Tucson, AZ (October 19, 2023) - The Tucson Metro Chamber has been a leading advocate for the revitalization of Downtown Tucson since the creation of the Business Improvement District (BID) and the Downtown Tucson Partnership. The Rio Nuevo Board of Directors officially manages the finances and project approvals for the district. It is appointed by the Governor, President of the State Senate, and Arizona Speaker of the House. The Chamber is concerned with the recent news that Governor-appointed seats were relieved this week of their duties and replaced.
The Chamber's concern stems from the fact that the Rio Nuevo Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) has been one of the most successful local initiatives over the last two decades. Current Rio Nuevo investments produce a 10 to 1 rate of return, collected over $17,000,000 in TIF tax revenue last year, and have seen billions of dollars of investment and economic impact over the past ten years. Many major regional successes over the last decade can be traced to the Board's work, including the Caterpillar relocation, upgrades to the Tucson Convention Center, the attraction of many much-needed hotels to entice additional conventions to Tucson, and renovations stretching down Broadway to the eastside.
"This is a great example of the old adage, 'if it isn't broken, don't fix it,'" stated Michael Guymon, President and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber. "Rio Nuevo was once broken over a decade ago, and the then-Governor and Legislature stepped in to appoint individuals to fix the mismanagement. A 2022 audit even praised the 'District's improvement, transparency, economic development, increased tax base, and private sector investment incentives,' which tells me it's not broken."
The Chamber has kept open lines of communication with the Governor's office over the last many months, encouraging the Governor not to disturb the considerable positive momentum of the District. The Chamber understands the political nature of serving on the Board; members serve at the pleasure of the Governor and leaders of our state legislature. However, the Chamber is regretful that assurances of clear communication and conversation ahead of any changes were not maintained.
The Tucson Metro Chamber will continue to encourage the Rio Nuevo Board to invest in projects that generate revenue and add to the success already demonstrated by the Board. There are clear legal limits on what the district can invest public dollars in. The Board has allocated careful and forward-looking expenditures per state statutes, as the 2022 financial audit clarified. The Chamber appreciates the contributions of all members who have served for their leadership and due diligence, congratulates the newly appointed members, many of whom the Chamber has had the honor of working with, and respects their commitment to supporting continued downtown revitalization.
The Rio Nuevo board comprises five seats appointed by the Governor, two by the House, and two from the Senate. These appointments have no term limits, and board members serve until removed or reappointed by a Governor or legislature member.
Below is the list of Governor Hobbs' appointees:
- Fletcher McCusker is a native Tucsonan and currently serves as the Chair of the Rio Nuevo Board. He was the founder and CEO of Providence Service Corporation, based in Tucson.
- Sharaya Jimenez is a 5th generation Tucsonan and CUADRO's principal designer and founder. She has spent a decade working in architecture and brings experience in affordable housing development, historic preservation, and community planning with a focus on desert dwelling.
- Richard Osern is a third-generation Arizonan who owns the historic Hotel Congress in Tucson. He is an entrepreneur and lawyer, having practiced law for many years, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Corky Poster is the principal at Poster, Mirto & McDonald. He is a distinguished professor emeritus of the University of Arizona College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture. He has received wide acclaim for his “grassroots urban design, community-based architecture, and pioneering an integrated approach to historic preservation planning.”
- Taunya Villicana is a native Tucsonan and CEO of Affinity Wealth Management, which she co-founded in 2003. She has over 20 years of experience in financial planning, starting her career with Merrill Lynch before co-founding her own firm.