Rio Nuevo: The Tucson Elite Gets the Cart Before the Horse

The COVID-19 pandemic has left the streets of downtown Tucson free from traffic and small businesses in Pima County shuttered.

I couldn’t help but get a big chuckle out of a recent RedStar op-ed by 2 of Tucson’s card-carrying elitist-icons, Lawrence Hecker and Fletcher McCusker, crying out for more downtown support.

Hecker, a prominent local attorney and Demshevik, who’s been around forever, and lays it on thick.

McCusker is the real deal.  A “full-cycle” entrepreneur who’s cashed out, quite the musician, and right-brained thinker.  A real renaissance guy.

But still, the ‘Mutt and Jeff’ of Wrong-Way-Tucson.

They’re big time boosters of Tucson’s downtown-centric, Rio Nuevo Tax Increment Financing District.   Their S.O.M. (standard operating model) is to recycle tax money the City of Tucson and Pima County don’t get, into private real estate deals.

I’m sympathetic to TIF districts, but they have to carry their own weight.  Really, who’d want to give these 2 dysfunctional municipal [‘gubbmint’] organizations, Tucson & PimaCo, another nickel?  McCusker is the el Hefe of Rio Nuevo.

Taxpayers should be concerned what ‘Larry & Fletch’ just telegraphed, is what my ex-VC sniffer would put in olfactory terms—a “discomfort letter” from the startup’s attorney.

Here, they did it as an op-ed in the RedStar.  Entitled, “Downtown Tucson Needs All Our Help.”  It’s a general call to keep this puppy afloat, at all costs.

Being a former degreed architect myself, I’ve had to take many a city planning course.  Every so many decades some theme emerges about city development that is just de rigueur amongst the city planning intelligencia.

Tucson’s Rio Nuevo is operating on one such theme, postulated in the late 1990’s by Richard Florida, called “attracting the ‘creative class’ to your city with a hipster downtown.”  It’s that simple.

In reality, Florida saw it as an upgrade, a marginal improvement to a fully functioning urban area, not a design template all by itself.  Unfortunately, that’s what Tucson is attempting now.

It’s been often said Tucson’s muse was Los Angeles or Austin. That’s a fantasy, pure & simple, from some of Richard’s rancid weed.  Many others have also noticed; Rio Nuevo should read “Richard Florida Can’t Let Go of His Creative Class Theory, His Reputation Depends on it.”

I submit instead Tucson’s muse should be El Paso; ….YES, EL PASO.   Tucson will never be the Valley of the Sun, as all those suffering from Phoenixphobia here proclaim.   But it’s got a shot at being an upgrade to El Paso.

Don’t laugh, they’ve raised the bar.  Oh-Boy-Howdy, has El Paso raised the bar! They got the horse first.

Sellers is a South Park Republican who lives in incorporated Oro Valley.  His background is federal tech-transfer commercialization. He is still on Facebook for the time being.

About Bill Sellers 49 Articles
Sellers is a South Park Republican who lives in incorporated Oro Valley.  His background is federal tech-transfer commercialization.  Contact him at Sellers is also a grad of Clemson’s Architecture School and the University of NC School of Business. He was a founding member of the Albuquerque Friday Morning Breakfast Group (’82-’96) which elected numerous conservatives. He has lived in the SouthWest & PacNorthWest more than 40 yrs.