Council Creatures

The Race Is On For Wards 6 And 3

By Jim Nintzel

COUNCILWOMAN MOLLY McKASSON stunned local politicos last April when she announced she wouldn't seek re-election to the midtown Ward 6 seat she's held since 1989.

While her announcement set off speculation she'd seek the mayor's office in 1999, nearly a dozen Democrats started thinking about running for the open Ward 6 seat. By July, only five ended up on the September 16 primary ballot: Leo Pilachowski, Alison Hughes, Tres English, Octavio Barcelo and Carol Zimmerman. The winner of the primary will face Republican Fred Ronstadt and Libertarian Dan Starr Dougherty in the November general election.

The five candidates, who all have experience in the political arena, have high praise for McKasson's work and pledge to continue in her footsteps. Three of the five have been endorsed by the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson, and, in recent appearances before neighborhood forums, they've promised to work with residents against bullies like the city transportation department and the University of Arizona. Their answers, in fact, are often so similar it's hard to find a difference of opinion.

Feature But beneath the appeal to neighborhood interests, there are differences among the candidates, particularly when it comes to water, growth and the future of the Tucson valley.

The candidates, who've all worked campaigns in the past, know that every vote will count in the primary election. Although the open seat will probably draw more people to the polls than the average primary, turnout probably still won't top 25 percent. With about 25,500 Democrats in Ward 6, that means fewer than 6,000 people could decide the Democratic candidate, who is the odds-on favorite to win the general election, since Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3-to-2 margin citywide.

LEO PILACHOWSKI'S lifelong fascination with the way cities work has drawn him into politics. A physicist whose wife works at the Kitt Peak Observatory, Pilachowski found his computer skills handy in campaign strategy development and voter targeting. He's worked campaigns for McKasson, Councilwoman Shirley Scott and Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, among others.

"I've not been very happy in past years with the direction the city council has been taking," Pilachowski says. "It's probably more correct to say the lack of direction. I don't think they have an end goal in mind for the future, and you have to have that vision to correctly lead a community."

For the last eight years, Pilachowski has served as McKasson's appointee to the Citizens Advisory Planning Committee. He says the post, which integrates transportation, land-use and other issues, has been good training for the council position, and has helped him develop his vision of Tucson's future.

Pilachowski is opposed to continuing the city's study to privatize Tucson Water and says the Water Consumer Protection Act, passed as Proposition 200 by 56 percent of the voters in 1995, was a key moment in setting the city's water policy.

"Proposition 200 was important because it gave us time to step back and look at what decision we'd made and to decide if that was the right decision," says Pilachowski. He opposes this year's Prop 201, which would repeal the Water Consumer Protection Act, and says direct delivery of CAP water is a bad idea.

"Reliance on a 336-mile concrete ribbon for our daily water is too risky," he says. "It also requires a terminal storage facility. The multi-faceted system of recharge, CAP water trades with farms and mines, and the continued use of a reclaimed water system is the best long-term solution."

Pilachowski supports an aggressive annexation policy, with a caveat: He doesn't want to make special deals to lure new residents into the city. Between that condition and the rapid incorporation of Tucson's suburbs, he admits, "in practical terms, there won't be much annexation."

During his stint on the planning committee, Pilachowski played an instrumental role in drafting Tucson's wash ordinance because development on the city's edge was "affecting washes that had significant environmental and natural features that needed to be protected."

No sooner had the ordinance been put into place than a developer requested a variance to install a strip-mall shopping center on Tucson's eastside, which the council granted.

"I was kind of angry, because there was no hardship," Pilachowski says. He asked the council to reverse itself on the variance, which it did. The developer, in turn, sued the city and Pilachowski, setting off a lengthy legal battle.

Although editorials in the developer-friendly morning daily warned against putting the wash regulations to a court test, Pilachowski took the matter to the Arizona Supreme Court, where the regulations were upheld. Although the developer won his variance, Pilachowski feels he won a larger battle to uphold the right of the city to protect its waterways.

Before he put his name on the ballot, Pilachowski was known in political circles, but had little name recognition among voters. But Pilachowski has a well-organized fundraising campaign and was one of the first candidates to raise 200 contributions of at least $10 from city residents, which made him eligible for the city's matching funds program. With the matching funds, Pilachowski has raised more than $16,000.

Pilachowski is the only candidate who says he won't seek work outside the Ward 6 office if elected.

ALISON HUGHES HAS a long history of civic involvement. She served a two-year stint as an aide to Congressman Jim McNulty beginning in 1982. For the six years before that, she served as the executive director of the Tucson Women's Commission. She gives many hours to the community, having served on dozens of boards of organizations dedicated to helping the handicapped, the homeless and the environment.

Those hours have paid off with a strong base in the Democratic Party that has made her one of the race's front-runners. With matching funds from the city, Hughes has more than $21,000 to spend on her campaign.

Hughes says her concern about the effect of federal welfare reform on women and children "sparked her passion" to seek the council office when she heard about McKasson's retirement.

"It seemed like a natural extension of everything I've been doing in this town since 1970," says Hughes, her voice still carrying traces of the Scottish accent she brought to America when she emigrated in 1959. "And it just felt right. This was the right time. This was something I was going to do to make a contribution to the direction of the city."

Like the other candidates, Hughes says neighborhood reinvestment is a priority. She's one of three candidates who has earned an endorsement from the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson, a group whose board she's served on in the past.

Hughes doesn't support continuing the study to privatize Tucson Water and opposes Prop 201. She says the city should sell as much CAP water as possible to mines and farms and recharge the remainder.

While she's disappointed the communities around Tucson have decided to incorporate, she supports their right to self-determination.

Hughes' "let-the-people-decide" philosophy sometimes leaves her vague on solutions to problems. Her egalitarian approach to government was on display at a neighborhood forum last month. When Armory Park residents asked all the candidates how they would divide $100 between six different programs, Hughes said she'd give each $16.75.

Hughes says her administrative job at the UA Rural Health Office is flexible enough that she can keep it if she's elected to the council.

A LONGTIME NEIGHBORHOOD activist, Tres English is the third Ward 6 candidate to be endorsed by the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson, an organization he helped found years ago.

English has dedicated himself to understanding Tucson's traffic problems. He's well-known for his efforts to defeat a half-cent sales-tax proposal on the 1986 county ballot. He says he opposed the measure because 95 percent of the money raised would have been spent on new roads rather than on alternatives like public transit and bike paths.

Even though the Growth Lobby spent a half-million dollars on their campaign (with much going to political strategist Pete Zimmerman, husband of Carol Zimmerman, who is facing English in the race), the plan's opponents were able to defeat it.

Following the proposition's failure, English co-chaired a new citizens air-quality committee, dubbed the Baja Committee, to develop a new regional transportation plan.

Since city and county staff couldn't find any dollars to implement much of the committee's work, English worked to pass another half-cent sales-tax proposal in 1990. This measure, which was also defeated, would have spent the revenue generated in the first decade on fixing existing road problems and developing bike paths and public transit. After the first 10 years, the money would have gone to building roads--or, as English puts it, "subsidizing development."

"I decided no deal's going to last 10 years anyway," he says, "so why not get something good out of it for 10 years and see what happens."

English doesn't support Prop 201, which would dismantle the Water Consumer Protection Act. He says we should sell as much CAP water as possible to the mines and farms and then recharge the remainder.

Unlike the other candidates, however, he says it's foolish policy to rely on CAP water, because, within 50 years, Tucson will have lost any rights to the water because the Colorado River has been over-allocated.

"If I could get four votes on the council, I'd prefer to just sell it to Las Vegas while they're still willing to pay us some money for it, and use the proceeds to pay off the canal and use the remainder to make this the No. 1 water-efficient center in the world," says English, who admits the proposal wouldn't find much support.

English says he'd have voted to lend financial support to the Civano solar village project, because with that investment, "we're getting a new way of doing development."

Although he thinks the new state incorporation law is harmful to the city, English says he wouldn't have sued to overturn it. Instead, the city should be preparing to bid on the contracts to provide services to the new communities.

While he'd like to spend more money on public transit, English is concerned next year's city budget will have a multi-million-dollar shortfall--a problem he complains none of the candidates in the race is addressing.

Last year, English was elected to the committee which drafted the charter rejected by Pima County voters last month. Despite the recent campaign experience, his city council campaign is struggling.

If elected, English says he'll continue managing his family's properties, because the job is flexible enough to allow him plenty of time for the council position.

OCTAVIO BARCELO IS probably the least-known candidate, but even he has a decade of political experience under his belt.

In his early 20s, the 32-year-old Barcelo earned a degree at the University of Phoenix and took a job with the Pima County Sheriff's Department, working as a school resource officer and as a deputy in Green Valley.

In February 1994, Barcelo landed a job with Congressman Ed Pastor's office. After working for Pastor for almost two years, he took a job as a police officer at the University of Arizona, which he'll keep if elected to the council.

Barcelo says he doesn't support studying the privatization of Tucson Water--"Why study it when I wouldn't support it?"--and opposes Prop 201. He wants to see CAP water recharged and sold to mines and farms.

Barcelo says he wouldn't have supported the city's lawsuit opposing the new law allowing suburbs to incorporate on the city's edge.

"I'd rather see them join the city," Barcelo says. "We're going to end up like Phoenix. It's bad for Tucson, but at the same time they have every right to decide their own fate."

While no stranger to political campaigns--he's worked to elect Pima County Supervisor Dan Eckstrom, gubernatorial candidates Terry Goddard and Eddie Basha, and state lawmakers Victor Soltero and Ramon Valadez--Barcelo is a new face in Ward 6.

His slow campaign fundraising hasn't helped him establish name identification. As of the last report he'd filed with the City Clerk, on May 31, he'd raised a total of $73. He says he's raised more in the last few months, but he's still disappointed in his efforts. He hopes to apply for matching funds by next week.

CAROL ZIMMERMAN IS the Ward 6 campaign's soccer mom. Development director for St. Gregory's Prep School, she helps administer a local youth soccer league and rarely misses an opportunity at debates to talk about children and grandchildren.

Beneath that soccer-mom facade is an agile political mind. Zimmerman got her start in city government when she signed on as an aide in Tom Volgy's Ward 6 office. She later followed him across the hall into the mayor's office.

Since she left City Hall, Zimmerman has kept a hand in politics. Two years ago, she worked on the campaign for Democrat Jean Wilkins, who lost to Councilwoman Shirley Scott in the Ward 4 primary. She's just coming off a stint serving--alongside Tres English--on the committee that wrote the charter rejected by Pima County voters last month.

Zimmerman says Ward 2 Councilwoman Janet Marcus asked her to run for the office. Marcus, whose votes are often opposite McKasson's on water and growth issues, has endorsed Zimmerman's campaign, as has former Tucson mayor Tom Volgy, whose hand-picked successor to the Ward 6 office in 1987, Sharon Hekman, was turned out of office by voters two years later, when McKasson won the seat in 1989.

In the years she's been out of city government, the political landscape has changed around Zimmerman, who has long advocated a streamlined metro government combining Pima County and the City of Tucson into one body.

But Pima County's sudden sovereignty movement has made any metrogov blueprint infinitely more difficult to establish. It could take years for the suburbs of Tortolita, Casas Adobes, and the Catalina Foothills to learn to govern themselves, much less work with each other.

Zimmerman is outraged by the idea of these satellite communities and "absolutely" backs the city's lawsuit to overturn the new state law which allows them to incorporate within six miles of a municipality.

"This movement to incorporate will have a devastating economic effect for the city and make regional planning very difficult," says Zimmerman. "Any candidate who supports the efforts ought to move to the county."

Zimmerman believes the time has come for Tucsonans to stop relying on groundwater. She advocates blending CAP water with groundwater on the surface for delivery to Tucson homes, insisting that it be clear and non-corrosive before it comes out the tap.

Zimmerman is sensitive about the water issue. She declined further interviews with The Weekly after we reported that her husband Pete's public relations firm, Zimmerman and Associates, had received more than $23,000 to get Proposition 201 on the November ballot. The initiative, which would overturn the Water Consumer Protection Act passed by 56 percent of the voters in the 1995 election, had only three contributors as of May 31: Broadway Realty and Trust, Fairfield Green Valley and the sponsor's front man, pool builder Chuck Frietas.

Pete Zimmerman is an old hand at water initiatives. Zimmerman and Associates was paid about $100,000 in 1995 to direct the failed campaign to defeat Prop 200. He defeated a similar recharge initiative in 1987.

Pete Zimmerman has deep ties to the Growth Lobby. He was a strategist for the half-cent sales tax effort pushed by developers in 1986, and has worked to derail a referendum to overturn a rezoning granted by county supervisors near Sabino Canyon.

Carol Zimmerman says she took offense at the report about Zimmerman and Associates because the firm was her husband's business and campaign documents listed her as a co-owner only because Arizona is a community-property state.

Although she'd like to build a firewall between her campaign for the council and Pete Zimmerman's work on the water initiative, Carol Zimmerman herself is the only one of the Democrats in the Ward 6 race who supports Prop 201.

"I do not support making public policy and management decisions by initiative," Zimmerman explains. "I did not support Prop. 200. Prop. 200 sent a strong message to the council to fix the problems, but it left no flexibility for the council to make decisions. And it must be the council who makes decisions. Since we've chosen to go down the initiative road, Prop 201 offers the council more flexibility, and I will support it."

According to the most recent reports filed with the City Clerk's Office, Zimmerman had raised the most money in the Ward 6 race. With city matching funds, she had more than $33,000 in her campaign warchest.

Zimmerman had more than 300 contributors, ranging from teachers to politicians to developers. The stuccodollars inspired a question at a recent neighborhood forum.

"I'm really pleased that over 350 people have contributed to my campaign," Zimmerman said. "I think that shows a broad base of support. I think that's exactly what a councilperson needs to be effective.... The one thing I value in myself is my honesty. I am my own person. I make my own decisions.... What I am offended at is people who talk about issues and presume to know where I stand without having asked me, without ever talking to me."

WARD 6 VOTERS have had a passionate advocate in Molly McKasson. For the past eight years, she's listened carefully to residents in regular town hall meetings across the ward, and constituent service is so good in the office that residents of other wards regularly call her aides when they can't get any response from their own council offices.

At the same time she's been serving her residents, McKasson has been a strong and independent voice on the City Council who has long advocated reinvesting in the inner city rather than expanding the city's borders. She's been on the losing end of many 4-3 votes over the last two years, including the decision to study the privatization of Tucson Water and the support for Civano.

McKasson was so disturbed by the tactics used by City Hall in the failed bid to defeat Prop 200 in 1995 that she broke ranks with the rest of the council and endorsed the measure. A few months later, Mayor George Miller drove her out of the space they shared on the 10th floor.

"I think leadership is going out into this community and truly listening and putting yourself into the mindset of culling the vision so you can go back and carry the message," she says. "The votes will come. If the idea is right and the time is right, the votes will come."

McKasson isn't endorsing any of the candidates seeking her seat, but she does say she thinks Pilachowski and Hughes would make good councilmembers. And, in an unexpected move, she has lambasted Carol Zimmerman's campaign literature (See "Take-Credit" Carol?, page 15).

"I will say that Tres and Alison and Leo are all good people," says McKasson. "They have some amount of vision and ability. But between them I would say that Leo and Alison are the two candidates I think would be willing to listen in the sustainable community process about environment, neighborhood and economics and then move forward for long-term solutions and not piecemeal it." TW

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