Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Former Mayor of Tucson George Miller and former Tucson City Manager Luis G. Gutierrez teamed up to write this opinion which appeared today (shock!) in the Arizona Daily Star An irrational solution to a nonexistent problem:
Proposition 200 seeks voter approval for a change to the Tucson Charter that would mandate the hiring of 350 new police officers over a five-year period, as well as an untold number of firefighters, but offers nothing in terms of how the community would pay for these new public-safety employees.
If approved, Tucson's government would be legally obligated to provide these new public-safety officers and all associated costs and would have to respond by reducing other city services and raising taxes.
Public services have already suffered greatly due to recent cutbacks. Parks, recreation centers, open space, neighborhood centers, bus service and residential street maintenance would be further impacted.
Realistically, it is probable that programs like KIDCO, an after-school program for children, and the zoo at Reid Park would face elimination.
The difficulty that Proposition 200 presents us with is that our elected representatives, the mayor and City Council, and our professional city manager would not be able to consider the public-safety increases within the total context of community needs and community affordability.
A large number of new police officers in a short time frame would require both the city and Pima County governments to immediately generate substantial new revenues, bad economic climate or not. City property and other taxes would rise significantly. Pima County property taxes would increase by 8 percent or more.
Minimally, this would increase our county tax levy by 36 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to pay for increased jail costs, more judges, more courtrooms, more prosecutors and other expenses of the criminal justice system.
While all taxpayers in Pima County would bear this burden, the majority of the cost would fall on taxpayers living outside the Tucson city limits.
Preliminary and conservative estimates by city and county staff suggest operating and capital costs for the city of $242 million in the first five years, and Pima County costs of $113 million for operating and capital costs by the end of five years.
New annual budget requirements in today's dollars are estimated to be $51 million for the city and $26 million for Pima County — costs that would recur every year in the future at inflated values.
In comparison, historical budget investments for public safety for any given year have been a small fraction of these amounts.
Are our public-safety resources so inadequate that drastic measures are in order? The answer is no.
Crime-trend graphs on the Tucson Police Department's Web site indicate the rate of violent crime in the community has shown a reduction of 35 percent since 1995. Crime rates for aggravated assault, burglary and larceny have shown reductions in excess of 20 percent since 2002.
Proposition 200, if approved, would not consider these factors and would mandate more resources in spite of changing conditions.
As for the Fire Department, the city already largely enjoys the response time for emergencies called for in Proposition 200. Furthermore, Tucson has always had one of the best fire departments in the nation and has consistently been rated that way by fire professionals.
It is difficult to argue that our city and county governments overall have not done a good job of maintaining sufficient public safety funding in annual budgets.
We urge a "no" vote on Proposition 200. It is not a rational and common sense way to determine service levels for city services. It imposes a formularized method of providing budgetary resources for public safety without considering if all such resources are needed or desired by the community.
The initiative does an end-run on our elected officials and mutes the ability of our city manager to make recommendations based on the facts, changing conditions and affordability.
Public safety is a high priority for all of us and we value very much what our police officers and firefighters do to protect us. However, this is a bad idea with serious financial implications for all taxpayers in Pima County.