A Few Points To Ponder When Voting To Incorporate
By Emil Franzi
THE PRINCIPLE OF self-determination is basic to American life.
In Arizona, people who live within six miles of currently incorporated towns have long been disenfranchised under an oppressive state law that prohibited them from incorporating without the neighboring municipality's permission. Those folks have a right to decide under what local government they should live. On November 4, the residents of the proposed new communities of Casas Adobes and Catalina Foothills will exercise that fundamental right. That's their call and it should be.
Since the state Legislature gave Pima County a two-year respite from the contiguous incorporation law, we've seen both the best and the worst on both sides of the issue. We've witnessed desperate pandering by Mayor George Miller and other Tucson officials. We've seen a bunch of greedy annexation attempts by Tucson, Marana and Oro Valley, communities catering to, and bought off by, portions of the Growth Lobby. We've heard end-of-the-world arguments from a gaggle of doomsayers about the effect of new incorporation on everything from arts funding to water quality.
Conversely, we've seen unrealistic financial projections from supporters of Catalina Foothills and grandiose plans of mega-government from the leaders of Casas Adobes.
We have no recommendation on how the folks in those two communities should vote, but we'd like to point out several factors they should consider before making up their minds:
1) Tucson is not the only kid on the block. If these incorporations fail, Marana and Oro Valley land grabs will continue. Incorporation foes who argue Tucson will be ringed by suburbs ought to realize it already is. Defeating more new towns just makes Marana and Oro Valley more powerful.
2) Many citizens would like to remain in an unincorporated area. For some, that may not be a realistic option. It wasn't for the folks in Tortolita, who were being gobbled by Marana and Oro Valley, and isn't for anybody living near any presently incorporated town. Remember that annexations are constantly gerrymandered around property owners, and residents really don't have that much to say about it.
3) While it's clear the small group of self-aggrandizing and exclusionary snots who are leading most of the incorporation drive in Casas Adobes are hardly the kind of folks rational people would have governing them, there's also no guarantee these same losers would be in charge of anything if incorporation passes. The Board of Supervisors would appoint the Casans' first council, with an election set for next spring. Those who live in Casas Adobes are not giving a mandate to the current self-appointed and secretive "leaders," and we wouldn't expect the Board to appoint a clot of Ed Moore's pals.
The Catalina Foothills incorporation attempt was based on much broader and more inclusive support, but the same rules apply. Not liking some of the current leaders isn't a good enough reason to turn down the incorporation.
4) Money may be a good enough reason to reject incorporation. It's plain unrealistic for urban areas to pretend they can supply the services residents demand without supplementing state revenue-sharing funds with some additional taxation--probably a sales tax. Arguments that pro-incorporation folks can provide the current minimal service level with revenue-sharing funds are probably true, but they neglect to consider the future service demands citizens will make.
Casas Adobes planners have gone the other way, with an avaricious attempt to grab every buck they can. Voters in that area are rightly concerned about paying for a new and expensive layer of government.
Recently incorporated Tortolita receives practically no services now, and current residents are pretty clear they don't want any. But Tortolita incorporators were the most realistic of all when they made it clear to petition signers that increased services would mean increased taxes.
5) Miller's argument that neither area has a sufficient tax base to incorporate is fallacious and raises a major question: If they have an insufficient tax base, then why the hell should the City of Tucson annex them? Won't the cost of providing services to them just raise the cost of running the City of Tucson? And when do longtime city residents start to see some return on all the annexation expense?
6) The "full-cost recovery" attempts by Pima County to gouge new towns for contract services also raises big questions: Why does it cost so damn much money to run county government is a question all Pima County residents should be asking. And if all these towns incorporate and pay the full cost of their services, shouldn't we all get a proportionate tax cut when somebody else is picking up the tab for stuff we're already paying for? Likewise, if new communities choose other, less-costly service providers, will Pima County then reduce overhead and taxes proportionately?
Those undecided on incorporation should check the map. If you're anywhere near another incorporated community, your real choice is between that town and taking your chances on a new one. Either way, you'll probably be paying more taxes to one of them.
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