An Open Letter To my Neighbor:
Why I Am Not Voting for Regina Romero and Why She Doesn’t Deserve Your Vote
by Scott D. Egan
Barrio Hollywood, Tucson
“It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.”
— H. L. Mencken
I write this in response to you because you are a neighbor who has put a “Regina Romero for Mayor” sign in your yard. I appreciate your right to express yourself in public about your political preferences. I am choosing to do the same with this letter.
You might be wondering why there are no other signs up for Romero here in Barrio Hollywood (at least I haven’t seen any), and and I would like to share my reasons as to why I think this particular candidate would be a terrible Mayor and does not deserve your, or anyone else’s, vote.
Hailing herself as “the” progressive choice for Tucson and attempting to exploit the welcome trend to support young Latina leadership which has captured the aspirations of many of us who long for real change in our political and cultural institutions, Regina Romero is running for Mayor of Tucson after three terms on the City Council. Surface appearances aside, Romero is certainly no A.O.C. All voters need to look past the glossy images and into the facts of her record to determine if she warrants your support.
Let’s look at Romero’s claims versus reality:
- Qualifications. Romero has spent many years in government, both working for Pima County and, for the last 12 years, on the city council. She claims to have graduated “from the U of A and the Harvard School of Government.” While this sounds impressive, she actually did not “graduate” from Harvard University, but only attended some classes in a program designed for politicians who can then say they went to “Harvard.” Based on her track record in public office we are about to examine, one must wonder what is actually taught at that particular “School of Government.”
- “Cleanliness.” Romero is proud to distinguish herself from the other candidates because she is the only one to sign on for “clean elections” — allowing her to get extra money from the taxpayers to match the fundraising of her opponents (who chose not to use government support to run their campaigns). Romero asserts that “money from corporations is the problem in our political system,” which few can deny. However, Romero clearly had no qualms about taking such money for her past council elections, where her largest contributors include the largest “Ricos” in the region. This includes maximum contributions from the top echelons of the development industry, including many who profited from subsidies and favors granted to them from policies Romero promoted on the City Council. A review of her strongest donors includes names like Diamond, Goldstein, Lopez, Dabdoub, Stiteler, Wadlund, Silvyn, and Swain, and realtors from Holualoa, Town West, HSL, Gadsden, Vantana, and Broadway Realty & Trust. Such ritzy supporters guarantee a very responsive office holder — for them, but not for the rest of us.
- Accountability. Listening to Romero’s criticisms of city policy and practices one would first assume she is a new candidate running for change and will clean it all up once in charge. The fact is that after 12 years of being in the seat of power she has very little to brag about. A glaring example can be found in her campaign brochure, which asserts that “gentrification downtown is causing centers to lose children, streets to lose parking and small mom-and-pop stores to close” Well, who caused that gentrification and displacement downtown in the last decade or so? Romero not only contributed to it, but she also helped to lead it with the consistent support of her corporate backers. Why would anyone think she will do anything different as Mayor than as a council member?
- Honesty. There is no issue that highlights the proven dishonesty of Regina Romero more than the political fiasco perpetrated in her attempted giveaway/sale of 114 acres of publicly owned, urban green space known as the Trini Alvarez El Rio Golf Course for development. While insisting that residents should “believe me!” that the property was not for sale, she was simultaneously secretly trying to rush the very deal through that she was publicly denying. As the Arizona Daily Star reported (5/29/13), Romero was “one of the key proponents” who pushed for the sale behind closed doors. She readily admitted that “when they [the developers] asked us what site, we offered them the El Rio Golf Course … a prime location.” Due to the fierce resistance of a united community coalition, it was announced that “Grand Canyon University has backed off building a new campus in Tucson.” [A.D.S. 6/30/13] Yet Romero, who actually made the initial motion to begin negotiating the sale while boasting it as a “really great opportunity!”— now is claiming that she is the one who stopped the sale! As another council member remarked at the time, her deal “just stinks… it was a big mistake going into negotiations…this should have been above board …”
- Transparency. There can be no accountability in government without transparency, and Romero vehemently avoids both. When she and the city refused to turn over documents that were supposed to be legally accessed by the public, the people took the city to court and eventually won. Mysteriously at that time, Romero claimed that someone broke into her office and stole her computer’s hard drive with all her files. No alarm went off, there were no signs of a break-in, and nothing else was stolen from the entire office. A unique robbery, indeed. Maybe some of the missing records could explain who directed the city-hired appraiser to grossly undervalue the El Rio Golf Course by appraising it as if it was an empty dirt lot to make it a sweeter deal for the developers (in violation of the spirit of the law preventing special “gifts” from government to private business). Her hard drive is still missing. Perhaps O.J. can help her find it.
- Respect. After the city lost in its attempt to destroy the historic El Rio Golf Course, the neighborhood that primarily lead the charge was subjected to political retribution from the City of Tucson. Barrio Hollywood, in keeping with the city rules and regulations, attempted to change their membership qualifications, removing the stipulation of property ownership. Some of the business owners in the neighborhood had supported the sale of El Rio for their commercial interests, and there was a sudden take-over, almost a coup, of the neighborhood association by them and some residents who supported Romero. (Most of them were never seen before or after the neighborhood election). While Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association was threatened by the city with being denied recognition or any cooperation regarding various city services if the bylaw changes were enacted, the members defied the city and proceeded to make membership based on residence and not property owners, and the residents of the neighborhood regained the control of the organization. The city backed down after being challenged by a united community (as they did on the golf course). Romero publicly played a “hands-off” role on the issue, allowing city staff to try to impose undemocratic policies on the neighborhood. To make her sentiments clear to the residents however, Romero appointed to the city’s golf commission an individual who was a main promoter of the sale of the golf course to the developers. Romero has never expressed any regret about trying to wipe out this historically and culturally treasured urban green space, and continually refused to meet with those who opposed her plans in spite of her constant calls to start a “conversation” about every issue. Nor has she ever attempted to rescind her vote on the sale, which still stands as a 5-2 vote to sell the land even today. The lack of respect between her and many of her constituents on the west side is certainly mutual.
- Consistency. Romero claims she supports “improving core services like the police and fire departments.” Yet it would be hard to find a cop or paramedic who believes that assertion, which is why both the police and fire unions endorsed her opponent. While claiming she supports education, it is her opponent who was endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers. While assuring the public that she cares about city employees, the city bus drivers clearly don’t seem to see it that way, which is why the Teamsters Union is also a union that endorsed her opponent. Although she claims she is “progressive” and from an immigrant family, she refuses to support Sanctuary City designation for Tucson as other candidates have. Currently employed by a local environmental organization to “work with the Latino communities on … protecting public lands” she has instead worked to wipe out 114 acres of urban green space in a predominantly working-class Latino community. While claiming she is an advocate for affordable housing she supported the displacement of 130 seniors at Armory Park in favor of a developer’s plan from Chicago. Those who have actually dealt with her know full well that Regina Romero’s words consistently do not match her deeds.
In the last city election that Romero ran in, a council member from the east side received more votes from residents in Romero’s ward than she received from her own constituents. Maybe the voters in the ward know something that the rest of the city can learn from. I believe if you peel away the shiny image, and you will see someone who should not be Tucson’s next Mayor.
I have done my best to explain to you why, as one of her constituents, I will not vote for Regina Romero for Mayor, and have perhaps shared some of the many reasons there are so few of your neighbors are supporting her. I appreciate that you have taken enough of an interest in the upcoming city election to express yourself with a yard sign. Voters like you and I will be the ultimate judge of how much support should be rendered for her dishonesty, lack of transparency, and disrespect for her fellow citizens. The choice, as always, will be ours.
Sincerely and respectfully, your neighbor,
Barrio Hollywood, Tucson