In Defense of Elitism: Tucson Needs Fewer “Proxy Groups”

Former Democratic Tucson mayoral candidate Steve Farley, SALC's Ted Maxwell, and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero in 2019.

Please forgive me if I sound like Johnny-1-Note here; but after reviewing the successful vs. unsuccessful cities with whom I’m personally familiar, both in the West and the South, I had a bit of an epiphany.

All the struggling, unsuccessful cities shared a common characteristic: too many “proxy groups”;  i.e. assemblies of local do-gooders, sanctimonious crusaders, either on the Left or the Right, impassioned concerned citizens, the disaffected, disillusioned, or paranoid, that simply clog things up.  In effect, they create a cacophony of bogus wants & needs, overwhelm normal political processes, leading to decades of dysfunction & division.

I term these groups ‘proxies’ because they can never quite wrap their heads around the critical need to take normal, direct action.   Some are more powerful than others.

The successful cities on the other hand, had positive ‘direct action’ groups.  In olden days, these were known as The Establishment; not any longer, technology has changed all that.  (a topic for another time)

Positive ‘direct action groups’ eschewed the passive; they were effective because they single-mindedly accomplished their agenda.  They created the policies, made the local politicians toe-the-line, and weren’t cowered by sophomoric, gadfly-boobs in the (non-local, franchised) media.  In many cases they owned the local media, recognizing its enormous power.

Currently, the Tucson Metro’s political spectrum is awash in Hard-Left propaganda, policies, and utter bilge.  As the demographics speed-up, driven by Arizona’s booming (non Pima) economy, there’s little time left with which to balance this absurd misallocation.  I first wrote about this unfolding 2030 disaster in Woke Tucson’s Anti-Growth Ethos = Death by Demography. 

On the positive side of the ledger, the Metro has had for nearly the last quarter-century, a so-called business group, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC), made up largely of foundation non-profits, quasi government enterprises, public education types, utility monopolies, some concerned real estate developers, car dealers, and attorneys, etc.

Yet during its ~25 year tenure, SALC has presided over an amazing decline in the City’s overall economic vitality.   Those stats are clearly evident, just ask the Phoenix-based researchers at the Elliott Pollack Company.   Maybe SALC should rebrand itself as a “proxy group which identifies as a direct-action group”? 

Still and all, I don’t want to give up on SALC; I just want them to get more effective.

A broadly dynamic Tucson that delivers opportunity and future optimism will not be had merely for the asking.  It takes a realistic mindset, truly creative risk taking, and a steely willingness to sometimes play hardball.

It’s been almost 10 years since my old friend, urban consultant Mark Lautman, gave Tucson the hard news; if they kept on doing what they were doing, they’d keep on missing opportunities, their talent base would leave, and one day the opportunities would go away altogether.

Tucson’s solution to all this? the Rio Nuevo tax-subsidized downtown (the jury’s still out).  Others didn’t think so conventionally.  Chattanooga’s solution: muni fiber-broadband for everyone, instead of thousands of cable cartel 5G towers; Raleigh-Durham’s solution (circa 1965): the Research Triangle Park; Boise’s solution: (like ASU-Tempe) university-driven, tech incubators citywide; El Paso’s solution: cleanup downtown, build transportation infrastructure, embrace manufacturing (not “trade”) with Mexico.   The list goes on.

If Tucson’s SALC is going to get more effective, it will have to ditch its statist ways, its entrenched interests, and start coloring outside the lines.  All the while kicking the Metro’s unaccountable Hard-Left politicos and corrupt Leftist print media to the curb.

The Big Question: do they really have the clear-sighted determination?

Sellers is a Southpark Republican living in incorporated Oro Valley; his background is federal technology commercialization, and can be found at “Metro Tucson E-P-T News” on Facebook



About Bill Sellers 54 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.