AND THEY'RE OFF!The roster is finally set for this year's city elections, with candidates turning in their petitions last week.
Mayor Bob Walkup's moderate ways appear to have won over Democrats, seeing how they were unable to scare up a candidate to challenge him. And, sadly, Bruce Gerowitz, who sells hot dogs outside of a Speedway Boulevard strip club, decided against running as an independent, so our plans for a weekly series of interviews with him on the job are shot to hell.
The task of challenging Mayor Bob has fallen to Dave Croteau, a Green who made marijuana legalization the centerpiece of his campaign against Sheriff Clarence Dupnik back in 2000.
We'll just go ahead and congratulate Bob on his re-election right now.
But with the retirement of City Council members Carol West and José Ibarra, we will see some changes by the end of year.
In westside Ward 1, where Ibarra is stepping down after three terms of steady political self-destruction, the GOP failed to field a candidate. That means the primary, which will be limited to Ward 1 Democrats, will decide the race between Regina Romero and Kenneth Green.
Romero grew up the youngest of eight kids in a farming family in the Yuma Valley before coming to Tucson to attend the UA. In between classes, she started volunteering on political campaigns and found work as a coordinator in the county youth-employment program. After graduating from college, she went on to work with a neighborhood-reinvestment program.
"I got to know the neighborhoods and their needs," says Romero.
She met husband Ruben Reyes, an aide to Congressman Raúl Grijalva, while working on Democratic campaigns in Southern Arizona.
After Karin Uhlich won the Ward 3 council seat in 2005, Romero went to work as an aide in her office. She quit that job to launch her candidacy for the City Council earlier this year.
We're not sure why Green, a pastor and the president of the A Mountain Neighborhood Association, got into the race, because he didn't return our phone call. That also means we couldn't ask him if the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from seeking local partisan office, would be a problem for him, since he works for Veterans Affairs at the V.A. Hospital.
Over in eastside Ward 2, where Carol West is retiring after two terms, we've got a Democratic primary as well: Rodney Glassman vs. Robert Reus.
Though he just turned 29, Glassman already has a lengthy political resume. He's worked as a business and agricultural liaison for Grijalva, founded his own do-good foundation and has built a social network with more connections than the Maricopa County plumbing system. Although he's not accepting contributions of more than $20 from any one individual, Glassman has already qualified for the city's matching-funds program and has raised more than $36,000. (Since the city's matching-funds program limits his spending to about $90,000, he only needs to raise about $45,000 in private contributions.)
"I have a commitment to doing community service, because I love Tucson," says Glassman, who plans to focus his campaign on issues like recreational opportunities, water conservation, sustainability and economic development.
Reus, who owns an art shop on Fourth Avenue, doesn't have the same kind of political hook-ups. The thrust of his campaign revolves around changing the current form of government to go for an alderman-style council, giving the mayor more power--a topic he has often brought up at council meetings and on his public-access TV show. Even he admits that he's the underdog in the race, because Glassman has more name ID, more organization and more money.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Lori Oien in the citywide general election. Oien, a native Tucsonan, is the president of the Bear Canyon Neighborhood Association and acting chair of the City Magistrate Merit Selection Commission. She's also been active with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Southern Arizona DUI Task Force and the fight against underage drinking. She says funding cops and firefighters is a top priority.
"We have the best public safety, but we need to give them the resources they need," says Oien, who says she's also concerned about keeping a safe and secure water supply, revitalizing downtown and expanding economic development.
In Ward 4, there's no primary, but incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Shirley Scott is facing a challenge from Republican Dan Spahr as she campaigns for a fourth term. Spahr, a financial planner, is making his first run for public office.
"I have always, my entire life, been a servant," says Spahr, who moved to Tucson about four years ago. "I've always been doing things to help out other people. This is the next step in the journey."
Spahr says he wants to develop a "faith-based" effort that will team up the police and church groups in the fight against crime. "I call it 'servant evangelism,'" he says.
He also wants to revisit the idea of grade-separated intersections on Grant Road (which shows that he hasn't been around this town very long) or finding a new revenue source for an east-west freeway (which also shows he hasn't been around this town very long).
SIGNATURE EFFORTSStill up the air: Whether some initiatives will make the ballot. Petitions are due July 5, but that's just the start of the qualification process.
Former state lawmaker John Kromko is spearheading an effort called the Everything But the Kitchen Sink Act. Just kidding--it's actually the Tucson Water Users' Bill of Rights. It would repeal the monthly garbage fee, ban the delivery of treated effluent (even if it's been recharged through the ground) and eventually stop Tucson Water from hooking up new connections.
While the city doesn't have the same single-subject rule that the Arizona Constitution has, Kromko's wide-ranging initiative may still face a challenge under common-law restrictions against wide-ranging ballot props, according to City Attorney Mike Rankin.
We expect the Growth Lobby to crawl all over the petitions to make sure that Kromko crossed every I and dotted every T.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is pushing the Consumer Choice initiative, which would bust the city's ban on grocery sales at big-box stores. Good ol' Wally-Mart says it's unfair that the city is blocking it from undercutting grocery stores that have union workers and pay decent wages.
Although Rankin didn't comment on that effort, we're hearing whispers from City Hall that the proposed proposition may also face a legal challenge, because it involves zoning law, which isn't subject to the initiative process.
Pete Zimmerman, the political consultant handling the initiative drive, says he thinks the effort is on solid legal ground.
"I'm not a lawyer, but our lawyers think otherwise," says Zimmerman. "We're operating from a standpoint that this is a restraint-of-trade issue."
See ya in court!
VOUCHERMaricopa County Superior Court Judge Bethany G. Hicks ruled last week that the voucher program approved by the Arizona Legislature was constitutional.
The voucher program, which only amounts to $5 million a year, is limited to disabled and foster kids.
While the voucher program amounts to peanuts, the ruling is important, because it opens to the door to wider voucher programs, In the past, voucher opponents had argued that the Arizona Constitution banned vouchers for private schools.
Expect an appeal all the way up the Arizona Supreme Court on this one.