“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.”
“The County Administrator is responsible for carrying out the policies and goals established by the Board of Supervisors.” — Pima County website
“Now, Therefore Be It Resolved that the Pima County Board of Supervisors opposes the construction of any new highways in or around the County that have the stated purpose of bypassing the existing Interstate 10 as it is believed that the environmental, historic, archaeological and urban form impacts could not be adequately mitigated.” — BOS Resolution 2007-343
The above official statements are pretty clear. The Pima County Board of Supervisors makes policy and directs its employee, the County Administrator. The County Administrator’s job, for which he receives a handsome salary, is to carry out BOS policies. Such a policy is Resolution 2007-343 opposing any bypass in Pima County.
That includes Chuck Huckelberry’s proposed Interstate 11 route through the Avra Valley, formerly known as the I-10 Bypass. Then BOS Chair Sharon Bronson said so just before the November election at a candidates’ forum in Picture Rocks, a community that will be negatively impacted by the Huckelberry Highway. The 20-year supervisor, who was narrowly reelected, was not telling the truth.
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Karen Apple, responding to questions from the Avra Valley Coalition about the recently-released Scoping Summary Report (Arizona Daily Independent, January 30, 2017), “The attached 2013 letter from Pima County contains the most recent information and the current position of the county.”
That 37-page document, addressed to the Pima Association of Governments (PAG), is dated July 2, 2013 and starts off, “Please note this resolution (2007-343) is six years old.” It goes on to lay out Huckelberry’s vision for I-11 complete with maps and land status information. That vision, which PAG and ADOT accept as county policy, has never been voted on by the Board of Supervisors or the voters. Resolution 2007-343 has never been repealed, although former Supervisor Ray Carroll early on said it might have to be to accommodate I-11.
The inescapable conclusion is that county policy is being made by the County Administrator without regard to policies established by his employers. Or by anyone else.
Another instance was just reported by the Arizona Daily Independent on February 7. Here the County Administrator inserted into the BOS Consent Agenda an extension of World View’s contract without additional compensation. This assumes, before the fact, that the BOS will appeal a judge’s ruling that the contract award was in violation of state law regulating procurements and gifts. According to the County Administrator, the county is exempt from those laws.
The Sonoran Corridor, formerly known as a bypass and I-11 extension and now called an auxiliary interstate, was rejected by voters in the 2015 bond elections. Its convoluted route gives a free access highway to Don Diamond’s planned Swan Southlands development. Going forward with it remains a county priority, with the county website stating currently: “The Sonoran Corridor is the county’s planned highway connection between Interstate 19 and 10 in an area south of the Tucson International Airport.”
In a concession to critics who noted that ADOT seem to use selected pro-I-11 news stories in their Scoping Summary Report, Ms. Apple said, “Moving forward, the I-11 study team intends to print a hard copy of every news article we capture through our clipping services and include it as part of our public records.” At least four Arizona Daily Independent stories were ignored in the Summary Report.
It should be noted that most of the public comments in the 1326-page Report opposed I-11 and any Avra Valley route. That does not include the 900 signers of an online petition opposing I-11. A few journalists actually looked at the comments and reported that public opposition, while many simply put their byline on ADOT’s press release, which (surprise!) ignored the opposition. The document can be viewed in full or in shorter segments at i11study.com; click on Arizona, and then on Reports.
The larger issue, indeed the elephant in the living room, is the assumption of unlegislated power by the County Administrator, and the failure of the Board of Supervisors – representing the voters – to curb him. The BOS, with the brave exception of Ally Miller, carries out Huckelberry’s directions, turning democracy upside down and tearing up existing law. Miller has been the target of Huckelberry-directed attacks, as shown by his emails reported by the Arizona Daily Independent and nowhere else. He and his staff have blatantly tried to influence her election in violation of state law, but the Arizona Attorney General’s office doesn’t seem to be interested.
A test of Huckelberry’s strength will come February 21 when the BOS votes whether or not to support Monsanto’s request for Foreign Trade Zone status, which reduces their property taxes by two-third. Two supervisors, Ally Miller and Richard Elias, have stated their opposition to a GMO corn seed factory in the Avra Valley near Marana High School and the herbicide exposure that could bring.
Huckelberry supporter Sharon Bronson can be expected to do the County Administrator’s bidding. Huckelberry ally Don Diamond made large contributions to Bronson’s campaign to narrowly defeat Kim DeMarco. Will newcomer Steve Christy, former State Transportation Board Chair and a close ally of Huckelberry’s on I-11, vote with Huckelberry or with the people? Will Ramón Valadez, who serves on the Pima Association of Government’s Regional Council, fall into line or vote with his constituents?
Stay tuned. Or better yet, contact your supervisor and tell them how you feel. Attend the February 21 BOS meeting and speak up. Democracy – use it or lose it!