Republican Bob Walkup, the mayor from central casting, delivered his final State of the City speech last week, delivering the big announcement that came as no surprise to most people in the room: He won't be running for a fourth term.
"It's been a great joy to give these addresses and a great privilege to serve as your mayor," he told he crowd. "But now Beth and I need to take care of our families and take care of each other."
Walkup's colleagues had kind words for the mayor on the day that he announced we wouldn't have him to kick around any more. The most critical statement came from Walkup's fellow Republican on the City Council, Ward 6's Steve Kozachik, who said that Walkup's departure gave the city a chance to turn a corner on the Rio Nuevo downtown-revitalization effort.
"It's probably a good time," Kozachik said. "He's been here a while and has done his thing."
The Democratic attorney who hopes to take Walkup's place, Jonathan Rothschild, said he wanted to thank Walkup for his years of service, but declined to grade his tenure atop City Hall.
"It's about looking toward the future," Rothschild said.
Walkup said he'd miss the job, but he wouldn't miss his critics.
"I can tell you the relentlessness of the assaults is wearing," Walkup said after the luncheon. "Somebody is always going to object to a position in our political environment, so you have to prepare yourself. You have to move to where the majority of people want you to be and not be mesmerized by a skillful assault by a sub-minority."
During his speech, Walkup recounted some of his bigger accomplishments: bringing an end to Tucson's contentious water wars and finding a way to recharge more of the city's Central Arizona Project allotment; pushing for the passage of the Regional Transportation Authority; and reforming the city's budget, including new garbage fees, new impact fees and a smaller staff.
Many of those steps required that Walkup do the one thing that many Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to: Increase taxes and fees. Democrats howled when he pushed for a trash fee. He had to flip-flop on impact fees, which he said weren't necessary when he first ran for office. Water rates increased to expand the Avra Valley recharge facility. The transportation plan wasn't possible without a half-cent sales-tax increase to pay for it. Even his transfer of the library system to the county required higher property taxes to pay for the system after the city quit contributing to it.
But without all of those steps, the city would be in far worse financial shape than it is in today. Walkup managed to do something that many leaders in this community have failed to do: He managed to convince people to invest in its future.
In his speech last week, Walkup urged the community to work toward more regional cooperation and to develop a high-tech cluster "where world-class talent comes together, and world-class ideas are developed. ... Our wealth should be measured in patents, not permits."
It's the right vision for Tucson, but whether we can get there—especially with a Legislature that appears determined to destroy the universities—remains to be seen.
Jared Lee Loughner is due in federal court in Tucson next Wednesday, March 9, to face revised federal charges related to his alleged shooting rampage at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event on Jan. 8.
Federal prosecutors are pursuing charges that Loughner killed federal Judge John Roll and Giffords' office staffer Gabe Zimmerman, as well as charges that he attempted to kill Giffords and two of her aides, Ron Barber and Pam Simon, who were both shot.
Prosecutors say they'll be ready to go to trial by September.
Loughner could face additional state charges related to the other victims who were killed or injured if County Attorney Barbara LaWall proceeds with a local prosecution after the federal trial wraps up.
A trial can bring closure to the victims of crime, but it can also be a grueling and expensive experience—and that's on top of the medical bills that victims and witnesses already face due to their physical and psychological wounds.
To help the victims, three separate funds set up in the wake of the Jan. 8 shootings are joining together under a single banner to better distribute the donations collected.
The resulting mega-fund, Tucson Together, is being run by the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. Included in Tucson Together are funds established by Homicide Survivors, Safeway and KVOA.
Still in its infancy, Tucson Together by itself has collected about $975 through 15 donations, says Marthena Maley, donor-services administrator for the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.
A part of Tucson Together, Homicide Survivors has collected a total of $52,000 since the creation of its Tucson Tragedy Victims Fund shortly after the shooting, says Carol Gaxiola, executive director of Homicide Survivors, which will administer the payments from the Tucson Together fund.
KVOA general manager Bill Shaw declined to release details on how much the station raised for victims, while representatives from Safeway did not return phone calls.
The Tucson Together fund's distributions will be decided by a committee of representatives from each fund and Tucson Together's community partners, including the Pima County Attorney's Office Victim Services Division, the Tucson Community Food Bank and the Southern Arizona Chapter of the American Red Cross, says Evan Mendelson, vice president of donor relations for the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.
Community Food Bank President Bill Carnegie will chair the committee.
To donate to Tucson Together, send a check to the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, 2250 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85719, or donate online at tucsontogetheraz.com. For more details, call 770-0800.
Gabe Zimmerman, who was known as the "constituent whisperer" around the District 8 office for his ability to handle tough problems brought to the office, would have turned 31 years old last week.
Two funds set up to honor Zimmerman are both over the $30,000 mark, although donations seem to be leveling off.
The Gabriel Zimmerman Memorial Fund has collected 182 donations collectively worth $32,000, up from $25,000 three weeks ago, says Colleen Bagnall, development director of Child and Family Resources in Tucson, the organization that started the fund.
Meanwhile, the Gabriel Zimmerman Scholarship Fund has reached about $35,000 in total donations, an increase from $30,000 three weeks ago, says Marcus Frost, assistant director of development for social sciences at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Zimmerman's alma mater.
The fund needs to reach $50,000 for endowment at the university, a goal that fund organizers are trying to reach "as soon as possible," Frost says. "Time is of the essence, but there is not a deadline."
To donate to the Gabriel Zimmerman Memorial Fund, contact Bagnall, of Child and Family Resources, at 321-3778, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate to the Gabriel Zimmerman Scholarship Fund, contact Joop Rubens at (831) 502-7275 or email@example.com.
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