by Jim Nintzel
With the election just two weeks away, Republican City Council candidate Ben Buehler-Garcia has released a "plan of action" for voters to review. Buehler-Garcia hopes to unseat Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich. (More on that race here.)
Here's BBG's plan:
RETURN TO CORE PRIORITIES
The combined ramifications of reduced revenue streams and the “DROP” program threaten to debilitate the city’s core public safety functions. A policy of maintaining the status quo is insufficient. In order to properly plan for returning our community to the proper thresholds, I will ask City Staff to prepare a budget document that outlines the following parameters:
• Funding necessary to train 100 new police officers, replace 50 patrol vehicles and hire the essential civilian staff to support the investigative functions necessary to effectively investigate and prosecute criminals.
• Funding requirements necessary to begin training firemen sufficient to address the gap created by the200 personnel forecasted to retire in FY 2016-2017. Addition of two 2-person response units in order to relieve pressure on existing fire response units.
• Ideas for fundamentally restructuring the way we fund surface street maintenance. This should include concepts such as dedicating a portion of sales tax revenue and working with the state legislature in order to create more local flexibility in gas taxes.
Property crime is a major issue in Ward III. Explore the creation of a Community Burglary Investigative Team concept that would train retired law enforcement officers and military personnel to perform two basic functions in support of TPD; Assist with evidence gathering functions and provide basic victim advocate & information services.
GRAFFITI ZERO TOLERANCE AND INTERSECTION MURALS
Graffiti is one of the most common blight factors and erodes a community’s sense of pride. I will work with city staff and the local business community to establish programs that attack the problem from several sides.
• Secure sufficient funding and resources to allow the Tucson Police Department to identify and aggressively prosecute the ten most prolific graffiti vandals. Arrest and damage information will be shared with neighboring jurisdictions and private property owners in order them to take independent action.
• Residential and commercial trash receptacles are commonly vandalized items. Establish a program whereby receptacles are cycled back to Environmental Services for cleaning on a regularly scheduled basis.
• Utility boxes at intersections are also a common target. Working in conjunction with the City Transportation department, private utility companies and local arts groups, establish a program whereby young persons can have one of these utility boxes designated as a canvas to express their art, turning our city from a city of graffiti into a city of murals. Paint will be donated by the private sector and local art organizations will function as “juries” to review and approve the subject matter.
EMPOWERING NEIGHBORS — ALL NEIGHBORS
Organized and engaged neighborhoods will be critical to stopping the blight that has been allowed to overtake Ward III. During the first 6 months in office, I will meet with all active neighborhood associations in Ward III in order to ascertain their top 3 priorities for change. These priorities will be distilled in order to identify common issues that overlap several neighborhoods and together we will develop a plan of action.
Businesses, employers, churches and schools — the other significant partners in a healthy neighborhood will also be engaged in order to help bring the various plans of action to fruition.
“GROWING THE REVENUE PIE” — SHORT AND LONG TERM STRATEGIES
With over 40% of the city’s revenue coming from sales taxes, growing the number of revenue generators is not just a talking point but perhaps the most critical issue to be addressed.
Short Term Initiatives
Strategically identify and divest excess city real estate the shows the greatest promise for immediate sales tax revenue generation and work proactively with developers to place these parcels back on the tax rolls. Examples of these parcels include those which are positioned to compliment retail development trends or imminent projects such as downtown revitalization. Immediate revenue derived from the sale proceeds should be dedicated to city fleet replacement.
• Parcel at the Southwest corner of Speedway & Stone. This property is located directly across from the Pima College downtown campus and, along with the vacant private parcel across the street, is ideally placed to establish a northern gateway into an extended Stone Avenue corridor into downtown as well as a west to east gateway to the U of A.
• Parcels located adjacent to the Downtown Links project.
Assure that staff stays focused upon assets that can be converted from revenue losers to income generators; TCC, Golf Courses, etc.
An average Walmart, COSTCO or similar large anchor retailer can generate $1.5-$2 in annual sales tax revenue. Dedicate and accompany a city economic development or planning staff member to specifically contact major retailers exploring the Tucson market in order to assist in securing a rapid and seamless permitting and approval process.
Proactive outreach to the major special events that generate significant tourism revenue in order to identify specific issues necessary to secure they stay in Tucson and continue growing. Examples include; Gem & Mineral Show, El Tour de Tucson and the Tucson Rodeo.
Long Term Initiatives
Our region is uniquely qualified to become the “Silicon Valley” of mineral extraction technology and training. The Rosemont Copper project is providing the critical mass catalyst necessary to position our community as THE world center for Mining excellence. Complimented by other existing resources such as the University of Arizona College of Engineering and Mines, the Caterpillar Tinaja Hills Demonstration & Learning Center, ASARCO, Freeport-McMoRan and the abundance of local mining technology support companies such as CAID Industries, Modular Mining, Jigsaw Technologies and M3 Engineering, our city is perfectly positioned to take a historic economic segment into the next century.
Film and Television production is the ultimate “clean” industry and an area in which Tucson used to be a world leader. Given the reticence of the legislature to establish film incentives, we should begin discussions with southern Arizona municipalities and county governments in order to determine the feasibility of assembling sufficient local incentives necessary to make our region competitive once again.
Davis-Monthan Air Force base alone has a $1.6 billion annual impact in the local community. As an economic generator that brings “new” dollars into the local economy, we simply cannot risk repeating the “passive ignorance” that can lead to lost opportunities. These opportunities extend beyond flying missions to “soft” concepts such as search and rescue, headquarters, training and unmanned aerial vehicle and electronic combat missions. As an elected official I will continue my 25 years of established relationships and familiarity with military leaders in order to protect this asset AND develop strategies to recruit new missions to our area.
The Tucson Convention Center may be the largest underutilized tourism asset in the City limits. In addition to assuring that the process of securing a private management company proceeds at a rapid pace, there are several other initiatives I feel should be undertaken;
• Begin discussions with key downtown property owners Alan Norville and Humberto Lopez regarding master planning the area surrounding the Tucson Convention Center. Activity on these properties is essential if the current or future arena is to fulfill its greatest potential.
• The TCC holds one unique and severely underutilized asset; ice. At present, Tucson is experiencing significant “leakage” of revenue to the ice rinks in Phoenix.
• Restart serious discussions regarding the status of the arena. If the answer is that the current facility is too antiquated we should begin long term plans for a replacement.
When I was retained by the city to develop an economic development strategy for Tucson’s South Park neighborhood, the most obvious asset was 300+ acres of undeveloped land next to an interstate freeway, with rail spur access and midway between an international airport and a major research university. A similar opportunity exists in the positive take away from the Grand Canyon University situation. The largest undeveloped area of land relative to the Rio Nuevo site is on the west side between Congress and 29th streets. Proper planning, assemblage and development of those parcels could provide the key missing component for the entire project while delivering the added benefit of tying together major destinations on both the east and west sides of the modern streetcar line.
BICYCLE FRIENDLY BUT NOT BICYCLE SAFE
While Tucson may be ranked as one of the nation’s most bicycle friendly communities, we are far from the safest. A simple initiative I have already begun is speaking with the Transportation department about re-evaluating the landscape requirements along designated bicycle boulevards. Mountain Avenue provides an example; the landscape vegetation has matured and now creates a situation whereby drivers intersecting the roadway must drive into the crosswalk in order to get a proper sightline of oncoming traffic. Sound buffering walls along major corridor improvements should also be re-evaluated using the same principles.
Potholes and the lack of maintenance don’t just impact the drivers of vehicles but also bicyclists. Many of our bike lanes are now dangerous due to potholes in the lane or street side vegetation that forces bicyclists into traffic. Securing funding sufficient to return to proper roadside/median cleanup will be one of my other priorities. In the interim, I will leverage the voice of the Ward III council office to directly organizing and facilitating volunteer cleanups of affected areas in Ward III.