Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich opted out of last night’s candidate forum hosted by area high school students opting instead to attend a fundraiser for her and her running mate, Richard Fimbres.
The decision of the incumbents in refusing to defend their record of governance over the nation’s 5th poorest metropolitan area, surprised and disappointed the students as well as area residents.
Controversy erupted when a supporter of Ulich, Bob Schlanger, emailed employees of the University of Arizona, in violation of state law, inviting them to the fundraiser held at Rigo’s at the same time as the children’s scheduled debate.
A.R.S. 15-1633, prohibits the use of university equipment and supplies for partisan efforts.
It is also a violation of the City of Tucson’s recommended bylaws for neighborhood associations. Those associations receive government money, and according to Mary Fimbres, wife of Richard Fimbres and member of Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham’s staff, “The associations are not supposed to be participating in partisan activity.”
While Schlanger utilized addresses from the neighborhood association to the association’s members and identified himself as the “VP Jefferson Park,” he noted at the bottom of the email that “this is not an endorsement by the JP Board.” Schlanger, a testy New York transplant, admitted to sending out the email and said that if university employees used email addresses they shouldn’t have, they are responsible – not he.
Schlanger said that if a neighbor complained about the emails, they should consider leaving the neighborhood. “They are benefitting from what has gone on in the neighborhood and if they can’t appreciate it, maybe they should consider getting educated or moving.” According to Schlanger, “These people gave me their addresses, so if the state doesn’t educate them, I can’t help that. People give me their addresses to be contacted in the past about a sensitive political issue, and I felt no qualms about contacting them again.”
Schlanger wrote to recipients, “Please join hosts Hon. Dan Eckstrom, Supervisor Richard Elias, Council Member Regina Romero, House Democratic Whip Bruce Wheeler, State Rep. Macario Saldate, State Rep. Victoria Steele, Former State House Democratic Leader Phil Lopes & Pam Lopes, Hon. Bennett Bernal, Hon. Charlie Salaz, Carolyn Campbell, Beth Carey & Leslie Carlson, Neal Cash, Elaine & Bob Clark, Karen Clifton, Kevin Dahl, Bunny and John Davis, David Giles, Bob Gugino, Gayle Hartmann, Larry Hecker, Katherine Kent, Madeline Kiser, Holly Lachowicz, John Wesley Miller, Renee Morton, Melanie Morrison, Catherine Memale, Bob Schlanger, Kerry Schwartz, And Silverman & Starr Sanders, Randy Spaulding, Donna & David Tang, Pat Treeful, Nan Stockholm Walden & Dick Walden and Tom Warne for a fundraiser and General Election Campaign Kickoff for Karin Uhlich!”
“Many of us have worked closely with Karin over the last eight years and I truly believe that without her support, we never would have won some of our most important fights – and yes, I am referring to the mini-dorm battle,” wrote Schlanger. “We have much more to accomplish in our quest for livable peaceful neighborhoods. I believe that our best chance for positive outcome is continuing our partnership with Council Member Uhlich.”
Uhlich has worked hard to prevent job opportunities for Tucsonans by blocking Grand Canyon University from moving to Tucson’s west side which has been greatly impacted by the devastating lack of jobs. She has also fought hard against Rosemont Mine which would bring in approximately $19 million in tax revenue.
Tucsonans have the 9th highest tax rate in the country.
President of the Sabino High student group, Amanda Oien, told a Tucson radio show host, that all she and her fellow seniors wanted to ask was whether or not there would be a reason for them to stay in Tucson due to the fact that the area’s largest employers are under attack by the City of Tucson and Pima County.
Oien expressed disappointment that Uhlich and Fimbres refused the group’s invitation to engage the area’s youth. According to the group, Uhlich refused to go because the children are Republicans. However, both Polak and Buehler Garcia have expressed a willingness to talk with potential constituents regardless of party affiliation.
Oien said that two young high school students connected with Uhlich’s campaign did come to the forum to tape the event to take back to the Uhlich campaign.
When contacted, Uhlich’s staff at first denied knowledge of the email invitation and hung up the phone after refusing to identify themselves. “You’re taking notes,” the staffer shouted into the phone. “I am not talking to you any more.” A second attempt to ascertain whether Ulich authorized the emails was rebuffed after the same employee said that they had never seen the email, and then asked that the sender of the email be contacted as he had posted his phone number at the bottom of the email.
Some are concerned for the employees at the University of Arizona and may have responded to the emails. Either responding to or forwarding emails of a partisan nature could result in a fine for Arizona’s state university employees.