Since the City of Tucson holds its elections for mayor and council on the odd years, we do not get a reprieve from campaigns. But some would argue that those odd-year elections allow us to intently focus on our largest city and, if all politics are local, who we elect locally is vitally important to our community’s future.
Tucson adopted its charter in 1929 establishing itself as a “city” and hiring its first city manager. The Tucson Metro Chamber’s connection to city government was close, as the chair of the chamber’s board in 1928, William Julian, became mayor in 1929. Julian owned a plumbing, heating and roofing business and controlled about 85 percent of the market in those services. He ran on a platform of constructing more playgrounds and building an adequate sewer system.
Parks and infrastructure? Seems like times haven’t changed too much, as this past November we just voted on bonds for parks and roads. Add public safety to that mix and, not ironically, you have the three major powers and duties prescribed to the mayor and council in the city charter. (The charter also had an entire article dedicated to “sprinkling streets,” which helped keep the dust from the dirt roads settled.)
Providing for the safety, accessibility and well-being of the citizenry are the basic functions of a municipal government. It’s hard to argue that if we train and hire the appropriate amount of police officers and firefighters for a city our size, fix and maintain our roads and provide playgrounds and fields, our community will be on the path to success.
These three basic functions will be front and center this year as we will elect a new mayor and at least two new council members. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild is stepping down after eight years in office and we would like to thank him for his years of service and his partnership with the Chamber. Not only did he continue the tradition of delivering his State of the City at a Tucson Metro Chamber sponsored event, but he also attended most of the ribbon cuttings and anniversary celebrations we organized in support of hundreds of Tucson’s small businesses.
Mayor Rothschild has also embraced the three basics. Under his watch and leadership, a $100 million bond to fix our roads was passed as was a $225 million parks and connections bond. He also supported a plan to hire 100 officers over the next five years and increase salaries for public safety as we were seeing many police officers and firefighters leave the city for “greener” pastures.
Bonds and policies don’t just pass on their own. It takes leadership and vision to take them all the way to the finish line. And as we have seen and celebrated in the companies that have chosen to expand and relocate to Tucson, it takes collaboration with other governments and agencies to convince them our region can support their operations.
It is pivotal that our next mayor not only understand the importance of the basic functions of a municipality and set a clear vision with his or her colleagues and collaborate, but they must also be able to deliver. No longer can we allow a company to slip through our hands simply because a small group of neighbors said it was not the right fit. With all the progress we have made, we cannot afford to revert back to a community that did not find the right balance between meeting the needs of business and our residents.
The Tucson Metro Chamber will, as we have for decades, interview and evaluate all candidates running for mayor and city council. Our positions on the basics are clear. We must provide the equipment and resources our police officers and firefighters need to reduce response times and meet the national average for personnel. We must continue to find revenue streams to address the $2 billion shortfall in infrastructure improvements. And we must provide amenities for our diverse and growing community.
While we won’t have a repeat of our board chair becoming the next mayor like we did in 1929, we will be diligent in our duty to make sure the next mayor and council members support and follow through on delivering the basic functions of a municipality. The success of our local businesses and well-being of our residents count on it.