Huckelberry Lost, Rare Victory For Pima County Residents

huckelberry
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry (left) and Assistant County Attorney Andy Flagg (right).

Pima County taxpayers—specifically those who have been paying attention and voting in county elections with some level of awareness—won a victory this past week, for the first time in years. After fiery debate and inordinate levels of tension, three of the four other Supervisors voted to support District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller’s plan to evaluate a county budget that will leave tax rates untouched.

The electorate has, in recent years, repeatedly and handily defeated spending and taxation increases in Pima County. Each time, the Huckelberry waste machine has dishonestly spun the loss as a pyrrhic victory for the voters and as an affront to the poor in the country’s fifth most-impoverished metropolitan area; until now, the propaganda machine could demonize people other than county leaders for failing to raise taxes.

Not this time.

Breaking from tradition, all of the Board except District 5’s intractable Richard Elías voted in favor of considering simple, reasonable cost savings that in no way detract from the services Pima County offers today.

And, with that, Chuck Huckelberry can only point his feeble finger at the supervisors, the very people at whose pleasure he serves, being an unelected, appointed bureaucrat.

For once, the second highest-paid county administrator in America, the stalwart proponent of the I-11 blight on the Sonoran Desert, the insatiable tax-grabber Huckelberry has come up against those who have for decades kept him fattened at the trough of tax money. And that, indeed, is a rare victory for all citizens of the county.

 

To put the budget into perspective, Supervisor Miller has asked the sprawling list of county departments to trim a collective $10.6 million dollars from the budget. At a total of over $1.3 billion for the entire budget in fiscal year 2018/2019, that $10.6 million amounts to an infinitesimal 0.79%—just more than three-quarters of one percent—of the current year’s budget. And the county can reach that goal in part by leaving unfilled positions as such for just a couple of months this summer.

That would be the same summer during which part-time residents leave Pima County and have no need for this county’s services. In a recent study from the College of Business at Northern Arizona University, those winter visitors increase gross sales in the county by a factor of ten percent; the county can wait to fill vacancies until later in the year, and those of us staying through the hottest months will never notice.

Of course, perpetual Miller-detractor and now lone-wolf Elías quickly took to the media with a tirade of fear-mongering over that perennial canard, public safety. Of course, his argument is provably false.

Supervisor Miller’s thoughtful plan hands victory also to the Sheriff’s Department, offering as much as a 5% salary increase to those enduring public servants. That raise compounds the similar payrate increases and retention incentives the county offered deputies and corrections officers this year, fiscal 2018/2019. And, contrary to what the Huckelberry-Elías disinformation machine would have you believe, the Miller plan indeed never suggested the proposed hiring freeze apply to public safety personnel.

Unless some crime wave suddenly whips up, and with a significant portion of Pima County’s winter population elsewhere for the summer, the winning Miller plan will improve funding to the Sheriff’s Department, without it asking for a single new dime from the taxpayer.

Huckelberry has nowhere to run after this vote: The counter-argument his cronies are spinning is laughably invalid. The plurality of the Board of Supervisors, the taxpaying electorate, and even the tax man himself (County Assessor Bill Staples) support a fiscally-responsible budget for 2019/2020. There is no blame he can place, no scapegoat he can damn: Chuck just lost.

And, thanks to Supervisor Miller, we all just won.