Pima Supes to decide how to replace retiring Bronson; Tucson Council reviews election

The Sharon Bronson Era will come to an end on Nov. 27, and the Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote on a plan to replace her Tuesday.

The District 3 supervisor announced last week that she will be resigning her post after 27 years on the board. She fell at home and broke her ribs and the recovery will be difficult for the 77-year-old, whose district goes all the way out to the Yuma County line.

So County Administrator Jan Lesher is proposing a process that sets a Dec. 1 deadline for the Board of Supervisors to receive applications to fill the job that pays $76,600 a year.

All applicants must meet certain legal criteria, those being:

  • At least 18 years old.
  • A resident of District 3.
  • A resident of Arizona, a registered voter with Democratic Party affiliation.
  • Literate in English.

Meanwhile applicants must submit the following to be considered, if Lesher’s proposal is approved:

  • A letter of interest saying why the job is right for you and you are right for it.
  • Answers to a list of 13 questions, which include interrogatories like who is your political role model? What would you do about the biggest issue facing Pima County? What would be the first thing you do if selected?   
  • A resume and financial disclosure statement.

The process Lesher has laid out could also include a virtual public hearing to act as a job interview for candidates and would wrap up on Dec. 19, with the full board voting on a replacement.

The entire board is up for reelection in 2024 and Bronson has served in what has traditionally been considered a swing district. 

Personally, I think it would be great if the board could find a warm body to fill the job but not run for reelection. The trappings and advantages of incumbency should be earned through a public election. In the past, the board has been made up of some members who were appointed mid-term and many of their row officers (such as the current sheriff) were appointed the same way before running in an election.

Betty Villegas was selected by the board to finish the tenure of the Late Great Richard Elias (yes, he was selected rather than elected too, but I loved the guy). She didn’t run as an incumbent. She just filled out his seat.

The board will also vote to accept Bronson’s letter of resignation, which she announced Nov. 13.

One of Bronson’s final acts on the board will be to again push for an infrastructure improvement plan in her expansive district. 

She especially wants work done to repave West Pima Mine and West Arivaca roads, and to have the Blanco Wash bridge rebuilt at North Silverbell Road. No cost estimate was included.

Supervisors also have a series of odds and ends that they will be voting on during their Tuesday meeting.

The board will vote on changing the land development code to liberalize the rules around guest houses. The minimum lot sizes for these second homes on single-family parcels would change from 16,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet.

The new ordinance would also eliminate the need for on-site parking. 

Further, minimum setbacks (the distance from construction to property line) would be eliminated along the side and rear of the properties and the guest house could be within three feet of the main house.

The idea is to increase the stock of affordable housing, much like the Tucson City Council has done with its Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance.

The county’s plan isn’t as involved as the city’s, as the plan is to just do a couple nips and tucks of the existing ordinance.

Pima County Supervisor Rex Scott also wants the county to sign on to a proposed regulation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to require background checks on private firearms sales.

The Legislature will love this (not) about as much as the U.S. Supreme Court will love this hotly contested issue being settle via administrative action rather than by Congress.

Lesher is also presenting the board with the option to release a memo from the Pima County Attorney’s Office on the board’s authority to establish court fees for the clerk of the court without consulting the Superior Court or the state’s court administration.

The communication was presented under the protections of attorney-client privilege and therefore is not public information. Lesher is now suggesting that it maybe be made public.

I like this. District 4 Republican Steve Christy presses for this kind of thing all the time and bless him for it. A completely unified government working in lockstep and as a synchronized machine could do all sorts of things in closed-door executive sessions that it is not supposed to do.

Some political opposition makes this nearly impossible.

Now Lesher is making a play for transparency, too.

The county board will also vote on a $960,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help pay for continuum of care services to the homeless.

The feds work through Pima County to provide funding to local organizations dealing with homelessness.

“Continuum of care” is govspeak for all the services required to get a person living on the streets into some form of temporary shelter, then into a more permanent home, with help in job placement and/or substance abuse, let them know what other help is out there and eventually leave them a self-sufficient fully housed taxpayer.

The board will also vote to approve the official canvass of the 2023 elections that happened in unincorporated Pima County. 

The Tucson City Council will livestream a special virtual meeting and approve the final votes for the city elections, and maybe discuss a recount that they should probably undertake.

No soliciting

The Marana Town Council will discuss and maybe vote on a change to the town ordinances empowering the staff to conduct investigations of businesses prior to license renewals.

Ummm. OK. That seems to have some Orwellian potential down the road but right now the town staff says the focus is on solicitors in residential areas. Renewal of a business license can be denied if any employee of the licensee breaks town rules.

Those include knocking on doors prior to 9 a.m., or after 7 p.m., hanging out on property or at a residence after being asked to leave, and solicitors grabbing a spot on a public right of way for the express use of hawking their merch.

Death penalties for businesses is a bit extreme and so is giving that much power to staff, but solicitors can be really annoying and if not properly supervised can be super-duper pesky.

Interestingly, the town code already gives inspectors the power to deny a renewal for “Any other reason or reasons deemed sufficient by the license inspector, as long as the reason or reasons are based upon statutes, ordinances, codes or substantive policy statements which provide justification for the denial, suspension, revocation or nonrenewal of the license.”

That’s a lot of power. Business denied if an inspector thinks a violation of laws or ordinances warrants it. I would think there would be more to it than that. 

The council will also get a rundown of the county’s plan to lay a 134-mile digital ring around the rural reaches of Tucson’s urban footprint.

The county received a $30 million grant to provide “middle-mile” that delivers broadband service from main trunk lines to neighborhood lines that go to the homes and businesses.

Marana’s portion will follow West Tangerine Road, Down North Sander Road and then down North Sandario Drive.

It’s part of the Biden administration’s plan to expand improved internet services to rural America.

The council will also vote on transferring $150,000 from the town’s contingency to the Marana Food Bank.

The food bank has announced plans to move out of Marana and open up operations in Three Points and Avra Valley. The injection of town money is meant to keep the food bank open.

The Rio shuffle

The Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board will try to elect officers again, with a second vote in two weeks, after a big reshuffle in October.

Board members had elected Edmund Marquez as vice chair, Chris Sheafe as treasurer and Taunya Villicana as secretary. However, one of them can’t fill one of these roles as it is now constituted, the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting said. Fletcher McCusker was re-elected as chair.

The board will decide whether to change the position of secretary so check-signing isn’t required. I tried calling McCusker, who acts as board spokesman, to find out more about what’s going on, but he didn’t get back to me.

Last month, Gov. Katie Hobbs removed four members from the board and added Villicana, Richard Oseran, Shay Jimenez and Corky Poster. Governors get four appointments and she made the switch, removing four Republicans seated by her predecessors.

Two – Marquez and Janine Cox – were quickly reappointed by the Arizona House speaker and Senate president.

The board now has four members appointed by Republicans, four by the Democratic governor, and the independent McCusker was originally a legislative appointment who was re-appointed by Hobbs.

New justice in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz County Justice of the Peace Emilio G. Velasquez will resign his position on Dec. 1 and will remain on medical leave until that date.

Now the Board of Supervisors there will have to replace him on the bench and will vote Tuesday on establishing a plan to have it done by Jan. 1, 2024.

Velasquez is a Democrat, so the board will have to select a Democrat to fill his position. No, his successor won’t have to be a lawyer. Justices of the peace get legal training after they are selected.

Laid-off workers in Santa Cruz County could be eligible for job training if the board accepts part of $200,000 in state Department of Commerce money.

The grant is part of a state rapid-response program for workers laid off and in need of new skills for new employment.

It includes job retraining money, unemployment insurance, health care, home heating, assistance, legal aid, financial advice, and other forms of assistance required to help people gain reemployment as quickly as possible. Legal, health and financial problems can get in the way of that. 

Interestingly, the state’s rapid response program also looks at how to keep companies from initiating layoffs and save jobs. I just think that’s interesting, it’s not necessarily what the grant focuses on.

Santa Cruz County supervisors will also get an update on the work done by an advisory committee established in 2021 to provide community input into South 32’s proposed Hermosa Mine.

The panel on the Hermosa Mine has been around for two years but the presentation it prepared says it is in the early stages of its work.

Its purpose is to monitor, address and mitigate impacts beyond existing regulations from the mines start up and operation, through to closure. 

The panel has a multiple-step process in mind to address the mine’s affects on the community.

This is an opportunity for South 32 to put a better face on the mining operations and the county to work with members of the local community to make the mine’s presence less obnoxious.

This mine will extract a bunch of resources for the conversion to clean energy so it’s probably a worthwhile endeavor that environmentalists will hate. On the other hand, South 32 is going to gouge out a humongous hole in the ground. There’s no way to do that without some serious impacts.