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Steve Kozachik and the Streetcar Crunch

CRASH COURSE

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik has reached an inescapable conclusion: Some of the metered parking along the modern streetcar's route is gonna have to go.

For starters, it's just too damn dangerous to try to maneuver a bike between the parked cars and the streetcar in some areas along the route, including what Kozachik is calling "pinch points" along University Boulevard, Fourth Avenue and Congress Street.

Secondly, the city is going to continue to have trouble with drivers who park outside the lines, especially along Congress Street. And if city officials think a few signs and some kind of educational effort will fix that problem, they are woefully out of touch with human nature. There are always going to be oblivious jackasses who don't pay attention and park with their hind ends sticking out in the path of the streetcar.

Kozachik warns that if the city doesn't deal with the problem before the streetcar starts carrying passengers, "you're going to be seriously injuring people on bikes, you are going to clip a car sometime. Your streetcar operator isn't going to be know that car is six inches outside the parking space and you're going to clip it."

We get that the city's ParkWise department doesn't want to give up those metered spaces downtown because the dollars help them make their budget, but with all the under-utilized spaces in the recently built parking garages, it only makes sense to avoid the troubles that would come from injured cyclists or crushed cars.

Fourth Avenue is a bit more of a challenge, since there aren't any parking garages, unless you count the Centro garage, which sits right on the south end of the Fourth Avenue underpass. Even so, Kozachik told The Skinny that he doesn't think all the street parking needs to go, but there are spots that just don't make sense anymore.

"They'll come around," Kozachik predicts. "I hope it doesn't take a serious injury or the streetcar smashing someone's fender to achieve it."

NOT SO FAST

The Skinny predicted last week that Senate President Andy Biggs' proposed budget was not going to be acceptable to Gov. Jan Brewer.

Sure enough, following a meeting with Brewer's team and House Speaker Andy Tobin, Biggs and his Senate allies amended the spending plan to include funding for the Common Core testing program, additional funding for whatever agency will be replacing CPS and some other areas.

The $9.2 billion budget then passed the Senate last Thursday, March 20, without any Democratic votes. But it ran into trouble again in the House earlier this week. Getting it through the House Appropriations Committee on Monday morning was easy enough. All the Republicans voted in favor of it; all the Democrats voted against it.

But ramming it through the full House on Monday afternoon proved impossible. Democrats wanted to add about 20 amendments, but it was the more moderate Republicans who wanted even more. Somewhere around 60 GOP amendments were in the works as Tobin and his leadership team looked for the votes to pass it.

The budget blitzkrieg fell apart Monday when Tobin realized he couldn't find 31 votes. As of The Skinny's Tuesday morning deadline, the future of the budget remained unknown.

State Rep. Bruce Wheeler (D-Tucson), the assistant minority leader in the House of Representatives, said he'd rarely seen such "chaos" at the Capitol.

"It's one hell of a way to do business," Wheeler said. "Republicans are always talking about how government should be run like a business, and then they get in charge and they run it like a circus."

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

The Skinny remains mystified by the GOP leadership's insistence on running a budget through on such short notice instead of taking enough time to allow outside input. Are they really that afraid that someone might find something to criticize about the spending plan?

And there are still quite a few noxious bits of legislation awaiting approval in either the House or the Senate.

But here's the good news: This has been one of the least productive legislative sessions in The Skinny's memory. Of the more than 1,200 bills introduced, just seven of them have passed both chambers—and just six of those have been signed into law. (The seventh was the infamous SB 1062, aka the "No Cake For Gays Bill," which was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer.)

Given the current makeup of the Legislature, any session where almost nothing gets done is a good one in our book.

More by Jim Nintzel

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