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Council passes on putting public safety staffing on November ballot

If Tucson voters are going to have a say on how many police officers and firefighters the city should have, they’ll have to sign a petition to get it on the ballot.

The City Council was scheduled to talk Tuesday about the provisions of a citizen’s initiative that could cement police and fire department staffing standards, but it didn’t.

Councilman Rodney Glassman, who requested the discussion be put on the agenda, asked the council to table the talks. It was possible the council could have put the issue on the November ballot itself, forgoing the need for gathering petition signatures. But Glassman’s motion to table the item passed without discussion.

Before the meeting, Glassman had received a letter from Rick Hodges, the CEO of the Tucson Association of Realtors, the backers of the initiative, asking him to cancel the discussion.

“We have spoken to other members of the council and at this time, there is clearly not the level of support to refer our proposal to the ballot that we had hoped for,” Hodges wrote.

After conversations with police and fire union members, Hodges wrote, “We feel that taking this concept straight to the citizens of our community is most appropriate through a citizen’s ballot initiative.”

Glassman said that the city has not in the past given initiatives a fast track to the ballot. He declined to speak about council support for the measure.

The initiative proposes increasing the ratio of police officers from 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents to 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents.

That would mean the hiring of more than 600 officers over five years, taking into account attrition such as retirements and resignations, Assistant City Manager Richard MIranda wrote in a memo to the council.

The new cops and firefighters would cost up to an extra $7.9 million each year for wages and benefits, $8.6 million a year for pension contributions, $1.3 million a year for fuel and car maintenance and $7.9 million to buy more vehicles over the hiring period, Miranda wrote.

He also detailed the costs of hiring support staff, training and other items.

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