The Tucson City Council has failed its residents again.
Leaders of the private Grand Canyon University (GCU) recently expressed interest in possibly opening a campus in Southern Arizona. Sites in Tucson and in Oro Valley were the locations thought to be under consideration.
Citizens and business executives should applaud GCU's interest in our region and should roll out the welcome mat. This project brings with it an estimated 1,000 well-paying jobs averaging $60,000 per year. New construction of a university campus would enhance the look and feel of the neighborhood in which it is situated. An estimated $500 million economic impact to the community over five years could contribute significantly to the local tax base. And we all know we need a more competitive workforce. What better way to acquire that workforce than to grow it in our back yard?
The GCU site under consideration in Tucson was (up until Tuesday, May 28) the El Rio Golf Course, an under-utilized public recreation facility responsible for more than $4 million in city of Tucson operating debt in the last five years.
Common sense dictates that exchanging a loser for a sure-fire winner is a no-brainer. But common sense and the courage to do the greatest good for the greatest number of citizens in the community are sorely lacking in City Council chambers.
Small groups of single-agenda extremists rose up and succeeded in depriving Tucson of another golden economic development opportunity. Neighborhood residents want a park. Members of the GLBT community take issue with the Baptist-based philosophies of GCU. Instead of having the courage to plow through the noise, the Tucson City Council appears to have caved in. Perfect is again the enemy of good. The citizens of Tucson will pay the price both in money, continuing community decay and lost opportunity.
Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that the El Rio site was even under consideration in the first place. According to some on the Council, negotiations are under way with other parties for the property. If those negotiations haven't yet resulted in a signed deal, then all options should have been on the table, including GCU. If a deal has been struck with other parties, why was El Rio offered as a site?
An even bigger question is, "Why are members of the City Council, supposedly the policy making body of City of Tucson government, even involved with duties normally the purview of the city manager?"
A City Council that sticks its fingers in day-to-day operations is not a true City Council. They are a drag on city operations and an obstacle to growing our local economy.
It's interesting to note that City Council members I frequently visit with all tell me how committed they are to economic development. Those are their words. Their deeds are very different:
• Opposition to Grand Canyon University, its 1,000 jobs and millions in economic impact for Tucson.
• Indifference or opposition to support for the 162nd Air National Guard's acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to preserve its mission and $160 million plus in local economic impact.
• Ambivalence to a $25 million private sector gift to bring CAP water to the southern reaches of our local aquifer through Project Renews.
• Opposition to the Rosemont Copper project, its 2,000+ direct and indirect jobs and its millions in tax revenues even though the Council has no dog in the regulatory fight.
The City Council has earned an "F" on the Grand Canyon University matter.
They have proven yet again that they are not serious about doing what is necessary to welcome business opportunity, put our citizens back to work and increase our tax base through economic expansion.
Could it be that the City Council is too comfortable with the poverty that surrounds them?