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Story by Jim Nintzel
Tucson City Council member Karin Uhlich clashed with her Republican challenger, Ben Buehler-Garcia, over the issues of street repair, the future of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and closing the “gun-show loophole” in an AZ Illustrated Politics forum Friday.
Buehler-Garcia, who narrowly lost to Uhlich four years ago, said the city has been neglecting its streets and, unlike other cities in Arizona, had allowed them to fall too far into disrepair.
“We have to fundamentally restructure how we maintain our roads,” Buehler-Garcia said.
Uhlich, a Democrat who is seeking her third term in north-central Ward 3, said the City Council was now using bond dollars to repair streets and had started a street repair program before the bond program, which was approved by voters last year, kicked in.
“It’s not something we were being passive about,” Uhlich said.
Uhlich cited a number of steps that the city has taken to help small businesses, including making it easier for businesses to get the permits they need to open their doors and creating a small-business hotline in the city manager’s office.
Buehler-Garcia said it shouldn’t have taken two years to set up a hotline.
“Right before an election, things change,” he said. “The roads are getting fixed. A business hotline—let me just clarify this. It took two years to put in a phone number? Really?”
Uhlich said the city was working with Air Force officials to ensure that Davis-Monthan Air Force Base remained open. She said that rumors that the base’s future was threatened were overblown and “creating a lot of fear and making it more difficult, not less difficult, for us as a community to rally around the future of the Air Force base.”
But Buehler-Garcia said the City Council needed to work harder to pursue the new F-35 combat jet.
“If we want to maintain a flying mission at this Air Force base, it’s either going to be C-130s or F-35s,” Buehler-Garcia said.
Uhlich said she voted to require background checks on the sale of all firearms at gun shows on city property, calling it a “common-sense measure” to help improve public safety.
Buehler-Garcia said he would not have voted for the policy because it drove the gun shows from Tucson Convention Center.
“This is another classic case of addressing the symptom instead of the problem,” Buehler-Garcia said. “In effect, this vote just moved one more tenant from the TCC down the road where people can still buy guns.”
Buehler-Garcia said he got into the race because he was “broken-hearted” about the state of Tucson.
“I just couldn’t walk away any more,” Buehler-Garcia said. “I believe in the potential of Tucson.”
Uhlich said Tucson was facing significant challenges as a result of the nationwide economic downtown, but was turning the corner.
“We are now emerging from that horrible downturn,” she said. “I’ve offered leadership to get us on that path to recovery. … We are trending in the right direction.”
Ballots will be mailed to all city voters on Oct. 17.