ScrambleWatch Q&A: Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby on Election Integrity

Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby spoke to Tucson Weekly’s Mari Herreras about how election integrity issues inspired her to challenge Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in the Sept. 2 Democratic primary. Find out more about the race here.

Is it difficult when running against an incumbent to get people to outwardly support you?

I’ve talked to people directly and what I’ve gotten is that people are willing and happy to talk with me and give me information and advise me on what I should read or who else I should talk to, but they are very wary of saying anything that would indicate their support of me.

Why is that?

She has a vote that would send money their way for either a community development project or some other item which is going to come before the board and I’ve been told, “I wouldn’t dare be seen as any thing but supporting her.”

There are a couple of people like this that I’ve known for decades that would support me, but have said they can’t do it.

When you were first vice chair of the Arizona state Democratic Party you traveled around the state teaching prospective candidates how to run a campaign. What did you learn that’s come in handy now?

I did go to some great training especially that helps with the technical side of running and winning a campaign. And then I went to Camp Wellstone, which is terrifying, because Continue reading

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Smells Like B.S.

Evidently, there’s still some stink coming from the Roger Road sewage treatment plant—or maybe, just maybe, it’s just some good old fashioned Pima County campaigning.

Donna Branch-Gilby, who is challenging District 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson in the Sept. 2 Democratic primary, sent out a press release right after the supes approved the county’s its 2008-2009 budget on June 17, wagging a finger at the supes to draw attention to what she sees as a lack of attention to infrastructure, such as the Roger Road sewer treatment plant.

Branch-Gilby contends in her press release that residents that live down wind of the aged facility told her they continue to smell odor du sewage. She told the Skinny that people living near the facility have been told something would be done the last five years.

“…they are still holding their noses from the stench coming from the plant,” Branch-Gilby wrote in her release. “They’re still waiting for the county to provide up-to-date sewer services. I find it astounding that in these days of shrinking county revenues, the board majority saw fit to adopt a budget that includes money to organize volleyball and softball teams at Sportspark, but not enough to complete the upgrade of our sewer system here in Pima County.”

Branch-Gilby says she sent the release to particularly call attention to the dollars spent on the money going to outside agencies, rather than fix the sewer plants, especially with the county anticipating a $28 million deficit.

But here’s the problem: Money from the general fund that funds those outside agencies doesn’t go to the sewer system, which is supported by sewer fees.

According to Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, there are plans to fix the 50-year-old plant, which call for the facility to be completely demolished and the county to start from ground zero. A study the county did several years ago demonstrated the plant, built in the 1950s, needed more than a retrofit and tightening some screws. A completely new facility is in order.

The funding for the project, to be completed by 2014, will come from a 2009 bond proposal yet to make its way to the supes for final approval. The bonding committee earmarked $565 million for sewer improvements, with a majority of the funds going to the Roger Road project, according to Huckelberry.

Bronson, who running for her fourth term, says she wonders if Branch-Gilby knows enough about government finance, as well as the history of the Roger Road facility.

Bronson says her office has yet to receive calls from nearby residents complaining about the smell. She feels that’s because the county has worked to address those issues while developing a plant to build a new treatment center.

“The process is moving forward,” Bronson says.

The sewer fees collected by residents in the area go toward operations and maintenance, and can’t go toward capital improvements, which is why the plant is earmarked in the upcoming bond package. Bronson invites Branch-Gilby and anyone interested to call the Roger Road plant and request a tour to find out the challenges facing the facility. Doesn’t sound like much fun, but Branch-Gilby might want to consider it before she sends out her next press release.

Branch-Gilby laments that with a deficit of $28 million looming and a complicated budget process that includes millions given to outside social-service and economic development agencies, the county should have reinstated the citizens’ budget oversight committee to provide taxpayer input and more trust on this final budget.

Meet Your Candidates: Board of Supes

Tune into John C. Scott’s radio show between 11 a.m. and noon on Friday, June 13, for a one-hour interview with Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby, who is challenging Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in the District 3 primary. Scott’s show airs Monday through Friday on KVOI, 690 AM.

If you want to meet a candidate in person, Republican Joe Higgins, who is challenging Supervisor Ann Day in the District 1 GOP primary, has announced a listening tour of local coffee houses. The first Cup of Joe is 7 a.m. Friday, June 13, at Kelly’s Coffee and Fudge, 3605 W. Cortaro Farms Road.

Higgins also announced support of some local business types this week, including restaurateur Bob McMahon; Elizabeth Gonzales-Gann, chair of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Dorothy Finley, owner of Finley Distributing.