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Rio Loco

To the Editor,

Regarding Rio Nuevo ("Down by the River Side," February 22), I've been following this issue from its inception. As gung-ho as our local corporate media have portrayed support for this project, many people have serious concerns.

I'm all for urban renewal. I grew up in Tucson's suburbs and eventually made my home in the city's center. I have seen Tucson's growth and been frustrated, disgusted and helpless. One of the ways to fight the demon Sprawl is through genuine rejuvenation of downtown. Such renewal comes in the form of building sustainability and community, and healing the wounds of ill-planning. The Union of Art and Healers Local No. 8 is one such example ("Self-Esteem Local Motive," February 15). This project is true grassroots urban renewal. BICAS is another, as is Solar Culture, the Mat Bevel Institute ... there are many good examples displaying these positive features in that part of town along Toole.

The Rio Nuevo project as it has been proceeding is a recipe for disaster. What began as a good idea has turned bad. All of the positive aspects have been axed, one by one--the latest version of the plan eliminates the idea of restoring water flow into the Santa Cruz River, to protect planned high-end retail along its banks. Parking, roads and other transportation infrastructure are taking the lion's share, having been allotted a whopping $125 million of public funds. New buildings and other projects have been gradually turning away from free and public, to commercial and restricted--to those of us with cash. Surrounding neighborhoods have grave concerns--with good reason. Rio Nuevo wants to yuppify their back yards.

The irony is that more roads, parking, high-end retail and the "street-sweeping" this will entail (à la Tucson Downtown Alliance and the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association's "yellow jackets") do exactly the opposite of urban renewal. Going back in time again for a second: I remember the days when Fourth Avenue was filled with quirky characters, when you could sit on a bench or in Winsett Park and enjoy spontaneous music and other street entertainment. Now the ambiance on Fourth Avenue is hostile and confrontational--a husk of what it used to be. FAMA has worked very hard to remove undesirable elements; along with them, the sense of community that once thrived there.

The completion of Aviation Parkway will destroy a thriving arts district that is perhaps, in the eyes of some, too grassroots and not "desirable" enough. The Union as well as BICAS, Solar Culture and the rest would be toast. It would repeat the mistake that building the TCC was in the latter part of last century.

I go to the downtown post office every day, and you get to know people there. It's a community space, in many ways. I once overheard an old-timer talking about the TCC: "I left Tucson in the 1960s and when I came back, they had built that monstrosity. I couldn't believe it--that project tore the heart out of this city!"

Forty years later: Rio Nuevo. History does repeat itself, but let's not forget the power of citizen activism. You hear the rhetoric, "development is inevitable." What a load of baloney--that's what they want you to believe! The buck does eventually stop. The Pima County Board of Supervisors is the decision-maker on rezonings, i.e. sprawl; the City Council is the final stop for Rio Nuevo. Maybe it's time to start holding our elected officials accountable.

Crooked back-door deal-making complicates things--it is notable that the Citizen's Advisory Committee (Rio Nuevo's semi-empowered decision-body) contains several hand-picked Don Diamond/Growth Industry cronies. Guess who selected several of them? Our own "representative," Bob Walkup, the same fellow pushing the delusion of Tucson as the "optics valley," and who made the backroom deal that turned the historic Lerner building into a modernist piece of crap. Am I the only one who finds it odd that the growth lobby supposedly represents 20 percent of the populace?

It's the same old story, of the ones at the top trying to hoodwink the populace into accepting their get-rich schemes.

I say: enough! Enough growth already--let's get serious, and organize to make this place the oasis of sustainability the real majority of us want it to be. We can start by not accepting any more cockamamie developments. Sounds like Rio Nuevo is first in line.

--Sonya Diehn


A Rose by Any Other Name

To the Editor,

In "Getting Your Goat" (Mondo Tucson, March 1), you stated a westside family claimed their child was attacked by el chupacabras, which was said to have "big red eyes, pointy ears and a wrinkled face, and smelled like a wet dog.'' Hell, that sounds more like a Rose Mofford sighting.

--Robert Duva

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