The Bucks Go Here

In the face of budget cuts, Mayor Walkup's administration still outspends his predecessors by a large margin.

If you can get past City Hall's palace guards to reach the 10th floor, look no further than Mayor Bob Walkup's Republican administration and entourage to see the growth in city spending.

Walkup, who strolled into politics from Hughes Missile Systems, makes the preceding two-term administration of Democrat George Miller look like something from Filene's Basement.

Not only does Walkup have more staff members, he has more expensive staff members--complete with fancy titles like "chief of staff" that were too grandiose and foreign for local government.

He travels more. He eats out on taxpayers more.

While Walkup and the rest of the City Council grope for ways to slash spending to fill a $36 million gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Walkup has boosted mayoral spending 20 percent since he cruised past Democrat Molly McKasson, a former member of the City Council, in the 1999 election.

Spending in Miller's office for 1998-99, the final full fiscal year of his second term, hit $429,916, while the total city budget was $749 million. Walkup, with council blessing, is operating this year on a budget of $515,780. The total city budget this year is $935 million.

Walkup is signed up to spend a record $539,960 in 2003-04, a fiscal year he may have to share if Tom Volgy, a Democrat, can win back the office he relinquished after one term in 1991. Volgy, presiding over a city budget that was 40 percent less than current spending, operated the mayor's office on a $290,000 budget in his last full year in office. Walkup's office budget for next year represents a nearly 86 percent increase over that in Volgy's last year.

Walkup and the six City Council offices will spend up to $2.7 million under the coming budget that could leave dirtier parks and pools that will be closed more frequently, fewer cops, reduced library hours and fees and taxes that could shoot up.

That does not include the $800,000, or $5.6 million a year combined, that Walkup and each council member can dole out under the city's Back to Basic grants.

Walkup took office in December 1999 and crowded the half-million-dollar mark with his first budget that was adopted seven months later.

Staff in the mayor's office grew under Walkup as did salaries. Walkup has nine positions, topped by Chief of Staff Andrew Greenhill, whose salary in his third year is $60,465.

At most, a Tucson police officer can expect to make in the low $40,000s, according to figures from the Tucson Police Officers Association.

"I never had a chief of staff," Miller said. "I was the chief of staff. I spoke for myself. Not because I was being mean, but I always thought I was the one who was elected to the job."

Walkup also has a "special policy adviser," Kenna Smith, whose salary this year is $52,336. Sio Castillo is Walkup's "community outreach director" at $46,389 a year, and Laila Sarah is Walkup's "constituent services director" at $38,681. Joella Gonzales is paid $39,724 this year to serve as an executive assistant. Two other executive assistants, Gloria Vindiola and JeanAnn Brown, are each paid $31,123 while secretary Kim Cota-Robles is paid $24,196.

Miller, who proudly and cheerfully pinched pennies during his 4 1/2 terms as a councilman from northside Ward 3 and his two terms as mayor, calls Walkup's spending "a shocker." His top aide, Arlene Armenta, made less than Greenhill, even at the end of her long career as a council and mayoral aide.

"If somebody had a complaint, they didn't need to write a letter," Miller said about the policy in Walkup's office to have constituents fax letters to seek an audience with the mayor. "If you wanted to see the mayor you came up to my office and if I was free, you saw me. If not, we made an appointment."

Interestingly, The Weekly tried to get the mayor's side of this, and had no luck. After a full day of unsuccessful phone calls, we learned the next day that our questions for Walkup had been passed off to Smith, a pleasant person who informed us that she would hand it off to Greenhill.

"I'm sleeping," she joked (from her office after 9 a.m.), "and he's at home."

"He's at home?"

"Yes, he just had a baby," she said.


Greenhill later e-mailed a response, saying, "Under Mayor Walkup, the office budget has increased in order to fulfill his campaign promises to respond better to community issues and complaints, and to be more actively involved in setting city policy."

Miller and Volgy, Greenhill contends, also jacked up their office budgets.

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