PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild delivered his second State of the City last week to a full room out at Starr Pass Resort.
The central takeaway of the speech: The city is doing a little bit better, but it needs to do a lot better—and it needs to do it as a community. Tax revenues are up, but still not nearly what they were before the fiscal crash during the Bush administration. The city is trying to be more welcoming to businesses (Rothschild rattled off a long list of new businesses in Tucson), but we still need to make the process easier for them. The citizens of Tucson showed they had a little more trust in the city when they (narrowly) supported road bonds in last year's election, but it's going to take a long time to fix all those potholes.
As Rothschild put it early on: "The challenges ahead, however, are daunting. The cost of providing quality public services is rising, and too many Tucsonans are still struggling. To meet the challenges facing our community, we must work together as a community. If I have learned one thing in 14 months as mayor, it is this: we do more together than alone."
Rothschild offered up hope: He's been working with our neighbors in Mexico to create more trade opportunities in Southern Arizona. He's hired a bunch of new department heads throughout the city. The city's ongoing disputes with Rio Nuevo have been resolved (a line that got a lot of applause) and we're seeing a boom in downtown. The city is partnering with the UA, IBM and others to get outside expertise.
Rothschild proposed an agenda of improving the city's permit-approval process, putting more school-resource officers in schools, developing online courses to help high-school dropouts get GEDs, and improve literacy among Tucson's residents.
He also seized upon a goal that many mayors before him have failed to deliver on: More annexation to reduce the number of people living in unincorporated Pima County. This story has rarely gone well, but Rothschild urged not only Tucson but the surrounding suburbs to expand their boundaries in order to capture more state revenue.
"We can no longer afford to do things that don't make sense," Rothschild said. "Having urban and suburban areas that aren't incorporated, giving $70 million back to the state every year, going without needed services, and making local businesses carry a higher property tax burden than businesses in other parts of the state–these things don't make sense."
Annexation might make financial sense from a regional standpoint—and then again, it might not, if the cost of providing services to those new Tucsonans outweighs the new revenue that comes to the city. When you have more city residents, you need to hire more cops and firefighters, fix more potholes, service more parks and whatnot.
The money aside, many of those residents who would need to be annexed probably enjoy not having to deal with a municipal government of some kind, so there's a big sales job ahead there.
HOW ABOUT A REMATCH?
Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia wants a rematch with Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.
Buehler-Garcia, who lost to Uhlich in 2009 by fewer than 200 votes, filed as a candidate on Friday, Feb. 22.
"I think the challenges facing our community are jobs and the economy," Beuhler-Garcia said. "Crime is an issue."
Buehler-Garcia cited Tucson's recent ranking as the sixth-poorest major metropolitan area in the nation, as well as the lousy condition of Tucson's streets.
He said it was unacceptable that "a full third of our children are living below the federal poverty level" and complained that an encounter with a pothole a few years ago "cost me $1,200 and two ruined rims and probably would have killed me if I'd been on a bicycle."
Buehler-Garcia said he ran four years ago "because I am so passionate about this city's potential and we've drifted so far from it. We've got a lot going for us."
Uhlich, who picked up the endorsement of the Pima Area Labor Federation this week, told The Skinny she was "looking forward to what I'm sure will be a spirited and civil campaign."
"I'm feeling good about the past four years and I'm looking forward to focusing on my record and the positive things done by this council," Uhlich said.
Ward 5 Councilman Richard Fimbres and Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik are also up for reelection this year, but have yet to draw opponents.
Democrat Felecia Rotellini wants another shot at the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
Rotellini, who lost to current Attorney General Tom Horne by fewer than 4 percentage points in 2010, officially filed as a candidate this morning for a run for AG.
"I want to return the focus of the AG's Office to prosecuting crime and criminals and protecting Arizonans," Rotellini says. "The Attorney General's Office should not be in the business of politics but in the business of protecting and serving."
Rotellini, who has worked as a prosecutor in the AG's Office under Republican Grant Woods and Democrats Janet Napolitano and Terry Goddard and as superintendent of the State Banking Department in the Napolitano administration, tells the Weekly she wanted to get an early start on the campaign.
"I want to build a campaign, gather the endorsement and raise the money I need to raise to get my message out," Rotellini says.
She has tapped Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general and 2012 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, as a campaign chair.
"I'm honored to have him as my campaign chair," Rotellini says. "He exemplifies the kind of hard-working public servant and problem solver that I aspire to be as well."
Rotellini, who raised nearly $700,000 for her 2010 campaign, will not be using the state's Clean Elections program.
"Clean Elections simply does not provide sufficient funds to run the type of robust campaign that needs to run statewide," she says.
Whether she'll face a Democratic primary remains to be seen. Goddard, who lost a gubernatorial bid in 2010 after serving two terms as AG from 2002 to 2010, is seriously contemplating a run for the AG's office as well.
Horne is eligible to seek a second term, but is facing political and legal troubles stemming from a hit-and-run accident in a parking garage while being tailed by the FBI as part of an investigation into campaign-finance violations and retaliation against a whistle blower. The subsequent newspaper stories that alleged Horne sped away from the parking garage to hide an affair with a subordinate didn't help his reelection chances.
Goddard may have been encouraged by a January Public Policy Polling survey of 601 Arizona voters that showed that, in a hypothetical 2014 general-election matchup, he would get 50 percent of the vote, while Horne would only get 38 percent. A Horne-Rotellini contest was closer; She had the support of 45 percent of those surveyed, while Horne had 42 percent.
Granted, these are early numbers that are based more on name ID than anything else. So it's not a surprise that Goddard had a commanding lead over Rotellini in a primary matchup: 71 percent of 211 Democrats surveyed would support Goddard, while just 15 percent would support Rotellini.
That's a low sample size, but it shows why Rotellini wants to get her name ID up by getting into the race early.