It seems to me that Tucson's failures can be ascribed, for the most part, to a lack of vision. Or, rather, to a narrow vision--one endorsed by politicians, business leaders and others who might benefit personally.
That's why Tucson sprawls now, and why it will sprawl mercilessly into our future. If developers and car dealers are your idea of visionaries, then this is your vision: An endless sea of homes, strip malls and roadways marching toward Benson on the east, Green Valley to the south and Phoenix to the north.
And while they profit, you pick up the tab.
A lack of vision, or selfish vision, is why our downtown is neglected. The same vision that gave us the Tucson Convention Center, destroying housing stock so vital to a vibrant downtown, now offers Rio Nuevo--another ill-conceived sop for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many.
Meanwhile, the Arts District--a genuine lure downtown--suffers as galleries concentrate in the Foothills, where the money is. (See "Art Follows Money," by Pamela Portwood, page 14).
It doesn't have to be this way. Our downtown should be the jewel in our city's crown. Instead of coming up with ways to drive people out of Tucson--those roads to nowhere--we must come up with solutions that drive them in--literally, into downtown.
Tucson is in danger of becoming a squalid urban mass of Americana. Band-Aid solutions to transportation problems won't help. We must create a welcome environment for those of us who live here--not just those who will move here next week, next month, or next year.
That requires vision, at least enough to see beyond your own nose.