At the recent mayoral candidate forum, Democrats Regina Romero, Randi Dorman, and Steve Farley all opposed the proposed Tucson Sanctuary City initiative because it would turn asylum seekers and refugees into targets for right-wing attacks.
The forum at the UofA, sponsored by the Pima County Young Democrats and the University of Arizona Democrats, was packed as the candidates discussed climate change, public transit, renewable energy, funding schools, gentrification, immigration and small business.
See the full 2-hour video of the forum at https://blogforarizona.net/tucson-mayoral-debate/
Tucson is already an “immigrant welcoming” city, limiting how local police can ask about the immigration status of residents. The initiative would covert that policy into law by amending the city charter. While all the candidates said they favored helping asylum seekers and refugees, they agreed that the initiative was the wrong approach.
There are no sanctuary cities in Arizona. But in California, which is a sanctuary state, there are 20 sanctuary cities.
Steve Farley, who was a state legislator for 12 years, said, “I’ve talked with the author of sanctuary initiative, and the best scenario we will have is having the same situation, except the policy will be in charter. The worst scenario is that Trump sends out tweets and we will have right-wing militias converging on the city. None of the pro-immigrant agencies have supported this initiative. We’ve got right-wingers in the legislature who are dying to cut off our funds so we can’t supply social services. I applaud the idea but I think we’re already doing a good job of helping immigrants, and I would not want worst case scenario.”
Randi Dorman, a former New York advertising exec who has developed real estate downtown, said, “this is a political solution where a practical one exists. The legislature has made sanctuary city status a line in the sand. The city attorney says funding of $100 million a year at risk if Tucson becomes a sanctuary city. This initiative doesn’t seem the right way to do so.”
Regina Romero, who has been a city councilwoman for 11 years, said, “I have led in creating the immigrant welcoming city policy. The issue close to my heart. I agree with the sentiment of the initiative, but it leaves the city in a precarious financial place. In Arizona, the state legislature has been micromanaging cities and passing anti-immigrant laws that hurt our cities. It is in the state legislature is where we should push back and repeal SB 1070. The root of the problem is the state legislature passing anti-immigrant laws.”
In a fun twist, the candidates were asked about their Tucson favorites:
Favorite Eegees flavor:
Steve: Ice tea Eegees, like a frozen Arnold Palmer
Regina: watermelon and pineapple
Steve: Himmel Park
Randy: Reid Park
Regina: Sentinel Peak
Favorite local coffee place:
Steve Farley: Bentley’s House of Coffee & Tea on Speedway
Randi: Cartel Coffee Lab and Presta Coffee Roasters at the Mercado
Regina: Raging Sage Coffee Roasters on Campbell
Sonoran hot dog:
Steve: La Reyna Hot Dogs trailer at First and Prince.
Regina: BK and El Guero Canelo.
Randi: Ruiz Hot Dogs food truck at 22nd and 6th.
Fundraising and small business
On a serious note, Farley has raised $129,594 in donations. Dorman has raised $93,324
and Romero, a clean elections candidate, raised $76,157 plus $76,000 in matching funds.
On support of small businesses in Tucson, Dorman said she would create an Economic Empowerment Department that would help to find employees, job training and technology.
Romero said the mayor and council “have been able to create high-wage, long-term jobs — hundreds of them.” She called for giving small businesses the same incentives that go to major corporations. “We need to be sure we have small business navigators who connect small businesses to financing options, assure they are following all the city protocols, and get connections to the UofA and non-profit organizations to create business plans.”
Farley, who started his own small graphics business in 1991, called for helping small business owners and sole proprietors to get health insurance through a local public option. He said the city can open up its employee health program, self-fund it, and open it up to small business owners to get lower premiums and deductibles than on the open market.
Too much student housing
The candidates agreed that the city has hit the saturation point for student housing. Farley said, “We have to protect against the gentrification of our community. We don’t want big chain stores to come in and make it so small businesses can’t afford the rents. If someone wants to return 4th avenue into downtown Beverly Hills — it is wrong.”
Dorman said that the amount of student housing is “out of whack. We need to preserve our culture.” She said the city should work with neighborhoods to see what they think would enhance them.
Romero said that she has worked to create creating opportunities for infill development, having mixed-income and mixed-use buildings. “We must make sure that we continue to develop with an eye to equity and eye to design. We need to add layers of protection to the historic and authentic places in our community. As we develop the urban core, I’ve been biggest proponent to build affordable housing.”
Water supply and mass transit
Farley said, “We’re on front lines of climate change in Tucson. Trump is trying to make it easier to burn coal and the state legislature tried to undo the energy efficiency code to make it easier to build tract homes that burn more carbon.” He said the city should have an energy efficiency code so that houses have a solar water heater, good insulation, and a plug in the garage for an electric vehicle. As mayor, he would create a Climate Change Resilience and Mitigation plan, developed by the engineers and public policy experts at UofA. “And how about running Sun Tran with the sun?”
Romero said she helped create the greywater recycling program and the Tucson water and the water conservation fund, “so that the more water you use, the more money is put into the conservation fund.” She asked the Tucson Water Director to create a water harvesting program, particularly in low-income areas.
Dorman said that her development company, R+R Develop, has created urban infill sustainable real estate development. “It’s the greenest thing you can do.” She called for incentives for rainwater harvesting, solar energy, and tree planting.
All the candidates supported universal public preschool education. Romero added that she had defended the dismantling of Kidco, an after-school and summer recreation program for ages 5 to 11. She added that Kathy Hoffman, the Secretary of Public Instruction, had endorsed her.
Dorman wrapped up saying, “Tucson has great people, natural beauty, and a rich culture. But our roads still have potholes, we don’t have enough open space and we have too many people living in poverty. We need to aim higher. We need to do better. We deserve a fierce fighter who will make Tucson the best it can. It’s time for us to not just fix the roads but to make sure they lead somewhere.”
Farley concluded with, “I have a proven record of results, with the RTA, bringing President Obama’s Medicaid expansion to Arizona and Red for Ed, getting teachers pay raises. For jobs, schools, and healthcare, I will bring more results to the city I love.”
Romero closed by saying what set her apart is her 11 years on the city council and the political courage to stand up for issues Tucsonans care about. “I will not need a learning curve, I know every corner of the budget. I can take the wheel from major Rothschild without skipping a beat.”