Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona

City to hold public hearings on charter changes

>Tucson’s City Council Chambers were filled with businessmen in suits and activists in blue jeans, as business leaders and neighborhood leaders squared off on the topic of changes to Tucson’s charter.

For more than a year, corporatists represented by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC) have been promoting changes to Tucson’s Charter as a strategy to manipulate local government and circumvent elected officials. (This is the same group that got the failed Prop 200 charter change initiative on the ballot in the fall of 2009.)

This year, SALC is pushing the Tucson City Council to place a set of four proposed charter changes on the ballot. These changes would:

• Give the city manager greater hire-and-fire authority over some top city department heads and remove the City Council checks-and-balances authority.

• Increase the number of wards by two.

• Give the Mayor (who currently is just a figure head) more voting power.

• Change the Mayor and Council positions from part-time to full-time and increase their pay to put it in line with that of the Pima County Supervisors.

Businessmen representing SALC claim that these changes will make the city more efficient because it will strengthen the City Manager’s position (and weaken the City Council, although they are not specifically saying that.)

Changing Tucson’s of government to a strong City Manager system will further distance local government from the voters. In addition, consolidating power under the unelected City Manager could lead to cronyism.

This has grass roots activists and neighborhood associations up in arms. Former City Council member Steve Leal, several neighborhood association presidents, and other Tucson residents spoke against the charter changes. Former state legislator Tom Prezelski said that SALC members thought of themselves as “colonial overlords,” since this relatively small special interest group is trying to bend policy in their favor, while usurping power of the voters and their elected officials.

Some charter-change opponents went further to call for a strong mayor system. A strong mayor system would give voters the power to hold elected officials accountable. With our current form of distributed governance, the City Manager, the City Council, and, to a lesser extent, the Mayor all hold some power. At the local level, there is no one elected official who is singularly accountable to the voters– no one who has the authority to say, as former President Harry Truman did, “The buck stops here.”

After dozens of mini-speeches during yesterday’s study session and during the City Council meeting, the Mayor and Council voted unanimously to hold ward-wide public meetings on the charter changes and to delay the vote on whether or not to put the changes on the ballot until July 7, 2010.

Stay tuned for meeting announcements. As always, if you have an opinion on this, don’t hesitate to call or e-mail your City Council member. If you want to watch Mayor and Council proceedings, check out Tucson Channel 12.

This article originally appeared in my Progressive Examiner column.

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About

The Tucson Progressive: Pamela Powers Hannley

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals--not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election. My platform focuses on economic reforms to grow Arizona's economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, growlocal small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs. I also stand for equal rights, choice, and paycheck fairness for women. I am running as a progressive and running clean.

My day job is managing editor for the American Journal of Medicine, an academic medicine journal with a worldwide circulation. In addition, my husband and I co-direct Arizonans for a New Economy, Arizona's public banking initiative. I am a member of the national board of the Public Banking Institute, and I am co-chair of the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus of the Arizona Democratic Party.

I am a published author, photographer, videographer, clay artist, mother, nana, and wife. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a masters in public health from the University of Arizona. I grew up in Amherst, Ohio, but I have lived in Tucson, Arizona since 1981. I am a proud member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson and the Public Relations Society of America.

My Tucson Progressive blog and Facebook page feature large doses of liberal ideas, local, state, and national politics, and random bits of humor. I also blog at Blog for Arizona and the Huffington Post.

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