Posts Tagged ‘UPH’
By Joe Higgins and Chris DeSimone, Inside Tucson Business | 0 comments
Has Tucson’s Democratic machine overplayed it’s hand? Are moderate Democrats and the growing number of independents ready to make some changes in this year’s Tucson City Council races or next year’s Pima County Board of Supervisors races?
Will the business community show up with their dollars and their support? Have we hit the tipping point?
Here are the facts:
1. Rio Nuevo gets new board to wrest control away from the Tucson City Council.
State Attorney General and FBI investigations have been launched find out what happened to $230 million of taxpayers money spent on downtown redevelopment with little to show.
2. Buses and light rail priorities.
The city council panics over 10-cent low-income bus fare while at the same time prepares to build a $196 million streetcar system that will cost millions per year to run and will need dense development in old neighborhoods to sustain any ridership. To build a much-needed student housing project in the hole that was an old YMCA at Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street, the developer pays $15,000 and monthly payments of $2,500 for 15 years to the surrounding neighborhood in order to get the council’s approval. How much longer will developers pay to play to invest with uncertainty or skip by Tucson?
3. The City Council refers a half cent sales tax to voters only to be defeated by 20 percent margin.
Voters have lost confidence in city government and the Mayor and Council. Did the council get the message that it’s time to tighten belts and reprioritize? Tucson moved $13 million in federal money for pothole repairs to build a bridge over the Santa Cruz River to qualify for other federal money for the four-mile streetcar. Priorities?
4. University of Arizona versus University Medical Center.
The UA makes a public power play to bring UMC back under its control. The hospital was spun off in 1984 to keep if from folding. Today, UMC generates $90 million per year to support future nurses, doctors and pharmacists. Follow the money. And yet just two weeks ago, Inside Tucson Business’ 2011 List of Largest Employers showed the UA surpassing Raytheon Missile Systems for No 1. This despite state budget cuts, tuition increases and a hiring freeze.
5. Where are the jobs?
A 300-acre solar farm in an old cotton field near Marana gets caught in the political buzzsaw of neighbors and paybacks for old political scores. Supposedly, Tucson is a top 25 Solar City in the United States yet we continue to delay and politicize an investment in green technology? County Supervisor Sharon Bronson and her colleagues are delaying the project by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, the Spanish firm that is one of the world’s leading solar power operators, may look to go elsewhere. We already know about the supervisors trying to block the Rosemont Copper mine. And now a solar farm?
6. U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva.
The five-term congressman’s call for a boycott of Arizona over passage of SB 1070 almost cost him re-election from previously unknown Ruth McClung. Are voters tired of the rhetoric?
7. Back-room deals.
The city council votes on a land deal to sell downtown redevelopment property in Rio Nuevo to the Gadsden Company for $250,000, which resells the property to a low-income housing project for $1.43 million, according to the Arizona Daily Star’s Rob O’Dell (March 22). Councilwoman Shirley Scott joined the majority after she received a letter from Gadsden’s attorney, Larry Hecker, detailing the $1.5 million Gadsden said it put into the project. “I think that speaks well for this group,” Scott said, adding Gadsden is not asking for any special treatment. And, it just so happens, Hecker is Scott’s campaign chair for re-election. He was also campaign chair for City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff’s unsuccessful 2009 campaign and Bronson’s 2008 campaign. When will Tucsonans say enough is enough?
8. Marana wastewater fight.
Pima County’s heavy-handed clout using its wastewater management system as awakened Marana and now the town’s voters may be ready to change find a supervisor in 2012 that is more in turned with their goal of becoming a world-class municipality.
9. Pima County property taxes keep going up.
The Pima County Assessor’s office actually increased the values of most of the commercial property in the county, despite three years of the most depressed real estate market in generations. Now, the supervisors are looking at raising the county’s property tax rate by 17 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Pima County government had 8,396 full-time equivalent employees in 2008 and has 8,132 today. Take out a loss of 450 positions through a contract shift at Pima Health Systems and the number of Pima County employees actually grew.
10. Democratic party primary endorsements.
Typically, political parties don’t weigh picking favorites until after their electorates choose candidates in the primary election. But Pima County’s Democratic Party already has picked its slate for the Tucson City Council and the primary isn’t until Aug. 30. The endorsements brought a sharp letter of rebuke from six Democratic state representatives, including Tucsonans Sally Ann Gonzales, Matt Heinz, Bruce Wheeler and Macario Saldate.
11. All mail elections.
Under the guise of trying to “save money,” the Tucson council changed the rules of the election game just as its Democratic incumbents face tough re-election campaigns. An investigation is underway over irregularly marked mail-in ballots in South Tucson and now mail ballots have gone missing in this month’s Sahuarita council elections. The “save money” argument is a smokescreen.
12. Tourism in the toilet.
As reported in Inside Tucson Business, passenger traffic at Tucson International Airport for March, normally the busiest month of the year, is at 16-year lows. Tucson didn’t have Major League Baseball Spring Training this year for the first time since 1947. Now the economy is beginning to feel the negative impact of mismanagement of the tourist assets that have been taken for granted. Last month Travel+Leisure called Tucson one of their top 25 “most under-rated cities in the world” – not just the United States, the world. That’s not a good thing for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau whose job it is to get the word out.
13. Arizona is projected to add jobs, but not Tucson.
State economic development officials are projecting Arizona will add more than 17,300 jobs in the next year but the Tucson region won’t see any of them. To accentuate the point, tourism is expected to grow by 3.1 percent statewide but will drop 0.2 percent in the Tucson region.
14. More low-wage jobs.
When Intel announced earlier this year it was spending $5 billion to expand and build in Chandler, it included a projection of 1,000 high-paid new jobs. Within days of that announcement Tucson, landed its expansion that will be bring us another 400 call center jobs. This on top of the announcement that Tucson-based Raytheon Missile division decided to build its newest plant in Huntsville, Ala., not here.
15. Mexican-American Studies.
A student demonstration prevented the Tucson Unified School District governing board meeting from taking place April 26 because the board was due to vote on moving the program to an elective instead of allowing it as a substitute for the core subject of American History.
Moving Mexican-American Studies to an elective would put it in line with African American Studies, Native American Studies and Pan Asian Studies as well as art, music and some foreign languages among other important options students can choose. Mexican-American Studies serves 5 percent of the district’s approximately 53,000 students, yet it has taken an inordinate amount of the attention.
Meanwhile, there are issues with procurement irregularities, school closures and students’ low achievement scores on standardized tests.
Tucson is not a shiny liberal city on the hill. The so-called political progressives like to look up to cities like San Francisco or Portland, Ore. They admire the environmental commitment of Boulder, Colo., and dream of being the Berkeley, Calif., of the desert.
But Tucson’s city core crumbles while suburbs flourish. This region’s vision and planning is taking place in Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita.
Lately, people including Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” have had some fun over Democratic leaders’ idea of Southern Arizona becoming a 51st state. It’s just a diversionary tactic from Democrats trying to gloss over the facts we’ve presented here.
Tucson may be the butt of jokes but those who are struggling to run businesses and earn a living here aren’t laughing. It’s time for a change starting with this year’s city elections.
Contact Joe Higgins and Chris DeSimone at email@example.com. They host “Wake Up Tucson,” 6-8 a.m. weekdays on The Voice KVOI 1030-AM. Their blog is at www.TucsonChoices.com.
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