Dance of ideas - Tucson Local Media: Editorials

Dance of ideas

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Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:23 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

If you're reading this editorial on a printed page … thank you, first of all.

It's likely you don't live within the city limits of Tucson, where this coming week voters are deciding whether to pass Proposition 200, the "public safety initiative" that would require 2.4 police officers per 1,000 residents, and require minimum response times for Tucson fire fighters and emergency responders.

We're not going to endorse 200, nor urge its defeat. That's up to the good people of Tucson, our neighbors, to decide whether this mandate for levels of public safety — and its related spending — is warranted.

Not that 200 would not affect the Northwest. It has multiple effects.

Countless Northwest people work in Tucson, and they're bound to see changes as the city of Tucson changes its spending priorities — or not — to meet the outcome of Tuesday's election. Critics of Proposition 200 say Tucson already commits major money toward police and emergency response, that crime levels have fallen, and that if 200 passes, other city services inevitably will lose dollars.

Some Northwest residents are directly affected by 200. That's why you might see a "Vote Yes on 200" yard sign in an Oro Valley neighborhood. For them, it's personal, perhaps affecting the pocketbook, or the workplace.

It's disingenuous, and a stretch of the original definition, to label 200 an "unfunded mandate." That pejorative is more accurately aimed at dictates from one, bigger government – federal to state, state to local – that something be done, with no money to do it.

If it passes, Proposition 200 would be a mandate, yes, but one from the people, directly, to government, the ultimate mandate if there ever was one.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, and the supervisors, might see it otherwise.

Pima County runs the jail system, and the courts, and Huckelberry has argued 200 would cost the government he runs a lot of money. Why? More police means more court cases and incarcerations. The money to expand those county services just isn't there.

Given the current tax climate — namely, that no one wants to raise anyone's taxes — the fulfillment of 200's requirements would most likely take money from something else. At their core, governments exist to protect and serve the people, and they do so through the fundamental provision of public safety. Cops. Firefighters. EMTs. Yet every service of government has its constituency, and there'd be upset, certainly. The allocation of precious resources always has supporters and backers.

It's a fascinating dance of ideas. We'll see where it lands next week.

— DPP

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