Pima County supervisors ignore will of voters with January 8th Memorial approval

OPINION

In 2015, two thirds of Pima County voters rejected a bond proposal that included $25 million of renovations to  Item 21 of Proposition 27: Old Pima County Courthouse Restoration, January 8th memorial, Tucson Museum of Art. Last week, Supervisors Bronson, Elias and Valadez, once again ignored the will of the voters and approved yet another contract for that project, bringing the total budget to approximately $35 million.

For a full list of 2015 bond projects that were all rejected by the voters of Pima County,  click here: 2015 bond projects.

The budget for the January 8th Memorial portion of the project is now set at $2.5 million plus expenses. The Board majority has agreed to pay for construction, management, and the excavation and cataloging of artifacts in front of the courthouse where the Memorial will be placed. Final costs for that portion of the project are ongoing and indeterminable until final construction is complete. These costs are being accumulated under other contracts already issued for the courthouse project, which makes it difficult to segregate costs being paid by county taxpayers being incurred specifically for the January 8th Memorial project.

In a memorandum to the supervisors, (Read CHH memo) Huckelberry expressed the urgency to fast track this project for a January 1st, 2020 completion. What exactly is the urgency? Many have questioned whether the location will be used as a political platform for U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly.

After the vote, I heard from outraged constituents, who voiced the same concerns as I have for years.  Voters in Pima County are asking why they bother to vote on these bonds if the Board of Supervisors and Huckelberry can simply ignore the will of the voters and move forward with projects using general fund monies as well as using taxpayer owned buildings as collateral on a type of financing known as Certificates of Participation (COPS).

In 2017, after the 2015 bond election had failed, a bill, HB2436 (Read bill overview here) was introduced at the Arizona Legislature at the behest of local supporters of the January 8th Memorial seeking state taxpayer funding for the project. The bill failed when the unpopular bill was held form a hearing in the Arizona  Senate.

The January 8th Memorial Foundation financials demonstrate they haven’t had strong community support in raising the $2,500,000 to fund the memorial. Yet in a memo dated February 28, 2019, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry advised supervisors that the January 8th Memorial Foundation’s Board members and President “indicate they are able to raise additional funds to meet the construction cost low bid and, in addition, may make some minor modifications to the cost elements of the Memorial through value engineering.”

In a response from former congressman Ron Barber (Read letter here), who is the president of the January 8th Memorial Foundation he wrote the following on February 28th, 2019:

“…. Now that the bids are in hand and the low bidder has been identified, we want to let you know what the Foundation will do to help address the higher construction costs that are contained in that bid.

Our community is currently experiencing a construction boom, which has resulted in bids that came in higher than the funds we raised and subsequently transferred to the County. In anticipation that the bids might come in high, the Foundation Board of Directors has discussed how we could address that problem should it arise.

Following the close of our fundraising campaign, we have received unsolicited donations. These funds and money we have set aside for the operation of the Foundation, amount to $200,000. We will transfer these funds to the County to help cover the base construction bid, which came in higher than the budget estimate.

In response to your request that we confirm that we will receive additional donations to make up any difference between the construction cost estimate and the low bid before the end of the Memorial’s construction, we are contacting donors to ask for contributions to the Foundation. We have received a very positive response so far and have more donors to contact. We fully intend to raise the additional money needed to cover the higher bid costs and we will get this done before the end of the Memorial construction….”

We hear a lot of lip service from Huckelberry and my fellow supervisors about equity. I continue to ask the same question: What is fair and equitable about taking money from our cash strapped residents for the benefit of the special interests?

In other words, once again Pima County taxpayers are lending private entities money while our residents continue to live in a community where the roads are crumbling all around them.

At the same time, the majority of the Board of Supervisors continues funding a lobbyist at the state legislature who is advocating  to raise taxes on the residents of the 5th poorest metropolitan area in the country.

Once again, the taxpayers of this community who so desperately want the roads repaired are being told they need to go to the back of the line.  It seems there is always another crony deal that is more important to the special interests than the will of the people of Pima County.

At what point will fixing the roads move to the front of the line? At what point will taxpayers send a message that enough is enough?

10 Comments

  1. These people keep getting re-elected so I can only conclude that this game is ok with a lot of Pima County voters.

    • The bigger question is why the Pima GOP is not making it a priority to take control of the Pima County BOS. If the GOP can retain the seats held by Ally Miller and Steve Christy (a provably reasonable goal) they only need one more seat to take control of the Board and oust Huckleberry. Supervisor Bronson whose teerm is up next year won her last election by only 3,000 votes against a first time candidate, Kim Demarco and if the GOP were to win the seat in 2020 it would also win the majority on the BOS. For those interested in fundamental change away from the cronyism and corruption of Huckleberry`s Pima County this MUST be the political focus at this time.

      • Luke, WHAT pima co GOP? They claim to have one but they must be deeply embedded with the DEMOCRAPS as none ever comes out to play. As to electing them fat chance, they would have an r behind the name and that there disqualifies them out of the box as the local idiots can only vote for corrupt politicians!

  2. Never seen anything like this. Its all about the cronies all the time. It used to be done in the back room and now its in your face and what the hell are you going to do about it. Hell yes, its about politics, Kelly and the Giffords family. Why the hell do you think World View got approved and fast tracked. All about Gabby and the family. And what are the voters in the county going to do about it??? NOT ONE THING. THEY WILL BEND OVER AND SAY THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER…….

  3. Yes so true ADI. They dont represent the people of Pima County for sure.

    Hi ho hi ho, off to jail they go ( dont loose hope ) soon the truth will be known. Even the truth will not change some of the peope who vote for them. Let us focus on tbose who are practical, logical, ethical, honest. BTW that illiminates many of the extremest on both sides of the isles.

  4. And this surprises who? Keep electing people that think they know better than the voters and this is what you will continue to get.

    “Many have questioned whether the location will be used as a political platform for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly.” Do you think???

  5. he will set up a tent on the locaation and call it campaign headquarters and have the bill board company install a sign and then charge it back to the voters. They never will acknowledge their fault in what happened that day and they will trot the princess out to mumble about how she was a NRA member until……

    So ol crap everyday for the local idiots to spoon feed on without ever getting anything back except diarrhea.

  6. Native Tucsonan’s have one major thought;why isn’t there a memorial park honoring the 29 victims of the Pioneer Hotel tragedy back in December,1970. Lots of famous and $rich$ philanthropy people
    died in this incident. Horrible experience! Besides…our governmental departments & local agencies have been heavily blindsided in qualities of safety. ROADS & STREETS should be their mandated development for Tucson. Our local government managed to succeed bringing in major business’s BUT not one bit prepared for population growth with expanded volumes in traffic. Especially in the outskirts of hundreds of thousands “Native Tucsonan’s” born, raised and living in Tucson. It is WE that know nothing but the truth, in being disregarded to these Supervisor’s duties. Wake-up! You’ve forgotten about the too many.

  7. What the shady characters on the BOS are thinking: “If the voters are dumb enough to elect us, they aren’t smart enough to make any other decisions for themselves.”

  8. Ally, I agree 100%! Thanks for this informative article. This also applies to the roads. We, the voters turned down the road bond in 2018. We don’t want bonds, and don’t pay for it with general funds!

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