THE GAVEL IS PASSED
Everyone has their own sense of what Mayor Bob Walkup accomplished during his 12 years as mayor of Tucson.
Some see him as a nice guy who brought a unique sense of compassion to the job. Some see him as an empty suit who got nothing done. Some see him as a leader who finally got Tucsonans to pass a transportation-funding sales tax back in '06. Some see him as the guy who oversaw the failures of Rio Nuevo. Some see him as the Republican who embraced tax and fee increases—a garbage fee, impact fees and a library transfer to the county—that put the city on stronger financial footing.
However you view him, Walkup presided over his final council meeting earlier this week, telling the audience he'd soon be setting out in his '76 Volkswagen bus with his wife, Beth Walkup.
"Don't worry about what we're going to do next," Walkup said. "Beth and I have a great capacity for finding interesting and fun things to do."
As he passed the mayoral gavel to Jonathan Rothschild on Monday, Dec. 5, Walkup told the audience at the Tucson Convention Center that he had a good reason for visiting Tucson's elementary schools on a monthly basis during his 12 years in office.
During his very first visit with a group of third-graders, he asked the kids if any of them knew what the mayor does.
Walkup explained: "Some little kid said, 'I know! I know!' I said, 'What is that?' He says: 'The king of the world!' So I knew if I was ever feeling bad about being mayor of this great city, I'd just go to see the third-graders."
The expectations of third-graders aside, the mayor of Tucson is not the king of the world—or even the king of Tucson, a point that Rothschild made later that day at his inaugural luncheon, where he warned the crowd that he'd be reaching out to them for help.
"What needs to be done, I cannot do alone," Rothschild said. "I cannot do it with a staff of five, and I cannot do it with a great city staff. It's going to take each of you in this room throwing in."
Rothschild starts off with an ample reservoir of goodwill. More than 600 people turned out for the inaugural luncheon, making it the biggest fundraiser the Pima County Democratic Party has ever done. (We suspect that had a lot to do with local treasure Calexico playing after all the speeches were done—but it could be that civic-minded citizens really are excited about the Rothschild administration.)
Given the rocky state of our city, he'll need all the help he can get. He's facing a strapped budget, too many neglected streets, and too many small businesses struggling just to keep their doors open. He's mayor of a town with too many single moms with lousy jobs who are barely getting by. He's going to need to decide how to handle the protestors at Occupy Tucson (who are evidently thinning out as cold weather rolls in). And he's going to need to come to terms with a contentious Rio Nuevo board that is far more concerned with paying lawyers to undermine the city of Tucson than with contributing to the rebounding downtown area.
"We know we have challenges ahead," Rothschild told the crowd. "The city needs your help. The community as a whole needs your help. ... I look forward to the work ahead, and I look forward to working with each of you."
Tucson City Clerk Roger Randolph has informed Republican Jennifer Rawson, who lost the race for the Ward 2 City Council seat to Democrat Paul Cunningham, that she needs to repay matching funds that she received for her campaign.
Randolph says that Rawson needs to give back $32,800.11 in campaign dollars she received from the city through its public-campaign program—and pay a $15,048 fine, because she mishandled the collection of campaign contributions via credit card.
Randolph wouldn't speak about the case, but referred us to a letter that he and City Attorney Mike Rankin sent to Rawson on Nov. 18.
The letter explains that state law requires all campaign contributions to go directly into a bank account, and the Rawson campaign violated the law with the "commingling of the (Rawson) committee's funds with those of Todd Clodfelter, an individual who owns and does business as Ace Graphics."
Because Clodfelter allowed his incorporated status to expire earlier this year, he could no longer process campaign payments legally, according to Randolph's letter.
"A knowing and intentional violation of ARS 16-904(C) has occurred here for contributions processed through Ace Graphics on or after June 13, 2011," Randolph writes. "This violation is not curable."
Rawson says she was "flabbergasted and certainly blindsided" when she got Randolph's letter.
Rawson, who filed at least 18 amended campaign-finance reports during her campaign that did not always reflect her actual campaign spending, adds that she had no idea Clodfelter needed to have an incorporated entity to handle the credit-card transactions.
"I figured: If he had the machine, and he was willing to do it at a very reasonable price, what difference did it make?" Rawson asks. "It's a gross misstatement to say I knew and intentionally violated (the law). Why would I?"
Rawson says she's been working with her treasurer, Ryan Williams, to decide the next step. She hasn't yet retained legal counsel, but she has requested an administrative hearing to appeal Randolph's decision. She's also reaching out to Secretary of State Ken Bennett to get a second opinion on how the law applies.
"I don't understand why they're doing this. If it is to keep me from doing this again, they didn't have to worry about it," Rawson says with a laugh. "I'm 64 now. In four years, I'll be 68. And then it's a four-year term to 72. I don't think so."
Democrat Nancy Young Wright, a former state lawmaker and former Amphitheater school board member, has taken another step toward running for the District 1 Pima County Board of Supervisors seat now held by the retiring Ann Day.
Wright has formed an exploratory committee for a campaign in the district, which leans Republican.
Potential Republican candidates include Vic Williams, who was Wright's seatmate in Legislative District 26 for several years (they don't get along too well); Stuart McDaniel, a mortgage broker who worked on the campaign of unsuccessful congressional candidate Jesse Kelly in 2010; Ally Miller, a Tea Party activist; and Charlie Bowles, the vice president of sales and marketing for Diamond Ventures.
"I'm passionate about public service, and I'm really disturbed that someone as extreme as Vic or some of those other candidates could wind up representing District 1," Wright says. "I've put a lot of time into fighting for some good stuff for this county, like the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, and I don't want to see anyone undermine it."
Wright tells The Skinny that she is also considering a run for the Arizona Legislature, but the new draft maps put her in a heavily Republican district where she'd have little chance of victory.