Posts Tagged ‘Karen Uhlich’
It has been confirmed that Sean McCluskey is in the race for the Ward 5 seat being vacated by Steve Leal. McCluskey is a political rookie that’s fed up with the way Tucson is being run. He will challenge Judith Gomez in the ward primary. The winner will face Fimbres in a city wide election.
So here’s the run down so far:
Incumbent – None
Democratic Candidate – Richard Fimbres
Republican Candidates – Judith Gomez and Sean McCluskey (winner of primary moves on to general)
Democrat Incumbent – Karin Uhlich
Republican Candidate – Ben Buehler Garcia
Democrat Incumbent – Nina Trasoff
Republican Candidate – Steve Kozachick
It should be a long, hot summer!
Republican Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar says she gets the job done; Democratic opponent Karin Uhlich says it’s all an act
City Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar’s first town hall was an utter disaster. Set up as a forum on a 2002 transportation proposition that would later be rejected by roughly three out of every four voters in Dunbar’s northside Ward 3, the meeting quickly degenerated into an ugly yelling match as an angry crowd ranging from neighborhood activists to small-business owners blasted the plan, the tax and Dunbar herself for supporting it.
From all appearances, it was going to be a rocky four years for the former Republican lawmaker who was representing a heavily Democratic ward.
But as she seeks a second term next month, Dunbar has won over many of her early critics. Neighborhood leaders who were initially skeptical of Dunbar are now supporting her re-election bid.
“Kathleen and her staff have really come through for Ward 3,” says Balboa Heights Neighborhood President Jane Baker. “They’ve brought more money to Ward 3 than in the past. I’m seeing so many more projects come to fruition over here.”
Baker has watched Dunbar and her staff build close relationships with the local police precinct, get kids into youth programs and clean up the area by busting johns and hookers, as well as by demolishing the Tropicana Hotel, which had become a local prostitution and drug den.
Dunbar has built similar relationships with Ward 3 businesses. For example, she’s helped Campbell Avenue merchants form a business association and develop marketing strategies to create a shopping district. Along the Campbell corridor, she’s put in crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety and scored a half-million dollars in federal transportation funds for future improvements.
Dunbar boasts that she’s improved Ward 3 in many other ways. She got rid of the Grant Road rush-hour reversible “suicide lane” and has pushed city staff to install more sidewalks and resurface roads. At Jacobs Park on Fairview Avenue north of Miracle Mile, she got the Arizona Diamondbacks to pitch in to build a Little League field and worked with a local Rotary Club to install a playground that’s accessible to handicapped kids. On Sixth Avenue south of Grant Road, Dunbar–a former community outreach director for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona–used public and private dollars to put in a dog park.
Even Karin Uhlich, the Democrat who wants to unseat Dunbar next month, concedes that the Republican’s staff has been working hard on constituent service. But she says Dunbar has to go, because she has sold out to special interests on major policy issues.
Uhlich, 42, who is making her first run for public office, has a solid background in social services. Between 1993 and 2002, she worked for the Primavera Foundation, a nonprofit that helps homeless people find housing, job training and employment.
She left the organization to found the Southwest Center for Economic Integrity, which strives to help low-income residents avoid being targeted by payday-lending businesses, day-labor employers and other exploitative industries.
In her rookie run for office, Uhlich has gathered a wide range of supporters, from co-chair George Miller, the former Tucson mayor, to Katie Bolger, the former Green Party activist who is organizing volunteers.
Like Dunbar, Uhlich has landed support from neighborhood activists. Tom Rhodes, president of the Richland Heights East Neighborhood Association, says he’s supporting Uhlich because he’s found Dunbar to be combative and unpleasant since she was elected.
Uhlich says her work with the community’s less fortunate has given her insights into how government policy affects the underclass–and she sees the City Council as fumbling the ball.
“There are substantial differences between the way she and I would handle city policy,” Uhlich says. “It’s not negativity; it’s accountability.”
For starters, Uhlich criticizes Dunbar for the way she enacted the trash-collection fee (although Uhlich herself supports a trash fee of some kind) and for creating tuition fees for KIDCO, the city’s after-school program. (For details, see “Numbers Racket,” page 22.) Uhlich also accuses Dunbar of undermining efforts to stem methamphetamine abuse, while Dunbar says she’s worked closely with police to find strategies to fight meth. (See “Speed Limits,” page 11.)
Uhlich says Dunbar opposed a legislative effort by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns to push for regulation of payday-lender and predatory-mortgage companies and has opposed development impact fees to pay for new roads and parks.
She also complains that Dunbar has consistently voted to soften city regulation of the billboard industry. Last year, for example, Dunbar voted against appealing a ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court. The council majority supported the appeal and won the case, securing the city’s power to enforce strict billboard regulation.
Dunbar says the city is wasting too much money on the legal fight with Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising and should reach a settlement with the billboard company. She doesn’t see billboards as an important issue.
“I haven’t gotten one phone call yet from a constituent who says, ‘That damn billboard is really bothering me.’ I get phone calls about, ‘Can you get me sidewalks? Can you fix the pothole? Can you can get a crosswalk?’”
Uhlich says Dunbar’s real loyalties are revealed by the fact that the incumbent declined to participate in the city’s matching-funds program. Under the program, candidates who agree to limit their spending to roughly $85,000 can get a dollar-for-dollar match from taxpayers.
Uhlich, who had raised $40,924 in private money and received $35,114 from the city as of Sept. 19, predicts Dunbar will exceed the program’s spending limits trying to sell herself as a moderate Republican when she really represents the party’s far-right wing.
As of Aug. 24, Dunbar had raised $50,047. (New reports are due this week.) Dunbar declined last week to say how much more she had raised, but said she still remained under the $85,000 spending limit for candidates participating in the city’s program, which she says she didn’t use because of abuses she’s witnessed in previous years.
Dunbar says all of Uhlich’s talk about policy makes her suspect that the Democrat “wants to talk issues to death, and she’s not going to do anything for constituent service. And for far too long, this ward has been neglected by people who were part-time council members.”
But Uhlich says Dunbar’s recent concern about issues such as payday-loan businesses and meth abuse is all an act designed to fool voters.
“She is behaving a certain way, because she’s up for re-election,” Uhlich says. “There’s no doubt about it. And on Nov. 9, it’s going to be business as usual if she’s re-elected.”
by Jim Nintzel – The Tucson Weekly – April 15, 2009
Rumors are swirling that the underlying tensions between council members Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich—exemplified by the fact that Trasoff was furious about Uhlich’s decision to fire Mike Hein last week—stem from the fact that both women harbor ambitions about becoming mayor in two years, when Republican Bob Walkup’s third term comes to an end.
Uhlich says she believes in a simple, nonpolitical mantra: “Do good work; work hard; stay centered on the public’s interest; and the politics unfold. I don’t know what doors will open to me in the future, if any. I think a lot of people in public office get pulled off-track by looking toward whatever ambition might lie ahead. And so I don’t do that.”
During the TV interview, Uhlich also said she was open to increasing the city’s environmental-services fee, which was derided by Democrats as a “garbage tax” when Uhlich and Trasoff were running for office four years ago.
Uhlich, who had supported a trash fee when she was on the city’s budget committee in the 1990s, was more careful about her rhetoric than Trasoff during the campaign. Rather than calling for a repeal of the fee, she criticized the implementation of it. She also declined to take any kind of position on what should be done about it, saying only that the council needed “to revisit the whole thing and put everything back on the table.”
After they were elected, Uhlich and Trasoff made an effort to persuade their colleagues to consider reducing the fee, but the once the incumbent Democrats who had opposed the “garbage tax” actually had the power to do something about it, they discovered they liked spending all that money. Surprise, surprise.
Now Uhlich says the fee, like many others in the city, isn’t too high after all. Instead, it’s too low and should be indexed to inflation and subject to regular increases. Now that’s what we call revisiting.
Uhlich says indexing fees to inflation makes sense, because too often, politicians don’t regularly increase fees.
“Often, governing bodies are afraid of any revenue discussion,” Uhlich said. “We avoid it, avoid it, avoid it, avoid it, and then every 10 years, there’s a 25 to 50 percent jump.”
We wonder why politicians are afraid of talking about raising revenues, which is the latest code for hiking taxes. It could be because when they do, challengers come along and relentlessly pound them for doing so. Good thing Uhlich is above that kind of thing.
Listening to Uhlich reminded us of how the City Council avoided any talk of raising bus fares until last year, when the Transportation Department suggested a 25-cent hike in bus fares. Who led the opposition to that increase? Oh, yeah—Karin Uhlich.
Instead, the City Council threatened to fire Hein and created a new mass-transit committee to consider whether the increase was justified. And even though that committee came back with a recommendation to hike the fee, the council has taken no action.
So let’s see if we understand how this is supposed to work: First, support a fee. Then oppose its implementation, because the increase is too high. Then once elected, keep it at its current level until costs increase, and then call for annual future increases.
We can’t imagine why Mike Hein would run into trouble working with these people.
(We wouldn’t be surprised to see Ward 4 Councilwoman Shirley Scott show some interest in that contest as well. And we’re not counting out Ward 2 Councilman Rodney Glassman, although we hear he might have his eye on the larger prize of Arizona secretary of state.)
On Arizona Illustrated last week, Uhlich said she had no plans to run for mayor in two years and is concentrating on winning re-election in November. But she also declined to pledge to serve her full four years if re-elected.
Fast forward to 2.22 in the video for the best question of the year:
Ann Brown -”It was such a close vote, 4-3, what does that say about this council’s ability to come together, to draw concensus.”
Councilwoman Uhlich – “This council has voted unanimously over 90% of the time.”
Ann, the problem with the budget, Rio Nogo, the inability to raise or cut anything, funding of pet projects and the general complete lack of leadership is the fact that there is no dissention. No one steps out of line. When one member does deviate they beat them back into submission.
Ann the questions should have been “This council has been known to vote unanimously on just about everything. This dissention is a major departure. Does this signify a change in direction? Are we going to see more of this going forward?”
Breaking News – City Manager Mike Hein lost a vote of confidence with the Tucson City Council. The motion was made by Uhlich, seconded by Scott and ratified by Romero and Leal. Trasoff pushed hard to keep the City Manager during the discussion phase but ultimately the votes weren’t there.
What about Rio Nuevo……
Despite the council’s criticism of Hein’s handling of Rio Nuevo, state Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, said the city’s problems with the Legislature will only grow worse if Hein is fired. He said he’s heard from numerous people in Tucson and Phoenix that Hein’s neck is on the chopping block.
Paton, who wants to reform Rio Nuevo rather than kill it, said that job will quickly become impossible if Hein is fired.
While he said he didn’t agree with everything Hein has done, Paton added, “The credibility of Rio was done with his word and his handshake in 2006″ when the Legislature voted to extend Rio Nuevo.
“All bets are off if they get rid of him,” he said.
The city manger is on pins and needles and more worried about self preservation than leading the ship. His cover your A#$s! approach to this years budget has brought the city to a stand still. Hein won’t release a budget until the council gives direction and the council isn’t knowledgeable enough or doesn’t have the guts to propose the needed cuts. It’s an election year for two power hungry incumbents so watch the sparks fly over the next couple weeks.
Do you think there’s a pattern developing in Tucson local government?
From Walter C – AZ Star.
The City budget is full of emotional, nice-to-do things that could be cut to balance the budget quickly without layoffs. But with the leftist, politically correct bunch on council, don’t look for any logical solutions. Mike Hein’s only goals in this are to keep his job, while crippling the City government to prepare it for a takeover by Chuckelberry and the County goons. Nobody in this game is looking for anything more than advancing their personal goals and agendas (including reelection).
Little action on proposalsThe council and Hein have done an intricate dance with the budget over the past year.Hein urged changes the council either rejected or took no action on — or, in a few cases, implemented.While rejecting Hein’s proposals, council members offered few alternatives, and haven’t passed any of their own ideas.Last June, council members complained Hein was over-stepping his authority and they needed to be more involved. But at an October budget-strategy session, in the face of an increasing deficit, they demurred and told Hein to figure out where to make cuts.In most cases, the council and Hein have backed away from dramatic action.A timelineJanuary 2008:Hein created a list of outside-agency funding he believed could be cut. Mayor Bob Walkup stressed belt- tightening in his State of the City speech.February 2008:Hein announced a hiring freeze, travel restrictions and deferring maintenance and acquisitions to help bridge what was then a $12 million shortfall for the budget year, which ended June 30.March/April 2008:Hein suspended the city’s sustainability plan of pre-programmed spending increases for road paving, police officers and firefighters, and parks.June 2008:The council approved this year’s budget, but slammed Hein over a proposal to increase bus fares to raise $1 million. The council soon moved to fire Hein, but then he was retained unanimously weeks later.August 2008: The city announced it needed to use $12 million to balance the previous year’s budget, lowering the city’s reserves from $44 million to under $32 million.September 2008:Hein proposed combining Community and Neighborhood services departments to save $380,000. The council agreed.October 2008:Plunging sales-tax receipts prompted the city’s budget deficit to explode to $51 million. The city said for the first time it might cut or suspend services. The council voted to cut funding for outside agencies by 10 percent, but told Hein to come back in December with a plan for more cuts.November 2008: The city began to quietly cut swimming pools and recreation centers, the TICET shuttle, graffiti abatement, and the Community Food Bank. It laid off some part-time and seasonal workers.December 2008: Hein announced another $31 million in cuts were needed. The council signed off on cutting police and fire academies, some Sun Tran bus service, and Parks and Recreation classes.January 2009: The council said it preferred raising fees and taxes or spending down the city’s rainy-day fund to making massive budget cuts.February 2009: Hein unveiled budget cuts and potential tax increases for next fiscal year, which starts July 1.Cuts included taking $4 million from outside agencies, saving $2 million by combining the Planning and Development Services departments, cutting $4 million in transit, and hitting employees with furloughs, higher benefit contributions and no more sick-leave buybacks to save a total of $10 million.He also offered a menu of tax increases, from which he hoped the council would implement $5 million worth.The council agreed it would back most of Hein’s proposed cuts at that time, but, on Tuesday, council members said they need to think about it further.Still scrapping Despite earlier statements they would back many of Hein’s cuts, council members criticized Hein over his budget again last week.Councilwoman Regina Romero demanded more public hearings on the budget, including longer ones to allow more people to speak.Uhlich was much harsher, saying the council needs to vote on many of Hein’s proposals, rather than continuing to let them linger in the public mind until they become de facto cuts with no council input.For example, the merger of the Planning and Development Services departments is already under way, and employees have been given layoff notices. The council has discussed the plan, but it has not taken action.In an interview, Uhlich said she has been “very aggressive to have the budget come in front of us. . . . Decisions have to be made sooner rather than later.”Councilman Rodney Glassman said in an interview that he has been talking for some time about his priorities of police, fire, parks and roads.But he said the council has not been able to come to any consensus, and he can’t make decisions alone.“The longer we wait, the more difficult our financial situation will be,” he said. “It takes four votes to align my priorities with the budget.”Hein said he welcomes policy direction because he doesn’t want to submit a budget to the council that is dead on arrival. But he told the council that submitting his own budget is “a duty under the (city) charter that I’m willing to fulfill.”He is scheduled to submit the budget on April 21.
When revenues aren’t coming in you have to cut expenses. Sound pretty basic right? Well according to a recent editorial in the Tucson Citizen “City leaders should contemplate other creative alternatives as well to save money without eliminating jobs.” In other words, instead of cutting expenses let’s look at raising income – click HERE for tax increases you should start planning for.
A look at lay offs around the state:
Oro Valley Cutting Jobs To Balance Budget – HERE
Phoenixis expected to lay off 1,200 people next month, Fischbach said. And Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, Bullhead City and Flagstaff have already been through series of layoffs.
February 25, 2009, 4:28 p.m.
Normally we would not applaud Tucson City Council members for delaying decisive action, but their hesitancy to lay off workers in this economy is commendable.
Yes, the financial forecast is grim and the city budget situation is dire.
Yes, difficult decisions must be made.
And yes, perhaps City Manager Mike Hein’s recommended 30 or so layoffs would result in more city “efficiency,” as he says.
But as we at the Tucson Citizen know all too well, losing a job in this economy is an especially terrible fate.
Every layoff sends ripple effects through the local economy – and those effects hit city government, too.
So the council members are wise to continue their work on other options, such as 12-day furloughs.
City leaders should contemplate other creative alternatives as well to save money without eliminating jobs.
Employees should be offered unpaid, voluntary sabbaticals, with their jobs reserved for them until they return.
Also, most workers undoubtedly would prefer to accept a sizable pay cut on a temporary basis rather than lose their jobs permanently.
Or, some portion of employee salaries could be deferred for a year while the economy recovers (let’s hope).
And if some employees’ jobs in the development arena no longer are needed, as Hein reports, then the city should try to devise a way to transfer those workers to other vacant positions.
In that way, when the construction industry picks up again – and it will – the city will not have to hire and train new employees to perform permitting and other development-related functions.
Councilwoman Karin Uhlich recently told the Citizen, “Obviously I’m concerned about the high-quality staff we have throughout the Planning Department and making sure we don’t lose the benefit of their guidance in any way.”
The federal stimulus bill also “could fill in some of these blanks,” Councilwoman Nina Trasoff recently noted. “It’d be fabulous if it does. The city has done a good job of poising itself with shovel-ready projects if it does.
“I hate to see anybody lose a job.”
So do we. Director Fred Gray’s ideas to reduce services in the Parks & Recreation Department would preserve full-time jobs but eliminate part-time ones.
He would cut the summer swimming season by three weeks, close three pools, reduce adult sports leagues by half and eliminate up to 40 leisure classes.
We urge the council to continue carefully calculating its strategies. If the federal infusion of funds can eliminate the need for layoffs, we hope the money will be used in that regard.
By not delaying it, as other US areas did, city may have to pay extra $10M or more
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 02.15.2009
When other communities across the country were pulling out of the bond market in December as the failing economy pushed interest rates higher, Tucson forged ahead with a Rio Nuevo bond issue.
The move potentially cost taxpayers more than $10 million in extra interest — money that could have gone into projects instead — because the municipal bond market recovered in January and February, experts interviewed by the Arizona Daily Star said.
One municipal bond expert put the potential loss at as much as $18 million.
The city’s bond adviser, Shawn Dralle of RBC Capital Markets, estimated the savings from delaying the bond sale would have been a much smaller $5.4 million over the life of the bonds, from 2011 to 2025.
Tucson issued $78 million in bonds for its Downtown redevelopment district Dec. 15-17, as state lawmakers were openly threatening to take back the state sales taxes that go to Rio Nuevo because of the project’s perceived lack of progress.
Several experts said interest rates now would be about 1.2 percentage points lower than the nearly 6.5 percent the city sold its bonds at in December. Dralle estimates the rate difference would be only 0.25 percent to 0.5 percentage points lower.
Several Tucson officials said no one could predict future interest rates, and added that the city sold the bonds to get Rio Nuevo projects moving. The legislative threats weren’t a factor, they said.
But numerous communities across the country delayed their bond sales in December. A January report from JP Morgan Asset Management said many issuers were postponing year-end bond sales because they were unwilling to pay the high yields required to attract buyers.
Just three days before Tucson’s sale, New-York based municipal bond adviser Freda Johnson told Bloomberg News it was recommending “borrowers delay their sales if at all possible” because of high yields and weak demands.
Mayor Bob Walkup said the bonds were sold to get Rio Nuevo moving in response to criticism from the public and the media about a lack of progress. He said the legislative threat to take the money back “wasn’t even a discussion.”
“I think we still did the right thing at that moment,” Walkup said, adding the city can’t predict interest rates. “If you find the guy with that crystal ball, let me know because we can make a lot of money.” Action delayed elsewhere
Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority, said the bank pulled back two bond issues in early to mid-December, one for a prison and the other for money that would be loaned to municipalities. The Alaskan bonds had similar ratings to Rio Nuevo’s, although Tucson spent $750,000 on bond insurance to boost its rating several levels.
The bond bank waited for the markets to calm down and then sold its bonds “as soon as possible” at rates under 6 percent just before Christmas and again in January.
It’s a difficult decision, Mitchell said, because if you need the money to start construction, it can be better to issue the bonds than wait.
But the amount of construction to be done with the $78 million in Rio Nuevo bonds is limited, with $58 million split between design and construction for 13 projects Downtown and on the West Side. One expert questioned the amount of “soft costs” for design in the bonds.
A total of $20 million went to pay back a loan to the city, into a reserve fund or for bond insurance.
Issuers as disparate as the state of Minnesota, the District of Columbia and Oklahoma City delayed bond sales at the end of 2008 because of market conditions.
In Florida, top state officials questioned the state bond director in January over a bond sale for universities on Dec. 14 with an interest rate of 6.16 percent, pointing out that another Florida issue a month later fetched a rate of 4.7 percent. The director blamed volatile credit markets. Higher interest costs
Michael Stanton, publisher of the Bond Buyer newspaper, looked at the difference in market rates — calculated from municipal market data or MMD — between December and the second week in February.
He said the average rates today are about 1.2 percentage points lower than rates were in December, resulting in roughly $10 million more in interest costs for the December bonds.
Stanton made a second calculation of only $4.3 million in savings using an index of revenue bonds — which are paid off with revenuelike sales taxes. But the Rio Nuevo bonds are backed not just by sales taxes, but by the city’s general fund as well.
Alvin Boutte Jr., managing director and head of the Midwest region for Chicago-based investment banking firm Grigsby & Associates Inc., estimated the difference in interest rates cost the city $18 million in interest over the life of the bonds. He estimated the city would pay 5.2 percent on the bond issue today.
In a larger issue by the city of Chicago on Jan. 20, Boutte said, the interest rate for 15-year bonds was 4.81 percent. By contrast, the yield for Tucson’s 15-year bonds is 6.79 percent.
The companies that underwrote Tucson’s bonds declined to estimate what the difference in interest rates cost Tucson. Stone & Youngberg said there were too many variables to calculate. Piper Jaffray referred calls to the city’s bond adviser, Dralle at RBC Capital Markets.
In a statement, Dralle said the rates did drop in January but that much of the drop was “on paper” because there were few sales, and many issuers had higher credit ratings — although the city paid $750,000 for bond insurance to boost its credit rating equivalent to AAA.
Dralle said the bonds got the best rates they could at the time they were sold, and estimated that Rio Nuevo bonds today would sell with interest rates between 6 percent and 6.25 percent because of “a worsening economy and with Legislative threats to the revenue.”
Jaret Barr, assistant to City Manager Mike Hein, said interest rates have dropped, but estimated the impact was more like $5 million.
He added the city talked about waiting but decided to move forward to keep projects going. He challenged those who criticize the city’s decision to tell him what the interest rates will be in March, since they think the city should have been able to see the future. Deliberately hurried
State Rep. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, has railed against the city bond sale for months, contending the city knew it was getting a bad deal but went out to market anyway to commit the money so the Legislature wouldn’t be able to take it away.
“It was deliberately done in a hurry to use it as a bargaining chip,” Antenori said. “Because it was somebody else’s money, they just did it.”
Councilwoman Nina Trasoff countered that Tucson proceeded in order to jump-start important projects, acting on the advice of its bond attorney.
“You can always second-guess these things,” Trasoff said. “It’s always easy in 20/20 hindsight to say, ‘gee, if.’ ”
Contact reporter Rob O’Dell at 573-4346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
People have asked me why we reprint Emerine’s articles in their entirety here on our blog. My simple answer is that Steve speaks truth to power. His institutional knowledge of our region makes his opinion’s especially pointed. In our world of 24 hour news cycles and spin induced smoke and mirrors, Steve sums up the issues presented to our community in about a clear as way possible. We are glad he has a platform to preach from, we hope to give him another pulpit with our blog.
This weeks article opinion is addressing the our local governments approach towards funding of our law enforcement agencies. FBI statistics show violent crime and murder decreasing all over the county. Locally we had a record breaking year in homicides. What’s governments core function again?
While crime rises, local politicos look to spend money elsewhere
Published on Saturday, January 10, 2009
Only Tucson and Pima County would insist on doing more crazy things than a columnist could comment on 52 times in a year.
Republican Mayor Bob Walkup and Democratic Council members Regina Romero, Rodney Glassman, Karin Uhlich, Shirley Scott, Steve Leal and Nina Trasoff use every opportunity they get to profess their undying support for Tucson police.
The men and women in blue need that backing. Tucson just experienced 74 murders in 2008 – more than in any year in history.
But the mayor and council are about to cut three proposed police academy classes to only one, knowing that it won’t produce enough new officers to replace those the department will lose through retirements and resignations.
Yet the mayor and council are also about to approve $7.6 million in bonds to build new solar panels on seven city buildings.
Why? Because they want some “free” federal money and solar power is a cool topic.
The federal government would pay part of the interest on the bonds, leaving the principal and up to 2 percent of the interest for the city to pay.
Think of when your supermarket cashier announced you’d saved more than $20 on your last grocery shopping trip. It may have cost you $80, but look what that plastic store card did for you!
Are you tempted to come back after lunch to double your savings or do you realize you can’t afford to spend another $80?
Solar panels aren’t groceries, but we’re constantly bombarded by messages extolling the virtues of anything “green” or “sustainable.”
Most products using those words cost more, but we’re told that if we use them long enough, we’ll eventually save money.
That’s probably true. But it doesn’t mean a family whose breadwinner has just been laid off should rush to buy a green gizmo before their savings account is exhausted.
Richard Elías, the Democratic chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, and his colleagues (Democrats Ramón Valadez and Sharon Bronson and Republicans Ann Day and Ray Carroll) also have problems.
They must also reduce their current budget and make more cuts or raise taxes in 2009-2010. They’ll probably have to do both.
They’ve told Sheriff Clarence Dupnik they’ll try not to cut his current budget if he agrees to not replace any deputies he loses between now and June 30.
You can see that the supervisors, like the council members, also favor law enforcement and oppose crime. Unless it costs money.
Solar panels aren’t the supervisors’ addiction. They’re hooked on vacant land.
They’ve bought 159,000 acres of ranch land and acquired 127,280 acres of leased land in recent years, but it isn’t enough. Nearly 12 percent of Pima County land is still privately owned. Until last year, it was 13 percent.
The supervisors are about to adopt their fifth draft habitat conservation plan for their Sonoran Desert Conservation project. They’ll submit it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval, then hold a bond election to raise more money for their addiction to dirt.
They plan to spend $324,000 a year from 2009 to 2011 and $568,000 for the 2011-2012 fiscal year to monitor and study their vacant land. The total cost for the next decade would be more than $40 million.
Despite a tight budget, they say they must ensure they own enough land and have enough rules in place to guarantee survival of their favorite critters.
Surely you’ve also been worried about the Huachuca water umbel, the lesser long-nosed bat, the Marana piranha, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the western yellow-billed cuckoo, the Gila chub and Mexican garter snake.
But neither you nor the supervisors have seen all of them or discussed their status with anyone.
I made up the third one on that list because I just might apply for a county grant of a couple of million bucks to keep writing about the Marana piranha.
Frankly, though, I’d really rather have a few more deputy sheriffs.
Contact Steve Emerine or e-mail comments for publication to email@example.com. This column appears weekly in Inside Tucson Business.
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