Pima County Supervisor Rex Scott took office in January, at the height of the Covid pandemic, and immediately had to confront issues regarding evictions, childhood education, county roads, affordable housing, redistricting, and higher water prices. Speaking at the LD9 meeting on August 24, 2021, he recounted how he solved most of the issues.
The hot potato was the controversial move by the city of Tucson to hike water rates unilaterally on June 22 on people living in unincorporated Pima County. The abrupt action kicked rates up to 40% higher per month for 400,000 people living outside the city. The Supervisors had publicly opposed the price increase on April 6, but the city ignored the county board.
The Supervisors asked the city to rescind the rate hike, to no avail. “We also asked them to work in partnership with us on a true cost of service study that looks at the cost of service to deliver water to any Tucson, water customer, regardless of where they live,” Scott said. “We asked them to commit to taking a look at a regional water policy and how to protect groundwater resources in partnership with the county.”
In contrast, a success story was dealing with the shortage of vaccine appointments. “Now, we have plenty of vaccines and we’re trying to get the vaccine-resistant people to get their shots,” he said. “The county health department also has had to deal with a not always reliable partner in state government. Just as one example, there was a federal program that was run in partnership with Walgreens and CVS pharmacies that was supposed to administer vaccines in all of the senior care and assisted living facilities in our county. Unfortunately, 50 of those facilities didn’t get signed into that program. We never got a good answer from the state that was for administering that federal program.”
However, Scott and Supervisor Matt Heinz split on imposing a County mandate to wear masks in school. “It is maddening and enraging to live in one of nine states where the state government has passed laws that ban local school districts and local governments from putting mask mandates in place,” Scott said. “The thing that was of greatest concern to me was enforcement with students, staff, and visitors to the campus, including parents. I was concerned that a mask mandate imposed by the county would be a mandate in, in name only.”
Supervisor Matt Heinz proposed that K-12 students be required to wear masks at schools. The Board voted no on the proposal on August 10.
Early childhood education and fixing roads
Another success was the approval of up to $10 million in County funds, as well as almost $3 million from cities, towns, and other partners, to assist low-income families with paying for high-quality preschool for 1,245 children. “So because of the county taking a leadership role and devoting funds towards making sure that any child who wants to go to preschool can do so regardless of family income, there will be 1,200 students who are going to be in preschool, who wouldn’t be otherwise.”
A wealth of data shows that investing in high-quality preschool, especially for economically disadvantaged, minority, and dual-language children, provides short-term and lasting benefits to children, families, schools, taxpayers, and the community.
Scott said that 70% of county roads within District1 were found to be in poor or failed condition in 2019. “So we have been working very hard to get those roads improved as quickly as possible. I sponsored a measure that, put an additional $50 million into road repair in the next fiscal year. That’s going to allow us to do an additional 130 miles of roads in the next fiscal year,” Scott said.
Scott said he was proud of a partnership with the city to dispense funds from the federal government to avoid evictions and support landlords and tenants alike. Pima County was given $87 million from the federal government through the CARES act.
“We decided because of our experience with the state that we wanted to work separately from the state,” he said. “And we have, working with the city and the community investment corporation in a model program that has been lauded, by both landlord and tenants, and, their advocates throughout our region.”
Scott encouraged people to contact him or his team regarding any issue the County could help them with:
Rex Scott: firstname.lastname@example.org or (520) 724-2738.
Kate Hiller: Kate.Hiller@pima.gov
Cami Evans: Cami.Evans@pima.gov
Kim Challender: Kim.Challender@pima.gov