Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Pima County Republican Party, the Tucson Association of Realtors, the Southern Arizona Home builders Association, and the Tucson Police Officers and Firefighters Associations are the principle sponsors of the Public Safety First Initiative (aka Prop. 200) which will appear on the City of Tucson November ballot.
The initiative seeks to compel and make mandatory staffing goals for police and fire personnel that the Tucson City Council has already approved in 2006 as part of a 10-year plan. The City Council had to put that plan on hold in 2008 because of the current economic recession and steep decline in tax revenues to pay for it. It is reckless and fiscally irresponsible at a time when Tucson is already suffering through the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.
The initiative proposes to amend the City of Tucson Charter. The Charter is similar to a Constitution and generally defines the structure and powers of city government. It is not the appropriate place to insert what amounts to a statutory enactment of specific policy. Any future change to the policy, i.e., changes in staffing goals, will require an amendment of the Charter and another vote at an election, rather than a simple ordinance. This was poor legal advice and it is bad public policy.
A charter amendment would deny future City Councils the very flexibility needed to manage city budgets and competing public needs through economic cycles. It would unduly infringe upon the inherent legislative discretion and prerogatives of City Council members to make budgetary decisions based upon sound public policy and available revenue.
This is critical because the initiative is an "unfunded mandate" - it does not identify any new source of revenue to pay for the mandatory expenditures, as is required for statewide initiatives by Prop. 101 (2004). That's right, the very transgression that Republicans constantly whine about - unfunded mandates - is supported by the Pima County Republican Party. So when Republicans propose unfunded mandates it's OK? What hypocrites.
In a June 26 memo to the Tucson City Council, Deputy City Manager Richard Miranda preliminarily estimated the total operating costs during fiscal years 2011 through 2015 to be projected at almost $157 million, with recurring annual costs in future fiscal years of approximately $51 million. He recommended that it would have to be paid for through an increase in property taxes or the city sales tax, or a combination of both.
Likewise, in a July 6 memo to the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry preliminarily estimated the total operating costs to Pima County for additional jail staff (and expansion), prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, and court appointed counsel would exceed $24 million annually in operating costs and an additional $67 million annually in capital costs. It would have to be paid for through increased property taxes.
Now, supporters will assert that the funds can come out of general revenue. They apparently believe money grows on trees. There's not enough general fund revenue to meet the city's basic needs and to pay for the additional expenditures required by this unfunded mandate, even if all so-called discretionary spending is eliminated from the city budget. This initiative will require the City of Tucson as well as Pima County to raise your taxes, as their managers have already stated. A vote for this initiative is a vote to raise taxes. So why are Republicans supporting it?
County residents do not vote in City of Tucson elections, so this amounts to "taxation without representation" for county residents. So where are the Tucson Tea Party teabaggers to support county residents by opposing Prop. 200? Oh, that's right. These hypocritical Yahoos support Prop. 200 because their favorite talk radio show host tells them to. Principled consistency is not their strength.
Tucson's crime rate has been declining for the last several years since it peaked in 2004 http://tpdinternet.tucsonaz.gov/Stats/TOTAL_08_RATE.pdf. See TPD Crime Stats. The majority of crime in Tucson is classified as property crimes. It is fear of crime and initiative supporters playing on that fear that is driving support for this initiative. But a similar initiative was overwhelmingly defeated in Peoria, Arizona I believe it was, awhile back.
There is growing opposition to this ill-conceived and politically motivated initiative. The Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has added its voice to the growing opposition to this bad public policy. Jim Nintzel at the Tucson Weekly reports Chamber Opposes Public Safety First Initiative:
The Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has come out against the Public Safety First Initiative that will appear as Prop 200 on the city of Tucson's Nov. 3 ballot.
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In a press release, chamber officials say that its board "concluded that mandating staffing levels and response times the Charter of Tucson undermines the purpose of the Charter and the role of elected officials in governing. Without a funding source, Proposition 200 will place the city of Tucson under dire financial constraints at a time when it is least needed."
The release quotes Jack Camper, the chamber's president and CEO, as saying: "As a former volunteer firefighter and military policeman, public safety, particularly police and fire protection, is important to me. The chamber's position in no way speaks to the job our police and fire are doing. It simply goes to the root of unfunded mandates and poor public policy."
Last week, the Pima County Interfaith Council (PCIC) came out against the initiative. PCIC Comes Out Against Public Safety First Initiative:
Here's PCIC's release:
PCIC supports the sustainable implementation of Public Safety goals that will make our city safe, healthy, and hospitable for current and future residents. Proposition 200 is not the way to attain these goals. We reaffirm the vision of Public Safety that has guided Tucson for many years, a vision that includes crime prevention, quality education, workforce development, and community infrastructure programs and in addition to fully-equipped and fully-staffed police and fire departments.
If Proposition 200 passes, Tucsonans will face the prospects of a gutted city budget, vital agencies and departments drastically cut or eliminated, taxes raised, funding for prevention programs that help keep our city safe killed. The City would have to cut family friendly child and youth programs and seniors could be stranded by the elimination of Van Tran. It will claim money for everything from job training to waste and water management. It will have unpredictable ripple effects on the rest of Pima County—its residents, agencies, and infrastructure.
PCIC urges people to VOTE NO on Proposition 200. We challenge the backers of Proposition 200 to a constructive dialogue about our city’s goals for a broad-based definition of public safety, economic prosperity, and sustainability. Proposition 200 is not the way to move forward.
Pima County Interfaith Council leaders are committed to educate Tucsonans about the ripple effect of Prop 200.
The Arizona Daily Star came out against the initiative in an editorial on July 5, 2009. Don't set policy by amending City Charter:
We believe the initiative — which would amend Tucson's City Charter — is a misguided effort to achieve a vitally important result.
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amending the city's charter, the document that defines the structure and powers of city government, is not the appropriate avenue to set public policy.
Further, the initiative includes no dedicated funding to pay for an increase in police and fire personnel and construction of new fire stations. The already-strapped city would have to find the funding in its general fund or raise taxes to support the spending.
Finally, the amendment does not take into account advances in technology that may make ratios or response times moot as measurements of effectiveness.
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Public safety must be a priority for the city, but its elected officials have been chosen by the voters to decide when and how to achieve that.
Pima County officials are warning that the Public Safety First initiative would be expensive for county residents if it is approved by voters in November.
This is another reason we believe the initiative is a misguided attempt to achieve better public safety.
The Tucson Weekly signaled its opposition to Prop. 200 The Skinny (July 2, 2009):
SPEAKING OF LOUSY POLICY ...
The Realtor-backed proposal to ask Tucson voters to force the City Council to increase police and fire staffing levels was expected to be delivered to the City Clerk's Office this week.
If this proposition wins in November, the city will be financially hosed. In the first year, it will probably cost taxpayers $10 million; by year five, when staffing reaches the level required by the initiative, it will cost an estimated $50 million more a year.
Where's the money going to come from? Deeper cuts to other areas of the city's budget, of course. But, hey, who needs parks, anyway?
The Pima County Democratic Party has adopted a resolution in opposition to Prop. 200 on the grounds that it is reckless and fiscally irresponsible. Pima Democrats: News Release
An independent expenditure committee, "Don't Handcuff Tucson," has also been established to oppose Prop. 200. Don't Handcuff Tucson - Vote 'No' on Proposition 200
Opposition to Prop. 200 continues to grow. Volunteer your time and donate money, then vote "No" on Prop. 200.