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Tucson, where they hunt for scorpions with blacklights in homes

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona is a real place (sort of) located in the southeastern part of what is proposed to be Baja Arizona.

A metropolitan area of about one million people, Tucsonans are known for their fierce opposition to anything remotely urban looking, such as large buildings and freeways.

The principal economic activities in the area include land speculation, land development, land fraud, missile making, pottery, and answering telephones for companies (except Microsoft). Not surprisingly, the average family income in Tucson is eight thousand dollars less than in Phoenix.

Tucson experiences temperatures as high as 117 degrees in the summer, has an average annual rainfall of less than 12 inches, and the area around Tucson is home to more kinds of poisonous snakes, insects and lizards than anywhere in the world. Residents in the desert areas surrounding the city routinely use blacklights to search their rooms for poisonous scorpions clinging to the ceiling, before going to bed. This information is provided in case you might be thinking of moving to Tucson.

Politically, Tucson is mostly Democrat. But Tucson has about 500,000 environmental and neighborhood groups and most local elections are referenda on growth issues. Notwithstanding an extremely active opposition to growth,the urban area continues to sprawl in all directions, stopped only by mountain ranges and Indian reservations. The cartoon character Tilly is based on real statements made by Tucsonans at public hearings.

For more information about Tucson:

Arizona Daily Star (morning paper)

Tucson Weekly (local alternative rag)


Tucson's website directory

Tucson City Government

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, where you can see all the critters

Tucson's water supply



500,000 HORSES

It ought to be obvious to everyone that the people of Tucson donít want a transportation solution that costs them any money . And there is no way anyone is going to force the typical Tucsonan to ride a bus or a train.

Could it be Tucsonans really like sitting in their cars for half an hour waiting for traffic lights to turn green? The alternative is to spend more time with loved ones. Or working and being productive.

Tucson needs to think totally out of the box to solve its transportation issues. Here is a modest proposal:

500,000 horses.

Historically this was a horse community. Why not leap back to the 19th century and run the Cityís transportation system on pure unadulterated horse power.

Buy every household a horse from the proceeds of a half-cent sales tax. That would cost around $100 million. Replace Sun Tran with a Sun Stage. Force all commercial deliveries to be made by horse-drawn wagon.

Tear up all the asphalt parking lots and turn them into pastures or corrals. Donít bother maintaining the streets. Let them crumble into dirt because horses do fine on dirt.

Recycle the tons of horse poop that would be generated to grow the 7.5 million tons of hay per day needed to feed all the horses. Use Tucsonís treated wastewater to grow the hay.

Black-smithing and saddle-making could become leaders in Tucsonís 19th century industrial economy. Beats telemarketing centers.>

There would be no hydrocarbon induced smog over the city.

Teenagers could race horses down Speedway at night.

Drunk driving would be a memory. Even if the rider is soused, a horse always knows the way home.

And Tucson would become world-famous tourist attraction.

And Tucson would never be called a "one horse town" again.


Once again the drums are beating to "save" downtown Tucson with yet another city government scheme. This one is called "Rio Nuevo" or "new river".

Tucson was originally born on the banks of the Santa Cruz River a long time ago. Once there were Carrilloís Gardens and the Elysian Grove and Silverlake. There were places with water that people enjoyed. Farms were irrigated with the flowing waters of the Santa Cruz. There are pictures of this once-upon-a-time Tucson.

Tucson once had a thriving Hispanic center. I remember it because as kids in the late 50's we used to hang out at the Lyric Theater and there used to be a really neat surplus store on south Meyer.

The waters of the Santa Cruz vanished, sucked dry by City wells feeding Tucsonís growing suburban (and mostly Anglo) sprawl to the east.

Then Tucsonís leaders decided downtown needed urban renewal, which translated into flattening everything even remotely Hispanic or historical, and replacing the heart of the city with a convention center and a cluster of government buildings. A few remnants of Tucsonís past were saved as museums.

The end result was a soulless government complex adjacent to a dead river. And the government buildings began to proliferate like a cancer, driving out whatever remained of Tucsonís downtown commercial function. The ultimate insult was the Leninís Tomb style library planted in front of the elegant old Pima County Court House. Too bad they didnít put gravestones on the library lawn listing all the dead businesses that used to occupy the sites of all the government structures downtown.

All downtown Tucson means to most Tucsonans is the place where they pay their traffic tickets, get dragged into jury duty, or have to go to in order to protest the next installment of Tucsonís growth wars. None of these are fun.

And, to see what Rio Nuevo is evolving into, the past is likely to be repeated. While the Sonoran Sea Aquarium sounded a little crazy, at least it was generated by locals. Tucson has a history of disregarding any input from its own talented real people, in order to adopt the style of some other place that never was Tucson. Itís like weíre afraid of ourselves. Thus, some outfit from Boston was awarded the aquarium project, stranding the locals like Santa Cruz Sand Trout. Then the aquarium project bit the dust because it didnít pencil out.

More recently an open house type event was held to hear presentations for an historic park development at the base of "A" Mountain. The competing proposals seek to recreate the lost soul and history of Tucson. The debate is how authentic should the recreation be. No one wants to note that had there been any appreciation of our heritage and history, the area to be recreated wouldnít look like a battlefield needing reconstruction.

Maybe the answer for Rio Nuevo is to develop Rio Viejo ("Old River"). Put everything back that once existed in downtown. Rebuild the barrio that was torn down in the name of progress. Recreate Carrilloís Gardens. Make the Santa Cruz flow again, at least for a mile. And bring back the real people. The Hispanics who gave Tucson its culture and its history.

Where is the Santa Cruz River Apache Band of historical role players  staging mock attacks on the Anglo invaders downtown?  Just think what a tourist attraction would be created if at 2 PM every Saturday and Sunday a band of Apaches burst into downtown, surrounded the Unisource Building, and tried to burn it down firing flaming arrows at the windows.



Recent news accounts proclaimed metropolitan Pima Countyís population reached one million the other day.

It is going to get really hard for anyone in the metro Tucson area to keep a straight face while claiming Tucsonís isnít like Phoenix.

I live 40 miles south of downtown Tucson in Tubac. At night the glow from Tucson is like a giant fire that is getting bigger and bigger, consuming more and more of the countryside. Eventually even Tubac is going to get sucked up into the massive sprawl creeping our way.

Back in the 1950's, when Tucson was less than 100,000 people, the edges of the city were at Country Club, Grant, Benson Highway, and A Mountain.Out beyond those boundaries was countryside complete with ranches, cows, horses, and lots of desert. Thatís the Tucson I grew up in as a kid.

Fifty some years later the edge of Tucsonís metro area is in Marana, Oro Valley, Vail and Green Valley. It is an urban complex 50 miles across--roughly 2,500 square miles.

Tucson is rapidly turning into a metroplex--a vast sea of suburbia with a core city and thousands of square miles of stucco. Right now Phoenix is 90 miles across east to west and 70 miles north to south. Ninety miles is roughly the distance between the northern town limits of Marana and the airport in Nogales, Sonora. And Nogales, Sonora is already at 400,000 and will be over a million people in the next 20 years.

Thus, the Tucson-Nogales metroplex is already 1.5 million people, and will be the size Phoenix is today by 2030.

Lets call it the Santa Cruz Valley Metroplex. That way neither Tucson nor Nogales will be blamed.

The closest things to a regional approach in the Santa Cruz Valley Metroplex are the Countyís Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan which doesnít reach into Santa Cruz County, and the Arizona Department of Transportationís forecast that Interstate 19 will have to be expanded to 10 lanes in the future (probably 10 years later than the actual traffic volume will justify).

The problem all along has been the refusal of anyone, except land speculators, to realize how big Tucson could be.

There has been a misguided belief that if one refuses to deal with growth, like building roads, somehow the place wonít grow. I always wondered why no one has done a survey of new residents to see if they called up before they moved to Tucson and checked out the water supply and the road system. I never met anyone who did.

As Tucson has grown, it has become "desert dixie" statistically.

It is amusing to read debates about blocking higher development impact fees so new homes remain affordable, when the only really affordable housing  most people can buy is a trailer (oops...a manufactured home). Tucson is a place where football coaches are more important than Nobel Prize winners.

So...as Tucson grows even bigger does that mean itíll have a winning football team to boast of?

Will the air quality improve?

Will there be an alternative to cars to get around the Santa Cruz Valley Metroplex?

Will passenger trains run from Marana to Nogales and Three Points to Vail?

Will home invasion murders continue to increase?

Will Tucson become the first urban heat island caused by the vast number of mobile homes baking in Sonoran Desert sunshine?

Meanwhile, Tubac seems to many Tucsonans, to be far away. Like 40 minutes. Which is the same amount of time it takes to drive to downtown Tucson from Oro Valley. And we are a local Tucson exchange phone number. We still have ranches and horses and cows and open space around us.

It finally has dawned on the Pima County Board of Supervisors that the only way to keep Tucson from sprawling all the way into northern Sonora and southern Pinal County is to raise a whole bunch of money and buy every big piece of vacant private and state land around the current city.

Failing that,refusing to pave any rural roads and leaving the ranches and horses and cows on the vacant land is a pretty good way to hold urban sprawl at bay, since the typical rural folk donít like big city life much no how. And city folk hate driving on dirt roads and living next to horses and cows.


TUCSON: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced today that Mount Lemmon will host the 2020 Winter Olympics. Mount Lemmon is America's southern-most ski resort, located just north of the capital of Baja Arizona.

"We're very surprised at the announcement," said Wally Wilbert, chairman of the Mount Lemmon Olympic Committee. "We didn't think we'd be taken seriously by the IOC considering we were competing against world class ski resorts from all over the planet."

Mount Lemmon, with 2 ski runs, will require several billion dollars worth of improvements to host the Winter Olympics, plus a lot of snow.

Rumors quickly spread that the Mount Lemmon Olympic Committee won the coveted designation as host of the 2010 winter games solely on the strength of a costly lobbying effort on the part of Donald Goldmine, owner of most of Mount Lemmon.

"So I spent a few million buying gifts for the IOC members, " said Goldmine, a notorious local developer. "I didn't do anything anyone else hasn't done in the past to win the games."

Residents of Tucson, located at the base of Mount Lemmon, were stunned to learn their local joke of a ski resort would host the Winter Olympics. "Most years there isn't enough snow on the mountain to even slide down a slope on a garbage can lid," said Peter Franken, head of the local chapter of the Ski Patrol.

Potential competitors in the winter games were equally surprised at the announcement. "You'd think they'd at least pick some place that had a winter," said Karoly Grobnik, winner of the 1996 downhill.

IOC members were not available for comment, as they were vacationing at a posh resort in Tucson, owned by Mr. Goldmine.


The Sabino Canyon Glacier, located on Mount Lemmon, doubled in size by growing 3 feet this year, it was reported today by the National Park Service.

The last remnant of the Pliestocene ice sheet, the Baja Arizona glacier had been steadily melting for 10,000 years.

"The snow in early December really helped," added the Parks spokesperson.

The glacier, which is located high up in Sabino Canyon just below the Mount Lemmon Ski Resort, was set aside as a National Park last month.

The southern-most glacier in the United States, the Sabino Glacier is also the smallest.Because the glacier is so small, its location is a secret. "We're afraid someone will stumble on it and chop it up to cool their beer," said the park person.


Panic reigned in City Hall as the deadly St. Louis Encephalitis virus was confirmed in mosquitoes caught at the City of Tucson's Sweetwater Wetland near Silverbell Road.

"First it was TCE in the water, then our CAP water ate up a hundred million dollars worth of pipes, and then we discovered our groundwater was radioactive," said a spokesman for Tucson Water who requested anonymity. "Now we've got mosquitoes in our wetland that kill people. What next?"

Next is an election on November 2nd where Neighborhood Goddess Molly McKasson will probably be elected Mayor of the city, and a proposition might pass really screwing up Tucson's ability to develop a rational water policy.

Rumors that Bob Beaudry and his Insane Water Policy Group had been invited to the Sweetwater Wetland for a tour of a recharge project remain unconfirmed.

"It is a fact that to accomplish the kind of recharge of CAP water that Beaudry's group wants involves the creation of a lot more mosquito habitat," said a representative of current Mayor George Miller. "So, we can't use our groundwater because it glows in the dark, and we can't recharge CAP water because it will breed mosquitoes. I guess the people of Tucson will have to learn how to drink sand." Miller is not running for re-election.

Various academics attempted to down play the risk of being infected by the City's mosquitoes. "Then again, no one has mentioned the risk of getting Dengue Fever from the damned insects," said Bill Fleaman, head of the General Delivery University Department of Insect Control. Dengue Fever is a tropical disease, carried by mosquitoes, that causes an extremely high fever. "It is commonly known as rumpe huesos of break bone fever in Mexico," Fleaman added.

Ironically, the mosquito problem is caused by Tucson having created a wetland for habitat restoration purposes. "A century ago wetlands were very common in the Tucson area, before all the groundwater mining dried up the rivers," said the late Sam Hughes, a pioneer Tucsonan. "But malaria was also very common back then," he added.

As more wetlands are created, for CAP recharge purposes, or to restore habitat for the numerous endangered species being discovered in the Tucson area by the Southwest Center For Human Extinction, the chances of the residents of the city being bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes and dying will increase greatly.

"People should have never moved into the Tucson area," said Kirian Sucker, head of the Center For Human Extinction. "If we are successful, we'll have people in the city being eaten by Mexican Gray Wolves, or dying in a malaria epidemic."


Bands of marauding Apaches burning down homes, kidnapping women and children, and scalping the menfolk were proposed today as the newest means of stopping Tucson's growth.

"Prior to the 1860's the major limitation on urban sprawl in Tucson was Apaches," said Karen Whittle, head of the Stop Growth Now Committee. "Trying to live beyond what is now Country Club was an extremely dangerous venture back then," she added.

Tucson only began expanding after the US Army hunted the Apaches down and deported them to Florida and Oklahoma. "I bet there are a lot of descendants of the Arivaipa and Chiricahua bands that wouldn't mind getting their homeland back," Whittle said. "And if the military tried to stop them, they would bomb the city and destroy most of it in the process."

Attacking the fringes of the city is only the latest in a long list of efforts by the Stop Growth Now Committee to stop the city's growth over the last 30 years. In that time the population has nearly doubled, in spite of attempts to ban construction of homes on hills and electing a long succession of ineffective politicians.


The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has listed the Pygmy Owl as an endangered species. The diminutive owl, standing no more than 6 inches tall, lives in the desert around Tucson. It is widely expected that the listing will be used to limit urban development of the area around Tucson. The Fish & Wildlife folks have proposed that a two year pygmy owl survey be conducted on any property proposed to be developed lying below 4,000 feet in Baja Arizona. "That means a moratorium on new homebuilding for two years," said Sally Rally, spokesperson for the Baja Arizona Homebuilders Association.

Opponents of the listing argued that the owls are very common in Mexico and Texas. Federal officials concede that is true, but argue that the pygmy owls that live in Texas and Mexico belong to different sub-species of the owl. Also, federal officials fear that Mexico's efforts to protect the owl are inadequate, and thus protection of the Arizona owls is necessary because of Mexico.

"I've never heard of a political boundary being used to justify an endangered species determination," groused one local developer. "How do they tell the Mexican owls from the Arizona owls? Do they check at the border to see if they are wearing sombreros?" he added.

A River Runs Through It
The Santa Cruz River Near Downtown Tucson, through which fish are supposed to swim and on whose forested banks pygmy owls are supposed to live.

Save Fish In Dry River

The Southwest Center for Human Extinction has filed suit in federal district court to block the use of Colorado River water in Arizona in order to protect endangered species fish in Arizona's rivers. The argument made by the Center For Human Extinction is that exotic fish living in the Colorado River will be carried into the state through the Central Arizona Project (CAP-- a massive system of canals that runs from the river to Phoenix and Tucson), escape from the canals, swim upstream in the local rivers, and eat the native fish.

One of the rivers whose fish are being sought for protection is the Santa Cruz, which runs through downtown Tucson. There is just one problem.....there's no water in the river 360 days of the year. On the other 5 days there are flash floods of such violence in the river channel that automobiles are washed 25 miles downstream. Thus, it is locally viewed as extremely unlikely any fish that could escape from a CAP canal could swim upstream in either sand, or the rare but violent stormflows.


The Monsoons have arrived.

Temperatures have to soar above 100 for weeks on end to set into motion the giant shift in winds that brings moisture up from Mexico and into Arizona. "Monsoon" means a season shift in the winds. Thus, contrary to the annual debate about what is going on outside in the afternoon, it is a real monsoon. Just not a very wet one.

Tucsonans prepare for the annual thunderstorm season by practicing ignoring signs that say "Do Not Enter When Flooded", and hunting about for a new set of windshield wipers to replace the ones melted on their windshields. For some reason, probably related to ancient traditions, no store will have windshield wipers on the first day it rains.

"The Sonoran Desert would not have such a diversification of plant species," explained Dr. Wendel Weedle with the General Delivery University Department of Desertification, "were it not for the summer monsoons." The monsoons, he noted, "provide just enough extra precipitation to avoid there being a drought from March to November." Without the monsoon, the desert around Tucson would look a lot like the area around Yuma.

It is noteworthy that the monsoons also herald the beginning of the "Cloudy Day Syndrome" in Baja Arizona. "On cloudy days, people are more reasonable and easier to get along with," explained Weedle, "than on sunny days." (Just the opposite effect is noticed in Seattle.) Outdoor water consumption also drops dramatically on cloudy days in Tucson. If you have a long standing dispute with someone, try and resolve it on a cloudy day. "I know people who will only try and do certain kinds of business on a cloudy day because of the uplifting impact clouds have on Tucsonans," Weedle added.


NOGALES: The Border Patrol announced that they caught 312,000 illegal aliens trying to sneak into the United States and steal jobs from union workers in the month of December. The Border Patrol estimates it catches about 20% of the illegals crossing the border. This makes the total population of illegal aliens (mostly from Mexico) now residing in the United States at something around 400 million.

AJO: The Chamber of Commerce of this remote western Pima County town issued their annual press release claiming that the word "ajo" does not mean "asshole" in Spanish, as is commonly believed. The misperception about the name is caused by people who cannot speak Spanish, and pronounce the town's name with a long a. Ajo means garlic. As in camarones con ajo.

WHY: The town of Why, which is located a few miles from Ajo, again claimed it was named for the "y" in the road that runs from Tucson, one branch going to Ajo, and the other to Gringoville and Mexico. Of course no one believes that is why this desolate community of armed retired people is called "Why".

BISBEE: Oliver Sardle, local lawyer, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live. He immediately moved to the nearby town of Douglas. When asked why he wasn't spending his remaining days in someplace nice, like the coast of France, Sardle explained, "three months will seem like a very long time in Douglas."


TUCSON: As the urban area passes 900,000 population, Tucsonans are again trying to figure out how to stop the growth of the city. They have done this every 10 years since the 1940's, when Tucson was home to 50,000 people.

The Frumious Bandersnatch, whose staff can remember when Tucson was a small town, has the following suggestions for finally curbing urban sprawl:

Tasteful ads should be placed in newspapers and magazines around the country which tout some of Tucson's lesser-known attributes, such as...

Tucson is home to more kinds of poisonous snakes than any place on earth.

It gets over 100 degrees for 100 days a year, and it can get as hot as 117.

Black widow spiders are commonly found in people's yards.

Deadly scorpions invade homes at night. People have to use blacklights to find them. They especially like to crawl into shoes. Sometimes they fall off ceilings and onto one's bed.

Coyotes live inside the city and eat pet cats and dogs.

Blinding duststorms hit the city every summer.

Drive-by shootings are common on weekends. One mother, whose son was killed on their front porch, explained that the shooters were aiming for the kid sitting next to her son.

Tucson is the skin cancer capital of America.

Tucson has a local disease known as "Valley Fever" which rots one's lungs.

It is the crime of "reckless endangerment" to drive into a flooded wash in Tucson. They bill you for your rescue.

Mosquitoes carrying dengue fever breed year round in Tucson.

The average job in Tucson pays a little more than minimum wage. The city's economy is based on golf.

The city pumps groundwater from beneath the urban area, which threatens land subsidence...meaning giant cracks will someday open up and swallow whole buildings.

If that doesn't discourage people from moving to Tucson, than more drastic measures are called for... such as...

*Plant endangered pygmy owls on all vacant lands around the city.

*Opening up homeless feeding centers in every new subdivision in town.

*Declaring the city a sanctuary for undocumented aliens.

*Eliminating property taxes so the public educational system will completely fail.

*Allowing everyone to own and use fireworks so major parts of the city will be burnt to the ground.

*Start using Central Arizona Project water in homes...which is known to eat up pipes.

*Close down the University of Arizona and Davis Monthan Air Force Base so the only good jobs in the city will be driven out.

*Allow the proliferation of new cities and towns around the City of Tucson so no one will be able to solve any problem on a regional basis.

*Pass an ordinance preventing the destruction of mesquite trees and creosote bushes.

*Turn off all electricity to the city after 9 PM every night to allow astronomers dark skies.

*Eliminate all traffic signals in the city. Also eliminate all parking lots.

*Ban the use of air conditioners and evaporative coolers in the city.

And...if these measures don't work...

*Blow up all the off-ramps on the freeways.

*Close down Tucson International Airport.

*Put a tax of 100% on the sale of new homes to subsidize professional ice hockey.


Tucson's economy suffered another indignity when the Ladson's Homemade Noodle Company pulled up stakes and moved to Phoenix recently. Ladson's, which was founded 45 years ago in Tucson, was sold to Gary and Lisa Capra of Scottsdale in 1996. The noodle company move was prompted by the Capra's desire to expand the market of the venerable pasta manufacturer. According to the Arizona Republic, the move was made "to give Ladson's a foothold in Valley grocery chains and restaurants and a shot at sales greater than previous owners could accomplish out of their southern Arizona base."

"Phoenix people want to see something made here," Gary Capra is reported to have said.

While Tucson's economic development promoters gleefully announce new tele-marketing centers (places where people answer phone calls for banks and computer companies at around $6 an hour), Phoenix and other Valley cities get Intel chip plants, major corporate headquarters, and other job opportunities that pay more than twice what Tucson jobs bring home. But Tucson can't even hold on to a noodle factory.

What's going on here?

The Phoenix metro area, which has roughly 3 times the population of Tucson, has an economy something like 10 times the size of Tucson.


Tucson has a long and somewhat sad history of companies that start in the Old Pueblo, get bought out, and then get relocated. There's a big problem of getting venture capital in Tucson for small companies to grow into big companies. It is easy to find a million bucks for a real estate development in Tucson, but you can't raise 50 cents for an emerging high tech company that got its start in Tucson.

Economic development in Tucson is centered on bringing "brand name" companies, like Microsoft, into the city--even if the Microsoft jobs are barely above minimum wage and involve no manufacturing. There's no money left to help small companies grow into the next century's Microsoft. And, as Tucson has learned, brand name companies running phone banks can move out of town overnight.


One theory why Tucson has failed to effectively compete with Phoenix for economic development is the proliferation of municipalities in the Valley. When Scottsdale is reluctant to allow a company to locate within its boundaries, some other Valley city is saying "come on down". In Tucson, there are few competing cities trying to grow. Growth, and multiple cities, are dirty words in Tucson.

The proliferation of cities and towns around Tucson may be the wave of the future, due to recent legislation that takes away Tucson's veto over the formation of new municipalities. There could be five to ten new cities and towns around Tucson formed in the two year window of opportunity the legislature created. The towns of Flowing Wells, Tanque Verde, Vail, Foothills, Drexel Heights, and Picture Rocks are likely candidates for incorporation.

The incorporation of a bunch of new cities and towns could be the best thing that happened to metro Tucson's economic growth in decades.

Tucson Mayor George Miller is complaining that allowing new towns to incorporate will strangle Tucson. Did the proliferation of cities and towns in Marciopa County strangle Phoenix?


A related factor is Tucson's City Charter which requires city-wide elections for wards. Direct election by wards would open several seats up on Tucson's City Council to Republicans, and potential domination of Tucson's government by Republicans if Tucson were successful in annexing to the north.

The Democratic versus Republican political differences between the two metropolitan areas is also cited as a factor in the economic growth discontinuity. Business people tend to be Republicans, and they speak the same language of Valley cities. In Tucson the language is environmentalsocialism.

The town councils of Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita are GOP strong-holds. If Tucson were successful in annexing the Catalina Foothills, and Tucson had direct election by wards, the Democratic domination of Tucson's City Hall would be threatened. For all its protestations about annexing the Catalina Foothills, this will never happen voluntarily since Hell is likely to freeze over before Tucson will amend its City Charter to allow Republican seats on its City Council.


Property taxes.

More people inside cities means lower county property taxes. And it is property taxes that new industry hates the most. Tucson is not competitive with cities in Maricopa County because our property taxes are higher here--due in large part to Pima County trying to provide urban levels of service to the unincorporated area.

Cities rely more on sales taxes for their services. Some cities and towns, like Marana, don't even have a property tax. Industries like locating in cities with low property tax rates, but not in counties with high property tax rates. Why do you think we get tele-marketing jobs--with low capital costs (and taxes) and the Phoenix area gets the high capital cost investment? Property taxes.


There is a good chance, though, that if Foothills and the rest of the urbanized unincorporated area doesn't incorporate, Tucson will get the legislature to allow a forced annexation of the areas by the existing city and towns. Pima County has long sought a change in state revenue sharing formulas which favors municipal populations. Rather than change the formulas to allow more tax money to be shared with Pima County, legislators are more likely to give Tucson, Marana and Oro Valley a "window of opportunity" to annex. Tucson just might be able drag the Catalina Foothills "kicking and screaming" to quote former Tucson Mayor Lew Murphy, into Tucson if the Catalina Foothills the Catalinia Foothills crowd drops the ball on incorporation.

It isn't in the cards that 300,000 plus people are going to continue living in the unincorporated areas of Pima County, sponging off municipal taxpayers. (Did you ever wonder how such a large area ended up outisde of Tucson's city limits? It was because Tucson chose to try and monopolize water service in the County rather than tying water line extensions for new subdivisions to annexation petitions like every other city and town in the state. Ironically, Tucson's water service extension policies are at the heart of the urban sprawl in the unincorporated areas north of Tucson's city limits.)

If there's anything the state legislature likes less than the City of Tucson, it is Pima County's push to being a municipal county government. Changes in new city and town formation laws and possibly future changes in annexation laws are more likely to happen than increasing Pima County's share of state tax revenues so people can continue avoiding being in a city.


Tucsonans have long worried that their city will end up being like Phoenix. At nearly 900,000 people in the metropolitan area, it is hard to understand that meaningful distinctions that can be made between the two urban areas, except that one is bigger than the other, and Tucson's smog is lighter brown than Phoenix's.

Tucsonans are still debating whether they can limit Tucson's growth. Maybe they can. But not Marana's and the other cities and towns of the future.

The City of Tucson's domination of the urban area, and presumption that it will be the sole opportunity for economic growth, is ending. The ability of anti-growth forces to try and limit urban development, which is relatively easy with just a few cities and towns and one county government to contend with, is also ending. It remains to be seen if the fundamental changes that are emerging in the Santa Cruz River Valley will boost average family incomes to levels comparable with Phoenix, or if Tucsonans will remain the poor cousins of their counterparts up north.


By Hugh Holub, Editor-Publisher

Recently I took a walk down Broadway from Wilmot to Country Club. I'd lived in Tucson from 1954 to 1997 (43 years) and now live in one of Tucson's "secret" suburbs...Nogales. So the walk was past a lot familiar landscape...except out of 800,000 people living in and around Tucson, only the homeless walk that far.

The first thing I noticed was that there wasn't much one could call a sidewalk. Most cities with a major street such as Broadway would have built a nice sidewalk along their major street. Not Tucson. Since only homeless people in Tucson walk more than a block, why spend the money on a fancy sidewalk?

As I passed Park Mall, I noticed the whole place was under construction. The Sears store facade looks really old compared to what is going on next to it. Is Sears going to redo their facade? Or is Sears striving for the 1950's retro market?

I got to the little street that runs east of the El Dorado Theater, and there were obstructions to prevent anyone from driving on it. Obviously another neighborhood group has struck again.

At Craycroft and Broadway I encountered a disabled car being pushed through the intersection. The role of men and women has really changed in our society. The man was steering, and his 60+ year old wife was pushing the car. I helped push the car into the gas station on the corner. No one from the gas station rushed out to help these folks. They don't sell service in gas stations any more.

I went into the gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes, and was told there wasn't anywhere in Tucson I could smoke them. Seems the City Council is determined to protect everyone's health, and has banned smoking just about everywhere, especially inside restaurants. But, the attendant noted, I could become a member of Molly G's restaurant and smoke to my heart's content. Are all the restaurants in Tucson going to become membership establishments to avoid the grasp of the City Council?

In front of the Target (or is it "tar-jay"?) the sidewalk ended in a pile of rocks and cactus. Looking back down Broadway I realized that the status of pedestrian improvements (or lack thereof) was definitely a function of the property ownership. Each individual property owner had provided, or not provided, a sidewalk. Something to ponder as I sauntered on down Broadway.

There's a lot of stores on Broadway. I've been driving down that street for over 4 decades, but at 50 mph you don't realize what all is there. Little businesses struggling to survive. Tucson has never realized it is the small business people that create most of the jobs in a community.

Farther down Broadway I started passing the backs of homes. There are very few major streets in Tucson with homes along them, unlike most cities. Odd thing. Then I remembered, Tucson keeps widening its major streets, tearing down the homes and businesses that used to be along them. The streetscape of Tucson is radically different than it was even 20 years ago. The city is constantly re-making itself through adding lanes to its streets.

The people who live within a block of a street like Broadway must live in constant fear that the street will eventually reach their backyards, like a river eroding its banks, the flow of cars growing daily and weekly until the volume is so great another lane of asphalt must be added.

I wonder, what if Tucson had opted for freeways like other cities? How many homes and businesses would have been destroyed by a freeway system versus the number destroyed by widening all the regular streets like Tucson has done? Maybe there would still be homes along Tucson's streets.

A little while later I got to El Con Mall. Another shopping mall under virtual total reconstruction. Business must be very good at Tucson's malls. And then I remembered the "big box" controversy.

For 43 years I had always lived near El Con, originally when it was a hotel, and then a mall. And When stores such as Home Depot came to town and located way out east, up northwest, and to the south, it was always a hassle to drive the long distance to them. Why, I wondered many times, doesn't anyone build a really big complex of discount stores in mid-town?

Well, according to the newspaper, Home Depot wants to build in El Con. Along with a huge WalMart store. And the neighbors are not amused.

The little neighborhood north of El Con was developed after the original mall was built, so these people have always known a shopping mall was their neighbor. How is it that they can now attempt to block changes in the mall to protect their neighborhood when the mall was there first? But, Tucson is run by its neighborhood association, none of whom really care if anyone in the city has a job or a place to shop.

As I stood in the El Con parking lot I wondered what Tucson's future was going to be. Could the city eventually widen all its streets to remove all the stores along its busy streets, and drive all business activity out of the city limits? I think there are a lot of people in Tucson who would like to avoid having an economy.

Usually, when a WalMart comes to town the big debate is over the impact of this enormous discount retailer on the town's downtown. WalMarts usually kill old downtowns. No problem in Tucson, for its downtown has been dead since...the El Con Mall opened. Funny coincidence.

Past El Con I started walking past the El Encanto neighborhood. Since I was a kid, this was the neighborhood to live in if one was rich and successful. But no sidewalks and street lights in this neighborhood. Across Broadway is Colonia Solona, another of Tucson's really expensive barrios. "Colonia" and "barrio" are actually the same thing in Mexican cities. I doubt if the residents of Colonia Solona would agree to change the name of their subdivision to Barrio Solona. No street lights and sidewalks in Solona, either.

Odd thing, which had been pointed out to me by a Wall Street Journal reporter friend who visited Tucson a while back. Tucson's richest and poorest neighborhoods share two traits in common. No sidewalks or street lights.

As I approached Country Club I noticed that the northeast and southeast corners of the intersection are still vacant lots. Tucson talks a lot about "in-fill" development, but there sure are a lot of vacant lots in the city.

Cele Peterson's family probably still owns the northeast corner, and the Murphey trust probably still owns the southeast corner of Broadway and Country Club. I remembered when Cele (the grand lady of fashion in Tucson's history) and the Murpheys (who hire Joessler to design the finest buildings in the city and developed Tucson's original environmentally correct subdivision in the lower Catalina foothills) tried to develop their corners. The neighborhood associations went nuts.

Here were two (if not the only) families in Tucson's history that had any kind of taste wanting to develop their properties, and they couldn't.

I crossed the intersection and got the Bank One's building. The sidewalk diverts, I guess so one can fully appreciate the tasteless of the architecture of the bank. Across the street is Broadway Village, a Joessler designed complex that is still one of Tucson's treats. I wondered, since the early l950's has anything been built in Tucson of the class of Broadway Village. I couldn't think of a single structure.

I had entered the domain of the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association. I grew up in that neighborhood when it was at the far eastern edge of Tucson. Now it's either "midtown" or the "inner city". And it is Tucson's yuppie central.

Most of Tucson's mayors have lived within a mile of Broadway and Country Club for the last half century. Lew Davis lived in El Encanto, Jim Corbett over on Fifth just north of El Con, Lew Murphy in Colonia Solona, Tom Volgy in Sam Hughes.

In that time, Tucson grew from 100,000 people to 800,000, and never figured out it was a city. Why, I asked myself, as I tried to get around Bank One's flower bed. And then it hit me. I was staring at it. Tucson's vision of itself stops at each individual homeowner's or businessperson's property line. Tucson is a 50 foot wide mentality city. Anything beyond one's own property line is....a source of fear and conflict.

People in Tucson fight over parking spaces in front of their stores. They fight over what is going to be built on the property next to them. And no one ever does anything with a vision of what they do has on the city as a whole. For Tucson has never accepted the role of being a "city".

Off in the distance I could see Tucson's downtown. A government ghetto. Barrio Bureaucracy. Tucson renovated its downtown by knocking everything of cultural or historic value to put up government monuments. Wandering around downtown Tucson one wouldn't know what wonderful neighborhoods and businesses used to occupy the area now covered by the Tucson Convention Center. I'm one of the increasingly few people who remember what downtown used to be before government started trying to "save" the place. Like the conquering Spaniards, Tucson's anglos wiped out the Hispanic heart of Tucson. And Tucson's downtown is still haunted by the ghosts of the Mexican families displaced in the name of urban renewal.

And looming in the haze were towers of mediocrity. You'd think someone could have built an interesting high rise building in all of Tucson's history.

It was getting really hot, and I stopped at the next bus stop to wait for a city bus. Tucson's bus stops, for the most part, suck. You'd think someone would have figured out that Tucson's climate is really hostile to someone outside, and provided nice shady places to wait for the bus. Instead they built people barbecues.

The bus came along, surprisingly quickly, and I joined a crowd of elderly people and students for a ride to downtown. Tucson at least has a good bus system, though I might possibly have been the first person to ever have lived near Broadway and Country Club to have used it.

The last two miles of Broadway into downtown shows a city in transition, downward. Another neighborhood being ground away by the current of traffic. And then the intersection with Aviation whatever, the almost freeway that won't ever connect to Interstate 10 because of John Kromko's rants, past the Congress Street Hotel, one of Tucson's few remaining gems that hasn't been torn down for government offices, and then to the Pima County Governmental Complex. Across from that is a statute of Pancho Villa, the only Mexican to ever invade the United States. Score--US 13, Mexico 1. No wonder he is such a hero to Mexico.

Sitting beneath what is probably the only shade in downtown, next to Pancho, I remembered that Broadway is sort of the true Mexican border in Arizona. South of Broadway the percentage of Hispanic residents sharply increases.

The "south side" as it is called is Tucson's invisible city. Issues sharply change south of Broadway. No one worries about a new WalMart. Your kid getting shot in the front yard by a gang banger is a more serious problem. A lot of small businesses down there that no one who lives north of Broadway has ever seen. A lot of people struggling to pay their rent or mortgages, feed their kids, and work at sweat jobs hoping for a better life. A lot of people who really believe in the American dream, and who have sacrificed a lot to try and....live north of Broadway someday.

And as I waited for my ride back to Nogales (it takes the same amount of time to drive from downtown Tucson to Nogales as it does to drive up to Sun City Vistoso) I realized no one on Tucson has a clue how big Tucson already is, or is going to be.

Nor does anyone in Tucson realize the impact the "south side", including Mexico, is going to have on them. Nogales, Sonora has 400,000 residents and a new freeway. Population projections for that city reach a million about the same metro Tucson reaches a million. And contrary to Tucson belief, all Mexicans aren't poor any more. Imagine an urban area exactly the size of Phoenix is now, with two million people in it. And over half of them are Mexican.

I read the local paper as I waited, and noted there wasn't a single issue in the local city election campaign relevant to anyone living south of Broadway, except maybe for the fight over Central Arizona Project water.

The people living south of Broadway know a lot about water quality issues. It was their neighborhoods that got TCE contaminated water for years. It was the south side that got tritium rained on it for years. It was the south side that found gasoline in their water from Tucson's operations center.

Seems like all the environmental problems are concentrated where the residents of Sam Hughes would never live. Residents of Tucson's barrios call it "environmental racism". Radon would probably not be a worry for Tucson's leaders if the wells that serve Sam Hughes weren't also radioactive.

I wondered, how many Sam Hughes residents get invited to quincineras? Or weddings at south side churches? Or can speak enough Spanish to order more than a beer and a taco?

People in the true barrios don't really care about saving the pygmy owl. They'd just like to have a job that paid good wages. Tucson's average family income is $7,000 less than in Phoenix....which has a lot of sidewalks along its streets, and a freeway system. And a lot of cities and towns competing for WalMarts.

Maybe Tucson could deal with its future by allowing the residents of the neighborhoods around Broadway and Country Club, and the University, to form their own little town called Nimbyville. And let the rest of Tucson finally face reality and its future.

Copyright 1999 By Hugh Holub

...Some Reactions....

"...moving to Tucson with my parents in the early 50's, I to have a wonderful memory of earlier times. When you walked past the corner of Country Club and Broadway , I'm sure you remembered the bueatiful field of flowers that Cele Peterson planted every year on the northeast corner. A bright spot for a lot of Tucsonans. I had the pleasure of renting the upstairs space in Broadway Village as a photo studi, for a while. A memory of swimming in the pool at the El Con Hotel and asking workmen tearing the hotel down if I could take a doorknob or a light switch or anything to remember. So sad I was to see it go."---Ero Poutinen

You sure hit a nerve with me with that commentary on a walk down Broadway.

My wife and came to Tucson in 1953 when the North city limits were at Elm and Country Club on the East and Broadway was a two lane tar strip east of Randolph way. The South city limits were at 26th street and the West were at what was then US 80 later to become I-10 except for that little piece along Congress street to the mountain.

I was a City Police Officer and signed on just as Chief Hayes was disposed of and worked for Barney Garmier until he went to Miami. Because I seemed to work mostly graveyard had had the pleasure to "escort" Gentleman Jim Corbett home on a few occasions. LOLL. It was the "office" we were protecting and not the man.

When I started on the TPA I was earning $315 a month for a 48 hour week and had to buy my own uniform from the Meyerson's White House on Congress St. I bought my weapon from Carmichaels on 6th St. All the city supplied were the badges and the gun belt.

I have seen Tucson grow and grow and still haven't figured what the people do make their money other than retail stores and restaurants. Of course the developers have never stopped building. All you see now is red tile roofs surrounding the original city.

I have since retired from the TPD after serving 20 with them, and moved to Florida where things are a little more rural and everything is green. I do go back to Tucson every couple of years to visit old friends although they are slowly dying off on me.

How come you didn't mention the Murals on the wall at the New Broadway Underpass. We thought they were terrific. We had our pictures taken by those fellows at the time but we couldn't afford to buy any at the time Alas! ---- toppr@aol.com

Copyright 1999 2000, 2001 by Hugh Holub