Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Our Opinion: Hein is the scapegoat of dysfunctional City Council

City Manager Mike Hein (left) at Tuesday's City Council meeting, where he was fired. Behind him is Assistant City Manager Mike Letcher, who was named acting city manager.

City Manager Mike Hein (left) at Tuesday's City Council meeting, where he was fired. Behind him is Assistant City Manager Mike Letcher, who was named acting city manager.

Not content with botching the hiring of a police chief, the Tucson City Council on Tuesday made a far more grievous error by firing City Manager Mike Hein.

This was a colossal mistake on the part of four council members who sought to cover up the inadequacies of the council’s performance by throwing out the only person they have the power to fire.

The firing of Hein comes as the city struggles to persuade the Legislature that it is capable of managing the massive Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment project.

With the council badly splintered and the city’s leader tossed out with little explanation, the Legislature now has no reason to have confidence in Tucson’s future performance.

And Hein’s firing comes as the city attempts to balance a budget swimming in red ink. Hein was supposed to present a budget proposal in only nine days – a task that now falls into far less experienced hands.

The four council members who voted to fire Hein – Steve Leal, Karin Uhlich, Regina Romero and Shirley Scott – have blamed the city’s financial problems on Hein – even though the city clearly was swamped by the same international recession that has hit the private sector and government at all levels.

Hein has consistently made recommendations to reduce the city’s projected $80 million deficit. But he was unable to get the council to agree on much of anything – whether it was raising bus fares, cutting funding for outside agencies or increasing fees.

Hein also ran into council indecision when it came to hiring a police chief – one of the city’s most high-profile and important employees.

The City Charter gives Hein the authority to hire the chief, who then is approved or rejected by the council. But the process never got that far. After meetings and thousands of dollars spent narrowing the field to four, the council members interjected themselves into the process and ordered it started over – with only local candidates considered.

It is impossible to imagine any qualified municipal executive who would want to work for this fractured and dysfunctional group.

Hein came to the city from Pima County and led an era of unprecedented city-county cooperation.

The council and others have blamed Hein for a lack of downtown progress. But council members themselves have been hapless bystanders, not visionary leaders.

The council now has no scapegoat. If the Legislature kills Rio Nuevo funding, it will be its fault. If city services are deeply cut to balance the budget, it will be the council’s doing.

This splintered City Council now must hire a city manager and oversee the hiring of a police chief. Members of the council have done nothing to engender confidence that they can do either competently.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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