ScrambleWatch Q&A: Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby on Growth, Conservation and the County Budget

Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby is challenging District 3 Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in the Sept. 2 primary. Tucson Weekly staff writer Mari Herreras talked to Branch-Gilby about the environment and the county’s budget priorities.

Is there more to your campaign than election transparency?

Yes. We need to be much more careful with how we use our land and our water so we can stay here. If the board doesn’t start acting very soon to change how they do their rezoning and how they work with the city and other municipalities, we will find ourselves in a box.

What’s your take on the creation of the water authority between Tucson and Pima County?

They’re getting themselves all on the same page and they are opening it to the public. Five meetings were in the morning. I went to first two. I’m glad they are in the evenings now, but it’s not clear yet how it will develop. But there are people on that committee and people in the audience that keep bringing up questions on our water supply—how reliable is this assured 100-year supply? It’s on paper only and is like a political fantasy.

That’s where zoning changes come in, right?

We need to address these issues right now and we need to make it easy, we need to make it easy to retrofit a home for grey water system and rainwater harvesting. Here in Milagro, most people have a cistern.

This county is so large and has grown so quickly it is faced with, “Do we have enough water? How can we find out if we have enough water and how can we negotiate our economic model, which is just built on grow, grow, grow, to one of quality and growing better instead of just bigger.” We need to put attention on that. It’s going to take everybody.

Dealing with growth issues has to be systematic, but is can also be a big fight.

Yes, it will be a fight. It used to be completely mind-boggling until I spent a whole morning walking door to door in the Star Valley development, I drove out there, six seven miles out from the nearest gas station, and I thought “Oh my gosh all those people came out and saw this nicely built home at a price they could afford and they said yes, and now every time they want to buy a gallon milk they have to drive out 10 miles or more.” There’s a park out there, but there’s no stores, no schools, no commercial services, no medical.

That is not planning, that is greed. Mother Nature is writing our final exam right now, and is we prepared to answer on how we use our land, how we use our space and how we zone the land—it indicates what kind of services are going to be expected.

What do you think you would have done differently with budget?

I think they’ve been very generous. My priorities would have been different. Instead of going to things that were not essentials, I think I would have put my money in the Roger Road treatment plant. I would have made sure that the whole wastewater system kept everything it needed.

I went to the opening of the library in Marana. It is beautiful, but between another library or sewage—I’d go public health and safety, then we can move forward in parks and trails.

Some say there is a caustic air on the board when the supervisors disagree. How would you change that?

I would want to foster discussion to see what part of the page we can be on at the same time. What do we have as a common goal for the county, let’s be clear. There have been so many times I’ve seen people say, “Well, it’s not exactly something I agree with, but if will get us to our common goal.” That why study sessions are important.

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