Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona

Dump the downtown hotel? Dump Walkup? Or dump both?

My vote is to dump both– the ultra-expensive downtown hotel project and Mayor Bob Walkup.

The Arizona Daily Star constantly whines about the Democrat-controlled Tucson City Council and Rio Nuevo. Let’s not forget that Republican Mayor Walkup is in his third term. He’s just as culpable for the wasted funds as the the City Council.

Yesterday on the John C. Scott Show (1330 AM), Councilman Steve Kozachik reported that he finally has the votes on the City Council to kill the downtown hotel project, but Walkup has used a procedural maneuver to stop the vote.

Walkup has been the primary cheerleader for the downtown hotel project which has dragged on for years and cost the city millions of dollars. (Hopefully, the expenditures for the new entrance to the Tucson Convention Center were included in those funds. I hate to think we got nothing– but plans– for that money. Unfortunately, as Scott pointed out putting the new entrance on the out-dated TCC– without refurbishing the interior– was like putting “Grecian columns on a travel trailer.” Ouch.)

Kozachik has been a thorn in the project’s side since he took office. (That’s what he gets for reading the plans and the budgets!) I agree with Kozachik:

  1. The downtown hotel project as it is currently envisioned by the developer and Walkup is too expensive.
  2. It is no longer the city’s baby (since the state appointed the Rio Nuevo Board– although they don’t seem to want to take responsibility for tough decisions either.)
  3. The city should not take on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of debt.
  4. If it were a good time to build this project, there would be investors lining up.
  5. Downtown needs better hotel facilities, but when the country is in the midst of the Great Recsssion, it is not the time to build.
  6. The data show that convention hotels have been oversold by developers to several cities who are desperate for revitalization and tourist income.

Dump the convention hotel (until the economy improves) and DUMP Walkup. (Food for thought: the business-dominated Republican Party often promotes business people for government offices. The implication is that CEO types know how to run businesses and organizations and, therefore, will intuitively know how to run government better than career politicians. Walkup was an executive at Hughes Aircraft — now Raytheon.)

9 comments on “Dump the downtown hotel? Dump Walkup? Or dump both?

  1. cochisecitizen
    October 15, 2010

    My vote is to dump both
    – Sounds good to me. I live out in Cochise County, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. But I’m retired from working in hotel management for many years and do know a thing or two about hotels. Company I worked for owned and we manged a hotel in downtown Atlanta, near the convention center. For hotels that get the bulk of their business from convention business, it’s either feast or famine. When there’s a large convention in town you’re running 100% occupancy and struggling to keep up with it. When there’s no convention in town, you’re running 15-20% occupancy, cutting staff like mad, trying to not loose too much money until the next convention comes to town. With Tucson being an activity destination – visitors attracted primarily to the resorts, golf courses, and day trips to the national parks, etc. – this downtown hotel will be dead, dead, dead except during major conventions, and Tucson seems to be losing more conventions that it’s been gaining. This hotel will never be profitable – that’s why not a single hotel company is interested in building it unless the taxpayers foot the bill.


  2. Bob Voso
    October 15, 2010

    It seems some things have been forgotton about this whole thing. 
    The legislature created the stadium district bill to foster construction of elements which then encourages private sector development.   Stadiums, arenas, large cultural projects which generally don’t pencil out, but energize other development was the intent of the initial legislation.   Real cities are the only organization that can really create these collections of institutions.   Edge cities like Oro Valley or Marana don’t have the ability to do this, they are parasites to the main city.
    The TIF funds created by the Rio Nuevo project are not to support private development, they are for creating development for the common good then the private sector can develop around them to take advantage of them. 
    The Legislature has lost sight of the original intent or been blinded by a form of economic fundamentalism which places the market above the needs of society. 
    To take this project and turn around the intent by saying Rio Nuevo should only fund projects which show a return is a gross perversion of the original intent.  

    They should build the cultural institutions and the arena, let the private sector be parasitic to that.   To place the hotel in the position of intercepting all the funds is robbery of all the people who spent money in the district.  Essentially it will be to enrich a corporation and construction companies…. little will be left over for else.


  3. fraser007
    October 15, 2010

    May God forgive me –but I agree with Pamela. It wont happen again!
    Koz is right. But when we loose the Gem and Mineral Show who will take responsibility? I know the Hotel is a loosing bargain but the Gem and Mineral people just may walk. The Las Vegas tourism/Hotel folks are licking their chops at this one.
    The whole Rio Nuevo was the biggest clust**** in the history of mankind.


    • Pamela Powers
      October 15, 2010

      You see– there is at least one Republican whom I like and agree with.
      If you look at the historical links in one of my stories, the city has been dithering around with the hotel since 2007.
      Also– back in my list of old stories (now linked to the Citizen), you’ll see that I have covered 2 of the many downtown land deals that have gone sour and lost the city money– under Walkup’s watch. Yes, the M&C signed off on these bad land deals, but my still-unanswered question is: Who draws up these contracts? The M&C do not create the contracts– although they certainly take the heat when they go bad. City staff write the contracts and negotiate them. Someone (amongst the staff) is either highly incompetent or corrupt.  Look for more downtown development stories to come.
      I do believe we need better convention hotel downtown– just not this plan at this time and with this amount of long-term risk. The financial risk to the taxpayers is too great, and the city has a history of getting fleeced. Read the Haywood Sanders research report (linked to this story). We are not the only city to be wooed by developers trying to make a buck.


      • fraser007
        October 15, 2010

        Be careful what you widh for. If you replace Walkup you you more than likey get another like Steve Koziack.Which will be great! I cant wait for the other democrats on the council to come up for reelection. A couple are safe because of their sup[orters. But the others beware.


        • fraser007
          October 15, 2010



  4. corporate takeover
    October 15, 2010

    I have yet to see a coherent account about how a retired defense sector executive came out of nowhere to take over Tucson City Hall, subsequently to help drive Tucson straight into the ground.  The DAY AFTER his first election the City Manager Gutierrez resigned – should this tell you something ?  We are now in hock $250 MILLION on Rio Nowhere, with Nothing to show for it – this has been well documented by the Star.


  5. Apple Jack
    October 22, 2010

    Pamela, Walkup is about 10 million times more progressive than Kozachik. When the sales tax loses, everything progressive about this city is going to be gone for good. What side is Walkup on? What side is Koz on?
    You’re so misguided that’s it’s downright hysterical to read what you write. This is why Democrats are about to lose Congress and can’t win seats in the Legislature. Because the people on their side can’t figure out who their real enemies are.


Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on October 15, 2010 by in Bob Walkup, City Council, downtown, John C. Scott, Rio Nuevo, Steve Kozachik, taxes, Tucson and tagged , .
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The Tucson Progressive: Pamela J. Powers

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 focused on economic reforms to grow Arizona’s economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, grow local small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs.

In the Arizona House, I was a strong voice for fiscal responsibility a moratorium on corporate tax breaks until the schools were fully funded, increased cash assistance to the poor, expansion of maternal healthcare benefits, equal rights, choice, unions, education at all levels and protecting our water supply.

After three terms, I retired from the Arizona Legislature in January 2023 but will continue to blog and produce my podcast “A View from the Left Side.”

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