LOUIE, LOUIE: "Voter approval? We don't need no stinking
Looks like that's what Tucson City Manager Luis Gutierrez will be telling the City Council shortly about his flamboyant building plans. Gutierrez wants to construct a new City Hall on the lawn next to the downtown library. Also on his "to-do" list: Creating a city service center at El Con, which will include a new Ward 6 council office and a fire station, as well as new buildings for the Parks and Recreation Department.
To pay for his empire building, Gutierrez won't suggest asking for a property-tax increase to finance bonds, which, of course, requires voter approval. Instead, he'll will recommend using "creative financing."
But there's nothing creative about this funding scheme: The city simply uses its own buildings and other assets to obtain funds, and the proceeds pay for the new construction. Future city revenues, other than property taxes, then pay off the loan.
This financing technique was widely used under Joel Valdez, but it's been mostly abandoned since he stepped down as city manager in 1990. It has the distinct disadvantage of using tax money for construction which could otherwise be available to improve city services.
The enormous appeal of "creative financing," however, is that it doesn't require voter approval to pay for controversial construction projects. We'll hope the City Council refuses to go along with this idea to exclude the voters from a major community decision.
SAVING SAL: University of Arizona Dean of Students Melissa Vito is bouncing old warrior Salomon Baldenegro from his 10-year position as assistant dean of Hispanic affairs. Independent of the uproar Sal's ouster is creating among Mexican-Americans, Vito is making a stupid and bad move. Funny how the leftover UA bureaucrats that Prez Peter Likins inherited continue to put him in jams.
Announcement of Vito's decision, and an offer to move Baldenegro to serve as a special assistant to Saundra Taylor, vice president for campus life for one year, spurred Mexican-American leaders and activists to rally. Three meetings broke out last week, including two at the UA, where Likins and Vito were MIA. One group that included Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva and City Councilman José Ibarra was forced to meet with UA mouthpiece Sharon Kha. Musta been painful. There's a pile of money the UA could save.
Mexican action came after a number of the leaders and activists stumbled by mistakenly trying to blame Adela de la Torre, director of the UA's Mexican-American Studies and Research Center. De la Torre backers quickly deflected the shots.
Back on target, the old guard as well as some of the new crew made impressive showings over three days for the aging Hispanic-rights activist. Disparate camps were united, such as those of Grijalva and Pima County's other Hispanic supervisor, Dan Eckstrom. Previously forced together by their outrage over the GOP board majority's costly nonsense (mass firings) and threats (southside landfill, Kino Hospital closure) from 1992-'96, Eckstrom and Grijalva have been estranged since the start of the new term last year.
"We feel the non-renewal of Mr. Baldenegro's contract is an insult to the community and a betrayal of the University of Arizona's commitment to diversity and opportunity for all residents of this state," Grijalva and Eckstrom said in a joint statement. "We believe that his leadership and advocacy have been excellent. Perhaps the problem is that Mr. Baldenegro is not 'safe' or 'house' enough for some UA administrators."
After one rally, Grijalva said the it wasn't up to UA brass, including Hispanics, or other Mexican elite with the Hispanic Political Action Committee, to determine "when our dinosaurs are extinct. We say when."
Baldenegro admits his style offends some. But since he took over in 1989, graduation rates for Hispanics at the UA have more than doubled and retention now matches that of white students.
"The UA knew what it was getting with Salomon," Eckstrom said. "He's supposed to advocate, not abdicate."
BROKEN RECORD: Board of Supes candidate Brenda Even remains stuck in her study groove. Given yet another opportunity to show what she knows about Pima County government on John C. Scott's radio show on July 2, Even continued with her non-answers:
On the issue of economic development and whether she would vote to support the Greater Tucson Economic Development Corp., which will get $364,000 from county taxpayers this year, Even said: "I would vote to support a continued look at what GTEC is doing. I'd want to be sure they had a definitive plan. I'd want to make sure that I had, that I knew exactly what they had accomplished the year before and they had specific goals for the coming year."
Even on transportation: "In my mind we have to be smarter about that. We're going to have to take a look at how do we improve the transportation systems that we have. Do we have to reshuffle what the mass transit is and make it more workable for the people to use? I also think we have to be sure that our roads are in good condition and I think we have to take a look at these graded (grade-separated) intersections (like the one she drives over on Tanque Verde Road at Wrightstown). And I think we have to see is there any other way we can get an east-west corridor going similar to the one we have with Golf Links and the Aviation Highway. Is there a possibility for doing that? And I'm wanting to, that would be something that I would want to explore very definitively."
Fighting crime: "The approach to the crime problem in Pima County seem to me to say OK, how many do we need on the road? How many do we need specifically out there in cars? How many do we need on the beat? What are we going to do? What are we expecting each man, each woman to do as part of their job? I guess what I want are specific objectives that each person that we're going to hire, if we're going to hire new people, what exactly are we expecting them to accomplish."
The county healthcare system, and the new appointed board that oversees the system: "I think the Board (of Supervisors) decided they would like to take a new look at how to do this and so they established this commission. I think we need to know what are the goals of that commission, what are they going to accomplish within this current year, what is the budget they have set up and are expecting (CEO) Dr. Richard Carmona to meet or deal with and what exactly is the outcome of that and then if it is working, fine, then we set a new pattern in terms of what is the goal that we want for the next step. But I think we have to be very, very careful of how we look at this and how we follow through and monitor it.''
With all of Brenda's experience serving the public, you'd think that by now, she'd already have taken a look at those questions and come up with a few solutions--and, more importantly, a way to pay for 'em. That's called taking a stand--and with eight weeks to election day, it's time Brenda quit faking it.
SPLASH LANDING: That was some water crisis that gripped the city for a couple of days last week! We were certainly surprised about the news from Tucson Water that we were in such dire straits, given that we'd had one of the coolest springs in recent memory on the heels of that rainy El Niño winter. Frankly, when Tucson Water started talking about a water crisis, we started smelling bullshit. And when the monsoon rains started falling days later, we had a good laugh at the foolish panic of our gullible colleagues in the mainstream media.
Look, we don't disagree that people living in a desert ought to try to use less water. But the real water crisis in southern Arizona is built into public policy from the local to state level--it's the mad notion that we need to bring more and more people to Arizona, so taxpayers continue to subsidize development on a myriad number of levels.
Apparently Tucson Water and the cementhead shills that compose a majority on the City Council--Mayor George Miller and council members Shirley Scott, Janet Marcus and Fred Ronstadt--believe current citizens should quit bathing to make sure there's enough water for the new arrivals. This is just one more obscene example of how the Growth Lobby is ruining our quality of life.
CONTINENTAL DIVIDE: Continental Ranch is a development in Marana, where the Town Council and Planning and Zoning Commission take more dives for developers than a YMCA swim class. But the latest attempts by Southwest Value Partners to make some dramatic changes in the area has run into some opposition. The Marana P&Z Commission actually thought the request by SVP to transform the existing area plan was too complicated and asked for a delay. There were also some problems on notifying existing residents in a full and timely fashion.
The developer wants to eliminate a three-mile linear park on the Santa Cruz River, put 950 recreational vehicles on a 70-acre parcel currently zoned for 350 homes, add more uses to 17.8 acres west of I-10 and north of Cortaro Farms Road, and amend building height restrictions to include structures up to 10 stories along I-10.
Gee, why don't they ask permission to put in a hazwaste incinerator while they're at it?
Needless to say, some neighbors aren't happy. But because the Continental Ranch Community Association is essentially a captive group owned by the developers, they've endorsed proposals no genuine homeowners group would, including the elimination of the linear park.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the original zoning many years ago, long before Marana annexed Continental Ranch. So what you're witnessing here is a classic, long-term Growth Lobby scam: Get enough zoning the first time to start off, then lay back in the weeds until you have a friendly Board or a new jurisdiction to ram your changes through.
But there are some real problems in dumping the original commitment for the linear park. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has pointed out to Marana officials that "development of river parks is usually a condition of issuance of a Section 404 Clean Water Act permits from the Army Corps of Engineers that allows flood-control improvements along water courses." Huckelberry has told the Town of Marana on behalf of the Flood Control District, a.k.a. the Board of Supervisors, to nix the plan to dump the river park, or else there'll be "negative implications regarding future flood-control work with the Town of Marana."
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