Being the mayor of Tucson, the 33rd largest city in the US, is a difficult and largely thankless position of limited authority.
The 1929 City Charter doesn't give the mayor control equal to others on the City Council. The mayor, for instance, doesn't hire or fire the city manager or police or fire chiefs.
Still, the mayor carries a big megaphone and is the face of Tucson to other local, state and federal governments. The mayor presides over City Council meetings and has the ability to guide the conversation.
The best person for the job commands strength of purpose, the ability to negotiate with people who hold competing interests and a commitment to stick with a challenge until it is resolved.
The best candidate thoroughly understands finances and the local issues that matter most to constituents: safety, business development, parks and recreation and transportation.
Voters have three choices: Republican Rick Grinnell, Green Mary DeCamp, and the person we believe is best suited for the task ahead - Democrat Jonathan Rothschild. Voting starts later this week for the Nov. 8 election.
Rothschild is a longtime business attorney who has served on the board of several large social-service agencies, including as president of Casa de los Ninos, Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging and Temple Emanu-El. He is on the Tucson Parks and Recreation Commission and manages day-to-day operations of a 56-employee law firm.
His professional experience as a legal negotiator is a good match and necessary for the role of a mayor in Tucson.
DeCamp's main idea for growing jobs is the creation of "community conservation centers" - an idea we don't think will ease our economic woes.
Grinnell is a strong candidate. His background running businesses and his focus on economic development are attractive. He also has more than 20 years' experience in behind-the-scenes work in city government, serving on citizens committees.
Part of that experience, however, is serving on the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board - appointed by the state to get downtown redevelopment on track after years of wasted effort by the city.
Instead, what we have is a nasty impasse between the district board and the city. The board's recent decision to file a notice of intent to sue the city does nothing to benefit taxpayers. Money that could be spent on redevelopment will go to hire lawyers.
As a member of the board, Grinnell missed the opportunity to lead. When asked what he would do to resolve the Rio Nuevo stalemate, he launched into an explanation of how it's the city's fault.
It is difficult to imagine that as mayor Grinnell could breach that divide and, in effect, switch teams and win the confidence of his colleagues on the council.
Rothschild told us the first thing he'd do regarding Rio Nuevo would be to pick up the phone and call Jodi Bain, the district's board co-chair. Instead of fighting a war of words and threatening to sue, he would talk to the other side. That is the right place to start.
We are also impressed by the homework Rothschild has done to prepare for the job. He told us he's met with city department heads, council members, and former mayors and city managers. This insight will help him better understand the players and how the bureaucracy works.
He also laid out a written plan for what he will accomplish during his first 180 days. His ideas include carving out of his office budget a new position for a small-business advocate and revising the land-use code, which is complex, confusing and a drag on business development.
He offers specific and measurable goals that, if met, will help restore trust to city government.
The Star endorses Jonathan Rothschild for mayor.
Rothschild: best candidate for mayor of Tucson
ON POTHOLES, RADAR VANS, SUN TRAN
• Will you budget more money to repair potholes? Rothschild and Grinnell said yes. DeCamp said "we need to quit making potholes" and promised a campaign to reduce dependence on single-occupancy vehicles.
• Should Tucson keep red-light cameras and radar vans? Rothschild said they increase safety but the system for what happens after a driver receives a notice-of-citation needs improvement. Grinnell said they are intrusive and should be eliminated.
• On the nearly $38 million Sun Tran subsidy, up 6 percent: Grinnell said it must be renegotiated, with perhaps fewer routes or longer times between some buses. DeCamp would work to make using the bus "a cooler thing to do." Rothschild favors greater efficiency and perhaps a marketing campaign to increase ridership.