County Supervisor Ally Miller became a one-woman wrecking crew Wednesday when she went on a Tucson radio show and started trashing the county's plan to turn the closed Canoa Hills golf course into a park for Green Valley.
I'm all for a good debate, but about the only thing Miller got right in the interview was her opening line: “I did a little research this afternoon...”
Emphasis on little.
Miller, who serves District 1 north of Tucson, suggested the golf course would become a money pit that will siphon cash from road repairs — her number one issue. I'm not going to defend Pima County's track record on spending, but Miller needs to argue with facts in hand.
Here's some of what she got wrong:
•Supervisor Miller indicated at least three times that the county plans “to buy a golf course and maintain that for the people of Green Valley.” (She repeated this later in several Facebook posts.) Not a word about turning it into a park, which has been the plan all along. Sure, I'd be upset if the county were investing in a golf course in a community that already has too many. But that's not the case. They're investing in a park for a community that has too few.
•Miller said the supervisors received a memo from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry about conducting an environmental assessment of the course. Note that the assessment hasn't been done yet. Yet Miller said Pima County is now on the hook for “a major cleanup, and we can only imagine how much that's going to cost.” Never mind that you can't be on the hook for something you don't own yet. Let's connect that dots that Miller couldn't: If there's a huge cleanup cost, the county isn't going to accept the property.
•Miller said the Green Valley News reported that nobody would be able to park at the golf course property unless the county bought the parking lot for $250,000. Not true. We reported that Huckelberry said he wouldn't enter into a deal for the property unless parking is included. No decision on how that would be worked out. (She also said on Facebook that the county was buying “a maintenance building” for $450,000 as part of the deal. That's inaccurate. The golf course clubhouse is for sale at that price, but it is not part of this deal, and the county has not said it is purchasing it.)
•She cites the $23,000 the county will lose in property taxes it currently collects on the property. Let's talk about a bigger number: The millions of dollars Green Valley residents pay in taxes every year. Now let's look at how many publicly funded parks we have: one. And we had to wait 49 years before we got it. Green Valley residents have been getting the shaft on parks, so an offer to donate 130 acres deserves an honest look.
•Miller said those who live in homes next to the closed golf course are “furious” over the encroaching weeds and lack of maintenance over the years. Later in the interview, she rails on the course owner, who she says is using the county to bail him out of a bad business deal. That's fair criticism. But then she says he should clean it up himself and “sell it to a private investor, sell it to the people in that neighborhood, I don't care.” If Miller thinks the people are furious now, let's watch that property slip into the hands of a developer who puts up a medical building where a fairway once stood. Truth is, it's unlikely that anybody would be interested in buying the property, and everybody knows it. The county wants to take advantage of that lack of interest and do something positive with it. Nothing wrong with exploring that.
Back to roads
Ally Miller is rightfully upset that Pima County's roads are in awful condition. She ties nearly every issue back to this — if the county weren't wasting so much money, we could afford to fix the roads.
As she said in the radio interview: “Roads should be our number one priority.”
We know Pima County has been known to waste money, but rooting out waste isn't going to drum up enough cash to fix our roads. They're just too far gone.
So how do we get it done? On Friday, I asked Farhad Moghimi that question. He's the executive director of the RTA, which has an 11-year track record of successful transportation projects across the county. The Regional Transportation Authority is funded through a half-cent sales tax OK'd by voters in 2006. His answer? Just that — you need a dedicated revenue source. Something the state can't sweep and the county can't spend elsewhere.
There are a couple of plans on the table to do just that — another half-cent sales tax dedicated to road maintenance. The tax is being vetted publicly at forums (ours is in January), and it deserves thorough consideration. Moghimi wasn't endorsing it and I'm not either. Lots to think about before we get there.
But one of the plans, put forth by County Supervisor Steve Christy, would require all five members of the county board to back it. And Miller has already publicly said she's a no. Why?
She'll tell you it's because Pima County wastes too much money and we don't need a new tax — we just need to spend wisely. But the truth is that Miller is saying no because she's angry and frustrated.
That's understandable given Pima County's roads situation — understandable until emotion pushes aside rational thinking and replaces it with rage. Understandable until you wake up one day and find that you trust nobody and you listen to nobody. Understandable until you're digging in your heels to make a point, not because it's what's best for the county.
Ally Miller's there, and she's helping nobody through her campaign of misinformation.
When you find yourself driving on failed roads in years to come, it's very likely that Ally Miller — and her fury — will be the one to blame.