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Glassman pestered council as newcomer

Glassman pestered council as newcomer

When he hit Tucson 10 years ago, then-UA student Rodney Glassman made the City Council one of his first stops, to lobby on behalf of his family ice rink.

Today, as Democratic candidate Glassman campaigns for a seat on the council, he has made helping children one of his top priorities, pointing to fundraising by his nonprofit foundation as proof of his commitment.

But in that long-ago first interaction with the body he hopes to join in November, Glassman relentlessly lobbied the council to stop letting youth hockey teams buy cheap practice time at the Tucson Convention Center's ice rink because it was eating into the profits of the rink he ran for his family.

Glassman wanted the council to raise fees for using the TCC's ice and consider shutting down all public skating there because it undercut prices charged by his family's business, which was called both the Iceoplex and the Gateway Ice Center.

Three years later, Glassman — who has made the fiscal responsibility lessons learned from running the ice rink a part of his campaign — intensively pressed the council for months to buy the money-losing ice rink for between $6 million and $8 million.

Glassman said he brought the East Side rink, at 7333 E. Rosewood St., up to profitability, later selling it to real estate investor Bourn Partners. It has since closed.

Glassman describes his past run-ins with the council as the actions of a "headstrong" 19-year-old who ruffled some feathers in 1997, and said his 2000 proposal to sell the ice rink was a good idea scuttled by a council disinterested in investing in parks.

A striking link between the two events is in both cases participants remember being put off by Glassman's "impatient, aggressive and unrelenting" lobbying, which included bombarding council members and TCC officials with phone calls and faxes.

William Owen Nugent, chairman of the Tucson Convention Center Commission, told the Star then "it was a disruptive time," noting one Friday night Glassman left 23 messages on his answering machine.

Fred Ronstadt, a Republican councilman who was around for both episodes, said "in general Rodney was absolutely tenacious. I just regarded it as a Rodney Glassman personality trait."

Ronstadt, who said he isn't endorsing either Glassman or his Republican opponent, Lori Oien, said that while Glassman's tactics were annoying, he understood, given that Glassman was fighting for his business.

Recalling those events, Oien said they "left a bad taste in a lot of Tucsonans' mouths."

But Ronstadt said Glassman was much younger then — he was only a 19-year-old when he lobbied the council to raise fees for hockey groups — and was under pressure from his family to make good on the investment.

"Ever since he stopped trying to sell me an ice rink, I think he's a good guy," Ronstadt said.

Glassman said he may have bitten off more than he could chew by meeting with six of the seven council members on the first day he arrived in Tucson in August 1997.

"In '97, I was a headstrong 19-year-old who was ready to move to a new city and get things done," Glassman said. "In the past 10 years, I've learned to temper my energy with patience and my persistence with diplomacy."

Glassman points out two of the then-council members, former Mayor George Miller and Councilwoman Janet Marcus, are now the co-chairs of his campaign.

He denies he was hurting youth groups, because hockey players are a small group of people who own their own equipment and are definitely not the "general community."

As for trying to sell the rink to the city, Glassman said it was a good idea that should have been analyzed at the very least.

The rink lost money, $60,000 in 1996, $24,000 in 1997 and $17,000 in 1998, according to Glassman's financial records.

But Glassman said if you strip out the commercial property taxes, license fees and money for advertising, the city could have turned a profit — pointing to a memo by then-Economic Development Director Kendall Bert that said the same thing.

"It made perfect sense for a council that has a city with half the national average of parks," Glassman said. "The priorities of the council were set and recreational opportunities for children were not at the top of the list."

Councilwoman Carol West said she got so frustrated with Glassman's lobbying that she threw him out of her office. Glassman said the two had a disagreement and he simply left her office.

West said Glassman needs to respect other people's right to disagree, which is part of being a council member.

"Buying a failing ice rink was not in the best interest of the community," West said.

● Contact reporter Rob O'Dell at 573-4240 or

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