The following is the opinion and analysis of the Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board:
Tucson city voters will cast their ballots for three council seats and two propositions in the Nov. 2 general election. Ballots will be mailed Oct. 6.
The Star’s Editorial Board conducts interviews with candidates and supporters and opponents of ballot propositions. We research issues and candidates before deciding whom and what to endorse. Our decisions have no bearing on news coverage of the elections and news journalists are not part of the board’s endorsement decisions.
The Star Editorial Board includes President & Publisher John D’Orlando, Editor Jill Jorden Spitz and Opinion editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen. David Fitzsimmons is part of the Opinion department but not on the Editorial Board.
Tucson voters will cast votes for three city wards, but only two are contested. Because of Tucson’s unique election system, voters across the city can cast ballots in every ward.
Richard Fimbres, a Democratic, is running unopposed to keep his Ward 5 seat.
You can watch the interviews at tucson.com/opinion
Ward 3Three candidates are running for the open seat in Ward 3, which includes midtown and runs north to the city limits. Much of the ward are high-poverty neighborhoods that also face public safety problems.
The Star’s Editorial Board endorses Kevin Dahl (D), a longtime neighborhood activist and environmentalist, for the seat. His primary election campaign focused almost exclusively on climate change and environmental issues; in this campaign he’s expanded his focus and demonstrated knowledge of the challenges facing Ward 3, including underfunded parks, transportation and economic development.
Lucy LiBosha (I) is an impressive first-time candidate. We hope she continues her active community engagement.
We usually do not comment on candidates we don’t endorse, but we are compelled to make an exception with the Republican candidate for Ward 3. Alan Harwell Jr. has shown himself to be staggeringly uninformed about the responsibilities and limits of the office he’s seeking.
Ward 6Incumbent Steve Kozachik (D) is running for re-election against Val Romero (I). We endorse Kozachik. He’s been an effective advocate for Tucson as a whole and specifically Ward 6, which stretches from downtown east to Wilmot Road.
Kozachik can be contrarian and isn’t afraid of the public stage. But he and his Ward office are engaged at a granular level throughout the neighborhoods they serve while being active advocates in city-wide issues, such as the University of Arizona’s response to COVID-19 and off-campus students, and telecom companies’ desires to install 5G technology near homes.
Romero is a Tucson businessman whose stance on COVID-19 vaccination is incongruous with scientific facts. In addition, his foundational belief in “individual sovereignty” — which, as he describes it, grants every person the right to do what they want, and to not do what they don’t want to do and that while you should obey laws, it’s ultimately your choice — makes a run for elected office to represent other people and serve a community hypocritical at best.
Prop. 410Would you spend 15 cents a year to help attract the best candidates possible for Tucson mayor and city council?
It’s a clear yes. The Star’s Editorial Board endorses Prop. 410 on the Tucson city ballot.
The current Mayor and City Council members are not asking for this raise; the proposition is the result of a recommendation from the Citizen’s Commission on Public Service and Compensation.
Voters have rejected pay raises for the mayor and council before. In fact, the last time the wages increased for these crucial positions was 1999.
Prop. 410 is different than previous efforts.
Today, Tucson’s mayor makes $42,000 per year and council members receive $24,000 annually for a job that demands more than 40 hours of work a week.
Prop. 410 would increase mayoral pay to $54,000 and council pay to $36,000 — but not until 2023, after the next mayoral and city council elections. After 2023, increases would be tied to inflation.
You’re not being asked if the current mayor and council members deserve a raise. The question is about the office, not the officials.
The kneejerk response to increasing elected officials’ pay is a litany of civic shortcomings — too many potholes and taxes, not enough police officers or maintained parks. These lists miss the point: Only people who can afford to take such a low-paying job, because of independent wealth or a family financial situation, are able to run for mayor or council.
This limits the pool of candidates, to the city’s detriment. Approving Prop. 410 is an important first step.
Prop. 206Proposition 206 — known as the Tucson Minimum Wage Act — would gradually increase the minimum wage most employers within city limits would have to pay workers to $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2025.
Fifteen dollars an hour is not a fully livable wage, but, as proposition co-author Billy Peard told the Editorial Board, “We have to start somewhere.” Flagstaff passed a $15 minimum wage last year and the statewide minimum is $12.15 an hour.
The business community opposes Prop. 206 because of the enforcement provisions, not the $15 an hour, according to Amber Smith of the Tucson Metro Chamber. In a recent interview with the Star’s Editorial Board she deflected by saying many local employers pay $15 an hour already because they need to fill job openings — and that the minimum wage will naturally reach a $15 floor by 2025, a projection that others find unrealistically optimistic.
Using today’s idiosyncratic pandemic economy to posit that setting a $15 minimum wage is unnecessary is problematic. We believe setting a minimum wage that is above the state’s paltry requirement of $12.15 would be an economic boon to businesses and workers.
Creating a $15 minimum wage only within Tucson city limits doesn’t make sense. Tucson is surrounded by towns and unincorporated Pima County, creating an incentive for businesses to leave the city if not to pay lower wages then to avoid other Prop. 206 provisions – and take their sales tax revenue with them.
The proposition would compel Tucson city government to create a Department of Labor Standards, which supporters estimate would cost $300,000 to $500,000 per year and employ three or four people who would investigate wage violation complaints.
Supporters contend the detailed enforcement provisions are needed because workers don’t currently have an effective means to file wage violation complaints. Opponents say the enforcement structure puts an onerous burden on business.
It is possible that if Tucson voters approve Prop. 206, other towns or the County would pass their own $15 minimum wage requirements and the wage discrepancy would disappear in time.
But why back into it? Why not come together — as difficult as it would be — and find common ground. Our community has a model for how to do this in the effort that brought business leaders, educators, child advocates and nonprofits together to create the new Pima Early Education Program.
We know how to do this. Protecting workers’ rights and wages makes good economic sense.
And if the $15 an hour minimum isn’t the issue, then the business community should have no hesitation in coming together with Prop. 206 supporters to hammer out a regional approach.