He's often dismissed as a single-issue candidate, but Farley's experience runs wide. He's best known for his efforts in the transportation arena, where he's thought deeply not just about how people get around today, but how they'll get around in the decades to come.
His interests and activism go far beyond transportation. He's also been involved in neighborhood politics, downtown revitalization and education. (He and his wife, Regina Kelly, have developed an education program from the ground up that teaches kids how to become journalists and gather oral histories from their elders.)
The trademark of all these efforts: Farley's admirable curiosity and imagination--traits that would be a welcome addition to today's City Council.
Farley's ideas don't always have the political mass necessary to become reality. Case in point: The light-rail proposition that was rejected by voters two years ago.
But in waging that fight, Farley altered the city's political landscape. We may not be on our way to building his vision of light-rail lines down Broadway Boulevard and South Sixth Avenue, but the Pima Association of Government's new transportation plan--which Farley has helped shape as a member of the regional transportation authority's Citizens Advisory Committee--includes a rail system that would run between University Medical Center and downtown's Rio Nuevo project, as well as a significant boost to other mass transit service.
We'd like to see that kind of creativity unleashed on the imagination-challenged Tucson City Council.
Farley's opponent, Nina Trasoff, is less of a dreamer and more of a politician. She's a good politician--she connects with the crowd; she sounds good on the stump; she inspires her supporters. She's been a friend to many local nonprofits, and there's a sense among Democrats that she would make the right decisions--whatever they are--if she were to win a council seat.
Trasoff has been anointed to the nomination by a host of interests, from Democratic Party bigwigs to labor unions. In most cases, they're backing Trasoff for a politically pragmatic reason: They believe she's more likely to beat Republican incumbent Fred Ronstadt in the citywide general election this November, because she has the celebrity appeal stemming from her days as a newscaster 20 years ago.
As a politician, Trasoff finds it easy to pander, as she does on the issue of the city's $14-a-month trash fee. At her campaign kickoff, Trasoff proudly announced her opposition to the fee, but in the five months since then, she has yet to explain how she'd balance the city's budget without the $23 million the fee raises. She downplays this fiscal recklessness by suggesting she hasn't had access to the city budget.
That's nonsense. The budget is a public document. If Trasoff really wanted to find the waste, fraud and abuse that she believes lurks in city government, it shouldn't be that hard for someone who knows how to ask the hard questions.
Trasoff's biggest priority is better planning, but she's sure sketchy on the details. When we asked her about the city's current efforts with the Houghton Area Master Plan (HAMP), she told us: "It's been so long since I've looked at it, I'm reticent to say HAMP in particular is a good one. Not that it's bad."
If you want someone who will strut and fret during her hour upon the political stage, vote for Nina Trasoff.
But if you want someone who will really bring that vision thing to the City Council, vote for Steve Farley.