Crybaby Tea-Publicans threaten Tucson City Council over ward-only elections


cryingteabagbabyBill Beard, chairman of the Pima County GOP, has an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star crying about Tucson’s hybrid election system again. Bill Beard: Tucson voting system must honor one-man-one-vote principle.

Last May, the U.S. District Court upheld Tucson’s electoral system. The Republican plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In November, a divided three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled 2-1 in favor of the plaintiffs, the first time since voters enacted the electoral system in the Tucson City Charter in 1930 that someone has successfully challenged the electoral system in court. Here is the Ninth Circuit opinion (.pdf) in Public Integrity Alliance v City of Tucson, 15-16142.

Last week, the full Ninth Circuit granted an en banc rehearing of the three judge panel decision. En banc hearings are not favored, “and ordinarily will not be ordered unless: (1) en banc consideration is necessary to secure or maintain uniformity of the court’s decisions; or (2) the proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance.” Rule 35, Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure.

More importantly, when an appellate court grants en banc review, the effect is to vacate the prior three judge panel decision and judgment. Rule 40(a)(4):

If a petition for panel rehearing is granted, the court may do any of the following:

(A) make a final disposition of the case without reargument;
(B) restore the case to the calendar for reargument or resubmission; or
(C) issue any other appropriate order.

The divided three judge panel decision from November has no precedential value and cannot be cited as authority in any other case after the grant of en banc review.

Mr. Beard continues to cite this case only because the majority opinion ruled that Tucson’s election system was “unconstitutional,” something he really wants to emphasize  even though it may not be true, as the dissenting opinion strongly argues.

It takes “a majority of the circuit judges who are in regular active service and who are not disqualified to order that an appeal or other proceeding be heard or reheard by the court of appeals en banc,” which seems to favor the City of Tucson’s appeal (all previous legal challenges to the City of Tucson’s “hybrid” election system resulted in the election system being upheld by the courts).

The Pima County GOP really wants Tucson to enact ward-only city council elections. They see this as their best (only) opportunity to pick up a couple of council seats. But the majority opinion in Public Integrity Alliance v City of Tucson on which Mr. Beard relies actually argues in favor of at-large or city-wide elections:

All parties before us agree that the constituency of each Tucson council member is the entire city. Thus, the relevant geographical unit is the city at large. Because the constituency of the representative to be elected remains static throughout the election process, the geographical unit must also remain static throughout that process.

* * *

Given the city’s concession that each council member represents all of Tucson, it’s clear that the representational nexus runs between the city and the council member, not between the ward and the council member.

But Mr. Beard  falsely misrepresents in his op-ed that a citizens advisory committee:

[w]ill recommend a system that respects a 9th Circuit proposal that Tucson elect the council by ward only in both the primary and general elections.

That is not what the majority opinion in Public Integrity Alliance v City of Tucson held, and in any event, that opinion is now vacated with the grant of an en banc review.

If the citizens advisory committee actually wants “to respect the 9th Circuit” majority opinion, it would recommend that city council members be elected at-large or city-wide in both the primary and general elections.

But Mr. Beard on behalf of the Pima County GOP will have none of this. Instead he issues a threat to the Tucson City Council and Mayor:

On behalf of the executive committee of the Pima County Republican Party, I want to put the council on notice that any charter change proposal that doesn’t restore the one-man-one-vote principal of ward-only elections in the primary and general will be strongly opposed.

Authoritarian Tea-Publicans are always making demands and throwing a temper tantrum until they get their way.

I would argue that the mayor and council should let this appeal exhaust itself in the appellate courts. The City of Tucson is quite likely to succeed on en banc review (Tucson’s election system has always been upheld in the past). So why should the council cower before the belicose threats from the Pima County GOP to give them the ward-only elections that they demand on a ballot measure this fall or else? Screw them! Let the courts decide this issue. Support the rule of law.

As for Mr. Beard’s arguments about how ward-only elections would encourage annexation of unincorporated areas surrounding the City of Tucson, I have previously addressed this issue:

Republicans also want a ward only election system because of the “mountain to mountain” annexation policy of the City of Tucson. Residents living in unincorporated areas surrounding the City of Tucson — who have cost Pima County millions upon millions of dollars in state revenue sharing because they are unincorporated — have always asserted that they will not agree to annexation into the city unless they get their own ward.

First of all, this is not how election district mapping is done. For example, if Tucson’s Foothills were annexed into the city the residents of the annexed area do not constitute a new ward. The ward lines throughout the city would be adjusted to encompass the newly annexed areas. The wards encompassing the Tucson Foothills would likely be competitive.

The unincorporated areas surrounding the City of Tucson could also choose to incorporate into their own city governments, but they have always rejected this idea, thus depriving Pima County of millions upon millions of dollars in state revenue sharing for things like roads. (These same unincorporated area residents recently voted down Pima County bonds for things like roads. Burbs torpedoed county’s $200M road plan.)

 Finally, what Mr. Beard demands on behalf of the Pima County GOP has adverse consequences:

Ward only elections can lead to “Chicago style” ward politics where a councilman can maintain a “fiefdom” and stay in power with political patronage and only a minimal number of voters turning out to re-elect him or her. There is little incentive to consider the best interests of other city wards or the city as a whole. In practice, this also tends to reduce overall voter turnout.

The Tucson City Council is going to take up this election issue at its Tuesday, May 3 meeting (Item 9 on the Agenda  at 5:30 p.m.) You can be sure that the authoritarian Tea-Publicans will be there whining and threatening the council with demands for ward-only elections. If you believe in the rule of law, allowing the appellate process to play out, and you support either Tucson’s current election system or an at-large city-wide election system,  you need to attend to make your views heard over the din of whiny crybaby Tea-Publicans.


  1. Tucson provides living brilliant proof that Democrats shouldn’t be trusted to run so much as a lemonade stand.

    Just drive through any of the most poverty stricken neighborhoods of Tucson, down by Ajo and 12th avenue, and look down at the pavement. Any mile of pavement has over 300,000 feet of cracks. Anyone driving into these neighborhoods knows there is not a caring hand cradling these communities.

    Less than 12% of Tucson citizens rate their neighborhood an excellent place to raise a child. Less than 10% of citizens rate the performance of Tucson city government excellent.

    The extra layer of taxation that the Tucson Unified School district has laid on its businesses has just about destroyed job creation in Tucson. Despite their extremely high revenue per student, they are losing over 1,000 students per year. As a school district, they are living proof that money does not produce results.

    “Tucson was the sixth-poorest of the nation’s large metropolitan areas in 2011, with a poverty rate of 20.4 percent, according to new data from the Census Bureau.

    That rate, which was well above the national poverty rate of 15.9 percent last year, was attributed to the region’s high unemployment, slow economic growth, low education levels and low-paying jobs.”

    Leadership matters, Democrats have been unable to provide it.

    • Pima County sued the state over budget changes last year for all the “sweeps” theft of revenue from Pima County, and shifting the state’s responsibility to the counties to “balance” the state budget with gimmicks.

      Pima County is being forced to raise its property tax rate this year by 12.3 cents per $100 of taxable assessed value, due in large part to cost shifts from the state.

      The 2015 Pima County Bonds package — which included money for road repairs — failed largely because of Pima County residents living in unincorporated areas of Pima County outside of the Tucson City limits. These are the same residents who are apparently happy to send their tax dollars to the state of Maricopa to use rather than get their tax dollars back in state revenue sharing because they are unwilling to be part of an incorporated city (a requirement for the revenue sharing). They are the reason why roads in Pima County are in such disrepair.

      These same Pima County residents living in unincorporated areas of Pima County are the one’s who most frequently bitch and moan about the City of Tucson. Maybe if these tax deadbeats would pull their heads out of their ass and incorporate, Pima County would get back its fair share of shared revenues and they would have less to bitch about. They can always incorporate their own damn city if they want, the legislature made it easier for them to do several years ago. The state of Maricopa did wall-to-wall incorporation decades ago to get the revenue sharing.

      • Money is seldom the answer and never the place to start. Virtuous cycles start with a commitment of leadership to service and the management systems to reinforce that commitment. If people sense that commitment by leadership, they find it inspiring and they are glad to rally behind it.

        With a proper commitment and customer service systems, Tucson could improve its excellence ratings by 7 points a year. Get to 35% excellent and you wouldn’t have any problem with annexations or bond elections. Once you get your first successful annexation and bond election, others will quickly follow.

        The problem is that Tucson is running with the mathematics of a parasite, a looting culture dividing up the loot among the competing special interests with no one very dedicated to the common good. Who wants to be part of that?

        When I was on the Chandler city council, we increased our excellence rating by 3 and a half points a year for 8 straight years. I was only 28 at the time and still getting the hang of these systems. We lost a bond election and I was responsible for the second one. We won every bond issue in every precinct. In the state, I worked with 20 different agencies. The registrar of contractors went from a 28% excellent rating to an 81% excellent rating over the course of 15 years. ADOT’s repair of highways was so good that Arizona was rated in the top ten in the nation for smoothness of highways. Department of Economic Security went from 51st (below Guam) to 6th in the nation in error rates in 4 years.
        In 2010, Arizona State Government had the second highest level of customer satisfaction (still not very high) and 4th lowest cost operating per citizen of any state in the nation.

        At the Department of Education, we were cranking at 7 points of excellence per year. Our computer system went from 50 percent availability to 99.9 percent and our data system turnaround went from 6 weeks to 20 minutes. Our standards people did over 300 training episodes on the standards improving every one through a continuous improvement cycle. Arizona teachers ended up supporting the standards by 8 to 1. The rest of the nation’s teachers were 5 to 4 against them.

        We were the the 3rd lowest funded state education department in the nation. We made that poverty an asset, not a liability.

  2. A purity test for the tea party electorate means death in a citywide election. This principle should apply Statewide also.

  3. Dear Tucson Republicans,

    You know, I’ve lived in Tucson for 40 years on and off. I remember when we had Republicans on City Council. Hell, the longest serving mayor in Tucson’s history was a Republican.

    You all elected a Republican in one of the deepest blue wards in the city, not all that long ago, and promptly ran him out of the party.

    All it takes is not nominating bug-crazy whack jobs for office, and you’ll start making progress again.

    But with folks like Bruce Ash and Frank Antenori running things you’re gonna keep on losing unless you can rig the vote to only have your little base of wingnuts vote for you.

    Fergawds sakes you can’t even get your shit together to collect enough nominating signatures to get a mayoral candidate on the ballot!

Comments are closed.