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Tucsonans to pitch Rio Nuevo’s worth to senators

Citizen Staff Writer



Rio Nuevo proponents will face the state Senate finance committee Wednesday as senators evaluate a wide range of potential budget cuts.

At the informational hearing, senators will hear from various entities getting state funding and use that information for budget considerations, said Mary Okoye, the city’s director of intergovernmental relations.

“In terms of threats, we have not gotten any direct specific threats (to end Rio Nuevo tax increment financing),” Okoye said. “No legislators have sent us letters. We have been dealing with a lot of bad press.”

Okoye said Mayor Bob Walkup has met with several legislators in the past two weeks and has heard of no threats to sales-tax derived TIF financing that funds the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District.

“We’re telling them the district works,” Okoye said. “We have proof. One: We have private investment. Two: our bond rating has increased and we have been able to bond in this environment.”

Rio Nuevo director Greg Shelko will address the finance committee. He will be joined by Jerry Dixon, developer of the Mercado District of Menlo Park luxury housing; Glenn Lyons, chief executive of the Downtown Tucson Partnership; Okoye or one of her staff; and possibly Anne-Marie Russell, chair of the Rio Nuevo board of directors and executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson.

“We’re fairly confident that when the truth is told about what is happening, that they will understand the importance of the critical work going on,” Shelko said. “Things might not be the way they read: that nothing is happening.”

Projects that will be touted include the Tucson Convention Center hotel now in the design phase; Depot Plaza and its one finished element, One North Fifth Apartments; the Mercado District and the streetcar project that should see tracks lain through downtown this year.

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