Who runs Tucson's city government?
For too many years it has been led by the bureaucracy, by a strong city manager. The bureaucracy basically provides us the direction to go each Monday. Much of that is really controlled by the development community that has pulled the strings for years. I think El Con was a great example. As soon as Mayor Walkup took office that was the first thing he did and obviously those strings were being pulled by some deep-pocketed people here in our community.
The bureaucracy, however, is not structured to come up with creative solutions to our challenges, to provide a vision for this community. That is what the elected officials should be doing. The way the system is structured now does not promote good leadership from our elected officials. We need to require a full-time mayor and council and compensate them adequately for it. It's ludicrous to think we can continue with a part-time mayor and council and have high expectations that these people are going to provide a real clear vision about where this community is going to go.
Do you support the proposed charter changes that have been put forth by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, which would have City Council candidates run in their ward instead of the present citywide system, increase the number of wards from 6 to 8, make city elections nonpartisan, and give the mayor some minor additional powers?
Generally not, but I don't know if I'll favor the final proposal or not. I don't support the additional wards. There's upsides and downsides to the non-partisan/partisan thing. I'm generally not in favor of it but I'd be willing to work some things out and at least put it on the ballot. Ward-only elections, that's not one of the proposals anymore. They decided they didn't want that. I believe its because it would endanger some of their candidates from winning re-election, like Fred Ronstadt, for example.
What's your prognosis for this being on the ballot in November?
Given the makeup of the current mayor and council and the influence that the Southern Arizona Leadership Council has on some of the folks, I wouldn't be surprised that they get their way.
What are your views on the proposed $6 a month environmental/garbage fee and a sales tax increase for public transit?
As far as a garbage fee, the only way I think it should be structured is a sliding scale where if you're willing to recycle, you're going to pay hardly anything at all. There may be a very small fee, but it would be minimal. But if you decide just to throw all your stuff in the green tubs, then you're going to pay some because it is a cost we all have to bear.
A sales tax increase for public transit? I haven't come up with any other way to do it. If we look at a quarter-cent sales tax that would go strictly to public transit, I think it could be sold to this community. I could support a quarter-cent sales tax. But there's not enough support on the council to do that [place the issue on the ballot in November]. Many on the council are looking at a little bit for public transit but a bunch more to widen roads. I don't think that's appropriate.
Will that be on the ballot in '02?
People are really dancing on it. Maybe in '02. I don't think it's going to happen in '01 because of the election and you know how people get pretty goosey running for re-election.
What other major issues does Tucson have?
We hear a lot about transportation and it is an issue, especially for people from the Foothills that have to come down from their lofty perch into the flatlands to work and have to drive back through all that traffic. But when talking with the constituents we serve, we have a lot more in-the-trenches kind of issues as far as affordable housing, safe housing, safe neighborhoods, good-paying jobs, good education. I think that's really the nuts and bolts of what the key issues are in Tucson.
What do you consider your major accomplishments?
Within Ward 3 there was forming a partnership with the Yaqui tribe to expand the cultural center in Old Pascua neighborhood and also finally opening up the Balboa Heights Neighborhood Center. The Northwest Neighborhood Center is going to be going through an additional expansion which is much needed. We've got work on Mountain Avenue between Grant Road and Fort Lowell Road finally coming after years and years of being shelved. The dust should be flying there within a couple of months. Maybe more importantly, we've brought on board maybe a dozen additional neighborhood associations and re-energized a few others that had not been doing a whole lot. Just involving more people in the process has probably been the most satisfying to myself and my staff.
On a citywide level, we passed a living wage and the whole retail big box thing was important. We also provided smoke-free restaurants in the community and I think that's been a real plus.
What were your biggest disappointments?
The public transit system is probably not as good today as it was three years ago. Fares have gone up and service has gone down. I'm not satisfied with the way Tucson Water is going as far as more rate hikes. I don't support that. I'm disappointed to see the crime rate at the level it is, with the number of shootings that have occurred, but on the other hand we've taken some important steps to try and limit, at least at the gun shows at the TCC, the opportunity to get a firearm by those who shouldn't be getting a firearm.
Last November you were enthusiastic about running again. What happened?
My family and I talked about it during the holidays and over about a month it really kind of hit home that it was time to move on and time to let somebody else have a shot at it. The decision not to run came about toward the end of the year and I went along with it for a couple of months to make sure it was the right decision. I've started a new job in the commercial property management field, which is an exciting opportunity and I want to be able to devote full-time to it. It's not a career thing to be a city councilman by any means. I think the more people you can get in here with new ideas and fresh approaches to the issues Tucson faces, the better we'll be as a community. We've done a good job and its time to move on.