Mayor stresses unity in address

Annexation will bring in funds, Rothschild says in State of City
2013-02-20T00:00:00Z Mayor stresses unity in addressDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Unity.

That's what Mayor Jonathan Rothschild called for during his second State of the City address Tuesday afternoon.

Rothschild said it will take a concerted effort among public, private and nonprofit entities if Tucson is to emerge from its current status as sixth-poorest metro area in the country.

Even though some economic indicators have improved since he took office, plenty of obstacles remain, Rothschild said.

"The cost of providing quality public services is rising, and too many Tucsonans are still struggling," Rothschild said during the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event. "To meet the challenges facing our community, we must work together as a community."

One of the most immediate steps toward unifying is for all area governments to get on the same page on moving more people into incorporated cities and towns in order to claim a bigger share of state revenues, whether that be by annexation or new city incorporations.

Going against generations of past city policy, Rothschild said he supports efforts by Vail residents to incorporate.

Tucson opposed incorporation of the Vail area in the past, urging residents there to be annexed instead. But tonight the City Council will vote on a resolution to support the annexation and waive its right to veto any annexation within six miles of Tucson's city limits.

But Rothschild said he remains equally supportive of annexations by the existing municipalities in Pima County.

Southern Arizona needs to stop missing out on $70 million a year in state shared revenue, he said.

"I like our friends in Maricopa County as well as the next guy," he said. "But it is time we stopped building their roads, their parks and their police and fire departments with our tax dollars."

He believes the area's other mayors are with him on that point.

"I'm pleased to announce that the mayors of the four cities in our region who can do annexations ... have committed to meet regularly, along with our managers, to cooperate in this effort," he said.

Rothschild also invited Pima County - which has often been a thorn in Tucson's annexation efforts - to join the annexation and incorporation bandwagon, since "the role of counties ... does not change with annexation."

"With an incorporated valley, all governments in the region get back more tax dollars," he said. "We could have more services, and lower property taxes, paid for with our own state-shared revenue."

Other points made by the mayor to the business group include:

• Business - "Tucson needs a strong private sector in order to thrive and improve our quality of life," Rothschild said.

One way to attract, or create, jobs is to cut down on red tape to make it easier for businesses to operate in the city.

Over the past year, Rothschild said the city has worked with the business community to overhaul its procedures and reduce permitting times. The city also passed a local-preference ordinance to help local companies compete for city contracts and created an economic development team that streamlined how businesses access the city's 21 business incentives.

• Restoring trust - Tucsonans have been given plenty of reasons to distrust City Hall over the years, but that's starting to change, Rothschild said.

The city cleaned up mismanagement at the Tucson Convention Center and malfeasance at the city's Department of Transportation, he said. Rothschild said when he took office, he promised constituents he would make streets a top priority. He declared that promise kept on Tuesday, pointing to the the city's $100 million road repair bond that passed last November and the upgraded medians as proof.

• Education - Saying education goes hand in hand with prosperity, the mayor pledged his education team will focus on literacy and dropout-prevention programs in the region, including working with a Sunnyside Unified School District endeavor to help recent dropouts get their diplomas and helping the United Way in find tutors to staff its literacy programs.

• Mental health - Even though mental health is as important as physical health, far too many Tucsonans slip through the cracks in the system and never get adequately treated, Roths- child said, so he is setting up a task force to address the problem.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @DarrenDaRonco.

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