On Nov. 3, voters in Tucson will decide the fate of Proposition 200 - the "Public Safety First" initiative.

Why should residents in Marana, Oro Valley, Casas Adobes or any other community served by The Explorer care about this initiative?

The proposition mandates that the City of Tucson maintain certain staffing levels and response times for police and fire departments. The proposition contains absolutely no funding to meet these requirements.

No one can reasonably oppose the idea of increased or improved public safety. That is not the question here. Rather, The Explorer's readers should be focusing on the additional costs that would be imposed on county residents.

Very simply, the prosecution, defense, and incarceration costs of increased felony law enforcement can only be funded through an increase in the county's property tax. Or, to put it another way, we would need to build more courtrooms, holding facilities, jails and administrative facilities - all of which are county responsibilities.

The county administrator has estimated a property tax increase of 8.2 percent (without eliminating any county services). This tax increase would be applied county-wide - not just to residents in Tucson. Therefore, The Explorer's readers who live outside the city limits would be taxed along with the city's residents to pay for the results of Proposition 200.

There is no point in denigrating the principal supporters of Proposition 200 - the firefighters and police unions, the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association, the Tucson Association for Realtors and Jim Click Automotive. Readers can make their own assessments of these sources.

No doubt, most readers have friends or co-workers who live in Tucson. Beside the harm that would come to Tucson's already-strapped budget (which has meant reduction in parks, recreation centers and golf course operations), all county residents would suffer financially from this ill-conceived but cleverly-named initiative.

Would you have voters decide on the number of soldiers, sailors and airmen that the U.S. armed forces might need? Or, closer still, should Arizona voters decide how many National Guardsmen are needed to protect our state? Those decisions are best left to our elected leaders, as flawed as they may sometimes be. Initiatives such as "Safety First" do nothing to get at the root causes of crime in our communities. They only add to our financial distress at a difficult time in our history.

Bob Kovitz is a member of the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Commission.

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