Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Weather and roads keys to council success

Tuesday is election day in the city. Go vote. Pack up your criticisms of city government and go to your polling place and vote your conscience for council members in wards 3, 5 and 6 and for propositions 200 and 400. It’s what makes us a great nation.

But be realistic about your vote for council. You will have participated in a process to select members of a seven-member public body. You did not elect a dictator.

The people who do get elected are not stupid, lazy or corrupt. They are just struggling with the incredible complexity of governing a city with as many competing interests as there are people.

They learned, or will learn, that actually delivering on all the things they promised while out on the stump is hard. Talk is cheap.

But once elected, new council members also soon realize they didn’t get elected dictator. If a council member wants to deliver on promises made he or she needs to convince three other council members to go along. Trouble is, those council members have their own promises to deliver.

And if gathering three votes proves easy, in step the lawyers and bureaucrats. Promises start falling into the dustbin as the newly elected are told that some can’t be accomplished because the city charter will have to be changed by public vote to accomplish them, or state or federal law prohibits them, or because there is no money and a tax will have to be passed. And nobody wants that.

Then the campaign supporters and contributors start calling, wanting a return on their investment, followed by constituent phone calls, letters and e-mails: “Build more recreation centers,” “hire more cops,” “fewer cops, more parks,” “fix the street light on my street,” “finish Rio Nuevo,” “kill Rio Nuevo.”

Voters start running out of patience about March. They start thinking of voting for someone else about June. Such is the life of a Tucson City Council member.

Who would want this job?

No greater example of the push-pull nature of voting constituencies can be found than the reports from the city’s recently completed “Community Dialogues” meetings.

City staff went out into the neighborhoods the past two weeks explaining how broke the city is and seeking community input on what city services should be kept and what should be tossed to balance the budget. The answer to both was: Everything.

For every person who got up and said they wanted parks preserved, another got up and said parks could be sacrificed. It was the same for every city service, cops, police, fire, water, you name it.

The lists exemplify the seeming futility of public service – you can’t please any of the people any of the time.

But in examining the lists, there did appear to be two areas of consensus about Tucson – the weather is great and the roads suck.

While it’s too late for this election, these two issues draw a road map to council greatness for whomever chooses to run for council in 2011. They may even be able to make all of the people happy all of the time if they can do just these two things:

Take credit for the wonderful weather and fix the damn roads.

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