Here’s a text book example from the Arizona Daily Star. In fact, the example is so good that I will translate the first half of the Star editorial in its entirety.
We have editorialized in the past about the need for a nonpartisan City Council system to replace Tucson’s deeply partisan government, but so far voters have disagreed.
The Star sees a problem; they have opined against the problem, but to no avail.
The most recent vote was in 1993. Since then, proposals for a nonpartisan council system have failed to make it to the ballot, including an initiative drive in 1998 and lobbying campaigns to get the council to put a measure to the voters in 2001 and 2003.
They are actually losing ground and it’s clear that a local solution isn’t possible.
We hope such efforts will continue, because we think reform is necessary.
It’s still a problem. Of course, we’ve had 15 years to fix it…We believe a council that is not mired in political party obligations and is not straitjacketed into partisan ideological positions would be acting more often for the general good. Furthermore, as we’ve noted before, most of the time the city government deals with issues that are neither Republican nor Democrat.
In fact, it’s still a serious problem.Someone from Tucson has the power to fix the problem. He’s not from Mars, or Phoenix, he’s a Tucson native who agrees with the Star on this critical issue.Under a nonpartisan council system, he told the Star’s Rob O’Dell, “You get more people who are interested in getting things done than they are in party politics. It would be harder for interest groups around parties to control the process.”Wow, this Tucson native is exactly right about the issues. Finally, someone local who is now saying the same thing that we have been saying for years.But Paton, a Republican, is planning to introduce legislation in the Legislature to to impose a nonpartisan City Council system on Tucson, according to a story Monday by O’Dell. Please note: In January, this body will be dominated by Maricopa County and by highly partisan Republicans.
Que the scary music. Paton may be a Tucson native who agrees with the Star, but we learn that Paton is…a Republican and he’s part of a body that dominated by…Maricopa County Republicans. After all, non-partisanship is a good thing unless it’s pushed by Republicans…not that we are partisan or anything.
Well, don’t tread on us, Phoenix.
That’s right. Just because it’s a good idea and we support it and the local officials have proven incapable of implementing it, and it’s being pushed by one of our own elected representatives…don’t tread on us. We’ve had 15 years to fix this but by golly, you people from north of the Gila were made part of the United States via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo while we were admitted via the (sniff) Gadsden Purchase.
You think I’m kidding, but the editorial writer chose that phrase “Don’t tread on us” intentionally. The “Don’t Tread On Me” flag is actually the Gadsden family flag. Phoenix was acquired by war, Tucson was purchased from Mexico. Growing up in Tucson I was taught that distinction from pre-school. I don’t know how many book reports I’ve turned in with the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag on the cover, but it was a lot. Just ask Mr. Petri at Townsend Junior High.
If Tucson’s City Council system is to be reformed, the changes must flow up to the ballot from local citizens and must be accepted or rejected by Tucson voters. Our local governance choices are none of the Legislature’s business, nor Paton’s.
We hold these truths to be self evident that Tucson must govern itself.
It appears, based on O’Dell’s research, that if Paton were to compose such a bill carefully, the Legislature could, in fact, legally impose a new governmental system upon Tucson.
Dang, Paton is smarter than he looks. (That’s nice of the reporter to check up on the attorneys at Legislative Counsel. I look forward to reading his memo.)
There you have it. The only thing the Star values over bipartisan ship is parochialism. The Star offers no legitimate reason not to support the bill. They obviously can’t disagree with the issue. They can’t even complain about Paton as the sponsor. But the Tribe of Pima has counted the Tribe of Maricopa its enemy for many moons. Arguments that are usually the last bastion of fools have become official policy of the Star.
The only thing more troubling than the people of Tucson being the last city to tolerate partisan elections is their toleration of such a weak third-tier newspaper.
Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Paton’
Tucson’s election process is under fire
Legislative bill to seek end of partisan races for council
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.15.2008
State Sen.-elect Jonathan Paton believes Tucson’s City Council has become so dysfunctional that lawmakers from Phoenix need to step in and mandate changes.
What is needed, the Tucson Republican contends, is nonpartisan elections — an idea Tucson voters have rejected several times, most recently in 1993. Efforts to put the issue back on the ballot since then have fallen short.
Paton’s bill, to be introduced next month, would also abolish Tucson’s unique system where its council members are nominated by ward but are elected citywide.
That system has been in place since 1929 and has survived several public votes and failed initiative drives.
Paton, elected to the state Senate in November, will be part of a growing GOP majority in the Legislature when it convenes in January. Democratic leaders and City Council members say he is using that political clout to let Phoenix make a decision best left to Tucsonans.
Paton said his push to reshape the predominantly- Democratic city government stems from what he describes as “a general dysfunction” on the council, caused by decisions based on politics rather than the public good.
He points to the lack of progress on the Rio Nuevo Downtown redevelopment as a prime example, calling it “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“Ideology is more important than getting things done,” Paton said. “The city is the level where you just have to get stuff done. You need people focused on getting those things done. Partisan elections really run counter to that.”
But most Democrats called Paton’s push a thinly veiled attempt to alter the political balance of power in the city, where Democrats have a solid advantage in voter registration.
“They want nonpartisan elections for partisan reasons,” said Democratic Councilman Steve Leal.
Tucson is the only city in Arizona that still has partisan elections, after an initiative passed in South Tucson in November that eliminated them there. Nogales, another longtime holdout, went to nonpartisan elections a few years ago. More than 75 percent of cities nationwide have nonpartisan elections.
Paton contends Tucson’s odd-year elections, combined with its party primaries, push candidates on both sides of the aisle toward the party’s base and special interests. The goal of nonpartisan elections is to get more pragmatic and independent-minded people, he said.
“You get more people who are interested in getting things done than they are in party politics,” Paton said. “It would be harder for interest groups around parties to control the process.”
Most Democrats slammed Paton’s proposal.
“How do you claim partisan elections are OK for his office but not right for local elections?” asked Vince Rabago, chair of the Pima County Democratic Party. “I don’t see the logic there.”
Rabago also pointed out that Republicans controlled the council for part of the time Rio Nuevo has been languishing.
But Rabago is concerned about the prospects of the Legislature mandating nonpartisan elections, now that Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano is moving to Washington and after the Republicans increased their majorities in the November election.
Judi White, chair of the Pima County Republican Party, was more open to Paton’s idea. But she said she had mixed feelings, too.
“Taking partisans out of the process changes the whole process,” White said. “Do people still know what party you’re from? It evens the playing field a little bit for independents.”
Does it lower turnout?
Leal and Rabago both pointed to research from former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy showing having nonpartisan elections lowers turnout.
But local pollster Pete Zimmerman said he believed nonpartisan elections would increase turnout by boosting the number of votes cast by independents, the city’s second- biggest voter block.
“I don’t think there is a Republican or Democratic way to run the city,” or fix a pothole, said Schorr, who led an unsuccessful Southern Arizona Leadership Council effort to put the nonpartisan election issue on the 2001 ballot.
Schorr noted that the Phoenix City Council, which has long had nonpartisan elections, gave rise to the political careers of both 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and current Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard, albeit 40 years apart.
“Phoenix’s rise is due in part to the fact they had nonpartisan elections,” he said.
What about local control?
Paton’s bill would target Tucson, the only city in Arizona left without nonpartisan elections. Paton said he believes Tucson is also the only place affected by the second provision, requiring representatives be elected only by their wards or district.
Several people questioned how the state can trump the voter-adopted City Charter.
City Attorney Mike Rankin said it depends on how Paton’s bill is written to determine if it overrides the charter.
Courts generally see elections as local issues, but it depends on the bill’s language if the state law will pre-empt the City Charter, Rankin said.
Katie Bolger, an aide for Councilman Rodney Glassman, said it’s “hypocritical” for Paton and other Republicans to push for change from Phoenix.
“The Republicans are supposed to be for local control,” she said.
Rejections by the voters
Tucsonans have rejected nonpartisan elections at the polls many times, most recently in 1993. Efforts since, including an initiative drive in 1998 and lobbying campaigns in 2001 and 2003, failed to make it to the ballot. Initiative drives to change the city’s ward system have failed as well, most recently in 2007.
Council members, including Glassman, Karin Uhlich and Nina Trasoff, said they would want the change to be approved by Tucson voters.
“It is something city residents should decide rather than Phoenix dictating how we operate,” Uhlich said, adding that it’s an issue the council could refer to the committee looking at charter amendments.
But Schorr pointed out that it was the council that refused to put the issue to the ballot in 2001 and 2003, adding it’s tough for initiatives to “push the ball over the goal line.”
Paton contends that partisan elections serve the cause of special interests because council members must appeal to these groups during the primary campaigns, especially in Tucson’s off-year elections.
“It’s an environment that encourages your own ideological agenda ahead of the projects getting done,” Paton said.
Read more about local and state political news in our politics blog at go.azstarnet.com/politics
● Contact reporter Rob O’Dell at 573-4346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leal and the rest of them look so pathetic. They’ll do or say anything to keep their power. I think Paton is actually going to succeed in changing things.
Looks like Paton, Antenori and Melvin are going to have to stick their necks out to keep the TIF funding for Rio Nuevo. You can bet there will be many strings attached. The idea of rational, business owners, without a stake in the project is a critical part of the plan.
From today’s AZ Star, discussion on Rio Nuevo:
“I don’t want to kill Rio Nuevo,” Antenori said. “As much I’d like to do it for spite to the City Council, the reality is the business impact is far more important. We have to save it.”
“The city government in Tucson is dysfunctional in almost every dimension,” said Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler. “And the idea that we would trust them, even in some reconfigured state, with $500 million to advance the economic growth of Arizona, I would find astonishing.”
Waring told fellow Republicans that Rio Nuevo Director Greg Shelko didn’t further his cause at last month’s hearing.
“It was a really underwhelming performance; I can’t emphasize that enough,” Waring told a group that included Senate President Bob Burns and Appropriations Chairman Russell Pearce, who will be putting the budget together. “It was really, really ugly. … It was about as bad a performance as you’re going to see down here. They really didn’t articulate what it is that’s happening.”
Even local lawmakers were critical. Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, said, “Quite, frankly, as a Tucsonan, I was embarrassed.”
But Paton also said the hearing was a wake-up call for city officials, who are now focusing on the plans for the Convention Center, hotel and arena as signs of progress.
“I had been telling them they had problems with the Legislature,” Paton said. “I don’t think they really took that seriously. I think they started talking it pretty seriously after that hearing.”
Rio Nuevo’s future could rest in the ability of Tucson Republicans – Antenori, Paton and Sen. Al Melvin in particular – to convince their colleagues the project is worthy.
Melvin, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has the ear of Pearce. Melvin indicated Tuesday he wants to keep the funding in place with Paton’s legislative changes.
“All these things, if we can incorporate them, hopefully we’ll get it on the right track,” Melvin said.
In what he himself calls a “twist of fate,” Antenori, a long-time critic of the project, has taken the lead defending Rio Nuevo to House leadership. He wants to retain all funding.
A Regional New Year’s Resolution, By Bill Dodge, Regional Excellence: HERE
Regional cooperation has had some incredible successes, but it continues to fail to address the tough challenges in most regions. And the challenges are getting tougher, from decaying infrastructure to declining air and water quality, increasing natural and terrorist threats, accelerating climate change, volatile energy costs, and profligate growth. Without success in addressing the toughest challenges — the true test for governing regions — “bottom-up” regional cooperation will die, and along with it the ability of individual citizens and their local governments to shape their own futures.
Unless regional cooperation provides an effective tool to address tough challenges, and quickly, it will be displaced by “top down” state and national government actions in response to public frustration. And there is no guarantee that higher levels of government will do better. (We are starting to see this here in Tucson with proposals for NON PARTISAN ELECTIONS)
I draw this conclusion, reluctantly. Have I, and the many colleagues I respect, been wasting our working years practicing regional cooperation? Were our efforts to educate individuals, establish regional mechanisms, share public services, and design compacts to address timely challenges all for naught?
A resounding no! Our efforts have resulted in building some amazing regional cooperation mechanisms — from regional councils of governments to regional chambers of commerce, academic institutes, citizens leagues, and sewer and transit authorities. It has resulted in addressing pressing regional challenges in every region across the country — especially transportation challenges. Maybe, most importantly it has resulted in educating individuals on the importance of regional cooperation and engaging them in cooperative efforts.
But, alas, regional cooperation increasingly appears to be bumping up against an impenetrable governance ceiling. Whereas regional mechanisms have nurtured more sophisticated visioning, problem-solving, service-delivery, and even performance auditing capacities, most lack the powers, resources, and especially public support to address the increasingly tougher regional challenges. And the gap between the capacity of these mechanisms and the emerging challenges appears to be growing.
The “Achilles Heel” of the best of regional cooperation efforts has been the lack of “clout” commensurate with the challenges being addressed. My fear is that asking weak regional cooperation mechanisms to take on more, and more demanding challenges, will not only result in fewer successes but mortally weaken the very places that drive our and the global economy. Citizens need to break out of their “local” mindsets, consider the regional “unthinkable”, and advocate for the regional “unheard-of”, if regional cooperation is to have the powers and tools to make regions work. With the support of, not the displacement by, state and national governments. And now! …….
Stateside regions tend to quickly dismiss most options for strengthening regional cooperation. They mask their objections in our tradition of independent local governments; that government closest to the people is the best. Less frequently voiced is that weak regional cooperation reinforces the tyranny of individual local governments, especially those that are affluent, think they can take care of their own needs, and are unwilling to cast their lot with the regional hoi polloi. Some of these objections have merit in that many of the overseas actions are “top-down”, limiting local government and citizen involvement in designing regional cooperation models or participating in their activities. But, thus far, few regions stateside have been inspired to pursue “bottom-up” models that provide real powers and resources to regional cooperation, in spite of national government transportation and other funding incentives, unless mandated by the random acts of state governments, such as in California, Minnesota, and Oregon.
Remember back to the 2006 legislative session to extend the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) funding for Rio Nuevo? The debate was whether or not to extend the TIF funding.
The idea behind TIF financing is to focus money from existing retail sales in a geographic area and use those funds to bolster tax collections in a new area. Tucson has spent $78 million so far and it’s questionable how much new economic activity has actually occurred. The City politicians point to ‘laying the groundwork for future development’. That story is starting to wear thin.
The state legislature is coming into some tough times and balancing budgets is becoming a very big issue. If you take a look at the the current make up of the AZ Senate, no one in the current Republican Caucus voted for the extension and only four or 5 Republicans actually voted for it.
Let me paint the picture for you;
1. Rio Nuevo was a grand idea thought up by City Manager Keene as a way to make Tucson more Berkley like.
2. A fat legislature lead by Southern Arizona golden boy, Tim Bee and a governor that wanted to reward Tucson for supporting her in to office, authorized the TIF funding to jump start downtown Tucson.
3. City mangers changed, elected officials changed, downtown business associations changed, Rio Nuevo offices were opened and closed. Downtown Alliance came and went Downtown Partnership came and went, Glenn Lyons was hired and a new Downtown Partnership was created.
4. Lots of money was spent on lots of consultants and plans that never came to fruition.
5. Enter the current City Manager, Mike Hein. He worked to get the TIF extension in 2006. The extension was a tough one to get and a few caveats were implemented regarding restrictions on eminent domain and using the funds to build police or fire facilities.
6. All total $78m has been spent and people question how much has actually been done. The officials in charge point to ‘infrastructure’ projects that ‘lay the groundwork’ for future Rio Nuevo growth.
7. 2009 will usher in a new slate of legislators that are under the gun to balance a huge budget deficit. The State will be looking high and low to capture all the dollars it can. Couple that with the fact that all but one of the state legislators taking office in this session were not involved in the 2006 extension negotiations and Rio Nuevo is looking at a tough, up hill battle.
From this weekend AZ Star: – HERE
A devastating blowLosing a half-billion dollars in Downtown redevelopment money would be a “devastating blow” for Tucson, said Si Schorr, a local lawyer and active Democrat. “One doesn’t have to hold an MBA from Harvard to figure out that,” he said.George Larsen, co-owner of Larsen Baker Commercial Realty, said losing the money would be a setback for Downtown, adding that the Legislature should be able to mandate changes like accounting reform, but should not be able to suspend or cancel Rio Nuevo.But Cotlow Co. President Dean Cotlow, a commercial real estate broker, said the city doesn’t deserve any more money for Rio Nuevo, given how badly it has misspent the first $100 million. It would be understandable for the Legislature to take the money, given how it has been spent so far, he said.Losing the money would be a blow to the community, Cotlow said, but it would force the city to own up to its mistakes and learn an important lesson.Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup said he’s concerned about the Legislature taking the money, but that he doesn’t think it will happen because the city will make a convincing argument to the Legislature for keeping it.“I think we’ve got a story to tell that a lot of good things are starting to happen,” Walkup said. “We owe them that story.”
Words of cautionSome Republicans are discussing a suspension of Rio Nuevo’s ability to draw on state taxes until the state’s budget crisis passes, said local businessman Bruce Ash, a party leader who has had a long-standing interest in Rio Nuevo.Ash said the city is “playing with fire” with its recent sale of $80 million in Rio Nuevo bonds, since the Legislature may suspend Rio Nuevo state sales-tax deliveries to Tucson. That would leave the city paying for the bonds out of its own general fund, meaning substantial cuts to other city services to pay off the bonds.Antenori also questioned the city floating Rio Nuevo bonds. “They’ve got to realize they could be on the hook for that,” he said.Hein downplayed the potential the Legislature would take the money pledged to the bonds. He said all of Rio Nuevo’s cash flow for the next several years is pledged to the $80 million in bonds sold in mid-December.If the Legislature were to repeal or suspend Rio Nuevo, Hein said it is likely to trigger complex legal action involving the city, the state and bondholders.It would also set precedent statewide that any specially dedicated funding source, such as water or sewer bonds, could be pulled by the Legislature, making it impossible for any Arizona jurisdiction to float those bonds because of that risk, Hein said.Assistant House Minority Leader Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said she knows of no specific plans for Rio Nuevo this legislative session, but added that “you can bet on” someone trying to get rid of Rio Nuevo at some point.Sinema said the Tucson City Council asked the Democratic leadership to try to protect Rio Nuevo funding, something it will try to honor.“What kind of power we have to do that is another story,” she said.
A little history on the original set up of Rio Nuevo and the 2006 legislative extension from Blog for Arizona:
Rio Nuevo is a multi-use redevelopment district which diverts a portion of the tax revenues collected in the district, in this case Sales Taxes, and places them in a fund for redevelopement projects. A TIF district like Rio Nuevo must be authorized by a public vote. In 1999, voters approved Prop 400 which authorized the Rio Nuevo TIF for a period of 10 years.
Or did it?
Many in support of reauthorizing Rio Nuevo (disclosure: I personally support it), felt that it would be unwise to ask Tucson’s voters to reauthorize the Rio Nuevo TIF. The most honest accounting of that concern I have yet heard was from LD 28 state legislature candidate Steve Farley, who opined that if Rio Nuevo went back to the voters, it wouldn’t win. The dithering, incompetence, lack of visible progress, and repeated redrawing of the plan with new and better boondoggles, has left many Tucsonans with an impression, not entirely unjustified, that Rio Nuevo is a failed experiment.
So how could those who support it avoid sending it back to voters? Just have the legislature reauthorize it. There’s just one pesky little detail: the law. ARS 48-4237, which authorizes multi-use TIF districts has a requirement: Section D states “The board shall state on the ballot the purpose of the tax, the maximum rate of the tax and the maximum number of years for which the tax will be authorized.” Well, that’s a pickle; Rio Nuevo expired after 10 years.
Supporters of the ‘legislative only’ reauthorization approach found a solution. They proclaimed far and wide that Rio Nuevo could be extended without refering it to the voters because, though the voter pamphet distributed to voters, and all the press coverge leading up to the vote, specified a period of 10 years, that limit wasn’t actually on the ballot. Thus the Rio Nuevo TIF was not technically limited to 10 years and could be extended indefinitely. Only problem is, then that ballot violated state law.
Hair-spitting gone wild. But water under the bridge. But it leaves those advocating for the ‘legislative only’ approach without any real, good-faith basis for their argument. Well, actually, there isone. Back to Steve Farley’s honest assessment. We won’t have a vote, because it won’t pass. So, no vote. If you really think Rio Nuevo is nifty and you don’t care much about those pesky rules we call the law, there’s no problem.
Unfortunately for Downing, he did care about the law. And he cared about the right of taxpayers to decide how their money is spent.
You see, the hundreds of millions that ‘would just go to Phoenix’ if not devoted to Rio Nuevo is only half the story: literally, half. Every dollar of Sales Tax that get diverted to Rio Nuevo by the TIF, must be matched with revenues by the local government. So, reauthorizing Rio Nuevo wasn’t just keeping Tucson dollars in Tucson, it was also a decision to spend hundreds of millions of local tax dollars to match those funds, all of it tagged only for use on Rio Nuevo projects. So a handful of state legislators, no matter how well intentioned, took it upon themselves to decide how hundreds of millions of Tucsonans’ general fund tax dollars would be spent: on Rio Nuevo. And we don’t get any say about it.
Foraker ran a great timeline of events for Rio Nuevo on his blog – HERE. One of the highlights of the blog post worth a read;
November 26, 2007: Marketing Exec sees a lack of ‘wow’ factor in Rio Neuvo(Teya Vitu – Tucson Citizen) Margaret Pulles, deputy director of the Smithsonian’s Affiliations Program, looks at what is going on and declares, “You’re going to have a ghost town if you don’t change your frame of thinking.”
After landing the city contract to brand Rio Nuevo, Margaret declares that she didn’t see much to brand, i.e. where are the clothes on this emperor? (Remember Bablove Ridgewood Workgroup? Lack of clothing didn’t stop them from taking a quarter mill or so to make a yellow streak.) Margaret’s “Where’s the beef?” remark infuriated Rio Neuvo Director Greg Shelko. He declared, “I don’t think she knows what we’ve been doing the past two years.”
I’ve never met Greg or Hecker, but the cloth alarm is screaming. I have met Snell. I speak with confidence that if you asked these three to team up and bake a pizza, they’d drop fifty grand on an oven study, twelve grand to fly to Greece and watch them, $40 grand to consultants to study 1) dough, 2) sauce, 3) ingredients, 4) cheese, 5) baking temps, 6) pizza size, and 7) crust thickness policies. After extensive meetings and interviews, Snell would drop 75 grand for glossy pamphlets no one will read because everyone’s already left for Pizza Hut, where it takes 20 minutes and costs about twelve bucks.
January 10, 2008: Glen Lyons, the new director of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, arrives. Salary $100-$120K. Now things will really start to happen.
More discussion from Sonoran Alliance (an Arizona political blog) about Paton’s Non Partisan Elections – HERE.
The problem comes into play during the general election. All primary candidate winners (mayoral and councilmen) move on to the general election but instead of the voters in each ward electing their own councilman, the rest of the city gets to vote in the ward elections. (Tucson City Charter, Chapter XVI, Section 9) This means that the voters of one ward may overwhelmingly elect a councilman who is rejected by all the other wards voting. The best example would be akin to having Arizona nominating its two US Senate candidates only to have the rest of the states gang up and vote for the candidate who would have received the lesser votes by Arizona voters.
Sec. 9. Mayor nominated and elected at large; councilmen nominated from wards, elected at large.
Beginning in the year 1930, and continuing thereafter, the mayor shall be nominated from and elected by the voters of the city at large, and the councilmen shall be nominated each from, and by the respective voters of, the ward in which he resides, and shall be elected by the voters of the city at large.
It’s completely unfair to the voters of each ward.
And from Espresso Pundit a blow by blow look at our local papers biased view that serves our community so well;
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- April 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
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- August 2011
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- January 2011
- December 2010
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- February 2010
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- December 2009
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- September 2008