I-11: Irony, Hypocrisy, And Defunct Democracy In Pima County

Pima County supervisors Sharon Bronson and Richard Elias appearing to engage the public [Photo courtesy Pima County Crack Communications Crew]

The May 16, 2017, Board of Supervisors meeting adopted a resolution written by the County Administrator’s office in defense of Ironwood Forest National Monument, one of the monuments to be reviewed in accord with President Donald Trump’s executive order.  The resolution calls the review “a threat to the integrity of our public lands.”

The irony is that Interstate 11, a threat to public lands and to private citizens and their homes, receives only silence now from the BOS who refuse to defend their own policy.  The Arizona Dept. of Transportation’s $15 million Interstate 11 Tier One Environmental Impact Study (EIS) – proposed and passed by then-State Transportation Board Chair and now-Supervisor Steve Christy — has laid out three alternative routes through the Tucson area, two of them through the Avra Valley and the other following I-10.  County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry laid out an Avra Valley route several years ago.

Comments on the alternatives are open until June 2, so this BOS meeting was the only regular session before that date, a last chance to correct the record.  The official position of the Board was adopted December 18, 2007 in Resolution 2007-343: “… 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.”

Just a few months ago Supervisor Bronson cited that resolution at an election forum in Picture Rocks stating that her position, and that of the entire Board, was in opposition to any I-11 route through the Avra Valley.  Yet Pima County’s position of record with ADOT is just the opposite, with this June 7, 2016, letter to the ADOT I-11 planners from the County Administrator:

“Pima County in 2013 developed a conceptual route for the I-11 Corridor through Avra Valley west of Tucson….  In developing this route we sought to demonstrate that a potential route exists through this undeveloped region rather than employing the existing I-19 and I-10 corridors….”  The record shows that the BOS was not sent a copy of that letter.

Setting aside very serious issues of gross insubordination, and of using County resources and money to subvert The Board’s adopted policy, residents are confused now about just who speaks for the County – the elected board, or Mr. Huckelberry?  During the May 16 Call to the Public it was pointed out that Mr. Huckelberry’s misrepresentations stand as the County’s official position of record on I-11 – to sacrifice the communities, jobs, tourist attractions, wildlife and archaeological treasures of the Avra Valley to ADOT’s stated I-11 goal of sending jobs across the border.

Resolution 2007-343 called for expanding existing transportation corridors. ADOT itself admits that double-decking just six miles of I-10 would do everything they want at 1/3 the cost of a new highway, saving taxpayers nearly $2 billion.  Even the City of Tucson told ADOT that using the existing I10 and I-19 corridors makes more sense!

The Avra Valley Coalition on May 16 urged the Supervisors to “act now before it’s too late.  And please let us know that you did so so we can tell the many voters who oppose Mr. Huckelberry’s highway or ADOT’s tweaks that you have not abdicated your responsibilities; that this Board does mean what it says, that you can control your hired hand, that democracy in Pima County is not defunct. Please tell us you will correct the record.  It requires no new action, merely transmittal of your adopted position.”

Chairperson Bronson, the rest of the BOS, and the County Administrator sat in stone-faced silence.

While no funding has been yet identified for I-11 in Southern Arizona and construction is years away, it was made a priority with amendments to the 2015 federal FAST Act  with the full bipartisan support of Arizona’s Congressional delegation, including McCain, Flake and Grijalva.  Decisions made in the next year with ADOT’s EIS planners deciding on a “preferred alternative” will impact the people and wildlife of the Avra Valley for all time.

Hundreds have spoken out again and again at public meetings against the ADOT-Huckelberry Highway.  Over 1200 people have signed an online petition of opposition to any new Avra Valley highway.  State and federal agencies have raised serious issues about the negative impacts of any Avra Valley route.  It’s cheaper by a lot to stay on I-10.  But the elected Pima County Board of Supervisors will not speak out in defense of their own resolution, will not call to account their hired hand for vastly overstepping his authority.

If Resolution 2007-343 is of no force and its authors and adopters will not defend it, then – sad to say – the future of Ironwood Forest National Monument has to look pretty bleak as well.  If the resolution adopted May 16 is treated like 2007-343, it will join as a growing testament to hypocrisy.  Some will blame the president, but the truth will be much closer to home, is bi-partisan, and is a sad corruption of the democracy we thought we lived in.

11 Comments on "I-11: Irony, Hypocrisy, And Defunct Democracy In Pima County"

  1. Supervisor Bronson cited that resolution at an election forum in Picture Rocks stating that her position, and that of the entire Board, was in opposition to any I-11

    And you idiots still elected her when she couldn’t even tell the truth about driving through a wash. You get the government you deserve and you so richly deserve Bronson and her cronies. SSDD in Pima County politics. You had the opportunity to change and you blew it big time. Hope you like the results.

  2. Rep. Mark Finchem, AZ LD-11 | May 17, 2017 at 6:50 am | Reply

    Outstanding article holding elected accountable. This gives pause to consider, has anyone followed the money? Who has purchased the land in the proposed corridor most recently? Who stands to gain?

    With changes coming to transportation modalities over the next 15 years, why is this project being pushed so hard? I oppose the I-11 concept as it is currently plotted.

    • In this day and age, its all you got to do Mark. Follow the money. However I would assume in this case the real owners are buried under about 5 shell companies. One developer I know that will prosper from this is Don Diamond. Huckelberry will give him his own little off ramp on the “Sonoran” corridor that will tie in with I-ll. You know that little development known as Swan Southlands…

    • Albert Lannon | May 17, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Reply

      Thanks Mark. Our research shows that at least 1500 vacant acres along the Huckelberry Highway I-11 route are owned by Mesa real estate speculator Wil Cardon, failed GOP candidate in the primaries for US Senate and Secretary of State. On Cardon’s last campaign committee were Don Diamond and Diamond Ventures president Eliot Goldstein. On Huckelberry’s original map what is now called the Sonoran Corridor was labeled I-11. Instead of a straight east-west connection between I-10 and I-19, it drops south to give Diamond’s planned 3000-acre Swan Southlands development a free access highway. Diamond was the largest contributor (by a lot!) to Sharon Bronson’s last re-election campaign, putting her over the top in a close race with Kim DeMarco. Perhaps this is why the Sonoran Corridor, turned down by voters in the bond election, goes full steam ahead. Bronson-Huckelberry-Diamond-Cardon: crony capitalism at its most corrupt.

      Meanwhile, I’ve been told by three people whose multi-acre properties are in the Huckelberry Highway path that their assessed valuations have been dropping significantly in the past couple of years, perhaps so that the county can get them on the cheap when the time comes.

  3. Richard Hernandez | May 17, 2017 at 7:26 am | Reply

    She a idiot first class. Bronson stop working for the people 30 days after her first election several decades ago.

    As to who runs Pima county? What you seriously don’t think the board does, right. OMG 😱 the only time Chuck worries is around election time and he has Brad Nelson cheat at the counting of ballots.

    A note for all of you from Avra Valley , this is what you get for not working as a community to make sure Bronson did not win again, again, again, again, again….

  4. What, Again | May 17, 2017 at 8:03 am | Reply

    Keep Tucson poor and isolated. No new interstates! Just say NO to growth and prosperity!

  5. Richard Hernandez | May 17, 2017 at 10:31 am | Reply

    Growth & prosperity for ALL residents not just the cronies who enjoy the wealth at tax payers expense.

    We need to get the people paying for this expansion to support it. So let me refer you to the Bond vote, people said NO.

    • What, Again | May 17, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Reply

      “Growth & prosperity for ALL residents…”

      That would be communism. And every time the result is the same, poverty and loss of freedom.

  6. What again, even when taxes are raised for ‘projects’ they never get initiated or finished if they are. When you raise the taxes/fees required to build in pima co you can expect folks to not come. They gave away the farm for some mexican bean cannery and it never came, slime fast stayed here about a year then ran away from all the freebies. Only thing we have now is a supposed ‘balloon ride’ company that got around $20 million FREE, and they will probably not show up. City gave up farm to get catapillar, havent heard if they even showed up yet. So as is noted daily SSDD, so much for ‘growth and prosperity’ its not wanted by the clowns that run things, please note I did not say local leaders as we have none.

  7. Tucson politicians have been and always will be a joke. A perfect example is that statue of Pancho Villa in the park downtown. Villa was a Mexican criminal who crossed the border into Arizona, robbed, raped and murdered American citizens. So much so that our army was mobilized to capture or kill him. What does Mexico do? They give Tucson a statue of the criminal to place in the then center of town. I can’t help but think this was a joke by Mexico to show just how stupid Tucson politicians were. John Dillinger was in Tucson, spent some of his money here too, should we put a Dillinger statue next to Villa?

  8. I stand with Mark Finchem. Follow the money trail. Personally, I’ve always advocated Big Rail expansion, not more Big Roads & Big Rigs, which are so yesterday, not in keeping with the sweeping green revolution, destructive to our local environment, contributory to more global pollution. Why go on. We all know the deal. More than a few folks stand for huge short term gain with this I-11 chimera.

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