Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Commercial real-estate broker and former major-league pitcher Pat Darcy tells us he's still considering a mayoral campaign as an independent.
“There are a lot of people asking me about it,” says Darcy. “So I’m seriously thinking about it. I’ve always been a believer in non-partisan elections.”
The late Chris Limberis profiled Darcy when he ran for mayor back in 1999:
IF YOU´RE LOOKING for the real outsider in the race, Pat Darcy says it´s him — not Bolding, despite her claim to the title, or McKasson, and certainly not Councilwoman Marcus. Of Bolding, Darcy says: "She´s just as much an insider as they are, really." He's right — if you're looking for somebody who has little practical experience in government administration, he's your man.
Darcy, 49, has worked hard on the city Parks Commission, but he's been disheartened by what he sees as the ability of small but vocal groups to persuade the Council from developing new parks and recreation facilities that include ball fields. As a coach, he repeats the oft-told stories of the long travel and crowded conditions Little Leaguers and soccer players face. His wife teaches for the Tucson Unified School District.
The son of a former FBI agent who also worked for Hughes and the UA, Darcy is a straightforward candidate with rough edges. He talks of how his family moved here from Ohio when he was young to be in a dry, salubrious climate for an asthmatic sister. He talks about how the key support structure for kids — i.e., family — is missing. He illustrates, often with the clarity of a regular family man, the personal troubles caused by a detached Council's actions.
On the stump with the group of Democrats, Darcy often shares anecdotes of another Tucson with McKasson. Darcy graduated from Rincon High School, where he was a star ballplayer, in 1968. He signed a professional contract that's nowhere near what today's athletes command, even taking into account inflation. Though his most famous pitch may have been the one Carlton Fisk blasted out of Fenway Park in Game Six of the 1975 World Series, Darcy's Cincinnati Reds won the final game. He doesn't brag, but is engaging in personal talks and on his weekly radio sports show. Sitting in his office at CB Richard Ellis Commercial Real Estate in midtown, Darcy laughs about what ballplayers were paid then. His highest salary was $45,000 a year. "But back then," he notes good-naturedly, "you could buy a car for $3,000."
Darcy's first real civic involvement came with his appointment a decade ago to the city's Baseball Task Force. A quiet committee that loosely worked with major league spring training was thrust into high gear in 1991 when the Cleveland Indians announced that the 1992 season would be their last at Hi Corbett Field. Mayor Tom Volgy, a Democrat, quickly appointed Darcy to a slightly altered committee to seek a replacement.
Volgy's pick was a good one. Darcy was effective without being a blowhard like others on the task force. Unlike the promoters who landed the city and county in costly contracts first for the Colorado Rockies and then for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox, Darcy was candid and didn't overplay Tucson's hand.
But Darcy was bitter that the Council and county did not put the new spring training complex (also used by the AAA Sidewinders) downtown at Rio Nuevo South, or even in a warehouse district. Darcy talked long and hard in 1995 and 1996 that the complex, opened last year on the county's Kino Sports Park property on the southside on East Ajo Way, was vital to the rebirth of downtown. Despite some back and forth by the Council and the Board of Supervisors, the decision to put the stadium and practice fields was cemented when in 1992 the county began spending revenues from a special tax on car rentals — revenues limited to spring training facilities — on the East Ajo site.
But if voters think Darcy is moving off the subject, they are mistaken. He uses it now to explain his entry into politics.
His consistency sometimes backfires. At an intimate gathering of District 10 Democrats last month at the Knights of Columbus, Darcy joined the candidates' chorus in bemoaning the prisons, dumps and pollution sources pushed on the southside. After gaining some momentum with influential elected officials and politically active citizens in the audience like state Sen. Victor Soltero and his brother John, state Reps. Ramon Valadez and Sally Ann Gonzales and Supervisor Dan Eckstrom, Darcy went on his baseball jag, complaining that the county's showcase, the Kino Veterans Memorial Park and its Tucson Electric Park, should have been built downtown.
Darcy has one word for the stadium decision: "fiasco."
"I'm thinking: what's going on here with the city?" Darcy asks. "Where's the leadership?"
Darcy, whose brother-in-law Martin Willett is the deputy county administrator, says he has a most basic motivation for running.
"The biggest problem is being proud of Tucson again," he says. "You can look at it, the biggest problem is the water, economic development, transportation, which all really goes under economic development, I think. But it comes down to, when you're talking to people, it's like: nothing's going to happen here. We don't get things done here. We're just drifting. When you're talking to people, they're telling me, 'Just do something. Just do something.' "
Darcy's criticism of the city's downtown plans is not limited to the baseball stadium. While at an annual commercial real estate convention in Las Vegas two years ago, he rode a shuttle with a principal of the Daystar Co., a bidder on the initial Rio Nuevo project. Darcy represented the California company, whose plan for the downtown parcel was recently rejected by the City Manager's Office and the Council in favor of a complex and controversial plan that draws state and city sales tax revenue from El Con and Park Mall to support civic projects downtown.
Darcy complains Rio Nuevo is symptomatic of Tucson's reputation to outside developers: "You know, it's Tucson, we're going to spend a lot of time and a lot of money and nothing's going to happen."
Leadership, or the lack of it, is Darcy's central theme. But when it comes to Tucson's water supply, which is arguably the most critical issue facing the city, Darcy's idea of leadership is tossing the problem to somebody else. He says he supports the creation of a water board made up of representatives from mines, farms, golf courses, local water companies and the environmental community to set Tucson's water policy.
"I'm not a hydrologist. I've heard some of the candidates say things, and you talk to hydrologists, and they say, 'Well, I don't know if that's true or not or whatever.' It's the same old Tucson. You've got one group here. You've got another group over here. You've got one group in the middle saying, 'I wonder who's telling the truth here? What's actually happening here?' I don't know."
Darcy says the city can't limit itself to "just recharging groundwater. You've got to use other options, too. Whether it's blending of CAP, or maybe some direct delivery. Tucson Waster hasn't done a good job. I think this program they have (the Ambassador program, testing blended water) is just for publicity. You spend a lot of money where they bring the trucks in. That's not real life at all."
Although he was mentioned repeatedly as a candidate for city office or for the Board of Supervisors throughout the 1990s, Darcy hasn't worked campaigns or built much of a political machine. His mayoral campaign was late getting off the ground. Last-minute professional help filled his nominating petitions. So close was that effort that he didn't think it was right to take contributions until it was clear his name would be on the ballot.
It was an honorable but crippling strategy. Darcy now lags in funds and will have to struggle to collect the required 300 contributions of at least $10 to participate in the city's matching funds program in time for the primary.
Darcy's campaign chair is Larry Toledo, the former Pima Community College athletic director and former Pueblo High School star athlete. Toledo, who works in a video production company with his son, lost an election battle last year when he helped direct Diane Carrillo's failed bid for a seat on the Tucson Unified School District Board.
Darcy has hired Victor Gomez as his chief strategist. Although he's worked on city, county and state campaigns in the past, it's the first time Gomez has headed up a campaign.
"I thought he had a chance to win because he comes across as very honest and a family man," says Gomez, who works as a case manager at the Jackson Employment Center, a county job-training program. "This guy is an outsider. All the other candidates have been in government forever and ever, including Betsy Bolding, who's more connected than anybody who's running. This guy believes in real-life solutions. He's frustrated that the politicians, when they're trying to come up with a solution, come up with something complicated and then let's get this committee to recommend and when the committee recommends, let's send it back for another recommendation, or let's form another committee that's going to recommend again, and the process keeps going over and over, and the politicians refuse to make a decision."
Gomez admits the road to a victory is a rocky one.
"Fundraising is a problem for us," he says. "We got in kind of late. A lot of people had already committed their money somewhere else. Frankly, we're not getting as much as I was hoping. A lot of people like him, though."
Darcy concedes many voters have already committed themselves to other candidates. He's gambling on a high turnout. "There's a lot of undecided people out there too, and hopefully people that didn't vote in the past who maybe will vote now, who will say, 'Hey, this is what we need for Tucson, it's a different direction.' "