We've had one contentious issue on the ballot in the form of Proposition 200, the Tucson Water Users' Bill of Rights. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, it would repeal the $14-a-month garbage fee, prohibit Tucson Water from hooking up new water connections once the utility is delivering most of its Central Arizona Project allotment, and restrict the use of treated effluent.
Former state lawmaker John Kromko, the architect of Prop 200, argues that the initiative isn't perfect, but it will force the community to face the reality of our growing population, save us from someday having treated effluent flowing from our taps and stop the city from wasting money on--well, Kromko's not really sure where the city is wasting money, but he's sure we shouldn't have to pay for trash collection.
The opponents of the initiative say it's a badly written law that will result in developers tapping into the aquifer with private water companies and building houses outside of Tucson Water's delivery area, contributing to sprawl. They also warn it could have all sorts of unintended consequences, like cutting off water to UA co-eds.
Oh, and some Prop 200 opponents say the trash fee is important, because the city is using the extra cash in the budget to hire more cops and firefighters, and fix more streets.
Kromko has had trouble drumming up much support in the form of campaign contributions and endorsements. His most recent campaign-finance report showed that he'd spent about $12,600 and had $207.73 left in the bank.
The opponents include the Tucson Weekly, both daily newspapers, most of the City Council (as usual, we've got no idea where retiring Councilpunk José Ibarra stands), most of the Board of Supervisors, most of the legislative delegation, Congressman Raul Grijalva, the Pima County Interfaith Council, the Realtors, the builders, the car dealers, the butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers.
The No on 200 campaign has raised about $800,000, with contributions coming in big chunks from the usual suspects in the Growth Lobby. That money has fueled an effort that has delivered mailers, phone calls, TV and radio ads, yard signs and other elements of a real campaign. Kromko, by contrast, has put up some big signs by the side of the road and has some volunteers making phone calls.
As we note in our cover story this week, there's not much going on when it comes to candidates this year. Mayor Bob Walkup didn't draw any Democratic opposition and will walk all over Green Party candidate Dave Croteau. Three-term Democratic incumbent Shirley Scott will KO Republican Dan Spahr in Ward 4, and Democrat Regina Romero will flatten Green Beryl Baker in the race to replace Ibarra in Ward 1.
The only real contest is in Ward 2, where Democrat Rodney Glassman is headed for a win over Republican Lori Oien. Oien has put up a respectable fight, but a Republican just isn't going to beat a Democrat in this town with the current political environment.
Here's one trend that's bad news for Oien: The City Clerk's Office sent out a postcard offering vote-at-home ballots for anyone who wanted one. The record-breaking response means that more than 60,000 Tucsonans have already received ballots.
A quick look at the number of ballots that had been turned in by the beginning of this week shows that Democrats had returned more than 14,000 ballots, while fewer than 9,500 Republicans had voted early. About 5,000 independents had also cast ballots; those independents are likely to break in a Democratic direction, given the general dislike of the GOP these days.
If you do the math, you see that more than half of the early ballots are still out there. Here's a trend to watch: How many of those voters will actually cast ballots?
Given that the campaigns themselves offer little suspense, we're going to make it interesting for those of you who like political parlor games with percentage-point spreads. Favorites are on the left.
|BOB WALKUP||30||Dave Croteau|
|SHIRLEY SCOTT||35||Dan Spahr|
|Rodney Glassman||27||Lori Oien|
|Regina Romero||60||Beryl Baker|
|Prop 100 No||22||Prop 100 Yes|
|Prop 200 No||17||Prop 200 Yes|
Incumbents are in CAPS.
For entertainment purposes only. Gambling on the outcome of political races is prohibited by Arizona law.
Last week, during what had to be one of the strangest half-hours in Arizona Illustrated history, Kromko told a major whopper about the city's trash fee.
"The garbage tax was a lie!" Kromko roared before launching into the usual bullshit about how trash-collection costs didn't go up by $23 million, so the fee was unnecessary. Then he accused city officials of making up a story about using the money for cops and firefighters, before they started lying about using it for streets.
Sorry, but we'd been following this debate for years before the fee was finally enacted by the council. City officials consistently said the same thing: That by enacting the fee, the city would free up the $23 million (or whatev the figure was that year) from the general fund for other expenses, including police, fire and streets.
Love or hate the trash fee, it's a routine accounting procedure. You may believe the city doesn't need the extra cash, but that doesn't change the fact that there were never multiple, changing justifications. That Kromko--and others--want to turn the fee into some crazy shell game speaks to their ability to understand how budgets work.
Somehow, we think the wily Kromko, no matter how much he puts on his Grandpa Simpson act these days, understands that.
As an aside, we would like to thank Kromko for that V for Vendetta DVD that he gave us before the taping on Friday.
Speaking of whoppers: The No on 200 campaign has been telling a big lie of its own--namely, that toilet-to-tap water delivery is prohibited by state law. Sure, you can't just treat wastewater and serve it, but you can treat it to a higher standard and then recharge it for future delivery. That's exactly what Tucson Water planned to do in the past, although the utility's boss, Dave Modeer, says that won't be necessary for the next couple of decades.
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