When Republican Tyler Vogt launched his campaign against City Councilwoman Shirley Scott, he let her know she was in for a world of hurt.
"I offer you the opportunity to resign from this race with your dignity and your reputation intact," Vogt wrote in an open letter to Scott. "If you choose to remain in the race, you will be opting for a complete exhibition of your performance as a City Council member. This information will be presented to the public without personal attacks. It is, after all, your record."
Scott, to no great surprise, remained in the race—and, in fact, is boasting about her record. She says that when she was elected in 1995, "there was nothing" besides a fire station, four softball fields and a golf course in Ward 4, located on the city's southeast side.
Ward 4 has seen a lot of growth in the 16 years that Scott has been on the council. She takes credit for bringing a lot of amenities to the new residents, including a police station, two additional fire stations, wider roads (including Houghton Road), more bus service, a library and more park facilities.
"It's quite a long list," Scott says.
Vogt doesn't quibble over those accomplishments, although he thinks that Scott probably should have done more over four terms. Instead, he's focused his campaign on the city's Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment project, saying that Scott has been there as city officials spent money on projects that were never completed.
"She's voted for all the waste that has happened," Vogt says. "That is the predominant, glaring failure of Shirley Scott's terms in office."
Scott argues that while not every Rio Nuevo project worked out, the city's investment in downtown has led to new businesses moving there—including new restaurants and new bars—as well as increased excitement about the city's center.
Vogt dismisses any notion that city spending has helped with the ongoing downtown rebound.
"I agree that we are seeing some sort of buzz going on downtown," Vogt says. "But it's not because of the city investment in Rio Nuevo."
Instead, Vogt credits private investors who are moving their businesses downtown in spite of the city's efforts.
An engineer at Raytheon, Vogt says the city needs to start focusing more on planning for the future. He proposes, for example, persuading a private developer to build a multi-billion-dollar desalinization plant in Rocky Point, as well as a pipeline to bring the fresh water to Tucson for future residents.
Scott says the entire idea is impractical and far too expensive with current technology, especially since the city now has enough water via the Central Arizona Project to serve current residents, and is banking excess water at the Avra Valley recharge facility. Any desalinization plant would require an increase in water rates, even if a private developer could be persuaded to undertake the project—and Scott remains skeptical that would happen.
His high-tech water plans aside, Vogt wants to see a much-slimmer city government. He proposes scrapping the city's garbage collection in order to create opportunities for private trash haulers to compete for city residents' business. (See "Talking Trash," Sept. 22.)
"It should be a private enterprise, not a city function," says Vogt. "Once you get the competition in there, you're going to see your rates go down, and you would be able to reduce some city staff, so you can shrink the government and provide business opportunities for entrepreneurs."
Scott predicts that city residents will see a bigger hit to their wallets if the city hands trash collection over to private haulers, given that most county residents currently pay private companies more to collect their garbage than city residents pay.
"Rates would go up for those who are now enjoying this particular service from the city," says Scott, who voted against implementing a trash fee in 2004, but now supports using one to cover the costs of the city's Environmental Services Department.
The candidates clash over a variety of topics. Vogt thinks the city is being too hard on developers of so-called "mini-dorms" near the UA; Scott says that the city is taking the right steps to protect existing residents from having their lives disrupted. Vogt wants the city to spend less on buses and perhaps even privatize the service; Scott says that if public transit were privatized, the city would need to pay back all of the federal dollars it has received to help support the bus fleet, which would be unaffordable. Vogt supports state legislation (sponsored by his brother, state Rep. Ted Vogt) that would force the city to ask for bids on almost any service it provides, from delivering water to running parks programs; Scott sees it as meddling by state lawmakers in local affairs.
Given all the headlines about city mismanagement in recent years, Vogt says he was a little surprised that more people didn't step up to run for office this year.
But, he adds, "Going through the campaign that I've been going through, I can kind of understand. ... There's not a lot of joy in campaigning."