Paul's Note - December 14, 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a general overview of the planning and zoning process. It can get confusing, but one of the things I touched on was the Planning Commission.

The Commission is not always involved in re-zonings, only those where a neighborhood or area plan has to be amended. In some cases, however, a new zoning or a certain sort of development can’t happen unless the neighborhood plan is revised.

Many areas in town are covered by these neighborhood plans, which were written by citizens in the area and approved by Mayor and Council. An area plan might define that a certain corner is reserved for commercial development, or might mandate that certain historical uses need to be respected. Sometimes there need to be adjustments because of changes that have happened in the years, sometimes decades, since the plan was written. Reviewing these changes constitutes the most important part of the work the Commission does.

According to code, their responsibilities are as follows:

Advise Mayor and Council, Planning and Development Services Department, and Housing and Community Development Department on the adoption of long-range plans, policies, specific plans, and standards that affect land use and development.

I bring this up with you because Quentin Bryson, one of the two Ward 2 appointments to the Commission, is stepping down after eight years of service on the commission. I’ve been very happy with his service on the board and he’s negotiated many complex and controversial issues there with wisdom and skill. He earned the respect of both neighbors and developers because of his fairness and the consideration he’d give to all sides.

I’ll need to appoint a replacement for Quentin. If you are a Ward 2 resident and don’t hold any state, county or city offices, you are eligible. The commission meets one night a month. You don’t need any special credentials as a planner or architect, but I’d like someone who has knowledge of neighborhood and development issues. Send your resume to ward2@tucsonaz.gov.

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There is also another commission with an opening, the Commission on Public Service and Compensation. This commission is mandated by the city charter to convene every two years to recommend appropriate salaries for the Mayor and members of the Council.

If you wonder why council salaries are on the ballot every two years, it is because of that charter requirement. Even though we see it on the ballot in every city election, the salary, currently set at $24,000 for the council and $42,000 for the mayor, hasn’t been increased since 1999.

The low salary is a barrier to some people who would like to run for public office. The part time pay usually requires that prospective council members are retired, have additional outside income or are independently wealthy. I'm lucky that I’ve been able to work out an arrangement to keep my job as a middle school teacher while serving as a City councilmember.

The commission will only meet for two months, which is a great opportunity if you want to serve but can’t commit long term.

If you’d like to be on the commission, or to nominate someone, please submit a letter of interest by 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, to: City Manager’s Office Attn: Lane Mandle, City Hall, 10th Floor West, P.O. Box 27210, Tucson, AZ 85726-7210 Or E-mail: lane.mandle@tucsonaz.gov.

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A member of my staff attended the graduation for Pima Vocational High School this week. PVHS is a school run by the county to provide not only a high school diploma, but vocational training and job placement. They offer small class sizes (less than fifteen students) and their students get work experience in the community at everything from restaurants to bicycle repair shops to Kino Stadium.

Twenty-six students were in this year’s December graduating class, and they included students that will be going to the U of A, Pima College and the military. Congratulations to the students as well as the staff: Tria Aronow, Sarah Hall and Robin Lukavich.

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In an earlier newsletter, I wrote about Walter Feiger, a Holocaust survivor that comes to my office once a year so that he can get some paper work notarized that says he is still alive. This enables him to get a small stipend from the German government. Odessa Draheim in my office notarizes that paperwork every year.

After the newsletter went out, the story made the rounds on social media. Then, Odessa was contacted by KOLD for a story. It took some time to get in touch with Walter, but the story is now up on KOLD’s website.

I’m glad that Odessa got some recognition for the simple but important work she does and it was also good to see Walter, whose family I’ve been happy to know for years, get recognition for what a treasure he is in our community.