Law governs annexations, not supervisors - The Explorer: Editorials

Law governs annexations, not supervisors

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Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 3:00 am | Updated: 10:01 am, Wed Oct 19, 2011.

The old adage “Never let facts get in the way of a good story” seems to apply to Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler’s recent opinion in The Explorer (“County official should follow best practices,” Oct. 5, 2011).

Lackluster (the councilwoman’s word) does not accurately describe the County’s treatment of Marana’s and everyone else’s sewage. True, treating sewage is not glamorous, but it is absolutely necessary to protect public health and the environment. Our public servants who treat your sewage – around the clock, 365 days a year – have been recognized nationally and internationally for excellence. Many of these hardworking employees who rise to such excellence are Marana residents.

In 1979, Pima County and its residents, and at the request of all area cities and towns, chose a regional wastewater treatment model because it is better and more cost-effective. Today, most, if not all, of the urban regions throughout the country follow a regionalized model. This model is smarter and a documented best practice in public service.

The councilwoman says the vast amount of unincorporated population in Pima County “isn’t normal, nor is the fact that County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry tries his hardest to keep it that way.” She forgets Marana’s own history when she declares that, “Pima County has for years fought annexation and incorporation attempts by its residents.”

The incorporation of cities and towns and annexation are governed by state law.  The County plays no role; we neither approve nor disapprove, and state law created the ability of cities and towns to block incorporation. Councilwoman Ziegler forgets that when the community of Tortolita tried to incorporate in 1997, it was Marana, not Pima County, that filed suit to block the incorporation. 

The Board of Supervisors certified the incorporation because it was the will of two-thirds of the residents. Marana did not hesitate to join Tucson and others in blocking the will of the people of Tortolita. Marana, not Pima County, fought incorporation of new communities.

Over the last two decades, there have been multiple initiatives to incorporate communities in Pima County. These efforts failed, not because of Pima County, but because voters in those areas either rejected incorporation or other jurisdictions blocked them. Voters in the Catalina Foothills, one of the largest communities in the county, turned down incorporation by 70 percent. This is fundamental democracy at work.

Over the last decade, the population of unincorporated areas has grown statewide at a faster rate than cities and towns. For at least the last decade, more and more people in Arizona have chosen a simpler lifestyle with fewer levels of government and less government regulation.

The councilwoman also declared that, “… Huckelberry recommends raising property taxes to offset revenue losses from the state.” This is untrue. In fact, the total Pima County property taxes collected dropped this year; it is a fact the councilwoman can easily verify by looking at her property tax bill or by visiting http://www.pima.gov/taxes/.

Councilwoman Ziegler did accurately state that I am not a member of the International City/County Management Association. Membership in that group, she naively believes, makes local government more credible by exposing officials to “best practices” and by holding members to a strict code of ethics.

As a serving manager and administrator for decades, I can assure you, using taxpayer money for dues, travel and conferences does not necessarily make one a better manager.

As for ethics, it is remarkable that a public official would believe that concepts of right and wrong can be purchased (using taxpayer money, no less) by joining a fraternal organization.

Finally, these opposing diatribes have actually been only about water – certainly not about who can better treat sewage. 

Marana believes controlling their destiny requires them to treat sewage.  It does not. Pima County has offered to give Marana free access to their water (treated sewage) without charge – free. Marana wants their residents to pay for something the County is willing to give for free.

Does that make sense? We don’t think so.

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