LEADERS' VIEWS

Working together seen as necessary in finding solution

2013-08-11T00:00:00Z 2014-07-30T17:15:47Z Working together seen as necessary in finding solutionStephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

In spite of numerous efforts, the Tucson area still has high poverty, a bad job market, uncontrolled growth and a labor force lacking in the education and skills it takes to attract many of the top-flight businesses that could provide an economic boost.

We have a thriving drug culture and a thousands of people with prison records.

Turnaround is possible, local leaders say, but it's going to take:

• More cooperation between governments, nonprofits, the business community and the University of Arizona.

• Collectively focusing on a goal of becoming wealthier.

• Recognizing that there's opportunity in development of the south side, and in investing in a second runway at Tucson International Airport.

Most of all, it means trying. Trying much harder than we have in the past.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry

"Everybody has to check their egos at the door. No single entity or person is basically going to pull it off. It's going to take a team effort. And sometimes that's a little hard in Southern Arizona.

"We did a comprehensive 10-month look at economic development in the county, and we said we really need to change the game here from the perspective of protecting our most important employers. They are the ones that have the high wages. They do something that makes a community wealthier. And we really have to concentrate on getting the community wealthier.

"The second runway at Tucson International Airport is going to cost millions and millions of dollars. Part of that will be funded by the Federal Aviation Authority, but not entirely.

"We can continue to bump along the bottom like we are now or we can basically, as a community, make a conscious decision to invest, and that's going to be a hard one. And that's going to be a hard one because part of that investment is taxes. And we have so much anti-tax ... we don't want to do this, we don't want to do that. But somebody has to make a conscious decision to make those investments."

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, a democrat

As he put together summits and task forces last year, Rothschild found that many nonprofit groups did not know one another -even ones whose services would be compatible. That revelation has helped him get a better understanding of what needs to happen to improve our economic status.

"If the private sector works with the nonprofit sector and works with the public sector, and the three of those sectors don't come at each other as some sort of foreign entities, we can solve a lot of these problems.

"I am not going to be someone who is going to sit here and tell you that we're going to be able to solve everybody's problem and that there's not always going to be the poor among us. There will be.

"What is going to drive it is going to be the young people. In the future I believe you are going to see a community that embraces not sprawl and unplanned growth but embraces the reality of needing to have economic drivers and engines and in doing that it will make the community wealthier. We will be able to take that wealth and use it, hopefully, appropriately. All sorts of things are going to do that.

"The University of Arizona, biotech fields, research, and Mexico - the fact that it is a blossoming economy. The more we can do to establish this region, those are all things I think are going to move us in the right direction.

"If you take a small step and then you can start to replicate that on larger levels, that's all I can do. I can be a spokesperson in the community and I can bring what resources I can to bear. But just like anything else, this is ultimately a community deciding that this is something it wants to do."

State Rep. Ethan Orr, a Tucson Republican

"There are a number of things we could do to that could attract business more effectively. I'd certainly push for that.

"In terms of the human and the natural resources, Tucson is in a much better position than Phoenix. It is a matter of changing our mindset, recruiting companies, and then really investing in our workforce.

"One thing I'd really like to see us focusing on is regional and national headquarters for Fortune 1000 companies. If you start getting them, you change the fabric of our leadership. You create a career path for executives. So people from the university, the school of management, can actually stay here and have a viable career path. But also you have a number of executives who are committed to the community.

"There a number of retired CEOs in this town, and what I would do is sit down and talk to them about why we aren't able to recruit. We need to have a frank conversation among ourselves of what is wrong in our community, and I don't think we've done that. We like to compare ourselves favorably to cities like San Diego and Albuquerque, and that's an important conversation. But I think a more important conversation is to take an honest look in the mirror and say, 'What are we doing wrong and how do we fix it?'"

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson

"I have seen the poverty of Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps with little or nothing in countries like Turkey and Lebanon. I have seen intense poverty in rural areas of Madagascar, Cambodia and Colombia. Poverty strikes you in the face. You cannot look away from it. Poverty presses in on you and cannot be avoided. In Tucson, one can live one's life oblivious that poverty exists. You can stay in your own world, in your own area of our community. Poverty is more invisible, but clearly present.

"The economic downturn certainly has affected families in our parishes. Many are struggling with both parents working. There are a number of single-parent families, which makes it very hard to make it on one income. Many are out of work, discouraged that they cannot find a job. Many have had homes foreclosed. Some lack skills that give them flexibility to make an adequate livelihood.

"People are shocked when they hear Tucson has so much poverty. The first step is to raise a consciousness in our community that significant poverty exists.

"Tucson is a great city, but it struggles to work together. Projects often get derailed because we cannot come to an agreement on what best to do. … The poor need to be given a voice in our community. They need to be empowered to take their rightful place among us.

"In five or 10 years I would like to see Tucson realize its potential as the wonderful community that it is. Tucson is a caring community, and if we direct that care to the poor and help to empower them, our community will grow."

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