Republican City Councilman Steve Kozachik launched an online petition over the weekend, demanding that the Legislature stay out of the city's knickers.
Kozachik is incensed that lawmakers, mostly in his own party and many from Southern Arizona, are mucking around in areas that aren't any of their business - from trying to set salary caps for city workers to limiting hiring and requiring larger cities to bid out some of their services.
The online petition, which had more than 450 signatures by early Monday afternoon, is the latest round Kozachik has lobbed at his GOP counterparts, after last month's opinion piece calling such measures hypocritical, coming from those who are the first to decry federal intrusion into the state's business. Local decisions, he said, must come from local elected leaders.
He charged, too, that they run counter to the "small government" mantra on the campaign trail, since the procurement changes in particular would require more bureaucracy.
The petition, www.change .org/petitions/stop-hurting -our-local-government, is the latest rift between Kozachik and members of his own party, with each side saying the other will pay the price next election.
The Republican councilman said the state needs to focus on solving its own problems and not exacting "a political vendetta against the city of Tucson because it's (U.S. Rep. Raúl) Grijalva country and (Sheriff Clarence) Dupnik is involved." While he concedes Rio Nuevo was a boondoggle, he also said that's being addressed and investigated, and accuses the legislators of trying to flog the city with it in order to score political points.
Kozachik, who has not had a sit-down with the local GOP legislators, including Sens. Frank Antenori and Al Melvin, said he expects the campaign will elicit some reaction from the local delegation, although he concedes it's a "Hail Mary pass" with what could be mere hours left in the legislative session.
"I don't expect them to make any changes, but I'm also not willing to concede the playing field to the fringe right of the party. I don't think a lot of the stuff they're adopting now reflects the broad will of the people in this state."
That sounds a bit like a man thinking of the next campaign. And he acknowledges that's part of it: "I want to demonstrate to people that I took affirmative steps to build a firewall between myself and these Neanderthals."
But the campaign is a few years off, and he's worried now about the city's ability to hang onto its good employees and to provide services to people who live in it.
As for Antenori, he said, "At some point, particularly if he thinks he's going to run for Congress, he has to stop offending the people who live in this city."
Antenori countered that the state has every right to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. "I'll tell you what, Steve. All the city has to do is stop taking state-shared revenues and you can do whatever you want," he said, knowing full well the city can't easily forgo a pot of money that exceeds $108 million and makes up a quarter of the general fund.
Antenori said he hasn't heard complaints from the other cities in his district. When it was pointed out that most of the laws are aimed at places with more than 500,000 people, he added Tucson clearly needs more oversight because it squandered millions on Rio Nuevo and is "ignoring" a law requiring nonpartisan elections. The city is running partisan elections while a suit over the law works its way through the courts.
Antenori said the petition won't sway him, saying many of the people who are emailing him aren't residents in his district.
He said he's convinced his east-side constituents are happy with what he's doing, saying they want Houghton Road improved and they want better public safety - neither of which the city is delivering at the moment.
"The people I represent want a freaking road fixed and they want a police station," he said, adding the council instead wants to talk about "choo-choo trains and theaters downtown" while worrying about bicyclists and minidorms.
Antenori, who is waiting until new political boundaries are drawn before deciding whether he'll consider a congressional bid, said he's not worried about his own election.
"Those people on the east side? Those are the people I listen to. And they helped Steve get elected, but there's a good chance they won't be there for him next time."
Pima County Republican Chairman Brian Miller said he's not playing referee, saying "viable policy differences are inevitable" between candidates with different constituencies, but Pima County Democratic Chairman Jeff Rogers said he's siding with Kozachik on this one.
It wasn't so long ago, he recalled, that the Pima County area was represented by Republicans of a more moderate strain. "In the past, we were able to set aside differences and work as a caucus, but Frank Antenori has just declared war on Tucson and Pima County."
Rogers said he plans to sign the petition - and said he encourages Republicans to join him.
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at email@example.com or 573-4243.