Ducey boasts about his accomplishments during a Tucson visit
Here's a big difference between Ducey and his predecessor, Jan Brewer: Ducey has real stage presence and an ability to sell his message. Brewer could force her agenda through the Legislature—as she did with the Medicare expansion that provided health insurance to anyone below 138 percent of the federal poverty level—but on the stump, she struggled to hit the right notes in her speeches and her debate performances were atrocious.
Ducey, by contrast, gives a good speech—and he rattled through his accomplishments at the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He pointed out the breakthroughs in reducing regulations for businesses—Uber is legal, microbreweries can make more beer, people can now get their own medical blood tests without physician approval—and wins like getting Apple to open a data center in Arizona.
And he even boasted about how he had done "in the shortest legislative session in Arizona history since the moon landing" by working with Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker David Gowan behind closed doors on their "shared values"—or, as he put it, "when there's an issue, rather than fighting it out in the press, we had a conversation."
It's true that the press did not get much of a chance to cover the hearings at the Legislature on issues like the budget—because it was rammed through in three days without any significant public input that the press could cover. And check out the "shared values" that were found in that budget: Massive cuts to K-12 education programs, reductions to programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, a $99 million hit to the universities, which just raised tuition again to make up for the cuts in state funding. And all that came while taxes were cut for Arizona's wealthiest citizens, corporations and other special interests.
While Ducey said that he and legislative leaders "owned the (budget) problem" they had no trouble passing the buck to the counties on numerous expenses that were traditionally the responsibility of the state, including new costs for schools, incarceration and next year's presidential primary. As a result, Pima County is looking at increasing property taxes to cover the bills that the state doesn't want to pay anymore.
Ducey acknowledged that he and Republican lawmakers made "difficult and hard decisions that affected everyone in this room" and assured the crowd that he "did not take it lightly." He pushed back against the idea that he doesn't value education. He praised the UA's "absolutely incredible campus" and noted that "Southern Arizona is really the key to our economic vitality for the entire state and in so many ways, this university is the epicenter."
Ducey boasted, again, that the state will spend more money on education than it ever has—but all that spending was required by formula because there are more kids than ever in Arizona schools. (And there's still a court case that could increase the state's education bill by more than $300 million if the courts rule in favor of the schools.) But specific programs—such as the vocational education opportunities found in Joint Technical Education Districts—took big hits.
While Ducey said that that the budget problems have been solved and the state is on solid financial footing, he doesn't appear to have much of an idea of how to take care of the major infrastructure problems facing the state. Asked about his vision for improving Arizona's highways, Ducey sidestepped the question with a general suggestion that the money will be there: "By making the difficult decisions, we put the state on firm financial footing on which to grow and allow us to invest in the infrastructure the dollars that you pay in gas taxes so we can not only maintain our infrastructure but improve it and expand it."
Ducey said he believed that budget cuts had to made to "leave this state and this country in a better place for our children than we found it"—which will certainly be comforting to the poor families who can't afford a decent meal for their kids, or the children who won't experience exposure to the arts because their schools had to cancel those programs, or the middle-class family that is seeing college tuition rise.
Break a Leg!
The city wants to remake public access for the 21st century: Fewer resources, more responsibility!
So here's what's going on with the city's dwindling interest in support a public access TV station afloat: City staff has released a Request for Proposals to create what it calls a Community Media Center that will manage the public-access channel, offer classes in media production, broadcast the Tucson City Council meetings, and create nice propaganda pieces about Tucson's vibrant business environment and its vital role in U.S.-Mexico trade.
There's not much money to create a robust program. The winning bidder can get $300,000 annually for the next two years to handle transition costs from Access Tucson and Tucson 12, but the funding will drop after that—as the RFP explains, the city is seeking "an entrepreneurial business model that eventually results in a self-sustaining organization whereby the City only pays for services directly received."
And it appears that whatever entity wins the Community Media Center contract, it shouldn't get too comfortable in the city-owned building on Broadway near Sixth Avenue that has housed Access Tucson for more than a quarter century. The contract notes that the city "anticipates this property being available for use by the CMC for up to one year." So that means that in addition to getting the new organization off the ground, the lucky winners will have to move two functional studios and all the related gear to the new home.
So: Higher rent, more responsibilities, less money. Sounds like a great opportunity!
"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" airs every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's are Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lea Marquez-Peterson and attorney Jeff Rogers, the former chair of the Pima County Democratic Party.