Tucson city leaders respond to Rio Nuevo audit

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It's all about the future and moving forward as Tucson city leaders work to deflect the impact of the Rio Nuevo audit.

During an 18-minute interview, City Manager Mike Letcher had almost the same answer to every question he was asked, "We're moving forward."

There wasn't much else he could say. The audit is clear. A lot of things went wrong. Monday the city gave it's official response to the Rio Nuevo audit.

Letcher would go on to say the city needs to 'move forward' 12 more times. 

Predictibly, the City of Tucson and the Rio Nuevo board want to... move forward.

"It's easy to sit here on monday morning quarterback and say we could have done this, should have done that," said Letcher.

But before they 'move forward,' they want to make sure ten years of Rio Nuevo history doesn't repeat itself.

"We need to shore up our accounting practices," said Letcher.

"I think we have ot earn that trust bakc and everyday we're gonna work hard to do htat" said Mayor Bob Walkup.

"What the public rightly demands to is assurance that the same kind of problems wont happen again," said Councilmember Karen Uhlich.

And the list of problems is long.  The audit points out most projects remain incomplete, even after more than $230 million were spent and 10 years of financial mismanagement.  At least, that's what the audit says.

"We're behind based on the economy that we're in but we have not mismanaged money inappropriately," said Mayor Walkup.

The audit also charges the city and district with spending money on projects that created no tax revenue. But the mayor says that will all change.

"We're going to comply with the audit and focus solely on revenue generating projects," said Walkup.

The good news is, it appears the bleeding has stopped.

Since 2009 the city manager and mayor and council have increased oversight and started new financial management practices. Everything "rio nuevo" is easily accessible for taxpayers to see.

"The key is are we doing things differently," said Councilmember Uhlich. "Have things changed?  Yes they have."

"They're frustrated they can't see it downtown, but they're gonna see it," said Walkup.

We're going to see downtown 'move forward.' the question is, when and at what price?

City Manager Mike Letcher says the city hopes to have an agreement with the Rio Nuevo board by November 9.