Tucson Weekly Investigation Fallout: Higgins Property-Tax Story Hits Airwaves

If you read The Skinny in last week’s Tucson Weekly, you’d know that Mari Herreras broke the story that Republican Joe Higgins, who is challenging Pima County Supervisor Ann Day, was running a commercial trash-hauling business out of a home that he had listed as owner-occupied residential on the property-tax rolls. That translates into a property-tax savings of more than 50 percent and allowed him to take advantage of a special tax rebate for homeowners who aren’t renting out their homes.

We have to thank Mark Kimble of the Tucson Citizen for bringing up the story on KUAT-TV’s Arizona Illustrated last week in the debate between Day and Higgins. The mainstream media often ignores TW’s reporting, so it was great to see Kimble step up and acknowledge the importance of our investigation.

Day took advantage of the exchange to take some shots at her opponent. She also mentioned another story broken by TW and ScrambleWatch: Higgins’ failure to vote in most primaries, city elections and bond elections over the last two decades.

KUAT has been posting the debates online, so if you missed it, you can see it here.

Higgins has responded with press releases downplaying the property-tax mix-up and accusing Day of going negative.

Here’s Mari Herreras’ original piece from last week’s Skinny:

When Republican Joe Higgins first announced his campaign against Pima County Supervisor Ann Day for her District 1 seat in the upcoming Sept. 2 GOP primary, the Tucson businessman said he was inspired to run because of the rising property taxes.

Those high tax bills might explain why Higgins is running his commercial trash-hauling business out of a property that he has listed as “owner-occupied residential” with the Pima County Assessor’s Office.

In 2006, when Higgins bought the property at 1520 N. 15th Ave., along with a vacant lot next door where he parks his garbage trucks, he indicated on documents filed with the county that the house would remain owner-occupied.

That netted him a nice savings of more than 50 percent on the property-tax bill, because he was able to keep the residential tax rate and enjoy a special education tax rebate Continue reading

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Ann Day on Growth and Conservation

Republican Ann Day, who is seeking a third term on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, is facing a challenge in the Sept. 2 GOP primary from businessman Joe Higgins.

If you opponent wins, what advice would you give him?

I hope he knows how to count to three. Because there are three votes on the board he will have to face. Because of those three votes I’ve had to take a stand. I’m in the minority. You have to keep in mind much of what we work on is not partisan and you have to be willing to work with everyone in the board.

What about working with County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry? This past budget process you didn’t always agree with him.

He can be arrogant. He can make decisions that I don’t agree with. I certainly point that out to him.

He often gets blamed for many of the problems the county faces. Do you think that’s justified?

Look, he’s Continue reading

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Ann Day on Election Integrity

Republican Ann Day, who is seeking a third term on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, is facing a challenge in the Sept. 2 GOP primary from businessman Joe Higgins.

At first you voted against the release of the election database files requested by the Pima County Democratic Party. Then you changed your mind and even the election integrity folks changed their tune about you and publicly thanked you for your support. What happened?

I think I followed the advice from the IT Department and the County Attorney. We were told there were security issues. At first I went on the advice I was given. Then it made its way through the court system I began to recognize that security wasn’t really at issue, and if others are still concerned about that I think we’ve made changes in our procedures to make sure our elections are secure.

You know, we even turned to the Secretary of State’s office for advice and got nowhere. I even turned to my own Republican Party.

What area of transparency do you think the county needs to continue improving?

I think we’ve come a long way regarding transparency when I first came to the board. But I see there is more to change in the way to conduct our budget. We need to Continue reading

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Ann Day Talks About Her Accomplishments On the Board of Supervisors

Republican Ann Day, who is seeking a third term on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, is facing a challenge in the Sept. 2 GOP primary from businessman Joe Higgins.

How do you feel about your past term and continuing your service as supervisor for District 1?

I’m positive about creating a better future for Pima County. At the same time I have to deal with the day-to-day issues with Pima County. I understand how the issues affect the people of Pima County, especially when it comes to taxes and our budget. I know you don’t spend more than you make.

What’s different about this next term?

Pima County is going through some major changes right now. The high price of oil and the high price of gas are having an impact on our communities and Pima County’s day-to-day operations. It was hard to reduce taxes last year. We didn’t get as far down as we’d like in this current budget.

What have your goals been as a Pima County supervisor?

My goal has been to make county government transparent and open, and make it efficient. And keep taxes low. We’ve had to exercise sound financial judgment, but at the same time meet the need to reduce crime and have enough Continue reading

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Joe Higgins on Why He’s Challenging Pima County Supervisor Ann Day

Republican Joe Higgins is running against Republican District 1 Supervisor Ann Day in the Sept. 2 Republican primary. He talks to ScrambleWatch about why he’s in this race.

You’ve been in Tucson for more than 10 years. When do you arrive?

We moved from Wisconsin in 1976 from a small farming community. I was in second grade and went to school at Saints Peter and Paul. I’m 39 now. I graduated from high school at Salpointe and got a degree in Political Science at the UA.

There’s not a lot of jobs right out of the UA, so I started my own businesses. I moved to San Diego for a little while and then Pennsylvania. I was gone for just two years.

I got married 11 years ago and have two children, 10-year-old Halley and 6-year-old Jack. I’m really involved in their lives.

What was your first successful start in business?

First the cell phone business. Started off with a $5,000 investment and within two years we were doing $2.5 million in sales and Continue reading

Supes Candidate Joe Higgins Blows Off Voting in Primaries: “Just haven’t done it”

Republican Joe Higgins, a local businessman who hopes to unseat District 1 Supervisor Ann Day in September’s GOP primary, has himself only voted in one primary since registering in Pima County. Higgins has voted in most statewide general elections, although he sat out 1994 and 2002 entirely and never voted in any city elections when he lived inside the Tucson city limits.

Higgins says he only really started getting involved in politics a few years ago, which is why he voted in the 2006 primary.

Higgins, whose business endeavors have included a chain of barber shops and cell-phone stores, makes no excuse for not voting in the primaries. “Just haven’t stepped in, just haven’t done it,” he says.

Higgins also voted in the 2006 RTA election. But he has never voted in a county bond election, even though he’s critical of recent increases in property taxes—part of which is driven by voter-approved debt. He’s also missed out on voting in any city primary or general elections when he was registered inside the Tucson city limits between 1987 and 2004.

Asked if he had been irresponsible when he sat out the bond elections, given his concerns about rising property taxes, Higgins responds: “That’s a good question. I don’t have an answer for you there.”