For a city with the highest rate of poverty in the Sunbelt, you’d think there would be a few candidates talking about poverty, homelessness, unemployment/underemployment, and related issues in their campaigns.
As I listened to the KXCI rebroadcast of the recent candidate forum, I was stunned by the issues that occupied most of the candidates– particularly the Republican candidates (Mayoral Candidate Rick Grinnell and City Council Candidates Jennifer Rawson and Tyler Vogt).
Apparently, the biggest issues facing our city are not poverty, home foreclosures or unemployment; they’re burdensome development fees, over-regulation of businesses (particularly developers), and an oppressive anti-business city government.
I guess it is understandable that the Republicans would be running pro-business camgaigns, but Grinnell goes beyond business-friendly. Grinnell is the mayoral candidate for the 1% class. Here are some facts to back up this statement.
- Grinnell is a lobbyist, and the largest client for Grinnell’s lobbying firm is Rosemont Copper– two facts that are not mentioned on his campaign website. The online description of Grinnell’s SUBS (Smart United Business Strategies) doesn’t even mention that it is a lobbying firm. SUBS is described as: “a for-profit venture that fosters political interaction between State and Local government and the entrepreneurial community.”
- Grinnell’s campaign manager is big-time developer John Wesley Miller. (No wonder Grinnell is lobbying…er… campaigning so hard against development fees and for streamlining development processes.)
- In a recent Arizona Daily Star article entitled Mayoral Candidates: Jobs are No. 1 but… , Reporter Rhonda Botfield writes, “Grinnell, a consultant for Rosemont Mine and for restaurant owner Bob McMahon, said his longtime work on business issues will give him an edge in helping support economic development by eliminating barriers to growth and providing the necessary infrastructure. ‘If we don’t get some wealth-generating opportunities, we will collapse,’ he said. He said not only does the city need an attitude adjustment – such as strengthening its customer service approach – but also needs a more coordinated effort in recruiting new businesses.” Again, business, business, business. [Emphasis added.]
- Grinnell’s campaign ads– along with those of Rawson and Vogt– have been produced by the same agency that produced the now infamous Swift Boat ads against John Kerry.
- Grinnell is on the current Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board. (You know– the board that is suing the City of Tucson for $47 million.) He was appointed to the Rio Nuevo Board by Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce.
- Grinnell also served on the old Rio Nuevo Citizens’ Advisory Committee, beginning in 2007; he was appointed by then Councilman Rodney Glassman. (You’ll remember that those folks helped the City Council bungle taxpayer monies in failed land deals and plans that never were implemented.) His service on the first RN board has been conveniently omitted from his bio on his campaign website.
- In addition to Grinnell’s position on the Rio Nuevo Board, he has been a member of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority since 2008. This is another one of those local boondoggle boards that chases fickle national sports teams and spring training contracts. Check out this report from the Brookings Institute and the Brookings’ book Sports, Jobs, and Taxes, if you don’t believe me. National sports teams pit cities against each other by encouraging hapless local politicians to waste taxpayer money on stadiums. (Remember Tucson Electric Park?) In the candidate forum, Grinnell even had a frustrated outburst when he said, Rio Nuevo was supposed to be an arena district! (Personally, I’m glad that arena football idea died.) Building stadiums makes money for developers and sports teams but not necessarily for cities.
- There are alleged improprieties in Grinnell’s campaign finance reports. Looking at his reports dated Oct. 25 online, the largest donations are from business owners, particularly construction companies, developers, and donors with ties to Jim Click. (Checking past campaign finance reports on the Arizona Secretary of State reveals that Jim Click has been a long-term donor to various Grinnell campaigns. He has run for several offices– also not on his resume.)
Seriously, how can you trust someone who has left major facts off of his resume?
On Grinnell’s website, he does list creating jobs and careers as a priority, but his 100 day plan is all about business.
I will host an economic strategy session with the business and social communities in order to identify who’s doing what, strengths and resources, and share a unified approach to regional economic stability.
Identify 100 local employers that want to expand and help them accomplish this. Identify and recruit another 100 new employers that are compatible and will complement existing local businesses. And we can do this keeping in mind the integrity of our neighborhoods and appreciation of our environment.
Help struggling businesses retain their employees, stay in business, with initiatives beginning with reducing utility tax to the pre-2010 budget.
Identify, reduce or remove the overburdening regulations that impede the process of expanding or starting new businesses. Remove duplication of services and shorten timeline involved in launching new enterprises.
Work with Rio Nuevo to restore the TCC to a first class Convention Center that will attract other large-scale events like the Gem Show. [NOTE: Grinnell is on the Rio Nuevo Board which is suing the city $47 million.]
Work with the tourism industry to expand our efforts in securing more group and personal tourism to our region. This could include the Southern Arizona Golf Trail.
Develop further communications with the State Legislature in Phoenix to strengthen positive relationship with our city. [Let's make nice with Republicans to the north.]
Identify local businesses that can utilize resources available to us through the Arizona Commerce Department’s that can help us provide additional support for employer and business expansions.
Strengthen relationships with our neighbors in Sonora, Mexico who bring in $1.3 Billion a year in revenue to Southern Arizona.
Maximize and leverage long-term resources in the region through annexation by first making the City of Tucson a successful and attractive model for neighboring communities. [Emphasis added.]
One last question for Grinnell: If you want to reduce or eliminate fees for developers and other businesses, how would you pay for that? Since the city is strapped for cash and since Republicans like to have “revenue neutral” policies, f you want to cut that revenue stream, you need to tell us how you would make up your proposed tax cut for the rich. Here’s a hint: If your answer is “raise bus fares”, you are truly the candidate for the 1%.
So, if you are lucky enough to be among America’s richest 1%, Grinnell’s your candidate for Tucson Mayor. If you’re among the 99%, I suggest you check out the websites of the other two candidates Democrat Jonathan Rothschild and Green Mary DeCamp. (Stay tuned for more on them.)