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Posts Tagged ‘Tucson’

31st March
written by clothcutter

This March is going down as the worst hotel/tourism revenue March in the last 20 years.  The complete loss of Spring Training (which the Bureau took credit for business booked from) and lack of destination marketing and unique branding is taking a heavy toll on local business.

Do we see anything bold coming from Mr. Walker and Mr. Vahuagn?  No, not really.  It’s nice to see that that they are finally moving off the uninspiring “Real, Natural, Arizona” tagline and moving to the “The Real Southwest”.  In addition to that, same old stuff. 

They are masters at feathering their bureaucratic nest, doing Powerpoint “dog and pony” shows and ensuring their combined $400,000 in salaries.  So, what do they do to help their members after the worst March ever?  Hit them up for money to paid to Steve Rosenberg’s BizTucson to fluff up their image.  If you are hotel/resort/attraction GM and you actually pay money to a local mag, just so it can make Walker and Vahaugn look good, you are failing your property pretty miserably.

How about directing that money in a bold initiative that can actally produce some business for your suffering members?   Oh, that would be serving them instead of yourselves. Sorry.

From an e-mail to their members:

March 28, 2011

Dear MTCVB Partner,

We are pleased to announce that BizTucson will feature a special section profiling the many achievements, strategic vision and marketing strategies of the MTCVB, as the editorial centerpiece of the Summer 2011 edition of the magazine. The business of tourism has a significant impact on our economy and BizTucson will provide the business community with an in-depth Special Report on this important economic driver. The MTCVB will also be able to utilize the Special Report as a year-round business development tool and marketing piece (frame it and put up in their offices?) …  locally, nationally and internationally.

The MTCVB section also presents an exceptional business-to-business (B2B) marketing opportunity for your organization. Plus, it’s important for our business community to show its unified support (that was gone a long time ago)  of MTCVB and our region’s tourism initiatives.

 By placing your advertising message in BizTucson, your company will reach the region’s leading CEO’s, Presidents, CFO’s, entrepreneurs… plus, top-level managers in the private and public sectors. These individuals make purchasing decisions for their companies. The MTCVB special section is funded by advertising support (Rosenberg wouldn’t say nice things about them for free?) . As the ad support increases, the editorial coverage within the special section increases proportionately. (Give Rosenberg more of your money and we will get more pages to exaggerate!)

As BizTucson enters its third year of publishing, its mission is to continue reporting on the region’s business success stories (SALC Members Complimenting Each Other Issue was amazing!), which is important in portraying our city in a positive light. Tucson’s world-class resorts, spas, golf courses, guest ranches and attractions many times receive significant national and international press, yet in many cases this success remains “under the radar.” There’s a lot to be optimistic about! (Like Walker and Vahaugn being shown the door)

Please consider joining us for this upcoming special edition. BizTucson is offering MTCVB Partners a special discount of up to 20% (WOW!) for advertising in this special section. If you wish to advertise, the space reservation deadline is April 22, 2011. You can reach Publisher Steve Rosenberg at 520.907.1012 or e-mail: steve@biztucson.com.

Wishing you and your business continued success!! (You’ll need it!)


Best regards,


Jonathan Walker

President & CEO


5th November
written by clothcutter

The Inside Tucson Business has been running a great series of stories picked from  the last 20 years of the Tucson area’s business stories.  The sad thing is the lack of true change.  Development Services, headed by longtime bureaucrat, Ernie Duarte, is still a roadblock to many a small business owner in Tucson.  Go to talk to CeeDee’s Jamaican Kitchen(just opened a few months ago)  on Speedway and Swan about the hell they dragged him through.  It took him about 18-20 months to open a restaurant that was previously a restaurant!

 You take this department’s pathetic track record and combine with things like extortion payouts to Skrappy’s and $5,000 Temporary Revocable Easement application fees for signs and you really did earn the Arizona Small Business Survey’s(2008, link) ranking as Arizona’s unfriendliest municipality to operate a business in.

From insidetucsonbusiness.com:


City working to streamline development review process. In response to the development community, the city of Tucson is revamping its Development Services Department.

June 28, 1999

“This move brings the city’s review process to the next level,” said City Manager Luis Guitierrez. “It’ll bring substantial efficiency, customer service and predictability to plan reviews.”

The Development Review Center was first conceived in the mid-1980s as a way to bring together all reviewers from the various departments involved, (such as solid waste, water, fire, planning and engineering) into a single facility. Before that, anyone applying for a building permit would have to go from building to building and to the various departments to have a plan reviewed.

Now: The City’s development services department has long been scrutinized by the business community. This move was helpful to speed things along, but it remains an issue with the development community.”


Memo to City Council:  Fix the basics out there to help the small biz owner and then stay out the way.  Screwing the true base of your economy(they employ most of the citizens)  while thowing money to the glory-hogging wimps over at TREO is helping to steer your city into the toilet. 

I know having martinis with Snell, Welsh and now Guymon is a little more glamorous, but roll up your sleeves and actually make it happen for small business.  You’ll be glad you did.

19th August
written by Mike

The debate rages on about what the City of Tucson can and can not afford. The Tucson ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and SAHBA among other business groups have stepped up to push a mandatory police staffing initiative which will take our police officers per 1000 population from 1.9 to 2.4 (closer to a national average) and will establish minimum response times for fire and emergency services when we need them most. Those crazy business people somehow feel that safe streets, neighborhoods and businesses will actually make people want to live in our community. With an absence of leadership from our elected officials someone had to step up.

No sooner than the initiative hit the streets did the spin machine from city council and the county go into effect scaring the community by bemoaning the high cost to increase the police force and process the criminals.  What’s the cost of not doing it gang?


City Council members and city staffers have declared the initiative would cost the city $50 million more per year to pay for the 350 additional police officers and firefighters required, and have questioned where the money will come from. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has also indicated the additional officers will result in higher court and jail costs for the county.










* Does the City of Tucson have the money to pay for:

* Public Safety First Initiative;

* Convention Center Hotel;

* Balance the budget

(the rating agencies recently lowered Tucson’s credit rating and cited a “structural budget deficit”)


My contention is that there is plenty of money to pay for things; it is just a matter of priority and political will.  These are difficult times but we expect our political leaders to make those difficult decisions.  The 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the City of Tucson reveals several funds that are running large deficits.  Reducing or correcting these deficits frees up vital funds to help with other priorities.  (This information is a year old but many funds are operating about the same or worse.  2009 CAFR will be available in a few months; should be an interesting read.)




Mass Transit Fund: $32.2 million deficit (page 20)

The Mayor &Council authorized an increase in fares recently.  It was decided to use the funds to enhance transit services rather than reduce the subsidy.







Environmental Services: $6.1 million deficit (page 23)

Remember the ‘trash fee’.  This basic support function simply needs to charge properly so they break even.  Is this function ripe for outsourcing to local trash companies?







Water Utility Fund:  $4.1 million deficit (page 23)

I believe basic utilities such as this need to break even each year.







Convention Center Fund:  $7.3 million deficit (page 82)

Let’s just say that as a stand-alone entity, the TCC loses plenty of money.  Does this facility provide sufficient ancillary benefits from events held there?







Team/Parkwise: $1.2 million deficit (page 82)










Capital Improvements Fund:  $38.5 million negative cash flow (page 83)

This fund had a nice fund balance at beginning of year ($86 million) but $38 million was taken from it.  Could be that the City built stuff they did not have the money to pay for?  It is also possible some of these funds were shifted to help balance the budget (dip into reserves to balance the budget – the rating agencies notice this stuff).



H.U.R.F. Fund:  $8.6 million transferred to “Other Funds” (page 83)

HURF Fund ran a $1.6 million deficit and then transferred $8.6 million to “Other Funds”.   Just wondering out loud where the money went?



Development Fee Fund:  $5.5 million PROFIT (page 83)

We found a profit center!  This money comes from ‘Developer Fees’.



Golf Course Fund:  $1.5 million deficit (page 91)

Should greens fees be raised?  City golf is one of the best deals in town.  Golfers could probably kick in a little more to help clear this deficit.







Public Housing (AMP) Funds:  $3.8 million deficit (page 91)

What is the City’s role in public housing?  If the City simply matched -dollar-for-dollar what the Feds kick in, the deficit is cleared.  But we kick in much more.



Fleet Services: $6.1 million deficit (page 94)

This basic support function simply needs to break even.  The motor pool charges various units for operating their vehicles.  They just have to charge properly for their services. Perhaps this function is ripe for outsourcing to local automotive shops?



Self Insurance Fund: $5.7 million operating deficit -and- $17.6 negative fund balance (pg 93/94)

This issue came to light earlier in the year when the City considered dipping into this fund to help cure the budget deficit (just about the worst idea I have heard all year).  There is the potential that the City will get whacked with a large legal verdict and have to take money from the general fund to pay the settlement.  The rating agencies have this on their radar screen and this hurts the City’s credit rating.  The City needs to charge each department properly according the risk.  This function is screaming to be outsourced to private companies – the City should not be in the insurance business; they are not good at it.  Political temptation is simply too great: politicians tend to under-charge for risk and like to dip into this piggy bank.

11th May
written by JHiggins

Tucson’s election process is under fire  
Legislative bill to seek end of partisan races for council

By Rob O’Dell
Arizona Daily Star

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.”

Mixed reaction

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.

The change would be minimal, Zimmerman said. The parties would still be visible, the power brokers would still know whom to give money to, and the volunteers would still turn out, he said.
One Democrat who is in favor of nonpartisan elections is Si Schorr, a Napolitano appointee to the State Transportation Board.

“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 rodell@azstarnet.com.

Great Comments:

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.

After looking at the disaster with Rio Nuevo how can any of these council members say with a straight face this city doesn’t need a change like this? 

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let’s call this what it is, an attempt by a GOP politician to gain an advantage in a Dem town, plain and simple. get on your high horse and rant all you want but the minute he wins for something “nonpartisan”, he’ll be blatantly pushing for GOP policies. do what you want but don’t say you are going to split your politics from yourself all by dropping your party next to your name. 

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 What is it about TUCSON? Paton is RIGHT! We need help from the outside.. How could we possibly have been so naive as to vote in the (so-called) leadership that we have… It’s not only Leal and the City Council that’s dysfunctional and screwed up, it’s also the County Supervisors, TUSD, etc. How did we get them? We VOTED for them! Com’on voters, you’re smarter than that. Let’s vote them all out the first chance we get….and be bi-partison about it! 

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I stated earlier that I think Tucson should abandon this “mob rule” mentality of electing City Council members, and more to a more representative one, whereby voters of a ward choose the councilperson who will handle their concerns the best. Anyone who takes a Civics class knows this is how the Legistlative branch of government should work at all levels.I also feel that many Tucsonans are so short-sighted that they cannot see beyond the borders of their own small town. Tucson is a “metro-million” city, which means it is at a crossroads…grow or die. Having a do-nothing City Council (including a eunuch mayor with no power…no matter what party he represents) does nothing to help a city grow.I’m sitting here right now looking at the 12 cameras along I-10, admiring the speed and efficiency that is being put to use on the rebuilding of the Interstate. It is more than three months ahead of schedule, and it is being done with only minor incconveniences to the public. Is this a project that is being run by city government? Nope…the STATE is running this project.Were there Tucsonans who were against this project? You betcha! I talked to many of them who said we don’t need a bigger freeway, and that Tucson is too big as it is. These people are ostriches who have their heads in the caliche.Jonathan Paton is the duly-elected State Senator from District 30, which represents ALL of Tucson’s far East side. He is not a “Phoenician”. He is a southern Arizonan, a member of our Armed Forces, and wants to see Tucson improve and grow. In order to do that, he believes that city government should be reformed, and not do the same thing that it has done for the last 80 years. As a resident of Tucson for 15 years, I would like to see his ideas considered. Previous “same old same old” ideas are just not working.On the other hand, you prefer to obfuscate and attack, and as you have shown us already, have no answers as to how Tucson can get out of the problems it faces. 

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30th October
written by Arizona Kid

City of Phoenix proposing bus fair increase – Read the Republic article HERE. It will be fun to watch and see if our neighbors up north can pull this off.

If you remember a few months back,  Tucson city government almost crumbled over a proposed .25 cent bus fare increase.  Here is a timeline of events from the Star:

1. Hein submitted a budget to M&C showing a large loss at Sun Tran.

Then – read more about the story by clicking.

2. Uhlich accused Hein of lowering the subsidy for Sun Tran, causing a shortfall that forced the council to consider a hike in bus fares. Uhlich demanded to the AZ Star editorial board that Hein:  “own his mistakes” — apologize and explain why the $36 million general fund subsidy of Sun Tran and Van Tran was reduced in the next two years’ budgets.

3. Hein fired off an e-mail earlier Thursday in which he slammed council aides for meddling in council affairs and took offense at the council’s implication he had purposely cut the transit-fund subsidy to hurt the poor.

4.Uhlich said she has not been getting timely or accurate information from the manager’s office, adding that she doesn’t know if “deceit, incompetence or just being overwhelmed” were the reasons behind it. (I loved that statement)  

5.Council member pile on: Leal jumped in with Romero criticizing Hein for moving the Greyhound station. Scott complained about Hein’s treatment of the police union. Romero objected to Rio Nuevo’s handling of west side projects and general accountability.


6.Hein, who returns from vacation in two weeks, laid much of the blame on council aides who do their own research and “do not have the strongest public-finance background or technical experience.” That’s coupled with aides’ historical distrust of the city staff, which he said is “hyper-reactive, but sometimes lacks the political acumen and a pulse on the community.”

Leal fires off an email demanding Hein’s head – while Hein is on personal vacation. The email apparently got sent PRIOR to the vacation but it got lost in Internet land. The Geek Squad looked into it and couldn’t confirm it was sent, lost or written early.


Everyone backs away from Leal and goes out of their way to praise Hein.  

9. Tempers cool,  Uhlich calls for a budget auditor which Tucson voters voted against 20+ years ago but hey, another layer of government can’t hurt…or can it?

This story goes right up there with Leal locking himself in Pima County jail over night. This is better than Barney Fife and an episode of The Andy Griffen Show. Great You Tube HERE.

Back to the actual issue at hand – Tucson heads into a $55m budget short fall and can’t seem to increase a bus fare that hasn’t increased in over 8 years.  In the eight years Sun Tran increased routes, service times and ridership is way up.
As a result, Glock said, the share of Sun Tran’s operating cost covered by fare revenues has dropped from 23 percent in 2000 to about 19 percent today.
Without the fare increases, or an increased taxpayer subsidy, transportation officials calculate Sun Tran would rack up a $1.1 million shortfall next year, and a $3 million shortage the following year.
She said she doesn’t want to burden passengers with higher fares, especially when other costs are rising steadily. But she also doesn’t want to see service cuts, which transportation officials say will be needed without the fare increase.
“My goal is to keep the fares as low as we can while still being fiscally responsible with our bus services. I would not keep fares low if we had to scale back bus service,” Uhlich said.

Read the Star article HERE.

The fares in other major markets:
Phoenix $1.25,
Albuquerque $1,
Colorado Springs $1.25,
El Paso $1,
Las Vegas $1.25.
26th October
written by JHiggins

Another in depth look at Rio Nuevo in todays Arizona Daily Star.

Nine years later, Downtown Tucson has two refurbished movie theaters, a re-creation of the Presidio wall and a wider freeway underpass.

Can a community redevelop a downtown? Check out the WSJ article HERE.It covers the successful revitalization of El Paso’s downtown. From WSJ;

The difference between this and earlier revitalization efforts that fizzled is the involvement of deep-pocketed investors, who decided in 2004 to gather their own resources and chart a course for revival.

Everyone realizes there must be a public private partnership to get Rio Nuevo off the ground and successful. Tucson missed the opportunity during the big boom to attract the private sector. Feet dragging, buearucratic wrangling and road blocks caused costly delays. Our downtown redevelopment is as much a case of timing as it is planning.  We missed the housing boom. We couldn’t capitalize on the commercial boom because the residential base wasn’t there. Add in the red tape delays and we see developers unwillingness to re-develop or start new projects. We are left with ‘big hats and no cattle‘ or lots of talk and no action.

They key to the El Paso plan? Business leaders created the plan with MINIMAL neighborhood input.

The group brought in city officials to advise it on the plan’s feasibility, but in a move that proved controversial, the business group elected not to subject the plan to widespread public scrutiny in its early phases, reasoning that too many opposing viewpoints might stymie the process.

“El Paso is going into the 21st century with our running shoes on,” he says. “Right now, this town is poised for takeoff.”

Hey can’t Tucson get ‘poised for takeoff’ in my lifetime?

Now, a bit of opinion on Tucson’s downtown revitalizing efforts. Read the full Steve Emerine story HERE.

The city persuaded the Legislature in 1999 to approve a district containing Tucson’s downtown area and a strip along both sides of Broadway all the way to Park Place, where incremental revenues from state sales taxes would go to finance Rio Nuevo downtown revitalization.

But apparently no one under Keene or Hein really knew how to revitalize a downtown. Just as the fictional emperor feared his subjects would realize he had no clothes, city bureaucrats have feared Tucsonans would realize they were naked with no ideas of how to fix downtown.

They have rejected or ignored some proposals from private investors, invented reasons to delay others and insisted on complete control – plus city ownership if possible – for most downtown proposals.

Now, city officials are hesitating to build a new downtown arena because they aren’t sure when they can build a convention hotel to go with it.

They haven’t started the hotel because they’re not sure they can afford the arena.

The city has no strong and experienced elected leader, and it continues to show.

Couple El Paso’s capital investment in it’s downtown with an incentive program to entice employers to locate in geographic areas with higher paying jobs and you have a working program. Click HERE to learn more.

Read some great background stories on our Rio Nuevo challenges – HEREHEREHEREHEREHERE- And Foraker’s detailed analysis HERE.

With the pending wold wide financial crisis and complete shut down of funding options don’t look for any Rio Nuevo success in the near future.  From the East Valley Tribune (Phoenix) projects all over the state are being put on hold. Of interesting note, the Gaylord Hotel deal to build a convection center and hotel in Mesa is being put on hold. Gaylord proposed a similar deal here in Tucson but our Rio Nuevo team cut them.

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