/ Modified apr 14, 2023 6:08 a.m.

The Buzz: What's on the ballot in two special elections?

Cochise County and the City of Tucson voters will be asked to weigh in on issues around jails and electric utility upgrades

AZ Vote Review A 2020 mail-in election ballot.
The Buzz

The Buzz for April 14, 2023

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Some registered voters in Southern Arizona will soon be getting a ballot in the mail.

Cochise County and the City of Tucson will hold two separate all-mail special elections in mid-May.

In Tucson, voters will decide whether to renew Tucson Electric Power's agreement to use city-owned easements for another 25 years. The new agreement would add a fee to fund a large powerline project running through central Tucson and also put money in the coffers of the city's climate initiative.

Proposition 412 would continue existing franchise fees, while also adding a 0.75 percent “Community Resilience Fee” that

According to [TEP's Yes on 412 website, the proposition has endorsements from Mayor Regina Romero and four of six city council members.

Among the council members who have not taken a position on the matter is Ward Six's Steve Kozachik, whose office was the site of an information session Tuesday night.

While some in the in-person crowd were there to learn and speak with TEP representatives, many were skeptics.

“I don't think I'll support [Prop 412]. I think that we need to be taking a much stronger stance on climate given its urgency and this being a major opportunity [for] a leverage point,” said Joe Silins, who is active in a variety of local environmental causes, including the Tucson Climate Coalition.

Ojas Sanghi, a member of the Arizona Youth Climate Coalition objects to the rapid pace at which the special election was called by the Tucson City Council.

"There was little-to-no time for anyone to look it over and read what this 25 years agreement with TEP is actually going to do," he said, also noting that the agreement as introduced misses the opportunity to ask the utility to increase its green energy portfolio. "It's the perfect opportunity to get TEP to commit to climate neutrality and reducing carbon emissions, and there's nothing in there that does that concretely."

For its part, TEP said the agreement is about a project that would sure up resiliency in midtown Tucson and the area around the University of Arizona by installing a new 138-Kilovolt transmission line from a substation near Kino Boulevard and 36th Street to another near Grant Road and Interstate 10 while adding a new substation near Banner University Medical Center.

Kino to DMP project VIEW LARGER A map of the project TEP is proposing to build with funds it would receive from Proposition 412.

It would also bury some power lines along gateway corridors in the midtown area.

“It really would support maintaining reliable service for customers, particularly throughout the midtown area and it would support future energy needs,” said TEP spokesperson Joseph Barrios.

He said the increase would increase resiliency in the system, which has seen multiple record-breaking demand days in recent years.

"This really started with the need to improve service for our customers," said Barrios. "We've been talking about the Kino-to-DMP service line for a number of years, and when we first started talking about it, we'd planned to have that line in service by this summer."

Barrios said that a 'no' vote will merely change how TEP looks at ensuring up electricity delivery in the midtown area, and the new fee would be exclusive to customers within Tucson city limits.

The utility also has a pending rate change in front of the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Voters in the southeast corner of the state will also see a special mail-only election.

They will vote on whether to add a new sales tax in order to pay for a new county jail complex, replacing one that is 20 years past its expected lifetime and routinely houses more than twice the number of inmates for which it was designed.

Voters in Cochise County will also have their chance to make their wishes known about an additional tax that would help construct a new jail.

The current jail is out of date and over capacity. Click here to find out more about the issue.

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