By Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Special to the Arizona Daily Star
There’s a new sense of pride, optimism, and excitement in our city—and with good reason.
More Tucsonans are employed today than at any time in our history, including before the recession.
When I first took office in December 2011, we were at 7.7% unemployment. Today, preliminary figures show us at 5.0% unemployment.
Our job growth rate from May of last year to May of this year is the highest in the state, including the Phoenix area.
In the last five years, we’ve built a streetcar line, renovated an arena, and acquired a hockey team. We’ve offered business incentives that helped bring thousands of jobs and big-name employers to Tucson, including HomeGoods, Comcast, and Caterpillar.
We’re building hotels for guests who, when they go out to enjoy our new restaurants, can enjoy our new murals, too—and wonder who came up with the idea of a rabbit with antlers, and is that really Bill Walton on its back.
These are just a few examples of our recent success—success we can all take pride in. In Tucson, we do economic development on our own terms.
Incentives are an important part of that, but so is public art. So is bike share, coming next year. So is Steps to Success, TUSD’s program, now spreading to other districts, of knocking on doors to get high school dropouts back in school. So is Help for Homebuyers, our compilation of programs to help low- and middle-income Tucsonans buy homes.
With all this success, there’s still more to do. While not as exciting as some of these other programs, infrastructure and city services are also essential to generating job growth.
On road repair, we need to renew the existing funding source (bonds), or find another one to continue what we’ve started. Public safety, parks, and transit need their own sources of revenue as well—public safety and parks through sales tax; and transit, probably through early renewal (and revision) of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Plan. All require going to the voters.
I’m confident that with the city’s proven success on Prop. 409, the streets bond, Tucsonans will want us to continue to fix our streets, to replace worn out vehicles and equipment for first responders, to install energy-efficient lighting and smart irrigation at city parks, and to improve connectivity on bike and walking paths.
These measures provide cost savings as well. Timely pavement preservation and road repair saves on much more costly repairs later. Older vehicles cost more to maintain, and inefficient lighting and irrigation that wastes water is more expensive to use. We’ll be working to develop proposals along these lines for voters to consider, along with an RTA Plan that shifts some RTA funds away from building new roads to maintaining existing ones, and to supporting transit.
All along, my vision for Tucson has been a city where our children want to stay, and can stay. That is, a city with the right mix of economic and social activity to make it attractive to employers and employees alike.
Economic development—Tucson’s own brand of economic development—is making that happen.