During public discussions of the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO, Mike Varney claimed that his organization was the voice of the Tucson business community. Varney was making the grand claim as part of his campaign to save he job of TUSD’s Superintendent H.T. Sanchez.
Many of Varney’s statements were questionable, some were patently false, and some too hyperbolic to accept as anything but blather.
Because of the nature of his claims, verification would be difficult. However, his claim that his organization is the “voice” of Tucson business can, and should be scrutinized.
Per the City of Tucson’s website, there are 37,756 business licenses currently active. Per Varney, the Chamber has over 1600 local businesses. Contrary to Varney’s claims, according to his own website, the Chamber represents approximately 1480 business and other organizations.
Giving Varney the benefit of the doubt, the 1600 business he claims to represent only represents less than 4 percent of the licensed business in town.
Of the less than 4 percent of the business community he represents, 520 or slightly less than 30 percent are national corporations like Wal-Mart and Walgreens, and banks like Chase, and Bank of America.
Of the less than 4 percent of the “business community” his organization represents, 176 are colleges within, or divisions of, the University of Arizona such as the Division for Late Medieval & Reformation Studies and the School of Dance.
The Tucson Unified School District, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Boys and Girls Club, Casa de los Ninos, Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, Habitat for Humanity Tucson, Pima Community College, and the Tanque Verde Unified School District are counted among the business members of the Chamber.
It is hard to imagine that Tucson Metro Chamber Chairman of the Board Robert Ramirez of Vantage West Credit Union, and Board members Larry Lucero of UNS Energy Corporation, Tom McGovern of PSOMAS, David Lopez-Monroy of BeachFleischman PC, Sherry Downer of the Law Office of Sherry Janssen Downer, Ghee Alexander of the Hilton El Conquistador Resort, Bill Assenmacher of CAID Industries, Dr. Amy Beiter of Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital, Tannya Gaxiola of the University of Arizona, Stephanie Healy of Cox Communications, Mark Irvin of Mark Irvin Commercial Real Estate Services, Ben Korn of Safeguard, Robert Lenhard of Hallmark Business Consultants, Jill Malick of Wells Fargo, Tim Medcoff of Farhang & Medcoff, Mitch Pisik of Pisik Consulting Group, Barbi Reuter of Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR, Walter Richter of Southwest Gas Corp., Steve Rosenberg of BizTucson Magazine, JB Shockey of Crest Insurance Group, Lea Standridge of Raytheon Missile Systems, Howard Stewart of AGM Container Controls, Inc., Cristie Street of Nextrio, and Matt Wandoloski of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, would appreciate being dragged into a personnel issue turned political. Yet, that is exactly what Varney did.
Varney out on a limb
Given the fact that the duly elected members of the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board represent hundreds of thousands of voters across the Tucson metropolitan area, and those voters do business with Varney’s small membership, his act of defiance is unfathomable.
As local business leader, Jim Campbell noted noted in his letter to Varney, support for Sanchez is as unfathomable.