NewsNet 01-28-15

TUCSON SCORES HIGH IN LATEST ECONOMIC SURVEY - Tucson's economy gets high marks among the top 10 major metro areas of the Mountain West, according to a new report from the Brookings Mountain Monitor. As a group, the 10 major metro areas of the Mountain West outperformed the national economy during the third quarter of 2014 in the areas of employment growth, output growth, unemployment, and housing prices. The rate of output growth for Tucson was  an impressive 1.1 percent, the study said, above Phoenix and the national average of 0.8 percent. Tucson also enjoyed solid job growth, as employment increased by 0.5 percent, in line with the national average. A 0.3 percentage point fall in the third quarter brought Tucson’s unemployment rate to 6.0 percent and closer to the national average of 5.9 percent. Tucson’s housing market in the quarter saw prices increase by 2.1 percent, well above the national rate of 1.3 percent. "These numbers show that Tucson's economy is performing better than many have expected," said Chris Kaselemis, director of Tucson's Office of Economic Initiatives.

METAL THEFT DECLINES IN TUCSON - Metal thefts in Tucson are down from their peak in 2012, thanks to cooperation between law enforcement, businesses and metal recyclers. At the peak, a coalition of business groups, including the Metropolitan Pima Alliance and Building Owners and Managers Association, formed the Pima County Metal Theft Task Force to work with the Tucson Police Department (TPD) to combat metal thefts. “The city was experiencing metal theft at unprecedented levels,” said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild at a news conference yesterday. “Due to the business community coming together with our police department, we are now below levels we were at in 2010.” Three years ago, as copper prices soared and the recession lingered, Tucsonans reported a property loss of $2.9 million, a substantial increase over the 2010 property loss of $652,000. Last year, the property loss from metal thefts was $310,000. The Pima County Metal Theft Task Force donated $6,000 yesterday for additional surveillance equipment to help TPD continue its campaign against metal theft. Read more from the Arizona Daily Star.

ZOO ELEPHANT TO GUESS SUPER BOWL WINNER - Reid Park Zoo's African elephant Mabu will predict the winner of Sunday's Super Bowl by choosing one of two sticks with paper flags representing the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. Tomorrow's 10 a.m. event is open to the public (zoo admission applies). Mabu has made several big game predictions already, with a 50 percent accuracy rate. Regardless of the team selected, the skill Mabu will be demonstrating is an important one. He is conditioned to offer many behaviors that help the Zoo take better care of him, including giving items to zookeepers for his own safety. If Mabu ever comes in contact with a dangerous item, a zookeeper can reliably ask him for it and reward him with a tasty treat. Read the news release.

WEBSITE: FOUR WAYS STREETCARS MAKE CITIES BETTER - Streetcars not only help connect cities, but they cut down on energy costs and add convenience, according to the website livability.com. The website highlights four benefits of the alternate mode of transportation, with increased economic development topping the list. Other items cited in the article are limited road construction to build a shared lane, environmental benefits, and added charm and entertainment. Visit Sun Link Tucson Streetcar website

PARKS AND RECREATION OFFERS DISCOUNTS TO LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS - The City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Department offers discounts that allow low-income residents to pay a 50 percent discounted fee for KIDCO, Jr. Leadership, In-Betweener's, Learn-to-Swim, and therapeutic programs. There also is a 25 percent discount for annual/quarterly passes at recreation centers and for a Senior Activity Card. To qualify for the discounts, you must be a City of Tucson resident, provide ID and address verification, and be able to prove your income falls within the discount guidelines. You can apply at any Parks and Recreation office. For more details on the requirements for the discounts, call Registration Services at (520) 791-4877.