Southern Exposure

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Tucson Weekly writer Jim Nintzel will discuss news from south of the Gila in our monthly update of issues from that area of our state.

TED SIMONS: Time now for "Southern Exposure," our monthly look at issues from Tucson and other points south. We welcome "Tucson weekly" writer Jim Nintzel. Good to see you.

JIM NINTZEL: Thanks for having me. I'm glad you are not making me wear an ASU jersey today.

TED SIMONS: We will get to that story later on. Don't you worry about that, but let's start with City elections in Tucson, mayor, council, it looks like they were all reelected but not so fast.

JIM NINTZEL: They were all reelected. Tucson is a very democratic town and we vote citywide in the city of Tucson. The councilmembers running down there won handily by 11 or 12 percentage points. They're doing very well down there. But there is some legal action taking place after the election.

TED SIMONS: And this involves -- Tucson elections, they have ward systems for primaries and then a general -- how does that work?

JIM NINTZEL: Well, I tried to explain this to the students that I teach and their eyes roll back in their heads. But I will try to explain this. In the primary election, we have partisan primaries which you don't have up here. Partisan primaries, we have a ward-only election. And then in the general election, the candidates who come out of those primaries run citywide. It's a Hybrid system. A group of republicans down there who sued saying this was unconstitutional. The ninth circuit court of appeals after our city election ruled that, indeed, the system is unconstitutional on a 2-1 vote. There is some question about whether the city of Tucson is going to have to change its system.

TED SIMONS: A couple of republicans that ran and lost now are challenging not just challenging the system entirely?

JIM NINTZEL: Yes, they lost within their ward -- they won within their ward, lost citywide. They lost the election, but they're saying because they won within their ward, they should be instituted in because of this ninth circuit decision. Ninth circuit decision is still under appeal. There is some question about whether or not that will even hold up. It's a somewhat frivolous lawsuit but they will be in court next Monday to deal with that.

TED SIMONS: So why are election in Tucson held with this ward once, general twice kind of thing?

JIM NINTZEL: It is a holdover from when the city charter was first written. The theory is that then the candidates are responsible for their wards because they have to win the voters within their wards but also responsive to the entire city and so it avoids being parochial. I don't know if that is really true or not. But that's the argument that comes from them. There has been efforts to change it to a ward-only system. And the voters have rejected that. So, I think there is -- depending on what happens with this federal court case --

TED SIMONS: Right, right.

JIM NINTZEL: There may be another question put to voters about what kind of system they want. The federal court did not really give us a remedy. They said you should do it all city-wide or all ward only but didn't say which one --

TED SIMONS: Pick one or the other and move on. $815 million county bond there in Pima county, bond issue. It failed. Was that a surprise?

JIM NINTZEL: It was a huge surprise. Bonds have always passed in the city before. Very little organized opposition to it. A lot of people supporting it all of the way from the chamber of commerce, environmental community. There is a little bit of something in it for everyone to love. There was roadwork, parks work, nonprofits with arts facilities, things of that nature. The thought was all of the different groups would go out and encourage people to vote for it but at the end of the day, something for everybody to hate rather than something for everybody to love.

TED SIMONS: $200 million for road repair, $99 million for tourism -- people just saying I don't want to pay extra money -- is the economy bad enough in Tucson where that was a factor?

JIM NINTZEL: I think it was a combination of things. Number one, there is antigovernment, anti-tax sentiment out there that is pretty heavy right now. Another was that it was such a large package. We had never gone for $815 million before. Again, I think a lot of people looked at it and said pick it apart and say that project seems frivolous to me so I will reject the whole thing. So there's some real questions about how we will move forward from here. Roads in Tucson are in bad shape. We need to fix a lot of the roads. Issues about some of the other projects that are not going to get done.

TED SIMONS: It sounds like with that kind of money and those ideas, Tucson needs to move forward. This would have been a way to move forward in general. A sales tax -- how are you going to get that money for improvements?

JIM NINTZEL: That's what the community is wrestling with the board of supervisors, Tucson city council, business community, what do we do next? A bunch of different ideas from going to a smaller scaled-down bond package in a few years, or maybe even next year, to the idea of -- we don't have a county-wide sales tax that you have up here in Maricopa county. Maybe do a sales tax and use that for some property tax relief and then some road construction work and hope that the voters buy something like that. I think we will see how that develops over the next couple of months as people wrestle with how to move forward.

TED SIMONS: I had heard that some of the road money was going to go to a Sonoran corridor and what is that and was that a factor in the bond issue failing?

JIM NINTZEL: Well, it's tough to say. This is something that the business community is heavily behind. The idea is we're going to build a, kind of a bypass that connects down there in the southern part of our county, I-19, and I-10. And the idea would be the road would also run past Raytheon and connect to the U of A science and tech park and hopefully create more of a hub down there. Raytheon is our largest private employer. Very, very important to our community and also very good high-wage jobs. And they need some additional infrastructure around there and if you were able to put that infrastructure in, then you would be able to add other high-tech organizations and factories and whatnot and the idea is that that would help create a whole new economic center in our city.

TED SIMONS: But it sounds like some folks see that is a boondoggle and we don't want that either.

JIM NINTZEL: That's true. Some people certainly are complaining. We do have a lot of support. Anne Kirkpatrick, Martha McSally fighting to get money for this for the -- from the Federal Government and that is moving forward. We do need to find our local contribution.

TED SIMONS: Well, the big story, of course, is the territorial cup was lost by the University of Arizona. I would say that ASU won it, but I'm going to say U of A lost it.

JIM NINTZEL: Tough game. We are looking forward to basketball season.

TED SIMONS: I'm sure you are. Rich Rodriguez, Tucson, a big college town. Sports huge down there, obviously basketball is number one. But Rich -- a lot of talk, Rich Rodriguez is on the way out as far as U of A football?

JIM NINTZEL: There are a lot of rumors. Rich Rodriguez is keeping tight-lipped about his plans. You certainly hope that he is going to stick around. He put together a pretty good ball team but we had a lot of injuries this year.

TED SIMONS: You certainly did. Thank you for coming up. We do appreciate it.

JIM NINTZEL: Always a pleasure.

TED SIMONS: Thank you for joining us. And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Jim Nintzel: Write for Tucson Weekly

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