The only thing that the two mayors have in common is a Spanish surname
Tucson, Arizona, and Miami, Florida, are similar in some respects and quite different in others. One of the differences, as will be discussed momentarily, is the thinking of their respective mayors, both of whom have Spanish surnames, which is about all they have in common.
First, the similarities between Tucson and Miami:
Both are similar in population: 543,242 for Tucson, and 439,890 for Miami
Both have high crime rates: On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being safest, Tucson gets a score of 6, versus a 10 for Miami. In terms of the number of crimes per 1,000 population, Tucson has a rate of 43.93, versus Miami’s rate of 35.70 (source: NeighborhoodScout.com).
Both have a high percent of Latinos: 44.2% for Tucson, versus 72.5% for Miami.
Both have higher poverty rates than the national rate of 11.4%, but Tucson’s rate of 20.8% is significantly higher than Miami’s rate of 15.0%.
Both have a median household income that is lower than the national median of $67,463: $45,227 for Tucson, and $53,975 for Miami.
Now, the differences between Tucson and Miami:
Geographic location is the most obvious difference. One city is in a dry inland desert; the other is on a humid coast. One city is close to Mexico; the other is close to the Caribbean. One city has some international trade with Mexico; the other is a major center of trade with Latin America.
On the last point, Miami International Airport has the most international passengers in the United States, at about 13 million per year. The number of international passengers for Tucson International Airport could not be found, but the airport has 1.3 million passengers per year in total, both domestic and international, and only five international flights per day, all of them to Mexico.
Another difference, one with long-range implications and the subject of the rest of this commentary, is the thinking of the mayors of the two cities.
In short, Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez is a visionary, a great cheerleader for his city, an unrelenting advocate for economic growth, and a salesman par excellence in convincing big companies to relocate to the city. By contrast, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero is provincial, non-visionary, and seemingly disinterested in economic growth or in selling big companies on relocating to the city, which may explain why they tend to bypass Tucson.
There’s not much else to say about Romero, because she’s not in the national business press and hasn’t said much that is noteworthy. In her State of the City address, she focused on climate change, sustainability, and an initiative to plant one million trees to fight global warming. She also mentioned public safety but didn’t appear to understand the relationship between high crime and high poverty, or the relationship between high poverty and economic stagnation. On other occasions, she has hinted at a desire to make Tucson a de facto sanctuary city.
In stark contrast, Suarez has received positive coverage in the business press, including in the Wall Street Journal. On July 9, 2022, for example, the journal ran a front-page story of 2,361 words on what Suarez was doing to make Miami a business destination. And on August 21, 2022, it ran a commentary by the mayor.
An aside: The Wall Street Journal has published seven commentaries of mine. If a relatively unknown like myself can get published in the journal, it would seem that the mayor of Tucson also could. One wonders if it has even crossed her mind to use the business press to make a name for Tucson, or if she or her staff even have familiarity with the business world and its culture.
When Suarez became mayor in 2017, he pledged “to make Miami a city where everyone can have an opportunity to succeed by having access to the jobs of tomorrow.” He reinforced the pledge and made national headlines in December 2020, when he responded to a techie who had tweeted on Twitter that Silicon Valley should relocate to Miami. The mayor tweeted back, “How can I help?” The tweet went viral.
In his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Suarez explained that there is a competition in America between two philosophies of government. To quote:
On one side, we have the socialist model: high taxes, high regulation, less competition and declining public services with government imposing itself as the solver and arbiter of all social problems. On the other side, we have the Miami model: low taxes, low regulation and a commitment to public safety and private enterprise. The models present a stark choice on issues ranging from personal freedom, economic opportunity, public safety and the role of government.
Suarez is a partisan Republican, a fact that runs against my preference for nonpartisan elections and government at the municipal level, such as the nonpartisan elections and government in Scottsdale, Arizona, a city of 241,361 where I formerly lived—and where the government was efficient, effective and visionary.
Tucson Mayor Romero is a partisan Democrat, and the city and the surrounding county have been Democrat bastions for decades.
Who is the better mayor with the better model of governance? You be the judge.
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