There Goes the Neighborhood

In a campaign that divided the city geographically, the winners couldn't carry their own neighborhoods.

Huffy about Pima County's move last summer to strip $10 million in bond funds from the 22nd Street widening project, Frederick G. Ronstadt lectured the Board of Supervisors about how he and his City Council colleagues represent the whole city, not just their respective wards.

Ronstadt has also bragged about his ability to "bring the city together" and, with hollow humility, talked about himself as a "leader."

Residents of midtown Ward 6, which the Republican will represent for the term that begins next month, think, or at least voted, differently.

Ronstadt failed to carry Ward 6, losing by a whopping 15 percentage points to the narrow candidacy of Democrat Gayle Hartmann. Don't look for a block party for Fred, either. Hartmann also spanked Ronstadt in his own precinct, 109, which includes his East Second Street home east of Craycroft. She won there by more than 11 points, the election canvass shows.

Ronstadt's GOP running mate, former state Rep. Kathleen Dunbar, also was more popular outside the northside Ward 3 she'll represent. Democratic rival Paula Aboud defeated Dunbar by 14 points in precinct 69, where Dunbar, her husband and their pack of dogs live on North Jackson Avenue. Aboud won Ward 3 by the same margin, according to the canvass.

It's nothing new in city elections and a chief reason that politicians like Ronstadt, who likely would have fully melted down if the campaign had run another week, cling to the city's goofy ward nomination, citywide election system. Janet Marcus, an elitist Democrat, served three terms in eastside Ward 2, an area that neither she nor her Democratic successor, Carol West, could win at the polls. Roy Laos, a Republican who served 11 years, could not defeat a non-Hispanic challenger in southside Ward 5 in 1985.

Ronstadt and Dunbar and their Democratic rivals divided the city. With few exceptions, notably Starr Pass, Dunbar and Ronstadt could not win west of Swan. But Aboud and Hartmann were confined west of that line, breaking out only for the island that voters made of Ronstadt's home precinct and in a rare Dunbar-Hartmann combination victory in precinct 95, between Broadway and Fifth Street at Rosemont.

Ronstadt boasted of his success resolving El Con big box issues. But Hartmann easily took neighboring El Encanto, Montevideo and Colonia Solana neighborhoods, where a more famous, talented and neighborhood-friendly Ronstadt lives. Similarly, voters near Drachman School, in Barrio Viejo and Armory Park, wanted Ronstadt out. In the aftermath of police bungling of the North Fourth Avenue riot, on the night the UA lost in the NCAA basketball championship, Ronstadt pandered to police. Voters in that neighborhood, Iron Horse, favored Hartmann by nearly 3-1 even though she, caged in growth issues, lacked an effective response to police issues.

Aboud and Hartmann took nearly all of the west and south sides. But the election-day gains were too small to overcome the margins and early-voter turnout on the east side. East of South 12th Avenue, in precinct 49, for example, is the home turf of Raúl Grijalva, the Democratic chairman of the Board of Supervisors who had pledged help for his close ally Hartmann and Aboud. Hartmann grabbed 71 percent of the vote and Aboud 75 percent in precinct 49, but Grijalva coaxed fewer than one in six neighbors to vote.

Two southside precincts supported Aboud despite the run-down and littered condition of two of her family's properties in Elvira and Las Vistas neighborhoods. Voters in a precinct north of downtown also supported Aboud despite the severely run-down house and junk on Aboud property on West Lee Street.