The Ward 3 City Council Candidates Mix It Up For The First Time
By Jim Nintzel
WARD 3 CITY Councilman Michael Crawford faced his three challengers--Jerry Anderson, Alex Kimmelman and Demitri Downing--in a debate in front of the Democratic Nucleus Club last week.
It was the first time the four candidates appeared together in a public forum, and the 49-year-old Anderson came out swinging against the incumbent, who was appointed to the Ward 3 seat less than two years ago.
"His voting record consistently does not address the needs of the residents of Ward 3," said Anderson, who worked as an aide to former Mayor Tom Volgy in the 1980s. "My opponent has rarely seen a rezoning he doesn't like. Just two weeks ago, he voted to approve a rezoning to allow a paint shop next to a large apartment building. Two months ago, my opponent voted to award a liquor license to a South Sixth Avenue business, despite the protests of hundreds of neighbors who live in that area."
Anderson also criticized Crawford for raising bus fares without expanding service and for supporting fringe developments like the southeast-side Civano "solar village" while ignoring the infrastructure needs of Ward 3.
While not addressing Anderson's attacks directly, Crawford defended his record.
"I've done an outstanding job of trying to bring people together, instead of putting people into separate categories and pitting people against each other," said the 32-year-old Crawford, who recently took a leave of absence from his job in the Pima County Public Defender's Office.
Crawford also defended his vote to study the privatization of the management of Tucson Water, which he said he did at the request of Mayor George Miller. Crawford insisted it would take something "very compelling" to make him vote to privatize the department, and argued that Tucson Water, once a rogue agency, was now on the right track.
Anderson and Kimmelman were both firmly opposed to studying the privatization of Tucson Water.
"I do not support the privatization of Tucson Water," said the 41-year-old Kimmelman, a local historian who worked for several years in the city's planning department beginning in 1987. "I do not support studying the privatization of Tucson Water, I do not support studying the options for privatization of Tucson Water, or considering the possibilities, or wondering about 'What might.' I believe this is our most important resource and must remain under public ownership. If we have a problem with management, we need to find new management."
The 25-year-old Downing, who's attending UA law school, said the city should study the privatization option, but insisted he would never support such shift.
Regarding the city's CAP allotment, Crawford said the City Council was progressing with compliance with the Water Consumer Protection Act, passed by voters in 1995. He said recharge efforts were underway, but he would also support blending CAP water with groundwater for direct delivery.
Anderson expressed his support for recharge in the central well field, as well as an audit of Tucson Water.
"Our CAP allotment should be used exactly as Prop 200 says," said Anderson. "Recharge it in our stream beds and let them use CAP water in the mines and industry and in agriculture, much more than is being done now."
Kimmelman also supported more deals with agricultural and mining interests and said the city needs to find a way to make the water palatable to city residents. He argued Tucson should become the "silicon valley" of water technology.
Downing said he supports building a lake with CAP water.
"I'd support terminal storage," Downing said. "The idea of creating a recreational lake in Tucson--building more golf courses that can be watered with CAP water, soccer fields, football fields, baseball fields for our children to play in. Tucson needs to create the perception that it's dependent on this water so we can have the power to sell it to Nevada when they come begging for it."
Kimmelman attacked the city's current annexation as "morally wrong," and said it was fueling the incorporation efforts around the city's borders, which he said would doom efforts toward metro government.
"With the exception of Civano, we're all living in Tucson here," Kimmelman quipped. "We are a singular community and we are stronger as a singular community. Anything that strengthens the individuality of the outlying incorporation areas should be fought at all costs."
Anderson said the city should offer alternatives to the incorporating communities, but his experience in the city's annexation department (which he recently left to take a job teaching in a TUSD alternative education program) left him skeptical that annexation drives in those areas would be successful, given the residents "big-time" hostility toward city government.
Crawford admitted the city's annexation policies have been flawed, although he recently voted to sue to stop neighboring communities from incorporating, a move which infuriated many organizers on the city's edge.
"The city's done a poor job over the last couple of years on annexation," Crawford said. "We've come off like an invading army...'We're here to take your money and spend it elsewhere.' "
Downing captured the crowd's attention with his proposal for the "unification" of Tucson. Under his plan, the city would annex the proposed cities of Casas Adobes and Catalina Foothills by creating two new wards. Downing would also push to change the city charter from citywide general elections to ward elections--a proposal that was overwhelming defeated by the voters in 1991.
"I have a seven-page proposal written out with figures and numbers if you want it later," Downing told the audience. But after the meeting, Downing admitted he hasn't spent a lot of time researching the financial impact of providing police, fire, garbage and other municipal services to about 120,000 new residents, in addition to absorbing the cost of improving infrastructure from roads to sewer lines.
"I haven't done the numbers myself," he confesses. "I'm just relying on the numbers that I've been gathering from news sources, and that's the only numbers I have. The actual real numbers, that would involve a major commission and committees to get together and actually study the exact numbers."
ELSEWHERE ON THE city election front, the Citizens Commission on Public Service and Compensation has recommended that voters approve a raise for council members, from the current $18,000 to $24,000 a year. The question will appear on the ballot as Prop 107.
The City Council is placing six other propositions on the ballot which would amend the city charter to, among other things, give the mayor more power when it comes time to fire the city manager.
These propositions join three successful citizen initiatives on the ballot:
Prop 200, the so-called "Meet and Confer" initiative sponsored by the Tucson Police Officers Union, which would change the way the city negotiates contracts with unions;
Prop 201, which would repeal much of the Water Consumer Protection Act passed by Tucson voters in 1995; and
Prop 202, which would establish a minimum wage of $7 within the city limits.
City Clerk Kathy Detrick says her office is now accepting written arguments on the pro and con sides of the ballot props.
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