District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller has some choice words to describe the Pima County Board of Supervisor’s vote last week to shift money from the road maintenance fund out of her district.
“Outrageous” and “unprecedented” are two of them.
Often standing alone on county issues as of late, Miller is no stranger to the 4-1 vote, but in the case of the Feb. 18 meeting, the District 1 Republican was caught off guard.
After questioning the county’s management of funds for road repairs, the tables turned on Miller when District 5 Democrat Richard Elias made a motion to shift road funds from Miller’s north side district to District 4, under supervisor Ray Carroll.
The road maintenance fund was established as part of this year’s fiscal year budget by a 3-2 vote. The fund is intended to serve as a stepping-stone in addressing the county’s $270 million worth of poor-to-failing roads. Each of the five districts initially received a $1 million allotment from the general fund to make repairs to arterial roads.
Miller became visibly frustrated at Elias’ motion to relinquish her district’s remaining share, amounting to $872,000.
“I object to this,” she said. “My district deserves its fair share… I just can’t believe the actions of this board today.”
District 2 Supervisor Ramon Valadez seconded the motion, and Carroll, alongside District 3 Chair Sharon Bronson, also voted in favor.
The money from District 1 will now be used to pay for repairs to Colossal Cave Road in Vail.
There has been ongoing debate as to whether money from taxpayers in each of the five districts is fairly divided when it comes to funding county roadway projects.
In a subsequent interview, Carroll said Miller’s district already receives more than its fair share of roadway funding from the county’s transportation fund, and has been further privileged with a majority share of a 1997 voter-approved transportation bond.
Sections of Thornydale Road – one of the streets Miller said she planned to renovate with her district’s share of the road maintenance fund – are also items scheduled for repair under the bond.
Carroll said Miller, who in a recent memorandum suggested the bond be canceled, is being hypocritical.
“Thornydale Road is on that bond,” said Carroll. “That is supposed to be funded, but Supervisor Miller wants to remove those funds. That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”
Miller said she requested the cancellation because the county is using highway user revenue funds to pay the bond back when that money should be going toward new road projects.
Like Carroll, Miller also voted against implementing the $5 million road maintenance fund.
She said while some supervisors are attempting to manipulate the vote to their political advantage, she voted against it because she wanted more than the allotted $5 million.
Miller said the reason her district receives more in transportation funding is because it makes up a significant amount of the county’s taxpayers and has been an area of marked growth.
A number of residents spoke at Tuesday’s meeting to request road repair funding. A majority of them were from Carroll’s district, and more specifically, from the Vail area.
They, along with school officials, asked the board for help fixing Colossal Cave Road, calling it a public safety hazard since it passes by businesses and Old Vail Middle School. The Vail School District contributed $100,000 toward renovations.
Miller said she expects District 1 parents to be outraged since Thornydale Road, which runs by two northwest area schools, is also deteriorating.
According to Miller, not only was the vote unfair, the events leading to it were predetermined.
Miller said a witness told her that one Vail resident acknowledged he had “never been to a meeting before,” and “was there because Ray asked (him) to come.”
Miller has since notified the Attorney General’s Office.
“This was clearly orchestrated. Can I prove that? Maybe,” said Miller. “It depends on if the people questioned by the Attorney General’s Office tell the truth.”
Carroll denied the claim.
“Those people from Vail were there from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” he said. “I didn’t ask them to come, they came on their own. There was no collusion.”
Miller is behind two additional investigations. The first questions the constitutionality of the board’s vote, and the second has to do with claims that three board members violated open meeting law. Miller said the board member’s use of cell phones during executive session is also something she is having looked into.
In the case of shifting funds between districts, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said no laws have been broken.
“The board has the final say in project or funding allocation,” said Huckelberry. “Therefore, nothing illegal occurred. The funding is for all taxpayers in Pima County. The notion that it is earmarked for District 1 is not correct.”
Miller calls it dirty politics.
“For the board members to play games like this with the taxpayers’ money is wrong,” she said. “This isn’t about me, this isn’t about Ray, this isn’t about Richard. This is about doing what is right for the taxpayers. And the taxpayers should be outraged.”