by Jim Nintzel
Democrat Nina Trasoff's term as the midtown Ward 6 councilwoman comes to an end next Monday, Dec. 7, as Republican Steve Kozachik is sworn into office.
Kozachik, who doesn’t plan to quit his day job managing the facilities over at the UA Athletics Department, says a prime focus will be the city’s ailing budget, which is continuing to spiral into deeper trouble. Last week, City Manager Mike Letcher delivered the bad news that weak sales-tax collections and other problems have left the city facing a $32 million shortfall in the current fiscal year.
“Far too many decsions are being made without having the numbers that make sense sitting in front of you,” says Kozachik, who warns the issue is “going to be potentially contentious.”
Kozachik is pessimistic about Rio Nuevo’s future and concerned that with tax collections below forecast, there’s barely enough money to cover debt service for the downtown revitalization project.
“Let’s be real about that,” Kozachik says. “That patient is on life support. There’s no money there.”
A new board will soon be controlling future Rio Nuevo spending, thanks to a law passed by the Arizona Legislature in this month’s special session.
Kozachik says his downtown focus will be on downtown merchants so they don’t “become the forgotten few. My sense of downtown is clean, safe and activities. Let’s get a bunch of activities going down there.”
Kozachik has already hired aides, including Donovan Durband, who was executive director for about seven of the 10 years he worked at the Tucson Downtown Alliance. Durband did what he could with the resources at hand and remained a fierce advocate for businesses that were trying to eke out a living in downtown.
But when TDA expanded into the new Downtown Tucson Partnership and was placed under the control of Glenn Lyons, Durband quickly realized that The Powers That Be had little use for him. He walked before they made him run.
Lyons has his hands full trying to untangle himself from a political fustercluck that erupted when he tried to sell Fourth Avenue’s Coronado Hotel, which now is home to low-income seniors. (Dave Devine will have the the messy details in this week's print edition.)
Durband will be handling downtown issues for Kozachik, who praised his new aide’s “knowledge of downtown and his familiarity and good relationship with local merchants down there.”
We’ll see if Durband’s history leads to frosty relations with Lyons and his staff, who are already viewed with suspicion by some longtime downtown business owners and other Rio Nuevo skeptics.
But it’s certainly not going to be as cozy a relationship as Lyons had with Trasoff’s office. The DTP’s marketing director, former Tucson Citizen editor Cara Rene, is married to the outgoing Trasoff’s chief of staff, former Tucson Citizen columnist C.T. Revere.