Tucson voters resoundingly defeated a measure to increase the number of police officers and improve response times of fire and emergency services.
Barely 30 percent of the electorate cast votes in favor of Proposition 200 in the Nov. 3 citywide election.
With all but one of Tucson's 89 precincts counted Wednesday morning, Proposition 200 was defeated by a vote of 45,122 (70.23 percent)-19,129 (28.77 percent). Turnout was 29.3 percent of the city’s registered voters.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” said David Godlewski, with the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association. The group was one of the measure’s key supporters.
The initiative sought to increase the ratio of police officers to residents in the city to 2.4 for every 1,000 residents. Proposition 200 also would have mandated four-minute response times for the Tucson Fire Department.
Proposition 200 would have mandated hiring more than 300 new police officers over the next seven years.
Opponents of the proposal keyed in on the funding void in the proposition. Authors of the plan didn’t include any language on how the new police officers and fire fighters would be paid for.
City of Tucson officials estimated the plan would have cost more than $150 million over five years and at least $50 million in annual costs in subsequent years.
Assistant City Manager Richard Miranda, former Tucson chief of police, wrote in a June 26 memo that the city would need to make considerable cuts to existing services to fund the provisions of the proposition.
As an example, Miranda said the plan’s equivalent costs were the same as 343 full-time employees. Another example to make up the costs of the proposition was to eliminate the city’s parks and recreation department, which has an annual budget of $43 million.
County officials had come out against the plan because the additional police would mean more arrests and more people filling the county-run criminal justice system.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told The Explorer in September that the plan would cost the county millions and predicate the need to hire additional judges, attorneys, corrections officers and expand the county jail.
Huckelberry estimated the county would need to increase property taxes by as much as 8 percent to meet the increased demand.
Despite the plan’s defeat, Godlewski said supporters still urge the city council to increase funding to augment public safety.
“We see more police officers and quicker response times as something that would be a long-term benefit to the community,” Godlewski said.
He added that he doesn’t see Proposition 200’s defeat as an indication of a lack of public support for public safety workers.