There is an article of faith among a certain strain of our local grievance lobby that the money of hard-working taxpayers in the suburbs is unfairly spent on projects in Tucson and South Tucson, where people are presumably less hard-working and supposedly pay no taxes. This rhetoric is sometimes accompanied by the usual meaningless charges of socialism and is occasionally tainted by outright bigotry.
No local jurisdiction has made political hay from this notion more than Marana, which has spent the last few years in a dispute arising from an effort to seize control of a county waste water treatment facility without paying for it. Marana’s constant feuding with its neighbors and the county led the We-Hate-Tucson caucus in the legislature, under the leadership of former Representative Terri Proud, to take action. At first, she introduced a bill which would have given Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita veto power over any county bond package (If this was done to protect “small jurisdictions,” then why not include South Tucson? Or the tribal communities? I am sure that it has nothing to do with race, since it never does.). Proud argued for her bill by charging Pima County with communism and corruption, and by arguing that the nebbishly intellectual County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry was some kind of boogieman. When this effort stalled due to the fact that Oro Valley and Sahuarita did not appreciate being included in Marana’s petty feud, it became a much more modest bill calling instead for an audit of Pima County’s bond program.
Well, earlier this week, the Auditor General finished the audit. In a rebuke to Marana and Proud, they found that Marana’s share of bond projects was not only in line with the community’s contribution to county coffers, but that they actually came out a little ahead. The report even went on to praise the county’s open, deliberative process to create bond packages. So much for Pima County being a dictatorship.
The fact that Tucson receives the bulk of these projects is a simple product of geography. Tucson is by far the largest jurisdiction by population in the County, and it contributes the most in taxes as a community. Tucson is also a much older city, having originally been incorporated in 1825, while Marana was incorporated in 1977 and saw most of its growth in the 1990s. Therefore it has less issues with regard to aging infrastructure and unmet needs. Furthermore, Tucson is the center of economic activity in the County, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Whether Marana likes it or not, they will have to learn to get along with Tucson.
A bi-partisan group of Pima County legislators are running a bill to peaceably settle the wastewater dispute to the satisfaction of both sides, and the We-Hate-Tucson Caucus was decimated by the redistricting and the 2012 elections. All this bodes well for the future of regional cooperation in Pima County. Now that the Auditor General’s report, the one that they themselves requested, has deflated the mythology at the heart of their grievances, Marana has lost its last excuse for pigheadedness.
The complete Auditor General’s report can be found here.