The Yes on 401 campaign kicked off its campaign Thursday to change the city charter this November with a diverse coalition backing the initiative, ranging from business leaders to unions and Democrats to tea party members.
The four charter changes call for making the council a full-time job, with pay indexed to that of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Council members now make $24,000 a year, with the mayor making $42,000. The change would bump pay to $61,280 for council members and to $76,600 for the mayor.
In addition, the proposed charter changes would give the mayor more powers, eliminate civil-service protection for department heads and their deputies, and shift the city election calendar so all council members would run in the same year, beginning in 2013.
But on Thursday the campaign had a few missteps, as two of the four co-chairs of the yes campaign told the crowd that the ballot measure would do things that in fact it would not do.
El Charro owner Carlotta Flores said the measure would put all the council offices under one roof at City Hall. However, the ballot measure says no such thing, which press conference moderator Lisa Lovallo later acknowledged.
Former University of Arizona President Peter Likins said the measure would save $140,000, but if done right could save $400,000. But the larger number can only happen if the council members fire some of their aides after the measure passes, Lovallo acknowledged.
Lovallo also got into the act, saying the city charter was an 18th century document that needed to be updated for the 21st Century. But the charter was passed in the 1929, which was in the 20th Century. The 18th Century document would have been passed in when Tucson was still the Spanish Presidio de Tucson, or even before that, in the 1700s.
Aside from the mistakes, the event shed light on one campaign tactic that could be used to sidestep the perception that the City Council is dysfunctional. The campaign has made it a policy not to criticize those serving on the City Council, while insisting the city’s system is broken.
When asked how broken, Lovallo cited a survey that showed 80 percent of residents said the city was on the wrong track, while Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers said there have been several “outstanding council people” in the past several years and it’s the system that’s broken, not the people in it.