By Kara Karlson
Illustration by Patricia Tompkins
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
City Council members Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt have offered fresh perspectives to Tucson.
Together they have voted to make Tucson a better place to live by hiring more firefighters and police officers and improving our roads. Thanks to their work, Tucson is well on its way to finally meeting the national average of 2.4 police officers per 100,000 residents.
They have voted to encourage the use of solar energy by giving limited fee waivers to homeowners or homebuilders who install solar arrays on their homes.
Funding for after-school programs like KIDCO has increased, allowing more students to take part in after-school activities instead of taking part in crime.
But, in the heat of the campaign season, all politicians begin to sound alike. They all claim to have improved the standard of living in the city, lowered taxes and caused decreasing crime rates.
Dunbar and Ronstadt, however, have managed to set themselves apart from the standard political rhetoric by getting funds for public projects from atypical sources and using the power of technology to get more people involved in government than ever before.
Dunbar has secured nearly $500,000 in four years to build valuable amenities in midtown, such as the baseball field for Amphi Little League (or mini-Bank One) and the North Sixth Avenue Park for dogs.
She spent nearly nine months writing grant proposals to the Arizona Diamondbacks' charities to turn around an underfunded, dusty school baseball field into a miniature ballpark.
After $150,000 from the Diamondbacks' charities and nearly $20,000 worth of in-kind donated goods and services, Amphi Little League now has a baseball diamond with grass, real dugouts and its own official Diamondbacks scoreboard.
The donations Dunbar has acquired have directly benefited midtown, and she hopes the investment will encourage more people to buy in the area.
"We want to make Tucson a place where 20-somethings will want to live and also make it business friendly so university graduates have a place to work," Dunbar said.
The North Sixth Avenue Park for dogs (which shows one of Dunbar's major passions - caring for man's best friend) took the place of an abandoned building, clearing blight and promoting the community in one decisive action.
Dunbar went to private donors because the city did not have the funds to build a better baseball field, a dog park, or Miralgo, a disabled-accessible playground.
Imagine what tuition would be like if state legislators from Tucson went to the same lengths in their endeavors to invest in the future as Dunbar does on the City Council.
The impact of Dunbar's investments is not limited to those specific neighborhoods where this infrastructure has been built.
Essentially, she added an additional $500,000 to available city funds. These extra funds allowed the city to improve the standard of living by providing parks and recreational areas, while still allowing for more firefighters and police officers to be hired and more road repairs completed.
Councilman Fred Ronstadt has made the City Council much more accessible to all Tucsonans.
His Ward IV Weekly, an electronic newsletter, is distributed to anyone who subscribes and lets him know what is going on in his city.
Ronstadt was one of the many city employees who lobbied to get the agenda of the City Council online, saving time and an estimated $10,000 in paper costs since its inception.
Perhaps his most revolutionary idea has been adding instant message responses as a way to get citizens involved in City Council meetings.
This allows busy students who may be unable to get to Tucson City Hall, or seniors with limited mobility, to have a say in city government.
This instant messaging program is one of the first in the country, proving that Ronstadt is bringing fresh ideas to the Old Pueblo.
"I care about Tucson and the people who live here. I created the IM 'project' to make sure I kept my fingers on the pulse of what the voters really want," Ronstadt said.
Ronstadt cares about the needs of Tucsonans and does everything he can to ensure the voice of every resident is heard.
We need these two innovators on the City Council, so don't forget to cast your vote today. While you're at the polls, don't forget - give our hard-working City Council members a raise by voting yes on Proposition 100.
Kara Karlson is a journalism senior who has already voted in the city elections. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.