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While we don’t think Watson’s desire to move Tucson to a zero-based budget system — start at zero and build each department’s budget from scratch based on need — is feasible, or a potent source of revenue, we were less than impressed with Durham’s reliance on annexation as a way to grow the city budget.

Durham said he thinks the annexation department should be expanded, and added the expanded sales tax and property taxes generated would help the city. When pressed, however, he did not have details other than saying adding more personnel would “double the rate” of annexations and that he was not talking about annexing the Foothills.

Durham’s evasiveness was troublesome again when asked to weigh in on Proposition 204, the Strong Start Tucson initiative that would raise the sales tax for early childhood education.


He refused to take a stand, saying education is important, but he had concerns about the proposition language. Waffling might be the political thing to do, but it’s not a leadership position.

Watson has a smart approach to building businesses, job readiness and opportunities, a strong need in Ward 3. Instead of pinning Tucson’s hopes on luring major companies to town with tax breaks, Watson advocates an apprentice or internship program with existing businesses in exchange for property tax incentives.

In an interview with the Star, Durham tried to deride Watson as a Republican, a reference to Watson’s party registration before he changed it to independent — a decision Watson said he made after meeting with the local Republican Party and disagreeing with its view that “there are no good taxes.”

Proposition 204, known as Strong Start Tucson, would increase the Tucson city sales tax by a half-cent and generate an estimated $50 million a year to help pay for as many as 8,000 young children to attend a high-quality early childhood education programs.

We do not quibble with the need. It is real and it is worthy. To get the most bang for your education buck, investing in early childhood is the way to go. The benefits are great to the individual student, and, as we’ve said before, education is a shared benefit to the community.

Proposition 204 would have the Tucson Mayor and City Council create a seven-member commission that would decide what “high quality” preschool entails. The commission would create the criteria, eligibility, scholarship amounts and distribution and hire a nonprofit organization to operate the program.

Strong Start Tucson organizers explained that they did not include a sunset because campaigns are expensive and difficult, and they believe it should be up to opponents to mount an effort to end the program rather than on supporters to keep it going.

We disagree, and this was the fatal flaw to our minds. Every use of tax dollars should require a periodic review and renewal process. Yes, a renewal campaign can be a hassle and yes, it can be expensive. But it is not reasonable or prudent to approve a half-cent sales tax for perpetuity, even for such a worthy cause.