We're sure the news that Rio Nuevo will become home to an acupuncture-based healing center will reassure Republican lawmakers who were reluctant to give more money to Tucson for Rio Nuevo. Maybe we can send 'em a case of St. John's wort as a token of our appreciation.
Speaking of the Legislature: Maybe it wasn't such a hot idea for the city to push for the extension of the Rio Nuevo taxing district in this year's legislative session. With Democrats gaining seats in last month's election to create a more moderate body, and Republican Sen. Tim Bee of Tucson becoming Senate president, it might have been smarter to wait until this year and get even more money out of them.
But city lobbyists insisted the extension had to happen this year--because, they argued, they needed the money for the Science Center bridge and rainbow arch over Interstate 10. That's some foresight for you.
Now that the arch is just another plan on the scrapheap of downtown history, there's a big crowd lining up for a shot at the $500 million or so that's now available for downtown revitalization. The University of Arizona is the greediest piggy at the trough; last week, UA officials said they wanted $166 million for the Science Center and another $62 million for the Arizona State Museum. Since downtown planners have been figuring on spending about $200 million on the west side of the Interstate, that leaves, um, a negative balance for the Convento (whose backers made their $54 million pitch a couple of weeks ago), the Tucson Children's Museum, the Arizona Historical Society and anybody else thinking about setting up shop.
So the UA and the City Council are now playing a high-stakes game of chicken. Will the UA walk away if it doesn't get all $228 million? Or will they find some change under the couch cushions in the Student Union?
With all the bickering over the money, there's still no clear vision of what downtown is supposed to look like once the cash has been spent. Now the city is hoping to hire a consultant to help them figure it all out.
Why not talk to the folks at HGTV about turning downtown revitalization into a reality TV show? They seem to have some pretty creative designers who would love the chance to work on a large canvas like Rio Nuevo--and we could sell sponsorships!
Barring that, we'd recommend Gary Patch and Darren Clark, a pair of local designers who have done great work in downtown landmarks such as Hotel Congress and the Rialto Theatre. (They also did a fantastic job on the recent remodel of the Weekly's midtown bureau.) We'd love to see what they'd do with all of downtown.
By the way, as long as everyone else is looking for a piece of the action, we've got our own proposal: The Wickropolis, a media center and museum with a focus on the proud history of Wick Communications. The Wickropolis would double as the home of both the Weekly and Inside Tucson Business. We're sure you don't need to be told what an incredible boost that would be to downtown's economic development--and we could do it for just, say, $20 million or so. Call us!
We think it's a swell idea. For political junkies like us, it's like adding four weeks to the NFL season: More action! And we've love to see more opportunity for the general election candidates to debate.
The biggest problem would be for state legislators, especially if the session ran into June, as it did this year. Since the deadline for nominating petitions would probably be pushed back as well, they'd be due at the end of May, which would mean lawmakers would have to be out gathering signatures during the session--and it could also create some fundraising challenges, since they're not allowed to take money while in session.
But then again, it might create an incentive for them to get their work done--and a shorter session means a safer Arizona.
RJ Reynolds spent an astonishing $8,796,698 in its effort to defeat Prop 201, aka Smoke-Free Arizona, which banned smoking in most public places, including bars. It wasn't money that was very well spent--the prop passed with 55 percent of the vote. The tobacco giant tried to get Arizonans to approve a less-restrictive measure, Prop 206, which 57 percent of voters rejected.
Smoke-Free Arizona, the committee behind Prop 201, reported spending $1,800,581--a sizable chunk of money, but nothing compared to RJR.
Speaking of smoking, the folks behind Prop 203, which boosted the tax on a pack of smokes by 80 cents to pay for day care and health screenings for toddlers, spent $3,160,766, which is a bundle of money when you figure that they didn't have any organized opposition. The measure was approved by 53 percent of the voters.
The conservationists, teachers, business groups and developers behind Prop 106, the effort to reform the state trust land program, spent $2,537,893, including the money necessary to put it on the ballot. Although they narrowly lost, backers say they're not done with the effort to straighten out the State Land Department. Especially since they ended up $20,320 in debt, according to the financial filing.
The opponents of Prop 106 spent $2,718,718, with $1,165,000 coming from the Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona, to fund a campaign warning against sweetheart deals for developers. Hey, it may have been shameless, but it worked.
The backers of Prop 207, the regulatory takings initiative whose full impact remains to be seen, spent $1,798,877. The majority of the funding came from Americans for Limited Government, a shadowy political committee funded by New York City bazillionaire Howard Rich. Prop 207 passed with 65 percent of the vote.
The animal lovers behind Arizonans for Humane Farms, who successfully persuaded Arizonans to ban gestation crates for pigs and veal crates for calves with Prop 204, spent $1,692,556. The opponents, Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers, spent $1,268,702, mostly on signs that said "Hogwash." Jeez, that much money surely could have bought bigger pens for the little piggies.
Opponents of Prop 107, the ban on gay marriage and domestic partnerships, outspent supporters. The supporters must have figured they didn't need to campaign, since they didn't get any kind of ads up until about a week before the election. And they were utterly contemptuous toward many journalists who called to get information about the effort.
Arizona Together, the opposition group, reported spending $1,817,722, while a Tucson offshoot, No on 107, spent $65,550.
Backers of the initiative, Protect Marriage Arizona, spent $1,009,443 and hold the dubious distinction of being the first anti-gay group to be so politically incompetent to lose a statewide public vote on banning gay marriage. And we were delighted to see it happen.