District 4 Update – March 2024

Each month, I try diligently to focus on topics that I call, “Vail/Corona de Tucson-centric” and to avoid mostly or purely political issues. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don’t. This month, I’ll try a hybrid model and see how it goes.


Last month I attended the Vail School District’s Vail Pride Day Volunteer Luncheon at the Pima County Fairgrounds. It is so impressive to witness the enthusiastic outpouring of our community for our award winning school district and to recognize and acknowledge the scores of tireless volunteers and organizations that assist our schools, classrooms, teachers, and administrators.


Speaking with Vail School District Superintendent John Carruth during the event, he aptly pointed out that the Vail School District is the example that should be modeled by other school districts who are floundering with low-test scores, out of control student violence, and shrinking enrollments. He proudly proclaimed that VSD is the proof and response to these problems and that because of our school’s volunteers and parental involvements, learning, teaching and growing can all be successful.


He then surveyed the packed auditorium as if to say, “See what I mean?” I also had the opportunity to have a nice visit with Superintendent Carruth’s predecessor, Cal Baker. Cal looked fit, was ebullient and his infectious positive demeanor is a wonderful thing to behold.


Shifting gears, one of the issues discussed during the last Board of Supervisors meeting was a review of the final report of the Blue Ribbon Commission formed to evaluate the Pima County Adult Detention Center. The Commissioners spent countless hours studying, analyzing, and gathering reams of data and community feedback, trying to determine if Pima County taxpayers should build a new County Jail or try to rehabilitate the current facility. Their selfless efforts are to be commended.


However, as I predicted, no conclusions were drawn and we really are in no closer position of reaching a determination as to how, or with what, to proceed. As I stated when the Blue Ribbon Commission was formed, its focus should solely be identifying the costs of fixing the current jail and building a new jail. Of five options presented by the Commission, only two were deemed “feasible”. The first option was rehabilitating the existing structures and adding new construction to the current jail at a cost of around $650 Million. The second feasible option presented was constructing a completely new facility at a cost of around $860 Million. Sadly, the Commission did not make a final recommendation.


Unfortunately, much of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s process was bogged down, disrupted, and diverted by special interest groups who inserted their agendas into the process, creating confusion, and distraction. These special interest groups advocated for a lowering of the jail’s population, allowing lesser-charged perpetrators no bail, diverting funds away from law enforcement and in general, a re-imagining of incarceration.

At one point, such a group violently interrupted a Commission meeting at the Courthouse, causing it to adjourn. Now it appears from statements made by County Administrator Jan Lesher that another commission is in the works with new “consultants”, to take the Jail issue “to the next level”.  I had thought all along that the original Blue Ribbon Commission was to do just that.

Accordingly, be prepared for a very long process of more discernment, more committees, more meetings, more recommendations, and more “subject matter experts” with no conclusions surrounding the Jail evaluation issue.  It is plain to see that nothing will be resolved on this subject anytime soon.  And, we haven’t even broached the matter of how we are even going to pay for any of this.

It must be noted, too, that at the end of the day, the operation of the jail and the administration of incarceration policies lie solely with one person and one person only – the Sheriff. Granted, the Board of Supervisors can exert a nudge of pressure here and there upon the Sheriff because the Board controls the Sheriff’s budget. However, the Sheriff is a duly elected, independent official, and it is his responsibility to operate the Jail and his correctional policies take precedence. The Board of Supervisors should be careful not to over-step its authority, bounds, or venture outside of its lane.

One positive element to note in the Commission’s findings: Despite the admonitions by our Sheriff that our current Jail operations are in “crisis”, the Commission found no such “crisis” environment existing currently at the Pima County Adult Detention facility.  Any “crisis” factors are apparently inside the can that’s being kicked down the road.

Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy, District 4
33 N. Stone Avenue, Floor 11
Tucson, AZ 85701




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Steve Christy