Ward 2 Council Member Paul Cunningham
My office has gotten a lot of feedback about the plans for zoo expansion and how it will affect the south pond at Reid Park, the smaller of the two ponds. My staff and I have been working with both Reid Park Zoo and the Parks and Recreation Department on an informative, comprehensive response to your questions. I thought I’d share our office’s response as part of this newsletter:
Votes are still being counted and it's been a contentious week. I want to take the time to tell you about Tucsonans coming together to help our neighbors.
My staff volunteered for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona on Thursday. COVID-19 has caused many challenges for agencies like the Food Bank. Economic stress has, of course, made their services more needed. They also must keep their volunteers and employers safe during this public health emergency, which can make it harder to serve people in need.
After the two in custody deaths of Carlos Ingram Lopez and Damian Alvarado, TPD opened up a process called a “Sentinel Event Review Board” which took a month to examine what went wrong in those cases. The analysis included everything from how our 911 center is staffed to how certain types of equipment are deployed to the attitudes and training of our officers.
I maintain a list of links to city departments and community groups that you can find on my Ward 2 page. Sometimes I get requests from one group or another to put on that page.
I got one this week from Literacy Connects. Literacy Connects is going to be celebrating their tenth anniversary next year, but many of the groups that merged to form their organization had been doing fantastic work in our community for decades.
There’s been a lot of national talk about mail-in ballots, but what gets lost in our local discussion is how long we’ve been doing mail-in ballots here in Arizona. Back in the 90’s the requirements were loosened for what were then called absentee ballots. Since then, Arizonans have been voting by mail in large numbers, usually close to 75% of the total vote. The fact that so many voters were voting by mail was among the reasons that Tucson decided to move to an all-mail system for city elections, leaving only a few polling places to staff for so few election day voters.
Oftentimes, if someone wants to build something new, they will need to go through the rezoning process. This requires meetings with residents in the area, the oversight of our Planning and Development Services Department and a vote of Mayor and Council. Most rezonings that come before the council are non-controversial. However, there can be concerns about impact on the area such as traffic, noise and protection of our environment expressed by people in the area.
Assistant Fire Chief Laura Baker retired this week after 26 years of serving our community. I’d like to extend my appreciation and best wishes on behalf of all of our Ward 2 neighbors.
Chief Baker was Tucson’s first woman fire chief. She also worked hard to get other women into the firefighting profession, including starting Camp Fury back in 2009. Camp Fury is a project with the Girl Scouts to introduce girls to firefighting. It is now a nationwide program.
Thank you, and good luck in what ever you do next, Chief.
Earlier this week, outgoing County Attorney Barbara LaWall elected not to prosecute the three officers involved in the death of Carlos Ingram-López. Neither I, my colleagues nor Chief Christopher Magnus have any authority to tell the County Attorney’s office what to do in this case. It is worth noting that all three officers left the Tucson Police Department shortly after this case came to light.
Even during the summer (or should I say, a normal summer), Tucson derives a lot of its revenue from tourism. Needless to say, the tourism industry is struggling. Visit Tucson reports that hotel revenues were down 35% in the six months from January to July. While that’s not as bad as the cities we compete with for tourist dollars (Seattle, for example, was down 64%), it’s still a big hit to our local economy.
Thanks to Mayor and Tucson City Council, we are hosting mobile mask giveaway events at multiple locations and times throughout the city as an opportunity for community members to obtain washable face coverings for themselves and their families.
Judging by the emails to my office over the last week, the issues on Wednesday’s council agenda that generated the most heat in our community were the extension of GPLET incentives and our declaration of a climate emergency. I’d like to talk a little about another item we discussed that ties into climate change and that touches on the very survival of Tucson as a city in the coming decades: a plan for what to do in a severe drought.
I am going to do something that not enough people in politics are willing to do: I’m going to admit a mistake.
In my newsletter two weeks ago, I wrote that Tucson Electric Power spent money to elect candidates to the Corporation Commission, the body that regulates utilities. They did not.
Make Way for Books is offering a free opportunity for families with young children. The spots are filling up quickly.
My youngest son’s name is Lute, after our coach who just passed away. I wanted him to have a strong Tucson name. One that embodied wisdom, compassion and class. I fell in love with the game of basketball when I was 9 years old due to two people: Coach Lute Olson and Coach Dave Lynch. Coach Lynch was the girls’ coach at Santa Rita High School and my youth coach. Coach Olson signed my program when I attended my first University of Arizona basketball game. I attended one of his basketball camps. I was already a Wildcat fan, but Lute showed us how to love and understand the game.
One of the things that has been most frustrating during our community conversation about COVID-19 has been that there are some people who refuse to believe that there is a real disease out there that is affecting thousands of their fellow Tucsonans. It’s almost as though they think that if they have a certain set of beliefs, that will protect them from being sick. We’ve seen plenty of tragic cases over these past few months that you’d think would show this isn’t the case, but people want to believe what they want, I guess.