Because the City of Tucson is the core of the metro region, Tucson city government is the primary instrument by which our region realizes its dreams and aspirations. Yet there is wide agreement Tucson has not fulfilled its exceptional potential and that it is not well-positioned for the future.
But why has a city with a number of highly capable top officials and engaged citizens, in a culturally rich and physically beautiful environment, failed to realize its potential and to position itself decisively for a prosperous future?
To answer that question and better understand how Tucson city government could be more effective, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council initiated a several months-long study, during which it interviewed the mayor, all six council members, the city manager, three former city managers, and several council aides. SALC also conducted research about other cities and consulted with nationally recognized experts on local government.
We learned that Tucson unintentionally has created a spider’s web of charter provisions, policies and entrenched practices at the very top of city government. Consequently, authority, responsibility and accountability are diffused at the top of Tucson city government, severely limiting the ability of top city officials to fulfill their roles and meet their responsibilities, and making it difficult, if not impossible, for even the most talented of people to succeed.
To rectify this diffusion of authority, responsibility and accountability at the top of Tucson city government, SALC developed draft recommendations with the following goals:
We want to emphasize that while SALC conducted this narrow and focused preliminary study, we have always believed that it is essential to any reform effort to build a coalition of an inclusive, diverse group of community partners. We are committed to building this coalition, and it is our intent that this coalition will take the lead and responsibility for modifying the recommendations and deciding how to implement them.
The recommendations focused on changes to the city charter, to city policies and to community practices. While all the proposed changes are important, the proposed charter changes carry an added sense of urgency: The City Council must decide by early July what charter changes, if any, it will refer to the November ballot.
Consequently, this document focuses solely on what SALC considers four key changes to the Tucson city charter. For those wanting to know more about the other recommended changes, we will be happy to provide them with a more detailed report.
We are optimistic and confident that the engagement of the community, working closely with our city officials, will help to produce more effective and more efficient city leadership, unify our community, and provide our region with a healthy economy and a healthy environment.