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Buehler-Garcia: Where's leadership on El Rio/GCU?
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Buehler-Garcia: Where's leadership on El Rio/GCU?

Recent news about Grand Canyon University's desire to locate a campus on Tucson's West Side and how it was handled speaks volumes about how Tucson has "achieved" sixth poorest city status.

As an economic and community development professional with over two decades of experience in the industry, I understand that the general public is often not privy to all the details of a negotiation. As such, I hold out hope that those handling the issue will be able to successfully conclude an agreement that brings Grand Canyon University to our region.

However, this situation is eerily reminiscent of what occurred with the downtown Tucson stadium opportunity where the Mayor and Council dithered while Pima County took action to place the ballpark on Ajo Way. Of bigger concern is the fact that these actions once again reinforce the perception of Tucson as unfriendly to business.

One would think that in a city struggling with high poverty and insufficient revenue to properly address even the most basic services dictated in the City Charter, there would be a greater sense of urgency and purpose coming from elected officials. I was particularly struck with the irony during a public hearing on the Tucson General Plan last night when the staff pointed out language stating that Tucson needs increased educational and job training opportunities.

Rather, the perception that has been sent to hard working Tucsonans is "Oh well, maybe next time." Has city economic development staff been tasked with identifying additional potential sites that might accommodate the University's needs? Have any elected officials reached out to decision makers to emphasize the fact that the opinions of a few don't really represent the entire city and we would really like to have Grand Canyon University locate within the city limits? While the parochial City Council tradition of differing to the ward representative may be appropriate for some issues, should it apply in cases like this one with an overriding benefit to the community as a whole?

Business goes where it is welcome. Site selectors and CEO's read the newspapers. The word travels fast through site selection circles. While Tucson leaders give lip service to being business friendly and seeking increased economic opportunities, these recent actions speak otherwise. Tucson had an opportunity to take a major step forward in addressing our poverty issues – we blinked.

Leadership is the willingness to work with and motivate a group of individuals toward a common goal. Where is the leadership at City Hall?

Ben Buehler-Garcia is a Republican candidate for City Council in Ward 3, running against incumbent Democrat Karin Uhlich.


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