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Story by Jim Nintzel
Tucson City Councilman Richard Fimbres and his GOP challenger, Mike Polak, disagreed on a range of issues in an AZPM televised forum.
Polak - a computer-science and aerospace engineer who moved to Tucson four years ago to work on a virtual border fence, but lost his job when the federal government cancelled its contract with Boeing - argued that Fimbres had not done enough to help businesses during his time on the City Council.
“I feel a lot of businesses don’t trust the city right now,” Polak said.
But Fimbres, a Democrat seeking a second term in Ward 5, said he and his fellow council members had reduced the red tape in the city’s land-use code and made it easier for businesses to get the necessary permits to open their doors.
Fimbres cited a number of new businesses on the city’s south side, including a UA biosciences park and new Costco and Walmart stores, as evidence that he had delivered on crucial economic-development issues.
“I call it the renaissance of the south side,” Fimbres said. “We’ve had lots of job creation, lots of development.”
The candidates also split over SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation.
Fimbres said that he voted along with his fellow council members to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SB 1070 because the law was “the wrong message to send.”
“We felt that it would increase racial profiling,” Fimbres said. “Sixty-four miles down the street is Mexico and we rely heavily on tourism.”
Polak said he would have opposed filing suit against the enforcement of SB 1070.
“I would have just let the state and the Supreme Court make the decision they had to make,” Polak said.
Polak, who has sold firearm accessories and parts at gun shows as a side business for many years, said the City Council erred in when it voted earlier this year to close the so-called “gun-show loophole” by requiring background checks on any gun sales at the Tucson Convention Center. Under federal law, federally licensed dealers must do background checks, but unlicensed gun traders who sell firearms from their collections do not have to do background checks.
Polak said that unlicensed dealers who sell guns should have the option of deciding whether to do a background check.
“Individuals who wish to do background checks, if they want to transfer a gun, they can go to one of those dealers and do that,” Polak said. “We lost a lot of revenue because there were three shows there a year and now those shows are no longer there."
But Fimbres said background checks were important to public safety.
“We're not saying you can't have a gun show at the TCC,” Fimbres said. “We're just saying background checks are a required part of that. ... It's important to know who we are selling weapons to.”
Ballots for the November 5 election were mailed to Tucson voters Thursday, Oct. 17.