by David Safier
I'm out of my area of whatever-expertise-I-may-have here, but the idea of cutting funding of Rio Nuevo as a state cost cutting measure seems both wrong and harmful to the greater Tucson area.
From what I've seen, the first years of Rio Nuevo planning were a joke, courtesy of the Republican majority on the Council. Their idea was to create some kind of a downtown theme park instead of a viable business/commercial/residential/entertainment area. Millions were wasted on foolish plans and an incompetent bureaucracy.
An aquarium in the desert?
Once Trasoff and Uhlich were elected and the majority shifted, the council made a genuine, good faith effort to get things moving. Unfortunately, their plans for building condos and other residential facilities ran into the housing slowdown, and companies pulled out of projects they had signed up for. Meanwhile, lots of the work that has been done has been preparatory stuff that tears up streets but doesn't put new buildings in place. So things look like a mess, and lots of people think the whole thing is a boondoggle.
I lived through the creation of light rail in Portland, Oregon. For years, I didn't hear a single good word about the project, just people complaining about torn up streets with businesses going under and cost overruns and delays. But when it was finished, it became the crown jewel of the city and has put Portland on the international map. It keeps expanding into new areas of the city and the suburbs, revitalizing the whole area.
Current Rio Nuevo efforts are getting a bad rap, both for the early years of incompetence and for the growing pains that are part of any project of this sort. I'm sure there are a thousand legitimate complaints about the way the thing has been planned and run, but I've never heard of a major project like this that has run smoothly.
Bottom line, Maricopa is overjoyed that they have an excuse to yank funding away from the People's Republic of Tucson, and they'll use every problem Rio Nuevo ever had to make their point. I'll bet you'll never hear the project talked about by Republicans without hearing the phrase, Rainbow Bridge. They want that one spectacularly bad idea to stand for the whole project.
Antenori has said he's against Rio Nuevo. I say, let's get all the Southern Arizona legislators on record about whether they want to cut a project from the budget that creates jobs and will reinvigorate Tucson's core. The voters should know where they stand.