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James T. Harris

James T article in The Arizonan

James T article in The Arizonan

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A newcomers guide to Tucson

By James T. Harris “The Beautiful Man” Radio Host at 104.1 The Truth

If you told me in January 2011 that one year later, I would be living in the desert, apart from my family (and the Green Bay Packers), in a small apartment, I would have stared at you blankly before I laughed in your face!
I am a Wisconsin boy, born and raised in Milwaukee. Though I have traveled over a nice chunk of the planet, the thought of leaving Wisconsin never, and I mean never, crossed my mind. Ever.

I would have chronicled the top three reasons why your prediction was absurd.
1. Tucson is in a desert surrounded by mountains… I don’t like mountains. Also, like, where is the water? Really?

2. My family and my Milwaukee neighborhood (known by many as the Urban Mayberry) is a slice of heaven in a world of madness. I’ve got three kids who all have active day planners. Papa gone? Momma won’t have it!

3. We recently remodeled our house. The master bedroom and master bath are spectacular!  I could live in the bathroom (and often did). And don’t get me started on the kitchen! I would have told the soothsayer…it’s not going to happen.
As I write this piece, it’s January 2012, and I am living in Tucson, Arizona, next to a mountain, in an apartment one-eighth the size of my Milwaukee house (which, by the way, 
I am trying to sell).

Never say never!
I’ve been asked to write a short piece on Tucson, my new hometown. A sort of newcomer’s perspective… likes, dislikes, observations. In other words: The good. The bad. The ugly.

O.K., here they are:
Weather. Traffic. Liberals!

As a child of Wisconsin, there’s no way to describe the unadulterated glory of opening your door in January and being slapped in the face with… sunshine, blue skies and… warmth. Everyday is a gift, every night a subtle reminder of what the rest of the nation wished was the norm. No negative wind chills, no ice, no snow… just the realization that this is the new normal. And friends… I love it! Many Tucsonans have warned me, “Wait until summer!” I’m from Wisconsin, people! I will gladly exchange one extreme for another. Three months of hot air and I get to have an air conditioner? Bring it! It’s 72 degrees in January and I’m barbecuing, hiking and eating dinner on the patio! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Speaking of hiking, I used to scoff at people who hiked, especially at those poor souls who hiked in the mountains….the mountains. I grew up on a Great Lake. The Great Lakes are massive, the largest bodies of fresh water on the planet. What Arizona calls a lake, we call a pond. If you can look across a body of water and see the other side, that ain’t a lake… just saying. So people who hike, I didn’t get that. 
Now I Do.

The Santa Catalina Mountains are astoundingly beautiful and Sabino Canyon is my first desert love. I started out walking on the main road. The quiet, the exercise and the Canyon regulars were the draw. Then through relationships I formed with people on the road, I discovered walking the trails!  I guess some would call that hiking? After spending months hiking mountain trails, I graduated from walking to running the trails! Yes, James T. Harris, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a mountain trail runner! I ran my first 10 miler a few weeks ago. I’m in the best shape of my life and it’s all due to sunshine and the mountains. Climate = “The Good.”

Let’s talk traffic. Tucson has one highway. One. What’s with that? The highway doesn’t even cross through town! It takes me almost an hour to get from the east side to the only highway that links the city to the rest of civilization. Who thought this up? Or rather was it lack of foresight? One of the major drawbacks to living in my newly adopted hometown is getting from point A to point Z. It takes too damn long to get downtown from the east side, west side or any side of town. To get to the airport from Skyline Road you need a hydration pack, a map and a two-day head start! Tucson is too spread out, and if I find it frustrating, how is it impacting business? Through conversations with local old timers, I’ve come to learn that back in the ’70s, a few people recognized the impending sprawl and tried to zone for growth, but others wanted to keep the town small… your kind of “John Cougar Mellencamp” type small town. Well, the Mellencamp crowd won the battle but lost the war because people came anyway. Now, Tucson is a textbook case of urban sprawl in the face of poor urban planning. That’s “The Bad,” and “The Ugly” caused it.

Speaking of “The Ugly” brings us to liberalism. The most repeated phrase I have heard since moving to Tucson is, “This city is bad for business.” Or, “It’s tough to do business in this city.” Those words can only mean one thing… Liberals (Progressives) are running Tucson! Before I could even guess, I was told that Tucson already has a streetcar project (named Progressive Desire?) underway. Progressives love trains! Little choo-choos that travel in circles with no riders, but cost a fortune and must be subsidized by the few people who still have jobs and haven’t fled to the suburbs.

Progressives are bad for business.

Tucson’s downtown is not pretty. I know ugly downtowns, Progressives run Milwaukee, too. When the government tries to do with taxes (other people’s money) what entrepreneurs do with their own capital, blight, waste and corruption are the results. I just described our downtown, didn’t I? Mad potential in the wrong hands equals blight. It’s the progressive equation: Gov > Business = -10. It’s the same everywhere you go, from Portland to Detroit, from Milwaukee to Tucson, the progressive equation destroys whatever it was supposed to improve. That’s “The Ugly.”

And there you have it. The good, the bad, and the ugly from a newcomer’s perspective. Comparisons are rarely fair and often relative. Some people love traffic. I don’t (unless I’m listening to talk radio which Tucson has, so I guess that’s a wash). Progressives in government inhibit the growth of business (but their antics are great for talk radio, so again… a wash! Maybe even a boon?). So you should know, the good to me far outweighs the bad and the ugly! I consider myself blessed to be a part of this community and I look forward to discovering new treasures in the great city of Tucson. My new home.

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