City voters will begin receiving their ballots this weekend for this year’s City Council races and propositions.
To help voters decide, the Star sent a questionnaire to all candidates asking them how they will address some of the issues facing Tucson over the next four years. We continue with Ward 6.
Name: Steve Kozachik
Employer and position: University of Arizona, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics – Associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Capital Projects
Education: B.A., public administration, M. Ed: both from the University of Arizona
Political experience: City Council 2009 to present
Top priority: Rebuilding trust between City Hall and residents. The past decade has seen a constant erosion of credibility on the part of city leadership with the public. From Rio Nuevo to reports of misallocation of funds and materials, we have seen confidence in local governance drop to low levels. That will translate into effects on our ability to grow the economic pie and pull ourselves up out of the current economic downturn.
I’ll continue to hold government accountable and protect the taxpayers’ interests.
How would you use your position as a City Council member to attract new businesses, or help existing ones grow, in Tucson?
Kozachik: Continue direct advocacy between merchants and City Hall. Continue work in streamlining processes related to permitting, design review and obtaining certificates of occupancy. Continue promoting the film industry’s return to production in and around Tucson — spinoff business activity will be immense. Continue to promote international commerce opportunities with Mexico.
Next year, the city faces many budget obstacles including how to pay for streetcar expenses, retirement costs and more. How will you address some of next year’s budget gaps?
Kozachik: I have already voted against increasing our structural deficit by awarding city workers pay increases, both in the form of direct wage/salary increases and lowering employee contributions to our pension plan. We have some great workers, but right now we cannot afford those added costs. Ultimately, our budget issues will be solved by growth in our local economy — see answer to support of business, above.
The Tucson Police Department expects to lose 100 officers by the end of 2015. How do you propose the city address this issue to minimize impacts to both police service levels and the city budget?
Kozachik: First, it’s time to end the DROP program. We can no longer afford to incentivize retirement in service classifications that will require significant investments to rehire and retrain. We also have to reprioritize our budget allocations. No sacred cows — public safety must come first. Also, some smaller changes such as using light-duty officers in desk functions, ending the mayor’s personal security detail and allowing T-shirt security in civic events to minimize police overtime costs.
Pensions will cost the city more than $70 million next year for city and public safety employees. What would you do to reduce these costs?
Kozachik: I voted against reducing employee contributions and extending the amortization period to smooth the debt. We must address “spiking” — that is, allowing unused sick leave and vacation to count toward pensionable income. We must also understand that some of the underfunding will self-correct as the ratio of workers to retirees improves, and as the stock market improves along with our investment portfolio. I have already invited a trio of experts in public sector pensions to come and discuss options with city budget and HR staff.
How would you begin addressing the city’s $1 billion it has in vehicle repairs and replacements, building maintenance and other unmet capital needs?
Kozachik: Reduce the number of “comp cars” now being driven by city workers and elected officials. Explore private sector outsourcing of some of the building maintenance functions. Consider dedicated funding sources earmarked to capital needs dedicated to infrastructure needs.
What is the most important issue facing the city?
Kozachik: Trust and transparency. Without both, we will not have the buy-in from the business community or the residents of the community in ways that will help us to enact policies we’ll need in order to grow our economy in ways that fit in with the unique nature of who we are as a diverse community of interests.