B y J i m N i n t z e l
AND THEY'RE CLOSING in on the finish line.... This Tuesday, November 7, roughly one-fourth of Tucson's registered voters will trek to the polls, electing a mayor and three council members. With both Ward 1 Councilman Bruce Wheeler and Ward 4 Councilman Roger Sedlmayer stepping down after eight years of service, we're assured at least two new faces on the council in December (actually, at least three new faces, if you include new Councilman Michael Crawford, who was recently appointed to former Councilflake Tom Saggau's Ward 3 seat).
To help you get to know these folks before you vote for them, we've put together yet another eye-popping voters' almanac. This time, we're not endorsing candidates, although we've asked some friends to speak out on behalf of the ballot issues. Instead, we're sharing some handicapping information about the races. Remember that gambling on elections is a crime in our tough-on-crime, squeaky clean state--please, no wagering.
Although, if you're interested in some action on the ballot, it would be a good parlay to bet on the Democrats. With roughly 133,000 Democrats and only 89,000 Republicans, the GOP tends to be the underdog party in city elections. Still, some of our prognosticators say they smell an upset in the air somewhere on Tucson's east side.
Readers who want rapid-fire info will be delighted by our Handi-Candi chart, which shows the candidates' positions on a host of issues, including the water initiative, growth, sports subsidies and our favorite municipal topic, garbage collection. (We considered adding a question about crime, but soon ascertained all the candidates were opposed to it.) Sharp-eyed readers will notice Ward 1 candidate Ray Fontaine chose not to participate in our little survey because he didn't dig the vibe he was picking up from us (more on that later).
Keep in mind Tucson elections are citywide, which means you get to vote in every race no matter what ward you live in. That means you're obligated to read about all of the candidates if you're going to vote on next week.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
--By Jim Nintzel
The Mayors RaceMAYOR GEORGE MILLER is a familiar figure to most Tucsonans. He hasn't lost a race since he was first elected to the Ward 3 City Council seat in 1977. Four years ago he gave up that position to successfully pursue the mayor's office. Just six weeks ago, he clobbered Ward 1 Councilman Bruce Wheeler in the Democratic primary.
In short, as unlikely as it seems, the 73-year-old former house painter has built one of the most effective political machines in the history of Tucson city government. For this year's race, he's managed to raise nearly $120,000, with a good chunk coming from Republicans who have crossed party lines to support him.
With his money and experience, Miller's had little trouble shrugging off the attacks leveled by his GOP opponent, Sharon Collins. A former elementary school teacher who just got her start in politics after Bill Clinton was elected president three years ago, the 50-year-old Collins charges Miller has failed to provide leadership while in office.
Although she talks tough on crime and complains the city turns too often to consultants, Collins' biggest gamble has been tying her campaign tightly to the current water initiative, saying Tucsonans should have a voice in how CAP water is used. Miller has strenuously campaigned against the initiative, griping it would be too restrictive.
Collins' support of the initiative has cost her considerable support in GOP circles. Although Republicans are generally leery of giving much money to a GOP candidate for City Council because Democrats have a large registration advantage, Collins has been frozen out partially for her stance on the initiative. She's raised a little over $42,000 for her campaign.
As a newcomer with no name recognition, Collins needs money to introduce herself to Tucsonans, especially in a race that has drawn little attention from the mainstream media. Last week she unveiled a pair of television ads, but the effort may be too little, too late.
She's picked up a few endorsements, including one from the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson, a group that normally finds itself supporting left-of-center candidates. The coalition was impressed with Collins' cautious approach to annexation and her support for the initiative.
The dynamics of the race could yet be upset by Libertarian Ed Kahn, a 59-year-old lawyer who has raised an astounding $79,000--nearly twice what Collins has managed to bring in. A former right-wing Republican, Kahn now spouts the Libertarian line, heartily asserting there's nothing government can do that private enterprise can't do better. He'd like to see the city budget sliced in half, with virtually all the money going to public safety.
Ask him how to improve transportation, he'll tell you we should let private companies build toll roads; ask him how to revitalize downtown, he'll tell you it's none of government's business; ask him what we should do with the water department, he'll tell you we should sell it off to the highest bidder. And so on. His idealized vision of private enterprise is the magic bullet that can save us all from disastrous government bureaucracy.
Kahn admitted he had no chance of winning when he entered the race last summer, but has since declared he's going to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Tucson's history with a victory on election day. He's right about one thing--the odds are indeed long.
IN THE WESTSIDE Ward 1 race, Democrat José Ibarra is battling Republican Ray Fontaine for the seat of departing Councilman Bruce Wheeler, who was whipped by Mayor George Miller in September's Democratic primary.
Although he's a mere 26 years old, Ibarra knows the community. A Tucson native, he got his start in politics as a teenager, working as an aide for Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva. He's also worked on a number of campaigns, including Mayor George Miller's 1991 run, Terry Goddard's failed gubernatorial bid and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday initiative. He also served as southern Arizona coordinator for President Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential bid.
Ibarra has put that campaigning experience to work on his own first-time campaign. He finished first in a five-candidate race in the Democratic primary, squeezing out victory by fewer than 170 votes. He's also raised more money than any other council candidate, pulling in more than $37,858.
The energetic Ibarra developed a strong grasp of the issues facing the community while working in Grijalva's office. As a councilman, he pledges to meet frequently with Ward 1 residents. He also supports programs that bring social service agencies into the schools to help people gain access to assistance.
A strong advocate for the inner city, Ibarra supports annexations that will bring the city quick returns.
"Let's look at it on a case-by-case basis, on what's viable and what's not," Ibarra says. "Annexation causes a disparity. You have annexation that's taking away money from Ward 1--dollars that our taxpayers have been paying for years--that's going to build infrastructure and bring up to par annexed areas in the outlying areas of the city."
He's adamantly opposed to the annexation of Don Diamond's proposed Rocking K development southeast of Tucson.
"For the City of Tucson to subsidize Don Diamond and annex Rocking K is simply ridiculous," he says.
When it comes to the CAP, Ibarra opposes direct delivery and blending, but he's ready to try almost anything else. He wants a mix of pilot recharge and treatment programs and supports selling the water to mines and farms. He opposes Proposition 200, the water initiative.
Ibarra has picked up endorsements from the Sierra Club and Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson.
Ibarra's opponent, Republican Ray Fontaine, is a transplanted Californian who came to Tucson by way Phoenix in 1991. Fontaine has worked hard to polish his credentials as a committed citizen. Image is everything to Fontaine, who changed his name from Smith to to the more elegant Fontaine a few years ago.
A business consultant and commercial real estate broker (who insists he's not like those other real estate folks out there), Fontaine has served on more than a dozen city boards and committees--the Downtown Advisory Committee, the Pima County Real Estate Research Council, the Community Technology Development Program, et al. He truly enjoys talking about himself, often tracing his heritage back centuries. It's a stirring--if irrelevant--tale, stretching from Paris to South America.
But scratch the surface of that image and Fontaine becomes a different man. In his last interview with The Weekly, Fontaine abruptly announced he would no longer answer any question because he'd heard we planned to endorse Ibarra. (As both readers and Fontaine can see, The Weekly is not endorsing candidates this year--politicians are just too damned disappointing.)
Despite our best efforts to persuade him otherwise, Fontaine refused to answer our candidate questionnaire, which is why his responses do not appear on our handy candidate chart. Fontaine apparently likes to dismiss the press if reporters fail to be compliant--an ugly attitude from anyone seeking public office.
But there may be a simpler reason behind Fontaine's evasive strategy--he's incapable of answering a yes-or-no question. Throughout the campaign, Fontaine has issued a series of lengthy position papers on taxes, water and crime, but even our crack bullshit team was unable to translate his complex consultantese into comprehensible English. We did manage to figure out he wants mounted police to patrol the Santa Cruz River, which suggests he saw a few too many episodes of McCloud when he was younger.
Fontaine managed to land car dealer Jim Click and developer David Mehl as the co-chairman of his fundraising committee, but it didn't do him much good. The most recent campaign reports show he'd only raised $9,767, and he never applied for matching funds.
Fontaine says the City Council needs fewer consultants. In this case, we heartily agree.
TWO-TERM INCUMBENT Janet Marcus is facing Republican Rick Grinnell and Libertarian Tim Loomis in the eastside Ward 2 race.
Marcus has a long history in politics, working with groups like Common Cause and Planned Parenthood. Since her election in 1987, she's concentrated on environmental issues, working to preserve washes and set up recycling programs. Her conservation efforts set her up for a wave of criticism, however, when it was learned she had a large artificial pond in her backyard.
Marcus was one of the council members who resisted shutting down CAP water delivery, even though her ward was one of the hardest hit when CAP water was turned on. She opposes Proposition 200 and even proposed adding another water initiative to the ballot--an idea that she withdrew after people complained she was doing it to confuse voters.
Marcus has raised about $26,500 for her campaign, which is a sign she's losing ground with some of her original supporters, like the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson, which isn't endorsing her this year because they feel she's too willing to compromise with developers.
But the neighborhood folks fell short of endorsing her Republican opponent, Rick Grinnell, who didn't even return the coalition's questionnaire. It's a sign of disorganization with Grinnell's first campaign for public office. He's raised about $10,000 and only applied for matching funds in the last weeks of the race.
Grinnell is clearly a political novice. He wants to spend uncalculated millions to build a parkway around the Rillito and Pantano rivers. His best idea for improving Tucson's recycling program is a vague proposal to get more homeless people involved in the program. To battle crime, he wants to institute Operation Street Sweep, which would send police into neighborhoods to arrest troublemakers on sight. That idea was so troubling to the Tucson Citizen editorial board that they decided to endorse Libertarian Tim Loomis in the race.
Loomis is a surprisingly strong candidate from the Libertarians. An optical engineer at Hughes, he left the Republican Party to become a Libertarian about a year ago, because he didn't think the GOP could win an election in Tucson (which, of course, raises the question of whether a Libertarian stands a chance in hell of winning a seat). He's raised a little more than $4,000 for his campaign, which has limited his ability to campaign citywide.
Loomis complains the size and scope of city government is out of control. He wants to see the Tucson Convention Center and the water and sanitation departments sold off to private enterprise.
Loomis supports the water initiative, saying he'd like to see CAP water recharged and traded to mines and farms. He's also eager to lead a technological revolution at City Hall. The only candidate with a home page on the World Wide Web, Loomis is horrified the council hasn't even managed to set up e-mail accounts.
"I'm embarrassed for them," he says. "They're living in the Stone Age if they don't have e-mail."
WITH ROGER SEDLMAYR stepping down after eight years in the Ward 4 seat, two political newcomers have stepped up to the plate: Democrat Shirley Scott and Republican Bill King.
By positioning herself as a neighborhood advocate, Scott was able to soundly defeat former city bureaucrat Jean Wilkins in the Democratic primary, despite the fact Wilkins outspent Scott nearly three to one.
The 52-year-old Scott and her husband Joe own Scott Industrial Supply, a wholesale dealer in nuts, bolts, screws and other fasteners. Scott also teaches German at Pima Community College and has served on the city's budget committee for the last year.
Her opponent, Republican Bill King, is a 66-year-old accountant who has volunteered as a court-appointed advocate for abused and neglected children. He recently pulled a two-year stint as Pima County Republican Party treasurer.
Both Scott and King have similar stances on some issues. Both are skeptical of the city's aggressive annexation policies and oppose the annexation of Don Diamond's Rocking K development, which would be in Ward 4.
While both support recharging the city's CAP water allotment and want to sell some of the water to farms and mines, they're split on Prop 200, which would effectively ban the city from directly delivering CAP water to customers. King supports the initiative, while Scott opposes it, saying it would be too restrictive.
They differ by degrees on other issues as well. Scott wants to see more community policing, while King wants to cut the city's arts budget and use the money to pay for more cops. Scott would like to expand the city's recycling program, while King is skeptical of the program's worth.
Her time on the budget committee has given Scott a better sense of the issues facing the community. While he has a history of community service, King sometimes seems to have a superficial grasp of the business at City Hall. For example, he likes to say he got into the race when he heard the City Council was considering handing over control of the water department to an appointed board. He doesn't mention the proposal came from powerful Republicans Jack Jewett and Roy Drachman, and the idea was rejected by the council.
Scott has a clear advantage in the fundraising arena. She's collected more than $21,667, while King has only managed to raise about $4,884 and never applied for matching funds. In a race for an open seat that depends on establishing name recognition, Scott's superior war chest gives her a formidable advantage.
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