As someone who grew up in Tucson I have seen the best and worst of our city, and I feel it is headed in the wrong direction.
At one time our city was well- respected and known for its strong leadership. Tucson was expanding and annexing land. The competition for jobs in the state was between Phoenix and Tucson.
Due to a lack of leadership things have changed; our city is being hemmed in by other aggressive cities surrounding Tucson. We are now competing for jobs not just with Phoenix but other cities in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties.
I believe this decline all started in the late 1970s due to poor leadership from the Democratic-controlled City Council and the increase in power from the neighborhood activists. We need neighborhood activists, but there also needs to be a level playing field between them and the business community. Right now the table is tilted in their direction, and they know they will have the support of the mayor and council.
A good example of this is the Broadway widening project going from Country Club Road to Euclid Avenue. This project was approved by the voters in 2007. Since that time, very few properties have been purchased by the city, and that familiar phrase “historic buildings” that always appears during road widening projects is resurfacing.
Broadway is our major arterial into downtown, and now we don’t want to widen it?
And I am not even talking about the time frame for the Grant Road widening project that is years away from completion. Imagine what would happen to elected officials in Maricopa County if they handled road projects like this. Not only do these delays put a burden on our drivers but also on property owners in the project area.
A few months ago I read a guest opinion in the Star where the writer favorably compared Tucson to Portland, Ore. I don’t know what the fixation is with Portland by some people in Tucson. We are not Portland even though our streetcars were made there. Maybe the writer thought osmosis would work.
We need to face the facts. Tucson has become a low-income city, one of the poorest of its size in the nation. We need good jobs here, which means doing everything we can to keep Davis-Monthan Air Force Base open and bring other companies into Tucson.
How can we turn this around? By having nonpartisan elections. The Pima County Democratic Party has been in control of Tucson since the 1970s. The last council member to be elected as a Republican was Steve Kozachik in 2009, and he switched parties in January. The Republican candidate who ran for City Council didn’t even have the word “Republican” on his campaign sign.
Tucson is a great place to live. We have so many positives going for us, but we just can’t keep doing the same old thing because we keep getting the same old results.
During spring training when I was playing for Cincinnati, we used to sit around the clubhouse after practice and talk about teams that could give us trouble once the season started. Someone mentioned that the then-struggling Houston Astros could be tough because they had a lot of talented players. I remember the response from one of my teammates was “just don’t wake them up.” I am sure that is what they say about Tucson up in Maricopa County.