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Prop. 401 helps brings results to city government

Proposition 401 inserts best practices from other successful cities into Tucson's government

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." It's time to break that cycle in city government in Tucson and bring some sanity to the process by voting yes on Prop 401.

Tucson has struggled, weighed down by an outdated governance process that doesn't serve a modern city. Proposition 401 inserts best practices from other successful cities, such as Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, into Tucson's governance structure.

Proposition 401 will:

  • Compensate the Mayor and Council with a full-time wage that will attract future leadership.
  • Give Tucson a management system that provides for accountability from top managers and strategic leadership by the council.
  • Make the mayor an equal voting member of the council.
  • Change city elections so the mayor and all the council members are elected at the same time. (This cost-saving component allows mayor and council salaries to be increased at no cost to the taxpayers.)

Prop 401 has the support of a diverse group individuals, demographic groups, and organizations that otherwise don't agree on much of anything. In fact, Prop 401 is one of only two ballot propositions in Tucson's recent history that has the support of Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party members, Independents, environmentalists, non-profit executives, labor unions and business leaders.

The four co-chairs of the "Yes on 401" Committee symbolize that diverse support: Carlotta Flores, owner of El Charro Restaurants; Linda Hatfield, chair of Pima Area Labor Federation; former Congressman Jim Kolbe; and Dr. Peter Likins, President Emeritus of University of Arizona.

As you head to the polls Nov. 2 or complete your vote-by-mail ballot, I encourage you to consider the following points and then vote Yes on Prop 401:

  • Tucson may be the only city in the nation that makes it almost impossible to dismiss department heads by providing them with civil service protection. As a result, Tucson city managers have resorted to shuffling failing department heads to different departments, where they hopefully will do less harm. Prop 401 allows department heads to be fired for poor performance.
  • Tucson's mayor cannot vote to fire the city manager, the city attorney, the city clerk, the police chief, or the fire chief. Nor does he count toward a quorum, which is necessary to hold a council meeting. Prop 401 gives the mayor the ability to vote on any issue the council members can vote on, and it makes the mayor part of the quorum requirement.
  • Tucson suffers from a high turnover of city managers. In the 19 years from 1990 to 2009, Tucson has had seven city managers. Prop 401 would stop the revolving door on the city manager's office by giving him the tools needed to effectively do the job, while being fully accountable to the mayor and council.
  • Four of the six city council members need to hold a second job in order to provide themselves a living wage. The staffs of Tucson's city council members earn between $45,000 - $81,000 a year, which means the council aides are paid two-to-three times as much as the council members earn. Prop 401 would increase mayor and council compensation to attract full-time leadership.
  • The compensation adjustment will not go into effect until after the next city election in November 2011. The compensation adjustment would be indexed to the salaries of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Council members would receive 80 percent of the supervisors' compensation – $61,280. The mayor would receive 100 percent of the supervisors' compensation – $76,600. 
  • Prop 401 saves taxpayers money. Tucson taxpayers can save $1.6 million every four years by changing the city election cycle from every two years to every four years.

It's important to remember that Prop 400 and 401 are unrelated. Prop 400 is a ½-cent sales tax increase, which the mayor and city council initiated it to solve a temporary budget problem. Prop 401 was initiated by a diverse citizens coalition to bring better government to the city of Tucson.

I support Prop 401 because I believe it is an opportunity to bring genuine improvement to the processes of city government and, ultimately, improve our city. With Prop 401, our city government will stop doing same thing over and over again, and we can expect different results.

Support TucsonSentinel.com today, because a smarter Tucson is a better Tucson.

I hope you will join me in voting "yes" on Prop 401.

Peterson is a member of the “Yes! On 401” Committee.


Lea Márquez Peterson is president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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