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Jonathan Hoffman: Arizona turned purple, but Pima County could benefit from more red
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Jonathan Hoffman: Arizona turned purple, but Pima County could benefit from more red

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The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Arizona has been shifting from red to purple, and the recent election suggests that we have arrived. Meanwhile, Tucson and Pima County have been bluer than the music of John Lee Hooker for decades.

Convincing evidence is in the numbers. The Arizona results, as of Friday, show Biden received 49.41% of the vote while Trump received 49.07%. Meanwhile, in Pima County, Biden received a whopping 58% to Trump’s 39%. That’s amazing for a county in a state that does not border an ocean.

Some Tucsonans have questioned whether or not this “Mood Indigo” is actually a good thing for the people of Tucson.

One of those Tucsonans is author and community activist Craig Cantoni, who describes himself as one of the “purple people without a political party.” As such, Cantoni may be a more objective political thinker/observer than most, and draws on both his wealth of personal experience, and his ability to dig deep in his research.

Cantoni noted some differences between his last home and his current home in Tucson, “When my wife and I moved from well-run Scottsdale to badly-run metro Tucson, we ended up paying 50% more for the combined total of property taxes, water, sewer, trash pickup and fire service—although our house here has the same assessed value as our former house.”

In his research, Cantoni happened upon the Urban Reform Institute, a think tank that studies urban policy. It published an article titled “Upward Mobility” which examines the upward mobility of Black, non-white Hispanic and Asian minority groups.

The article suggests that large blue cities that focus on “rooting out systemic racism,” painting “Black Lives Matter” on their streets, and other such efforts, do nothing to help poor minorities; rather, working to keep employment opportunities up and housing costs down (particularly the cost of home ownership which is considered key to wealth accumulation) does help poor families achieve a middle-class life.

Or, in the language of Cantoni, “The index shows that cities with bluish policies — affirmative action, programs for racial redress, strict labor and environmental laws — help nonwhites far less than reddish cities with low housing costs, friendly business conditions, and reasonable tax rates.”

The “Upward Mobility” study also noted that the “voting with your feet” phenomenon is occurring across the country. Minority families are moving from cities in deep blue states like California, New York and New Jersey where they can afford neither safe neighborhoods nor the suburbs, to Midwest and Sunbelt states like Georgia, Tennessee and Texas. In those states, they often find well-paying manufacturing jobs combined with a cost of living that will allow them to eventually own their own suburban home.

Interestingly, last year an independent film, a drama dealing with big city gentrification, was released. The title is, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.”

The poverty rate in Tucson is 22.1%, Pima County 16.7%, Arizona 14.9%. Might some “reddish” policies help bring the poverty rate down?

The average cost of Tucson single family homes is $219,800 while the national average is $259,906, so we are not too bad there. However, the average wage in Tucson is $32,095 as compared to a national average of $56,516. That could be better.

Might we consider viewing factories as an asset instead of an eyesore? Might Tucson’s Planning and Development Services be made more efficient and consistent, serving startups rather than hindering them? Those are just a couple of thoughts, those in the business world could add many more.

I am not insisting that Tucson flip from blue to red (though that would be wonderful), just turn a little reddish around the edges for the sake of those in poverty.

Jonathan Hoffman has lived and worked in Tucson for 40 years. Write to him at tucsonsammy@gmail.com.

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