The pair should know each other well.
Four years ago, Republican challenger Barney Brenner lost narrowly in his bid to unseat then-incumbent Democratic Supervisor Sharon Bronson, 48 percent to 45 percent.
This year’s race for the District 3 supervisor’s seat offers the same matchup, the tax-averse Brenner vs. the entrenched Bronson.
In the remaining days of the campaign, each seeks to hammer home for voters the stark differences that infuse their candidacies.
Brenner speaks often — and with more than a hint of shock — about what he calls an ever-growing county bureaucracy. “It just never stops with these people,” he said in a phone interview this week.
That bureaucracy, Brenner contends, requires too much in taxes to support.
County leaders have “been able to get by these last few years, with tax increases offset by relative prosperity,” the Republican notes.
But flush times have given way to economic frailty, he said.
“Pocketbook issues are crucial today more than ever,” Brenner said, and the current board of supervisors — Bronson being among its principals — has developed an appetite for tax dollars that it cannot possibly sustain.
“It’s more government reaching into your pocket,” Brenner argues.
Bronson, however, dismisses the tax-and-spend charges of her opponent.
“I’m a budget conservative,” the Democrat insists.
Bronson this year voted to cut the county’s more-than-$1 billion budget by 5 percent, given the downturn in construction and other sectors of the economy.
“We need savings,” said Bronson, a supervisor since 1997. “A rainy day fund protects us from tough economic times.”
Bronson supports county efforts to annually set aside portions of its budget to safeguard against unexpected financial losses.
TAXES AND SPENDING
Bronson also supports using county money to preserve open space — something voters approved doing in 2004 — and investing in recruiting high-tech, bio-tech firms to the area.
Those upscale employers offer “jobs that are recession-proof,” Bronson suggested.
For his part, however, Brenner says that Bronson and others on the board of supervisors have done a poor job investing in such crucial issues as roadway maintenance and planning for the future closing of the Tangerine Landfill in Marana.
With annual carry-forward balances, the county could at least “fix the potholes” that plague a number of Pima County’s roads, Brenner scoffed.
“The county’s bureaucracy has grown dramatically, yet road repairs aren’t done,” Brenner charged. “We know they’re collect ing a record amount of money and we know the potholes aren’t fixed. Those facts should not be allowed to co-exist.”
Brenner would “re-apportion” county money to address such infrastructure needs, all the while trimming the bureaucracy through attrition and budget cuts.
“Twelve years is a great deal of time … the spending is going through the roof and the services aren’t what they need to be,” Brenner said of his opponent’s time in county government. “She wants ever more.”
Bronson criticizes her opponent’s skepticism of using “bonds, investments” to address the county’s needs.
Pointing to bonds passed in 1997 and 2004, Bronson said she “respects the will of the voters.”
The county’s decision to close the Tangerine Landfill in 2009 has sparked controversy throughout the Northwest.
The landfill, which next year would cease taking trash from residents, not commercial haulers, is the only one nearest to Marana and Oro Valley residents.
Brenner has criticized Bronson for the move, saying it needlessly forces Marana residents and others west of Interstate 10 to drive all the way down to the Los Reales Landfill on Tucson’s south side or all the way to a transfer station in Catalina to dispose of their garbage.
“It will lead to wildcat dumping because of the lack of foresight by Bronson and her cronies on the board of supervisors,” Brenner charged.
Bronson dismisses such claims by her opponent as mere hyperbole.
“The reality is Marana asked us to shut down the landfill,” Bronson said. “Maybe my opponent would put it in Dove Mountain or something.”
Brenner has taken issue with Bronson’s characterization of his positions on the landfill closure, specifically a mailing she sent to Gladden Farms residents “that suggested I want to expand the landfill.”
Not true, he said. He has only asked that the county look for a new site.
But Bronson says that won’t happen, suggesting that domestic trash haulers in Marana can take most of residents’ household waste.
On Nov. 4, voters will have the final say on whether to return the veteran Bronson to the board or to opt for her challenger.
If Brenner were to prevail, the balance of power on the board would shift from Democrats, who currently control three of the five seats, to Republicans.
The candidates’ closing arguments in this campaign both center on financial matters.
Bronson says she brings an accountant’s sense of solid budgeting to bear in her role on the board. Brenner, on the other hand, says he wants to reduce the monetary appetite of county government, returning the proceeds to the taxpayers.