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What the Devil won't tell you

2020 visions: Trafficking in predictions: Pima County could be center of election attention

I want y’all to imagine something.

It’s the morning after Election Day, Nov. 4, 2020. A deeply divided country has remained basically what it was in 2016 with three exceptions. Vice President Joe Biden has won back Michigan and Pennsylvania but Trump holds Wisconsin, where he’s long been faring better in polls. Just like 2016, Trump wins a single electoral vote out of Maine.

Just one of the potential 2020 swing states voted statewide for Democrats in 2018. And that state is ours.

Carrying Arizona would give Trump exactly the 270 electoral votes needed to win. If Biden wins, he jumps from 269 electoral votes to 280.

Now, imagine Trump losing Arizona the same way that U.S. Rep. Martha McSally lost to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. Imagine him losing Arizona with a slow, 10-day bleed of "provisional ballots" and "late earlies" while the whole world waits on the results.

So imagine Trump went to sleep leading in Arizona by 20,000 votes and on Wednesday morning some truly unfortunate subordinate has to remind him about Arizona’s election laws and meticulous ballot-counting procedures.

"See, voters who are mailed early ballots can drop them off at polling places on Election Day but they are only counted after officials determine that they didn't also cast a ballot at the polls, to prove the voter hasn't voted twice."

We’re used to this in Arizona. It happens every year. The British are not. The Russians are not. And Donald John Trump watching his presidency slip away in places like Casa Grande and Nogales, will lose … his ever-loving … mind.

Or do we really think he’ll sit on a couch with an all-American dog and say to YouTube viewers, “I just called Joe Biden (or whomever your choice of Democratic candidates might be) to congratulate him …”?

If Trump loses by 10 points, he'll say the the 14-million-vote margin was the result of 10 million illegal immigrants voting twice.

Or let’s say Trump loses the state outright on election night but because Pima County, as ever, comes in hours after the other 14 counties. Think he won’t say something is rigged in Tucson? Or will he patiently wait to hear about how the Pima County Democratic Party sued over elections integrity in 2007 and so our votes get vetted and tallied at a snail’s pace. Think he won’t smell a conspiracy?

Here comes 2020, people, and God only knows what happens next.

Mayor Regina

As we look ahead to 2020, let’s start with thoughts that won’t lead to a second Civil War, shall we?

One of the first things we should keep an eye on is whether newly elected Tucson Mayor Regina Romero starts throwing her weight around early.

We’ve had 20 years of mayors who are either cautious (Bob Walkup) or calculating (Jonathan Rothschild). And Romero, for how radical her detractors say she is, is a woman who will watch and wait.

I imagine the answer will be how fast the existing power structure of Tucson starts mansplaining to her.

As mayor, she’s not really given any outsized authority. We have a “weak” mayor system. But in politics, strength and power are just as often about perception. Start acting bossy and people will follow. The local GOP has all but gone out of business and Romero is the titular head of the local Democratic Party. That’s power.

Also, there’s proximity. She’s the one member of the Tucson City Council with an office in City Hall. She can kinda, sorta ride herd over staff – or at the very least City Manager Mike Ortega. The first relationship she’ll have to build, is with Ortega. Together, they could be pretty freaking powerful.

Divided, her tenure as mayor could devolve quickly into chaos. So there’s a risk. If she can corral four votes on the Council to follow a specific and limited agenda, then she can make waves.

The venue for an early move could come with some sort of regional exercise like Sun Corridor, Inc. or the Regional Transportation Authority, where she will speak for the whole of the City of Tucson. Economic development and transportation will be major challenges for the community moving forward.

Climate moves to the fore

Then there’s the issue that’s always been there but more in the background: Climate change.

The time for debating the risk of increased carbon emissions as they contribute to the threat to civilization has more or less come and gone.

Never mind Greta and her adolescent army, insurance companies aren’t saying “Chinese Hoax.” The risk is going to show up in premiums. Ratings agencies like Moodys and Standard and Poore’s aren’t talking gibberish about how water is a greenhouse gas. The U.S. military isn’t trying to own the libs

The professional students of risk are just staring at doubters across the table as they price in the costs climate changing on lending, running a business, owning a home, or assuming a defense posture.

That means, Tucson has reached a point where climate change is going to be an issue forced by facts on virtually every element of local planning.

Our hands will be forced. So the question will, perhaps as soon as this year, do we address it piecemeal or with a broader vision?

I get it. There are more immediate needs and the time estimates involved in what it will take to convert the economy has failed to cost in the time of winning hearts and minds. This is a much bigger job than passing ordinances, statutes and national legislation and the Left has failed to accept that.

Still, the powers that be are clearing their throats and looking at the deniers like parents who damned well know where the lost cookies went.

Another go at more K-12 dough

School funding is again going to be a dominant issue when the Legislature convenes because despite all the new money given to K-12 during the last few years, it’s yet to really change Arizona’s position relative to other states.

Also, the new money Gov. Doug Ducey has added to school funding is your basic good-economy windfall. It’s not tied to a dedicated block of revenue. A change in economic fortunes means that money would almost certainly disappear.

That’s a function of how far the state lagged the rest of the country – like $1 billion in funding separated Arizona in per-pupil funding and Mississippi. That’s when Mississippi ranked 48th in the country.

The Red4Ed movement nearly forced a ballot question that would have asked voters for an increase in taxes on wealthy Arizonans to pay for more school spending but they screwed up the wording and the state Supreme Court nixed the question.

They’re coming back for another round and the Legislature is said to have been looking for a competing question that would limit new spending to sales taxes.

Watch for a grand bargain, where Ducey, the Legislature, schools activists and business leaders agree on a compromise ballot question that can go to the voters.

The border wall

Won't be built. Mexico won't pay. Suckers.

Open road, open questions

The county is looking at a new program for transportation … or is it transit.

On the one hand, Tucson’s roads need a lot of work just in terms of maintenance that hasn’t been done. On the other hand, long-range planning is underway now to come up with an extension of the Regional Transportation Authority, paid for with a half-cent sales tax.

Fixing roads is transportation. Transit is more about how people move through a system of conveyance. How a community most effectively and efficiently move the maximum number of people around town allows for the idea that it’s often about getting people out of cars, rather than just facilitating more and more vehicle trips.

So the argument over long-term planning will almost certainly hinge on just how many new lane miles the Tucson region needs.

I’m hearing they’re not necessarily enamored of the idea of just perpetually widening thoroughfares. Lane miles are losing out to “intermodal linkages.” It’s another way of saying: Park your car here and get on your bike/bus/scooter/golf cart.

Here’s the issue: The biggest threat to a denser, more “intermodal” community is on-site parking. In 100 New York steps a pedestrian can past a block’s worth of shopping, office and retail. In Tucson, we require all of it to have on-site parknig so an acre of retail requires X acres of striped blacktop. Those hundred steps in Tucson can barely get someone across a Mattress Firm property.

So long as parking is two-dimensional, Tucson will sprawl and cars will rule.

It’s an example of how land-use planning will decide how people move around Tucson.

Election prediction

Trump could lose 400-plus electoral votes in the upcoming election and be trounced by 10-plus points. That would not shock me.

However, the economy continues to chug along (at least for those who are already doing well) and presidents always ride good business cycles to re-election. So I have to peg Trump as a 7:6 favorite to win the election. 

No matter how much some of us might hate him as much as he hates those who criticize him, he also appears to be driving world events. China can't believe its luck in getting a president out to annihilate everything great about America on the world stage, and will likely give him a trade deal. Europe is waiting out the joke and seems weak by comparison.

They may be cutting the U.S. out of deals behind his back, but they are giving him his shiny baubles and that will look a lot like leadership in the floaty part of the business cycle.

Those presidents don't lose. But Trump is going to everything he can to lose and lose big. I'm not sure he can screw this pooch. He's also greatly aided by a hole in the demographics. The old Red States aren't yet Blue but the old Blue States may be turning Red at the right moment for Trump to benefit.

If he does win, that might be the worst of all worlds for the GOP. Trump's "consequences don't matter/I know everything" approach to the job is exactly how banks approached the housing bubble. It's how tech companies approached the tech bubble. It's how Iraq went bad. When the Trump bubble bursts — and it will burst like it always does on reckless behavior — he'd still be in office. 

So here's a prediction: He could win re-election and get voted out of office by 2023. He may become such a liability to the Republicans in 2022 that he may not last for a second term. What will make the MAGA's turn? Failure and loserdom. A recession hitting while the world decides to turn on the U.S., could make the GOP run for cover. America First is one thing. A broke America surrounded is another.

If his bubble is going to burst, isn't it better to have him in there when it does? George W. Bush won re-election and Republicans were nearly flung into obscurity for a generation, but for President Obama's hope that bygones could be bygones. 

I'm not sure Trump doesn't follow them like Jimmy Carter followed Democrats.

It's going to be close, I think. And it could be decided right here.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for 20 years and also worked in Democratic political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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