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A Streetcar Named FUBAR

copy-header1.jpgIt’s hard to believe how dysfunctional the Tucson Mayor and Council are. They whine and whimper until hell won’t have it. It’s embarrassing. And it’s impossible to picture a more pathetic spectacle than elected officials declaring absolute impotence.

Tucson’s city government was created in the 1920s during the era of goody-two-shoes morons who assumed that professional managers were better than politicians. That was OK for a two-bit, cow-town burg that Tucson was for so many years. But today the weak mayor and strong city manager form embodied in the Tucson City Charter is wholly inadequate for a major metropolis.  It is a city of potholes and incompetent governance.

Take, for example, the water tax that continued for three years because the staff failed to tell the elected officials that it was still on. The city imposed what is called a tax on water users, but technically was a fee. It was supposed to have a limited run. But it is still in place after three years. The council didn’t know. Who knew? Who’s on first? This is not city government. It’s Abbot and Costello.

City Councilman Paul Cunningham was offended. As quoted in the Arizona Daily Star: “Why have a City Council when no matter what we decide, staff does whatever they want? The tax may be justified, but that’s not the point. The council wasn’t given the final say.”

The council “wasn’t given the final say.” That’s a sad statement indeed. Whose “say” was it? The staff’s, the city manager’s? Why of course. In the first place, the only full time elected official is the mayor and he’s paid diddley squat. The council members are paid a pittance to sit around and twiddle thumbs.

Might as well because the city staff has the elected alleged politicians by the short hairs. Here’s the evidence, an alleged explanation from Kelly Gottschalk, the city’s chief financial officer, again as per the Star:

“The total budget is $1.3 billion dollars and very complicated. Given the context of the overall size, complexity and ongoing challenge to continually respond year after year to budget deficits, the in-lieu sunset language in a prior year motion was not forward in the minds of staff.” The story also said that Gottschalk said “while no requirement exists that the item be approved other than what was done each year, the staff could have reminded the council of the motion regarding the sunset.

You won’t find a bigger load of rubbish in the nearest land fill. The horse pucky is sky high in the city manager Richard Miranda’s office. Here is the crock of untreated sewage Miranda offered as reported in the Star:

“There are expectations that we provide the mayor and the council with the best information available to allow them to make informed decisions. We are doing everything we can to meet this expectation.”

If that is everything the city manager’s office can do, seems clear the city needs a new city manager. No that won’t work. The city needs a strong mayor structure, the kind where pettifogging bureaucrats get their arses kicked from here to Tuesday when they don’t keep stuff “forward” in their alleged minds.

The howling city bureaucratic stupidity, however involves the streetcar named FUBAR. Earlier this month the Star reported that the city needed $13 million it didn’t have to finance its trolley system.

But not to worry, the city will borrow the money. Here’s city council member Steve Kozachik as reported in the Star:

“For the last two years, we’ve been told that the project is on time and in budget. And I’ve been saying neither is true. The cars are late and now we’re told that we have a significant funding gap. It’d be nice if staff would start telling us straight so people can believe what they hear when it’s coming from the mouths of government officials.”

But it’s just $13 million short. Andrew Quigley, Tucson’s Sunlink co-manager, told the Star that the $13 million shortfall shows how smart and effective the planning for the project was because the cost overrun was only half of what they thought it would be.

This is absurd. Congratulations, you are a fool.

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