Local Opinion: Stonegarden rejection a mistake felt by District 3 voters
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Local Opinion: Stonegarden rejection a mistake felt by District 3 voters

Pima County Board of Supervisors

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Feb. 4 to reject 2018 Operation Stonegarden funding. Supervisors accepted the grant last year and requested a modification, which was denied.

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

Last year the Pima County Board of Supervisors took it upon themselves to partly take on the fiscal responsibility for the operation of the Casa Alitas migrant shelter at the county’s former juvenile justice facility. This was an unbudgeted expenditure costing Pima County taxpayers thousands of dollars. Is it any wonder why Pima County has the highest property tax rate in Arizona and is ranked in the top 25 percentile among every county in the United States for high property taxes?

In order to assist in helping to fund these unbudgeted obligations, the Pima County Board of Supervisors decided to approve their Operation Stonegarden grant monies totaling approximately $2 million with the caveat that they would do so only if $200,000 were set aside to help fund the migrant shelter. Were they really trying to recoup tax dollars that were already spent or was this request a poison pill inserted into the application knowing that it was going to be denied by the feds, thus enabling a revote and providing an excuse for rejection of the grant?

The people who wanted to reject the grant, most of whom do not reside in rural border areas of District 3, said they would feel unsafe if the grant was approved, citing residents being afraid to cooperate with law enforcement and an increased stopping of people to check immigration status.

But the Stonegarden grant specifically targets the rural border regions and is designed to interdict drug smugglers, human traffickers and other cross-border criminals. They are the ones who should really feel unsafe.

The residents of District 3 like me, who live in the Three Points area are directly impacted by the recent rejection of almost $2 million in Stonegarden funding and are the ones who have a legitimate concern for the physical safety of our families and our property.

On a May 7, 2019, news broadcast on KGUN-TV, Sharon Bronson the District 3 supervisor who was the swing vote, was asked by a reporter why she voted to accept the grant. Her response was “The opposition has legitimate concerns, but there are real security issues that justify the grant.” Again this was last May.

So what changed this time around? Did the security issues that Supervisor Bronson was so concerned about when she voted “yes” last year somehow magically go away in the rural areas of District 3? I think not.

The difference was the money. If the feds give the county $200,000 carved out of grant funds, then Bronson would vote to accept the grant. If the feds reject the $200,000 request then Stonegarden would be voted down, resulting in the loss of almost $2,000,000 in grant funds

Looking at it at another way, the safety and security of the residents of District 3 were compromised because the feds wouldn’t pay a $200,000 ransom to the county. We were sold out. Ironically if the feds had paid the $200,000, the individuals who were objecting to Stonegarden would have been the ones sold out. Politics at its finest hour!

Although Supervisor Bronson admitted on television that the rural residents of her district are under a real physical threat from border crime and that Stonegarden funding would make those residents safer, she flipped her vote because she didn’t get her 30 pieces of silver.

Andrew Gullo earned a bachelor’s degree in government from TCU and a master’s degree in public administration from SMU. He is a former Army infantry officer and has 35 years’ experience in human resources management. Contact him at 1anickgul@gmail.com

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