Karin's Note: Friday, June 12, 2015

Karin's Note: Friday, June 12, 2015
  • Ward 3 Events
  • City-Wide Events
  • Did You Know?
Dear Tucsonans,
A few updates on our work this past week at the Mayor and Council table and in Ward 3.
As you may be aware, Mayor and Council adopted the FY16 budget this week. It’s a $1.3 billion, complex package that—after years of employing tight management, cutting and revenue-generating strategies—focuses on the balance I noted last week (the same factors each one of us faces as far as meeting monthly expenses, managing/reducing debt, investing smartly for the future).
The choices aren’t easy. Fortunately we all realize a key long-term liability—fulfilling our obligations to the state-managed Public Safety Retirement System—present greatest weight and challenge moving forward. Tinkering at the edges of what has become a very lean and responsible operating budget will not resolve that liability and obligation. Only tens of millions of dollars will over the next decade. And because our options for revenue-generation are extremely limited, we will, I believe, have to put a plan before the public by the end of this year for consideration. I know the incoming Manager Michael Ortega is eager to take on this and other priority issues with the Mayor and City Council. He’s spending considerable time in advance of his July start date preparing, and I look forward to working with him and my colleagues to tackle this structural deficit.
Budget Questions, Confusion, Concerns
The budget did not pull the plug on Access Tucson (the Manager confirmed she intends to sustain bridge funding until the RFP for a Community Media Center has been awarded) nor did it set into motion specific changes to transit services (there are, however, some changes that will be finalized through the Transit Task Force and PAG Planning process). Much of the Public Comment we heard focused there.
We also had a large turnout from the unions representing blue collar workers serving across the City organization (including in Transit under the contracted management company and in our enterprise departments such as Tucson Water and Environmental Services). The message was clear—wages have flat-lined (despite the modest wage adjustments Mayor/Council passed in 2013). And I know the workers understand that, unless we can find a clear and sustainable source for any pay increases, the dollars end up coming from even thinner staffing levels and higher workloads.
Managing staff levels mirrors managing dollars because there are key choices and tradeoffs made to keep the budget balanced. Offer raises and pay for that by reducing staffing levels? Or risk high turnover as workers leave for jobs elsewhere in the region?
For the time being the City has absorbed the increasing costs of the benefits offered to employees (such as health insurance) and adopted a budget without any pay increases. Compensation/benefits and strategies for adequately staffing and effectively delivering our core services will be at the top of the list for our new City Manager. He and current Manager Martha Durkin will both be working with us to suggest the best approach and to evaluate potential new approaches (including my call for more regional intergovernmental agreements across the region, perhaps through the Pima Association of Governments, so all local governments can collectively save money through economies of scale and reduced admin/overhead/capital costs).
Charter Changes and the 2015 Election
Mayor and Council have now concurred that we will refer only the Good Governance Questions to the ballot for consideration by City voters this November. We will still have the financial questions to finalize for 2016 or 2017 referral (all agreed that must be done very clearly with specificity for voters) and future electoral questions that will be studied further by the Citizens Charter Review Committee.
We also agreed to consolidate the election with the County’s bond election (subject to good faith negotiation with the County). That means our voters will cast a single ballot in the General Election.
If you want to vote by mail in November, please follow this link to get on the County’s Permanent Early Voter List ASAP: https://www.recorder.pima.gov/pevl. It’s just a quick form you need to fill out and send in. If you need to register to vote, visit https://www.recorder.pima.gov/regvote.
The City adopted an all vote-by-mail system in 2011, and we made it clear we’ll be very reluctant to ever cede that system/approach again in the future.
Broadway Corridor
Mayor and Council also allowed for the design process to proceed subject to the alignment adopted by the Citizen Task Force and recommended by the Manager/staff. Businesses pleaded with us to proceed so they can finally have some certainty. The Office of Integrated Planning will keep a keen eye on the process and help manage issues as they arise related to the disposition of properties acquired (insuring adequate parking, ingress/egress etc. for structures/business that remain and multi-modal elements for pedestrians, bicycles and transit).
I’d also like to see a very overt discussion this year at the Mayor and Council, Rio Nuevo, and RTA tables about creating a Community Facilities District or other mechanism to extend rail and/or Bus Rapid Transit services on this corridor to the El Con Mall. The result would be improved functionality, economic and revenue growth (which can initially be harnessed for the needed capital investment) benefitting the Rio Nuevo District as well as the City, and heightened efficiency and service in transit. That’s just a few of the benefits we’d derive from a proactive effort now.
This vision can also be vetted through the transit planning process we started earlier in the year through PAG and facilitated by national expert Jarrett Walker. That regional partnership, underwritten with federal funding and a several private sector contributors (Bus Riders Union, Cox, AT&T, TEP, the UofA Drachman Institute, and more), could not be more timely as we shape the future of the corridor and our region. You can read the report from the recent Transit Choices Workshops at http://www.pagregion.com/documents/transportation/TransitChoicesWorkshop-2015-06-11-Report.pdf
On one last note about Broadway, the Sunshine Mile (as well as Ward 3's very own Miracle Mile) will make the New York Times this Sunday! The travel feature takes a tour through the Old Pueblo with discussion and great photos of our unique historic buildings and signs. Check it out here: In Tucson, an Unsung Architectural Oasis.
We Need Help
I really appreciated this recent Op ED piece in the Arizona Daily Star: Many Tucson Churches Tied to Service, Not Dogma. The community of compassion described is the same one which mobilizes through Caridad to provide meals for people in need at locations throughout the Tucson; the same one that opens many doors to homeless people on frigid winter nights through Operation Deep Freeze; the same one that provides dinner every night (with volunteers and donated food) to 100+ men at the Primavera emergency shelter.
We have not yet to find an adequate or appropriate response to the downtown “encampment” of homeless people. The behavioral health system cannot subject people involuntarily to inpatient care or substance abuse treatment, and our existing emergency shelter system has parameters aimed at promoting people’s progress (a goal that triggers requirements that can exclude some people with the need for simple, safe space to sleep). “Low demand” shelter and outdoor space (as Tim Stellar notes in his recent column: Shelter Shouldn’t Just Be for the Sober) remain needed elements within our community’s compassionate response to homelessness.
As an advocate working with Primavera years ago, I joined many others in challenging the criminalization of homeless people (and was arrested once for civil disobedience trying to block the demolition of an established camp on city-owned property along the Rillito). I was also right in the middle at Primavera as we stepped-in to try to find solutions when the city stood poised to close down the centralized Toole Avenue soup kitchen. In fact that struggle gave rise to Caridad.
What I learned then is that there a many reasons people end up with no legal place to stay and why they tend to coalesce often based on what’s available to help them survive. Further restricting public spaces without options will move folks from one place to the next, maybe dispersing them out of sight for a while. But unless conditions change, many will congregate once more for safety or familiarity or “convenience” (not much is actually convenient living hand to mouth outdoors). There’s also a national movement reminiscent of those decades ago (stemming from the Occupy movement) that will not sit still for the same old same old. Neither should we.
We need help. Passing more laws and ordinances can be the instinct of any government, especially when short on resources, creative solutions, and viable partnerships. But Tucson has and must again seek alternatives to that instinct as with Caridad, Operation Deep Freeze, the Sanctuary movement, and much more. Each and every time we have succeeded, the faith community has been a guide and a resource. Perhaps we need Operation Safe Space so that the Primavera, La Frontera, and Old Pueblo Community Services/VA outreach teams can bridge people into doors opened without lots of hurdles to simply provide safety for the night. Perhaps there are other humane responses not yet even imagined.
I do not support more ordinances or laws on the books that make it seem like local government is “doing something”. The city has the tools needed to keep parks safe and sidewalks open. That step will only escalate the organizing and the protests, which eventually obscure the real suffering of each individual outside who simply wants rest, safety, peace. I also do not support the idea that, because homelessness persists, folks can amass in one public place to create a camp/village, especially if that place does not have facilities (water, restrooms). This quickly leads to unsanitary, unsafe conditions and leaves city government culpable, liable, and, quite frankly, impotent in the face of reasonable public expectations as well as undeniable human suffering.
I support the call for safe space and we need help from our faith community and others to make that possible. My hope is that with continued leadership from Bishop Kicanas and growing involvement from congregations involved with Caridad, Operation Deep Freeze, Primavera, Sanctuary, and countless sustained acts of good will, we can offer safe space together. Knowing Tucson, we have every reason to believe we can and will get that done.
Thank you, Bennett!
Lastly, I’d like to thank Bennett Bernal for the time he spent with us at the Ward 3 office over the past several months.  Bennett’s enthusiasm and dedication to Ward 3 and our community are undeniable, and we’ve appreciated working closely together on some focused projects in Ward 3.  As he wraps up his time here in the office, I wish him well on his next adventures and know we will be crossing paths often.  


Ward 3 Events: 
Free Ward 3 Community Wide Movie Nights Fridays, June 12th  through August 7th at 7:30 pm in the courtyard of the St. James United Methodist Church, 3255 N. Campbell, just north of Fort Lowell. Join us for a movie for the whole family. Bring chairs or a blanket to sit on. Free popcorn!
Navajo Wash Clean-Up Saturday, June 13th from 7:00 - 9:00 am. Join your neighbors for the care and maintenance of the green space at the northwest corner of Hedrick and Mountain Ave.
Edible Neighborhood Tour Saturday, June 13th 9:00 am - noon. Begins and ends at the Ward 3 Council Office 1510 E. Grant Rd. Create abundance and beauty by harvesting what is otherwise wasted, and by setting priorities for our resources in Tucson. Be part of a discussion of the opportunities and take a short bike tour of the existing Edible Urban Forest in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Learn about:
                * Food currently wasted
                * Food that can be sustainably grown
                * Ways to transform Tucson into a Food Oasis in the Sonoran Desert
For more information, contact Tres English tres@SustainableTucson.org. Discussion and tour sponsored by Sustainable Tucson. Bring your bike, water and hat.
Silverbell Road Pre-Construction Open House Monday, June 15th 6:00 – 7:00 pm at El Rio Neighborhood Center 1390 W. Speedway Blvd. Council Member Karin Uhlich, Council Member Regina Romero, TDOT and the RTA invite you to a pre-construction Open House with TDOT staff and the contractor, Hunter Contracting, to:
                • Learn about the planned improvements
                • Meet and talk with the Construction Team
                • Find out about the construction schedule and traffic impacts
                • Talk with RTA’s MainStreet Business Assistance representatives
These improvements include widening Silverbell Road, between Goret Road and Grant Road, to a curbed four-lane divided roadway (2 lanes in each direction), to include a raised median island, bike lanes, a sidewalk on the west side of Silverbell, a multi-use path on the east side of Silverbell, drainage crossing improvements, LED street lighting, signal improvements at the Grant and Goret intersections, bus stop improvements, native landscape, retaining walls at the large slopes, and public art. For more info, visit www.silverbellroad.info.
Mountain View Farmers Market Wednesday, June 17th 3:00 – 6:00 pm at 3306 N 1st Ave. Fresh eggs and produce from our Ward 3 neighbors! Questions? Call Bill Crouse 520-884-9557.
Tucson Juneteenth Festival 2015 Saturday, June 20th 10:00 am - 9:00 pm at the Donna Liggins Center 2160 N 6th Avenue. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. and represents a very important milestone in American history, when our nation finally and truly became “the land of the free.”  Join in the celebration at the Donna Liggins Center for a day of fun, food, education, fellowship and entertainment. Everyone is invited! For more info, call 520-429-1724 or visit https://www.facebook.com/Tucson-Juneteenth-Celebration-521630407898433/timeline/
Coffee With A Cop Saturday, July 11th 10:00 am – noon at the Starbucks in Tucson Mall 4500 N oracle Road. Join your neighbors and police officers for coffee and conversation. No agendas or speeches, just a chance to voice your concerns and get to know the officers around your neighborhood.
City-Wide Events: 
World Refugee Day Celebration Tuesday, June 16th 4:00 – 9:00 pm at Refugee Focus 120 N. Stone, Suite 220R. Every year, countries around the world honor June 20th as World Refugee Day. Join Refugee Focus in celebrating our wonderful refugee community in Tucson – enjoy cultural celebrations, music, food, dance and more!
Downtown Links Open House Phase 3: Church Avenue to Broadway Tuesday, June 16th at Hotel Tucson City Center 475 N. Granada Ave. Doors will open at 5:30 pm., followed by a short presentation at 5:45 pm. Phase 3 of the Downtown Links project is designed and poised for Spring 2016 construction. Learn about landscaping, water harvesting and reuse, and recycling of existing materials.
                • Visit information tables; view maps & displays
                • Learn about project features
                • Meet the Downtown Links Citizens Advisory Committee, the project team & the public artists
                • Preview public art
Desert Harvesters: Guided Native Food-Tree Harvest Tours (Pre-Monsoon) Thursday, June 18th, 4:30 and 5:30 pm at 100 S. Avenida del Convento, West of I-10 at Congress & Grande. These short & easy-paced hands-on harvest tours are designed to show you how to:
                • Identify and sample from the best-tasting mesquite and other native bean trees
                • Harvest safely, ethically, and responsibly
                • Use cool tools such as the harvest hoe.
                • Plant seeds at the best time for the best bean trees (and other native perennial food plants)
4:30 pm: required sign up for walking harvest (tour begins at 5 pm)
5:30 pm: required sign up for biking harvest (tour begins at 6 pm)
Led by: Desert Harvesters members, including Amy Valdés Schwemm and Brad Lancaster. Cost: $5 to $10 per person (sliding scale).
All participants are strongly encouraged to bring sun protection (hat, sunscreen, sunglasses), and a reusable water bottle. http://www.desertharvesters.org/2014/10/24/desert-harvesters-guided-native-food-tree-harvests-and-plantings-june-18-2015-tucson-az/
Día de San Juan Fiesta June 24th 5:00 to 10:00 pm Mercado San Agustín 100 S. Avenida Del Convento. A traditional start of Tucson's summer, Día de San Juan celebrates the coming monsoon rain season and honors St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of water. Join a ceremonial procession and the blessing of an altar and enjoy activities including a charreada (Mexican rodeo events), performances by mariachi bands and folklorico dancers, as well as games and activities for children and families. Staged at the corner of Congress Street and Avenida del Convento, west of downtown Tucson, at the Mercado San Agustin retail and restaurant plaza. https://www.facebook.com/El-Dia-de-San-Juan-Fiesta-Tucson-AZ-208228845869696/timeline/
Changemaker Day Thursday, June 25th 7:30 am – 12:00 pm at Western Institute High School 1300 S. Belvadere Ave. Are you a young person wanting to do something fun this summer and trying to improve your resume for college? Join Western Institute High School for their Changemaker Day where you will go out into the community and volunteer around town! Call 520-615-2200 to sign up or for more information. www.thewesterninstitute.org
Tucson Queer Youth Summit Saturday, June 27th 9:00 am – 1:00 pm at City High 48 E. Pennington St. FREE and open to all youth grades 6-12, the Tucson Queer Youth Summit features workshops on zine making, poetry slams, activism and more as well as a brunch buffet and local queer resources/networking! Council Member Uhlich will be the keynote speaker.  https://www.facebook.com/events/431936963635992/
BCA Cross-Border Tours Saturday, June 27th. Join Border Community Alliance on this unique cross border tour that focuses on art and culture in Nogales, Sonora. For details and registration, please visit the BCA website at http://www.bordercommunityalliance.com/.
SAAF Screening of The Last One Tuesday June 30th at the Loft Cinema 3533 E. Speedway Blvd. A one-night only screening of The Last One. Doors open at 6:30pm and the film screens at 7:00pm. In the eighties and nineties, as the United States gay community was being ravaged by AIDS, families and friends of the dying fought a public battle to find treatment and understanding. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived “as a weapon against not only the disease but the cruelty and bigotry that the disease exposed,” according to one of its founders, Cleve Jones. Today the Quilt is a handmade testament to both the struggle of the early days of the epidemic and its continued impact today, as panels representing lives lost to the disease continue to stream in from all over the world. The Last One is a feature-length documentary that frames the quest to sew the last panel into the Quilt, representing the end of AIDS. Tickets are $10 ($8 for Loft Members) and all proceeds will benefit the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF), Aunt Rita’s Foundation, & the Loft Cinema.
Did You Know...?
Looking for a good walk? Check out the new pedestrian pathway on Tucson Boulevard north of Prince Road. Funded by a Transportation Enhancement grant (Federal money), it's a 6-foot-wide asphalt walking path that provides access to the Rillito River Walk where Tucson Boulevard terminates at the Rio Vista Natural Resource Park. All of this is in the RillitoBend neighborhood, formerly called Prince Tucson.
In keeping with the desert surroundings, the landscaping on the Tucson Boulevard Pedestrian Pathway includes robust cactus, agaves and boulders, some salvaged before construction and recently replanted with Drywater, a gel that slowly disperses moisture to the roots. TDOT will continue to water for the two-year establishment period. Water harvesting catch basins will help.
Note that this pathway is for pedestrians only, so there are prominent bike markings in the street. According to Tucson Code, "It is unlawful to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk or pedestrian path unless a sign says it is permitted." SEC.-2 (A)
Other enhancements under way in the Natural Resource Park include a labyrinth being constructed just off Cactus Blvd., a project conceived and led by high school student Lily Tiers. With just a little heavy equipment prep from Tucson Parks & Rec, all the labor and fundraising is being done by RIllitoBend neighbors.
You can end your walk in RillitoBend at Valley of the Moon (www.tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com), "the heart of magic in Tucson" since the 1920s. It's just been designated a Historic Landmark, the first in Tucson in 20 years.