Dem Romero is best candidate for Ward 1 seat

Our view: She has helped developers, but must help end Rio Nuevo bickering
2011-10-18T00:00:00Z 2011-11-02T13:24:57Z Dem Romero is best candidate for Ward 1 seat Arizona Daily Star
October 18, 2011 12:00 am

Democrat Regina Romero is completing her first term as a Tucson city councilwoman, representing the city's west side Ward 1.

In a rematch of the 2007 race, Romero's opponent is Green Party candidate Beryl Baker. Romero is the best qualified and should be elected to another term.

Romero has said economic development is her top priority, and she has taken several practical steps to help developers survive during these challenging times. For example, she voted to extend the shelf life of developer's projects approved by the city but delayed because of the lousy economy. By doing this, the city has spared developers the costly and time-consuming process of having to resubmit plans when the economy improves.

She also played a key role in allowing developers to defer impact fees until the city issues a certificate of occupancy.

She is supportive of the current water policy, which she says is designed to encourage infill development and balance environmental preservation with growth. But she also said exceptions can be made and acknowledged the city needs to be aggressive about annexation when it makes sense.

As state funding for road improvements decreased, Romero pursued federal funds to repave three major roads in her ward - Anklam Road, Congress Street and Drexel Road.

Additionally, Romero has expressed a commitment to reviving the stalled cultural and historical projects from Rio Nuevo that were supposed to be built on the west side. She told us the city needs to look at revenues beyond Rio Nuevo to bring them to fruition. She suggested federal funds, private donations or even Pima County bond revenues.

While we are skeptical about any new tax-revenue sources, her earnest conviction to revive cultural projects like Mission Gardens and the Convento is appreciated. It shows an awareness of how much these projects mean to the community and her ward. After all, voters approved them.

During her time on the council, Romero was a leader in the move to fire former City Manager Mike Hein, but then was a vocal supporter of recently fired City Manager Mike Letcher.

She was not particularly outspoken about the recent problems with ParkWise, the city's downtown parking program. She was a central figure in a controversial land deal with the developer, Gadsden Co. The city sold a piece of west-side land to Gadsden, which then sold the land to another developer to its benefit.

Romero told us she understands the pressing need to redevelop the Tucson Convention Center, adding: "It's more than just rehab and repair at this point. It's looking beyond the next five years and saying how are we going to not only rehab the TCC but make it much better."

But in her first term, she never got around to successfully advocating for these improvements even when the city had control of Rio Nuevo. And since the creation of a state-appointed Rio Nuevo board in late 2010, she has been unable to bridge the divisions between the city and the Rio Nuevo board.

"I think we are very civil, you know, when we meet," she said. "We are very civil, and we say the needs are there, and we need to figure these things out. But somehow, some way, it's lost in translation."

Romero's challenger, Baker, has said she will be a stronger advocate for neighborhoods and would like to subsidize the bus system to the point that it is nearly free.

One of Romero's strengths is her advocacy for neighborhoods. And although she is a strong advocate for low-income bus riders, Romero supported a modest - and necessary - 10-cent increase for low-income riders earlier this year.

If re-elected, Romero must put on the agenda - and soon - the long-discussed revision of the city's complex and confusing land-use code.

And she needs to demonstrate leadership in ending - right now - the unproductive and costly battle between the city and the Rio Nuevo board. Romero isn't just one of seven on the City Council when it comes to Rio Nuevo. Downtown redevelopment directly affects her ward, and she's been on the council long enough to understand the problems and promises of Rio Nuevo.

Arizona Daily Star

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