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Has things gotten worse over the last 8 years?

From a 2012 column I co-penned with my friend Joe Higgins:

"A survey released this month by the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona — two non-partisan organizations — asked the question: What’s good and what’s not so good about Southern Arizona?

There were 948 respondents to the survey.

Let’s start with the good news:

What sets Southern Arizona apart from the rest of the nation?

• 70.9 percent: Climate

• 56.9 percent: Natural beauty and the environment

• 45.2 percent: Small-town feel and connectedness

• 41.8 percent: Desert

• 39.4 percent: Lifestyle

Intuitively these results make sense. For decades, people have come to this region for all of these reasons. As the Clevelands and Detroits decline in population, there has been a steady stream of people coming to Arizona. All of these positives have everything to do with our place in the sun, our place in the Sonoran Desert and the generations of great Tucson families who call this region home.

On the negative side, the survey points to the region’s biggest challenges:

• 62.2 percent: Lack of well-paying jobs

• 55 percent: K-12 education

• 42.3 percent: Poverty and the economic divide

• 41.7 percent: Local and state dysfunction

• 34.6 percent: Social and educational funding

• 33.2 percent: Decaying infrastructure.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve had a series of dueling columns in Inside Tucson Business between us and members of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. They’re the kind of public debate that is an important and healthy part of a functioning democracy.

First and foremost, we are small business owners. This column and our morning radio show are secondary.

But we have to ask: Who is responsible for the lack of well-paying jobs? Who is responsible for a poverty rate that allows one in four children in our region to go to bed hungry? Who is responsible for decaying infrastructure and government dysfunction?

Is it two guys who have a radio show and write a column pointing out our region’s dirty little secrets? Is it the evil legislature? Is it still George Bush? Or are our issues firmly laid at the footsteps of our local leaders — business and political?

We are celebrating our third year on radio and writing columns. In these three years, we’ve been directly involved in the removal and replacement of the leadership at the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (now Tucson Metro Chamber) and the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau. We’ve pushed hard to bring accountability to Rio Nuevo downtown redevelopment, including bringing in a national expert on failed hotel projects the week of a critical Tucson City Council vote to stop a $200 million hotel. We’ve worked hard to have an impact on elections.

If you listen to our radio show, we are constantly profiling small business owners who charge out against the odds to survive in an unwelcoming business environment.

We’ve talked about positives in our region, particularly Marana. We’ve shown that because Marana has a strategic plan, it is a municipality with economic opportunities, paved streets free of weeds and jobs.

We talked before Rotaries, boards and business, political and religious organizations, all of whom invited us because they know there is a problem and are looking for a place to start making a change.

Our goal is to get you fired up.

We have an incredibly important election this year. From the presidency to Congress, the federal races are huge. In Pima County, the Board of Supervisors are the most important local elections in a decade.

It’s important to pay attention to what is working and what is not working in Southern Arizona and to change the latter. If we miss the opportunity in this year’s elections, expect more of the same to continue.

Expect more government dysfunction, more poverty and few well-paying jobs. Expect more deals to developers who know how to play political games. Expect more lawyers to serve on campaigns and collect fees for favors. Expect more FBI investigations, more over-budget projects and higher taxes"

Look at the negative aspects of the survey. Anything get better? Maybe K-12, and that is mostly from charter and private schools.

More coming. Stay tuned!

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