Dear Friends and Neighbors:
On Tuesday Mayor and Council voted unanimously to reject Rio Nuevo’s $260 million Convention Center Hotel, TCC improvements and garage. After months of negotiations with the developer and operator, the Guaranteed Maximum Price was still too high. Further, the Rio Nuevo Board wouldn’t commit all of the state-shared Tax Increment Finance revenues for the project, which left Tucson taxpayers with the most risk. That was unacceptable to me.
As I’ve said in the past, the structure of Rio Nuevo has been flawed from the beginning. Since voters created the Tax Increment Financing (Rio Nuevo) district in 1999, we’ve had four city managers, four Rio Nuevo boards and numerous factions lobbying Mayor and Council in a different direction.
I was elected in 2007 after the projects were selected and I worked to reform the process while fighting for cultural and revenue-generating projects to keep state revenues working for Tucsonans, including:
- Pushing the City to create a financial plan and construction schedule which led to our first bond for major projects in 2008;
- Partnering with Councilor Uhlich and my colleagues to separate the management of the Rio Nuevo Board from the previous city manager;
- Working with Mayor and Council to create an independent audit commission to bring more accountability to Rio Nuevo and city government.
The State responded to those actions by creating a new, state-appointed Board to stop funding for all projects except the hotel and convention center. In the end, I think most parties agreed that the hotel project was not economically feasible.
It was a pleasure to work closely with City Councilor Steve Kozachik and Mayor and Council to make sure Tucson taxpayers were protected. I offered the following motion that passed 7-0.
1. Because of financial considerations, we reject the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board (RNFDB) term sheet and proposal of October 7, 2010 and as amended on October 20, 2010;
2. Because of financial considerations, the City of Tucson will not proceed with financing of the Convention Center Hotel Project;
3. We direct City staff and City consultants to terminate negotiations with Garfield Traub and to concentrate all negotiation on the Intergovernmental Agreement with the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District and on projects that have been authorized;
4. We encourage an open dialogue on potential projects that both the RNMFD and the City of Tucson can afford to participate in.
I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Rio Nuevo Board to continue with the renovation of the Tucson Convention Center, which will help make it more attractive and convenient for our world-class gem shows. Mayor and Council must also keep focusing on providing needed infrastructure to leverage private investment.
Finally, I’ve requested from the City Manager the creation of a Five-Year Economic Recovery Plan for the City to focus on policies to retain, expand and incentivize job creation in our city. Our partnerships with the University of Arizona, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO) and private investors are critical for Tucson’s economic future.
Please continue to share with me your ideas and suggestions; email me at email@example.com or call me at (520) 791-4040. Tucsonans have the ideas and talent to leverage the money we need to continue to improve what we love about Tucson. We must work together to build a strong economy and vibrant neighborhoods through community participation.
City of Tucson, Ward 1
PS- Links provided by the City Manager on Rio Nuevo and Downtown Management Issues:
Rio Nuevo Background Information
Rio Nuevo and Downtown Management Improvements
Memo to Mayor and Council on Rio Nuevo Audit