Marana Town Council to brainstorm future; RTA committee narrows 'Next' agenda

Local governments are canceling their post-New-Year’s meetings like a NetFlix actor who made an inappropriate tweet.

Only Marana’s study session remains.

It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just that the first Tuesday of the month falls one day after a big holiday and the staff won’t have time to prepare background material for these meetings. That and, y’know, it’s the day after a holiday and who wants to work?

So, the upshot is nothing much is happening this week across local governments. Next week will be this columnist’s personal nightmare.

Marana’s mayor and Town Council members will hold a meeting with their state senators and representatives. The conversation is scheduled to be free-flowing covering town operations, projected growth and legislative priorities.

A key point here about covering local government: Sometimes staff is smart not to provide backing material to hem in elected leaders’ conversations.

Electeds need to occasionally be free to discuss matters without the staff “guiding” them. Staff can always do the thing where they provide the Holy Trio of Options for Action on Pressing Matters. Option A is always wildly aggressive and costly. Option C is barely lifting a pencil but allows the people in charge to say they did something. Option B is what the staff wants done and is presented as the Goldilocks approach.

Elected leaders need to rely on professional expertise to make smart decisions that are somewhat informed by traffic engineering, subdivision design, law enforcement and parks maintenance. Listening to the experts can be derided as being controlled by the Deep State subversives.

On the other hand, smart staffers can lead elected officials and not the other way around. But try that with someone like former Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, who served for almost 30 years overseeing county government. The woman saw every form of issue come by at least once. Marana Mayor Ed Honea has been in his post since… well, his LinkedIn page says on and off again for 47 years. He predates the rise of Sean Elliott and the Gumbys.

No staffer is getting anything past him.

This is why experience is important among elected leaders. At least some need to reach the point where they know as much as the staff so they can’t be pushed around with information, while simultaneously understanding when the pros are right.

I’m not dissing on fresh blood. New approaches or community imperatives should also be recognized and reflected in representation.

And sometimes, staffers need to get out of the way and let the elected types chart a course the people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees can then put in place.

So anyway, the Marana Town Council will get to hold a bit of a free-form discussion about the priorities of the community they serve. Voters will be allowed to decide if those priorities are the correct ones.

Going mobile one time

Moving completely to the other side of the spectrum, the Regional Transportation Authority’s Technical Management Committee will be going over priorities for the next round of proposals to put before voters.

I’m not going to be advancing every freaking subcommittee and blue ribbon meeting around town because my fingers would fall off from all the typing. A guy can only have so many dozen beats.

But this being a slow week, I figured I’d clue readers in on the drama because whether Tucson decides to plan for transportation regionally (like a bunch of adults) or at the local level (like a bunch of greedy kids protecting their forts) will do a lot to determine how traffic flows around town. 

The TMC, as team techno is called, is a collection of civil and traffic engineers who know how to build a transportation network to better move people across town. They will geek out Thursday on a 2 trillion list of projects they can take to the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for more discussion so that group can make recommendations to the full RTA board.

The idea is to have a list of projects paid for by continuing the countywide half-cent sales tax, which will either be reauthorized by 2026 or disappear from government coffers.

Projects are being divvied up among Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, South Tucson, Sahuarita and unincorporated Pima County. Each jurisdiction right now has its own idea about how to spend the money and prioritize categories like transit, modernization and improving key arterials.

Last summer, the citizens’ committee and the technical team failed to agree on a single list of recommendations, kinda blowing up the process for a moment.

The concerned citizens tried to come up with their own plan to satisfy the big-picture needs that included a .1-cent tax increase and the experts told them they did it all wrong.

The RTA’s full board told both sides to go back and hammer something out and they are still pecking away at it.

Keeping all sides happy – or from bailing on the project entirely – has proven difficult at times. The Tucson City Council has been the most skeptical body, but during their last meeting they were kinda OK with the general direction.

To me, Tucson suggesting they are “sort of OK” was a big step. I can’t see the city going all the way through the process and bailing at a very bitter end.

If anything is going to be a deal breaker, the deal will probably break soon.