By Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Special to the Arizona Daily Star
Our city has accomplished a lot in the last 18 months, working to get Tucson on the right track.
We settled Rio Nuevo, put in place some no-risk incentives at the city and watched our downtown come alive. We passed a bond issue to fix our streets. And we changed the dialogue about Mexico from one of hostility to one of mutual economic opportunity.
None of this happened overnight. It happened after long, hard work by a lot of people. And it happened after taking into account the views and interests of all sides.
Good decisions require a balanced approach. Good outcomes require hard work.
When Tucsonans set aside issues that divide us and work together on issues that unite us, we can accomplish as much, or more, as any city in the United States.
So let’s look at areas we agree on. We want a more robust economy. We want more good jobs.
We can help create the infrastructure to sustain this. For example, we supported a high-speed-rail study connecting Tucson and Phoenix. We continue to advocate for improvements along Interstate 10 to Interstate 19 at the border, our international trade corridor.
We can work to keep our Air Force base an attractive site for new technologies that will surely dominate our nation’s military strategies in the future. To that end, we submitted an application to the Federal Aviation Administration for Southern Arizona to become an unmanned aircraft system research and test site.
We can help create a job-ready workforce. For example, we encouraged employers to hire and provide summer internships and job shadowing opportunities for our youth. We’re encouraging employers to hire refugees and our re-entry population. We’re encouraging individuals of all ages to become reading coaches for children and adults who struggle with literacy, and we’re seeking private donations to support these efforts.
City government’s role is to set the stage. Better roads, a safe and secure water supply, excellent police and fire protection, well-maintained parks and responsive, efficient services in general – these are expected.
To go beyond the expected, we must come together as a community – city and county, businesses, neighborhoods and nonprofits. And we’re doing this, creating bikeways and walkways, adding shade through our Green Streets guidelines and, starting in the fall, 10,000 trees for Tucson.
We’re working with the University of Arizona on a number of initiatives, from teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to middle and high school students using real-life examples at Tucson Water to forming a Commercialization Network Alliance to create more tech start-ups.
Tucson is on an upswing. Overwhelmingly, people who visit choose to come back. Many decide to move here, and some bring businesses with them. They do so because it makes business sense, but also because they value our weather, our great outdoors, our culture, our reputation for diversity and tolerance.
We need to build on existing strengths. We need to aim toward common goals. As we do both, we will make Tucson a better place for all of us.