Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona
The surprise upset in yesterday’s Pima County election was the total defeat of the 99-project, $816 million, 27-year Pima County Bond Issue package.
Tucson’s 1%, who bankrolled the Yes on Pima County Bonds campaign and who would have benefited from a win, lost big. They raised over $304,000 to convince citizens that the county could successfully borrow its way to prosperity and a better life, but in the end the vote wasn’t even close. “Invest in ourselves” was a brilliant, professional marketing campaign that engaged citizens and politicians in the selling the bond issue.
The most vocal opposition came from Taxpayers Against Pima County Bonds, a right-wing, grassroots effort with little funds but a lot of spunk. The “No” coalition called for no new taxes and pointed out the risk of long-term indebtedness. They also pointed out the crony capitalism and corporate welfare that was woven into each of the seven separate packages.
On the left edge of the political spectrum, Arizonans for a New Economy, also opposed the bond issue as unsustainable debt to Wall Street and too much corporate welfare. Public banking proponents believe that governments should self-fund projects– not borrow from Wall Street. Perhaps some of the local anti-Wall Street, pro-Bernie Sanders supporters also revolted against more debt to Wall Street.
Citizens who supported the bonds are wringing their hands on social media today. How can we possibly get the things we want without the without going into debt?
Here’s how: Bring taxpayer funds home from Wall Street, establish a public bank and self-fund projects that benefit the people— not the big corporations, the developers, and the wealthy landowners.
Wall Street targets economically depressed areas like ours for risky loans and high fees. Just look at what happened to Detroit, when it was forced to turn off water service to hundreds of citizens who couldn’t pay their bills. Why did their bills double? Because the City of Detroit was trying to pay off Wall Street debt; 40% of the water bill was debt service to Wall Street. We don’t want to go there.
Tucson and Pima County are in a financial fix because the Arizona Legislature “balanced” its budget on the backs of local governments by withholding funds that were designed to be shared amongst all levels of government. In addition, the Legislature continues to waste taxpayer funds on corporate tax breaks which have done nothing to lure businesses to our state and have actually hurt our economy by further depressing it. So– we are in a financial mess because the Legislature gave away taxpayer funds to big corporations. Big corporations bankrolled a bond issue which would have resulted in more debt to Wall Street and more sweetheart deals for big corporations.
When you’re in a hole– stop digging!!!
I think the overwhelming vote against keeping the red light cameras and against the bond issue package hints at a voter revolt against business as usual. More people voted against the red light cameras and the bond issue than voted for the Democrats who won re-election yesterday. The Pima County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee voted to back the bond issue, and the party went all-in with phone-banking and canvasing. Pretty much every Democratic Party elected official or candidate backed the bond issue (but me). It’s time to think outside of the box and stop doing what the Jim Clicks and Don Diamonds of the world want us to do. It’s time for the Democrats to do some soul-searching.
We– the people– can have what we want. We can have community centers, libraries, improved roads, public transportation, good schools, bike paths, open spaces, good-paying jobs, local small business incubation, and sustainable growth.
We need the political will to go bold. We need to get off the bond merry-go-round and take control of our money. It’s time for banking in the public interest.
And it’s time to get money out of politics.