B y J i m N i n t z e l
COUNCILMAN ROGER SEDLMAYR'S retirement has brought out four candidates who are vying for the southeastern Ward 4 city council seat.
On September 19, Ward 4 Democrats will have to choose between Jean Wilkins and Shirley Scott, while Republicans will nominate either Todd Clodfelter or Bill King. None of the candidates has run for public office before.
The 65-year-old Wilkins has worked for the city her entire career, holding an administrative post in the police department for 25 years before moving to City Hall in 1973, where she worked primarily in the budget department. She retired in 1989, landed an 18-month consulting post with the city and has worked as Sedlmayr's aide for the last four years.
Her opponent, 52-year-old Shirley Scott, is a businesswoman. She and her husband Joe own Scott Industrial Supply, a wholesale dealer of nuts, bolts, screws and other fasteners. Scott also teaches German at Pima Community College. While she lacks Wilkins' intimacy with city government, she has served on the city's budget committee for the last year.
Both Democrats are articulate women who've given lots of thought to their campaigns. They agree on many issues. Both say Ward 4 has been neglected over the years and deserves a park, a pool and a library. Both say they'd like to improve constituent service, an odd promise coming from Wilkins, since she's worked in the office for the last four years.
"I think there could have been more outreach--more visibility, more town halls," Wilkins says.
Wilkins and Scott both want to see more community policing and believe we should stick to the current trash pick-up and recycling schedules until pilot programs prove otherwise. Both candidates oppose the CAP initiative on the ballot this November, but believe the city should begin recharging CAP water while simultaneously looking for a way to treat it to remove the salts before they accumulate in the aquifer. They'd both like the city to work out a deal with nearby farms and mines to switch from groundwater to CAP.
But the similarities end when it comes to the issue of growth. Scott thinks the city's annexation program is flawed; she wants to look at imposing an impact fee for developments on the city's perimeter, although she's foggy on how high it should be. She says she suspects the $1,000 figure the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association is tossing around on the rapidly growing northwest area is not "fair to all concerned."
Wilkins supports an aggressive annexation policy and opposes any large impact fees for developers. She says impact fees are "inevitable, but I'm not at this point willing to agree to do anything but to look at it. I would not want to gouge the developers. I would want to do something that would be reasonable and negotiated with the building community. I don't think they're adverse to paying an impact fee, as long as it isn't ridiculously high. I think what the county is asking is high ($3,300 per home)."
Wilkins shares the view of local developers that the infrastructure problems in the valley's northwestern area can be "blamed right on the county--shouldn't somebody have planned that development? I think they should have planned it well, instead of just letting everything go helter-skelter and now it's almost out of control."
Despite recognizing the problems of the area, Wilkins still sees it as a plum for the city to pluck. She thinks city taxpayers should step in and take the county off the hook for those infrastructure needs.
"Here you have area that's already developed and we could have immediate results," she says. "Sure, we'd have to take on the responsibility for the roads, but we do that in every annexation. Every annexation we take on costs us money--none of them are free."
Wilkins supports annexation because she says it helps increase the dollars given to Tucson by the state legislature. For every resident, the state provides somewhere in the neighborhood of an additional $166. Also, the city picks up more in sales, property and other taxes, which Wilkins believes offset the cost of delivering services to new residents.
In fact, Wilkins seems to believe the city will always profit from annexation. She'd like to see the city annex Don Diamond's proposed Rocking K development, which would become part of Ward 4. She's willing to spend millions of dollars to provide the necessary infrastructure to link metro Tucson to Rocking K.
"Now it's sitting there, it's been approved by the county, it's going to be developed whether it's taken into the city or not," she says. "And the people who are going to be living there are going to be creating an impact on the City of Tucson. We are still going to have to do improvements to Old Spanish Trail and Valencia Road. Why not take it into the city while it's still undeveloped? It improves our economy, especially if they build a golf course, a hotel and homes."
Wilkins goes as far as to say the Rocking K development could bring in the same kind of revenue as the Tucson Mall and Auto Mall annexations did for the city--a suggestion so optimistic it far exceeds the inflated numbers put forth by the city's annexation team earlier this summer. Her pro-growth views have earned her the support of the building community, as evidenced by hefty contributions from land dealers like Joe Cesare ($270) and Don Diamond's well-known assistant, Chris Monson ($250).
Scott, in contrast, is firmly opposed to the Rocking K annexation. She believes current city residents will be subsidizing the Rocking K development by providing millions of dollars in infrastructure, with no guarantee of payback even in the next decade.
"There aren't any people there yet, so what's the point?" Scott asks. "Why should we extend the perimeter to embrace some land that's sitting out there unpopulated where we would pay a tremendous amount of money to put in infrastructure, roads, all these kinds of things?"
Scott's opposition to the Rocking K proposal has helped earn her the endorsement of the Greater Tucson Neighborhood Coalition.
"In my mind, Scott's a much better candidate," says Anne Graham-Bergin, who chaired the Neighborhood Coalition's interview committee. "Rocking K is a very big issue, and Jean is probably one of the only candidates we interviewed who had more than a lukewarm support for it. I personally feel the Rocking K annexation is a boondoggle."
But that endorsement may not overcome Wilkins' lead in the fundraising race. As of this month, Wilkins had raised nearly $10,000, while Scott had brought in only $6,445, which could make a difference when it comes to establishing name recognition.
WHOEVER WINS the Democratic primary will face either Todd Clodfelter or Bill King, who are facing off in the GOP contest.
Both are good-natured men who've never before made a run at public office, although both show a record of community service. The 38-year-old Clodfelter, who owns a printing business, has been active with the local Boy Scouts chapter and various youth sports leagues.
King, a 65-year-old accountant, has worked as a court-appointed advocate for abused and neglected children. He recently pulled a two-year stint as the Pima County Republican Party treasurer.
Unlike their Democratic counterparts, both men support the CAP initiative. Both think the city should begin a recharge program now and work on ways to remove the salt from the water before it's used to replenish the aquifer.
Both candidates oppose the annexation of Rocking K, saying it would cost too much for the city to provide the necessary services to the development.
King hasn't decided yet if he'd support impact fees, while Clodfelter would like to avoid imposing them.
"I think if they're annexing the Rocking K, an impact fee should be charged," Clodfelter says, "but if they're annexing an area that's currently planned for development, if they could get away with no fees, that would be great. Or at least minimal fees. And I couldn't give you a dollar amount on that."
His research into the subject of impact fees seems limited to anecdotes: "You start doing this political stuff and, God, you hear all kinds of stuff. I heard from a Realtor-type-person and a developer-guy that there already are impact fees imposed by the county and the reason they're talking about raising the fees more so now is that the monies that were originally collected were never put back into what they were supposed to be done with."
Both candidates support continuing the current trash pick-up schedule and neither supports a fee for garbage pick-up. King is skeptical of the city's recycling program, while Clodfelter has a novel approach. He envisions taking the recycling program away from the private firm that currently handles it and assigning it to various non-profit organizations.
"I think more people would do it if it were more convenient," he says. "I know there are a lot of non-profit organizations around that could use the extra bucks, and if we could provide some sort of a pickup bin, like the big green trash cans we have in the alleys now, where you could separate your stuff--throw your aluminum in one and your tin cans in another and your newspaper in another--then you could let those groups come and haul it away. Ultimately, it saves money and helps the benevolent groups that want to earn the extra money, but you find a lot come in and say, 'Gee, city, we need more money,' so the city cuts them a check, and what did they do to earn it? Here's an opportunity."
If budget cuts are necessary, both say they'd look to cut the city's arts budget. As Clodfelter puts it, he'd cut "arts and anything else that benevolent. From what I've been learning, there's a lot of stupidity going on and a lot of fru-fru going away."
Clodfelter would also like to see Tucson try to lure a theme park of some kind.
"I'm not a real desert fanatic," he says. "It's beautiful and I like looking at the cactus and sunset, but I don't go hiking in it, I don't do that kind of stuff. From that standpoint, unless you go to the mall or drive up to Mount Lemmon every other weekend, there's really not a whole lot to do in Tucson, and I'd like to see other private enterprises come in and put in a touristy type amusement park or theme park or that kind of thing."
Neither candidate has raised much money. Clodfelter estimates he's collected a little more than $500, while King says he's received about $1,000 in contributions. Both candidates express some frustration with the complexity of issues before them.
"Throw your hat into the ring to be elected and suddenly you're supposed to be an expert on everything under the sun," Clodfelter says. "There are a lot of things I don't know, but I'm eager to learn the lowdown and hear what's going on and make a decision about it."
Like Clodfelter, King has found himself on a steep learning curve.
"It's hard to be an expert in all these things, but some people think you should be," he gripes.
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