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Mayor: Rio Nuevo to set tone for city’s recovery

Citizen Staff Writer



Rio Nuevo and local businesses may be the key to economic recovery for Tucson, Mayor Bob Walkup said Friday during his State of the City speech.

He called for the private sector to step up and said local government would not be able to create the jobs the region needs.

Jack Camper, CEO of the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said this is the time for businesses to look at how the city can help them increase sales. The chamber sponsored the State of the City luncheon at the Tucson Convention Center.

“We think that it’s time for them to take a real close look at what problems businesses have with regulations and fees and address them as kind of a mini-stimulus package for Tucson,” he said.

Camper pointed to an easing of Tucson’s sign code ordinance that would allow businesses to advertise their wares on sandwich board signs as an example.

“The kind of things that I’m talking about don’t cost anything,” Camper said, adding that the chamber would be surveying its membership for other ideas on how the city can increase revenues while helping businesses.

Camper agreed with Walkup’s assertion that the downtown redevelopment effort would be a source of economic stimulus.

“We need to jump-start construction in our community and it appears as if that may be happening,” he said. “That will start to put people back into work in the trades and that’s very important.”

Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, who heads the council’s Rio Nuevo subcommittee, said revitalization of the downtown area remains a priority.

Development downtown will create more jobs and generate more tax revenues, she said, adding that success downtown is important for “the entire city, the entire region and the entire state.”

Walkup also called for cautious fiscal planning as the council prepares to tackle a budget deficit next year that is estimated to be at least $80 million.

City job cuts, unpaid leaves, and a restructuring of departments are all on the table, he said.

Councilwoman Regina Romero wants to ensure that budget cuts are looked at “holistically” and that programs that affect children and job training are left intact.

“I think that when he talks about putting everything on the table, I want to be very careful,” she said.

Camper said that attendance was down at this year’s event by about 15 percent from last year, but he called it a success all the same.

An estimated 850 people signed up to hear the mayor’s speech this year, he said.

The multi-chamber business expo at the TCC on Friday that showcased local businesses was very successful, with more than 100 booths, Camper said.

Camper said Walkup’s speech was more somber than in previous years.

“This is not the time to do the ‘rah-rah’ speech for Tucson,” Camper said. “We’re going to continue to grow. We’re going to continue to develop. But we’re going to have to do it in a different way until we get out of this recession.”

Walkup called on Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, or TREO, a nonprofit economic development agency for the city and county, to lead the way in economic recovery.

TREO spokesman Joe Snell did not return a call for comment.


The city has had its rating increased on a series of bonds used to finance downtown redevelopment.

The tax revenue bonds for the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District and the Fox Theatre climbed six spots, from a rating of “BBB-” to “A+.”

The increase was given by Fitch Ratings. The company determines the credit-worthiness of bonds, assigning a letter grade ranging from “D” for in default to “AAA” for a prime rating.

Jaret Barr, assistant to City Manager Mike Hein, said the increased rating will not affect the city’s interest rate on existing bonds, but could help get lower rates when the city borrows money in the future.

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