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Luis Gutierrez Reflects On His First Year As City Manager.

By Dave Devine

NOVEMBER 30 WILL mark Luis Gutierrez's first year as Tucson City Manager. In a recent conversation, this Tucson native and 30-year city employee reflected on some of the major issues facing our community:

Tucson Weekly: What do you remember about Tucson from your childhood in the 1940s and '50s?

Luis Gutierrez: Obviously it was a much smaller town. We walked to the movies on Congress Street to see John Wayne and Randolph Scott at the Paramount. We also went to the State Theater to watch Tarzan movies, the Lyric for more cowboy movies, and, on occasion, we'd go to the Plaza Theater to see Spanish-Mexican cultural films.

Currents Downtown is really something I have a lot of affinity for, because I walked it for many years and spent a lot of time there. I remember El Charro restaurant on Broadway where my family would go to eat, and the YMCA on Congress Street where I learned to swim. I was born and grew up in a neighborhood that was within a mile of downtown, and I now live south of Miles School. The quality of life in Tucson is magical, but obviously not what it was in the early 1950s, from the standpoint of traffic congestion, population and size.

TW: How would you characterize Tucson today?

LG: Larger, more metropolitan, and we have a lot of people who've come here from other parts of the country and the world. Its make-up is a lot different than it was in the late '40s and early '50s. The lifestyle is still quite good, and it's a challenge to all of us to maintain that. There are more people here, but my affinity and love for the community hasn't changed. It's different, but not negatively different. I think Tucson is a great community.

TW: Do you anticipate appointing a director of Tucson Water, and, if so, what process will you follow to fill the position?

LG: Yes, we'll be looking for a director. The reason I have not recommended moving forward with it up to now is that when I became city manager I felt that I had a pretty good handle on what some of the organizational and management problems were in the utility, and was in a position to make some changes. In order to do that, I thought the quickest and most efficient way was to do it myself. That's why I've been working with (Deputy City Manager) John Nachbar to essentially run the management of the utility. I think we've done pretty well. There's obviously a perception in the community that it's rudderless, that it doesn't have a leader or know where it's going. But the fact of the matter is we do know where we're going under policy direction of the Mayor and Council.

We now have an excellent handle on what it takes to run the utility, which we didn't have before. So I'd envision that in the very near future, perhaps within the next six months, I'll be moving forward with that appointment.

The exact nature of what that process will be I haven't decided yet. As you know, I have a strong leaning toward hiring locally and looking locally first. But in the case of water, I believe we're probably going to have to be looking outside of Tucson to get the very best person to be able to lead us into the future.

TW: Have specific numbers been developed for implementing the City Council's decision concerning SunTran employee salaries?

LG: The numbers have not been developed. There's an ongoing staff effort to look at wage issues, not just SunTran, but within the whole city organization. It's part of an effort to look at compensation issues across-the-board. I wouldn't expect to have any recommendations to me from city staff until early 1998.

TW: With commitments to SunTran workers and the negative impact on future city finances caused by the Casas Adobes incorporation, how are city revenues holding up?

LG: We're growing at slightly above 4 percent per year of our general recurring revenues. That means we have a net increase in new dollars of somewhere between $12 and $13 million a year. To put that in perspective, it takes close to $30 million a year to move the city forward into the next fiscal year, given increased costs, inflation and compensation considerations for city employees. Even when our revenues are holding in a good trend, we're still short of having enough to take care of the growing needs.

TW: To close that gap, are you considering asking the Council to raise taxes?

LG: It's too early to say, but at this time it's my feeling that unless the Mayor and Council wish to significantly increase such things as resources for public transit, that probably we will not need to substantially increase revenues. That's not to say there won't be some recommended increases--because there always are.

Next week: Gutierrez talks about reducing poverty in Tucson, once-a-week garbage service, and the future. TW

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