Sharon Bronson was first elected to the board of Pima County Supervisors in November 1996. After three terms, she is running again because “the job isn’t done yet.
“The policy issues we particularly face over this next four-year term relate to regional planning, water, and a sustainable and recession-proof economy, as well as continuing to work to have a sustainable government tax structure,” Bronson said.
Regional planning is a major issue for Bronson.
“I’m pleased to have seen that the Oro Valley Town Council did adopt the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan last week,” Bronson said. “That’s a step in the right direction. We all need to be on the same page with the conservation plan, and working toward the same goal. Water sheds, air sheds and transportation routes don’t stop at jurisdiction boundaries. We won’t pass to our children the Sonoran Desert that we are enjoying.
“Whether we like it or not, we seem to grow by about 20,000 new individuals a year,” Bronson said. “We need to plan for that growth. That’s what the conservation plan does, it tells us where we shouldn’t grow, where we should grow.”
Government is going to grow as population expands, she believes. “That’s just reality. What we need to focus on is ‘is that growth in excess of the population growth, and if so, why? From my experience, we are still underinvested in the community. We still have transportation” and other “significant needs that aren’t being met because we can’t fund them. Parks and libraries are not mandated, but my constituents, that’s what they want to see. We could eliminate those functions, but I don’t think that makes for building communities.”
The budget has grown the most in law enforcement, justice and health care. Some of that is related to Pima County’s adjacency to Mexico. “Part of our tax burden is directly related to federal policy, unfunded mandates.”
District 3 has more than 7,400 square miles, and 80 percent of Pima County’s land mass. “We need to pay attention to the rural areas in our community, which my predecessors neglected,” Bronson said. She wants to see more sidewalks, more street lighting and more traffic-calming devices in older neighborhoods. Where such investment has occurred, “the crime rate has been significantly decreased,” Bronson said. “That’s a very effective use of county bond dollars.”
The candidate also lauds county investment in rural places like Ajo, where an historic school has been adaptively re-used with county assistance. “We have space for artists and artisans, for economic development, and preserved an Ajo treasure,” Bronson said. “That’s what makes my job so rewarding. We need to continue that. There are other areas that need that sort of attention as well.”
In terms of economic development, Bronson, a co-chair of Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, talks about attracting new business, retaining existing business, and incubating start-up businesses. “We need to concentrate on those area where we have strength, aerospace, biomedical and solar. We need to concentrate on attracting sustainable business.”
She believes Pima County needs to diversify its economic base “so it’s not just government.” That requires “a common-sense approach to our regulatory mission … in a in a way that helps small business instead of penalizing them. It would be nice to have a common set of standards, permitting requirements, and also to have some way of being shovel-ready.”
Bronson said the county has lowered its property tax rate, while recognizing there is “a significant property tax burden on our businesses. That’s going to involve reform at the state level. Our only source of general fund revenue is property tax, so we need to find a way to diversify that revenue stream.”
Businesses “want predictability. I hope my votes and my actions as a member of the board of supervisors have been predictable.”
She is trained in finance and accounting, and points to “changes in the way” Pima County develops its budgets. “Every three years, departments go through a management audit and zero-based budgeting. They go back to square one and justify everything they do. ‘Is that necessary? Is this effective and efficient?’ It’s the same way with a management audit. What are the best practices around the country for the services you are delivering, and how do you compare with those best practices?”
Bronson said identification of the biggest accomplishment during her time in office “is a hard choice for me. From a policy perspective, certainly the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, and community and economic development investments. We’ve made a huge difference in our neighborhoods.”
Over the course of 12 years, she has become “a better listener than I was when I first got into office,” Bronson said. “The important thing is to know how to listen, not necessarily how to talk. And don’t spend time overthinking it, just get it done. I’m a better project manager.”