Monday, March 07, 2011

The Way Tucson Works

(Downtown Tucson seen from the SW. Photo via)

I confess that in all the writing I've been doing about Arizona over the last year or so, I have perhaps given the impression that my hometown, Tucson, is somehow above it all, a shining liberal oasis in the midst of an otherwise hopeless (but gorgeous!) state. Tucson, it seems, simply isn't plagued by the idiocy so lovingly embraced by the rest of the Grand Canyon State™.

This is, of course, absolutely false.

When I was growing up, I remember my parents and other liberal adults forever griping about The Developers, meaning the real estate developers. They were to blame for everything. They had the city government in their pockets and over a barrel (Tucson: mixed metaphor city!), it seemed, And the Pima County Board of Supervisors, the real power in the area? Even worse. By the time I got to high school, I came to the realization that The Developers, to be sure, were a fairly evil lot, forever meddling in municipal affairs and sparking ghastly, wasteful boondoggles. On the other hand, I got a little jaded to the constant carping about The Developers, as it seemed like they had become too lazy and easy a boogieman for the University of Arizona set. It seemed to me that the real problem was the politicians: they were ALL financed by and large by the real estate industry, basically the only industry in town, and all too eager to do its bidding.

And that, Pony Pals™, is basically how Tucson works.

Or doesn't work, in the following case. I spotted this excellent article in the Arizona Daily Star yesterday which brought all those memories of The Developers and their double-ouroboros-like relationship with Tucson politicians flooding back to me. Gaze in wonder at the profound ineptness with which the local pols handled what should have been a simple Downtown building project, and gasp in awe at what The Developer gets away with! Truly it is a thing of beauty:
Struggling downtown developer Gadsden Co. hasn't delivered much of anything on our West Side dust bowl. Failing to meet deadlines. Failing to pay $53,000 in property taxes through January. Failing to build what it promised the city.

And yet, the city keeps promising a pot of gold at the end of the downtown rainbow (bridge). The city keeps moving ahead with a big flip that will reward Gadsden with not only some extra cash, but the rights to even more city property.

Gadsden's Adam Weinstein and Jerry Dixon better hustle. Deals like this are hard to pass up.

The city will sell Gadsden property at the edge of downtown for $250,000, and Gadsden will immediately sell the land to another developer for $1.43 million. Then Gadsden will take some of that money and put it back into the property for utility work and site improvements - although Gadsden was supposed to do that kind of work in the first place, and with its own money. The rest of the money, about $500,000, is Gadsden's.

All that and they didn't have to erect a single building! For three years. Good work if you can get it!


NoReally! said...

Hey PSP! that kind of work is a pandemic! just sayin...nice blog.

Frank said...

In the land of the crazy, the town with half a neuron is sane.

rdale said...

Here in Eu-taw, the neighbor to the north (Hi, Arizona!), a losing contractor for a big road project whined enough that the UDOT gave them a $13,000,000 payoff so they wouldn't feel bad. Yes, that's 13 million, as in taxpayer dollars. Real estate moguls dominate the Utah state legislature; right now they are talking about forcing a move of the state prison from the south Salt Lake valley to out in the west desert somewhere (think nerve gas and UFOs). This will cost the state about $400 million, but the land it's on is only worth $90 million. Who gets the other $310 million? Real estate developers! And their friends in the state legislature.