In a recent Tucson Metro Chamber newsletter, its chairman, Mike Varney, rolled out the now clichéd "Tucson isn't business friendly" mantra. He used some very specific examples to try to make his point. Let me offer some facts to dispel his claims, and suggest that Mr. Varney should be promoting the city of Tucson, not running it down.
It is true that we did not sell Grand Canyon University the El Rio Golf Course site. But the city is under contract with the Tucson Conquistadores to operate the First Tee program at El Rio. The Conquistadores have millions of dollars invested at the site, and reach more than 1,400 kids at their center.
In addition, seven high-profile firms are in the process of offering financial plans to operate our golf enterprise. We owe them the courtesy of analyzing their business plans. We owe that to the taxpayers, as well. The business sector would cry foul if the city violated an existing, performing contract, or stopped an RFP process midstream after firms had expended time, effort and money to respond. Most would call that that bad faith.
Continue negotiations with GCU, but not for that site.
It is true that the City Council has not specifically weighed in in support of the F-35 fighter. That's not indifference to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. This mayor and council were vocal in our support of retaining our Air Operations Center last year, at a time when we stood to lose it to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. This mayor and council support the current mission of the base. But the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, Ashton Carter, has said that the F-35's unit price was "not affordable." And Michael Sullivan, director of acquisition analysis at the Government Accountability Office, has said the first four procurement contracts were more than $1 billion over budget combined, and the planned purchase of 2,457 aircraft over the next few decades is expected to cost nearly $400 billion. That doesn't include long-term operating expenses.
The feds themselves are conflicted on the F-35. We can show our support for other missions that are affordable and will work to keep D-M viable as a community partner. We don't set defense policy, but we are responsible for advocating a balance between all partners in the community as they affect the broad quality of life we all enjoy.
And there is the proposed Rosemont Mine. Due to the financial relationship between Rosemont and my employer, I am recused from taking public positions on the mine. But the fact is that the city has "no dog in the regulatory fight." As such, we as a governing body have no policy voice in the matter. Our focus is building our economic base where we do have a role to play.
This mayor and council have been strong advocates for expanding commerce with Mexico. That is an opportunity that can be a significant game-changer for our region. This mayor and council support an expanded inland port logistics hub in our area. Another potential economic game-changer.
This mayor and council put in place investment incentives that have served as the catalyst for more than $200 million in private-sector investment going into the downtown core. Within a one-mile radius of our own Tucson Metro Chamber offices, there are currently more than $60 million of construction projects, revitalizing our local economy. Before the end of the year there will be two new student housing projects, one market rate housing project, six new restaurants and mixed-use office spaces opened, plus other retail components that are committed. All of that is a result of action we have taken to streamline processes, put incentives into place and solicit prospects.
The glass is half full. Unhelpful rhetoric is just that. Unhelpful. Let's all pull in the same direction and keep filling that glass. There's too much positive momentum to continue with a negative focus.
Steve Kozachik is a Tucson city councilman. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org