By Steve Christy

Our July 22nd Southeast Regional Council quarterly meeting was held virtually, with a great group of presenters from the Pima County and Arizona Departments of Transportation, Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Pima County Development Services. We also heard from Brad Anderson, CEO of the Greater Vail Area Chamber of Commerce and Glenn Taylor who represents Corona de Tucson on SERC. I joined Brad and Glenn, speaking on the subject of incorporation. For those of you who were not in attendance at this latest meeting, here are my comments:

“I want to share with all of you some of my thoughts about our region in particular, and Pima County, in general. These thoughts are about our future and they can keep me up at night. Developments and policies being created and carried out by the City of Tucson are at the center of my thoughts and as a result, we are witnessing their negative impacts on much of our Vail and Corona de Tucson areas, and eventually upon all of Pima County. What follows are the highlights and activities employed by the City of Tucson’s Mayor and Council, unanimously, I might add:

  1. The Mayor and Council’s efforts to impose differential water rates upon those living in the County. This is a shakedown by the City to force annexation of County residents, among other things. This will end up in the courts and I have no doubt that the County will prevail – yet we never know what Courts will decide.
  2. The Mayor and Council’s movements to prevent the County’s historic PAYGO road repair plan – the unanimously approved Board of Supervisors action to complete meaningful and comprehensive road repairs to our County’s ravaged road system – is being criticized and targeted by Tucson’s Mayor and Council.
  3. The Mayor and Council’s actions to destabilize and sabotage the next phase and renewal of the Regional Transportation Authority. Since 2006, Pima County has made tremendous accomplishments through the RTA to improve our region’s transportation infrastructure. The Mayor and Council have stated that the City of Tucson should have the controlling votes and influence in, not only in future county-wide transportation plans, but with the RTA’s budget as well. This, simply stated, is the City of Tucson demanding that it should receive more RTA projects and funding than any of the other jurisdictions in Pima County, including our Southeast Region.
  4. The Mayor and Council’s demands that the City of Tucson have the controlling and dominant position over the Pima Association of Governments. The City is calling for a weighted vote and weighted influence on the Governing Board of the Pima Association of Governments. This means that future region-wide decisions like infrastructure, transportation, recreation, and much more be in the hands of the City of Tucson.

There is no diversity of thought by the Mayor and Council. They are all united and speak with one voice on issues. They have waved their priorities and agendas in front of all of us and they intend to prevail by implementing all of them, by whatever means necessary.

From the County level, we’re seeing the Mayor and Council’s ideology cascading over to the Board of Supervisors. Several of the new members and many times, all of the new members are supportive and in agreement with the City of Tucson’s efforts.

I have had many disagreements with County Administrator Huckelberry over many issues and on many different levels, but he is very adept at keeping these types of warring factions at bay to keep the integrity of Pima County’s core strong. Mr. Huckelberry, who has been around forever, will not be around forever. And when his time for departing as County Administrator comes, which will be sooner rather than later, the Board’s majority is going to follow the City’s lead as to who Mr. Huckelberry’s replacement will be. We have seen this happen with the City of Tucson as evidenced by the City’s choice of a Police Chief. The Supervisors in the majority will not choose a new County Administrator from current, local Administrators. They will conduct a national search from cities like Portland, Seattle, and Austin and pick someone who mirrors their own agendas, goals, ideals, and politics. In no time at all, the progress and way of life our region has and is now enjoying could be comprised, starting, but certainly not ending with annexation by the City of Tucson.

If ever there was a time for Vail and Corona de Tucson to explore seriously the topic of incorporation, now is that time. I must say that with several strong caveats and warnings: Incorporation may not be the silver bullet type of panacea of protection we think it is. There will more than likely be, at least for a while, Inter-Governmental Agreements with the City and/or the County for police protection and various other core services. Also, there are great costs of incorporation that must be fully explored, as all issues surrounding incorporation must be fully explored. Let us perform our due diligence with the understanding that incorporation may not be the answer for self-determination and community protection that we are seeking.

Secondly, there are significant stakeholders in our community who have invested millions in our region with housing and commercial projects. Their views must be fully considered before any plans of any kind take effect.

Vail and Corona de Tucson are very special to Pima County. Don’t let the City of Tucson take us over. I like to tell the story about my first lunch after I was first elected. This story illustrates how far back annexation of Vail and Corona de Tucson was being planned and was cited as a goal by the City of Tucson. My lunch was with then-Mayor Johnathan Rothschild and Tucson’s Annexation Director, Mike Czechowski. Mayor Rothschild came right out and said that he wanted to annex Vail and he wanted to know if I would help. You can imagine, it was a very short and awkward lunch. My office will continue to work with community leaders to explore and investigate all methods to protect our Southeast Region from the City of Tucson’s power-grab. Incorporation may not be the total answer. Perhaps there exists more effective ways to achieve our goals. Let’s find out. “

If you wish to get involved in exploring incorporation, please contact Brad Anderson at the Vail Chamber, 520-261-8245, Glenn Taylor, Corona de Tucson, 520-471-9559, or Lucretia Free, the Southeast Regional Council, 520-490-0654. Should you wish to view past and current Board of Supervisors meetings, please contact my office so we can assist you.

We further discussed the on-going trash problems throughout our area’s roads and highways with the County’s and State’s Transportation Dept. representative attendees, who promised to deliver our concerns and frustrations on this back to their respective departments.

The Leon Ranch Road situation was discussed at length and it appears we are nearing a resolution to this problem for area residents and Leon family descendants.

Finally, we heard of the details of the long-awaited Houghton Road widening project south of I-10. This terrific project is breaking ground soon.

As you can see, there’s a lot happening in our region. I urge all of you to get involved in the Southeast Regional Council. It’s a great way to stay informed and ensure that your voice is heard throughout our Region, County, and State.

And, oh yes, I love being your Supervisor!

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Steve Christy