Pima County’s Secret Government… Continued

The Pima County Board of Supervisors is responsible for steering public policy in the region.The five-member board provides direction to the County Administrator and the county’s various departments as they work to ensure safe communities, nurture economic development, sustainably manage natural resources and protect public health.

In addition to overseeing the delivery of a host of municipal services, from roads to parks and libraries and law enforcement, board members also are responsible for approving the county budget.

Elected to four-year terms, board members also set the amount of taxes to be levied. — Pima County Website

All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.  — Arizona State Constitution

We, the people….  — United States Constitution

Civics 101: The words are clear. The people, the voters, elect representatives at various government levels who are accountable to them. They operate with our consent. In some cases, such as Pima County, the day-to-day workings are handed over to hired bureaucrats, but the elected representatives are held responsible in elections. That’s how we get County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, whose $320,000 annual salary is more than four times the salary of the county supervisors who hire him.

The County Administrator is responsible for: Carrying out the policies and goals established by the Board of Supervisors; Providing information and technical assistance to the Board of Supervisors; Administering and overseeing all non-elected official departmental operations; and Providing management, coordination and communication on legislative issues and intergovernmental needs. — Pima County Website

While the Administrator works under the direction of the Board of Supervisors, his long tenure allows for the amassing of power and influence beyond his job description.  His memoranda to the BOS and their rubber-stamp approval clearly show that it is often the case that the BOS approves the policies and goals established by the County Administrator.  Or by his cronies.

Who, then is Michael Racy, besides being someone you probably never heard of?  Not an elected official, and not a county staff person, he is paid an average of $140,000 annually by county taxpayers to lobby for the county’s interests under the direction of the County Administrator.  He recently was awarded $160,000 to lobby for a gas tax increase at the state level, and $150,000 to pursue the gas tax at the federal level.  Racy’s basic rate is $190 per hour, up to $1140 per day, plus per diem, travel, lodging and other expenses.

Lobbyist Racy, in consultation with Capitol Strategies Phoenix lobbyist Steven Bloch, made plans for BOS visits to key people in support of the Sonoran Corridor, as shown in a June 14, 2016, email from Bloch to Racy about Supervisor Richard Elias:  “Supervisor Elias could mention the importance of the (Sonoran Corridor)…and thank them for their support.”  “Them” include Members of Congress Raul Grijalva, Steve Gallego, Ann Kirkpatrick, and Krysten Sinema.  Racy added as he passed the email along, “Let me know if Steve and I can help the Supervisor with any of this.”

But: voters rejected the Sonoran Corridor leg of the County Administrator’s Interstate 11 plan in the 2015 bond election.  Yet the Corridor continues to be pursued as if the voters had not spoken.  In June, 2016, emails linking Huckelberry, Assistant Nanette Slusser, BOS President Sharon Bronson, county staff John Moffat, John Bernal, Robert Young, Jonathan Crowe and county DOT Director Priscilla Cornelio, along with Pima Association of Governments (PAG) staff, it was discussed whether the county should submit routes for the current I-11 Environmental Impact Study through the Tohono O’odhan Nation without the Nation’s consent.

Similarly the County Administrator’s Executive Assistant, Deseret Romero, developed a new brochure touting the Sonoran Corridor, emailing it to select staff members on June 10, 2016.  And the county is trying to figure out how to take control of Sonoran Corridor planning away from ADOT.  Perhaps as an inducement to PAG’s Jim DeGrood to go along, Slusser told Huckelberry that the PAG Transportation Services Director wanted to “form an improvement district for his neighborhood in Coronado Foothills Estates.”  Improvement Districts are established by the Board of Supervisors to upgrade neighborhoods, in this case made up of upscale homes selling in the half-million to million-plus dollar range.

And while the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) $15 million, three-year, I-11 EIS is supposed to take public opinion into account and develop possible alternative routes, an email from John Moffat two weeks before ADOT’s I-11 public meetings this past June said, “They plan to have identified three routes…alternative 1 through the Avra Valley, 2 the I-19-I-10 route through Tucson, and possibly 3 being the ‘no-Build’ option.”  Making the EIS a $15 million fraud (see ADI, August 23, 2016).

Back to Michael Racy:  Pima County is not his only client.  The Pima Association of Governments paid him $33,000 in 2015 for lobbying activities, and Pima Community College paid him $55,000 in 2013.  He also has private clients, including Diamond Ventures.  The convoluted Sonoran Corridor route, instead of being a straight east-west line linking I-10 and I-19 to benefit Raytheon, the Airport (another Racy client) and the University Tech Park, drops south to deliver a free access highway to Diamond Ventures’ planned 3000-acre Swan Southlands development.  Can you spell C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T-O-F-I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T?  Diamond Ventures executives have put over $15,000 into Sharon Bronson’s re-election campaign.

As an example of how the shots are called, there is Tucson car dealer and major political contributor Jim Click sending some tax information to Huckelberry in early June and saying, “Let’s have a conference call to discuss it.”  Huckelberry sends it along to Racy.

Racy accrues influence with campaign contributions, as do Diamond Ventures and Jim Click.  He donates to both Republicans and Democrats.  Recent election contributions have gone to John McCain, Ann Kirkpatrick, Krysten Sinema, Dave Gowan, Ron Barber, Martha McSally, and Raul Grijalva.  In Pima County elections Racy, along with his Phoenix associate Yvonne Anderson, have supported Sharon Bronson, Richard Elias, Ramón Valadez, and Ray Carroll, the four committed to keeping Huckelberry as County Administrator.  The dictionary defines kickback as a “payment made to someone who has facilitated a transaction or appointment.”

Racy made campaign contributions to several Marana Town Council members when the rural community of Silverbell West was fighting the building of a private garbage dump right next door.  The word cronies becomes clear in that 2010 battle.  DKL holdings hired Racy as their front person with the Marana Town Council.  The land DKL bought for the dump was owned by Council Member Herb Kai.  The Council annexed the land, leaving out the 100 families right across the road so they had no voice or vote.  Despite the potential polluting of Silverbell West’s ground water, the Council voted 4 – 1 to approve the dump.

At a Dove Mountain meeting called by Council Member Carol McGorray, the only opposing vote, Racy and the DKL gang showed up uninvited and attempted to take control of the meeting, going so far as to falsely label a  factually well-armed dump opponent as a member of the Communist Party.  Racy subsequently made a quasi-apology at a Town Council meeting, but spun it to show the “dangers of Internet research!”

As Racy and Huckelberry both make and carry out policies affecting Pima County, they sometimes do so in express opposition to the Board of Supervisors – and get away with it.  In supporting Interstate 11, Huckelberry’s Avra Valley route and the voter-defeated Sonoran Corridor, both are ignoring BOS Resolution 2007-343 opposing any I-10 bypass in Pima County, a policy that has not been changed by the Board, but which BOS members and their cronies ignore.

This is not “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  Register.  Vote.

About Albert Vetere Lannon 107 Articles
Albert grew up in the slums of New York, and moved to San Francisco when he was 21. He became a union official and labor educator after obtaining his high school GED in 1989 and earning three degrees at San Francisco State University – BA, Labor Studies; BA, Interdisciplinary Creative Arts; MA, History. He has published two books of history, Second String Red, a scholarly biography of my communist father (Lexington, 1999), and Fight or Be Slaves, a history of the Oakland-East Bay labor movement (University Press of America, 2000). Albert has published stories, poetry, essays and reviews in a variety of “little” magazines over the years. Albert retired to Tucson in 2001. He has won awards from the Arizona State Poetry Society and Society of Southwestern Authors.