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Transcript: Live chat with Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild answered questions on a variety of city-related topics.

  • Please join StarNet at noon Thursday for a live chat with Tucson's mayor. You can submit questions now or during the chat.
  • Welcome to today's chat with Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. We'll get started in a few minutes.
  • Hi, I'm in the Arizona Daily Star building and am getting ready to answer your questions.
  • Here are a couple of things you need to know about how the chat works:

    - If this a Q&A type of chat, your question won't appear live on the site when you submit it. It goes into queue with other submitted questions, and it will appear live on the site if it's chosen to be answered.

    - In most of the live chats, there are more questions than can be answered in the time allotted.

    - If your question is in queue, you don't need to resubmit it.
  • What is the city doing to control a Property Tax increase?
  • Joe, ideally we would not like to raise the secondary property tax at all. Of course, the County is responsible for the primary property tax, which is the vast majority of our property taxes. This year, the City is looking at a possible increase on the secondary property tax that effectively will mean if your home has an assessed (not actual) value of $150,000 you will havea $15 for the year increase. This is because the City has chosen to pay its liability claims out of the secondary property tax revenues as opposed to the general fund, so that we can preserve our resources for police, fire, parks and transit.
  • What efforts will take place to market the new business development district so that it is a success? [btw thanks for attending the ABA dinner last month]
  • Thanks for the question Tom. The City and the Mayor's Office will do press conferences and utilize our social media to get the word out. I, along with our economic development team, will try to meet with as many business groups as possible so that they can understand the complexities of the new incentives.
  • My friends and I all agree that the streets of our community are a major embarrassment to Tucson. Where is the leadership on this issue? How about a task force to gather solutions and seriously consider options and then let's get action. Can you lead on this? Thank you mayor.
  • David, this year, the City has reallocated resources so that all of our medians should be clean and neat within the next 90 days. The program is already underway. In next year's budget, we are looking at every alternative to put more money towards the repair of our streets and roads. The real problem is that our roads (both City and County) have not been repaired for so long that the cost of bringing them to the standards we would all like to see cannot be done from general revenues. We will begin to explore the feasibility of a bond issue. We will continue to try to get as much money as we can from both the State and Federal government to help repair our roads. This is a high priority in my mind and I will continue to speak out until we have the roads we deserve.
  • Outside of Arizona, the actions of the Republican State Legislature are considered extremely damaging and embarrassing. As Mayor, how can you mitigate the damage the Legislature continues to do to Tucson?
  • What I have tried to do in my short time as mayor is to establish relationships within the State Legislature, particularly amongst the leadership, and try to find areas of common ground. As a local leader, I need to be visible and show the world that the political leadership and culture of Tucson is different than what we sometimes see coming from certain members of the State Legislature.
  • Regarding the F-35 and its noise: Is the decision to base this thing in Tucson ultimately up to the Air Force or is it up to the citizens of Tucson? In the latter case, what would be the role of Tucson’s mayor?
  • Hello Lindrith. Yes, ultimately the decision where to base the F-35 is a decision made by the Secretary of the Air Force. As I am sure you know, the Secretary recently determined that there would not be another decision regarding siting until at least 2016, while the issues regarding cost and performance are dealt with. The role of the mayor is to listen to all interests, take in all the facts, and convey to those making the decisions what will be the best result for the people of the City of Tucson.
  • I believe the new City Manager is drawing a pension from the city as a retiree from the Police Department. Will that be suspended since he is also drawing a salary from the city? Also, in his new position will the city be funding another pension obligation for him?
  • Hello James. The Manager currently receives a pension through the State's retirement system - PSRS (Public Safety Retirement System). The City pays into that system but has no control over it. The Manager will be eligible for the City's retirement system - TSRS (Tucson Supplemental Retirement System). The idea that a person earns retirement benefits so long as they are productively working seems to me to be a fair form of compensation.
  • What are u going to do about all the events Tucson and the surrounding areas have lost?
  • Hi Lee. As we determine, as a community, what areas we want to focus on, we need to concentrate our efforts on obtaining the events that are consistent with that. For instance, Major League Baseball will not be coming back to Tucson. But Major League Soccer and many amateur and youth sporting events are showing a real interest in our community. We need to market to those groups who are a good fit for our community. At the same time, we need to make sure that we have the appropriate facilities with the capacity to attract first-class events. Whether that is done with private funds, public funds, or a combination will have to work itself out as we go forward.
  • @Jonathan Rothschild What happened to all the past bond money for roads?
  • Double dipping retirement benefits need to end or we will be floating bonds to pay our Fire Dept and Police. Public salaries and benefits now outpace the private sector. Taxpayers deserve better.
  • Allen, the City has not run a bond issue in over a decade. The County has gone out on bond issues, and the community as a whole passed the RTA several years ago. RTA monies are currently being spent on new road construction, but were not earmarked for road repair.
  • Could you please explain to me the logic behind the streetcar project heading into downtown? Here's how I see it now: the city has decided that a streetcar makes sense and is fiscally affordable thanks to federal grants backed by some taxpayer funds. The streetcar construction is going to make downtown streets a mess for months, if not years, and make getting in and out, especially at 8 and 5 a total disaster. The route the streetcar will take will not make commuting downtown any more affordable, easy, fast, or doable for a vast majority of those individuals who work downtown. What's the upside to bringing the streetcar route into downtown?
  • Andrew, the modern streetcar was part of the voter-approved RTA bond package. I believe the selection of the route was based in part on finding the route that would provide for the most economic development in a needed area. I am told that nearly 100,000 people live within a square mile of the streetcar route. I drive downtown every day. A surprising result of closing part of Congress is that traffic is actually flowing more smoothly down Toole and onto the arteries. Each portion of the streetcar construction is scheduled to take no more than 4 months per portion. I understand how difficult it is for businesses along the route. This is why the RTA reserved monies for the Main Street Program,
    which is assisting those businesses during construction. In every other city where this kind of project has been successful, the streetcar route runs through the Central Business District.
  • I want to know when you will eliminate all the photo radar and stop light cameras which are a blight and ripoff of Tucson?
  • Hello Allen. The contract for the vendor who provides the red light cameras runs to the summer of 2013. In the course of the next year, we will review the effectiveness of the program. I can tell you that I would much rather deploy my police officers in preventing crimes and apprehending criminals than to have them sitting on street corners trying to control traffic speeds. That being said, we do need to look at technology issues when people go to look up their ticket.
  • The medians are looking great! I am glad to see they became a priority and funding was addressed. Great job!
  • The streetcar was poorly planned. Some money became available and the community had it shoved down their throats. This will cripple new businesses coming to the area for years. Much like trying to make something out of an empty ballpark in the county. 100,000 people within a square mile would require 40,000 residences. Let's start counting.
  • Thanks Sunny. It is always nice to have the City be acknowledged positively when something good is done.
  • What about reducing public employees payroll and laying off in relationship to the economy?
  • I hear that 67% of the general fund is used for employee costs. What is being done to control employee cost like....car allowances, etc? Why isn't the City privitizing some of their services to lower future pension cost?
  • Fred and Sarah, over the last several years the City's staff has been reduced by over 20%. The workload has not gone down, and in fact, it has increased, as our City has grown in size and the problems have become more difficult. I can tell you in my short 5 months at City Hall and coming from a background of 30 years in the private sector, I have been very impressed by the efforts and hours that our City employees put in. Many of them are there because they truly are devoted to public service. Sarah, the core services which the City provides are police and fire, which are best treated in the public sector. Water and sanitation, the City treats as enterprise funds and public utilities. Transit and parks, do not lend themselves to for-profit enterprises. The City goes out to private contractors for a great deal of its work and each Department, where appropriate, can look to the private sector for goods and services.
  • I suggest having a city-wide cleanup once a year with 5 large groups of volunteers concentrated in either the north, south, east, west, or downtown area of Tucson. Also, ask various businesses to sponsor the event, with the City of Tucson being the top sponsor. I would suggest making this a half-day event, maybe at the beginning of Spring, when the weather is not too hot or cold, or there also could be a group that volunteers from 8 a.m.-12 p.m., and a second group volunteering from 1 p.m.-5 p.m., ending the day with entertainment, pictures of their efforts-before and after the cleanup, words of encouragement to take pride in their efforts for the city, people and so on.
  • *City-Wide cleanup comment-one more added note to my comment-I believe this will instill pride in the people of Tucson to play a part in the upkeep of the city and not depend solely on the City Council to take care of everything. Trash is a big problem in Tucson, the citizens of Tucson need to be responsible in creating a better, livable city for themselves. Trash litters our streets and demoralizes a society. I know I would think twice about throwing trash down on a sidewalk if I had just picked up other people's trash for them. Also, the city will come together once again, but not as a result of a tragedy, but because people want to make a significant change and a better place for everyone. Thank you for this opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with the leaders of this city.
  • Priscilla, great idea. Please contact my office and I will get you in contact with the people at the City who may be able to make this happen.
  • Mr Mayor, the ADS has today brought up the issue of the financial sustainability of municipal funded golf in this community. Is it not time to end the Department of Parks and recreation association with providing golfing facilities and use this wealth of land to provide much more needed amenities like parks and aquatic facilities to the population of Tucson?
  • The question refers to today's Greg Hansen column
  • The continued financial difficulties of maintaining the golf courses is a concern. In the City's case, at least 4 of the 5 courses have restrictions on their use or sale. We must remember, or we should remember, that the public golf courses are courses that can be used by people who enjoy golf but may not have the financial resources to play at private country clubs. At the same time, we will have to look carefully at all ways of making the courses more financially viable in these times of limited resources.
  • Can you please help the residents in the Tucson House? If you are already, what is being done to help them? The emergency cord system has been taken out of all the residents apartments..why? That was a crucial necessity for them...right after they took the system out of the building, my mother fell, broke her hip and laid on the floor for almost 3 days with no help or hope of anybody hearing her cries for help! If the emergency cord system would have been there and in working order it would have saved her and other residents from the trauma.
  • Kristina, thank you for that question. I don't know the answer as I sit here but I would like you to contact my office and I will see what I can find out and what I can do. My email is Mayor1@tucsonaz.gov and I do look forward to hearing from you. Solving constituent problems like this make my job worthwhile.
  • Thanks, Jonathan and readers for joining StarNet today for this live chat. Readers, if you have suggestions of others StarNet should invite for an upcoming chat, please email Reader Advocate Debbie Kornmiller, advocate@azstarnet.com
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