Leal's opponent in the Democratic primary, Jesse Lugo, complains that Leal has not worked for the residents of Ward 5.
Well, Jesse's flat-out wrong. Since he first won office in 1989, Leal's first loyalty has been to the people of the south side. Unlike some of his colleagues on the council, he has worked for his constituents instead of sucking up to the Growth Lobby and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.
Leal has remained true to his roots in the neighborhood movement, helping residents empower themselves by creating 20 new neighborhood organizations. Under his watch, Ward 5 residents have seen expanded neighborhood centers, more books in libraries and better parks.
Leal has supported public investment in job-training programs. He's backed programs such as JobPath and found a permanent home for Pima County's adult education program at El Pueblo neighborhood center.
He's pushed a cash-strapped transportation department for major improvements, including high-profile facelifts on South Sixth and South Park avenues.
While his opponent makes impossible-to-deliver promises about increasing the police force by 50 percent, it's Leal who has been endorsed by Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall and Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano. Leal has directed the police department to crack down on the corrosive effects of prostitution not just by arresting hookers but by busting the sleazebags who take advantage of their services.
When an opportunistic gang of scoundrels tried to seize control of El Pueblo Health Clinic, Leal took a hard line against the coup. Within weeks, the old order was restored and the clinic returned to the work of serving people who needed medical help.
When the owners of El Con Mall wanted to dump a 24-hour Wal-Mart hard against neighboring houses, Leal led the fight to stop them. The result was an ordinance that gives you a voice when a big box wants to open a round-the-clock shop on your front porch.
Leal got the city to stop doing business with low-wage employers by supporting a livable-wage ordinance that requires companies that contract with the city to pay employees a minimum of $8 an hour, with benefits.
He's backed regulations that force smokers to go outside to indulge their habit rather than allowing them to ruin your meal and, more importantly, damage the health of waiters and waitresses.
He has stood up against billboard baron Karl Eller, who has repeatedly tried to buy his way around voter-approved city regulations so he can continue to profit from hanging his hideous erections in our faces.
When you look at his record, it's little wonder that Leal has been targeted this election. Just take a look at Lugo's financial reports, which are littered with the names of bigshot Republicans: the aforementioned Karl Eller, Eller's bullying pit-bull, Don Dybus, legendary land speculator Don Diamond, developer David Mehl, car dealer Jim Click, attorneys Si Schorr and John Munger, Southern Arizona Leadership Council honcho Bob Johnston and Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association executive director Alan Lurie. Even Republican Party princess Kathleen Dunbar, who is seeking the Ward 3 seat in the November general, has kicked in a contribution. Do these people really have the best interests of southside Democrats in mind when they write their checks? We think not.
And God only knows who's contributed to Tucsonans for Alert Government, a shadowy independent campaign committee running an under-the-radar campaign to unseat Leal.
Why does the Growth Lobby want to knock off Leal? Because he hasn't been their toady. Because he hasn't done their bidding at the expense of his constituents. Because he's stood up for the average citizen in a town where developers are accustomed to getting their way.
Leal is not a perfect councilman. We wish he would support transportation impact fees, especially as the city continues to gobble raw land on its southern border. We wish he'd show a little more leadership on some issues, particularly the suspicious deals going down with the State Land Department. And there are times, listening to him at council meetings, when we wish he'd get to the friggin' point.
But he's done much good and made all the right enemies. Re-elect Steve Leal on September 11.