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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Capricious construction will only hurt, not help Tucson taxpayers and character”

    We’re already tossing away our Social Security to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but will there be an uproar when Tucsonans have to bail out Bookmans and Walgreens as well? So far, the answer is no.

    This is particularly startling, because the justifications for this local bailout definitely do not fit the emergency qualifications imposed by the Federal government. Yes, there is an economic crisis. Yes, people will be forced out of their homes. But the only difference is, these problems might actually be a consequence of the plan ð- not the other way around.

    The Grant Road widening project has been in the works for about a decade now, but the city just unveiled the specifics of the plan that will commence in 2013. According to the Tucson Citizen, the city’s proposal shows full government acquisitions of 153 properties, and partial acquisitions of 268. Businesses such as FioRito’s Italian Restaurant and the Bay Horse Tavern, which have been here since 1978 and 1958 respectively, Bookmans, Walgreens, Goldberg & Osborne and the strip of antique shops on Grant and Country Club Road will all be kicked out beginning in 2010. Right now, the plan is expected to cost $166 million.

    Now compared to the $700 billion for our mortgage friends, that might not seem like a hefty charge. With all this number talk going around, it’s getting harder to put these prices in perspective. So to throw out some figures: Barack Obama, who has redefined the entire concept of campaign funding, raised a comparable amount of $150 million in September – and the entire country wants this guy to succeed. In more local terms, the state reduced UA’s 2009 fiscal year budget by $19.6 million, a big justification behind our future transformation layoffs. Now I admit it’s kind of deceptive to compare different funding sources as if they were coming from the same place, but that budget alone is less than an eighth of the cost it’ll take to do this road project.

    But enough of the numbers; they’re boring. It should be jarring enough just to consider the consequences this whole thing will have on our roads while it’s taking place. According to the Citizen, the Grant Road widening won’t be completed until 2026. We thought the Fourth Avenue Underpass and I-10 stuff was bad. This is 13 straight years of construction on Tucson’s most widely used road! Not only do the taxpayers have to suffer, but everyone who lives or works in the vicinity will squirm as well. And don’t even get me started about the Michigan left turns they want to make. Apparently, it’s better for the environment to have cars making U-turns and going all the way around instead of just a regular old left turn.

    But so far, public resistance has been sparse. In a column last week, the Arizona Daily Star actually praised the project for including everyone in the consensus. But if the consensus is ridiculous, it doesn’t matter how many people agree.

    The fact is, Tucson doesn’t really need a million and a half dollar project to increase tourism or society’s welfare. We’re doing pretty well as it is. What helps us to do well are small businesses like antique shops that give us character, that give old ladies something to do on Wednesdays. What helps us are independent bookstores like Bookmans, who will surely get over the crisis but must suffer anyway. What helps us are historic buildings and unpretentious roads with real left turns. What helps us is getting to work on time and not being forced to pay out of our pockets for a 13-year detour. That’s what helps us, and once again the city ignores it.

    It might seem too late, but it’s not. According to the Star and Citizen, the city council will have to approve the alignment next year before the project can begin. The public comment period for the road will last until mid-November.

    With the momentum they’ve been building in the last few weeks, it seems unlikely that the city will just decide to drop the whole thing altogether. But you never know! At the least, we as citizens can voice our discontent or give some suggestions on how to make the whole thing smoother.

    McCain, Obama and a myriad of politicians made justifying the bailout to a hoard of disillusioned consumers a centerpiece of their respective campaigns. And Tucson leaders should do the same. It doesn’t take a Ron Paul to figure out where this trend is leading, but it could take a José the Plumber to stop it.


    – Andi Berlin is a journalism senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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