NewsNet - 2018 in Review (Part 1 - Awards and Recognition)

With only about two weeks left in 2018, NewsNet this week will take a look back at some of the accomplishments and fun things that happened in the City of Tucson this year. Today, we have the first of a two-part special edition that focuses on some of the awards and recognition the City received in 2018 (with the original story date added), and that represents only a small portion of good news this year. We hope you enjoy these stories once again.

City Recognized for Excellence in Budgeting (3/23/18)- The City of Tucson recently received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). The award reflects the commitment of the governing body and staff to meet the highest principles of governmental budgeting. In order to receive the budget award, the City had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. Budget documents must be rated “proficient” in four categories and meet 14 different criteria within those categories. “This recognition confirms the hard work of the City’s Business Services department and its commitment to deliver clear, transparent financial reporting to the citizens of Tucson,” said Joyce Garland, chief financial officer/assistant city manager for the City of Tucson. The GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately 19,000 government finance professionals.

New York Times Encourages Readers to Explore Tucson (4/2/18) - The New York Times ran an article in April that called Tucson "a special place" to visit. "There is beautiful public art throughout, as well as a UNESCO-recognized culinary scene. But within easy access are breathtaking mountainscapes, desert kitsch, and outstanding wildlife-viewing opportunities. Tucson is worth a visit for any traveler, regardless of means," the newspaper said. The article also talks about Tucson being a kid-friendly place, having plenty of hiking opportunities, and even mentions the excitement of the Tucson Rodeo.

Tucson Is National Winner in Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation (5/22/18) – Tucson was named one of five national winners in the 7th Annual Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. The month-long campaign from the Wyland Foundation in April promoted public awareness about the importance of water and encouraged people to think about their consumption practices. "I'm very pleased Tucsonans took the time to pledge and maybe learn some new ways they can save water," said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. "Tucson has long been a leader in water conservation." Challenge participants also pledged to reduce their use of plastic water bottles and help eliminate hazardous waste from entering watersheds. Tucson was a national winner in 2013 and placed second in each of the last four years. Residents from the five winning cities will be entered into a drawing for thousands of dollars in water-saving or eco-friendly prizes. Participants also were asked to nominate a deserving charity in their community to receive a 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Veterans Court Awarded Grant (8/30/18) - The Regional Municipalities Veterans Treatment Court, part of the Tucson City Court system, is the recipient of a $395,000 annual grant over five years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Judge Michael Pollard recently announced the grant for the court and the creation of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (Southern Arizona Justice for Veterans) to support it. Veterans Court provides an alternative to jail for offenders who have served in the armed forces and are facing non-sexual, non-violent misdemeanor charges issued in the City of Tucson. Mentors help veterans navigate through the diversion program, helping them avoid a criminal conviction while restoring their sense of self-esteem. In the video below, Tucson 12 profiles the program and shares what the staff has in common that makes it a success.

Tucson Awarded Grant to Revitalize Oracle Neighborhood (9/17/18) - The City of Tucson is the recipient of a $1.3 million Choice Neighborhoods Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The money will be used to improve the Oracle Neighborhood and the Tucson House public housing facility in the neighborhood. The first $350,000 will be used to fund planning activities in the target area through the Planning Center, ASU School of Social Work, and Poster Frost Mirto in the development of a comprehensive transformation plan focusing on neighborhoods, people, and housing. The remaining $950,000 of the Planning Grant will be used for capital improvements in the area, which can include infrastructure, parks, facades, transportation, housing, and any public improvements eligible for Community Development Block Grants. Specific projects will be selected through a public engagement process that will be announced soon. That process will involve residents of the Tucson House, community residents, and partners in the projects. The transformation plan will lead the process in applying for a Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant for up to $30 million - $21 million toward the rehabilitation of the Tucson House and $9 million for other neighborhood improvements.

Tucson Listed as a Top Bike City (10/16/18) - Bicycling Magazine released its biannual ranking of "The Best Bike Cities in America," and Tucson ranked No. 24 on the list of the 50 top cities. The ranking lists cities that "have built systems and a riding culture that benefits everyone—from the kid who rides to school to the retiree who takes a weekend trip to the grocery store." Categories in the survey included safety, friendliness, and culture. "Tucson already has a terrific network of off-street paths, including the 130-mile Loop, which circles the city," the survey said. "Now the goal is making the on-street infrastructure as great as what’s happening off road." A 2017 Bicycle Boulevard Master Plan calls for 193 miles of bicycle improvements on residential street corridors, and the City of Tucson has plans for several protected bike lane projects on busier streets in the coming years. While there is a ranking for best cities for bicycling, the magazine concedes that there is no perfect city, with many fragmented bike networks, nothing besides painted bike lanes, and lack of infrastructure in some cities.

Survey Ranks Tucson a Top Travel Destination (11/27/18) - Tucson is on Fodor's list of the "52 Places That Inspire Us to Get Going in 2019." The travel and tourism website says Tucson has a little bit of everything. "What self-respecting traveler doesn’t want . . . charming adobe architecture painted in vibrant colors, wide-open spaces blanketed in saguaros, and hearty helpings of Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes?," Fodor's says. "In this Sonoran Desert city, the only thing that’s better than its golden outdoors is its rich culture, in which Spanish and Native American traditions co-exist with Anglo American ones. A dream vacation is a healthy mix of everything." The website listing for Tucson includes suggestions of where to stay, eat, bike, and have fun.