November is Coming

Behind the Scenes: 

Back in January, when I finally settled on what aspect of Pima County I was going to explore, I fully understood I was going in over my head. My knowledge of political science was restricted to what I had learned in AP US Government and AP Comparative Government, and supplemented with my experience in the executive branch at the Town of Marana in the summer after 10th grade and my time with the Oro Valley legislature on the Youth Advisory Council.

Admittedly, it’s not too shabby for a high schooler, but all of those looks were a gloss. They were superficial glances at systems much heftier in their actual activity, both politically and otherwise, and my best look was at the simplest of those – the municipal government, that least politicized and smallest, structurally. In comparison, the County Government and State Government overseeing it looked absolutely vast. Honestly, they still do.

Picture it like this. A government class starts at the level most easiest to comprehend. A federal government class might start with basic functions of each of the three branches, maybe look into how a bill becomes a law, or some checks and balances. That might represent the first layer of knowledge about the federal government. Once that’s peeled away in its entirety, the second level is open for probing – interest groups, elite and class theory, bureaucracy. That second level is the stuff you might not get in a day. It’s information that a high school textbook might hold, instead of a Schoolhouse Rock video. But the third, fourth, fifth, and the rest are significantly harder to grasp. Each little tidbit of political theory has vast amounts of study done on them, so you could dabble in interest groups for years without having to move outside them. The last levels of any issue can only be understood from experience. Hole.png

That was my dilemma, but on the County level. The issue of why the bonds failed ultimately didn’t end up merely being a political issue either, as it demanded skills I’d acquired for argument, rhetorical, and historical analysis. To understand the bonding process fully, then, I couldn’t attempt to study the County as I’d studied the federal government. Instead of peeling back layers, I’d have to take a drill to them, and go as fast as I could through them, deep, only snagging necessary information, and leaving the rest where it was. Hardcore research, in other words.

Which then evokes the question – how was I researching, beyond my broad drill-digging technique? That’s a personal question, not because I won’t answer it, but because it directly ties in with my motive for doing the project. I thrive on interesting things, and the rumors surrounding county governance so rampant in the media, suggested that something was critically wrong. Or, as Supervisor Ray Carrol put it in this Arizona Daily Star piece, when referring to Supervisor Ally Miller’s alleged “brand-damaging”: “She might have 100 conspiracies that she’s thinking exist, but only one in 100 actually exists.” 

“What’s that you say, Mr. Carrol?” I thought to myself. “Which one?”

It’s true – I went into my research thinking there was something amiss. If there was, my project would suddenly be very interesting indeed. Something rotten in the County of Pima, if you will. Naturally, to maintain objectivity, I had to adapt my research accordingly, so that I wouldn’t find myself trailing one idea and one idea only. So instead I adopted a different, broader tactic. I’d probe everything I could for traces of illegal behavior – corruption in the traditional sense linking officials to under-the-table deals, secret gift baskets, the like. If there was something, cool. If not, so be it. That’s why I initially started with the Bond Advisory Committee. gift-box-with-ribbon-silhouette_318-40616Had the Strongpoint Survey been an unapologetic advocacy survey for bonds (not that it wasn’t, but it was unintentional), the County would have been deliberately corrupt, and show itself worthy of the distrust so obviously exhibited in the election. Had the “closed-doors” meeting been proved to be a deliberate, illegal circumvention of the BAC, the same result. The reason I investigated the BAC, Mr. Huckelberry, Diamond Ventures, SALC before I polled voters – I was looking, looking, looking for something incriminating, something that would confirm the results I already knew I’d get from the voters. How’d I know what I was going to get from the voters?

Because I voted. I voted No on all 7 bonds because it was too expensive, taxes would go up, and people around me seemed to be very skeptical of Pima County government. The controversy with the golf course acquisition in Oro Valley didn’t help either – it contributed to an overall environment of government mistrust. Logically, I knew that there had to be a deeper reason for that mistrust, but finding more out about the mistrust itself wasn’t necessarily going to be the most useful thing.

So like the Wake-Up Tucson folks, Supervisor Miller, the Town of Marana, the State Auditor General and everyone else who came before me, I went looking for something superficially sinister. “Researchers Say,” “Here Be Fishes,” “Flatlining,” my blog posts’ titles read, sensing something shady. But in reality, there wasn’t really much shady on the surface, or even legally, beyond what certain interviewees’ confusion and discordant stories suggested. And in “Conspiratorial Complications” I admitted it.

“Perception of corruption,” I said, “makes the veracity of real corruption irrelevant.”

At that point, I was prepared to throw in the towel on something grand and dark. My research had proved fruitful, as I’d intended it to. Rather than turning up some mangled skeleton, it had turned up nothing, which suggested that the sheer thought in voters’ minds that there might be skeletons and certain media outlets advertisement of that idea had brought the bond package to its knees. This idea, and only that, might have been the death knell for the bonds. That would have been the end.  My project would have ended up factual, but uninspiring, and would have turned out less interesting than it could have.

I still had a month of project left, though. And as writing “Conspiratorial Complications” cleared my mind, I realized something crucial from my interviews with Frank Cassidy and Priscilla Storm. Perhaps I wasn’t looking for the right skeletons. dinosaur-bones-clipart-trex-skeleton

I’d been looking for human skeletons, only a couple years old. Skeletons that connected administrative and BAC action since 2007 to the bond failure. What I really needed to look for were dinosaur skeletons. Massive secrets that no one would have thought to dig for, buried in odd places.

I hit the newspaper archives. They only went back to 1991, but that was okay, because they cited events going back further. Most interesting of these articles were the ones that dealt directly with the history of bonding in the County, and Chuck Huckelberry’s entanglement with both bonding and the County itself. And open space. That kept turning up in the weirdest of ways.

Ultimately, all the articles led straight to 1997, and the creation of Truth-in-Bonding. Swiftly, everything came together. I had already read Chapter 3.06, but upon my second read, all the semantic stunts, tactical manipulations – all of it was suddenly relevant. I’d done the research on both the voters’ side and the officials’ side, and the four remaining issues that had seemed only tied to a perception of corruption suddenly pointed straight at the bones holding the whole affair together. BAC missteps, amortization schedules, accusations of corruption, unkept promises – they all pointed a glaring finger straight at the Truth-in-Bonding code, which, given the circumstances leading up to its ratification, could only have been created with such counterintuitive regulations by someone with intent.

It was all suddenly interesting again – the bonds had failed for a very real, very relevant reason, and what a reason it was. My presentation went off splendidly, I got on the radio, I had an absolute blast. But one thing remained.

This was all real. Sure, it went back 40 years in history, but all of that history linked up seamlessly to my actual life. In that, it was extraordinary. I had read about things like Watergate, or Teapot Dome, or Iranian government in general, but this was all actually happening. The effects of a collapsed bonding system, and a twisted government were affecting people around me. Roads wrecked suspensions daily, sometimes causing wrecks. Anger built, the government gradually lost its legitimacy. Very, very real people cursed me out at the Trump rally, and later apologized at the Wake-Up Tucson anniversary party.

It wasn’t theoretical, and yet the real reason for the bonds’ failure was and still is unknown to the citizens of the county. That’s what “Revelation” was for – condensing all my research into one final piece. American-flag-clip-art-image-2-2.pngI’ll be publicizing it, and trying to show this unfailingly real, human community what they’re being pinned down by. It’s my civic duty. As a citizen of America, Arizona, and Unincorporated Pima County, before I leave, I must, as Alexis de Tocqueville described, “take an interest in [my town] because [I] help direct its affairs,” “invest [my] ambition and [my] future in the town and participate in all aspects of community life.”

What they forgot when they circumvented the voter with the Truth-in-Bonding code was that the voter could still vote No and understand the necessity of doing so. Becoming educated, and allowing others to do so, in order that America can remain America – that’s crucial. And that, ultimately, is why I did it.

Epilogue: 

Pima County remains a Rhode Island-populated, Connecticut-sized entity governed as if it were a small town. What this means for general ordinance bonds is that it’s impossible for an entire package to specifically benefit one area. No matter which philosophy the BAC had used (something for everyone/everyone wants something) for the 2015 election the result would have been the same: Pima County citizens, if they wanted a project, would have had to shell out a majority of their raised taxes not for the project they wanted, but for a project they’d never feel the benefits of. This dispersion of funds from their source is one of the most basic problems I’ve seen with “big” government, and that’s just at the County level. Yet, this was instrumental in getting people to hate bonds. The fact that money was unequally diverted to South Tucson? It angered Oro Valley and Marana. state-ri

The easy solution to this is turning over the power of bonding in Pima County to the various municipalities, like in the Phoenix area, and then allowing for further incorporation in the Foothills, Catalina, Vail, Casas Adobes, Green Valley, and elsewhere across the county. Then, each municipality could issue their own bonds, and the money would remain within the community, and since people feel closer to Oro Valley than they do to the Connecticut-sized Pima County, they’d be more likely to pass, and community benefit would be more likely to occur.

And yet, Pima County only as 5 incorporated towns. Maricopa – 25. They’re almost exactly the same size, and yet Maricopa’s population’s nearly four times Pima’s. Maricopa County’s economy is booming, its cities rapidly growing. The Phoenix Metro is nearly sprawl incarnate. The Tucson Metro, on the other hand, is not.

It is my belief that all legislative and executive action in Pima County is designed with the ultimate goal to continue to limit Phoenician sprawl in the Old Pueblo.

I don’t have what I’d call proof for this belief, but I have a ton of evidence, and I’m going to lay it out quickly here.

To sum it up, I believe Chuck Huckelberry’s early exposure to open space motivated him throughout his future career to make it really his issue, his ultimate goal. I suppose this because my early exposure to local government and its power in society is likely going to influence the direction of my politics for the rest of my life.

In Chuck Huckelberry’s political career, he’s made the cessation of sprawl his ultimate goal. (I’d like to  note this is a fine goal. As long as it’s secondary, or tertiary, or not impeding everything else in favor of it.) In terms of transparent behavior, in 1998, he proclaimed that Pima’s urban planning model would be nontraditional, “ask[ing] first where growth should not occur” over all other planning priorities. The 1997 bond package authorized the purchase of open space across the county, without necessarily specifying where that would be.sustainable by xkcd The Pima Cultural Leadership Coalition that created the Cultural Plan was rife with important people in government – Larry Hecker, Ron Shoopman, Chuck Huckelberry, the four “old guard” of the Board of Supervisors, Strongpoint CEO Mary Rowley’s husband, Jim. They came together to stop Tucson from being a Phoenician weed, and Protecting Our Land, Water, and Heritage laid out a propaganda-esque, region-wide scheme to pull it off. Time, energy, money – massive amounts of energy was spent on the transparent, public aspect of conservation.

Yet, that’s not the clincher. This is:

Open space occupies a special place in the code of ordinances. Certain sections are devoted entirely to it. But what seals the deal is its unique inclusion in the bonding code. The Conservation Acquisition Commission has no equal parallel in roads, parks, flood control, neighborhood reinvestment, public health, or tourism. Unlike those six, Open Space has a direct representative built into the code itself that’s driven by precedent. “Find what open space we buy next,” it effectively commands the Commission. And so it does.

So when the City fought against incorporation of various communities in the unincorporated County, and when a special law that would have allowed incorporated municipalities to opt out of participating in a bond package, it was promptly taken to court, and shot down as unconstitutional. It is my belief that Pima County, in order to maintain control over conservation efforts across the Sonoran Desert region, will not relinquish bonding power to cities and towns, and will most definitely not allow further incorporation. At any cost – road dilapidation? Fine. Poverty? Fine. Businesses fleeing Tucson like it’s the plague? Fine. More space. More open. More open space. The economy collapsing and Tucson going bankrupt?

Open Space

It’s all good. Conservation is the priority in this town, and that’s why it’s built, explicitly, into the code of ordinances and the Truth-in-Bonding code. It’s like the Confederate States of America having a clone of the Union’s Constitution, with specific provisions added for the preservation of slavery. It was an issue-based Constitution, much as the code of ordinances is an issue-based code.

That’s all. Pima County’s direction is governed by a minority agenda, unhindered by a supposed accountability-creating document that actually dissolves all accountability. Pima County is the prime example of a government getting away with itself, and shirking its duty to popular sovereignty. It’s rogue, unshackled, and swiftly becoming unstoppable. It runs even without Huckelberry at its helm, as the Truth-in-Bonding code, fueled by precedent, will continue to churn out policy as Huckelberry would have wished it.

There’s only one way to stop it now.

November is coming, fellow citizens. Vote wisely.

Inspector Cactus

 

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Revelation

Update:

I will no longer be completing my research paper. Instead, as recommended by one of the people I interviewed, I’ll be condensing my research paper and results in general into a piece illustrating the cause, failure, and cause of the causes of the failure of the 2015 Bond Package. The reason for this is fairly simple – I’ve already written a research paper, and it comes in the form of this blog. The blog, admittedly, reads more like a detective novel than a conventional research paper, but seeing as all the citations are there, all the explanations are there, all the detail, etc is already existent, I believe I’m just going to leave it as is, as a traditional research paper would be too short to be comprehensive, too long to be coherent, while an assortment of blog posts turns out to be perfect.

Full disclosure: I actually wrote the paper. It was abysmally bad – disjointed, incoherent, overlong, flippant, the gamut. It also needed to be about the length of the blog to encapsulate all of the strands that pointed toward the Truth-in-Bonding code. It’s, in table-light-silhouette-vector1other words, fully unworthy of being published on any platform, so I won’t.

So instead, to conclude the project, an unofficial synopsis addressing why the bonds failed.

Synopsis: 

The 815,760,000 dollar bond package put up before the voters of Pima County by the Board of Supervisors on November 3rd, 2015 failed, by approximately a 60%/40% nay/yea margin averaged across all seven propositions, none of which individually passed.

The county administration declined to do any focused research on the subject to explain the reason this occurred, instead sticking to superficial, immediate analysis of the data, noting that results weren’t tied to project locations or funding per proposition, but rather to political and demographic distributions – Republican precincts (147, 125, etc.) typically voting against the package, with Democratic precincts, especially in District 5 tending to vote in favor. This was anomalous, given the institution of bonding’s non-partisan qualities, as well as those similar qualities of community renewal as a whole.

Thus, the package couldn’t have caused its own failure. In other words, the ideological El_Gdisputes so familiar in partisan politics must have brought down the package, as, for the most part, the actual items within the propositions weren’t the cause of the failure. Had they been, election results wouldn’t have been tied to precinct partisanship, but rather location and funding amounts.

A polling of approximately 110 No voters confirmed this assertion, and immediately explained the bond’s failure. Four overarching reasons were provided for the failure – two results of government, two results of precedent.

  • Precedent
    • Tax Increase & Overall Debt (Taxes)
    • Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) Missteps (Missteps)
  • Government
    • Unkept Promises in 1997 & 2004 (Promises)
    • Distrust in Pima County Bonding and Affiliated Officials (Corruption)

All the higher-order reasons for dissent ultimately boil down to the previous four, from pursuit of “non-essential” government functions (Missteps, Corruption) to consistently abysmal road conditions in unincorporated Pima County (Corruption, Promises, Taxes).

Seemingly separate, outside of superficial aspects such as the County Administration’s involvement during bonding deliberations affecting public perceptions of the legitimacy of watchdog organizations, the four issues don’t easily lend themselves to deeper analysis. Frankly, the four issues appear to be, for the most part, exclusive. However, that’s only the case if the investigation of the 2015 election is conducted in reverse chronological order. On the other hand, if the investigation is conducted  from the vantage point of March 31st, 2015, the date the package was recommended to the Board of Supervisors by the BAC, with the assumption that the bonds would pass, then the creation of the package becomes relevant as to its future passage, rather than looking back on what about the package itself and its surrounding environment elicited its failure.

In other words, by looking at what would have made the bonds more likely to pass, we can determine the root cause (technically some sort of omission) of the four issues that voters identified brought down the 2015 package by realizing the procedural problems that Natural Disasters2politically illegitimized the package in the eyes of some voters.

Procedural analysis can be done in two ways – looking at the implementation of the procedure and the procedure itself separately, and looking at the effects of the procedure upon its implementation. The bonding procedure is laid out in the Pima County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 3.06, colloquially known as the Truth-in-Bonding code. Created in 1997, after the executive disaster that was the implementation of the 1986 bonds, the document supposedly promised “the county [would] stick to a more detailed [bonding] plan and that there [would be] safeguards to guarantee it [would] be followed.”

Safeguards included the creation of a 25 member committee, the Bond Advisory Committee. The BAC was given two roles, an oversight role and a creative role. The first solidified its position as a watchdog agency, as it would “review and approve the semiannual progress reports on the bond implementation plan” drawn up “under direction of the county administrator.” Secondly, the BAC would “make recommendations to the board of supervisors about the amount of bond funding and projects to be included in bond implementation plans for future bond elections.” It was this role, the creative role as the representative of the people, that would bring the Committee fully into the spotlight of public scrutiny.

Note that, outside of a mandate to “review and make recommendations to the board of supervisors on all proposed amendments to the bond implementation plan,” that was the entirety of the committee’s direction.

Unhindered, the committee pushed forward into the resoundingly successful 2004 election, governed by three rules:

  1. Projects already partially privately funded would be prioritized.
  2. Bond funding would not be used for maintenance, but only for new infrastructure.
  3. Partially completed projects would have priority over entirely new projects.

Combined with the original mandates from the Code of Ordinances, those three rules would provide the precedent (the one mentioned earlier), for Committee deliberations in the future.

Getting back to the procedural analysis, we’ve now exposed the procedure itself with regards to the BAC, but have yet to explain how the gaps and vagaries in the procedure resulted in some (or all) of the issues that the voters identified when rejecting the package. A simple way to do this is to contrast what changed from 2004 to 2015 that allowed the 2004 General Ordinance package to pass with such ease, then disappeared, resulting in the 2015 package’s collapse. Explicitly, this is the Missteps section of our four issues, and the biggest misstep happened in 2008, after the Great Recession.

Before the recession, the Bond Advisory Committee’s effective mission statement was “something for everyone,” by which was meant that something would be put into the package that someone would want somewhere in the county. In other words, if somebody in Marana wanted a park, there’d be a park for them, and they’d be more likely to vote for the entire package, which included a flood control project in Sahuarita for the Sahuaritans.  However, after the recession hit, a large amount of nonprofits lost funding, and went looking for money, which they found – bond projects.The Missing Step

Nonprofits fit perfectly with the BAC’s three rules – oftentimes, they could provide some of the funds for a new project, their projects were new, and their projects were often partially completed, giving them a known community benefit, since the nonprofit had already done the research. On top of that, now that the BAC had interested parties coming to them, they no longer had to go out to the public to fulfill their mandate about which “projects [were] to be included in bond implementation plans for future bond elections” – the projects were coming to them. The projects being included in the package took on a new form – unlike in 2004, they were no longer public interests, but rather public-private interests. The Bond Committee no longer included something for everyone, instead appealing to everyone who wanted something.

As a result, when in 2015 the average voter revealed they believed they had been left out of the bonding process, and that the projects weren’t actually benefitting them, they were right. While the Bond Advisory Committee wasn’t intentionally catering to special interests, the precedents set by their rules and unspecific mandate resulted in them catering to special interests anyway.

The voter didn’t see all of the precedent that led up to the 2015 package’s creation, though, unless they spent three months digging through archives about it. All they saw was the final product – the list of projects, and maybe the proposed bond ordinance, if they had the time to search for it. Either suggests one thing – the projects that didn’t benefit Pima County as a whole gave the appearance of public money intentionally going to private individuals intimately connected to public officials. In other words, the second of the government related problems voters identified: Corruption.

The specificity of various bond projects could, potentially, have gone unnoticed by the voters, had that been the only accusation of corruption. Perhaps had the blatant funding of charities with office funds outlawed in early 2015 and the deliberate misinterpretation Strongpointof survey data in the BAC’s final recommendation to the Board of Supervisors been the only examples, it wouldn’t have been as prominent a problem. Unfortunately for the County, accusations of corruption have been pouring in since 1986. Even after 1997, when the Truth-in-Bonding code supposedly cured the County of its opaque behavior, the opaque behavior continued. The code promised that projects promised in the 1997 and 2004 ordinances would be completed. As Appendix D of the 2013 Auditor General’s report showed, that wasn’t the case. Projects were still changed without voter approval (Government: Promises), and retained the capacity to be changed without even the approval of the Board of Supervisors and the BAC, as long as the changes remained within restrictions enumerated in the code.

Here’s where the problem gets extremely serious. Those “restrictions”? They’re not really restrictions at all – had they been applied to their full extent before the Board’s approval was necessary, an uncanny $203,939,999.99 could have been appended to the original package by the County Administrator, without the Board of Supervisors or, more importantly, the voters. With Board approval? An unlimited amount of projects could have been theoretically added to the package as long as they were concordant with original, vaguely defined, intent. In other words, the Truth-in-Bonding code wasn’t a check on the Board and Administrator’s power at all, it was an enabler, allowing them to push through projects they might have wanted, potentially personal projects, with a powerful funding source – bonds. Bunny Rabbit

Corruption and Promises – inextricably linked, and ultimately derivative of a spectacularly designed legal lie. Missteps – resulting in the illumination of Corruption, while simultaneously excluding the most important interest group, voters.

That leaves one final issue – taxes. This one genuinely seems to be exclusive from the other three, as it simply boils down to the package being large enough to exceed the secondary property tax cap imposed on the compounded bonding amortization schedule.

That is, until it becomes evident that the package’s size wasn’t the intended package’s size, and the reason it got that big – well, that leads right back to the Truth-in-Bonding code. This time, though, it’s not concerned with financial corruption and project promises, but rather the vague mandate that created the Bond Advisory Committee and gave it its purpose.

Turns out, the Bond Committee’s two-pronged purpose as both an advisory linkage institution and a watchdog organization is entirely ceremonial. The latter can only actually censor the County Administrator by appealing to the media, which informs the public, which waits for an election, reappoints the Board of Supervisors, which then may or may not reappoint the County Administrator, stopping the problem much later than it should have been stopped. The BAC, in other words, has a window into the system and can often see what’s going on, but is denied an actual door. The former is hindered by something much more obvious. In the words of the County Administrator’s Executive Assistant: “The Bond Advisory Committee is just that – an advisory committee to the Board. The Board is not required to follow their advice.”

It’s that simple. The creation of a highly qualified committee, replete with lawyers, financially savvy folks, and city politicians, all aware of public needs, were conscientious of the necessity to not raise taxes with the implementation of bonds. Thus, their original $615,760,000 package did just that – it didn’t raise taxes. Then, after the Committee recommended that package to the Board of Supervisors, the Southern Arizona Leadership Coalition was asked Mad Scientistby the County Administrator to gauge public support for the package through a survey. It found that the public was likely to vote against the bonds – unless a road proposition was included.
And suddenly, it was. Proposition 425: Road & Highway Improvements.

Not only did the sudden inclusion of Prop 425 circumvent the BAC’s supposed right to be the sole recommender, it violently trampled over the BAC’s three governing rules – notably the second: bond funding would not be used for maintenance. But there it was, haphazardly slapped on at the last minute by the Administrator, to be approved by the Supervisors on April 21st. Taxes went up because the precedent set by the Truth-in-Bonding code allowed for the BAC’s compounded financial knowledge, rules, and purpose to be utterly ignored.

And on November 3rd, the package failed. All four issues created originally by Chapter 3.06 of the Code of Ordinances seethed together to evoke a ball of voter distaste, and every single proposition failed, no matter how essential or inexpensive it was.

The 1997 Truth-in-Bonding code created an atmosphere of distrust and uncertainty in 2015, and the process of bonding in Pima County collapsed, victim to legislative manipulation two decades prior.

 

 

Ice Cream Sprinkles

Clarification: 

In “Penn & Teller,” I mentioned that there was an Open Space project valued at $95,000,000. That’s not actually true – there’s an asterisk appended to the Open Space Acquisition item that refers to to the bottom of the 2015 Pima County Bond Projects, where it states, “These projects are not mapped – for project descriptions please visit http://www.pima.gov/bonds2015.”

Projects, plural.

Now, the astute reader might assert that revelation invalidates my conclusion that the County could raise voters’ taxes to pay for an extra $23,740,000 in random open space without telling anyone. That’s not true. What is true, though, is that still, per Chapter 3.06.070, Subsection B, the County Administrator’s office can still raise voters’ taxes $23,740,000 without telling anyone. Let’s look at the tourism proposition again, Prop 427. Within it, there were 11 projects, totaling $98,600,000. If you take 25% of each individual project, then, and add them all together, you’ll get 25% of $98,600,000 because algebra works like that.
25% of $98,600,000? That’s $24,650,000, which means, without any input from the voter, whether through election or public hearing before the Board of Supervisors, the County Administration can freely issue $24,649,999.99 of bonds and levy an accordant amount of taxes to cover it.

Now, one more fun tidbit. The entire bond package, through all 7 propositions, had 99 items. That means there were even more projects, because of the aforementioned point about some of them not yet being mapped. Take 25% of each of those projects, and it’ll equal 25% of the entire cost of the package. The entire cost of the package: $815,760,000.

large-LightSaber-Fantasy--33.3-1083625%? $203,940,000.

So, if the 25% augmentations were spread equally across every single project in the bond package, under the Truth In Bonding code, the County Administrator, without consulting anyone, can levy taxes on the unsuspecting voter that total more than the 1974, 1979, 1982, and 1985 bond packages were worth, combined. That’s like the County stealing all this buried treasure they found in Costa Rica from the voter. Or the County saying to the voter – “Hey, Voters. We’re going to use your money to produce Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Just we’re not going to tell you we used your money, we’re just going to do it.”

Admittedly, the voter might be more okay with that, because Star Wars is cool and taxes perceived to be unauthorized (but actually are authorized, sort of) are not

One last thing – if the County levied $203,940,000 in taxes on the citizenry it would be political suicide, just like if they moved all the unauthorized projects into the one proposition that passed. There’d be a seemingly instantaneous recall election, and massive job exodus. So it won’t ever happen, but that’s fundamentally not the point. The point is this – based on a document supposedly designed to legitimize and defog the bonding process, all sorts of political faux pas can be enacted, without batting an eye. Because after all, they told you they can do this sort of stuff.

Update:

I have four things to finish before Thursday, May 5th, when I give my final presentation. These four things are as follows: a speech transcript, a slideshow, a research paper, and a news article that potentially directs readers to said research paper.

As of today, I’ve finished the speech, and the slideshow. They’re both as good as I can make them, given my supposed 18 minute time constraint. Cramming my last few months of research into that much time strips me of probably three-quarters of it, but what’s left in the speech is the really meaty stuff. The fiery, spicy, meaty stuff.

That leaves me with a research paper and a news article. The latter will be easy, but I need to have a research paper to refer readers to. And seeing as my960378-ice-cream-bowl-coloring-page.png speech was 2800 words, approximately, and my research paper outline 5 pages long, I’m bargaining on a solid writing commitment over the next few days. I missed my April 25th deadline. Now I’m shooting for Monday.

And finally, I’m going to be on the radio again on Friday, this time discussing my findings! I’ll be on the air at a more awake time for me, at least: 8:00 AM, on 1030 AM.

That’s 8:00 AM (ante meridian), on 1030 AM (amplitude modulation), on April 29th, 2015 AD, (anno domine.) Wish me luck!

Post Script: 

I’ll be back after my radio interview to post some pertinent links to my project, and publicize the date, time, and location of my presentation. Also, short post record!

Penn & Teller

Note: 

This is the final blog post I’ll be writing that elaborates upon my research itself, in the investigative form I’ve previously been doing it – not just speaking about how I’m doing research, but also the research itself. black_top_hat.pngThis post will continue in that trend – revealing some of the most extraordinary things I’ve found about Pima County bonding, but I’m not yet going to connect the dots – that’ll happen in my research paper, which I hope to have completed by Monday, the 25th of April.

For the next two weeks, I’ll be using a new style of blog posts, one that will be much more similar to everyone else’s blog posts (which can be found here, on the BASIS Oro Valley website). Rather than chronicling my research, it will now chronicle the process of compiling that research – more journal than investigation, in other words. I’ll be updating how far I’ve gotten into the paper, sources, presentation progress, and the occasional info tidbit, if it’s pertinent enough.

But for one more glorious post – let’s watch that Pima County Magic happen.

Implications: 

Last post, you’ll recall, I related this quote: “The bond money never goes where they promise it will go!” while another person suggested that sort of behavior was “malfeasance of governing.”

Does it not? And is it?

To the first answer – sort of. The second? No… technically.

These two types comprised around half of the straight-up No voters’ responses, and are incredibly relevant. Why? This November, the hammers all come down – all 5 supervisors are up for reelection, and since they appoint the county administrator, his job is potentially in jeopardy as well. Hammer and AnvilA significant portion of the population, reinforced by the saliently establishment-antagonistic WakeUp Tucson show and its allies, believes that the county government is indeed guilty of malfeasance – malfeasance often directly related to bond money maneuvering. Should the county government be innocent of that allegation – their legitimacy ought not be impugned. But, in the event that malfeasance has indeed taken place – the media ought to let the election proceed democratically, as the Bond Election of 2015 did. That’s why it’s important.

History: 

But first, let’s go back farther than we ever have before: 1974. This was the year when the bonding process began. Over the next 12 years, 7 of them contained bond elections, culminating in the 1986 Bond Election – which bonded for $165,400,000 worth of General Obligation (GO) funds, more than twice that of the next largest GO package ever, at the time – 1980’s $60,000,000 bond package.

Three interesting things about the 1986 Bond Election.

  1. It was the first one to include “land acquisition” (open space), as a bonding question. In this particular case, those open space purchases went toward establishing “the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve, which spans nearly 4,000 acres along a 12-mile long reach of Cienega Creek; Colossal Cave Mountain Park; and Tortolita Mountain Park.”
  2. There was no Truth in Bonding Code. The only vestige of of a code was a packet that County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry described as “generic as heck” to a journalist for the Tucson Citizen in 1997. This packet stated “‘it is the desire’ of the Board of Supervisors to construct certain projects,” which, at least for me, is unintelligible gibberish. Money definitely went places it wasn’t authorized to go, so in 1997, steps were taken to make bonding more transparent – and honest for the public. All good stuff.
  3. In 1986, Chuck Huckelberry became the Assistant County Manager for Public Works (one of the three Deputy (now Administrators, then Managers) beneath the County Administrator, a title created after Huckelberry took the job), a position he held until he quit in 1993, when Republican supervisors began to cut back on his authority. However, unlike his bio suggests on Pima County’s website – Huckelberry was hired back in December of ’93 after hell broke loose as Interim County Administrator, only taking the job in its full capacity in ’94, to much deliberation and uncertainty. Anyway – here’s the significant part: in 1993, when he resigned, Chris Limberis, at the Arizona Daily Star recounted Chuck Huckelberry’s legacy, a legacy that recalled back to 1974, when he was hired (significant!) and 1979 – when he was appointed the youngest department head in Pima County history: the Director of Transportation and Flood Control. How did Limberis describe his legacy in ’93? He has “left his mark on nearly every Pima County project for the past 19 years” and “designed and implemented diverse proposals ranging from roads and bridges to nationally recognized open space and environmental protection programs.”
    Open Space
    The first open space bond package correlated directly with Huckelberry, who was already well-known and prominent, being appointed as Deputy County Manager.

And then the bonds stopped.

From 1987 to 1996, no bond elections were had, and no packages proposed or passed. A complete drought seemingly came over the county (one which I plan to investigate in more detail, as Frank Cassidy’s description of the style of bonds changing seems accurate), until 1997, when the General Ordinance bond nearly doubled again with respect to the one in 1986. It jumped from the already doubled $165,400,000 to $256,980,000. That’s without including the additional bonds from the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF), for roads, and the Sewer Revenue Fund – for underground waste-carrying pipes. With those included – $711,980,000 – the biggest year in Pima County’s bonding history, and an increase from 1986 by approximately 500 million dollars. As for open space – the seeming pet project of Chuck Huckelberry, who had at that point been Administrator for 3 years: “Construction of 9 miles of linear river park, along with trailheads, pedestrian bridges and other amenities; expansion of several trails, including CAP trail, Tortolita Mountain Park, Anza Trail, Arizona Trail and Fantasy Island. Land acquisitions that significantly expanded Tucson Mountain Park and established the historic Canoa Ranch.”

Most interestingly, though, with regard to the 2015 Elections, wasn’t the emphasis on the environment nor the size of the package – it was the little spark of political policy that happened a month before the GO 1997 election: the institution of a formal Truth in Bonding Code – Pima County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 3.06. Designed to defend against similar vagaries and resultant debacles of the 1986 election, the Code created the Bond Advisory Committee, the Conservation Acquisition Commission (which, like a lot of stuff, dealt, once again, with open space) and an elaborate sequence of accountability measures to prevent the ease the Board of Supervisors had in ’86 moving money from project to project  and making things disappear entirely. The BOS would be held accountable to the public through a 25 member representative body – the BAC, and its 11 member cousin – the CAC. The BAC, uniquely, would receive 3 appointees each from the 5 districts, 3 from the County Administrator, 1 from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, 1 from the Tohono O’odham Nation, and 5 from each of the incorporated municipalities in the county: Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita, and South Tucson. Legitimize, legitimize, legitimize. What happened in ’86 would never happen again.

Which is why this list (Appendix D, scroll down), is, to put it lightly, dumbfounding. Take note, specifically, of the 1997 Open Space changes – especially the additions to the Tucson Mountain Park at Robles Pass and Canoa Ranch. If you track the additions and subtractions – it’s pretty easy to see where the money ends up. For those two projects, money flowed out of Catalina State Park and Tortolita Forest expansions (in District 1) and was diverted to District 3’s Tucson Mountains and Green Valley, in 4. (This is the sort of stuff that makes people angry – Oro Valley folks disliked their money going 40 miles away from any infrastructure they use on a regular basis.)

Anyway, in 2012, according to the Daily Star, “as part of an ongoing dispute with the county, Marana town leaders asked the [State] Legislature to make a special audit mandatory.”kayak-fishing-forum-topic-yakangler-swamp-and-river-kayak

The State did the audit, and concluded, on page 14, that “changes to project’s costs or timing were approved and appeared to be made without bias,” saying the changes were “in accordance with county policy.”

True. Like I said earlier – there’s no “malfeasance in governing,” no law-breaking (with respect to the bonds). The money’s not inexplicably disappearing from projects and appearing in others, like it used to in the 80s. Everything about the bonds described on the County website’s review of the audit, is, strictly speaking, true. The bonding process is not illegal, nor is it malicious.

Rather, it’s corrupted. Not in the Watergate sense, either, nor in the manner that a majority of people who voted against the bonds think. The county officials aren’t running a massive conspiracy over the heads of the voters, and in their opinion, have the best interests of the citizens and the county itself in mind. (The defectiveness of both of those points will feature prominently in my paper.) The corruption present in the bonding process, then, isn’t the evil or scandalous type, it’s the computer program type. “Made unreliable by errors or alterations,” as the New Oxford American Dictionary puts it. So it is corrupted – but not in the traditional sense, at least from what I’ve found.

The reason it’s corrupted? The Truth-in-Bonding code, realistically, changes none of the possibilities that existed in the 1986 elections – money can still be moved around, from project to project; projects can be cancelled entirely – but those are just certain policies that have actually happened since the code was adopted in 1997. The real possibilities? Let’s dig in.

The Truth about Truth in Bonding: 

“3.06.060 – Monitoring and reporting on sold bonds.

The county administrator shall prepare semiannual reports on the progress of the bond implementation plan implementation which shall be transmitted to the board of supervisors for review….”

The beginning of the first passed package and package amendment accountability chapter subsection starts, promptly with a circumvention of the role it gave to the Bond Advisory Committee earlier, in section 3.06.040. “Under direction of the county administrator,” that subsection states, “county staff shall prepare progress reports and otherwise brief the [Bond Advisory] committee on the status of implementation of the bond implementation plan, with special attention paid to major issues impacting implementation of the bond improvement plan.” It then proceeds to elaborate upon the BAC’s role in semiannual reporting: “The committee shall review and approve the semiannual progress reports on the bond implementation plan prior to it being transmitted to the board of supervisors and published, as required by Section 3.06.060.”

That statement not only compromises the Bond Advisory Committee’s role as a representative body by rewriting one of its duties into that of the County Administrator, but also begins to show one of the core themes of the Truth in Bonding Code – ceremonializing the very organization designed to legitimize the process. iranian_allah_sign_____god___by_tiptoplandThe BAC is fundamentally a linkage institution, holding the Board of Supervisors, and their appointed County Administrator accountable for its decisions. What the Code does, though, is takes that power of accountability and renders it merely nominal – the BAC has no power to limit the Board of Supervisors, just make recommendations about limiting them.

Sounds like Iranian parliament, the Majles, and its overseers, The Guardian Council, an arm of the Supreme Leader that can overrule any policy the Majles ratifies, should it be discordant with the Supreme Leader’s desires. Admittedly, though, the ultimate worthlessness of the Bond Advisory Committee wasn’t what got voters incensed – it was the repurposing of bond money. But don’t worry! Truth in Bonding covers transparent money movement as well!

“… [Section] B. Any estimated substantial variances from the project cost and revenue sources in the adopted bond implementation plan…

[Section]  E. Plans and options for addressing substantial modifications in costs or revenue sources or other major issues, including the potential need for substantial modifications in the bond implementation plan as provided for in Section 3.06.070.”

These, objectively, say the exact same thing – with the notable switch from subsection B’s “substantial variances” to E’s “substantial modifications.”

Any estimated substantial variance must be reported to the representative BAC. One catch, though – nobody ever bothers to explain what a “substantial variance” actually is. Section B, then, acts as the catch-all, the effective legitimacy clause – no substantial variance goes before the Supervisors without approval from the BAC. But, because of the lack of definition for “substantial variance,” the County Administrator’s office can bypass the Committee in a more official capacity – not even needing to ceremonially run stuff by them, unless, of course, it’s a “substantial modification,” which is clearly defined in the next section – the culmination of the Code.

“3.06.070 – Substantial modification of an adopted bond implementation plan.

[Subsection] A. A substantial modification in the implementation of an adopted bond implementation plan shall not be made except as provided in this section.

[Subsection] B. For purposes of this section, “substantial modification” means any of the following:

  1. An increase or decrease in total actual project costs by twenty-five percent or more.

  2.  An increase or decrease in actual bond costs by twenty-five percent or more.

  3.  An increase or decrease in actual other revenues by twenty-five percent or more; for projects with other revenues estimated at zero, a substantial modification shall be defined as an increase in “other” (non-bond) revenues of one hundred thousand dollars or more.

  4.  A delay in a project construction or implementation schedule of twelve months or more.

  5. A delay in the scheduled years of sale of bonds of twenty-four months or more caused by changes in municipal bondmarket conditions or county financial conditions and necessary to maintain commitments to capping the secondary property tax rate for debt service.

  6. Any project that is not constructed.

  7. Any project that is added to those to be constructed.

  8. Any increase or decrease in the project scope that alters the disclosed project benefits.

  9.  If some but not all proposed bond questions are approved at the special election, the board of supervisors will make any changes to the projects for the approved questions that are necessary because of the failure of another question, and these will be considered ‘substantial modifications….'”

Notice bullet points #1 and #9.

First off, “twenty-five percent” of any project over $4,000,000 exceeds $1,000,000, and projects that exceeded $1,000,000 in revisions after their initial passage, in the audit, generally cost at least $4,000,000 to begin with.

Look at it this way – in Proposition 430 of 2015’s package, $95,000,000 were budgeted for open space acquisitions. According to the definition of “bond project” perpetuated by the county, all the open space acquisitions fall into the same “project.” That means that the County Administrator would have not only been authorized to independently add $23,740,000 dollars worth of acquisitions without telling the Bond Advisory Committee, he could add it without telling the end-all be-all of popular representation – the Board of Supervisors itself, because the Administrator’s office isn’t required to tell anyone of a modification that isn’t “substantial.” A $23,740,000 addition isn’t “substantial,” because it isn’t 25% of the original cost. The bigger bond projects get in size, in other words, the more freedom the administrator’s office has to manipulate taxpayer money.

Secondly, and more jaw-dropping than the “twenty-five percent” bit (somehow), is bullet point #9, which, in short, allows whatever, even though it’s phrased as a protective clause. It’s a protective clause because it allows projects that passed, whose infrastructure (presumably) hinged on other projects from different propositions that didn’t pass, to imply that the Board of Supervisors (and by power of recommendation, the County Administrator) could add projects from failed propositions to the projects that actually passed. Thus, it protects the passed projects from being retired by the failure of the failed projects. Mad Scientist

Or, in reality, allows the County Administrator, while ceremonially snagging the Bond Advisory Committee’s recommendation (not like he has to), to, as long as he has some sort of vague “justification” for how one project needs another to fulfill its full purpose, recreate the project from the failed proposition in the passed proposition, as long as the Board of Supervisors approves it, which they tend to do. In the context of the 2015 election, then – imagine only one proposition had passed. Say, 427, for Tourism. Now, as a justification, the County Administrator could assert that tourism doesn’t happen unless Tucson itself is an attractive, functional community, and to be attractive and functional, you need nicer roads, newer parks, large amounts of beautiful open space, economic development to minimize homeless populations, as well as affordable housing, and minimization of flood damage. The County Administrator, then, with that as the public justification – could recreate Propositions 425, 426, 428, 429, 430, and 431 as appendages and extensions of Proposition 427. This, of course, would be political suicide – but that’s not the point. The point is that this insane movement is perfectly legal, as long as the Board of Supervisors approves it – which they do time after time after time. Jaw. Dropped.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough – the word “actual” is slinking about the entire definition for “substantial modification.” Alone, it seems fairly innocuous, or merely as venomous as “substantial variation,” but then it’s followed by this:

“[Subsection] C. Cost estimates may vary, up or down, as a project proceeds through planning, design, procurement, contract award, and construction, or through appraisals and negotiations for conservation acquisitions. Variations in cost estimates do not constitute “substantial modifications.” “Substantial modifications” relating only to cash amounts may occur pursuant to official action by the board of supervisors, in open session, that establish actual costs through awards of construction contracts, contract amendments or change orders, or approval of a contract for acquisition. Such board actions shall be accompanied by notice that the action will require a bond ordinance amendment.”

Estimates? Estimates?!

Okay – so scratch the part about reporting things to the Bond Advisory Committee while the project proposal itself is being changed.Unicorn Flipped In fact, scratch bullet points #1, 2, and 3 from Subsection B, because no one’s required to know anything (nothing’s public knowledge) until all the contracts are drawn up for the transactions between the county and the companies they’re outsourcing to. Then, the Board of Supervisors, which votes yea on pretty much everything proposed to them by the County Administrator (videos of meetings can be seen here), isn’t going to quash a contract that’s taken time and money to set up! Finally, once the actual cost has been finalized, then, and only then, does it go public But neither the public, nor its direct representative entity in bonding, the BAC, has any say in the matter at all – and didn’t in the deliberations, either – because at the point when the deliberations would have happened, they would have been “estimates,” not “actual” costs.

This circumvention of the bond committee on all fronts is not shocking, when you think about it. In the response to my follow-up questions from my interview with Mr. Huckelberry, his Executive Assistant responded with this:

“The Bond Advisory Committee is just that – an advisory committee to the Board. The Board is not required to follow their advice.”

That’s the County executive branch’s opinion on the role of their premier transparency organization – it’s purely ceremonial, and utterly unnecessary. Let us not forget who presided over the last 9 years of Bond Advisory Committee deliberations – Pima County Administrator, Chuck Huckelberry.

Let me step back for a second. Yes, the Bond Advisory Committee’s a ceremonial organization. Yes, the County Administrator can create projects with the thinnest of justifications. Yes, information is withheld from the public until it’s “actual” information.

But surely the Board of Supervisors, the elected body of legislators that create all the policy, allow their constituents a voice? Surely they do. Subsection D says they do.

“[Subsection] D. Any substantial modification in the implementation of an adopted bond implementation plan requires a specific amendment to the ordinance that adopted the plan. The ordinance amendment must be enacted by the board of supervisors at a public hearing for which at least fifteen days’ prior notice was published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county.”

There’s even a public hearing!

Watch this video. It’s the video footage (taken at each meeting) by the Board at a public hearing. Breaking precedent she’d set up before (allowing people without a card to speak, inviting people to speak who hadn’t filled out a second speaking card, letting some people speak beyond their allotted time, restricting others to to that time…), Supervisor Bronson gavels down the meeting without a second, refusing to listen to any further dissent. (Her apology here, omitting the lack of a second and her precedental history.)

That’s the fickleness and disorder of the amendment-happy Board of Supervisors. All its representative committees are overseen by a middleman – the County Administrator, who recommends what projects they should approve and not – who also presides over the the deliberations that create bond recommendations themselves. Those committees are merely symbolic, as the decisions they make can be revised with hardly a blink, or ignored entirely, if the Executive Assistant’s assertions are to be believed.

There’s no other document that as truthfully reveals the flaws in bonding as the Truth in Bonding Code.

But there they are – whether a validation of the voters’ belief that “money never goes where they promise it will go” is a matter of interpretation, as is whether those governing are malfeasant, or the malfeasance has been in fact programmed into the system itself, and isn’t actually malfeasance, but perfectly legal activity.

Bunny Rabbit

A curiouser and curiouser predicament. And now, like the bonds did after 1986, I’m going into informational hiatus.

The Inspector will see you on the other end of the rabbit hole.

– Christian Schmidt

 

No Reason

Data & Polling Synopsis: 

Locations/Events polled (so far):

  • Hillsdale Freedom Forum (Saddlebrooke) – Event
    • A large congregation of elderly donors (for the most part) listening to cool lectures by interesting people about primarily conservative concepts. Hillsdale College garners support across the region, making for a large amount of Pima Voters at an event that’s held in Pinal County.
  • Trump Rally (Tucson Convention Center) – Event
    • Lots of loud, abrasive, angry people (protesters and supporters both) with strong opinions in an arena. (And one Trump. Also strongly opinionated.) Supporters generally active conservatives, with conservative fiscal beliefs – likely to dislike bonds in general.
  • Wakeup Tucson 7th Anniversary Party (University Park Marriott) – Event
    • More important than the other ones with respect to my project. I’ll get to it later.
  • Lions Club Interest Meeting (Dove Mountain) – Location
    • 1 person, 1 opinion. Not much interest in starting a Lions Club, but a lot of interest in Pima Bonds.
  • Marana Rotary Club (Dove Mountain) – Location
    • More people, more opinions, though the style of Rotary Club involvement and its status as a nonprofit elicits less No votes than I was hoping for. However, Marana councilwoman Carol McGorray is a member, and her perspectives were quite insightful.
  • Murphy Wilmot Library (Precinct 69) – Location
    • The political hub of the Precinct, staked out by a boy and his opinion-inducing sign: “Why do YOU think the Pima County Bonds failed?” Interested people, and interesting responses, though not really illuminating any specific reasons Precinct 69 remained such an anomaly.
  • Precinct 145 (Via Voter Registration Data) – Location
    • Calling frenzy – 50 names, 37 people, 26 numbers, 7 responses. People willing to talk had excellent information, people who weren’t willing – a lost cause. s-l225
  • Precinct 127 (Via Voter Registration Data) – Location
    • See Precinct 145, but instead 27 numbers, 6 responses.
  • Precinct 69 (Door-to-Door) – Location
    • Utterly useless. One person responded with something other than, “I don’t remember that election.” The rest? See photo on right. I will always remember this day and open my door to all comers, whether they want to conduct a perfectly civil survey or blather endlessly about the extraordinary soap they’re selling.

I’ve gotten some flak on my survey legitimacy – mainly along the lines that I shouldn’t be aiming for events and locations with primarily No voters. However, my research question is, “Why did the bonds fail?” which, outside of the obvious fact that more people voted against than in favor, necessitates an investigation into the reasons people were against the bonds. Asking Yes voters, “Why do you think the bonds failed?” is the most worthless question I may have asked anyone ever – because they’re not the cause of the failed bonds, so they don’t have the reasons.  Thus, the emphasis on locations and events where many No voters could be found en masse. Also – it’s not a survey, per se, but more like a bunch of isolated interviews to try and discover the overarching reasons for bond antagonism. I am open for further questioning.

Alright, next.

Response Counts (so far):

Total: 143. More than thirty, but also not an actual survey. Repeat: “A Bunch of Isolated Interviews.”

People with irrelevant opinions:

People who Voted Yes: 19. These people are nice. I’m very thankful they stopped to chat with me. Unfortunately, they all have the same opinion, and it’s mostly frustration with the people who voted No. The general response from these 19 people (who make up a cool 13% of all my responses, showing I picked my locales pretty well given the actual Pima County 60%-40% split in the election) was that the No voters were too apathetic (read: stupid) to do the research to find out why the bonds would have benefitted the county and didn’t like taxes. One woman’s reason for why the bonds failed: “We live in a Republican State.” Why yes. Yes we do.

The notable exception to the majority of people who voted yes were the people who voted yes for the exact same reasons other people voted no – like the terrible state of the roads. Admittedly, their conclusions from that point were different from those who voted no, but it’s an interesting point.

People with relevant opinions:

People who Voted No: 64. These are people who outright told me they voted no. I’ll elaborate in a moment.

People with Mixed Votes (voted for some propositions, against others): 5. And these are those that told me outright about it. Now for the rest.

1280717940501494450telephone-silhouette.svg.med.pngPeople who got my Ingenious Opinion Question: 55. After the Hillsdale forum, I realized that asking each and every person if they voted, then asking how they voted, and then asking them why they voted the way they did was 1), too clunky a set of phrases when I only cared about the last part, and too many phrases in general. Furthermore, asking people directly how they voted is often overly intrusive, as it is (and should be, if one wishes) a private matter. By this point, after doing phone calls, the Trump rally, and the Freedom Forum, I was familiar with answers – Yes voters were upset and resentful, and No voters had a lot of very similar opinions. Thus – when I asked them the question on my sign – “Why do you think the Pima County Bonds failed?” (or in Spanish – “¿Por qué cree que los bonos del Condado Pima fallaron?”) I was likely to know how they vote based on the response they gave. This is just guesswork – but I imagine I had a success rate of 95% in judging their vote based on their answer. Anyway, most people who I asked this question to probably voted No – so that’s approximately 110 No votes. Useful.

Analysis: 

Out of 110 bond opposition responses (or likely opposition responses), there were a number of common threads. Even if I hadn’t interviewed Mr. Davidson prior to commencing voter polling, by the “end” (along with “so far” those quotation marks merely imply that I’ll be attending the Legislative District 9 & 10 meetings later this month to try and obtain the remaining 57 responses so I can hit 200) of my polling, I was explaining to people why the bonds failed according to their peers.

Because, apparently, the proper response to the the question, “Why do you think the bonds failed?” is “Why do you think the bonds failed, young inquisitor?” So I told them. In other words, by the end of my polling, responses were no longer new information (excluding Mr. Davidson’s predictions), but just confirmation of everything I already knew – but in hyperbolic, vicious, metaphorically graphic detail. There were also some very rational responses. Those weren’t nearly as fun, though, but tended to be more informative.

Here are the top responses for why the bonds failed, from the No group:

  • Higher taxes are bad taxes.
    • Higher taxes are bad taxes because taxes are bad.
      • Similarly, all bonds are bad always.
      • Giving the government any money, ever, is icky.
    • Higher taxes are bad taxes because taxes (as in total taxes, not just secondary property taxes) in Pima County are the highest in the state, and adding onto that tax burden is not something that I want to shoulder right now. My taxes should be going down, not up. See: Amortization Schedules, on virtually every single post since “Researchers Say:”
  • Bonds might be good, but debt is bad – and we have a lot of debt already, so we shouldn’t have any more.
    • Chuck Huckelberry has an interesting perspective on this topic, and claimed there was a lot of misinformation put out by the No on Bonds committee, which did an excellent job telling voters nasty things about the bond elections and inducing their failure. Additional debt was one of those bits of “misinformation.” He essentially claimed that the current debt is comparable to a mortgage on a car, and any debt that will be probably paid off in three years isn’t actually “big debt.” Matter of interpretation, I suppose.
  • Badly packaged projects – “A big enough [defecation-related noun] in each punch bowl” (A guy who explicitly asked me to quote him).
    • In other words – each of the seven propositions each had a project that was too untenable (as to why it was untenable, I’ll get to it) for the average voter to feel that the rest of the package was worth passing, because that one project was toococktail-drink-glass-flower-straw-vector-graphics_template_1378970717656O5P.png big an eyesore to let through. For example, in Prop 425 – Road & Highway Improvements, most people wanted their roads fixed, and were prepared to vote for the proposition. But then, sitting smack in the middle – was the $30,000,000 Sonoran Corridor project, which, for someone living in Rancho Vistoso, was about a 45 minute drive away – and thus utterly irrelevant. That deterred them, so they didn’t vote on the proposition.
    • A different stance on packaging problem came from Chad Kolodisner – he believed the splitting of the package into seven separate propositions allowed voters to see more of the punch clearly at one time, even though it’s the exact same problem. However, that higher level of visibility convinced voters that each proposition was distinctly foul.
    • Yet another take on the packaging of the project was that projects were errantly allocated to each of the propositions. In other words – voters believed that certain projects, like Prop 427’s (tourism) Reid Park Zoo exhibit could have been in Prop 428 (parks), which would have lowered the cost of Prop 427, making it more likely to pass (it ended up failing the worst), and adding another well-loved project to the more favorable Parks proposition, making it more likely to pass. I’ll have to check if Mr. Huckelberry verified this when I spoke with him, but many voters asserted that Mr. Huckelberry intentionally asked the bond committee to place projects like the Zoo into legitimately unsavory propositions like the tourism one to try and strong-arm the voter into voting for those propositions because of a particularly attractive item within them. Both voter manipulation and items will show up again.
    • Finally, as Mr. Davidson predicted, voters strongly disliked the way the bonds were advertised by Yes on Bonds – as an all-or-nothing affair. Apparently, some voters actually ended up concluding this literally, despite the ballot distinctly listing 7 different propositions, with seven different bubbles. People are weird. Nice job, Yes on Bonds, for really messing that up.
  • Items and Interests and Ire – (insert something likely from The Wizard of Oz)
    • Be forewarned – we’re now entering,”Hey, this is actually really messed up,” territory, so read only at your own discretion. (It’s really not that bad, unless, of course, you live here. Probably – keep in mind, this is voter perception, not necessarily hard fact, though, at least in this section, I’ve found a lot of evidence to back it up. The next section – yikes.)
    • People realized that certain companies and locations were benefitting a lot more than others. South Tucson, for instance, had 4 times the amount of investment in its area than anywhere else in the county, and Marana was almost project-less entirely, which I’ll elaborate more on, reason-wise, next post when I discuss my interview with Frank Cassidy. For instance, the Marana Health Center, which isn’t the Town of Marana, got three related items, whereas the town got nothing, at least according to one of its councilmembers.
    • Special interests was referenced a lot, often alongside phrases like, “freaking ridiculous,” and, “enough is enough.” People said that people, “finally got vector-james-bond-secret-agent-007-black-white-silo.pngeducated,”and that politicians, “only wanted the money for their dreams, or nightmares, in the people’s case.”
    • This was the opinion of one guy, but it was so interesting I really wanted to say it – this guy proposes that Pima County issues actually far transcend Pima County – they’re being funded by the federal government to maintain an extensive FBI network at the border and do lots of top secret things! That’s definitely a special interest – but not your average one…
  • And finally, the most cited response – Pima County Government is corrupt and consistently wastes/loses our money, so we’re not going to give them any more of it because like they’ve done before, they’re going to lose it again, or give it all away to their “cronies”, or squander it needlessly on ridiculous projects that nobody actually wants.
    • This response has incredible amount of variations, ranging from about 20 furious declarations of “waste,” to calls for the Board of Supervisors to be completely upended and replaced, along with Chuck Huckelberry, the supposed ringleader of the entire operation. “Bad leadership,” one man said, following it up with a statement about the supervisors “malfeasance of governing” and then a really unsavory statement that I won’t repeat.
    • People dislike that the County, again, supposedly (I’ll be looking for documentation over the next few weeks), is constantly over budget, and squandering their tax money that isn’t bond money. “They don’t have money to start with, and they’re not focusing on what they should” – namely, “the roads.”
    • “County should not use bond money for maintenance!” referring to the road maintenance bond in Prop 425 – “It’s for CIP (capital improvement projects) only!”
    • “Shenanigans.” “The bond money never goes where they promise it will go!” “Everyone has finally had enough.” “The government isn’t transparent.”
    • Most interestingly, though, in this category, is what former county employees had to say about Pima County – one former IT employee related the nastiness of the illegal advocacy pamphlets they were told to draw up, and said that, “Pima County was working against itself,” and “creating a slush fund.”
    • Another wastewater employee related an equally sinister story, saying that he’d been there 10 years, never gotten a pay raise, but watched the County grow more and more heavy administratively, with multiple, multiple people getting six figure salaries while he kept the same salary he had had since he got his job. The only answer, he said, “is to scrap the current government and go back to each neighborhood having a vote.” Dark stuff.
  • That last reason is Mr. Davidson’s “Public Perception of Government Performance.”Ouroboros.png Needless to say, I think it’s grimmer than either he or I originally thought. The last two points aren’t as prominently featured, but I think they have a lot to say about the state of the county, and the City of Tucson in general, and the people within them both.
  • A lot of voters didn’t vote for the Pima County bonds because of issues with the City of Tucson, like the debacle with Rio Nuevo, and the general unfriendliness toward businesses the city possesses. Similarly, others didn’t vote for the bonds because of Oro Valley’s golf course acquisition, which they didn’t approve of, or the RTA’s wildlife crossing, dubbed a “turtle crossing” by one of the people I polled. In other words, general failures across the region lessened people’s trust in all the government’s in the vicinity.
  • The media , especially the Arizona Daily Independent and 1030 KVOI’s Wakeup Tucson show have provided consistently negative viewpoints about the County government. The Wakeup Tucson anniversary party, which I attended last Friday, was just this – a ton of people, fed up with the country government, seeking to find validation in their views. Validation was provided, evidenced, and elaborated upon by Chris DeSimone and Joe Higgins, and has been for a couple of years now. The show’s grown in popularity, and has had some far-reaching effects. The bonds failed, and it’s likely partially their fault.

Future Plans:

Today I’ll be heading down to the County office with my sign to try and get some similar information to what was told to me by those former County employees.

Because my onsite advisor is really cool, I’ve managed to secure an interview on a radio show tomorrow at 7:10 AM – I hope you all will listen! Incidentally, it’s the Wakeup Tucson show, 1030 AM. Tomorrow I’ll be introducing my research project to the general community – I’ll be appearing again on April 29th to talk about my results.

Stray Observation:

  • Marshmallows soaked in red wine. This is an actual dish. I was shocked.

 

 

 

Conspiratorial Complications

Clarification: 

Mr. Davidson got in touch with me – it wasn’t the Sonora Western Heritage Foundation that would have used the Southern Arizona Regional Orientation Center , which, ironically, had I read the link, I would know that it was actually the Western National Parks Association that would have reaped its benefits.

Not reading enough things has been an obnoxious phenomenon that’s really reared its head in the past few weeks, both on my part and on everyone else’s too. It’s truly debilitating, but touched with some gloomy illumination as well. Bastion of Negation

Reflection: 

I won’t dally too much on the subject – Gary Davidson was right. Voters, at least up in the Northern Bastion of Negation, where I’ve done the majority of my polling so far, and at the Trump rally, where people seek vast, sweeping, Republican change, confirm four out of Mr. Davidson’s five tenets.

This blog post, though, is incredibly difficult to start, because hardly anything I have from this section of my research is complete. I obviously have to discuss the results of my voter polling, which, outside of a couple erratic answers, confirmed everything I already knew, just with a bit more emphasis on the structuring and advertising of the package and more hyperbolic language: “looting taxpayers,” “lying Chuck Huckelberry,” “rip off citizens,” “Pima County’s screwed up, Tucson is screwed up, Phoenix is screwed up…” etc.

Those quotes are all public opinion on government performance. The other primary cause of dissent was how the items were packaged, but I’ll discuss that later and in my paper, especially, because I haven’t yet finished polling voters. 6a00d8341bfc9d53ef01539290e3a5970b-200wi

But back to my point, which I’ll just state – the rampant negativity expressed by the voters doesn’t seem to be in concordance with the County administration itself, or the administration is so corrupt that it’s impossible to unweave such a tightly woven web. More probable, in my opinion, is that perception of corruption is that makes the veracity of real corruption irrelevant. With respect to the bonds, the two amount to the same thing. Either way,  I’ve found no hard data that anything illegal is going on in the county, it’s just that the laws themselves are self-sabotage.

That concept is going to be the thesis of my research paper – the way Pima County’s been set up, from its government systems to its infrastructure to its municipality distribution and annexation policies, to the bonding process itself, has created a culture that, once an outside catalyst, like the Recession hits – is suddenly privy to all the flaws that have always existed, creating a total breakdown situation. That’s why the bonds failed. Proving that, though, is a nasty piece of work that’s going to require some deep historical analysis going back to the 80’s, and an unbelievable amount of document reading, from BAC minutes to bond ordinances from 1974.

So, after my final rounds of voter polling at the street fair this Friday and at the Wake Up Tucson anniversary party, and a couple more interviews, I’ll dig in to those documents.

Stray Observations:

  • I had an interview yesterday with Diamond Ventures’ Chad Kolodisner and Priscilla Storm. It really illuminated the business community’s role in the 2015 election, why they wanted what they did, and why they donated $25,000 to Yes on Bonds, but I’m still sifting through 2 hours of really densely contented interview, so I’ll be getting
    around to that at a later point too.Pool of People
  • I also had an interview with the Town Attorney of Marana, Frank Cassidy – who gave me a good history lesson and some perspective on how the bonds impact municipalities around the county, but I need to speak to people whose history with Pima County goes back even further. This results in this entire post being very intermediary, as the unfortunate mix of me having not finished voter polling, having not done complete enough analysis, and having not interviewed a comprehensive enough pool of people.
  • On the other hand, this post is really short. I suppose the pressure’s finally squished it.

On Saturday, we continue.

The Futility of Unbridled Optimism

Reflection:

So my week was abysmal. It honestly wouldn’t have been as miserably ironic had I done voter polling in the logical scientific order, but it wouldn’t have been different, either. See, after 2 excellent weeks of getting prominent people in the city to talk to me, like the County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection CEO Carolyn Campbell, prominent attorney Larry Hecker, etc…, I think I, influenced by the always deadly phenomenon that is precedent, expected people to be willing to talk to me.

Perhaps it’s just people who were truly involved with the bonds, for whom snubbing a high schooler’s research project could potentially be construed at least as rude, at most as obfuscation of truth, that have actually bothered to talk to me. That’s worked excellently in my favor so far.

Unfortunately for me, Mr. Average in Precinct 145 and Mrs. Normal in Precinct 127 are held to no such social requirement. It wasn’t that I was brusque – in fact, I spent a good two hours customizing the following phrase to be about as kind and succinct a phrase as I
could muster, to try and get people to talk to me. Here it is, my solicitation for Rancho Vistoso and Dove Mountain:

“Hello, is this Mr(s). _____________?

Hi Mr(s). ___________! My name’s Christian Schmidt – I’m a high schooler at BASIS Oro Valley and I’m doing a research project about the 2015 Pima County Bond Election for school. I was wondering if you could spare five minutes of your time to answer two questions.

Thanks so much!

Did you vote for or against the package in November?

What was your reasoning for that decision?”

That ended up working fairly well – out of all the people I called, I got about a 20% response rate. Pretty good, if I do say so myself. For every 5 people I called, 1 of them was willing to speak with some kid on the phone!

It’s marvelous until you remember two primary things – a statistical rule of thumb, and the financial resources of the surveyor. While I never truly planned to make a statistically valid survey, instead aiming for more of a case study/interview type tactic, as I dialed number after number into my cell phone, I realized that if I wanted to establish any sort of statistical correlation: voter registration date to affirmative/negatory vote, precinct to affirmative/negatory vote, and so on, I’d need to satisfy that rule that thumbed its nose at me, effectively. It’s a common statistical practice, cited in multiple stats books, that a sample size, at minimum, can be no less than 30.

Dove_MountainTwo weeks ago, I filled out the County Recorder’s Voter Registration, requesting that they skim fifty names “off the top” from each of the four precincts I had selected – say them with me: 145, 127, 69, 47. That worked fine, if you discount the severe headache I got after
seemingly seeing the name Allen Anderson flicker through my vision every half second. What didn’t, though, was my mere fifty names. Rancho Vistoso (Precinct 145), is a massive neighborhood, housing around 18,000 people. I got 50 names from it, and expected to get at least a 60% response. For one, 50 names is not representative of 18,000 people. It’s even less representative, I think, than the special interests that dominated the Bond Committee’s deliberations in the thousands, and being construed to represent a million. (I must digress for a moment – I actually crunched the numbers. 50 is a 360th of 18,000. Assuming no more than 5000 people advocated for the projects selected for the bond package, which, while I think reasonable, is admittedly a number I pulled out of the air, they only represent a 200th of Pima County’s million. That just goes to show how grim the missing step truly was. For perspective – I’m 18. A 200th of my life is a month.)

Anyway, 50 would still have been better than what I got. I needed 30. So, for two: 60% is completely irrational – as I said earlier, 20% is excellent.

Thirdly, I made a huge mistake when I told the recorder to skim “off the top.” Unique last names might have been good, because both Dove Mountain and Rancho Vistoso have a massive population of married people; they comprise about 60% of the latter. Thus, skimming off the top meant getting about 13 married couples for each 50 people – that’s 26 married people and 13 people lost per 50, (mainly because, “May I speak to your spouse?” is an awful question to ask anyone, and if they don’t pick up, there go two people.) Even assuming I did ask that horrid question, (I did, I’m shameless) the voter registration data didn’t always include the person’s phone number, just address, so if White Pages was feeling unhelpful in coughing it up… the road stopped there. Rancho_Vistoso

I got stuck with 37 people per precinct.

That’s what I got 20% from. (In reality – it was 19%, and 16% for 145 and 127, respectively.

You’d think that the 7 people (6, for 125), would be useful. Nope. When I asked them my questions, I got things all over the map, from, “I don’t think bonds are right,” to lashing out against Oro Valley’s golf course acquisition, and blaming their lack of trust in the government on the Town Council. Also – “Pima County sucks.”

Great. That’s a quote that’s most definitely research paper worthy.
The few cogent, accurate answers I got were splendid – they pretty much corroborated Mr. Davidson’s five points exactly, and 12 of the 13 answers had a bone to pick with Pima County government’s performance, though none had ever heard of the Bond Committee, seemingly. (Not that I’m surprised – the Bond Committee didn’t really publicize themselves.) Then again, cogent answers were few. At this point, that means about 3. That’s about a 9000th of Rancho Vistoso’s population. I reiterate:
Great.

Today I was supposed to call the voters of Precinct 69. I didn’t. I have a soft spot for Precinct 69. I’m not interested in getting any opinion I have about their extraordinary political efficacy obliterated as if attacked by a lawnmower with jet turbines for blades. So I didn’t. Instead – I formulated this:

Crimson_Week

Crimson Week:

On my Macbook’s Calendar app – anything SRP related is listed as red. Next week looks like roadkill.
After work on the 19th, I’ll go downtown to Donald Trump’s rally, which will likely be filled with Republicans, and hopefully old Republicans who voted no on bonds because they didn’t want their property taxes to go up, and didn’t trust the government with their money. Hopefully.

South_Tucson
At 10:30 on Sunday I’ll be standing in front of Ventana Medical Systems starting the mile-long Senior Walk, and running to -and-fro trying to get Precinct 145ers to tell me what they refused to on the phone. Perhaps I’ll help at a water station. Or meander about with an umbrella. Or something.

On Monday morning I’ll be making a sign emblazoned with, “Why do you think the Pima County Bonds failed?” and then trekking up to Saddlebrooke for Hillsdale Colleges Freedom Forum, to try and glean the opinions of a more educated conservative base – hopefully one well populated with seniors from Precinct 145. I’ll attend the second day of that on the 22nd, and then head up to Dove Mountain’s Highlands for a game of Men’s Poker. I may or may not bring my sign.

The rest of the week might as well be on Mars, given how red it is.

Wednesday – Quincie Douglas Library in Precinct 47, then El Güero Canelo for Sonoran Hot Dogs and South Tucson opinions, then up to the Lions Club meeting in 127, then back down to El Güero Canelo for dinner and details.

Thursday – same thing, but the library’s Sam Lena, in central South Tucson, instead of on the outskirts, and Taquería Pico de Gallo‘s my restaurant of choice, not El Güero. Hopefully my Spanish skills get positively spectacular over these two days. I finish off the day up in The Highlands, again, for the Rotary Club’s meeting.

On Friday and Saturday – I uncover the secrets of 69. Murphy-Wilmot library’s my rendezvous for Friday, and after the Easter Eggstravaganza at the Community Center in Oro Valley, I’ll head back down to 69 and go door-to-door until I have the answers I need.

Then I’ll sleep till Tuesday. El_G

Other Efforts:

While my county criss-crossing should work quite well, I still don’t deem it sufficient. I don’t care about people who said Yes on the bonds – they didn’t pass, and finding out why people wanted them to is useless. I’m likely to get a lot of people who did vote yes, if I get anyone who voted when I go down to Precinct 47, so I’m going to pursue the Board of Supervisors and anyone running for Board of Supervisors, and see if they’ll send out a survey, which I’ll create tomorrow evening, to anyone on their email list. If I get lucky – Ray Carroll, or one of the people running in District 4, and Ally Miller, or her opponent in District 1, will send out my survey to anyone on their email list and I’ll be able to glean the opinions of voters across the red, negatory expanses of District 4 and District 1.

Finally, I’ll continue my phone calls – I know the people who are on the Voter Registration Data sheets voted, and that, especially in South Tucson, is valuable. 50 names there is about an 8th of all the registered voters in the Precinct, and probably a larger fraction of those who actually voted in 2015. I’ll engage in a bit of bilinguality to try and elicit some responses!

If all goes well, voter information will have been gathered in two weeks, leaving me a little time at the end to deeply investigate special interests, and whip out a research paper.

Wish me luck!

Speed Cactus.png