Karin's Note: Friday, December 12, 2014

Karin's Note: Friday, December 12, 2014
- See You at City Hall!
-Ward 3 Events
- Neighborhood/Coalition Meetings
- Community Support Spotlight
-Citywide Events
-Did You Know?
Dear Tucsonans,
On Transit
The City’s investment in transit has grown over recent years for two main reasons. 1) the State of Arizona cut several millions in funding formerly allocated to transit 2) the transit system has grown under the voter-approved Regional Transportation Plan, which included specific City funding and match requirements.
Simply raising transit fares or cutting services would not substantially reduce our General Fund investment in transit. Mayor and Council has raised base fares significantly already from $1.00 to $1.25 in 2009 and $1.25 to $1.50 in 2011. Doing it again would likely saddle Tucson with a system steadily losing ridership and costing more and more as it limps ahead.
While that often repeated premise that “we oughta cut transit to fund other City services” may sound reasonable on the surface, I won’t support changes unless they achieve the outcomes I know our community would want to see. A 15% increase in fare does not result in a 15% increase in revenue. Fare increases contribute to decreases in ridership and a drop in revenue per boarding. Since Sun Tran fares were increased in 2009, ridership has decreased by almost two million. Revenue per boarding drops because the riders we’d lose are most likely the ones paying regular fares who have other transportation options, rather than riders who are eligible for discounted fares because they are disabled, seniors, or living in poverty.
We can do a quick math example using figures from Sun Tran and the American Public Transit Association that indicate that a 10% increase in fares can result in a 4% decrease in ridership and only a 5% rise in revenue per boarding. If we start with a $1.00 fare and one million rides, increasing the fare to $1.10 decreases the number of rides to 960,000 AND the average fare per ride goes to $1.05. That gives us a NET revenue of $1,008,000, a gain of less than 1%. In this instance, we would lose 40,000 boardings to save only $8000. Couple something like this with service cuts (aimed at cutting costs, but also proven to reduce the numbers of riders over time), the options presented to Mayor/Council Tuesday clearly could have hurt our overall transit system (and overall budget) long term.
Operating transit is in fact much like operating a business in that we have to look at price as well as the quality of our product to generate better revenues. Businesses don’t kid themselves into thinking they can raise prices and reduce product quality without losing some share of their customer base. Similarly these variables -- price, cost, and quality — will likely mean we have to move toward a fare and route structure that very clearly ties our pricing to the value of the service. Many transit systems change fares during peak demand hours or by zones (so you pay more closely according the number of miles you travel).
That truth probably explains how Tucson’s transit fares compare with other southwestern cities:
El Paso
Phoenix Valley
Base Fare
Discount Fares
Free-$0.30 -$1
Day Pass
Discount Day Pass
31 Day Pass
Discount 31 Day Pass
We actually charge considerably more that the cities of Albuquerque and Austin and slightly less than in El Paso and Phoenix.
If we can work together to build a system closer to the quality in Phoenix and El Paso (with, for example, more extensive rail and rapid transit services), we could justify higher prices for that value and have more options to generate income/reduce costs. That’s the goal we will discuss in partnership with the Pima Association of Governments in a regional planning process which will begin in early 2015 with the help of renowned transit planner Jarrett Walker.
Many of you know that I spent a lot of focus and energy in my first two terms in office to help shepherd change in our regional approach to water management. I am proud of the corner we have turned together. All area jurisdictions and even the City of Phoenix now leverage Tucson Water’s incredible infrastructure to reduce groundwater pumping, enhance our water security, and save everyone (including Tucson Water customers) money.
It’s time we do the same with our regional transit system. A reliable, safe, clean and properly configured system in Tucson, integrally linked with all surrounding communities, can put us on course to be a far more prosperous and vibrant region. And you can bet I’ll continue to do my best to help get us there.
On Golf
As frustrated as I get with the budget mythology around transit and the undermining of our investments in the transit system, I think you oughta know that the dynamic about golf has always been the opposite. The golf enterprise now owes our General Fund $8-10 million. I applaud Councilmember Romero and our Citizens Independent Audit and Performance Commission for demanding that the long-hidden transfers used to cover a growing annual deficit in golf be brought to light for scrutiny and action.
We did pull Golf out of the City bureaucracy last year and hire an outside firm to manage the operation. And that could well lead to more revenue and lower costs. I doubt, however, that it will bring us to a break-even or profitable position, especially given the now fifty golf courses in southern Arizona competing with City golf. It’s a sport in decline nationally (unlike soccer’s exponential growth trajectory). And golf can hardly be argued to offer a broad public benefit to any extent close to the broad public benefits of a strong transit system: cleaner air, reduced congestion, money saved by riders and spent elsewhere in the local economy, etc.
Mayor and Council acknowledged Tuesday the likelihood that we will need a Plan B for most if not all of our City golf courses. From my perspective we have been misguided in on our focus on “fixing” our transit budget when in fact Golf poses the precise dilemma: no action will cost the General Fund more and more and more at the expense of other budget priorities.
We made it clear that, during the upcoming budget process, we will need to see specific options for each and every golf course that could end the annual $1-2 million (or more) subsidy to golf. We may keep some courses open and/or partner with other groups to repurpose land. We have to shape the budget with the future in mind, recognizing that golf will continue to wane at the same time that upcoming generation increasingly embrace transit and alternate modes of mobility.
Short Term Rentals
Another hot topic on Tuesday was how the City could address the growing numbers of short term rental accommodations offered outside of the formal hotel/B&B/hospitality sector. I’ll summarize my position by saying that I am not inclined to try to apply the existing blanket of licensing, regulation and taxation on so many folks who are just renting their spare room or guest house to travelers once in a while. I am looking for an approach that does help level the playing field, without creating a bureaucratic and enforcement nightmare.
It’s important to note that Portland and Austin and many other cities have pursued pretty extensive and aggressive plans for incorporating the “shadow” short term rentals into their regulated hospitality industry with questionable success. I’m hoping we can come up with very clear definitions for licensing (such as requiring those without licenses to disclose that unlicensed status to their renters) as well as for taxation. Thresholds like the annual revenue collected, number of weeks per year a space is rented, and/or size/capacity of the space could be included in the exemption definition.
I look forward to a fully developed proposal from our Small Business Commission, Visit Tucson, Lodging Association, and the public at large. Together I trust we’ll find the balance that levels the playing field and averts massive bureaucratic and enforcement layers that cost a great deal and often yield very little gain.
I appreciate the thoughts and comments you send on these and any other matters that come before the Mayor and Council.
MPA Common Ground Awards
Last Friday I had the honor of attending the 10th Annual MPA Common Ground Awards Celebration. Every year, Metropolitan Pima Alliance recognizes the spirit of collaboration in our community by presenting awards to projects that exemplify the positive results of working together. This year, two projects in Ward III were recipients! Congratulations to the many partners who came together to improve our community through the elegant renovation at Casa Presidio, the apartment complex at Campbell and Fort Lowell (Revitalization award), and CODAC’s new treatment complex called Cobblestone Court, also on Fort Lowell (Construction and Development award). Special thanks to Sandy Miller, Linda Wurzelbacher, Robert Sheinaus, Linda Drew, Bill Crouse, CODAC and our neighbors in the Richland Heights East, Mountain View and Hedrick Acres neighborhoods. We are so proud of your work and fortunate to have your leadership here in our corner of the city.
Have a great weekend,
See You at City Hall!
Charter Review Committee - Monday, December 15th at 4:00 pm
  • Powers and Duties of Council and Manager
  • Department Head Civil Service Protections/Council-Mayor Salaries
Mayor & Council Meeting - Tuesday, December 16th
Study Session at 2:00 pm
Regular Session at 5:30 pm
Ward 3 Events:
- Nonviolence Legacy Project Community Dinner –Sunday, December 14th 5:00 – 6:30 pm at Cornerstone Fellowship Social Hall, 2909 N. Geronimo. Members of the community are invited to join the NVLP for this dinner where you can learn more about their Kingian Nonviolence Program and other projects and events promoting peace in our city. Suggested $20 donation.
- Lend A Hand Holiday Party - Tuesday, December 16th 1:00 - 3:00 pm at Mountain Avenue Church of Christ, 2848 North Mountain Ave. Join Lend A Hand Senior Assistance and friends to celebrate the holiday season!
- Ward 3 Neighbors Alliance: Do Happy Today – Wednesday, December 17th 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Woods Library 3455 N. First Avenue. Anita Fonte will be sharing a brief history of the International Day of Happiness and the opportunity for Ward III neighbors to become a Do Happy Today partner.  Anita will be providing tips and suggestions for participation in How to Do Happy Today with an emphasis on raising the happiness quotient of your personal, work and community life. For more information see http://www.un.org/en/events/happinessday/
- Blue Moon Community Garden Clean-up – Saturday, December 20th 9:00 – 11:00 am at 1375 N. 13th Avenue. Join your neighbors at Barrio Blue Moon to help maintain the beautiful community garden!
- Celebrate Solstice at Rain Crow Gallery – Saturday, December 20th 6:00 – 9:00 pm at Rain Crow Gallery 204 W. Grant Rd. Women of the Winter Solstice is an exhibit with works of art by women that are introspective and contemplative.  Rest and reflect with these paintings as a visual inspiration for Winter Solstice.  Celebrate this season by cultivating a deeper connection with the creative spirit that moves you and is present in the works of Lisa Mishler, Mary Theresa Dietz and Jane Buckman. www.raincrowgallery.com
- Mingle Jingle - Tuesday, December 23rd from 5:00 - 7:00 pm at the Donna Liggins Center 2160 N. 6th Avenue. Donna Liggins Center is hosting their first annual Mingle Jingle!  The public is invited to stop by and listen to holiday music performed by groups and individuals from the neighborhood.  Festive lights and decorations will light up the outdoors and set the stage for visiting with neighbors and sharing in the holiday spirit.  This free event will also include "Selfie's" with Santa as well as cookies and hot chocolate!
Ward 3 Neighborhood/Coalition Meetings:
- Mountain/1st NA – Saturday, December 13th 9:00 am at Mitchell Park 1100 E. Mitchell
- Ward Three Neighbors Alliance – Wednesday, December 17th 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Woods Library 3455 N. 1st Ave
- Campbell-Grant NA Annual Meeting – Wednesday, December 17th 7:00 – 8:30 pm at Ward 3 Council Office 1510 E. Grant Rd
- Flowing Wells NA – Thursday, December 18th 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Ellie Towne Community Center
Community Support Spotlight:
Bring your holiday Community Food Bank donations to the Donna Liggins Center
The Donna Liggins center is hosting a food drive for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. Show your support for this amazing organization and local families facing food insecurity by bringing canned food to the center at 2160 N. 6th Avenue. Donations are being accepted through January 2, 2015!
Support families at Gospel Rescue Mission during the holiday season
Gospel Rescue Mission typically delivers about 1000 emergency food boxes a month to families in need and that number doubles during the holiday season. Support them as they help families in our ward and city by donating at https://www.networkforgood.org/donation/MakeDonation.aspx?ORGID2=866054088 or dropping off donations at 707 W. Miracle Mile. Call 520-740-1501 with any questions.
You can also bring a smile to a child’s face this Christmas by dropping off a toy, game or sporting item at any Discount Tire location through December 15th. The gifts will be given to families in need at Gospel Rescue Mission’s Children’s Christmas Party on Saturday, December 20, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm at Wakefield Middle School (101 W 44th Street, map) in partnership with Higher Ground. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.826959967342242.1073741840.110808712290708&type=1
Citywide Events:
- 4th Avenue Winter Street Fair – Friday – Sunday, December 12th – 14th at 4th Avenue. Free to the public, the Fourth Avenue Street Fair brings together 400+ arts and crafts booths, 35+ food vendors, a Main Stage, street musicians, food, and more!
- Luminaria Nights – Friday through Sunday December 12th – 14th 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm at Tucson Botanical Gardens 2150 North Alvernon Way. Luminaria Nights, now in its 30th year, transforms the Tucson Botanical Gardens into a festive gathering place for thousands of Tucsonans and their out-of-town guests. Expanded to six magical evenings this year Luminaria Nights has thousands of luminarias and twinkling lights, decorated holiday trees, Santa Claus, a variety of live music, food trucks and the magic of the holiday season. Tickets may be purchased at the door during the event, in the Gift Shop and by phone: 520-326-9686 ext: 10, ext 16 or ext 25. Weather permitting. No refunds or exchanges.
- Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul – Friday through Saturday December 12th – 13th 5:30 to 8:30 pm at Tohono Chul 7366 N. Paseo del Norte. Celebrate the holidays surrounded by a million twinkling lights over three weekends at Tohono Chul; enjoy complimentary cookies and hot cocoa. Beer, wine and additional snacks will be available for purchase. Five different entertainment venues throughout the gardens will host different acts each weekend. Admission:  $10 for members, $15 for general public. $2 for children under 13.   Call 520-742-6455 for more info.
- Deferred Action Forum – Tuesday, December 16th 6:00 pm at Most Holy Trinity Church 1300 N. Greasewood Dr. The Mexican Consulate hosts a forum regarding Deferred Action – take this opportunity to learn more about DAPA, the expansion of DACA, and what it means for you. Asiste con tu familia e aprende sobre la Acción Diferida. Participa en este foro DACA y DAPA para que obtenga información sobre los trámites migratorios. http://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/tucson/index.php/component/content/article/81
- License and Sales Tax Reporting Workshop - Thursday, December 18th 10:30 am - noon at the Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library, 4350 E. 22nd St. Learn your rights and responsibilities for Transaction Privilege (sales) Taxation by attending a Tax and License Workshop sponsored by the City of Tucson Finance Department. Questions will be answered, and written materials will be available. Samples of sales tax records, worksheets, and monthly returns will be explained. You should bring a calculator and a pencil. Another workshop will be held Read the news release: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/media-releases/Tax_License_Workshop_Dec_2014.pdf
- Annual Christmas Day Dog-Walking Event – Thursday, December 25th 10:00 am to noon at PACC Shelter, 4000 N. Silverbell Road. You’re invited to bring some holiday cheer to Pima Animal Care Center dogs through PACC’s annual Christmas dog-walking event! Everyone is welcome, but only those 16 years or older will be able to walk the dogs alone. PACC estimates that 200 dogs will need to be walked during the event. The shelter will not be open for adoptions December 25th, but will have regular operational hours (noon to 7:00 pm on weekdays and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekends) before and after Christmas. To participate, please RSVP to Andrew Stocker at Andrew.Stocker@pima.gov by December 22nd.
Did You Know...?
…that you can join your friends and neighbors for Pickle Ball at the Donna Liggins Center? Open Pickle Ball takes place at the Donna Liggins Center every Tuesday and Thursday 12:00 - 3:00pm. What is pickle ball?  If you want to find out, come to the center on Thursday, December 18th at 2:00 pm for free pickle ball instruction from award winning player and instructor, Paul Hart.  Learn the game, then stay and play during regularly scheduled open pickle ball time. Daily fee applies for open pickle ball sessions. Limited paddles and balls provided.
that the Metropolitan Pima Alliance (MPA) recently presented the City of Tucson with the "MPA Project of the Decade" award for the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar? The streetcar was honored as one of 22 exceptional projects in the community during the MPA's 10th annual Common Ground Awards ceremony last week. The awards honor community leaders, projects, and events that overcame great obstacles through collaboration. The $196 million streetcar project, co-managed by the City of Tucson and the Regional Transportation Authority, is considered to be Tucson’s largest and most-complex transportation construction project in city history. Sun Link Tucson Streetcar: http://www.sunlinkstreetcar.com/ Metropolitan Pima Alliance: http://mpaaz.org/
that the Steetcar Route will be adjusted this weekend for the Fourth Avenue Street Fair? The Fourth Avenue Street Fair runs this Friday through Sunday, with more than 300,000 people expected to attend. To accommodate the street fair booths, there will be a temporary route adjustment for the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar, and Sun Tran buses will be used to shuttle streetcar passengers from temporary end point stops at Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street, and University Boulevard and Third Avenue. The streetcar will operate on the east end of the route from the eastern terminus at Helen Street to University Boulevard and Third Avenue and back. On the western terminus, streetcar will operate from Avenida del Convento through downtown to Fourth Avenue and Eighth Street and back. Follow the links below for more information and a map of the route adjustments.
Sun Link Tucson Streetcar: http://www.sunlinkstreetcar.com/
the City is seeking commission members to review and recommend salaries for Mayor and Council? The City of Tucson is accepting applications for the Citizens’ Commission on Public Service and Compensation, a panel that reviews and recommends appropriate salaries for the Mayor and City Council. This is a two-month appointment.
Seven commission members are appointed by the City Manager and are selected to provide maximum representation from among Tucson’s diverse economic, environmental, racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. Experience or expertise in such areas as government, personnel management, or public administration is preferred but not required. Political affiliation is not a consideration. Commission members must be registered voters living within Tucson city limits. They cannot be employees of the City of Tucson, nor a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or dependent relative of an officer or employee of the City.
To nominate someone, or to apply, please submit a letter of interest by 5:00 pm Friday, December 19th to monica.perez@tucsonaz.gov or:
City Manager’s Office
Attn:  Monica Perez
City Hall, 10th Floor West
P.O. Box 27210
Tucson, AZ 85726-7210
that the City of Tucson and Sun Tran are seeking the public’s feedback on a proposed service change to Downtown Loop?
Public Open Houses:
  • Tuesday, December 16th:
    • 10:00 – 11:30 am at Woods Memorial Library, 3455 N. 1st Ave
    • 5:00 – 6:30 pm at El Pueblo Activity Center, 101 W. Irvington Rd
  • Thursday, December 18th
    • 12:00 – 1:30 pm at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave
    • 5:30 – 7:00 pm at Ward 2 Council Office, 7575 E. Speedway Blvd
Public Hearing:
  • Tuesday, January 6, 2015 – at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall Mayor and Council Chambers, 255 W Alameda
Downtown Loop is a free transit service in the downtown Tucson-area that provides access to community services, government offices, courts, educational facilities and area businesses. With the opening of the Sun Link streetcar, the Downtown Loop has become a duplicate service. Many of the Downtown Loop’s major stops are within walking distance of Sun Link or existing Sun Tran service. Proposed changes recommended that the Downtown Loop be discontinued. Representatives from Sun Tran will be available at the public open house events to answer questions and concerns you may have regarding the proposed service change.
For more information, visit www.suntran.com. If you cannot make a meeting and have a comment, please call Customer Service at (520) 792-9222 or email suntraninfo@tucsonaz.gov. For requests for reasonable meeting accommodations call (520) 206-8881 at least five days prior to meeting.