B y D a v i d D e v i n e
IT'S BEEN A fairly wacky year locally: The murder rate is at an all time high, and few people are talking seriously about what to do about it. The voters rejected direct delivery of CAP water to their homes, yet re-elected City Council members who voted for the policy and then gave them a pay raise to boost. Pima County will pay out millions to settle the lawsuits brought on by Big Ed Moore's coup of longtime county bureaucrats, but Ed claims it actually saved the taxpayers money.
Those were the headline stories. In the past year The Weekly has covered a number of other issues affecting our town. To update you:
In April we reviewed the conflicts between the University of Arizona and campus-area merchants over the use of the All Aboard Card and other University competition with the private sector. A merchant/University committee was suppose to resolve these issues. But according to Mike Rukasin of University Drug, "The University keeps on burying the issue and we've made no progress. They want to keep on studying the problem while putting more and more businesses out of business."
How unusual in a free enterprise/anti-government state for the public sector to be driving the people who pay the taxes out of business.
The next month we covered the Postal History Foundation's demolition of a house in the West University historic district to make room for a new library. It's taken almost eight months since the bricks came tumbling down, but Betsy Towle, executive director of the foundation, reports a groundbreaking for the new building is tentatively scheduled for January 12. She says her group is glad to "get on with what we think is a good thing for Tucson."
What people think of the design of the new building, called "a bunker" by one neighborhood resident, remains to be seen. In six months or so we should know.
The potential for the City of Tucson to annex that massive Rocking K development controlled by legendary land speculator Don Diamond got a lot of attention this past summer. It was also an issue in the city's general election. But now John Jones, head of the city's annexation effort, reports there's nothing active on the proposal. He also says he hasn't even discussed the possibility recently with Diamond.
Since the two new council members chosen in November opposed the annexation, maybe this shows that elections really can make a difference, at least with some things.
Also during the summer, the location of a new downtown federal courthouse was discussed. Not only did Diamond not want it built, but the city's own downtown plan recommended a different location than the chosen corner of Granada and Congress. But both Diamond and the city lost this one. According to John Canally, outspoken critic of the selected site, plans are proceeding to build the new courthouse there. He sees this decision as a symbol of something much more important for the downtown area: "With the absence of will by both the City Council and city staff to implement the city center strategic plan, downtown will return to where it was 15 years ago" Canally predicts. "The location of the new courthouse shows that public input into a process and the downtown plan itself are all for naught without the necessary implementation."
The Community Food Bank's move to a gigantic new facility, and the financial problems meeting the big monthly rent could potentially cause for this vital Tucson institution, were outlined in a September story. Punch Woods, the Food Bank's guiding light, reports that renovations needed to make the new building usable by groups other than his own are just beginning. They should be finished in about four months, at which time he hopes both public and private agencies will join his organization at its new location. If they do, they'll be able to help pay the bills for the building.
Woods also mentioned his dream of having a children's dental clinic to serve the people who use the Food Bank. Maybe by the next holiday season that wish can be fulfilled.
In October The Weekly covered a Tucson Board of Adjustment case dealing with burying a natural wash in the name of commerce. The board approved the request, and so a little part of mother nature will be sacrificed at Broadway and Houghton. What was that song about paving paradise to put up a parking lot?
Coming up next year are decisions on baseball stadiums, recharging CAP water, a location for Sprawl U (the University of Arizona's new college for stupid people--both professors and students), and the city manager's employment contract. Then there will be the Board of Supervisors' election.
It should be interesting, if not downright amusing.
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