We don't want to be like Phoenix!
Posted on Wednesday, April 03rd 2013 at 09:12 am
"We don't want to be like Phoenix. " I can't tell you how many times I have heard that statement since moving to Tucson in 1985. At first it seemed to resonate with me because Tucson seemed to be "better" in many ways. I still believe that Tucson has more natural beauty surrounding us and our close proximity to Mexico offers a unique cultural experience. But, I believe our dismissive attitude blindsided us and has put us in a precarious position. It is clear when you examine the history of Tucson that those in power hitched their wagons to tourism and retirees and rejected manufacturing, mining and commerce. They didn't want to grow like Phoenix. This focus didn't stop the growth and led us to be the 4th most impoverished city in the nation because the job growth was in servicing the tourists and retirees that flocked here. So now what you hear is that it's "those folks in Phoenix's fault" that our roads are like mine fields and our city is crumbling like Beirut. My grave concern is that Tucson will become surrounded by prospering communities like Marana, Oro Valley, Sahaurita, and Vail and that we will continue to decay. The solution is accepting responsibility for where we are today and correct the course. The good news is that we have a Mayor and some councilmembers that understand this but, changing course is a slow process. And there are other councilmembers that are bent on continuing the old course regardless of the consequences. I believe there are three things that need to happen to change our course:
1. Incorporation. With nearly 1/3 of our community unincorporated we do not get our share of the revenue from the state. This is certainly tens of millions of dollars and could be closer to 100 million. We also have some of our brightest and influential citizens that aren't engaged nor represented.
2. Don't fund neighborhood associations. The pendulum swung too far when Mayor Tom Volgy instituted policy that gave too much power to these associations. This has included funding their newsletters and block parties. This gave him and his ilk a voting block eager to reelect them. These associations have held sway over building projects and companies moving to Tucson because they were also given the power to deny projects and extort concessions.
3. Become like Phoenix. There has been progress in the development process in our city, but few outside of Tucson know that. TREO has had a tough job trying to sell companies to move here because of that perception and because we weren't in the game with our competition. Phoenix and other communities like Albuquerque and Salt Lake City offer incentives for businesses to move there. We need to compete with them.
We have gone beyond being a sleepy tourist town where the Hollywood elites and the rich and famous came to play and be served. Our population has grown in spite of the "road blocks" that were put up. So now we have to deal with sustaining a community of a million people and offering meaningful employment opportunities for our children and grandchildren that graduate from the U of A. If we don't change course now then our beloved ship will be lost in the storm.