Paul Cunningham has represented Ward 2 on the Tucson City Council since May 2010, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. Cunningham is campaigning for his first full term and should be elected.
A Democrat, he is running against Jennifer Rawson, a Republican and retired Xerox manager. Voting by mail starts later this week for the Nov. 8 election.
Cunningham is the best prepared for the job responsibilities because of his practical approach to the opportunities and limitations of what city government can accomplish.
Cunningham was key player in bringing Major League Soccer to Tucson for spring training games next year. He understood the benefit to Tucson and worked with others to make it a reality. This level of leadership reaches beyond the largely northeast Ward 2 to touch the entire city.
He was outspoken after the ParkWise scandal broke, holding Mike Letcher, then city manager, publicly accountable for not taking quick action when he learned of mismanagement, missing money and other impropriety going on in the downtown parking program. Letcher was unanimously fired by the council a short time later.
Cunningham describes himself as pragmatic and focused on what is best for taxpayers. Asked whether any work can be stopped or outsourced, he mentioned environmental services as one he'd consider.
But, he pointed out, lots of questions would have to be answered first, such as how much would the city earn in selling off its vehicle fleet? Who would manage the environmental safety of landfills and Superfund sites?
"Everything is on the table," he said. "But sometimes it doesn't pencil out."
Some government functions might better be managed by private business, and Cunningham is correct to judge each on its merits.
"It's OK to be slow and methodical," he said.
Star readers asked us to question the candidates about red-light cameras and radar vans. Both candidates say they are poor tools, although Cunningham admits his bias is prompted by several tickets he received. Cunningham said he is waiting for a safety report on the cameras' effectiveness, but that if it backs up his opinion, he is "going to be the first one to lead the parade to take them out."
Cunningham said he knows that street repair is a major complaint across the city. He supports the effort to chip-seal about 60 miles of linear residential road, but knows it is not enough. He advocates taking money from the general fund to resurface roads in a rotation so every area is touched. "I'm not going to take money out of public safety to pay for roads," he added.
Rawson offers her own ideas for Tucson, including increasing Sun Tran bus fares, reducing regulations that impede business growth and making the budgeting process more streamlined and transparent. These certainly merit action by the council.
Rawson's campaign website, however, raises concerns for us about how she perceives the city government she seeks to guide.
"Do you want to work for a successful employer who produces wealth and who can pay you? Or, do you want to work for the government (totalitarianism) that sucks the life blood out of every working person supporting it? The founders of this country believed in the former to the point that they sacrificed their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. That's an American. The rest of us are in danger of being slaves."
Rawson told us city government is totalitarian in some respects. And when asked the logical question - if we are the slaves, who are the slaveholders? - Rawson said, "The oligarchy that is running your federal government."
Cunningham offers a balanced and get-things-done approach to the Tucson City Council. He should continue to represent Ward 2.
Arizona Daily Star