Do you believe Bob Walkup? We don't mean to say that our Republican mayor, who strikes us as a nice enough guy, is a compulsive liar. We're sure he believes what he says as the words tumble out of his mouth--most of the time, anyway.
But do you believe Bob can really do what he's promising this year? Do you think he is the Chosen One who will deliver us from the curse of having both city and county governments?
We wonder: Is this possible? Is it feasible? Is it even a good idea?
And we wonder, if this is what Bob plans to do, why has he done absolutely nothing to advance the idea since he announced it nine months ago?
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says the county hasn't received one phone call from a city official asking to discuss consolidating anything. Not one call.
Bob himself can't remember the last effort he made toward consolidation.
It seems to us that the mayor is just trying to feed us a little more of the old razzle-dazzle to distract us from his lack of attention to the very real problems in our community.
It wouldn't be the first time Bob has just told us what he thought we wanted to hear without giving his positions much in the way of deep thought.
We know we're supposed to look to the future and not the past, but let's review Bob's promises during his '99 campaign:
· He told us he opposed reducing garbage pickup to once a week. He voted for the change earlier this year.
· He told us he opposed increasing recycling to once a week. He voted for that earlier this year.
· He said he opposed a ban on smoking in restaurants. He never lifted a finger once elected to reverse it.
· Bob promised he would oppose impact fees. Now he's taking credit for creating them, even though the city has wasted close to year with a long-overdue study and has yet to collect a penny.
· Bob told us he opposed putting a half-cent sales tax on the ballot for transportation projects. He now says that he must have misspoken, because he remembers a forum where he took the opposite stand. (What a surprise!)
Whatever his stand(s) on the sales tax in 1999, Bob later blew through more than a million dollars of taxpayer money with his May 2002 election and the accompanying phony public process and propaganda push. In the end, the voters ran him down like a sidewinder on the highway.
During his four years in office, Bob has told the people of Tucson some whoppers. He said he didn't look fondly on increasing fees and taxes, but led the way when the council voted earlier this year to begin charging $2 a month to pick up garbage.
Earlier this year, he told us that a use tax "was off the table--I'm not even going to talk about it." Six months later, he cast the deciding vote to enact the tax, announcing at the time that he opposed it despite his vote. By the time we talked to him last month, he said it was the right thing to do because it was closing a loophole. (A loophole, incidentally, that he's willing to re-open to create a million-dollar exemption for corporate special interests such as Tucson Electric Power and Southwest Gas.)
At his second State of the City speech, Bob announced that helping single moms find good daycare was at the top of his agenda. This year, he voted to increase the cost of KIDCO, the city's after-school program.
And don't even get the gun guys started on Bob's record regarding background checks at Tucson Convention Center gun shows. He was an Olympic acrobat through that sound and fury.
Bob takes every opportunity he has to boast that he ended Tucson's water wars. (In truth, he's more a byproduct of them.) But when he needed to attack his challenger, Democrat Tom Volgy, he poured the politics right back in with a shameful smear accusing Volgy of--get this!--supporting Tucson's use of CAP water.
We don't think all of Bob's flip-flopping is necessarily bad. We're glad he finally agrees with us on impact fees, and agrees with Molly McKasson (the woman his supporters disgracefully dismissed as a dimwitted blonde four years ago) on trash pick-up and recycling schedules.
But the endless waffling leads us to suspect Walkup's convictions are less than rock-solid. And they remind us he rarely accomplishes what he promises to do.
So when Bob promises to put consolidation of city and county government at the top of his agenda, we have to ask: Even if he is sincere, why on Earth should we think he has a prayer of succeeding, especially when he's now making every effort in the opposite direction?
At a time of tight finances, the city really can't afford to waste more taxpayer dollars on Bob's quixotic quest to merge city and county government.
Think last year's sales tax effort was expensive? Imagine how much we'll spend studying the merger, even before the city blows more money on a propaganda campaign and an election that will most likely fail.
Isn't there a better use for that money?
And don't you imagine, when that plan falls to pieces, Bob will promise, with another flourish of smoke and mirrors, one more magic solution that will waste time and money while our streets continue to crumble, our traffic congestion grows worse, our kids find they can't afford swimming lessons and our seniors get priced out city dance halls?
The people of Tucson deserve much better than a smooth-talking flim-flam man. It is time for Bob to go.
And then there's Prop 100: the question of whether any of these jokers deserve a pay raise from $24,000 to $32,000 a year.
Two words: Hell No!
Naw, we'll say more. The truth is, we recognize that being on the City Council can be a tough and at times thankless job. And if we paid these elected officials more, maybe we'd actually get some candidates we felt comfortable endorsing.
But now is not the time. Governments everywhere are in the red, and many Tucsonans find themselves barely scraping by, or worse, thanks to the current economy.
This is not a time for struggling taxpayers to give City Council members a raise. Vote no on 100.
A CITY OF more than a half-million people--and this is the best we get?
Ward 1: Democratic incumbent José Ibarra vs. Republican Armando Rios Jr.
Now here's a lose-lose situation.
Truth to tell, we like the way José votes and we like the way he needles the City Council majority. But we don't like his lazy approach to the details of his office, or his problems with the truth, so we really can't urge you to vote for him.
But we can't support his opponent, either. Sorry, but we have a problem with a guy who's so out to lunch on civic issues that he's never even voted in a city election (at least before this year's primary). Armando has learned a little about city issues since he started out, but he's mostly dodged and weaved his way through the campaign, counting on Ibarra fatigue to carry him to victory in November.
Hey, nobody knows everything when they're starting out in this game--but if Armando can't figure out how he would have voted on this year's budget, we don't think he's qualified to have the responsibility of voting on the next one.
And Ward 4? Democratic incumbent Shirley Scott is about as hard to pin down as Rios most of the time. If there's a way Shirley can dance on both sides of an issue, she'll do it. She's been all over the map since her election eight years ago, though she seems to have aligned herself in the minority with Ibarra and Ward 5 Councilman Steve Leal.
Her Republican opponent, Mike Jenkins, is a nice enough guy who has gotten hooked on seeing his name on the ballot. He had the misfortune of getting pushed into this race by Councilman Fred Ronstadt and former Ward 4 aide John Macko, who's been mighty unhappy with Shirley ever since she canned him following that rather unpleasant EOEE investigation.
Jenkins is more in tune with state issues--and in some cases, we find we agree with him. But he's a bad fit for the Tucson City Council.