By Ryan Johnson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Two things stick out when driving around Jefferson Park, the neighborhood just north of campus - "For Rent" signs and "Re-elect Kathleen Dunbar" signs. Oddly enough, the two are inextricably linked and characterize an age-old battle.
With 42 percent of houses in Jefferson Park serving as student rentals, the area is a complicated mingling of families and students. The two seem to always be at odds. College students want to be college students, and families would rather they act like cohabitating 40-year-olds.
And now the families are supporting their champion.
Kathleen Dunbar came onto the scene as one of five city councilwomen in 2001, endorsed by an Arizona Daily Wildcat columnist, no less. Things looked promising. She impressed people with her knowledge of traffic and road policies in Tucson and her overall knowledge of economic development.
But some time between then and now Dunbar seemed to focus less on Rio Nuevo and more on a moral crusade. Most famously, during her tenure the Tucson City Council enacted the so-called "red-tag" ordinance.
The ordinance allows police officers to place a bright red sticker on the house of anyone having a party. But party is defined as any gathering with five or more people. In a neighborhood with plenty of homes with more than five people, this means that it's always a party. Even "Animal House" can't match that.
Despite being an obvious violation of the due process clause, the policy has made Dunbar wildly popular among the neighborhood associations, as evidenced by the signs and several endorsements listed on her Web site.
Never mind that, by being such an eyesore, it reduces property values, something Dunbar claims to help protect. Hotels should have them too. Dunbar last fall supported a proposal to create "blue tags," which would go on hotels that were found to have prostitution. No matter that it would harm business or that hotels aren't to blame.
Dunbar has also given the finger to private property rights by going after so-called "mini-dorms" - two-story student rentals north of campus. Saying she's "pissed off" about the issue, she says mini-dorms devalue the neighborhood. This is incorrect, and in fact the possibility of converting old houses to mini-dorms makes houses for sale much more valuable to buyers.
No, what the attack on mini-dorms is really about is students. Dunbar knows her path to political success lies in giving non-students the upper hand in the battle for Jefferson Park.
She would like to go further, even urging President Peter Likins to extend the Student Code of Conduct to off-campus housing. This would mean students would feel repercussions at the UA for their off-campus debacles. She has even talked about creating "student neighborhoods." Just what we need, a student ghetto.
Where then is the Dunbar opposition? Why aren't there Karin Uhlich signs in front of all those student rentals? Students are notorious for not voting and for not caring about politics, but surely the woman who created red tags would stir some resentment.
Unfortunately, my guess is that students blame the police for the policies, and Dunbar will walk away from her attack on students unscathed.
Not that Uhlich screams a change. She sounds like just another Democrat trying to knock off the incumbent Republican. But for students this is not Republican vs. Democrat. This is them vs. us. Voting for Dunbar is voting for the neighborhood associations at the expense of students.
Much like Kyle's mom from "South Park," Dunbar has created more problems than she solves. Ever the moral crusader, she accomplishes nothing tangible, only angering the world. A common plot line in "South Park" is Kyle's mom starting some crusade against sex or cursing and not doing anything about violence, which really affects kids.
Similarly, Dunbar could have focused on doing something meaningful like fixing Tucson's deteriorated roads. Instead, she chose to go after students. From all of us, thank you, but leave us alone.
Ryan Johnson is a senior majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at