Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

County not as bad as GOP candidates say, nor as good as it should be

Pima County is a vast economic wasteland.

Did you know that? If you didn’t know that, you haven’t been paying attention to the rhetoric the past couple of months from the four Republicans running for county supervisor.

To hear them describe the county while out on the stump, we’re living in a community filled with impoverished, unemployed blighters who can only feed their families at food banks and who can’t get jobs because the business-hating people in charge – Democrats – are redistributionist socialists who want to keep the people dependent on government.

Why, if the Republicans were in charge, there’d be a chicken in every pot, small businesses would become big businesses, no one would pay a tax and Tucson would become the economic marvel of the country.

But that’s American politics. It’s an adversarial system and no challenger of an incumbent ever got elected telling voters how great everything is under the current regime.

You beat incumbents by telling voters everything’s bad and can’t be good unless you’re elected.

Whether the voters buy what a challenger is selling, though, has more to do with what they think of their community than what the challenger thinks.

In 2006 – with the same people in charge – the county economy was gangbusters. We were building houses in the ‘burbs at a crazy pace and commercial real estate vacancies were at all-time lows. Wal-Marts were popping up all over. Chickens were in every pot.

Then the housing bubble burst and we suffered through the worst recession in 70 years.

So is Pima County a wasteland? Not really. Like the country, some parts are doing quite well, some not so much. As the kids might say on their Twitertext thingies – meh.

The recovery nationally has been slow and it’s been really slow in Pima County.

At separate economic forums last week, economists and county leaders explained that the county’s lag will continue for a couple more years because our economy was too-heavily reliant on housing construction and since housing construction is what collapsed in the recession, it will take some time for it to recover, especially in areas like Pima County that were overbuilt during the bubble.

The county’s economy is not as good as it should be nor is it as bad it’s been portrayed. But blaming the current political leadership for what ails Pima County overstates the power of elected bodies to do anything about it.

The politics of Pima County has been riven by growth for the past 40 years, whether we’re growing too fast or not enough. Business interests have wanted low regulation and taxation and the right to build anywhere, and the voters have been insistent on protecting their neighborhoods and the environment and making development pay for itself.

The result has been something in the middle, a lot of growth but a lot of regulation about where and at what cost.

That battle continues Tuesday. If you think the Republicans can speed the economic recovery, vote accordingly. But no matter what, vote.

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