GOP Tucson City Council candidates – not ready for prime time

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

There's a city council election in Tucson? You'd never know this if you only read the Arizona Daily Star.

Since the demise of the Tucson Citizen earlier this year, the only newspaper that delivers quality political reporting is the Tucson Weekly – kudos to Jim Nintzel.

In this week's edition of the Tucson Weekly, Jim Nintzel reports on the Cost of Crime, "City Council candidates debate the Public Safety First Initiative" (excerpts):

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, the incumbent Democrat in Ward 3, says she's not taking a stand on Prop 200.

"I think it's more persuasive for me to provide good information as an individual than to try to persuade people and say, 'This is where I'm headed on this one,'" says Uhlich. "I really do trust the electorate, and once something goes to the ballot, the key is making sure that voters have information."

* * *

"This proposition would force expenditures without any funding source," Uhlich says.

Uhlich argues that the City Council has already made public safety a priority. Between 2006 and 2008, the city added 80 new positions for police officers. When the council was forced to cut spending this year to balance the budget as a slow economy reduced sales-tax collections, cops and firefighters were spared the one-week furloughs that other city workers had to take.

Uhlich also notes that the rate of reports of violent crime, burglaries and most other crime is dropping in Tucson, according to Tucson Police Department statistics.

On this point, Jim Nintzel and the Tucson Weekly agreed in last week's cover story Police Action (complete with charts and graphs from the TPD Crime Stats):

Given everything that Tucsonans hear about criminal activity, it's a little surprising to learn that crime rates, for the most part, have been declining since the mid-'90s, according to Tucson Police Department statistics.

Violent crime—homicide, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assaults—has dropped by more than a third between 1995 and 2008, as measured by the number of reports to TPD per 1,000 residents. Burglary calls have dropped 38 percent since peaking in 1997. Criminal-damage calls have decreased 29 percent since a 1997 high.

Nearly all of Tucson's crime-rate categories are dropping. Even homicide, which saw a minor uptick in 2008 over 2007, has dropped 16 percent since 1995.

Today's teabagger Republicans, however, are undeterred by things like facts and statistics. They create their own reality based upon beliefs – often unfounded.

Uhlich's Republican opponent, Ben Buehler-Garcia, says he's fully behind the initiative…

"Crime is absolutely rampant in Tucson, and it's not acceptable, and we have to address it," says Buehler-Garcia, who adds that criminal activity makes it hard to lure new businesses to Tucson.

Buehler-Garcia, who works as a political consultant, says he hasn't had a chance to examine the city's budget closely enough to find the additional $51 million to pay for Prop 200, but he suggests that the city could find some of it through greater efficiency. Other money, he says, could come to the city as the economy rebounds.

Buehler-Garcia concedes that Prop 200 is an unfunded mandate, which is generally a bad idea. But in this instance, he says it's necessary.

First of all, Buehler-Garcia needs to read more, starting with the Tucson Weekly. Did he not read last week's cover story? TPD's own crime stats refute his false assertion that "crime is absolutely rampant."

Second, this guy has been a candidate for months now, and works as a political consultant. His main issue with his incumbent opponent is the city budget and expenditures, but he "hasn't had a chance to examine the city's budget closely enough"? If you are not prepared to be a candidate, you are not prepared to serve in elective office. You are not a serious candidate, sir.

Third, Buehler-Garcia is simply parroting what Colin Zimmerman, director of public affairs for the Tucson Association of Realtors, told Jim Nintzel Police Action:

Zimmerman is optimistic about the economic recovery and dismisses concerns that Prop 200 will require much of a sacrifice from taxpayers. Additional costs will be ramped up over five years, and the economy should grow during that time, giving the city additional money to spend on public safety, he says.

"Theoretically, the economy should cover the entire cost," Zimmerman says. "I don't see any reason why cuts need to happen. I don't see any reason why anything has to change in the city of Tucson."

Why does this sound suspiciously like the "no money down low payment" sub-prime loan fraud? This proposition has an adjustable rate that is going to "ramp up" alright, with a balloon payment that is going to come due and bite Tucson's residents in the ass after five years.

Why would anyone trust the industry that brought you the sub-prime real estate bubble and the near collapse of the U.S. economy to have your best interests at heart? (If these new cops were hired to do nothing else but arrest real estate brokers and mortgage loan officers for their role in the sub-prime loan fraud, I could support Prop. 200). 

By the way, its nice to hear these Republicans have so much confidence and faith in President Obama and the Democrats rescuing the U.S. economy and restoring economic growth. (I am sure this doofus did not realize the implication of his statement).

Back to the debate Cost of Crime:

In the Ward 6 race, it's a similar story. Democratic incumbent Nina Trasoff boasts that in the four years she's been on the council, the city has added 80 new police officers and 75 new firefighters.

"The only reason we stopped was because the economy busted, and we didn't have the funding for it anymore," Trasoff says.

Like Uhlich, Trasoff says the initiative has no funding source, which means it will force the City Council to cut other spending or raise taxes to pay for the additional cops.

"We could be forced to cut the very prevention programs that are bringing the crime rate down," Trasoff says. "If we can get to a young person with a prevention program and keep them out of the system, beyond saving money, we're saving a life and all the lives that are attached to that person."

But she's reluctant to say she opposes the initiative, because it would "sound as if I'm not in support of public safety, and I'm completely in support of public safety. … I don't want to kill our budget for everything else, because public safety is absolutely our no. 1 priority. But it's not our only responsibility as government. We also have responsibility for the parks, which have tremendous prevention programs within them, and transportation, which is a major quality-of-life issue."

Republican Steve Kozachik, who hopes to unseat Trasoff in November, fully supports Prop 200. He says the city needs to spend more on cops, but when asked where he would cut the budget to pay for more police officers, he declines to talk about cuts to the city's general fund.

"I'm not going down that road, because you're asking for a Reader's Digest answer to a complex question, and I'm not running for dictator," says Kozachik, who manages the facilities for the UA Athletics Department. "I could sit here and give you examples, but I'm not going to do that, simply because it's not for one person to decide. It's a community decision."

Um, no, you are one of only seven people who are elected to decide, sir. This is a representative democracy. This is not a "gotcha" question. The voters are entitled to know what specific programs and expenditures in the city budget you propose to eliminate to pay for this unfunded mandate should you be elected. My guess is you cannot give specific examples because, like Ben Buehler-Garcia, you have not taken the time to study the city budget and you are clueless. You offer only platitudes about "government waste" and parrot Colin Zimmerman's blind faith in an improving economy that will magically produce the revenue.

Once again, if you are not prepared to be a candidate, you are not prepared to serve in elective office. You are not a serious candidate, sir.

Among the Democrats, only Richard Fimbres, who is running in Ward 5 for the seat now held by the retiring Steve Leal, openly opposes Prop 200.

"I think everybody supports public safety, and you want to support those in the community, but the timing of this initiative is terrible, especially with the economic downturn that we're in," says Fimbres, who has worked for more than two decades in program management at the Pima County Jail and served as the director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety under Democrat Janet Napolitano until her resignation earlier this year. "The city is already talking about a deficit in next year's budget, and this will just compound the problem."

Fimbres' opponent, Republican Shaun McClusky, says he supports Prop 200.

"I feel like public safety is the no. 1 responsibility of our council and mayor," says McClusky, who owns a property-management firm.

McClusky is confident he can find enough money to pay for the additional cops and firefighters in the city's budget.

"You can't tell me that there is not mismanagement and outright waste in the current city budget," says McClusky, who suggests that paying more attention to turning off lights in city buildings could cut utility costs.

First of all, McClusky is a political neophyte. McClusky has only voted three times in the 10 years he's lived in Tucson, and he says he didn't even know he could vote for candidates outside of his ward, because Tucson has citywide council elections. Who Gives a Crap?  To paraphrase Nintzel, "The bottom line: McClusky never found it worth his while to study the issues well enough to make an informed decision at the ballot." His resume falls far short of the years of public service and experience that Richard Fimbres brings to the position.

Seriously folks, if this guy believes he can magically produce $51 million, or $67 million – whatever the actual amount is required to pay for the Prop. 200 unfunded mandate – by "turning off lights in city buildings," this clown should be laughed out of town. He is not a serious candidate for office.

This is the quality of candidates the Republican Party has to offer the voters of Tucson? Republicans should be embarrassed and ashamed.

3 responses to “GOP Tucson City Council candidates – not ready for prime time

  1. How about you tell me Lezli? You suggest that you know the answer.

    As someone who’s office has been downtown much of the time since 1998, I can tell you that there have been substantial improvements to downtown. (Hotels and a new convention center take years of planning and financing). You obviously have not been downtown, or more probably, you just parrot the false rhetoric you hear on talk radio.

    BTW — Don Diamond contributes to politicians of both political parties. He covers his bets. It does not matter who serves on the council, Diamond tends to get what he wants.

  2. Thank you for the
    excellent coverage of
    this extremely important
    issue.

    Tucson is in a similar
    place to where Phoenix
    was when the Phoenix
    Area grew to 1 million.

    At that time, the
    conservative Phoenix
    Area was besieged by
    a push to turn this
    Area into an extreme
    right-wing Mecca.

    They used all sorts of
    tricks similar to this
    initiative to push the
    Phoenix Area to mesh
    with their ideological
    bent. The Phoenix 40 was
    set up and then its
    efforts were increased,
    referendums were put
    forth to rally the
    right-wing base, and
    scare tactics were
    used in many of those
    campaigns, just as the
    pro-200 campaign keys
    in on scare tactics.

    To protect Tucson from
    these assaults (which
    includes the Legislature’s
    recent mandate to Tucson
    to change its city-wide
    ward election process),
    many more citizens need
    to get involved, and the
    lines of media, like Blog
    for Arizona need to open
    up full-bore.

  3. Just remember that Glassman was a clown and not ready for the majors and actually turned out to be one of our better councilmen.