In their efforts to take power from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry - a man they truly, deeply don't like - nine Southern Arizona Republican legislators have proposed a law that is grossly unfair to taxpayers in the city of Tucson and unincorporated Pima County.
The county currently has a 25-member bond advisory committee. Each of the five elected county supervisors appoints three members; the five incorporated cities each name one; the two Indian nations each select one; and administrator Huckelberry chooses three.
The committee makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors about what bond projects it should ask voters to approve.
The proposed legislation would replace this 25-member group with a six-person committee: one each representing the city of Tucson, unincorporated Pima County, Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita and South Tucson.
A majority would give proposed bond projects a thumb's up or down. If it said "yes," voters would still have the final say.
A huge problem with the legislation is that it would give equal power to the representative from South Tucson, which has 5,000 residents, and the member from Tucson, which has 520,000 people.
Indeed, the four small jurisdictions - South Tucson, Sahuarita, Marana and Oro Valley - with a combined population of 105,000, could form a majority and outvote the two people who represent the 870,000 residents of Tucson and unincorporated Pima County.
That's hugely unfair.
But this legislation isn't about fairness. It's about the disdain Republicans in the Legislature have for Huckelberry.
Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson, the main sponsor of the legislation, recently called him a "dictator."
At Thursday's House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure hearing on her bill, Proud explained her position this way:
"For too long we've had one man control everything, and I think that needs to stop."
Proud is certainly entitled to her view of Huckelberry, but the fact is he serves at the pleasure of the five elected Pima County Supervisors. He's a hired hand, not a dictator.
In that spirit, perhaps Huckelberry shouldn't be allowed three appointees to the current bond advisory committee. The other 22 members are there by appointment of elected officials.
On the other hand, it's hardly the case that Huckelberry has named unqualified people from the Democratic fringe. He's chosen a small-business owner, a venture capitalist and the retired superintendent of Marana schools.
It's worth noting that the latter, Wade McLean, is a Republican who lost in the last state House primary election to Proud and Vic Williams. And Williams is both a co-sponsor of the anti-Huckelberry legislation and angling for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.
The deeper political story is that Marana is the driving force behind the bill. And Marana and Pima County remain in a huge payment dispute over a county-built sewer plant that the Legislature ordered turned over to Marana.
One of Marana's complaints about the current bond process is that projects and spending are sometimes changed after the fact.
Proud said that amounts to the Board of Supervisors adjusting spending without general voter approval or the approval of the cities and towns most affected.
But county lobbyist Mike Racy testified that 95 percent of the projects from the 2004 and 2006 bond issues have been completed as originally scheduled.
There's no getting around some changes. For example, when bond projects are put to a vote, the price tags are estimates. When the actual construction bids come in, some projects cost more and some less.
We agree that there shouldn't be significant changes to bond projects without going back to voters. And all cost changes certainly must have transparent review. That already happens with the existing advisory committee and with the Board of Supervisors.
Political differences will always flare up among local governments, but the answer is not to devise a "fix" in order to neutralize one hired bureaucrat.
Even worse, in their haste to sideline Huckelberry, the Republican legislators would give 11 percent of the population of Pima County veto power over the other 89 percent.
Arizona Daily Star
Southern Arizona sponsors of the bill are Reps. Terri Proud, David Gowan, Peggy Judd, David Stevens, Ted Vogt and Vic Williams; also Sens. Frank Antenori, Gail Griffin and Al Melvin.
To contact them, call 1-800-352-8404 or write them at 1700 W. Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85007-2890. Their email addresses are available at www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster.asp