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Walkup predicts bleak ’09 Tucson outlook

Citizen Staff Writer
State of the City Speech



A faltering economy and the need to push on with redeveloping the downtown area are key points Mayor Bob Walkup will touch on Friday afternoon during his annual State of the City address.

His speech is more fiscally conservative than those he has given in past years since the city faces an estimated $80 million deficit.

Walkup’s address outlines the possibility of cutting city jobs and restructuring local government while calling on the private sector to lead the way out of the economic crisis.

“Local government employment will not provide the economic cushion it has in the past,” Walkup wrote in a draft of his speech. “Sales and property tax revenues are rapidly decreasing. Local government will be smaller. Additional private sector employment is required to replace those government jobs.”

Walkup also put some of the onus of recovery on Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, the area’s economic development engine.

“This is TREO’s job. TREO should be supported,” he wrote. “And TREO should be held accountable for its successes and failures.”

Walkup is co-chairman of the TREO board of directors.

His speech outlines the need to create more jobs while pointing to downtown projects such as the proposed streetcar operation as possible sources of construction and small business employment.

“In Tucson, in 2009, job No. 1 is jobs, jobs, jobs,” his speech reads. “Programs that create job opportunities must be supported. Programs that do not are more likely to be cut.”

His speech, like others he has given in the past, reiterates the need to limit suburban sprawl and focus on developing within the city center while moving from a service-based economy to a “knowledge-based” economy.

“Plummeting home values in Tucson and across Arizona have reduced both incomes and spending dramatically,” Walkup wrote. “Too much of our people’s wealth is derived from home values and the spending that has come from borrowing against those inflated values.

“Too little of our wealth comes from the export of innovative goods and services outside our region,” he wrote. “That must change.”

Walkup predicts that money flowing from outside sources such as retirees and tourists – both large sources of revenue for the local economy – would be reduced as well.

“People who relocate here will bring less savings, less equity from the sales of their primary homes and possibly higher health care costs,” he wrote. “Families, companies and industry groups will have less discretionary income to spend on tourism.”

Walkup’s speech says essential city programs and services, such as the Police and Fire departments would be protected from fiscal cutbacks.

“However, in order to protect public safety, transportation, parks, KIDCO and emergency services for our most vulnerable people, cuts to all other programs and services are on the table,” his speech reads. “Furloughs and layoffs are on the table. Consolidations and eliminations of entire city departments are on the table.”

Walkup was scheduled to deliver his speech at noon at a lunch sponsored by the Tucson Chamber of Commerce at the Tucson Convention Center.

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