On RELIGION: Devout Christians and Slumlord Millionaires
“I’m not one to knock religion, but it’s always knocking me,
Always hanging with the wrong crowd, that’s where I want to be.
I’m not good at being careful, always say what’s on my mind,
Like my idea of heaven is to burn one with John Prine.”
— Kasey Musgraves
“Hey, Father! I want you to meet my friend — he’s a big atheist!” shouted Brian Flagg to the priest at the conclusion of our demonstration against the City of Tucson, alongside Pancho Villa and his genderless horse.
The demonstrators were a coalition of coalitions — the Pima Area Labor Federation representing up to 40 local unions, the Barrio Neighborhood Coalition that coalesced scores of resident associations, the volunteers from Casa Maria soup kitchen, and activists from Jobs For Justice along with assorted Greens, Reds, Democrats, Wobblies, and others — all there to oppose the proposed Tucson’s expansion of the Central Business District (CBD) and it’s tax-abatement giveaways to developers.
The priest, who had given a blessing to the crowd earlier, gave me a friendly greeting as the smiling rascal organizer for Casa Maria scuttled away to help clean up, leaving the good father and me standing there and attempting to initiate a conversation after such an awkward introduction. In such diverse coalitions for change, unity is key, so it is critically important to be inclusive with all possible supporters in the cause, even with any differences that may exist. That is what “coalition” is about, and diplomacy is often required. And by that, I do not mean “Irish Diplomacy” (“the ability to tell someone to go to hell and have them look forward to the trip”) but real diplomacy.
So I said:
“Actually Father, I don’t really call myself an atheist,” I tried vainly to articulate, “I am more of a ‘militant’ agnostic.”
“Militant?” He inquired with an amusingly inquisitive glance.
“Yeah, that’s right” I continued: “I don’t claim to have any clue about the existence of God or to know what happens after we die, but I am damn sure about one thing: nobody else really knows either.”
He seemed mildly amused, so I proceeded to push further with a joke (cause that’s what I do). A rich American goes to the Vatican and stands in line in the hope to be blessed by the Pope, but when the Holy Father emerges he passes right by the guy without a glance, no less a blessing, and instead goes right over to a poor, dirty and disheveled beggar in the crowd, where the Pope puts an arm around the poor fellow’s shoulder and whispers something in his ear, taps him on his back and moves on.
The Rich guy immediately goes over and buys the beggars clothes for a small fortune, then spends two full weeks without shaving or bathing, Finally, he puts on the beggars soiled clothes and goes back to the Vatican to stand in line looking (and smelling) like the miserable vagabond himself.
When the Pope emerges this time he goes right to the rich guy, now dressed as the tramp, as His Holiness puts has arm the man’s dirty shoulders he softly whispers in the fake beggar’s ear:
“Didn’t I tell you a few weeks ago to get the hell out of here?”
I watched the priest’s face carefully to see if I could tell his real response and he laughed right out loud with genuine gusto. I was relieved that he thought the joke funny. Priests without a sense of humor, I have found in my experience, are no fun at all. After a very short pause, he looked at me seriously and said:
“Of course, that Pope wouldn’t have been our Francis.” He then searched my face for my real response, as I had his.
Faith or no faith, I have an aversion to lying to a priest. (Maybe I am still recovering?). I replied:
“Actually father, I do agree with you there.” I admitted, “I also am a big fan of this Pope as well.”
We both nodded in agreement. I almost added “It’s an old joke…” thought of the name “Ratzinger” but, held my tongue (rare). I thought I had confessed enough to him.
I have had a few priest friends over the years, mostly “ex” priests or monks who may have left the church but never abandoned their faith. One was the late, great Irishman Tim Prendeville who blessed Tucson with his presence for many years and his soft Tipperary brogue would regularly be heard giving benedictions at almost every Irish event in Tucson. You could always expect a “Hail Mary” or an “Our Father” delivered in the ancient Gaelic tongue. Our friendship grew out of shared revulsion to foreign occupations and our common support for traditional Irish republicanism. As friends, we had honest conversations on a range of topics as friends will do, including on politics and religion. We were not so aligned on religion, as the things I generally worship are either illegal, immoral, or fattening. Sometimes all three.
I recall telling Tim that, although raised in a strict Catholic household, I had rejected the “faith” early “like when I began to think.” I told him, so cleverly I thought at the time, that I was a “recovering Catholic” and the program was so far working well (as always, amused at my own joke). Before you could say “the Pope likes to pray” he responded:
“That is ok, Scott, that is fine.” he smiled, “If you’re still recovering, it means your are still a Catholic.”
He had me there, so I ceased calling myself that. Tricky priests.
For a while I called myself a”neo-pagan” thinking that more intriguing than just “non-believer” until I met an actual pagan and thereby unceremoniously dumped that label as well.
As the great democratic socialist George Orwell once said: “as with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.”
Which seems to go for pagans as well… and probably agnostics.
Dear reader, have you ever have had to deal with church ladies who come to your door, usually of Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness extraction, and usually at some “ungodly” hour — like any time before noon on a Saturday? Of course you have. While always trying to be polite to these poor lost souls, there was a period when they seemed to inundate our streets here in Barrio Hollywood. Each weekend they woke me I became more annoyed with having to spend the energy to tell them I didn’t want to spend the energy to tell them that I was not susceptible to conversion and I am tired of spending the energy telling them so.
While complaining with some friends (what are friend’s for?) it was suggested to me an effective cure which surprisingly entailed no violence whatsoever. When the missionaries arrive next time, it was suggested, I simply need to announce that “this is a Catholic family” after which and they will forever leave me alone. Apparently, I was informed, if you say you are anything other than Catholic then they will keep coming because there is still a chance of being a covert to someone else’s personal Jesus or some such.
“Why won’t they leave me alone if I say I’m are atheist and agnostic, but saying that I am Catholic repels them?” I inquired.
“You see, saying you are an atheist only encourages them to work on you!” I was counseled. “Getting you heathen bastards to see the light is what they live for. They will never leave you alone if you tell them anything other than being Catholic. They believe that Catholics can never change, they are considered hopelessly controlled by the Vatican and the devil and are lost forever.”
So the next time there was a rap on my door during a Saturday morning hangover I knew what the two old grey ladies at my doorstep were up to, and fully prepared I yanked the door open and — before they could issue a peep — I boldly exclaimed:
“Sorry ladies, this is a Catholic household here!”
To which they replied:
“Oh that’s wonderful! We are here from St. Margaret’s…” (Barrio Hollywood’s Catholic Church down the street).
I was stunned, discombobulated, even felt tricked, and I stuttered out the first thing that came to my mind (usually not a good thing) but out it came anyway:
“Uh, yeah, no, uh, I am Irish Catholic,” I blurted, “not, em, Roman Catholic, see, and, well, we don’t follow, like, the same rules and such as you guys do, but, um, I hope you all have a really good day now. Good luck. Bye-bye!”
Jeez, these Catholics can sure be sneaky. So “militant agnostic” now stands as an accurate brand. I need to speak the truth and declare my firm conviction to being absolutely resolute in professing my complete and abject ignorance regarding any meaning to our existence, and I am sticking to that story.
As a very young man, I used to pray for faith, which was obviously unsuccessful and so I soon gave up. Doing something over and over and never having a different outcome while continuing to expect something different is supposedly a sign of madness. And I learned I can be crazy without spending time praying and confirming it. As a teenager in the mythologic ’60’s I tried to reconcile the teachings promoted by “The Church” (the only one true one, don’t ya know) which I was forced to attend each Sunday. Religion seemed to be based on an unseen mythical system that was in stark contrast to the makings of the real world.
My youthful and naive attempt at reconciliation between the spiritual and material lead me to the Catholic Worker house and soup kitchen in New York City, where I volunteered to fold their 1 penny a copy newspaper. The founder, Dorothy Day, was a former communist who became a devoted Catholic, pacifist, and anarchist, and who devoted her life to feeding and serving the poor. She was an amazing advocate for the homeless, who once encapsulated the reality of the scene by saying:
“If you feed the poor, they call you a saint. But ask why there are poor, and they call you a communist.”
Dorothy Day and her work and inspiration spread throughout the land, including to Tucson at the Casa Maria house which, true to the mission, has likewise fed, clothed, and comforted countless souls in our community for many, many years. Up until COVID hit, Barrio Hollywood had a monthly open mic where people from the community came and played, ate and drank, talked, laughed, and socialized. We played at El Rio Golf Course clubhouse bar and grill, a beautiful urban green space where the city tried to sell to private developers before residents raised enough hell to stop them. Brian is not a big bar-fly kinda guy (like us serious people). He may have a beer with you, but lounging around giving some business money for alcohol, is not really his thing. But after some coaxing, I did get him to come to our open mic.
I greeted him when he arrived, and he was soon in conversations with a score of people (he knows everyone as far as I can tell) when a barrio resident approached me, and looking over at Brian across the room asked:
“Are you friends with Brian Flagg?”
I did not know if it was a loaded question or what, as there are people who really don’t like Brian, although it is highly unlikely that many of them live in the barrio.
“Yes,” I said somewhat cautiously, “we have known each other a long time.”
It was then I saw the moisture welling in the eyes, and the person said:
“He saved my life, he saved my whole family. He fed us when we had nothing, we were practically starving. He took care of all of us. We owe him our life.”
I almost teared up myself. I later told Brian what I was told and his response was “cool.”
That was it. Cool. Yeah, cool. He probably literally saves people’s lives in one way or another on a daily basis.
Cool. What else to say?
Like Dorothy Day, Casa Maria is not only helping the poor but asking why there are poor, and that is the reason they continue to be under attack, including by scumbag slumlord millionaires, one of which will be addressed shortly (honestly, we will get there!) But first, a bit more of my background and personal perspective.
I arrived in Tucson (around the winter of 1972 I think) by being thrown off of a railroad car, which I had hopped in El Paso and was hoping would land me in California. Instead, I and other hoboes were found by railroad dick’s (an appropriate name if there ever was one) and thrown off in the middle of a cold November night in Tucson. I had already spent a few years on the road, living on the street, sleeping in the parks and people’s cars (back in those days people left their cars and their houses unlocked, the good old days: MAGA!) and on the generosity of others. There were hippie crash pads then as well, and places like The Switchboard by the U.A. that would try to find places for people to sleep each night. Tucson had good weather and good people, elements that still attract the wandering poor.
My transformation in Tucson from homeless vagabond to becoming the chief aide to two city council members, chief of staff for a member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, along with a background in acting (a political requirement?) as a founding member of the great Teatro Libertad theatre troop honored as Grand Marshall of the Tucson St. Patrick’s Parade after running a ten-year weekly stint as a D.J on KXCI’s the Celtic Cross-Currents Show (before the great purge of progressive community voices there), and an ongoing activist in the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association is a story in itself for future Bog Notes.
But before the good citizen was a time of homelessness when I had alienated myself from all my family and most of my friends, with the few I had left all thousands of miles away. I was alone and broke, often on the verge of desperation. There was a Mexican restaurant where I could approach the workers from a back door, and they would periodically give me a free burrito. There was Irv’s Pizza, who was always good for a free slice and a coke. I survived on two buck and hour part-time wages, and some hustling. You do what you have to do to survive.
I am not sure if you who are reading this now have ever experienced real poverty in which you actually do not know how or where you will get your next meal, or where you will sleep at night, or how you will possibly get by another day. I was a strong young man on my own at the time, and could usually find some work as needed, washing dishes, painting houses, occasionally selling the odd drug here or there. I got by, but I was not a parent with the grinding responsibility to house and feed children, nor was I sick or physically handicapped, addicted to drugs, or mentally deficient (although some would debate that today). Yet when I think of those times the memory of it still freaks me out to this day. I could have ended up anywhere, or nowhere.
I now have a wonderful life with a great partner (more than 40 years), with a regular pension and social security check coming in, and reside in a modest but comfortable house where we are virtually debt-free. Yet, the fear of losing it all and ending up on the street remains an aching terror under the skin and the back of the mind. I know, in a much more minor way compared to many others, what hopeless, dark poverty really feels like. I can even remember what it smells like. I recall it whenever I get cold or hungry. I think of it when I hear the train rumble through town. I see myself every time I see the bread line at Casa Maria.
I guess I could be called a “recovering vagabond.”
So I have a particular affinity for Casa Maria soup kitchen and the Catholic Worker movement as a whole. My ascent to some stability came after a series of low-wage low-skill jobs with my first real employment in the “system” when I was hired as a city council aide by my dear friend Bruce Wheeler. Bruce was elected in 1987 to the Ward I westside council seat after defeating an incumbent by outworking him with a progressive, proactive agenda. It was then that I heard of Brian Flagg and Casa Maria.
I don’t remember what Brian was demanding at the time, but the city council, including Bruce, thought Brian’s demands were unrealistic, but he wouldn’t go away or be mollified (a trait he has thankfully kept). Bruce, confident of his considerable powers of persuasion, wanted to communicate directly with Brian one on one, and so set up a meeting to talk. I didn’t go to that meet, I don’t know why, but I probably wanted to avoid a potential conflict — not only between the two of them but within my sentiments as well. It was a conflict I really did not want to have to handle. My sympathy was towards Brian, but my loyalty was to Bruce.
I remember waiting at the Ward office with some trepidation, worrying about what might happen until Bruce finally came back to fill me in on what transpired. I knew Bruce to be pretty head-strong (a P.C. way to say stubborn?) and the little I knew about Brian was that he was, well, rather averse to compromise. When my boss returned, his first words were something like:
“We are going to try to get Brian whatever the hell he wants.”
“What?” I said, somewhat surprised. Relieved, but still surprised.
“He is probably not going to get what he wants,” Bruce projected, “because he doesn’t have the votes. But we are going to fight to try to get him what he wants anyway. We will get him as much as we possibly can.”
“OK!” I said relieved “but, you gotta tell me, I am really curious, what the hell did Flagg say to you?”
“He didn’t have to say anything” explained Bruce. “I got there and he was shoveling up some homeless guys shit who took a dump in front of Casa Maria.”
“Look.” Bruce declared, “here is a guy who voluntarily devotes his life to feeding all these people, and then after they eat, they shit on his lawn, and then he cleans that up. And he keeps doing it.”
(Dorothy Day once said “the thing you have to know about the homeless is they smell, and they are ungrateful” Yet — just like Brian — she kept at it anyway.)
“I am not messin’ with any dude like that,” Bruce continued, “let’s just try to get him and Casa Maria whatever the hell he needs.”
And we did try — which included council member Wheeler directing his other staff member, Irma Yepez Perez, to devote her attention to the issue of housing in Tucson. Irma went on and helped develop a comprehensive report on the issue with the late, great Bill Morris (whose life-long work is honored by the Bill Morris Institute celebrated every year at the man’s favorite drinking hole, The Shanty).
I would guess that none of the city council or most of the city staff have ever read their report or who even know who Bill Morris is and all the work he did on housing. They certainly don’t honor his legacy.
Irma Yepez Perez ended up running for the Ward 1 seat when Bruce left it and lost by a handful of votes to Jose Ybarra thanks to the full-on attack campaign launched by then Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva. If she had won, Irma would have been the first Chicana elected to the seat and would have used her considerable knowledge and research on housing to make a significant difference here. Instead, after her narrow loss, she made a great career working on her specialty of housing but with another jurisdiction. Good for them, bad for Tucson.
The victor of that race, Jose Ybarra, not only dumped housing as a priority, he ordered raids on homeless camps along the Santa Cruz River and elsewhere, only exacerbating the problem of homelessness. He was followed in that office by Regina Romero, helped by the same political machine, who now has (unfortunately) been elected as Mayor. Housing is still not a priority for this city council, city staff, or Mayor, and as far as I can tell hasn’t been since Bruce and Irma left the office. A list of campaign contributions to the current Mayor and Council matched up with a list of developers and other businesses who have benefited from the city’s tax abatements and subsidies may suggest why. Demands for a citizen-based committee on gentrification and displacement have been ignored. The Mayor and Council act as their own housing commission. Accountability and transparency are virtually non-existent.
And now we are living in unprecedented times:
* a clueless authoritarian President propped up by his cult-like worshiping G.O.P. zombie’s and a corrupt Attorney General who uses the constitution only for toilet paper,
* the abject failure of once strong democratic institutions to protect our rights that were supposed to be guaranteed, but are trashed instead,
* the outright blatant murder of Black and Brown people by the very public servants who are supposed to protect them, no justice, no peace,
* a grossly incompetent handling of the unchecked pandemic leading to the worst pubic health crisis in a century, causing the death of over 200,00 Americans and growing,
- the ensuing economic collapse the likes of which have not been seen since the great depression of the 1930s, and
- a predicted tsunami of evictions (and mass homelessness) right around the proverbial corner.
You would think that such unprecedented conditions might impel our “leaders” to review some of their practices and policies in order to adjust to these drastic conditions, but you would be wrong. In spite of the crippling effect on the economy — on workers, on business, on financial institutions, this Mayor and Council will not change one iota from their continuing gifts o- tax breaks to their rich friends at the expense of all the rest of us taxpayers. In fact, they just passed a motion to actually expand the Central Business District so more dollars can be shifted from our pockets for developer scams. These scams for rich folk they declare to be a necessary “tool in our toolbox” apparently oblivious to the fact that THEY, the council, are themselves the tools — for the rich.
So the Mayor and Council, with the full backing of the City Manager (and obligatory support from the grifters at the Chamber of Commerce and a host of slumlord millionaires) continue on their merry way giving away the store as the public cupboards are depleted. The only one dissent on the council to their head-long charge into the abyss was council member Steve Kozachik, who protested the motion because it included an amendment for some accountability in these trickle down give-aways. [more on that, later]. He wants the scams passed without ever looking at the results. And this passed for “leadership” in this town.
Back in the Dust Bowl days, the legendary Woody Guthrie passed through our town and exclaimed:
“Tucson ain’t nothin’ but a rich man’s whore.”
It hasn’t changed.
The fight over these tax breaks is not only a dispute about how the council gets to arbitrarily pick and chose which business wins a tax break and who doesn’t (providing unfair advantages to other business folk who don’t get chosen for government goodies: check the CBD map for examples) but it is also the effect of these tax-subsidized developments have on the community in which they take place. Traditionally working-class areas in downtown Tucson and the surrounding barrios are hit hard by rising property taxes and the corresponding rise in rents with gentrification and displacement directly caused by city policies. Our city leaders prefer to issue declarations on the climate and to talk about talking about having “conversations” while Rome burns. We don’t even get to listen to a fiddle play.
The only litmus test the city uses to determine whether these GPLET lease projects are beneficial is how many rich people they can get to occupy downtown — not what happens to the lives of working folk who have lived for generations in these increasingly unaffordable neighborhoods destroyed by gentrification.
This is great for the rich who are made richer but has the opposite effect on the poor.
And this is why working people connected to the labor movement, the homeless people and those who help them at Casa Maria, and barrio and other residents from organized neighborhood associations have all been protesting the city’s expansion of the Central Business District and their corresponding business schemes. And it is also why mostly White slumlord millionaires love the city. Which brings us to Part 2 of this story…
The Slumlord Millionaire…
MURRAY THE SLUMLORD MILLIONAIRE
Background info: Murray (Mac) Hudson was a top aide for Regina Romero while she was the Ward 1 city council member. He also was once President of the Menlo Park Neighborhood Association where he publicly once wrote:
“The success of Rio Nuevo 20 years from now should be measured, at least in part, on whether the neighborhood is still standing, still recognizable, still livable and enjoyable by old faces and new. Success depends upon consultation and collaboration with the neighborhoods.”
Written in January, 2007 and one must wonder what he thinks about Menlo Park today, one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in the city where the price of houses, and rent, is radically transforming the population, culture, and class away from its tradition of working class, Chicano families to rich young yuppies, like Murray himself.
According to Pima County records, Murray owns six houses in Menlo Park worth more than $860,000, and with his other $263,824 south side house his total portfolio comes to $1,126,983. Since Murray and his friends on the council declared Menlo Park a slum, a requirement for granting subsidies to their friends, this makes him both literally and figuratively a slumlord millionaire.
Slumlords are the greatest beneficiaries of gentrification, as we can see in Menlo Park. Those who know how to use the city processes by having worked there have an even bigger leg up than others in their quest for permits and profits. Unfortunately, it is long-term fixed income residents who are hit the hardest with displacement when their taxes and/or rents skyrocket, with the most vulnerable — renters — being the biggest losers in the chain.
One would think that such slumlord millionaires would be content to scarf up their profits without too much fanfare — why rock the boat when your ship has come in — which is why it is curious that Menlo Park’s prominent slumlord would feel compelled to write in defense of Mayor and Council in an email he sent to a number to residents who question the benefits of city policy on those who are not millionaires.
Boldly, and without any supporting evidence, Murray claims that the dozens of long-term tax abatement provided to developers by the city have all been “worthy” with each being “judiciously chosen” and directing that residents should just “trust our M&Cto chose any future GPLET projects wisely” without any accountability or oversight. Call it a faith-based kind of deal.
Hudson gives a special tip of the hat to Brian Corbin at RiverPark Inn by the freeway:
“When you see the 25 projects that have been chosen by M&C since 1999 to receive the abatement, projects such as our friends and neighbors at the River Park Inn, you can see that the projects are worthy and the incentivization [sp] helped them to happen.”
(The Tucson City Council unanimously signed off on an eight-year property tax incentive deal worth more than $1.6 million in 2017. Mr. Brian Corbin, the owner of RiverPark Inn, was a major endorser of Regina Romero as well as Lea Marquez Peterson and Elizabeth Dole. Yes, that Dole).
If Murray had left his message as a simple call for supplication to our masters it would have been easier to ignore his abject arrogance. But no. Murray feels the need to go further on the attack:
“Instead of trying to kill the GPLETs, Brian Flagg and company should be demanding that they be used to incentive affordable housing which they can do but haven’t yet.”
Like nobody has been demanding action on this very issue since the Barrio Neighborhood Coalition was created.
Like nobody has tried to get the city to listen, by letters, phone calls, demonstrations and calls to the audience at council meetings trying to get them to appoint a task force of citizens affected by displacement, or even make appointments to their own Housing Commission.
Like Brian Flagg or the volunteers at Casa Maria need a lecture from a slumlord millionaire on what they should be demanding.
But what is clearly revealed in his email is that after 20 years of GPLET’s, those in charge NEVER EVEN THOUGHT of requiring an affordable housing component to development!
According to Murray that is the fault of the community — not those in charge who made the deals and gave the tax breaks and left out any provisions for affordable housing for those being displaced. It’s the peoples fault that their own interests are not being advocated by those elected to represent them. Isn’t that called “blaming the victims”?
“Hopefully,” whines slumlord millionaire,“there will be one For affordable housing if there is a GPLET left after the yelling is over.”
Yeah Mac. Hopefully. Although considering the tsunami of evictions that are predicted soon and the absolute lack of any priority for housing on the part of the city to deal with the current crisis, I would not bet on the yelling to be over any time soon.
In a glowing letter of support for candidate Regina Romero in the Arizona Daily Star, Murray (only identifying himself as “a constituent”) claims he has “watched her work hard for our quality of life and economic prosperity.” … yes she had, I thought, she and the rest of the council have worked for some peoples economic prosperity, but not for the 1,600 on the city’s Section 8 waiting list for so many years that the city hasn’t been taking any new applications for years.
Murray’s letter beseeches our community to acknowledge the greatness of Romero and to:
“Wake up Tucson! Or should I say: Get woke before it’s too late!”
The Bogman 10/4/20
EMAIL FROM HUDSON TO ROMERO, SANTA CRUZ, ect. [bold emphasis mine – S.]
From: Mac Hudson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, September 18, 2020 12:25 PM
Subject: Re: GPLET/CBD conversation at Mission Garden tomorrow Sat at 8.
Hi Zach et al,
Thanks for putting the materials together. I will not be attending the meeting since I’m out of town. But what a lovely place for an important discussion. I hope you all enjoy yourselves.
If you care to know, here’s what I think about the subject.
As stated in the materials GPLETs are one of only a few state-provided tools to incentivize development, the relatively few projects that have been chosen to receive abatement are worthy and it would be a shame to lose one of the few tools we have to incentivize affordable housing.
When you see the 25 projects that have been chosen by M&C since 1999 to receive the abatement, projects such as our friends and neighbors at the River Park Inn, you can see that the projects are worthy and the incentivization helped them to happen.
Very simply, government land that often is vacant, idle and does not contribute to the tax base is converted into projects that create housing, retail, small businesses, and other contributions to our vibrant downtown while also adding to the tax base.
It is a shame that language such as blight has to be used to justify use of GPLETs but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The M&C has judiciously chosen each project and I think they have chosen well.
Sure there can always be more accountability over any project. So add more accountability but, again, don’t throw the incentive out with the bathwater. Ultimately, that’s what elections are for, M&C are accountable to us.
Finally, instead of trying to kill the GPLETs, Brian Flagg and company should be demanding that they be used to incentive affordable housing which they can do but haven’t yet. There are very few legitimate incentives for affordable housing and GPLETs are one of them.
There is so little common sense used in our public debates today. Even science takes a back seat to partisanship. Don’t let the loud voices throw you off, GPLETs are a useful incentive for worthy projects that add vibrancy to otherwise vacant and idle land. I trust our M&C to chose any future GPLET projects wisely. Hopefully there will be one for affordable housing if there is a GPLET left after the yelling is over.
Thanks for your time and consideration.
Riverpark Inn Hotel receives $1.6 million Tucson tax incentive Joe Ferguson Feb 8, 2017
The Tucson City Council unanimously signed off on an eight-year property tax incentive deal worth more than $1.6 million Tuesday night to help renovate a 134-room hotel just west of downtown Tucson.
Brian Corbell, the owner of the Riverpark Inn Hotel, wants to return the roughly 40-year-old hotel back to its former glory. He has pledged to invest $2.2 million to completely renovate the hotel, at 777 W. Cushing St.
Such an investment, he hopes, will make the hotel more competitive for conventions in downtown Tucson and help expand the Pueblo Gem & Mineral Show. Planned renovations include new finishes and furniture, and fixtures and equipment for common areas and rooms. Room improvements include new bathrooms, heating and air conditioning upgrades, and sliding glass doors.
By one estimate, the renovations would result in about $16,500 worth of improvements for each room of the hotel.
As part of the Government Property Lease Excise Tax deal with Corbell, the city would receive a one-time deposit of $200,000 from the hotel.
The funds would be held by the city until all conditions of the deal are met, including revenue projections. [Then returned???]
City Manager Michael Ortega called the deposit part of a “fail-safe” for the project itself, saying the city would audit the hotel every two years to monitor its progress.
A third-party economic assessment suggests the project will generate $1,204,061 in direct revenue and $520,059 in indirect revenue over the eight-year period.
Councilman Paul Cunningham was supportive, saying he liked the fail-safe for the project to protect the taxpayers and that there is economic development west of downtown.
The GPLET program was created to help spur development by allowing agreements between local government and private parties that replace a building’s property tax with an excise tax based on the property’s size and use.
ADS Letter to Editor August 15, 2019
Tucson’s first woman mayor?
Wake up Tucson! Or should I say: Get woke before it’s too late!
It’s easy, with all the miserable news on the national level, to forget that we have a local election happening right now.
We have the distinct privilege of being able make history in our lifetimes. We have the opportunity to elect the first woman of color as mayor of our Old Pueblo.
Her name is Regina Romero and she has by far the most experience leading Tucson and representing Tucsonans of any candidate for mayor. She has 12 years experience on the city council at Ward 1 and as a constituent I have watched her work hard for our quality of life and economic prosperity.
Regina is the only candidate for mayor that is running clean and her lengthy list of endorsements by progressive groups speaks for itself. Make history now. Elect Regina Romero Mayor of Tucson.
Tucson Weekly Jan. 4, 07 from Mac Hudson
Neighborhood Prez: Why Didn’t Regan Talk to Us?
I have come to respect Margaret Regan’s approach to journalism. When I read “At Last!” (Nov. 23), in which she visits our neighborhood and discusses the impact of Rio Nuevo, I kept waiting for neighborhood voices to appear. There were none.
She quotes Councilmember Jose Ibarra: “We’re going to protect Barrio Sin Nombre and Menlo Park. We’ll stand up for housing there.” Of course, we agree, and the “we” in that statement is the city and the neighborhood working together. She could have asked the neighborhood, too.
She quotes city planner Albert Elias: “The community stakeholders care deeply about this project. They have tremendous engagement with it–this is their story.” But Regan did not ask us our side. Instead, she quotes multiple city employees and prints their photographs in a piece with PR all over it.
The success of Rio Nuevo 20 years from now should be measured, at least in part, on whether the neighborhood is still standing, still recognizable, still livable and enjoyable by old faces and new. Success depends upon consultation and collaboration with the neighborhoods.
President, Menlo Park Neighborhood
Mac Hudson property (listed Pima County Assessor)
Truly a Slumlord Millionaire!!!