The Skinny

The $250 Million Ask

Citing progress across the board, Tucson Mayor Rothschild makes the case for voters to approve sales tax

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild got a big standing ovation when he took to the stage at last week's State of the City speech.

Rothschild celebrated the city's partnerships with other local jurisdictions in a speech that built the case for voters to support a temporary half-cent-per-dollar in a May 16 election.

Rothschild talked up the city's efforts with the federal government, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the Regional Transportation Authority, local school districts, the Tucson Metro Chamber, Rio Nuevo and Mexico. He cited a number of wins for the city in areas of economic development, noting that Bloomberg News reported that Tucson had the third-fastest job growth rate of U.S. metro areas. He praised the increase in tourism and highlighted the construction of new hotels in downtown and near campus. He talked up changes that the city has made to streamline permit approvals and bring the budget into a structural balance. And he pointed out that the city has put the 2012 bond dollars that voters approved to good use, fixing more streets than promised ahead of schedule.

Toward the end of his speech, Rothschild asked: "Why am I telling you all this? Because now, as funding from the streets bond ends, we're going to the voters with a new five-year plan."

That five-year plan will be funded with the half-cent sales tax that expires in 2022. The proceeds would be directed toward improving Tucson's streets and providing equipment and facilities for the Tucson Police Department and Tucson Fire Department.

The tax is expected to raise roughly $50 million a year, or $250 million over five years. An estimated 30 percent of that would go to the police department, 30 percent to the fire department and 40 percent to the roads.

The money wouldn't go to salaries; instead, it would be directed toward new police cars, new fire trucks, bullet-proof vests and a whole bunch of other equipment the city has been too cash-strapped to afford in recent years.

The sales tax has the support of the Tucson Metro Chamber, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, the Tucson Association of Realtors, the Pima County Democratic Party, the Tucson Police Officers Association, the Tucson Fire Fighters Association and Tucson Medical Center.

There's no organized opposition to the sales-tax prop yet.

The White Stuff

U.S. Rep. McSally remains silent on Rep. Steve King's expression of anglo supremacy

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made the headlines last week with a tweet that celebrated the philosophy of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom got knocked down by voters in last week's election in the Netherlands. In subsequent interviews, King has stood by his tweet.

Some Republicans have been critical of King's statement, which comes on the heels of other expressions of white supremacy by the controversial lawmaker. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), whose parents immigrated from the Middle East, tweeted in response: "I'm an American no less than you are. I love our Constitution and traditions. Am I 'somebody else's' baby because my parents are immigrants?"

But King told The Hill newspaper that many of his fellow Republicans have been supportive.

"My colleagues have generally been coming by and patting me on the back," King said. "And a surprising number have said that they pray for me. And, meaning they support me and they agree with me, a surprising number."

Whether U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ02) is among those critical of King or patting him on the back remains a mystery. Her office did not respond last week to two requests for comment on King's tweet and comments.

Southern Arizona's two Democratic congressmen condemned King's remarks.

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03) said that King's tweet was a "wakeup calls for all Americans about the Republican Party's true motivations in pursuing immigration reform. King was an early supporter of Donald Trump; he is a trusted advisor of the president on immigration reform; to characterize these views as anything other than mainstream in today's Republican leadership would be false. The deafening silence from each and every one of King's GOP colleagues only further conveys their silent approval of the hate he's spewing."

Grijalva added: "There was a time when virulent racism was considered appalling fringe behavior by both parties—now it's clearly become the driving narrative for Republican leadership under Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump."

Congressman Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ01) that the United States is "a nation rich in culture and diversity, and we are stronger for it."

"To say we would better off as a homogenous society insults the generations of immigrants who have fought to defend our country, make it a better place, and all who call it home," O'Halleran said. "This kind of hatred and animosity toward peaceful people who believe, look, think, or act differently has no place in America. These statements now, as there are increased threats and attacks on people who are or look Jewish, Muslim, and others."

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM, and at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. Sundays on KEVT, 1210 AM.

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