Jobs are Job 1. The two major-party candidates to be Tucson's next mayor agree on that much.
But they stress different strengths each brings to the table to fix that and a host of other problems facing a city that seems to be in perpetual turmoil.
Democrat and attorney Jonathan Rothschild said while he's not the type to bang a shoe on the table, he has the ability to break through impasses, honed from years managing a 20-member law firm and hammering out business deals for clients. "I've walked into rooms at 8 a.m. my whole life with people who cannot get along, and I have sat and I have negotiated deals, and by 5 o'clock they walk out of there saying they're better off than they were at 8 a.m."
That's going to be key, he said, in grappling with sticky issues, such as smoothing over ongoing tensions over downtown redevelopment with the Rio Nuevo board, on which his opponent, Rick Grinnell, sits.
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Grinnell, a consultant for Rosemont Mine and for restaurant owner Bob McMahon, said his longtime work on business issues will give him an edge in helping support economic development by eliminating barriers to growth and providing the necessary infrastructure. "If we don't get some wealth-generating opportunities, we will collapse," he said. He said not only does the city need an attitude adjustment - such as strengthening its customer service approach - but also needs a more coordinated effort in recruiting new businesses.
Both candidates come with a list of community involvement.
Grinnell, aside from serving on the Rio Nuevo board since 2010, has also served on the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority and been a member of the city budget committee and police advisory review board.
Rothschild, the former treasurer for the Pima County Democratic Party, is a member of the city's parks commission and served on the boards of Casa de los Niños, Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging and Temple Emanu-El.
Rothschild said the fact that more of his work has been in the nonprofit arena shouldn't be a detriment. "I don't think we need another insider," he said, adding he knows from a community perspective what city government should offer.
Grinnell came late to the race, initially supporting independent Pat Darcy. When Darcy didn't make the ballot because of insufficient signatures, Grinnell got into the race as a write-in, garnering more than 7,700 votes, an impressive effort for a write-in. The late entry is showing up in fundraising reports, with Grinnell collecting $48,000 to Rothschild's $257,000.
Grinnell said he decided to get in because he's learned much from two earlier bids for office, and he didn't want Rothschild to just walk into the city's highest elected office unchallenged. "We don't have coronations. We have elections in this city," he said.
While Grinnell has picked up support from the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Tucson Association of Realtors, Rothschild has pulled police, fire and teachers unions, the Rincon Group of the Sierra Club, and several other labor groups.
Both say their experience will be key as they lay out ambitious plans for the first months in office.
Grinnell said within the first 100 days, he will host an economic strategy summit with Tucson business interests to strengthen cooperation and take a unified approach to issues. He has also pledged to identify 100 local employers who want to expand, while recruiting another 100 new employers. He also is committed to scaling back what he calls overburdening regulations, while saying he will strengthen the city's difficult relationship with the state Legislature.
Rothschild, who has pledged to hire a small-business liaison in the mayor's office, said that within 180 days he will oversee a revamping of the 1,000-page land-use code, while cross-training inspectors with the goal of having one inspector handle the bulk of each permit application. He plans to hold roundtables with the business community and work more closely with the University of Arizona to develop entrepreneurial potential.
Grinnell also said he wants to get rid of speed and red-light cameras. "How much government do we want in our lives?" he asked, saying he would rather rely on drivers just being responsible.
Rothschild said he thinks not only are the cameras increasing safety, but they're also freeing up police officers to perform other functions.
The two also face Green Party candidate Mary DeCamp who said she plans in the first 100 days to retrofit some vacant housing stock or commercial businesses to provide space for community centers that could work on everything from community-strengthening to economic development opportunities. She said the city needs to restore trust, saying the council needs to select the right city manager. "If we're more careful with department heads, we won't have lost keys and missing documents and consultants gone wild," she said.
A supporter of transit, she also promotes energy retrofits, water conservation and solar investment.
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at email@example.com or 573-4243.