You and your neighbors passed a half-cent sales tax in 2017 that was earmarked for roads and public safety. It’s more than fair for you to ask, where has that money gone?
Earlier this month, my office received a copy of the report of the Public Safety Tax Oversight Commission, which is the citizens’ committee responsible for overseeing how that money is spent.
One question that I get whenever we are talking about public safety is why this money isn’t being spent on personnel. I don’t think it’s wise to use a tax that is set to expire in a few years for hiring new employees or increasing salaries of those we already have. Nonetheless, I worked with both the Tucson Police Officers Association and the City Manager to find the money to pay for a retention package late last year, and we are training a new academy class right now.
Among the public safety projects now complete is a software upgrade for police and fire’s computer aided dispatch systems. This half-million-dollar expenditure was necessary because the old software was out of date and no longer supported by the manufacturer.
58 specialty and unmarked vehicles have also been deployed for the police, the first part of what will be a $5.5 million investment. Also, a bit more than 500 of the 1300 laptops that are scheduled to be included in police vehicles have been installed. The condition of the old laptops was a frustration for many officers that spoke to me.
A new south east annex is among the future expenditures being planned now. I will keep all of you informed about this.
On the fire side, the first expenditures we made were probably the most important: $2 million for new paramedic cardiac monitors and $1.2 million for new turn out gear. Many people don’t know this, but if you have a heart attack in Tucson and Tucson Fire responds, you have one of the best survival rates in the country. This investment in cardiac monitors with built-in defibrillators will help hundreds of Tucsonans that have heart attacks. Turnout gear is the outfit of the firefighter on the job that we are used to seeing: coat, pants, suspenders, structural helmet, boots and a Nomex hood. Their old gear was reaching the end of its life and this investment was critical.
If you are interested in seeing more about where this money has been spent and what is in the works, you can visit https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/clerks/uploads/bccfiles/29351.pdf to read the report or http://tucsondelivers.tucsonaz.gov.
Angela from my staff visited Saguaro Christian Church to help out at Blessings in a Backpack last week. Saguaro is one of a few churches in town that participate in the program.
Feeding America estimates that 14.6% of Pima County residents are “food insecure.” Many of those are school aged children.
This is not only about hunger, but it can effect things like attention span and brain function issues that makes it hard to be successful at school.
They are eligible for a school lunch that for many of them is the only hot meal of the day. The question is, what happens on weekends?
Blessings in a Backpack tries to help by offering them backpacks with nutritious and satisfying food. If you’d like more information, you can visit blessingsinabakpack.org
There was a groundbreaking at Santa Rita High School yesterday for a new site for dental assistant and diesel mechanics programs. The new education center is a joint project of TUSD’s Career and Technical Education program and Pima County’s JTED district. There are over 7000 students in TUSD that are in CTE programs, and having such a large and modern facility to serve east side families is wonderful.
As a teacher, I want to note that this week marks 62 years since nine African-American students were admitted to Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. In all the years that have passed between the struggles of that era and now, we often forget how much work it took to make progress. The racists didn’t all change their minds after the Brown decision; President Eisenhower literally had to call out the 101st Airborne Division to get them past the gates of the school. And it didn’t end there: the students suffered tremendous abuse throughout their time at Central High. Don’t be fooled: the rights and equality we enjoy didn’t come easy. We also shouldn’t pretend that we are close to done yet.
Also, I’d like to note that we asked those kids to make a tremendous sacrifice. The youth always lead when older generations won’t.