I gotta admit, I was surprised by the decisive defeat of Prop 412 by Tucson’s voters. Given the lopsided weight of local endorsements by most of the Democratic establishment, the overwhelming funding advantage of TEP on the side of approval, and the very technical nature of the defects in the franchise agreement that activists, such as myself, objected to, I was pretty sure Tucson voters would be steamrolled and I was just pissing into the wind by opposing it.

I was pleasantly wrong. It’s much better than being unfortunately wrong, which is the normal course of events in Arizona politics.

It is now incumbent that City of Tucson leaders renew their efforts and create a negotiation process in which public opinion and input are FIRST and FOREMOST in creating a negotiating position – not a minor afterthought to ratify a preset agenda.

We need to seriously consider how our relationship with TEP is handled in the years to come. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions:

  • Perhaps a multi-decade franchise agreement is no longer acceptable to a public concerned about the rapid onset of the effects of climate change?
  • Perhaps the lack of any mention of community generation or rates at which TEP credits home solar users is a problem that needs to be addressed in the franchise agreement?
  • Perhaps TEP’s objective to shift the cost of underground distribution in one specific area to ratepayers across the service area is just not acceptable to Tucsonans, regardless of how it is presented?
  • Perhaps the method by the funds generated by the additional fees are spent is unacceptably opaque and un-democratic: maybe we need a better mechanism to determine spending priorities than a TEP-controlled board with no public accountability.
  • Perhaps the Mayor and Council need to consider actually using the ample time before the expiry of the TEP franchise agreement in 2026 to develop and present a plan that puts Tucson’s interests above TEP’s, and uses that remaining time as a strategic tool in the negotiations, rather than accept TEP’s rushed and desperate timeline?

I look forward to a productive and intelligent response to this rejection by Tucson’s voters from TEP and the Mayor and Council to make Tucson a more democratic, more sustainable, and more attractive place to live, and to bring us closer to the zero-carbon urban future we all know we must achieve as quickly as possible.