MEET THE NEW BOSS
New Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda, who rose to the top job by default when the City Council fired Mike Letcher, doesn't view himself as a mere caretaker until a new manager comes along.
"I totally get that the word 'interim' is there as city manager," Miranda said in an interview on the 10th floor of City Hall last week. "But I think the council has given me the latitude and direction to put some fixes in place. I'm not just here to water the plants and feed the dog."
In his first couple of weeks on the job, Miranda has been meeting with department heads on a weekly basis to both improve communication and send a message that he expects them to run a tight ship.
He said that one of the fundamental concerns he's been hearing from the community is "about confidence and trust in the management of the organization."
But there's another complaint on the public's mind, said Miranda: "That whole issue of the city not being business-friendly is one that comes in over and over again to me. I hear it from everybody. I think we're doing a heck of a job with dealing with some of those issues, but it's going to take some time to change."
Miranda plans to take a more-active role in reducing red tape and making it easier for businesses to navigate the permit process.
"It's really important the direction come from the city manager, and there ought to be a focus on a daily basis in terms of business development," Miranda said. "I want to create a process that I'm involved—or the city manager is involved—directly in business development or economic development."
The city's budget—which has tightened in recent years as sales-tax dollars and other revenues have evaporated—remains a lingering problem. Miranda called it the "main issue that breaks me out of a good sleep at night: What are we going to do about the money?"
Miranda—who worked as a Tucson cop for 34 years, including a decade as chief of police, before becoming an assistant city manager—said he hasn't decided if he'll apply for the permanent city manager job now that council members are moving forward with a national search.
"That's a question that's going to be answered by my wife and kids," he said. "They went through 10 years of me being a police chief, working 24-7, being at work a lot. They understand that if I take this job on, it's going to be my attitude, my work ethic, to take it on the same way. So we need to go out to dinner and have that discussion."
Last week, the Tucson Weekly reported that Republican mayoral candidate Rick Grinnell has proposed reducing trash collection in the city of Tucson to once every 10 days or once every two weeks to save money and avoid future increases in the city's garbage-collection fee. (See "Talking Trash," Sept. 22.)
But it turns out that state law requires cities to collect the garbage at least once a week. (Cities actually have to pick it up twice a week, unless they get a waiver as a result of doing a recycling program, which—for those of you who think recycling is a dumb idea—explains why we have all those blue barrels out there.)
Grinnell didn't return a phone call to talk about the legal problems with his proposal.
Attorney Don Bivens, the former chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, announced on Monday, Sept. 26, that he'd be seeking the U.S. Senate seat now held by the retiring Jon Kyl.
"I'm not a politician," Bivens said in a video announcement. "I've spent my entire career in the private sector, working for businesses large and small. I'm running for the United States Senate because we can't keep sending the same folks back to Washington and expecting a different result."
Meanwhile, the rumor mill continues to grind out whispers about a potential candidacy by Tucsonan Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general, SWAT-team medic and emergency-room doc.
Here's what we hear: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would love to see Carmona in the race, because polling shows him as the most-formidable candidate against Congressman Jeff Flake, who is well on his way to capturing the GOP nomination. But our sources tell us that Carmona either ain't all that interested in the job, or is playing hard to get.
WHAT THE BUCK?
Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers sent out a press release earlier this week demanding an investigation into a weird transaction on the campaign-finance reports of Republican Jennifer Rawson, who hopes to unseat Democratic Ward 2 Councilman Paul Cunningham.
Rawson reported receiving a total of $2,650 from six contributors on Aug. 3—money that was also reported as an expenditure to those same people on the same day.
"This would appear to be an attempt to increase her campaign coffers with fake contributions and shady accounting," Rogers said in the release. "Whether she is knowingly misappropriating taxpayer money or simply negligent, Rawson has demonstrated that she can't be trusted with taxpayer dollars."
Rawson tells The Skinny that those contributors banded together to purchase her campaign signs out of their own pocket—so she reported the money as a contribution, but also reported it as going back to them rather than to the company that made the signs.
"It is a reporting error," Rawson says. "There has been no collusion or evil of any kind."
Suzanne Mesich of the Tucson City Clerk's Office confirms that Rawson sorted out the mishandled accounting earlier this week. Rawson will need to file an amended report listing the transaction as an in-kind contribution rather than a cash contribution.
The downside for Rawson: The contributions won't be doubled under the city's matching-fund program, says Mesich.
A few other recent notes from Tucson mayor and council races:
• Democrat mayoral candidate Jonathan Rothschild won the endorsement of the Tucson Fire Fighters Association. Earlier this month, Rothschild won the endorsement of the Tucson Police Officers Association.
• Republican Tyler Vogt, who is seeking to unseat Democratic Councilwoman Shirley Scott in Ward 4, has qualified for matching funds for his campaign. That means that for every dollar that Vogt raises up to a certain point, he's eligible for a $1 match from city taxpayers.
Vogt had reported raising more than $15,000 as of Sept. 6, so matching funds should bring a big cash infusion.
• Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash has filed organizational paperwork to spend funds for an independent campaign under the name of Tucson United. The Arizona Republican Party has also alerted the Tucson City Clerk's Office that it will be active in the races. And we hear that Phoenix-based GOP strategist Nathan Sproul will be aiding the Republican candidates, although it's not clear whether there will be enough money in the game for Sproul to do much on their behalf.
New campaign-finance reports are due this week.