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FROM THE SHADOWS

It wouldn't be an election in the city of Tucson if we didn't have some sort of shadowy independent campaign committee out there beating up on Democratic candidates.

Now it's official: The Tucson Vision Committee filed its paperwork with the city of Tucson last week.

The first advertisement from the committee debuted over the weekend: It's a 30-second TV spot saying that Democratic City Council members Nina Trasoff of Ward 6 (who is facing Republican Steve Kozachik) and Karin Uhlich of Ward 3 (who is facing Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia) are responsible for a failing downtown, crumbling streets, unsafe neighborhoods and host of other social ills. (You can check out the ad at Tucson Weekly's blog, The Range, at blog.tucsonweekly.com.)

Since the committee formed just last week, it hasn't yet filed a campaign-finance report to reveal the donors who are paying for the ads. That revelation will come when the next reports are due on Oct. 1, although that report will only cover the first days of fundraising for the committee.


A RATIONAL RATIO?

Thanks to the Public Safety First Initiative on the November ballot, much is being made of the ratio of cops per 1,000 residents in Tucson.

Right now, the number is somewhere around 1.9 cops per 1,000 residents; the initiative would raise that number to 2.4 officers over the next five years. (The cost of implementing Prop 200 would be about $157 million over the next five years and about $51 million a year once it was in place, according to city officials; for more details, check out "Police Action" on Page 16.)

Members of the City Council have also said they'd like to have 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents, although they argue that they should have more flexibility about how long it takes to get there.

The debate over Prop 200 raises an interesting question that the politicians won't likely tackle, for fear of being branded soft on crime: Why is 2.4 officers per 1,000 such an ideal staffing level?

It may not be. Some sources in the national law-enforcement community say that such measurements aren't all that important.

A study on staffing by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) notes that ratios don't translate well from jurisdiction to jurisdiction:

"Ready-made, universally applicable patrol staffing standards do not exist," the report reads. "Ratios, such as officers-per-thousand population, are totally inappropriate as a basis for staffing decisions. Accordingly, they have no place in the IACP methodology. Defining patrol staffing allocation and deployment requirements is a complex endeavor which requires consideration of an extensive series of factors and a sizable body of reliable, current data."

In its 2004 report on crime in the United States, the FBI also notes: "Because of differing service requirements and functions, care should be taken when using the data presented in this section to draw comparisons between and among the staffing levels of law enforcement agencies. What follows is not intended as recommended or preferred officer strength; the data should be viewed merely as guides."

FBI numbers from 2008 show that the ratio of officers per 1,000 residents ranges from region to region across the United States. In the mid-Atlantic region, for example, cities with a population of more than a quarter-million people have an average of 4.3 officers per 1,000. But in the Western United States, cities with that population have an average of 2 officers per 1,000—which is pretty close to Tucson's current ratio.


GROWING OPPOSITION

The Pima County Democratic Party came out against the Public Safety First Initiative last week.

"It's a fiscally irresponsible, unfunded mandate that's going to be catastrophic," says Adam Kinsey, executive director of the Pima County Democratic Party.

Kinsey suggests that Prop 200 was put on the ballot to help Republican candidates at the ballot box this November.

"It's pretty ingenious for them to take something like public safety and use that as the messaging point so all the candidates can be (in favor of) the same message that your $200,000 independent expenditure committee is for," says Kinsey.

It's no surprise that the Pima County Democratic Party would oppose Prop 200. But a less likely opponent is the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which is normally allied with the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association and the Tucson Association of Realtors, two groups supporting Prop 200

Jack Camper, the chamber's bombastic executive director, said that his board was concerned about the fact that Prop 200 is an unfunded mandate; it forces the city to spend money without a new source of revenue. He points out that the city had to hike utility taxes and tap other revenue sources to balance the budget this year.

"The city doesn't have the money to pay for this thing," Camper says. "Where are they going to get it, and what taxes are they going to have to increase the next time around?"

Camper adds that, as a former military policeman and volunteer firefighter, "public safety runs in my blood. This opposition has nothing to do with the police and fire department. These are good departments that we have. I'm very supportive of them. It's just poor public policy."

But don't mistake the chamber's opposition to Prop 200 as a sign of support for the Democratic City Council. The chamber endorsed all three Republicans—Ben Buehler-Garcia in Ward 3, Shaun McClusky in Ward 5, and Steve Kozachik in Ward 6—in the November election.

Also announcing opposition to Prop 200 this week: Cox Communications, which doesn't normally wade into city elections.

Lisa Lovallo, vice president of local branch of the cable giant, dispatched a press release complaining about how the city does not have a defined way to fund Prop 200.

"Without specific information about how Prop 200 will be financed, Cox Communications cannot support it."

But to show its support for public safety, Cox offered to run 1,000 public-service announcements on behalf of the fire and police departments, which would normally cost $50,000.


COCKTAILS AND CONTROVERSY

The lefty boozehounds that meet every Thursday for Drinking Liberally have a new home: Elle, a Wine Country Restaurant.

The DL crowd abandoned The Shanty, because owner Bill Nugent hung a big banner outside advocating the election of Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia, the Hispanic community activist who is campaigning against Democrat Karin Uhlich in northside Ward 3.

Drinking Liberally starts at 6 p.m. at Elle, 3048 E. Broadway Blvd.


MEET THE CANDIDATES

Arizona's Illustrated political forums start at the end of this month. Skinny scribe Jim Nintzel will be joining Bill Buckmaster for the Ward 3 debate between Democratic Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, Republican challenger Ben Buehler-Garcia and Green Party candidate Mary DeCamp on Wednesday, Sept. 30. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. on KUAT Channel 6.

The following week, Buckmaster and Nintzel will quiz the Ward 5 candidates, Democrat Richard Fimbres and Republican Shaun McClusky, on Monday, Oct. 5.

Ward 6 Councilwoman Nina Trasoff and Republican Steve Kozachik will be joining the Friday Roundtable on Friday, Oct. 9.


Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch.

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