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Regina's Update 10.21.10
 
An Update from City Councilor Regina Romero – October 2010
 
  • Gadsden and Senior Housing Group Bring Millions to City of Tucson
  • Rio Nuevo Convention Center Hotel Too Risky for Taxpayers
  • Election Month Is Here – Please Vote!
  • Arizona Daily Star Editorial in Favor of Prop 400
 
 
Gadsden and Senior Housing Group
Bring Millions of Dollars to City of Tucson
 
I have previously reported about the family-owned Gadsden Development Company and their plans to bring millions in investment and construction sales taxes for Tucson’s Westside, located on West Congress Street from I-10 to Grande Ave. A negative article in the Arizona Daily Star business section leads me to once again highlight the positive aspects of this incredible investment in this economic crisis.
 
Gadsden Company’s privately-funded $6.5 million Mercado San Agustin will open this fall with 18 local businesses and 90 employees. The $18.8 million award-winning Mercado District developed by Rio Development has 24 completed homes with 76 more in planning. The developers bid through a City of Tucson competitive Request for Proposals public process and were awarded the rights to develop the property.
 
They chose this property because Rio Nuevo was going to invest millions in Tucson Origins Heritage Park, the University of Arizona Science Center and world-class museums as the star attractions to honor Tucson’s rich cultural history. Four City Managers, four Rio Nuevo boards and several city councils later, the State Legislature has stopped all funding for our heritage tourism industry and instead demanded the Rio Nuevo Board build a hotel for the convention center. The loss of Rio Nuevo funds and the combined economic crisis have caused many delays for both the developers and the City of Tucson in delivering on our agreement.
 
In spite of the failure of Rio Nuevo, Gadsden hasn’t given up on Tucson, and I haven’t given up on making Westside development and cultural attractions a reality.
 
The planned six-story senior housing project on the west bank of the Santa Cruz River is an exciting opportunity. It has a development budget of $26 million, which is privately funded and financed. It will start construction in mid-2011 and will be complete just prior to the completion of the Streetcar to Tucson’s Westside. Also facing West Congress Street will be 24,000 square feet of retail with 85 residential housing units and 48,000 square feet of Class A office space. The full buildout of the Gadsden development will include a boutique hotel, retail space, grocery store, parking garage and residential units estimated in excess of $250 million.
 
The entire Westside project will double the size of downtown, create 900 jobs and bring $435 million in private investment to supplement the $50 million previously invested by Rio Nuevo to make the property development-ready.
 

Rio Nuevo Convention Center Hotel Too Risky for Taxpayers
 
On Thurdsay the Rio Nuevo Board responded to the City’s request to seek better financing on the hotel with a proposal we can’t afford and must turn down. They want to sell us the design plans for $10 million, have the City finance it through bonds and then share in the profits 50/50 down the road. I think the City and Rio Nuevo agree on one thing – this hotel is way too expensive and we can’t afford it. The time is right to cut our losses and work proactively with all parties to change course on the hotel and reprioritize the Rio Nuevo projects - again. I have long-fought for our heritage tourism projects on the Westside, including Tucson Origins Heritage Park, Mission Gardens and the Convento, and the infrastructure needs of Downtown to help leverage private investment. With the right investments we can attract a private hotel project for our convention center that doesn’t bankrupt the City of Tucson.
 
 
Election Month Is Here – Please Vote!
 
Election month is in full swing. If you spend any time listening to the radio, watching TV, or reading the newspaper you will notice the political advertisements. If you have not already, I urge you to spend some time researching the candidates and propositions and look at the facts. We as voters have many important decisions to make.
 
 
We have free voter guides available in our office from the League of Women Voters and from the City of Tucson Clerks’ Office which provide non-partisan information on the ballot propositions and candidates. I invite you to stop by and pick up a guide. For more information online, please visit:
 
Arizona Office of the Secretary of State
 
 
League of Women Voters of Arizona
 
 
City of Tucson Clerks’ Office:
 
 
ARIZONA DAILY STAR EDITORIAL IN FAVOR OF PROP 400
 
Our View: Vote 'Yes' On Sales-Tax Increase if You Don't Want Core Services to Be Cut
 
Proposition 400: There's little fat in city's budget
Posted: Saturday, October 9, 2010 12:00 am
 
When voters decide whether to increase the city of Tucson sales tax by a half-cent per dollar they'll actually be determining what kind of city they want.
 
That's what proponents say, and they're largely correct.
 
The bigger question, though, is whether taxpayers can afford the city they want.
 
Detractors' allegations that there's plenty of waste and nice-to-have but unnecessary spending in the city budget do not stand up to the facts.
 
The general fund operating budget was $362 million back in 2002, which has a present-day buying power of $440 million. The 2011 general fund budget is a smidgen more than that - $443 million. In other words, the total has just kept up with inflation.
 
Over that same period, the city's population has increased 12.7 percent, to 548,000. In other words, government is serving more people with no extra money.
 
Detractors will say the budget was full of fluff and waste then and now. They're wrong, unless they believe there's a lot of waste in the police and fire departments.
 
Police and fire are the departments where there's been huge growth since 2002. Tucson Fire's general fund budget is up 75 percent, to $75.2 million. The police department's budget is up 51 percent, to $142 million.
 
If police and fire are the services you want most from local government, then city leaders have followed your wishes.
 
Meanwhile, other departments have mostly fallen behind inflation and population growth. Indeed, most city employees are taking nine furlough days, and 479 general fund positions have been eliminated. Employee medical premiums were increased, and departments have been combined. Most adult sports programs have been eliminated and some city pools were closed last summer. Outside agency funding has been reduced.
 
The city has also raised various fees.
 
Is there more to be done? Of course. We've advocated for an increase in bus fares, the consolidation of ward offices and elimination of funding for Access Tucson and nearly all of Tucson12.tv, to name a few.
 
Other fees for service need to increase, but it won't total the $40 million the city estimates the half-cent sales tax would bring in each year for the five years of its existence. There's still an $11 million revenue shortfall on top of that, the city says.
 
If you want to maintain the service levels the city provides now in the way of police and fire protection, roads, transit, and parks and recreation, a "yes" vote on Proposition 400 is the right one.
 
At the same time, we recognize that what voters want and what they can afford may be two different things.
 
Tucson is a low-wage city and voters have already been hit since July with rate increases of at least $30 a year for two city essentials - water and garbage pickup. Voters also agreed to temporarily increase the state sales tax to fund education. For a family of four, that adds up to an extra $200 to $400, depending on who's doing the estimating.
 
Now along comes this proposition to raise the city tax to 2.5 percent - a cost to the average household of $170 a year, proponents estimate.
 
If you believe as we do that Tucson should maintain core services, then vote "yes" on Proposition 400.
 
If you cannot afford the city you want, we understand. We also understand that voters are angry with the way the City Council has wasted millions on Rio Nuevo. We're mad about that, too, but it's a different budget and by state law cannot be redirected to police or parks.
 
As you decide how to vote on Nov. 2, the important thing is not to be misled by opponents into believing that the city budget is a big vat of fat. It isn't.
 
We urge a "yes" vote on Proposition 400.
 
Arizona Daily Star