind every other major city in the Southwest when it comes to economic development.
Pushing for rainfall harvesting is cool and a great idea…but what about trying to attract GE’s proposed $600 million thin film solar manufacturing facility to Tucson?
I’ll bet most of the denizens of City Hall don’t even have a clue that opportunity is floating around the country.
They are too busy fussing about sign codes.
Business people have been complaining about Tucson’s government for decades.
But when a chance came to field a slate of pro-business candidates….nada.
Shame on you..
The building is expensive, at $23 million for only 68 units, or $340,000 per unit. That price does not include more than $17 million Rio Nuevo spent building the underground parking beneath the MLK housing project. The parking garage serves more downtown parking needs than just the MLK project.
By contrast, the new senior housing development built on the west side is a 143-unit building that is expected to cost about $26 million, or about $181,000 a unit.
Gibbs said it’s possible that the market turned so badly that a building constructed for $23 million is now worth only $10.5 million. But housing is such a mess, he suggested, that even though the building is worth $10 million, if you built it right now it couldn’t be constructed for that amount.
He said many people in Tucson are caught in the same trap. Even as housing values plummet and people are pushed out of homes, it’s still not cheap.
“We are in a hell of a mess in this country right now, especially in Tucson,” Gibbs said.
If poverty were a disease, Pima County officials would have declared an epidemic by now.
In the past few years, local poverty has literally gone off of a chart compiled by the Pima Association of Governments. Yet elected officials, other local leaders and the media do not appear interested in the fact that Tucson recently eclipsed El Paso as the poorest major city in the Sunbelt.
The epidemic of poverty doesn’t seem to be a priority for either city or county government. We often hear about the proposed Rosemont Mine and the Rio Nuevo redevelopment district, but rarely do officials talk about the fact that 200,000 Pima County residents, or one in five, get by (or try to get by) on incomes below the federal poverty rate. For an individual, that translates to less than $10,890 annually, and $22,350 for a family of four.
Whether the increase in poverty is the result of a lack of job-training, reduced education funding, or something else, there is little discussion about trying to change the harsh reality that almost one in every four Tucson residents is currently living below the poverty line.
If a healthy economy is about a community’s collective capacity for productivity, how can Pima County prosper when so many of us are suffering from the debilitating social conditions imposed by poverty?
After spending the past couple of decades being buffeted by the ever-shifting winds of buffoonery, bureaucratic ass-covering and general indifference by elected officials to the populace they are supposed to be serving—plus the (in)actions of the dreamers who spend their spare time paving the road to hell with their good intentions—Tucsonans have found themselves existing in a community that’s not exactly upside down, but is always, maddeningly, just a little bit sideways.
Where most big cities have Movers and Shakers, Tucson’s political gridlock has left the Old Pueblo in the hands of the Unmoving and the Shaky. When a few good and modest ideas are gobbled up by the gaping maw that is Tucson’s dysfunctional city government, what comes out the other side would cause even the most jaded political observer to ask, “Why is that human leg sticking out of that wood chipper?”
I got an idea. Instead of fixing the duct tape infested TCC why don’t we build a $200 million convention center hotel? And better yet, let’s use the same contractor that messed up the entrance to the TCC and hasn’t paid it’s subs to build it. Is it any wonder that this town is on a full on free fall?
When the TCC needs more seats for a show or an event, the bleachers are set up to accommodate nearly 3,000 people.
They put close to the stage and near the floor. They may also put people in harm’s way.
“It’s safe today,” says TCC Director Tommy Olbermeir.
But whether they’re safe tomorrow, is another question.
“I’d say we’re quickly approaching that point,” he says.
Many of the railings around the bleacher sections are held together by duct tape.
Hand railings are secured by nylon, plastic ties. Many of them wobble as visitors hold on while slowly making their way down the stairs.
Seats are ripped and the foam stuffing sticks out of them.
Backs of chairs are broken and falling apart.
Wheels that move the bleachers are broken. Pipes are bent. Plywood shattered.
“The crew does a good job, a make shift job of keeping them safe, but it’s a challenge,” says Olbermaier.
Safety and liability are two issues that are of a big concern to the TCC Commission, which called on Olbermaier to testify about the safety.
It’s a worry for the commission chair Michael Crawford who says the bleachers must be replaced “before they fall apart and we can’t put them together with duct tape.”
Crawford says the commission would not allow the bleachers to be used if he thought they were unsafe “but they’re curating to the point where we need to do something.”
But how that something gets done is a matter of contention.
The city of Tucson believes its the Rio Nuevo District Board’s financial responsibility.
But the board, which is still trying to sort out its financial difficulties, disagrees.
“If there’s a question for assistance, it would not be as a requirement, it would be a request,” says Jodi Bain, chair of the Rio Nuevo Board.
And even if a request is made, the board is not sure it has the money to pay for it.
“I don’t think anybody would be a good steward of money if they started spending before they know they have it,” she says.
If the bleachers are deemed unsafe, many venues which come to town would or could cancel because there would not be enough seats to satisfy their contracts. The 3,000 seats are a big money maker.
But if someone gets hurt, there’s likely to be a lawsuit and liability issues.
So at what point do they deem them unsafe?
“I can’t guess and I can’t put my finger on that,” says Olbermaier.
For the thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose convention continues at the TCC tomorrow, many may be praying they don’t find out.
Some estimates are, it will take $1.4 million to replace the bleacher
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 21, 2011
Contact: Patrick Bray, firstname.lastname@example.org, (602) 267-1129
Great Arizona Bale-Out
Fund set up to help fire-stricken ranchers
In the wake of the worst wildfire season in Arizona history, ranching families are struggling to save their homes and livelihoods. The Arizona Cattle Growers Association has established the Great Arizona Bale-Out Fund to raise money to help.
Seed money of $5,000 was given to start the fund by Rosemont Ranch, a 30,000-acre working cattle ranch in southern Arizona and a subsidiary of Rosemont Copper. The Bale-Out fund will provide much-needed emergency relief of hay and feed.
To date 90 families have been tragically impacted and more than 800,000 acres – much of it grazing lands – have been consumed by the fires. While most livestock has been saved, critical grazing land is no longer available to feed their cattle.
“While ranchers were able to save their herds, the eradication of grazing areas places these families in a potentially catastrophic situation,” said Patrick Bray, executive vice president of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association. “With an annual economic impact of more than $3 billion, what affects ranchers affects us all, particularly in these rural communities already hit hard by the fires.”
Loads of hay and other help have been donated to date, but feeding the cattle continues to be a challenging issue. A contribution of $15 will feed a cow for three days, for example, while $250 will purchase a ton of hay, feeding approximately 60 cows for a day, Bray added.
Tax-deductible contributions can be made to the Arizona Cattle Growers Association Arizona Bale-Out Fund, 1401 N. 24th St., Ste. 4, Phoenix, AZ 85008, by stopping by at any branch of Wells Fargo Bank, or by visiting www.azbaleout.org.
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