Eastside Opening

Democrat Carol West Faces Republican Rick Grinnell In Ward 2.

WITH DEMOCRAT Janet Marcus stepping down after 12 years representing eastside Ward 2, there's an open seat up for grabs.

Democrat Carol West, a former aide to Marcus, is facing Republican Rick Grinnell, who ran unsuccessfully against Marcus four years ago.

"I'm really very unhappy with all of the fighting that's been going on in the region. I know a lot of the people in the region, and I think I could work with them to get some things resolved," West says about her first bid for public office.

"I think I represent Tucson better," counters Grinnell, who has assembled a slicker campaign in his second run for office. "I understand this community better. I've got the passion to do this job, and the compassion to do this job."

Grinnell works on a freelance basis with Dorothy Kret and Associates, helping to find jobs for disabled people. He's turned to Pam Ronstadt, wife of Councilman Fred Ronstadt, to run his campaign. With Ronstadt's help, Grinnell had managed to raise more than $80,000 for his campaign as of October 13.

West, who'd raised only $45,336 by then, has been closely involved in the workings of city government. In 1995, after an eight-year stint as an aide to Marcus, West headed up the Tucson Regional Water Council, a lobbying organization largely backed by development interests. She's the only candidate openly supporting direct delivery of CAP water, although she says it shouldn't be done immediately. Grinnell says the city should deliver a blend of recharged CAP and groundwater.

Both West and Grinnell support the Central Avra Valley Storage and Recovery Project, an artificial basin where Tucson Water is recharging CAP water. Both also support Tucson Water's Ambassador program, which has been delivering a blend of groundwater and recharged CAP water to select neighborhoods citywide. Both oppose Prop 200 on the November ballot.

But get past the water issue, and these two candidates can't agree on anything. Grinnell is critical of many steps the Council has taken, which he says intrude on private business. He opposes the city's ban on smoking in restaurants, for example, while West supports the ordinance.

Grinnell opposes the Council's recent restrictions on big-box stores, while West supports them.

"I'm a pretty rational person, but on that one I'm not at all," West says. "I just can't imagine putting in those big boxes at El Con and harming that historic neighborhood. That just makes no sense to me at all."

It makes sense to Grinnell. "Is El Con a bad place to put WalMart and Home Depot?" Grinnell asks. "Depends on who you ask. There's a lot of people in the city center who would love to have a WalMart in the center of the city. I personally wouldn't oppose it."

Grinnell says the big-box fight was politically motivated. "I think there is a certain amount of hypocrisy that gets played in these games, and that's what it is, a big game. And I will tell you this: I don't believe, if this was not a political year, that this would have been so elevated. This is a political manipulation to get people out to vote against pro-business candidates."

Grinnell is also opposed to the Council's recent vote to force contractors on city jobs to pay employees a "livable wage" of $8 an hour.

"This is a manipulation to try to bring these jobs in house," Grinnell says. "More importantly, again, this is about control. The harder we try to control, the less control we have."

West supports the Council's decision. "I have mixed feelings about that," says West. "I think that if this is a low-wage town, then it can send a signal and get something jump-started, but I don't see it as a long term [solution]. I think its effect is really negligible. What we really have to do is work with people and see that they get better job training, and that has to happen from kindergarten on up in this community."

Grinnell opposes Prop 400, which would provide tax-increment financing for downtown redevelopment.

"Rio Nuevo is not the way to redevelop downtown," Grinnell says. "We have a lot of vacant buildings down here. We need to encourage businesses to come down here and use the existing space."

West, naturally, disagrees. "I'm very much for it. We've talked for a long time about developing historic sites, and working on our downtown. We need a core. We don't have a core, and maybe that's a way to get this community united, to get them all actively involved in developing the downtown."

Grinnell opposes construction of a new City Hall, while West supports it.

On the outskirts of the city, West supports transportation impact fees, while Grinnell opposes the idea.

Grinnell says he offers the best chance to change the direction of the City Council. "My opponent is saying I'm critical of everything, and my opponent, on these issues, is absolutely right," Grinnell says. "My opponent doesn't understand private business, the moving of dollars. Cash flow generates a better economy."

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