More than 1,000 guests crowded into the Tucson Convention Center last Friday where the annual State of the County event shared the playbill with organic, locally produced salad greens topped with regionally raised beef.
“Our meal for today was locally produced,” said Richard Elias, County Supervisor for District 5. “Most of it never stepped foot in Maricopa County.”
Elias delivered the luncheon’s keynote speech wherein, in addition to local agricultural products, the county’s impending budget process was addressed.
“We’re facing very tough economic times in this county, in this state, in this country,” Elias said.
But despite looming pecuniary troubles, Elias assured the masses that the county remains in a strong financial position.
“Pima County is the only county in Arizona that has not had to hold a truth in taxation hearing in the past two years,” Elias said. “That’s because we’ve kept spending down.”
The majority of county spending, at least 81 percent of the budget, stems from state and federal government mandates, Elias said.
The supervisor also took time to laud the work of the community food bank, an organization that Elias said helped feed 14,000 last year.
He asked for increased funding for the group, which has seen a 26-percent jump in demand, according to Elias.
“No one is standing up for the poorest in our community, I think the county needs to,” Elias said.
In addition to Elias’ speech, each district supervisor presented awards to constituents and played a laudatory district video amid the clank of a thousand forks and a thousand knives and the rumble of hundreds of individual conversations that filled the ballroom.
District 1 Supervisor Ann Day addressed the need for more parks throughout the county.
“The need for recreation facilities and fields resonates throughout the community,” Day said.
Ramon Valadez, district 2 supervisor, offered an oration extolling the work of community groups like C.O.P.E. Community Services, Las Artes Arts and Education Center and Ochoa Elementary School.
Ochoa is one of the four schools Tucson Unified School District has slated for closure at the end of the term.
Supervisor Sharon Bronson of district 3 presented an award to Tracy Taft, executive director of the Curley School Artisan Lofts in Ajo.
Bronson also praised the work of the Flowing Wells Neighborhood Association.
“It should be a model not only for this region but the entire state,” Bronson said of Flowing Wells.
Ray Carroll, who represents District 4, gave honors to Greg Stanley of the local band Kool Shades.
Stanley and the group donated song that was played during Carroll’s video presentation.
Carroll also spoke to the environmental issues the county faces.
“Buffel grass is one of the greatest issues, an environmental travesty, facing our community,” Carroll said.
Elias also offered a video presentation. The supervisor dedicated his section to Loraine Lee, a local activist who died last October.
Long before the screech of metal on porcelain died down, Elias closed the luncheon with a call for regional planning and cooperation and the need for further sustainable technologies.
“I think the government,” Elias said, “needs to lead the way in this.”