2 students seek spots on county charter comission

By Darin Stone
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 9, 1996

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Brian Czech, UA student running for charter committee


Along with presidential, congressional and state legislature elections, Pima County voters have a chance Nov. 5 to approve the formation of a charter government proposal and elect commission members.

If the voters approve the proposal, the charter commission will have 180 days to draft the charter, said Tanis Salant, director of the Office of Government Programs in the University of Arizona's Department of Community Affairs and Economic Development.

If the proposal does not pass, the commission members will not take office, and a charter government will not be formed, she said.

She said the final draft of the charter will go then to Pima County voters between July 22 and Aug. 5, 1997, if it is passed Nov. 5.

The Task Force on Pima Charter Government held the first of two public forums Oct. 2 designed to educate voters on the possibility of charter government.

About 40 people, including the 28 charter candidates and six of the nine task force members, were on hand for the forum held at the "Swede" Johnson Alumni Foundation Building.

Salant said a charter is a "mini-constitution" for counties. She said it could completely overhaul the structure, powers and finances of Pima County's government.

"If the question passes in November, the commission drafts the charter, and it is adopted next year," Salant said. "It will impact different segments of Pima County in very different ways."

Structurally, a charter government would most directly affect the board of supervisors, Salant said. She said some of these changes might include expanding the number of supervisors from five to nine or electing supervisors by district or at-large.

Supervisors may also be elected in non-partisan fashion, Salant said.Terms could be staggered and limited, meaning supervisors would be elected different years.

She said it is also possible that the charter could call for an elimination of the board of supervisors.

Other structural changes could include the election of a county executive, the equivalent of a county mayor, and the appointment of constitutional officers such as the sheriff, school superintendent and attorney, according to the task force's fact sheet.

If Pima County adopts the charter, it could have the same local authority as a city in terms of policy making, law and regulation, or restrict its current powers, Salant said.

According to the task force's fact sheet, the county could also approve or disallow a county-wide sales tax of up to 2 percent to be designed for discretionary purposes. The fact sheet also states that the revenues from the tax could be used to lower prop erty taxes.

Other fees and charges under the jurisdiction of the county may also be levied or reduced.

Salant said although the majority of Pima County's $600 million yearly operating budget expenditures are mandated by the state, a charter would impact the budget the county has discretionary power over.

"Eighty-five percent (of the budget) we have to spend we have no discretionary authority at all." Salant said. "We are really administrative arms of the state. It is that 15 percent that a charter will have a great deal of impact on."

Ethan Orr, UA political science and history senior, is running for the charter commission. Orr said a county charter is a stepping stone providing a more efficient county government.

"A charter will establish a framework to deal with the problems of the 21st century," Orr said.

Orr, who is running in District 5, said a charter will accomplish the goal of more public power in the county governmental process.

"The residents of Pima County should have complete control of the government," he said

Orr said his concerns lie in changing the county's budget problems and the perception of the board of supervisors.

"I see problems in the planning and budgetary process," Orr said. "There are also problems with the accountability of the board of supervisors to the residents of Pima County."

Another UA student, Brian Czech, is running for the charter committee in District 2. Czech, a renewable natural resources doctoral candidate with a wildlife biology background, said he desires to focus on the conservation of natural resources at the loca l level.

"(Natural resources) never seem to be dealt with at the local level," Czech said. "All government constitutions and charters have to take into account ecological integrity."

Czech said the basis for local government's goal of building a strong economy is located in natural resource conservation.

"Our economy is based on the conservation of natural resources," Czech said.

Czech said building a stronger economy includes the development of impact fees and issuing tax incentives for the conservative use of natural resources, such as water and gas.

Three charter commission members from each of Pima County's five board of supervisors districts will be elected in the Nov. 5 general election.

The task force will hold another public forum on charter government Oct. 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Alumni Foundation Building Room 205.