Prop. 200 defeated in Tucson - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Prop. 200 defeated in Tucson

Controversial measure roundly rejected by city voters

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Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:36 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

In last week's election, Tucson voters resoundingly defeated a measure to increase the number of police officers and improve the response times of fire and emergency services.

Less than 30 percent of the electorate cast votes in favor of Proposition 200 in the Nov. 3 citywide election. Turnout was 29.3 percent of the city's registered voters.

"We're obviously disappointed," said David Godlewski, with the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association. The group was one of the measure's key supporters.

The initiative sought to increase the ratio of police officers to residents in the city to 2.4 officers for every 1,000 residents. Proposition 200 also would have mandated 4-minute response times for the Tucson Fire Department.

Proposition 200 also would have required the hiring of more than 300 new police officers over the next seven years.

Opponents of the proposal keyed in on the funding void in the proposition. Authors of the plan didn't include a way to pay the added police officers and fire fighters.

"It's hard to tell what the purpose of Proposition 200 was," said John Kromko of the Pima Association of Taxpayers. "There are so many things that could have been done other than this."

Kromko speculates the authors of the proposal never intended for the law to pass in the first place. Rather, he suggests the plan was to motivate a Republican voter base.

"I'm suspicious of their motives," Kromko said, "but I can't prove it."

Regardless of the motives, the plan would have cost the city a considerable amount in personnel and capital expenses if it had passed. City of Tucson officials estimated the plan would have cost more than $150 million over five years and at least $50 million in annual costs in subsequent years.

Assistant City Manager Richard Miranda, former Tucson chief of police, wrote in a June 26 memo that the city would need to make considerable cuts to existing services to fund the provisions of the proposition.

As an example, Miranda said the plan's equivalent costs were the same as 343 full-time employees.  Another example to make up the costs of the proposition was to eliminate the city's parks and recreation department, which has an annual budget of $43 million.

Pima County officials had come out against the plan because the additional police would mean more arrests and more people filling the county-operated criminal justice system.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told The Explorer in September that the plan would cost the county millions and predicate the need to hire additional judges, attorneys, corrections officers and expand the county jail.

Huckelberry estimated the county would need to increase property taxes by as much as 8 percent to meet the increased demand.

"That would have been a terrible blow to the county," Kromko said.

Despite the plan's defeat, Godlewski said supporters still urge the city council to increase funding to augment public safety.

"We see more police officers and quicker response times as something that would be a long-term benefit to the community," Godlewski said.

He doesn't see Proposition 200's defeat as an indication of a lack of public support for public safety workers.

Kromko agreed, saying, "I think people appreciate what the police and fire departments do."

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