Pima County Board of Supervisor’s candidate, Fernando Gonzales, is asking why Tucson was ranked the sixth poorest of the nation’s large metropolitan areas in 2011, and calling for common sense solutions. The Arizona Republic reports that Tucson had a poverty rate of 20.4 percent. The national poverty rate was 15.9 percent last year.
Yesterday, Gonzales told a gathering, “Choking off jobs the way we do, equals poverty.” Tucson is the largest community in Pima County. Both the County and the City of Tucson have developed reputations for being business “unfriendly.”
Gonzales, a small business owner, said that as he walks door to door in his district, he is finding the most positive response to his candidacy comes from registered Democrats and Independents; they are angry. They are also disillusioned by their fellow Democrat Richard Elias, who is currently holding the office. “People need and want jobs. They want to work.” In a report dated April 9, 2012 from KGUN 9, Chuck Huckleberry said “We used to say that there were 22% of our major streets in poor shape or needing reconstruction, and now that has grown to about 60%.” Gonzales explained that this is the problem with the County. “We have deteriorating roads, yet the rock products industry (producers of asphalt and other material used to repair and pave our streets) has laid off over 6,000 employees. But the current Board of Supervisors can’t see the writing on the wall and how their responsibility to maintain our infrastructure could have kept thousands employed, saved thousands of homes and kept thousands of people off of unemployment.”
Elias says that he is focused on “the strength of our public services and the preservation of our beautiful Sonoran Desert habitat,” but as one Democrat asked, “We could preserve the desert and require fewer public services while not fighting jobs, can’t we?”
Children are the hardest hit in the area. According to the Republic, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said one problem is the high rate of poverty among children in Pima County, which is included in the Tucson metro area data.
Just this month, the County finally decided to stop preventing the creation of new jobs by Rosemont Copper Mine. The County Board of Supervisors actively fought the development of the mine through regulatory red tape and a fruitless appeal of an air quality permit.
According to the Republic article, Marshall Vest, director of the University of Arizona’s Economic and Business Research Center, said that there is “little demand for additional housing, offices, retail space – therefore construction and industries related to growth operate at a reduced level,” On Monday, Vest said, “There is very low employment growth. Employers are cautious.”
The study found that Tucson’s standing is “attributed to the region’s high unemployment, slow economic growth, low education levels and low-paying jobs.” Also, Tucson’s Congressman Raul Grijalva called for a boycott in response to Arizona’s immigration law, SB1070. The Tucson area was hit hardest by the boycott.
However, while the economy is rebounding around the state, Tucson only had 800 new jobs this year. Most of those were in call centers.