Red Light

We remind why you should stop the city's ill-considered transportation plan.

The growth lobby has fallen a little short of its goal of raising a half-million bucks to push the passage of the city's proposed half-cent sales tax, which voters will decide at the ballot box next Tuesday, May 21.

The Let's Go Tucson campaign had raised a mere $407,531 as of May 6--but that doesn't mean they won't close the fund-raising gap before election day.

At any rate, they've swamped the two political committees opposing the propositions, Enough! and Citizens for a Sensible Transportation Solution, which had combined to raise a mere $17,661, mostly from an odd alliance of small merchants who fear the plan would put them out of business, midtown liberals and anti-tax conservatives.

Although the morning daily's editorial page has discounted the importance of the Big Bucks behind Props 100 and 400, we think it's worth following the money behind the effort to convince us to hike the sales tax to pay for an estimated $400 million in transportation improvements over the next decade.

The developers and car dealers--more roads, less transit!--have opened their wallets for Let's Go Tucson, with checks as big as $25,000 coming from legendary land speculator Don Diamond's Diamond Ventures and auto dealer Jim Click. As the list on this page shows, they're got plenty of company.

The Let's Go campaign has been boosted by your tax dollars. City officials spent roughly $356,000 on a campaign with the same name to put together the transportation plan voters will decide next week.

Since privatizing the Let's Go Tucson name, the city spent more than $400,000 on a second campaign that so troubled Superior Court Judge Ted Borek that he halted the use of some of the advertising. (The injunction was lifted last week by an appeals court that overruled Borek's call.)

Despite the barrage of big bucks, Tucsonans have plenty of doubt. Besides the Tucson Weekly, the plan has gotten thumbs down from many small businesses, neighborhood associations, environmental groups, public transit advocates and even the liberal kooks at the Tucson Citizen.

We should be skeptical. The car dealers and bulldozers bankrolling this boondoggle are all too happy to write checks for political campaigns, but where are they when it comes time to pay an impact fee to improve transportation in the ever-expanding city limits? Can't do it. It would drive up the cost of housing. As if payoffs to politicians don't.

The Let's Go Tucson committee had spent $373,528, with most of it going to Zimmerman and Associates, a political consulting firm that handled an early ballot campaign, mailers, phone banks and a massive television and radio effort to persuade voters to support the proposition.

If you've requested an early ballot--and more than 11,000 of you have--you've probably gotten a few phone calls from them. The caller cheerfully thanks you for your support and tells you that the money raised will go for buses, sidewalks, bike paths and streetlights.

Well, yeah, some peanuts will. But the biggest chunk of the money raised--45 percent--will be spent on a questionable "congestion management" scheme that seeks to spend at least $53 million on just three intersections in the hope of kick-starting a half-assed quasi-freeway down Grant Road that won't be finished for more than a quarter century.

Is this really the best we can do?

We hope not. We do need to repair our streets, put in more sidewalks, widen roads and improve the bus system. But this isn't the right way to do it.

We gave you our reasons to reject the props back on May 2. If you haven't already sent in your ballot, we urge you to go to the polls on Tuesday, May 21, and vote No on Prop 100 and Prop 400.

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