Here is the author’s opinion and analysis:
Last week I received official voter information for the May 17, 2020 election that will have only one ballot measure: Proposition 411, an extension of “the sales tax extension half a cent for the streets”. It was a 52-page document, in English and Spanish, with color photographs.
I read the package with interest and surprise.
My wife and I moved to Tucson in January 2017, but we went down on a reconnaissance mission in December 2016, and the first article I read in the Star was about the highways department and there was a quote from the chief of this department: “I think we’ve demonstrated that we can spend $10 million.”
Being a former journalist, I thought there was a quote worth waiting for.
We really didn’t see any real road workers until nine months after we moved. What we saw were multitudes of “Road Work Ahead” signs, which closed lanes and complicated traffic. We met four road workers in the downtown parking tower – they had lost their truck.
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Several months ago we finally encountered some roadwork – a good chunk of it, in fact, on the loop that connects Craycroft and Kolb roads. It’s a wealthy area and what struck me was that all the workers had brought their own cars to the site – which told me, at least, that the workers were paid in cash and the entrepreneur was avoiding those pesky state taxes that make hiring employees expensive. but also fund things like workers compensation and unemployment benefits. I have also noted that in many neighborhoods that require road work, on-street parking is scarce.
Over the past two months, my wife and I have started seeing all kinds of roadworks, and the official voter information brochure showed why: the powers that be are asking for money.
There were 17 endorsements of the proposal, all paid for, from luminaries such as Mayor Regina Romero (who I voted for) and Chamber of Commerce types — all saying “paid by.” Dan Cavanagh pointed out that “At last, some serious money to fix local streets and roads!” and concluded “Have you ever driven into one of our many historic potholes? I hope you will vote YES.
At the end of the pro arguments, we learn that no arguments against Proposition 411 were submitted. The city workers who put this together probably didn’t search very hard.
This duck won’t fly, although my wife and I will probably vote for it. Every time I buy something and look at the sales tax portion of the receipt, I exaggerate, “and $2 for roadside service!”
It takes two diligent people to drive many streets in Tucson. One to drive and another to look for tire eaters. For our first four years here, we thought the road crew was in cahoots with the tire shops and we didn’t see them during the day because they were busy digging potholes at night.
I was born and raised in Montana, one of the few states that has never had a sales tax, despite the Republican Party’s best efforts over the years. The people of Montana have understood that the more money you give to the government, the more it will spend.
However, if they fixed the washed out section of Pima Street between Swan and Craycroft roads, I might get more excited before the election.
Steve Devitt is a retired writer and teacher. He lives in Tucson.