Posts Tagged ‘Steve Leal’

20th December
2008
written by JHiggins

Tucson’s mayor and council didn’t respond to my Dec. 1 column on Republican State Senator-elect Jonathan Paton’s proposed law to require nonpartisan elections in all Arizona cities and towns.

But an Arizona Daily Star news story on the bill two weeks later showed most of our six Democratic councilmembers have been thinking about Paton’s idea for Tucson to join the rest of Arizona’s municipal governments, which already hold nonpartisan votes.

They don’t like it. Southside Councilman Steve Leal said Paton and others “want nonpartisan elections for partisan reasons.”

Partisanship was apparently all right earlier in Leal’s 19-year council career when he opposed annexations of urban areas immediately north or east of Tucson.

Democrats lead in city registrations, with independents second and Republicans third. Leal warned fellow Democrats that annexations in the foothills or the far eastside would strengthen Republican numbers in the city.

His registration argument hasn’t surfaced recently because hardly anyone to the north or east of the city limits wants to be governed by this mayor and council.

They’d rather spend August pulling a steamboat upstream in the sand of the “navigable” Santa Cruz River.

Nevertheless, switching to nonpartisan government might lead to the eventual annexation of some of our neighbors’ children or grandchildren.

Future generations might forget today’s countless council schemes to toughen city development regulations when no one can afford to develop anyway.

Democratic Council members Rodney Glassman of eastside Ward 2, Karin Uhlich of the north-central Ward 3 and Nina Trasoff of university-area’s Ward 6 told the Star they want city voters to approve any proposal to adopt nonpartisan elections.

“It is something city voters should decide rather than Phoenix dictating how we operate,” Uhlich said, suggesting the council could refer the idea to a citizens committee looking at city charter changes.

Oh boy! We all know how helpful city committees are in Tucson.

Where would our downtown be if we hadn’t referred Rio Nuevo, the Barraza-Aviation Parkway, a new convention center and the proposed Nimbus Brewery to committees and neighborhood groups?

Nevertheless, council Democrats are right when they say Tucson voters should decide on city charter amendments.

The charter says it very specifically, but that isn’t the issue. I doubt that Paton’s bill will mention our city at all.

It probably will say that all Arizona cities and towns, plus those that haven’t been incorporated or even thought of, must have nonpartisan elections. That’s a statewide issue and therefore a suitable topic for the legislature.

If Tucson’s Democratic council members and their allies lead a fight against that kind of bill, they will surely lose. The Arizona House and Senate are dominated by Republicans, most of whom represent Maricopa County.

And Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who will resign early next year to become the Obama administration’s director of Homeland Security, won’t be here to consider vetoing the bill.

Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who will succeed Napolitano, is already upset with Tucson Democrats whose vote-tabulating dispute with Pima County indirectly challenged her authority as Arizona’s chief election officer.

Brewer probably will sign Paton’s bill if the Legislature adopts it.

Nonpartisan elections would attract more business and professional candidates who have leadership skills and good, practical ideas for running a city.

Their campaigns probably would deal more with what’s best for Tucson, business growth and good-paying jobs and less with abortion, guns, the Iraq war, stopping growth near the Grand Canyon or plastic grocery bags.

For five decades, Tucsonans have elected a number of pleasant or well-meaning folks with little business or administrative experience, plus a few who may not have meant so well.

Given the shape of our city, it’s time to try something new.

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