State Legislature

3rd February
2012
written by Land Lawyer

PHOENIX – Saying the Pima County administrator needs to be restrained, a House panel voted Thursday to create a special committee to oversee county bond elections.
The party-line vote in the Republican-controlled Committee on Technology and Infrastructure came after a plea from Marana Town Attorney Frank Cassidy, who said the county has created a “culture of intimidation.”
He said part of that is because County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry proposes bond elections with more than 100 individual projects – and sub-projects within them – to a point where advisory committee members are so overwhelmed that they defer to Huckelberry’s recommendations of what gets funded and what does not.
HB 2656, sponsored by Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson, would require Pima County – and only Pima County – to establish a bond oversight committee with veto power over what projects get put on the ballot and any changes in how already-approved bond money is spent.
Proud said the special legislation is justified.
“Southern Arizona is really no stranger to corruption,” she said, citing the failed Rio Nuevo revitalization project. And Proud said Pima County has more bond debt than even the far larger Maricopa County.
Proud also made it clear she believes the blame lies with Huckelberry.
“For too long we’ve had one man control everything,” she said. “And I think that needs to stop.”
Proud’s bill would do more than simply create an oversight panel. It would give the county and each of its five cities one vote.
County lobbyist Mike Racy said that would allow representatives of just three communities, with as little as 6.5 percent of total county population, to block anything until they could get what they want.
“Our concern is just how grossly inequitable one vote per jurisdiction would be,” he said.
Proud said she sees nothing wrong with that, contending that’s the way it works at the Legislature.
“I represent a larger district than someone else may represent,” she said.
However, under federal law, all legislative districts are required to have roughly the same population. That is why new district lines are redrawn after every census, to adjust for population changes and keep them the same size.
Cassidy, however, said the weighted voting system is justified – and far better than what exists now.
“This is simply an opportunity to provide more transparency to the process and to give real feedback in the nature of an actual, meaningful vote to those communities affected by it,” he said.
He said each supervisor gets to name three members to the current advisory committee, with three named by the county administrator, each of the two tribes getting one member and each incorporated city naming one member.
That, he said, dilutes the ability of affected communities to make their needs known. By contrast, Cassidy said, each community getting one-sixth of the power on the committee ensures “a meaningful and binding, realistic piece of feedback” on the process.
Cassidy conceded Racy’s point that Proud’s legislation would let any three communities, no matter how small, effectively hold up the process and block public votes on multimillion-dollar bond projects for the entire county, or any change in funding priorities. But he said that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it would produce “the happy result of our taxes finally going down.”
While this new oversight panel would have veto power over new bond projects, the main argument of proponents is that it is designed to prevent shifting of priorities after voters approve the borrowing.
Cassidy told lawmakers a prime example involves $22 million approved as part of a 2004 bond to build a joint city-county courthouse. He said Huckelberry instead shifted some of the money to remodel one floor of the Superior Court Building.
Huckelberry called that “a good story until you tell the other side of it.”
He said the court project ran into unexpected delays and an extra $18 million in costs when it unearthed an old cemetery with 1,500 bodies that had to be relocated.
While the project was on hold, Huckelberry said, the county bond advisory committee agreed to spend $9.8 million to remodel the existing court, on the condition the county repay the money for the new courthouse from regular tax dollars, which has been done.
He said the fund shift went through multiple public hearings “and it was always intended as a stopgap measure for court overcrowding.”
While all the Republicans on the House panel supported Proud’s legislation, Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said he is less than comfortable with giving the county’s smallest communities an equal vote with not only Tucson but with the Board of Supervisors, which represents the 36 percent of the population living in unincorporated areas. Seel said he may propose a change when the measure goes to the full House.

Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/pima-bond-oversight-advances-in-house/article_a345fd97-585a-5fdd-a411-75c33d107151.html#ixzz1lJrZ1xlY

3rd December
2011
written by JHiggins

Have we killed the entrepreneurial spirit?

Posted: Friday, December 2, 2011 7:00 am
by   Joe Higgins

It’s hard to pick up a newspaper or watch TV news and not see what America is going through right now. People are frustrated and political solutions seem hollow. The uncertainty coming from government has the entire U.S. economy on hold.

Despite what economic experts say, the Great Recession continues. We are in for a long-haul; a new normal.

We see this malaise in shuttered business, home foreclosures and employee layoffs. Like downturns in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we thought “here we go again.” Before long business will come back to normal.

But as we turn the corner into our fourth year of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, it’s settling in that this one is different.

We can break down the causes of the Great Recession from multiple angles but they are topics that will be debated for years and ultimately determined by historians decades after the chips have fallen.

This opinion is about the fallout and the future of Tucson, Arizona and America.

Being an entrepreneur is the most gratifying, hardest thing I’ve ever done. As a serial business start-up person, I’ve rolled the dice more than a dozen times. Each time I start a new business, I research, study, plan and ultimately go all-in on an idea I think is better than anyone else in my market.

As others like me know, sometimes you get it right, others times you miss the mark.

Having mortgaged my home, maxed out credit cards and risked my family’s future on ideas more than once, I’m here to tell you that it has been worth it.

Up until now.

Early on, this Great Recession cleaned out those who who were over-leveraged and bought investments such as houses on interest-only deals that made no sense. Restaurants that went out of business already were teetering on the brink. Businesses that closed in 2008 and 2009 were too leveraged, too concentrated in crowded industries or were run by poor managers. That’s what the capitalist system does.

But now we are seeing a different kind of business failures. Entrepreneurs who played it safe are now watching their lifetime idea slowly slip away.

I’ve lived this journey myself and I’ve talked with my small business friends who are in the same rudderless boat. Many of us have had to close stores. We’ve laid off long-time employees who helped us from the very beginning. These people are more than employees, they’re family.

Most small business owners are wondering two things: How am I going to make payroll next Friday? And will this ever end? Start-ups have notoriously high failure rates but now we are starting to see established businesses buckling under financial pressures. Second-generation businesses handed down from father to son or daughter may not be left to hand down to a third generation.

Last week, I had two high school kids from different schools search me out as part of their career research. They wanted to be entrepreneurs. When I asked why, they responded that they each had a great idea, believed in their abilities, dreamed of potential riches and fame and they loved the variety of skills and duties that come with launching and running a business.

It was difficult for me to be upbeat and positive. It was hard not to tell them what it’s really like. I wanted to explain the dozens of agencies that will be regulating their every move. I wanted to explain how fierce competition can be when you’re up against a Fortune 500 company that has a fleet of lobbyists that can get waivers from federal healthcare mandates or build in a new regulation that is going to wipe out any margin you’ve been able to build.

I didn’t want to tell them the process of going through a local zoning review or the joy of having conflicting opinions come from two different city inspectors and that your only recourse it to say “thank you sir, may I have another.”

I held back on telling these future entrepreneurs about the headaches that come to your life when you hire an employee – from workers compensation claims, to equal employment complaints, to unemployment insurance, to layers of laws to protect employee rights but nothing about who pays the bills.

What I decided to share with the future capitalists was about the days when I didn’t know better and just got up every morning and worked through it.

My formative years came while Ronald Reagan was president, coming in to lead the nation out of the Jimmy Carter mailaise. Reagan won his election in 1980 and reinstated hope in the future with his “It’s Morning Again In America” and tapped into the American ideal of hard work, personal responsibility, patriotism and limited government.

Reagan knew the importance of the small business owner and he understood the power of the free market in getting this country back on track.

I can only imagine most people were wondering in 1979 – as they are today – are America’s best days behind us?

As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve come to the point where my local and federal governments don’t appreciate me and couldn’t care less if I practice my skill at all. As an entrepreneur, I don’t want to be stimulated or bailed out. Until my governments’ attitudes change, I’m going to sit on the sidelines and watch.

Joe Higgins, who is a regular contributor, wrote this column to express his personal feelings. His Tucson business start-ups include Talking Trash Waste Removal, Sports Buzz Haircuts and Gotta Go Wireless. Contact Higgins at wakeuptucson@gmail.com. He and Chris DeSimone host “Wake Up Tucson,” 6 to 8 a.m. weekdays on The Voice KVOI 1030-AM.

11th October
2011
written by Arizona Kid

After a week of getting hammered by a coordinated GOP attack following the release of a congressional map, the Independent Redistricting Commission approved its draft map of the state’s 30 legislative districts this afternoon in Tucson.

“We have a draft legislative map,” said IRC chairwoman Colleen Mathis. “And there is no question that we’ll be entertaining a lot of comments over the next 30 days on this.”

The vote was 4-1 in favor of the map, which was drawn up by IRC members Linda McNulty, a Democrat, and Scott Freeman, a Republican.

Only IRC member Rick Stertz voted against the map, saying he was unhappy with the southern Arizona districts.

“There’s a lot of this map I truly like, a lot,” Stertz said. “There’s parts that I have significant issues (with) …. I’m not exactly sure what’s in this map yet.”

While he voted in favor of moving the draft map to the public-comment stage, Democrat Jose Herrera said he wanted to see more competitive districts in the final map. Right now, if you consider 8 percentage points or higher a significant advantage, the map gives a strong advantage to Republicans in 16 districts, strong advantages to Democrats in nine districts, and has five districts that close enough to be up for grabs in a normal election year.

Herrera said he was pleasantly surprised by how McNulty and Freeman worked together to craft the legislative map.

“It was very nice,” Herrrera said. “It was actually a little boring because there was no bickering.”

While the map may well end up tweaked from where it is today, here’s what’s proposed for Southern Arizona:

• Legislative District 1 covers a big chunk of what’s now Legislative District 30, which is represented by the GOP delegation of Sen. Frank Antenori and state Reps. Ted Vogt and David Gowan. The new LD1 includes a bit of eastern Tucson, Green Valley and Sierra Vista, but now pushes east to grab a lot more of Cochise County, which is now represented by LD25 and the GOP trio of Sen. Gail Griffin and Reps. David Stevens and Peggy Judd. Antenori may be out of the picture if he decides to run for Congress, but the new configuration sets up Gowan to run against the LD25 bunch in his future campaigns. Vogt has been drawn into a new—and competitive—central Tucson District 10; more on that below. The voter breakdown: 42 percent Republican, 26 percent Democrat and 32 percent independent. (For simplicity’s sake, we’ve included minor parties such as the Greens and Libertarians as in the “independent” category.)

• Legislative District 2 covers a lot of the current Legislative District 29, which is now a heavily Hispanic district that is represented by the non-Hispanic trio of Sen. Linda Lopez and Reps. Daniel Patterson and Matt Heinz. It still includes South Tucson and Tucson’s southeast side, as well as the homes of both Patterson and Heinz. But the district now stretches down the Santa Cruz River to Nogales and snakes along the border, pulling in cities like Bisbee and Douglas. The new LD2 is a minority-majority district, a key requirement of the federal Voting Rights Act; voting-age Hispanics make up 61 percent of the population. The voter breakdown: 46 percent Democratic, 21 percent Republican and 33 percent independent.

• Legislative District 3 is another minority-majority district, where voting-age Hispanics make up 51 percent of the voters. It includes Tucson’s west side and covers a big part of what is now Legislative District 27. The voter breakdown: Nearly 50 percent Democratic, 18 percent Republican and 32 percent Democratic.

• Legislative District 4 is a third minority-majority district that stretches along more than half of Arizona’s southern border. Voting-age Hispanics make up nearly 54 percent of the voters. The new district includes Three Points, the Tohono O’odham Nation and Hispanic neighborhoods in Yuma. Voter breakdown: 39 percent Democrat, 26 percent Republican and 35 percent independent.

• Legislative District 8 includes a lot of the current Legislative District 26, including Oro Valley and Saddlebrooke, where state Sen. Al Melvin resides. From there, it stretches north into Pinal County. Voter breakdown: 36 percent Republican, 32 percent Democrat and 32 percent independent.

• Legislative District 9 grabs the Catalina Foothills from what’s now LD26 and merges it with central Tucson’s LD28. The result is a competitive district that’s we think is home to LD26 Rep. Terri Proud (although we’re still trying to confirm that). Voter breakdown: 37 percent Democratic, 33 percent Republican, 30 percent independent.

• Legislative District 10 includes the central part of Tucson south of Helen Street, which is the dividing line rather than Speedway. (We’re sure that has nothing to do with the fact that state Rep. Steve Farley lives on the south side of Helen Street, putting him in this district.) State Rep. Ted Vogt, who now represents the safely Republican LD30, lives in the new LD10, which is Tucson’s second competitive district. The voter breakdown: 37 percent Democratic, 33 percent Republican and 30 percent independent.

• Legislative District 11 takes in most of Marana and travels north into Pinal County—which, given the way that Marana has been feuding with Pima County, is step toward a developing community of interest. This has an interesting voter breakdown, in that the majority of voters aren’t with either major party: 36 percent Independent, 33 percent Republican and 32 percent Democratic.

You can check out the map yourself here. (And let us say that we agree with activist Jim March, who suggested today that the IRC staff do a better job of providing a legend for the maps they’ve posted and a few better maps that don’t require advanced computer knowledge to get a close look at precise boundaries.)

If you’ve got any insight into what happens with other incumbents, feel free to let us know via the comment section.

1st October
2011
written by madge

This is 24/7 Wall St.’s list of Nine American Cities Going Broke.

9. Camden, NJ
> Credit rating: Ba2
> 2009 revenues: $181,257,000
> 2009 debt: $103,284,000
> Median household income: $25,418

Camden suffers from high unemployment, high poverty, and a weak tax base. The city’s median household income is less than half that of the national median income and is the lowest of all the municipalities on this list. Moody’s notes that “more than half of Camden’s real estate is tax-exempt, hampering already weak tax collections.” The city has had a speculative grade credit rating since 1998. Three out of the past five Camden mayors have been sent to prison for corruption, the most recent in 2001. (Buying up open space  in Pima County takes that land off the property tax rolls forever.)

8. Strafford County, NH
> Credit rating: Ba2
> 2009 revenues: $36,204,000
> 2009 debt: $23,866,000
> Median household income: $58,363

Strafford County’s low rating is largely due to a money-losing nursing home, on which the county spends two-fifths of its budget. Just under 85% of the patients at the Riverside Rest Home are eligible for Medicaid, yet state reimbursements to the county continue to decrease, according to Moody’s. Between 2004 and 2009, the nursing home lost $36 million. The county does not expect to recover much of the money it used to cover these deficits. (Pima County has spent a couple hundred million on Kino Hospital)

7. Riverdale, IL
> Credit rating: Ba2
> 2009 revenues: $8,358,000
> 2009 debt: $9,350,000
> Median household income: $40,659

Riverdale has run operational deficits for a number of consecutive years, driven primarily by a reduction in the amount the village relies on debt financing. “The village funded itself by borrowing money from its sewer and water funds, and now carries an operating fund balance of -52.1% of revenues.” The city, like many others on this list, is extremely small, with a population of just over 14,000. (Pima County and Tucson residents have seen 40% increases in sewer and water bills over the past five years.)

6. Salem, NJ
> Credit rating: Ba3
> 2009 revenues: $7,059,000
> 2009 debt: $10,098,000
> Median household income: $28,397

Salem guaranteed bonds issued to finance an office building downtown. The city planned to pay for the bonds with revenues earned from leasing office space in the building. However, revenue fell short of what was projected when construction delays caused lease payments delays. “The project’s debt service reserve fund has been drawn down numerous times,” Moody’s reports. “Once the reserve fund has been exhausted, the city is obligated to pay debt service for the life of the bonds.” (Rio Nuevo anyone?)

5. Detroit, MI
> Credit rating: Ba3
> 2009 revenues: $1,280,791,000
> 2009 debt: $2,449,480,000
> Median household income: $29,447

Detroit has suffered worse from the recession than almost any other U.S. city. The effects of the city’s economic situation are reflected in its credit rating. Many of Detroit’s biggest companies, such as General Motors and Chrysler, declared bankruptcy, placing “significant pressure” on the city, according to Moody’s. Detroit relies on the auto industry for its tax base, and the industry’s contraction has hurt the city immensely. The city became a “habitual note borrower,” relying on investors to close budget gaps.

4. Harrison, NJ
> Credit rating: Ba3
> 2009 revenues: $32,763,000
> 2009 debt: $92,613,000
> Median household income: $49,596

Harrison “issued a significant amount of debt to foster redevelopment, and continues to collect substantially less revenue from those developments than projected,” Moody’s explains. One of the largest projects is the $200 million Red Bull Arena, which was opened in March 2010 and cost the city $39 million in debt but has yet failed to have the expected returns. To help solve its debt problem, the city, which has a population of 13,620, plans to fire some police officers and firefighters.  (Rio Nuevo – what if we had built the $200 million hotel?)

3. Jefferson County, AL
> Credit rating: Caa1
> 2009 revenues: $309,440,000
> 2009 debt: $1,337,233,000
> Median household income: $44,718

Jefferson County’s debt, which is the second largest on this list, comes from a $3.2 billion overhaul of the county’s sewer system as well as a series of risky, controversial bond deals meant to help the county pay for the sewer work. A number of city officials have been sent to jail on corruption charges linked to the project. “The county defaulted on almost $3.5 million in 2008 — the biggest default in municipal history,” according to Moody’s. Worse still, this year, the Alabama Supreme Court invalidated the county’s occupational tax, which accounted for one quarter of the county’s total revenues. (Pima County is staring down a billion plus upgrade to it’s sewer system – an expense they’ve known about for over a decade.)

2. Pontiac, MI
> Credit rating: Caa1
> 2009 revenues: $46,183,000
> 2009 debt: $99,115,000
> Median household income: $32,199

The source of Pontiac’s troubles is similar to that of Detroit’s. General Motors, which went bankrupt during the recession, is the city’s largest employer and taxpayer. The city has been in receivership since 2009. Also in 2009, the city sold its Silverdome stadium, which cost over $55 million to build, for $583,000. Such concessions have not been enough to raise the city’s rating. (Again Rio Nuevo – Train Depot, MLK Apartments, Scott Avenue).

1. Central Falls, RI
> Credit rating: Caa1
> 2009 revenues: $17,601,000
> 2009 debt: $18,753,000
> Median household income: $33,520

In August 2011, Central Falls declared bankruptcy largely because of the city’s pension plan, which promised $80 million in retirement benefits. According to the New York Times, the “pension fund will probably run out of money in October, giving Central Falls the distinction of becoming the second municipality in the United States to exhaust its pension fund, after Prichard, Ala.” This $80 million is approximately five times the city’s general fund budget. (Unions squeezing the golden goose may end up with nothing …..Sun Tran anyone?)

1st October
2011
written by JHiggins

On Wednesday, we laid out a vision for a business-friendly Tucson region. It was part of a forum put on by radio station KVOI 1030-AM and the “Tucson Needs Business” campaign spearheaded by the station’s president, Doug Martin.

While some progress has been made, there are plenty of ways to improve the environment for business in Tucson and Pima County.

Here is what we are proposing:

  1. Pima County should act like a county. The Pima County Board of Supervisors needs to realize that having healthy vibrant municipalities is good for the economy because it creates competition. Blocking annexations and fighting with other jurisdictions is holding back the entire Tucson region. A strong Marana or Sahuarita or Oro Valley is good for the region. Pima County is providing municipal-type services, such as law enforcment and road pothole repairs, to heavily populated unincorporated areas and that contributes to property tax rates that are almost five times higher than what Maricopa County is charging. It’s estimated that because 36 percent of the population is in unincorporated areas, the Tucson region is losing up to $80 million per year in state shared revenues. Pima County needs to get out of the way. That may require a change in a majority on the Board of Supervisors next year.
  2. Remove politics from Tucson Development Services. Between an entrenched bureaucracy and meddling city council members, business owners aren’t just getting squeezed, they’re getting crushed.
  3. Support tourism promotion. Marketing of this region’s tourism assets must be fully-funded to one or more organizations. The organization, or organizations, must be accountable, transparent and effective. The Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau has an opportunity when it hires its new chief early next year. Once an effective new strategy is crafted, all hands in the region should get behind it to make it happen.
  4. Set governmental priorities. The basics of local government are police, fire and fixing potholes. Those are the priorities that must be in order before trying to win platinum status as a bicycle community.
  5. Get back to education. For businesses to have a reliable workforce source, students must first get a solid educational foundation in reading, writing and math skills. As the state’s second largest school district, Tucson Unified School District bascially defines education in this region. The district of nearly 53,000 students has been sidetracked by such things as ethnic studies, a program in which 365 students are enrolled. Nine schools have been closed in the past two years and with 1,500 students per year opting out under open enrollment or to charter schools, it appears that families are doing what they can to take educational matters into their own hands.
  6. Activate business leaders. Business leaders need to do their part. Claiming to be a pro-business candidate during a campaign isn’t enough. Once elected, business leaders must hold politicians accountable while in office.

Positive changes have occurred over the last 2½ years. New leadership has invigorated the Tucson Metro Chamber. A backroom political deal for an ill-conceived city-owned downtown hotel was stopped, saving taxpayers a $200 million burden. Voters elected Steve Kozachik to replace Nina Trasoff, allowing a new city councilman to shine a light on some of the backroom deals, and the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau is about to undergo a management change with the retirement of long-time leader Jonathan Walker.

But there’s more to do. In this economy, Tucson can no longer be content to talk about the weather and wait on the sidelines for opportunity to come knocking.

When opportunity does arrive, city officials shouldn’t be rubbing their hands and seeing it as an opportunity to charge $316,000 in permit fees to build a $900,000 Texas Roadhouse restaurant.

Doug Martin’s campaign is spreading the word that a good business climate is the engine that will create a thriving economy and produce jobs.

Tucson Needs Business.

Contact Joe Higgins and Chris DeSimone at wakeuptucson@gmail.com. They host “Wake Up Tucson,” 6-8 a.m. weekdays on The Voice KVOI 1030-AM. Their blog is at www.TucsonChoices.com.

1st October
2011
written by Mike

Arizona State University President Michael Crow’s message of regional collaboration by Tucson and Phoenix to compete in the global economy went over well Friday with a large, sold-out audience of Tucson-area business and community leaders.

After his talk in Oro Valley, officials in government, business and academia agreed that it’s time for these long-sparring communities to go beyond their parochial interests and start dealing with the entire region’s problems.

Before 600 people, Crow said that the idea that individual cities or metro areas can by themselves compete with other regions is outmoded. His vision is of a “Sun Corridor” region consisting of Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties working together to compete for new jobs. In another way, Crow was pushing a message of self-sufficiency, saying that business and community leaders need to find other ways of raising money to build their economies than relying on cash-strapped governments.

In the speech sponsored by Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc., an economic development group, Crow also presented a litany of statistics showing how far Tucson and Phoenix are behind the rest of the country economically. He cited very low educational achievement, very high poverty levels and well-below-average incomes.

“He painted a clear picture of opportunity for us to become one of this country’s economic powerhouses,” said Tim Bee, a former Republican state senator from the Tucson area who is now the University of Arizona’s associate vice president for state relations. “The only way to do that is through collaboration. Apart from each other, we don’t have the economic strength we have together.”

Daisy Jenkins, an executive with the Carondelet Health Network, said she hoped Crow’s ideas create an intellectual awakening in this community.

“He’s saying, ‘Look, folks, we are living in isolation in our thinking about developing Tucson,’” said Jenkins, Carondelet’s executive vice president for human resources and administration. “We have to think of Phoenix as well.”

Crow’s ideas are very realistic about where this region needs to go, said Marty Laurel, a vice president for community relations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

“The old ways of thinking that people in Phoenix need to look out for Phoenix and Tucson for Tucson – those days are gone,” Laurel said.

Crow said people should instill in themselves the idea that the basic economic barometer for this region is not the health of Phoenix or Tucson. “It is what is the region capable of competing for on a global scale? What does Arizona have that can compete with central Texas and Shanghai?”

He also said that a regional “megapolitan” area such as the Sun Corridor must look at every possible option for raising money to carry out its goals other than going to the taxpayer.

Paula Aboud, a Democratic state senator from Tucson, said Crow’s ideas will help the business community look beyond the Legislature for help and achieve “a new degree, a new level of creativity. … I’d like to have our governor say what Mr. Crow says.”

Arizona IN decline

In an earlier talk at the event at the Hilton El Conquistador Hotel, TREO President Joe Snell laid out statistics showing that Arizona had dropped in just a three-year period since the recession started in 2007 from being among the national leaders in job, income and population growth to being at the bottom in all three categories.

He also told the crowd that the factors that companies look at when deciding where to locate with new jobs have changed since the recession started.

Points such as climate, outdoor recreation, quality of life and cultural amenities, in which Tucson has long excelled and which used to be very important to employers, have slipped in recent years, he said. The most important things today are a company and community’s ability to recruit workers, a pool of workers with the right skills, a strong research university, a healthy system of roads and other infrastructure and a business-friendly reputation, he said.

Also important are “cost reductions,” meaning government incentives that will reduce a company’s costs to open up in a new city.

“That didn’t even make the list five years ago. Post-recession, it has become one of the key drivers,” Snell said.

Speaking of infrastructure, he said that recent presentations from Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems and other employers show that when they track their employees by ZIP code, they find out that there is no “critical mass area” where most live. So the ability to move people around at a reasonable rate is critical for the region’s survival, he said.

Also important is the reputation of the area’s K-12 school systems, the continued momentum of downtown revitalization and the city’s physical and aesthetic appearance, Snell said.

“We have one of the most beautiful natural environments in the country. But let’s be honest with each other. Our man-made environment at times leaves something to be desired,” he said.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at tdavis@azstarnet.com or 806-7746.

Read more: http://azstarnet.com/business/local/article_55cc958a-f831-5c2d-ac4e-0e75dfb58f11.html#ixzz1ZXSxHe00

31st August
2011
written by Arizona Kid

Hey Tucson and Pima County how about you come up with one of these – HERE.

28th July
2011
written by Arizona Kid

Since the Star will not or cannot report the issue about the Independent Redistricting Commission accurately or in depth, I guess its readers will have to do their work for them. Here are some issues that the Star left out. I guess it truly is the red star.

KeyPoints

• Colleen Mathis apparently lied in questions 6 and 22 by omission on her application to get onto the commission by not disclosing that her husband was a paid staff member of Democrat Nancy Young Wright’s campaign when she submitted her application. She admits that this was a mistake, says “she forgot”. It is likely that would have disqualified her from getting on the commission.

• It appears that the commission either destroyed or hid documents which are subject to public records request- this is a violation of open meeting laws. These were the scoring sheets that eliminated three firms from being considered in the award of the mapping consultant contract. All 7 score cards were shredded and there is an affidavit of that by a witness.

• Bid Rigging was admitted to by Commissioner Herrera – that he and the other Democrat and Chair Mathis intentionally scored Strategic Telemetry high (all three gave them a perfect score even thought they did not meet the RFP requirements, did not have the experience, and were twice as expensive as any other bid). The reason given by Commissioner Herrera was that he was afraid that had he not scored them so high, some other company would have gotten the contract. Strategic Telemetry is the most costly of the mapping candidates and it is Obama’s target mapping company for his past campaign and likely future campaign.

• There is enough smoke to indicate Vote Trading. Ms. Mathis spoke with the Republican commissioners to get them to vote for Strategic Telemetry in exchange for her votes for something they might want on the mapping portion. This conversation happened on cell phones in the parking lot after the end of a meeting. This violates, at the least, open meeting laws. An affidavit was filed with the County Attorney attesting to this.

• State Procurement Officer walked out and submitted a letter stating that the selection process for Strategic Telemetry was in violation of state procurement operations.

• Proposition 106 was passed to keep from backroom deals but that is exactly what has happened on the commission. More than half their time has been spent in Executive Session so the public could not see these back room deals being made. This is in violation of the open meeting laws that say that decisions must be made in the open so the public can see what is going on.

• The people have gone from paying legislators to draw the lines to paying 9 million dollars to 5 people who are not accountable to the taxpayers.

Read more: http://dynamic.azstarnet.com/comments/viewcomments.php?id=/news/opinion/editorial/article_47f9f4f5-a702-5d60-9df9-a0eaf75cb8b9.html&h=Districting%20panel%27s%20distractions%20need%20to%20be%20swept%20away#ixzz1TPXdEY4M

20th July
2011
written by JHiggins

July 20, 2011 · 10:47 am

President’s Letter: Letter to 50 key executives in Illinois

In January the Chamber wrote 50 key executives of corporations in Illinois.

In our letter we noted that the Illinois State Assembly was in session to deal with their budget shortfall and that the Texas Legislature was meeting as well to address how to balance our budget in a time of declining state revenues.

“We will write you back,” we promised in our letter, “after the Texas Legislature completes its work,” to let you know how business fared in Texas as compared to how business and citizens fared at the hands of the legislature in Illinois.

Our expectation was that Texas would take a different approach to its budget challenge than the one Illinois did.

One would hope so.  In fact, the Illinois legislature promptly increased personal income taxes on its citizens by 66% and raised the business tax rate by 46%, (to see the New York Times report, click here).

The Texas Legislature did no such thing.   Expenditures were reduced and a significant surplus was left in the state’s rainy day fund (our Chamber is concerned over the long term impact of education funding that does not keep pace with growth or inhibits development of our future workforce, but that is a story for another day).

The DRC’s economic development department has now delivered on our promise to write these executives back and we wanted you to see the actual letter, Illinois letter, we have put in the mail to them.  To leave nothing to chance we wanted to include an easy to read chart of the comparative business climates between Texas and Illinois after our respective legislatures finished their work.

The chart proves with clarity and simplicity the reason why businesses and corporations all across America are finding their way here, often deciding to move to the Dallas/Fort Worth region and often with our direct help. (View Illinois vs Texas Chart June 2011). We believe it will be an effective tool to help explain why a company should move here now.

Illinois is not the only state to heavy-up on taxes at a time when businesses, especially smaller ones, can least afford it.   Other states come to mind for both tax reasons and the heavy hand of over regulation.  They are finding our economic development department knocking on their doors as well.

We have a tremendous amount of work to do to achieve the goals we have set out in our strategic plan.   To get there we will be growing our activity in economic development to take advantage of the opportunities other states are giving us.

The Chamber’s executive committee has recently given us the green light to proceed with new efforts to grow our economic development fund so that we can be involved in even more “hot pursuits” of companies which express an interest in moving here or corporations which we identify and want to see locate here.

Our Economic Development Committee is hard at work on a highly organized effort to target these companies.  We will be engaging with a number of our member investors on how we can grow our resources to meet the opportunities that will truly make us the most prosperous region in the country as well as the most desirable place to live.

View Looking for the New New World, the SMU O’Neil Center 2010 Annual Report.

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