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The Tucson agenda

Screw up or necessary expense? Christy wants answers on Pima County voter ID mailing

A quick look at what's planned for local government meetings

At this week's board meeting, the Pima County supervisors will discuss a state audit that found next to nothing wrong with the county's finances, and get legal advice on an internal skirmish between the merit commission and county staff. Plus, Supervisor Steve Christy will dress down County Recorder Gabriella Cazares-Kelly because it's a free shot for the Republican to raise an "elections integrity" issue. Cue the Democrat's sigh and eyeroll.

Let's start with that one.

After re-districting, Cazares-Kelly's office sent out 615,000 voter registration cards with updated information, hoping to get them into voters hands prior to early voting, which starts July 6. 

On May 3, the county board approved new supervisorial districts. About 84,000 of the cards will have to be resent because the first batch went out with old information on them. Cazares-Kelly said she knew about it would happen and had always planned on mailing an updated batch with the correct information.

State law doesn't set a deadline for this but the whole process was delayed by Census data, which came out late because of the pandemic.

I get Cazares-Kelly deciding to pay $20,000 to send that second batch — it's like a premium to get cards to 90 percent of voters earlier.

I also get the opportunity it provides Christy to demand a full accounting.

If I didn't know better, I'd say Christy and Cazares-Kelly coordinated this because it gives the District 4 Republican the chance to honestly say he's looking out for election integrity without having to mention bamboo ballots, German computer servers or Jewish space lasers.

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The county recorder will defend herself. Supervisors will shrug. Everyone will move on (at least they should).

Bronson meanwhile, wants her own accounting in the form of a review of who got how much rental assistance during the pandemic. We can take the woman out of the accounting firm...

Together, the city of Tucson and Pima County have been handed about $76 million in rental assistance and at last count, in March, kept more than 38,000 families from eviction.

Some of that, undoubtedly, was poorly spent poorly. I mean, the ramp up spins the brain when considering how a threadbare and lightly staffed rental assistance program suddenly has to process 40,000 claims.

But it's worth looking at if for no other reason to ask how to scale up a workforce during times of emergency.

The county will also review the results of a state auditor general's findings as it reviewed the county's financial position.

All it apparently found was the information technology department needs better protection. To be sure, this is important when hackers run rampant. On the other hand, it hardly paints a picture of financial mismanagement at Pima County.

Supervisors will also vote on final approval of the county's $1.9 billion budget. The spending amount was frozen when the board approved a tentative budget earlier this month.

Money can be moved around under that number — for instances, wage increases to county staffers are remain in question. It's how the raises are applied, not if.

County Manager Jan Lesher wants a 5 percent raise for those making under $75,000, 3 percent bumps for those making under $150,000 and 1 percent for those with an annual salary of more than $150,000.

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Supervisors Rex Scott, Adelita Grijalva and Matt Heinz came up with a total of six scenarios for raises. Lesher humbly requests to go with a plan offered by Grijalva. Maybe that's because it's Lesher's proposal with a fourth category of raises that would lift by 8.5 percent salaries less than $35,000 a year.

See Spot freak

July 4 is coming and fireworks permits have been requested by two country clubs and a resort.

Tucson Country Club, Skyline Country Club, 49er Country Club and Westin La Paloma will be celebrating Independence Day with a whole lotta bangs. The 49ers will hold their display July 1 at 8:50 p.m.

In anyone who has a view of the other three spots can watch Westin La Paloma, 3800 E. Sunrise Drive, start shooting artillery at 8:30 p.m., then check out Tucson Country Club, 2950 N. Camino Principal, start sending up salvos at 9 p.m., and Skyline Country Club, 5200 E. St. Andrews Drive, begin their aerial artistry at 9:15 p.m.

Take proper care of the pooches.

Marana goes Metro

The Marana Town Council will vote approve a final $233.5 million budget for fiscal year 2022-23.

The town intends to add another 27 people to its work force bring the total staffing to 429 full-time equivalents. That counts, for instance, two 20-hour per week employees as a single "FTE." Workers will get a 2 percent retention raise and up to 4 percent for performance.

No changes were made since adoption of the tentative budget.

The council will get a chance to become a Metropolitan City, as classified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Marana's population was just below the threshold of 50,000 required to become an "entitlement communities," which means the town would automatically receive Community Development Block Grants and other federal housing money.

HUD has already approved Marana as a Metropolitan City but the final paperwork is lost in some sort of bureaucratic hell. Still, the town staff is recommending Marana ditch a partnership with Pima County to receive these block grants and go their own way.

South Tucson budget dips toe in red

South Tucson has finally (finally!) released its 2022-23 budget. 

The picture isn't pretty but it's not terrible.

The city has a $41,000 budget deficit on $8.2 million overall spending. A one-time fund transfer from a contingency account will keep the city in compliance with laws insisting on balanced budgets.

At the same time, the city's budget includes $132,000 for raises for police, which works out to the equivalent of nearly two officers. It's a $2 an hour raise.

Santa Cruz County and COVID deficits

Santa Cruz County supervisors are set to approve the budget the coming fiscal year and it will require a $2.8 million internal transfer to keep in compliance with balanced budget requirements.

A lot of the county's red ink comes from general fund cash spent on coronavirus mitigation: $316,000 on vaccine delivery, $469,000 on testing and tracing, $144,000 on school reopenings.

Interestingly, the general fund is fine. In fact, the transfer will be made primarily from the general fund if the Board of Supervisors says OK (or, more precisely "aye").

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The board will also vote on a $221,000 agreement with the Mariposa Community Health Center to provide immunization services. The program has been in existence (with the help of the federal government) since 1993.

There's also a $76,000 contract on the agenda to pay Darktrace Holdings to pay for autonomous response to cyberthreats. I guess if the company is named "Darktrace Holdings" we're all going to probably pay this Cambridge, U.K.-based company one way or another.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.


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Pima County

Thousands of voter registration cards got mailed out with quickly outdated information. Supervisor Steve Christy wants answers. Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cazares-Kelly said it was on purpose.

The Tucson agenda

Public meetings around Southern Arizona this week:

Pima County Board of Supervisors

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors

Marana Town Council

South Tucson City Council

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