Tucson leaders conflict over Prop 400 meeting comments

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After the November failure of Proposition 400, the sales tax increase, the city is still looking for ways to fill a $51 million budget hole and it's creating tension between some city leaders.

Now one city leader is calling out another over alleged comments concerning last summer's Prop 400 public meetings.

Council member Steve Kozachik believes City Manager Mike Letcher commented he was "educating" the public at public meetings not "listening" to them about the tax hike proposal.  Letcher denies it.

"Council member Kozachik heard that second hand.  And the aide that presented that to him or wherever he got the information from, was incorrect," said City Manager Mike Letcher.

Plain and simple, the city manager says Kozachik got it wrong. Letcher claims he never said he attended summer public meetings to "educate" rather than "listen" to the public.

"There was no way we did not listen to the public during the community dialogs," said Letcher.

But Kozachik's aides claim they heard differently from Letcher.

"For the city manager and the staff to come up now and say 'No, that wasn't the purpose at all, it was for us to educate you.' really is a slap in the face to the public," said Council Member Steve Kozachik.

Those comments have the Ward 6 council member fired up.

"It strikes me as the kind of arrogance that people can't stand in public officials," said Kozachik.

But Letcher insists that the educate as opposed to listen comments were not made.

"I'm not going to get into argument about this.  Council member Kozachik was not at the meeting," said Letcher.  "If he'd been at the meeting and heard that himself then that would have been one thing, but this was second or maybe even third hand."

And as far as the arrogant comment goes.

"I don't think our staff is arrogant," said Letcher.  "I've never been called that or have anyone on our staff called arrogant when we've talked at public meetings."

Nonetheless Kozachik stands by his comments He says he's not surprised Prop 400 failed.

"To hear this kind of attitude now really just confirms suspicion that city government is on autopilot doing what they want to do and the public will be damned," said Kozachik.  "And that's just not how we need to be running government."

"I'm not going to second guess a council member. If that's how he feels that's how he feels, but it's not what I stated at the meeting."

The city manager says the purpose of budget town halls is in fact to educate the public and answer questions, but the point is not necessarily to implement every suggestion the public gives.  

Both men are standing by their comments.