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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    7 reasons Tucson may be dying

    Tucson’s unemployment rate is at an all-time high. Local businesses are closing their doors left and right, and the city’s economy is slowly grinding to a halt.

    With record UA enrollments the past few years, graduates will soon find out firsthand that Tucson is unable to support the economic safety and security that other metropolitan cities can provide, leaving them with no other choice but to say goodbye to Tucson and strike out elsewhere to live, work and play.

    1. Unemployment rate

    The unemployment rate in Tucson has skyrocketed in the past year, jumping from 4.9 percent to 7.7 percent, according to the Arizona Department of Commerce. More than 30 percent of Tucson workers hold service-related jobs in professions such as healthcare, maintenance and the tourism and hospitality industries.

    With tourism dropping nationwide and many Tucson businesses closing their doors, employment is now in short supply. Future graduates of the Eller College of Management will find that there are fewer management positions available in Tucson, and the positions that are available may be tough to get into without much experience, forcing graduates to seek work in Phoenix or out of state.

    2. Increasing population in an unfavorable local infrastructure

    According to the Pima Association of Governments, the Tucson metropolitan area is now ranked the 52nd largest in the nation, compared to the 2000 ranking of 58th largest.

    Tucson’s increasing population size is doing very little to bolster the city’s economy though, as the influx of people is increasing the strain on already overexploited resources like roadways, emergency services and educational institutions.

    3. Crime rate

    Tucson’s Crime Index, about 700 crimes per 100,000 residents, has been almost double the national average of about 300 since the beginning of the decade.

    Tucson’s ratio of law enforcement officers to every 1,000 residents was only 1.89 in 2006, below the national average of 3.

    The Tucson Police Department continues to recruit new officers, enrolling as many as they can whenever positions become available at the city’s police academy. However, according to the TPD public information office, hiring officers has not become more difficult as a result of the economy.

    This may be the only positive statistic for some Arizona graduates. Students in the Criminal Justice Administration program will be in high demand. However, it may be unlikely that any of these graduates would trade a four-year degree in criminal justice administration for a job as a beat cop in Tucson.

    4. Poverty level for families

    The percentage of children living below the poverty level in Tucson is 27 percent.

    In Arizona, that percentage is 20 and nationwide it is 18. While this rate is not in itself a stand-alone litmus test of poor economic security, it is indicative of the current state of Tucson’s economy, especially when taken in combination with the fact that in April of this year, Tucson Unified School District unanimously voted to lay off more than 500 employees next year in response to the $45M state budget cuts the District will face.

    Graduates of the UA’s College of Education may need to look outside of Tucson to secure employment, and graduates wishing to start families may want to think twice about having children, knowing that supporting a family in Tucson is harder than supporting a family in another state.

    5. Increased taxes and utilities

    Starting July 1, Tucson residents now face increased taxes and fees on their utility bills, including gas, water, electric and telephone services.

    The City of Tucson expects the increases to bring in an additional $14.3 million in tax revenue over the next year. The revenue may provide much needed relief for the city’s dwindling budget. But a recent Federal proposal, dubbed the Waxman-Markey Bill, would further increase consumer costs if it meets with Senate approval in the upcoming months, which could drastically increase the amount of taxes that Tucson residents already pay for basic utility services.

    These cost increases would come at a time when the expenditures of city residents are already stretched thin. Renters and homeowners alike will face these utility cost hikes, so whether graduates buy a house or call an apartment home, more money will be coming out of their paychecks to cover the basic costs of living.

    6. Dwindling Spring Training presence

    The Chicago White Sox, who used to share Tucson Electric Park during Spring Training with the Arizona Diamondbacks, packed up and left Tucson, taking with them the economic boon they brought to Tucson every spring.

    The team moved to Glendale after paying $5 million to Pima County to get out of their contract. The Colorado Rockies and Diamondbacks still host their Spring Training games in town, but according to sources from both teams, the lack of at least three Major League teams training in the city is the resounding reason for why neither team will be back after the 2010 season.

    The Tucson Sidewinders left Tucson as well, moving to Reno, Nevada, after being sold for $15 million. Repeatedly low attendance, an uninterested market and the location of Tucson Electric Park have all been cited as reasons for the sale of what was once the last Minor League stop for future Diamondbacks players on their way up to Phoenix.

    The same company that sold the Sidewinders has since reorganized the Tucson Toros. They are currently attempting to fill the void left in the wake of the sale of the Sidewinders, but with no Major League affiliation, the Toros may face an even tougher audience than the Sidewinders did.

    7. Failed city plans

    The city’s proposed Rio Nuevo project has never really been able to gather any momentum since it’s inception in the early 1980s and seems even further from completion today than it did nearly 30 years ago.

    Promises have been made, contracts have been drawn up, and some shovels have even hit the dirt. But no real progress has ever been made, and due to recent citywide budget cuts, it doesn’t seem likely that any will be, at least not until the city’s economy recovers from what is currently ailing it.

    The Rio Nuevo project has also been draped in controversies ranging from fraud to money laundering to bribing of city officials and gross mismanagement, all of which have taken the focus off of the initial goals of the project, to revitalize the downtown area and rebuild Tucson’s economy.

    Tucson’s utility taxes come less than three years after Tucson’s next most recent tax increase, the half-cent sales tax that is supposed to levy the bankroll needed to fund the city’s Regional Transportation Authority and it’s proposed plans to improve transportation in and around Pima County through major civil engineering projects, including increased mass transit services like the light rail system that was supposed to alleviate congestion around the university area. As of yet, though, the project has not even broken ground.

    Whether or not Tucson succeeds or fails is entirely in the hands of the people who make the daily decisions that affect everybody that works, lives or goes to school in the city.

    Future graduates will soon become members of the workforce, but for many, the promise of a four-year degree being the key to success may be little consolation when they cannot find work in Tucson.

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