DELAYED IMPACTThe Tucson City Council is set to approve new impact fees to help pay for police and fire stations, as well as other public buildings.
The new fees will total $1,589 per home and $1,227 per 1,000 square feet of commercial space.
The city will start collecting the new residential fees next January, provided they're approved as expected when the council meets this Monday, Aug. 6.
But the new commercial impact fees won't be charged until January 2009. That's a wee bit ironic, given that council members Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich complained mightily during their 2005 campaigns that their incumbent Republican opponents, Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar, had delayed commercial impact fees.
Trasoff, who wanted commercial impact fees "as soon as legally possible" during her 2005 campaign, now says the Republicans' old phase-in plan--which wouldn't have had full fees being collected until 2011--just took too long. She believes that the delay for the new commercial impact fees strikes a reasonable balance.
"You have to give people enough lead time," says Trasoff, who points out that the new impact fees were part of her campaign platform to make growth pay for itself. "Developers also play an essential role in this community, but they shouldn't dominate the whole thing. So I want to be respectful, and I want to listen to what their needs are, and I want to listen to how the decisions I'm making impact them and be able to weigh that in there."
Once fully implemented, city planners estimate the new fees will annually raise $2.53 million for police, $1.85 million for the fire department and $1.88 million for public facilities.
When added to the current impact fees for water, roads and parks, the total impact fees for a 2,000-square-foot home in Tucson would be $8,919. That puts Tucson in the middle when it comes to impact fees in Pima County; developers pay only $5,092 for a similar home in Sahuarita, but as much as $13,542 in Marana. In unincorporated Pima County, the fees on a house total $7,413, according to a report from city staff.
PERHAPS WE COULD BUILD A WALL OUT OF PALLETS OF ONE-DOLLAR BILLSAfter some wrangling last week, the U.S. Senate voted 89-1 to dedicate $3 billion to strengthening border security. Talk about inflation--that's nearly three times the $1.2 billion that Congress approved last year for the same job.
Then again, most of that $1.2 billion has been withheld by Congress. We won't be surprised to see that same thing happen with the $3 billion check, provided it manages to make it through the House of Representatives and avoids a presidential veto.
We're skeptical that Customs and Border Protection could come close to spending that much money next year--or spend it wisely, anyway, given that Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner has expressed concerns that the agency may be ill equipped to handle its current procurement challenges. (See "Great Barrier Grief," July 26.)
Still, more spending on border security--or at least the appearance of more spending on border security--is key to gaining support for more comprehensive immigration reform. Poll after poll shows that the American public remains skeptical that the federal government is serious about taking control of the border. Until that's overcome, making headway on other issues--like resolving the status of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the country or developing a guest-worker program--will remain next to politically impossible.
GOT A PROBLEM? BLAME MEXICO!Speaking of that $3 billion border-security plan: Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen was positively giddy with excitement over the proposal, giving high marks to Sen. Jon Kyl for getting the plan through the Senate.
We've mentioned before that Pullen doesn't seem to think a whole bunch before he sends out a press release. (Frankly, we're fairly certain that the releases, which purport to quote Pullen, are scripted by party spokesman Brett Mecum, so maybe Pullen doesn't even read 'em before they go out. Brett, may we suggest a remedial writing class to fix that tin ear of yours?)
In one of our favorite GOP release this year, Pullen assured President George Bush back in April that Republicans would stand behind him on strengthening border security against Democrats who were trying to reverse all the gains the administration had made. When we called Mecum to ask how Democrats were rolling back border security, he said he'd have to call us back. We're still waiting for that call.
A few months later, we saw just how much Bush could count on Pullen when the GOP chair turned the state party into a political action committee opposing the administration's immigration-reform package.
So we weren't surprised to see Pullen was cheering last week when the U.S. Senate passed a $3 billion border-security package. As usual, the release contained a whopper that we just can't ignore.
"A vast majority of Arizona Republicans want their state's southern border secured," Pullen declared. "They want the drugs and guns which plague our schools to stop flowing across the border."
Guns flowing across the border from Mexico into the United States? We think it works the other way, Randy.
Next from the Arizona GOP: How all those Mexican mortgage lenders have screwed up the U.S. housing market.
CHILDREN'S CRUSADE, PART 459The latest edition of the annual Kids Count survey has been released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a group of do-gooders who love kids way more than you ever will.
Keeping in mind that the numbers in the report reflect what was going on back in 2004-2005 (hey, it takes time to crunch all this data for all 50 states), it turns out that Arizona is doing slightly better compared to the rest of the nation. We're now ranked 36th among the 50 states; in last year's report (covering 2003-2004), we were at 37, and the previous year (2002-2003), we were ranked at 41.
Still, that improvement may be because other states are doing worse, not that we're doing all that much better in most of the indicators that the report examines.
When it comes to low birth-weight babies, for example, the Arizona stats had gotten slightly worse, at 7.2 percent as opposed to 7.1 percent the previous year. On the bright side, that's still below the national average of 8.1 percent.
Infant mortality increased from 6.5 to 6.7 per 1,000 kids, but child deaths dropped slightly, from 24 per 1,000 to 21 per 1,000. Those stats are both in line with national averages.
Teen deaths from all causes increased from 80 to 85 per 1,000, which is significantly higher than the national average of 66 per 1,000.
We're also way above the national average when it comes to teens between the ages of 15 and 19 having kids, with about 60 out of every 1,000 becoming parents. The national average: 41 per 1,000. Particularly distressing: About 36 per 1,000 teens between 15 and 17 are having kids, which is also way above the national average of 22.
We've still got one out of every five kids living in poverty, and about one-third of kids are living in single-parent households, both numbers that have held steady for the last five years and fall right in line with the national average.
On the encouraging side, the percentage of teens who had dropped out of high school had decreased slightly, from 11 percent in 2004 to 9 percent in 2005. Wonder how the new requirement that kids pass the AIMS test--with no supplemental boost from schoolwork this year--will affect that figure?