A guest at the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce's "Dancing with the Stars" Gala at the new Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain — a fine event, and oh, what a place — asked an opinion of doings at the City of Tucson.
Wow. So much to consider.
From a distance, the City of Tucson doesn't have enough money to make ends meet. It floated the idea of a "renters' tax," a way to generate new revenue from people who occupy property, but do not own it. Hundreds showed up in protest. That went down in flames.
The possibility was raised that Tucson would lay off police and fire department employees. Dozens showed up in protest, among them firefighters wearing shirts that read "Furlough Me." Police and fire layoffs went nowhere.
The Tucson City Council made a decision to cut premium pay, and decided to put all city employees on four or five days of furlough, unpaid days, before June 30.
Somewhere along the way, the council voted to lay off nearly 90 full-time employees, 29 part-time employees, and leave vacant positions empty. Reductions in budgets for "outside agencies" mean good, if less essential, services are being reduced or eliminated.
Much of this is being done to try to bring the current year's spending plan into balance. That's the fiscal year ending June 30. Next year's budget? Eeeek!
Meanwhile, a business leader began a recall effort against the mayor and two council members … one of whom was just elected by the voters in November. (Gee, haven't the people just spoken?) Humberto Lopez wants to send a message to the elected … as if they haven't had a message staring them in the face for months now, in the form of government employees worried about their futures.
The Tucson City Council faces criticism over its attitude toward business, and its hand in Rio Nuevo development. If these people aren't "beleaguered," in their thankless work, then who is?
So, then, what do we think about the doings in the City of Tucson?
Well, from a distance, they're not all that dissimilar from the doings in Oro Valley and Marana, nor what's happening in school districts and other local governments. Tucson is a bigger, much more complicated and ingrained, much more difficult political animal to move than the smaller communities. But the issues are the same. The money's just not there. "Wants" are being eliminated in favor of "needs." Public safety institutions feel threatened, and they've got powerful unions to stand up on their behalf. Nobody wants to pay more taxes, of any kind, at any level. Nobody wants to do with less service, either.
Let's not even begin to talk about state government.
Sen. Jon Kyl, in Oro Valley last week to address a big crowd of Tucson Tea Party supporters, made a comment about government, and America, that is applicable at every level.
"Why can't we all think as if we are one country, trying to do the right thing for our country?" Kyl asked. Or city. Or town. Or state. Or schools …