As reputations go, the city of Tucson’s stinks.
If you needed to hire a work crew off the street to clear brush around your house and your only choices were the city council and a gang of scary-looking street toughs, you’d choose the street toughs.
Because if you’re going to get robbed, you might as well know right away rather than have to wait for an audit.
The past half decade or so has been filled with fired city managers, failed sweetheart development deals and city workers repeatedly caught with their grubby hands in the taxpayer’s pocket. And on top of this festering pile of failure and scandal you can toss the rotting corpse of Rio Nuevo and its record of squandered millions and mismanagement.
Yet despite all of this, the city council has climbed atop this rubble pile of its own making and planted the flag of Proposition 409.
They want you to vote for higher property taxes over the next five years to get started on fixing the cracked, crumbling and pothole-filled streets of Tucson.
No, really, they’re serious….stop laughing.
It’s not funny.
The city streets are in serious trouble. It’s more than just potholes. The city’s road staff has evaluated all of the city’s streets and estimated about more than half of the main thoroughfares are desperately in need of repair and nearly all of the neighborhood streets.
It has estimated that it will cost between $600 million and $1 billion over 10 years just to overcome the years of “deferred maintenance,” which is a euphemism for neglect. And that’s on top of the $20 million to $25 million a year the city needs to spend on annual maintenance just to keep the problem from getting any worse.
Crumbling roads cost drivers thousands of dollars a year in higher maintenance costs and vehicle wear and tear. They’re also dangerous as they can cause a rise in accidents and collisions.
Opponents have argued that the money exists within the city budget to fix the streets and the new tax isn’t necessary.
They apparently have been living in some other city the past five years as the city council went through year after year of painful budget cuts due to the recession.
The city has cut about $50 million in annual spending and in doing so put every option on the table, including laying off cops and firefighters, closing parks and recreation centers, imposing rental taxes and raising bus fares. And for each sacred cow there were packed hearing rooms of angry citizens who stole all the council’s spears and said “no, no, no.”
If Prop. 409 fails, we’re back in that soup – fighting over cops or roads, firefighters or roads, buses or roads, parks or roads. And roads will lose every fight.
Which will cost us far more than the piddly tax increase being proposed to pay for fixing them. If you own a $200,000 house, it will cost you about $36 a year. A blown tire will cost you a lot more than that.
The council passed a truth in bonding ordinance and included language in the bond question that is supposed to ensure this extra tax money will actually be spent on road repairs. We have no choice but to trust them.
Hold your nose, cross your fingers and vote yes on Prop. 409