Friday, April 24th, 2020
Pet of the Week
Ward 3 Neighborhood Association/Coalition Meetings
Did You Know?
This week I’ve shared some highlights from the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and a recently opened Ward 3 small business as well as updates on new transit and transportation improvements. Of course, we are not thin on COVID-19 related updates either. You’ll find information on small business needs and supports, information on how staff and residents at Tucson House are responding to keep their elderly and disabled residents safe and healthy (and how you can support that effort), updates on anti-eviction resources, senior resources and our phased approach to reduce physical distancing.
Wednesday was the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. There are a number of environmentalists, including yours truly, who were alive during that first Earth Day. We remember the reasons why there was a call to both acknowledge the challenges caused by environmental degradation and to take appropriate actions.
We know that we have not done enough over these last 50 years. We must work diligently to make sure the next 50 years on Earth remain habitable for our younger generations. While the City of Tucson remains laser focused on ensuring Tucsonans make it through this pandemic, I also know that my constituents have been asking that Mayor and Council do more to respond to the climate crisis.
Since I joined Mayor & Council, the City of Tucson has added 27 out of 49 sites with solar installations across the city and we have increased the solar power on city facilities by 245%. We increased the solar power generated from 14 MW to a total of 23 MW. We currently have 13 sites under construction or in closeout (3 MW) and 10 additional sites to be scheduled (2 MW). Total savings of these projects is expected to exceed $450,000 in the first year.
Last year I also helped move forward the adoption of a revolving green energy fund to help the City of Tucson to reduce our dependence on non-renewable energies for our internal operations. The benefit of this program is reduced consumption, reinvestment in city facilities and a method to implement cost savings projects that don’t have to impact project costs directly and increase the sustainable systems in city facilities.
I helped bring electric buses into our Sun Tran fleet (read more about that below) and we are preparing to pilot the technology here in the City very soon. I’ve also worked closely on moving our City of Tucson fleet toward electric and hybrid options. We are seeing steady movement in that direction.
This Tuesday I put forth a resolution, with Mayor Romero’s support, encouraging the Arizona Corporation Commission to adopt a Clean Energy Goal by 2050. It passed unanimously. Quite frankly, clean energy by 2050 is the minimum that is needed. The 2050 date is what is on the table right now at the ACC. It is my hope both that we can ultimately achieve that goal more quickly and while achieving strong renewable energy benchmarks along the way.
In the more immediate future, the City of Tucson will develop a Climate Action Plan to identify the most ambitious, with the largest return on investment, goals that the City of Tucson can reach to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, we are looking to increase the amount of methane we are recovering at Los Reales Landfill for reutilization. We are also working to create a composting program that will be available to residents and based at Los Reales.
I am working to try and learn how we best balance the demands placed on the City of Tucson by the pandemic and our very real need to mitigate climate change. In light of the significant loss in revenues that the City of Tucson is and will experience over the coming year, our path forward will have to adjust. I will continue to look for projects that are able to provide a cost savings while reducing our dependence on non-renewable energies.
The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) has awarded the Tucson Department of Transportation and Mobility (DTM) $7.8 million in funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). The goal of the Federal-aid program is to significantly reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.
The DTM projects include five miles of new street lighting, 10 Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (HAWK Signals) and traffic signal upgrades at 62 intersections. Design work on the projects are scheduled to begin in Fall 2022, with the improvements slated to begin in Fall 2023.
The projects that will impact Ward 3 and surrounding areas are:
· Three miles of street lighting on Country Club from Grant Road to 22nd Street.
· New HAWK locations at Fort Lowell Rd & Balboa Ave, Grant Rd & Edith Blvd and Wetmore Rd & Neffson Dr.
These are welcomed improvements. We will keep you up to date with the traffic signal upgrades once we have gotten more information.
Real Time Sun Tran Information
Sun Tran has developed a real time bus locator which will allow riders to see where their bus is in real time. This will allow riders to plan their trip with greater accuracy.
Above is a screen shot example of the interface. Shown here is the Route 19 which is along Stone Ave, an important stretch in Ward 3.
Public transit service continues during this time but with additional social distancing requirements and significant=ant drop in ridership as Tucsonans limit their travel to essential trips. Once we are passed the COVID 19 emergency and social distancing has come to an end, I hope you are able to find this tool
While we shelter in place to limit the impact of a global pandemic, one of the few silver linings is the drop in carbon emissions. Tucson’s primary source of emissions comes from transportation. That means that while a drop in gas sales negatively impacts our Highway User Fund Revenues (which funds our much of our transportation services including road maintenance), a decline in gasoline use for vehicle miles traveled has a very positive impact on the quality of our air and on our Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
I’ve written in this newsletter many times before about the City of Tucson being awarded a $2.6 million grant by the Federal Transit Administration through the Low or No Emissions program to purchase 4-5 electric buses. Those buses are currently on order from the manufacturer, GILLIG. The Low or No Emission competitive program provides funding to state and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities.
In early March, the City of Tucson submitted an application for $4.7 million to purchase five more electric buses. I was happy to write a letter of support on behalf of the City’s application. We have not learned if we will be awarded the grant, but I will keep you updated.
The FTA produced this short video
about the program. Please check it out if you would like some more information.
The Arizona State University School of Social Work, a Ward 3 partner in the Thrive in the ‘05 initiative, has initiated a 3-prong initiative to provide services to the more than 400 residents who live in the city-owned Tucson House. Most of the residents are elderly or have disabilities and have little income.
The first is the Tucson House Wellness Checks and Social Calls. More than 60 volunteers, many of them college students, are contacting the residents to check on their physical and emotional health. During this isolation period, the emotional well-being of people can be difficult to maintain. More so for Tucson House residents, many who live alone and can not have visitors. Volunteers are needed.
Another action is the Reach AZ helpline. This warm helpline is for older adults and people feeling lonely or isolated during this time, residents of Tucson House and anyone in Pima County can call 1-833-REACHAZ (732-2429), M-F, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to connect with someone to talk about what they are going through and to get more information on vital support services offered in Southern Arizona. The helpline will be launched next week, beginning on 4/27. This effort is a collaborationof the ASU Office of Community Health, Engagement and Resiliency with the UArizona Center on Aging and the College of Public Health. Volunteers, especially bilingual speakers, are needed and will be trained. Please email email@example.com
if you are interested in more information or becoming a volunteer.
And the third is called HelpingHands Care Boxes. Household and personal hygiene products are being collected, boxed and distributed to Tucson House residents. Volunteers are needed as well as donations of items and money to buy supplies.
Lastly the Tucson House residents need masks. If you can sew or buy masks, please consider donating them to the residents.
Thank you Ward 3 residents. You’re awesome!
Ward 3 Small Business
We all know how difficult it is for our Ward 3 small businesses, those that have managed to remain open, to survive during this stay-at-home period. But imagine opening a restaurant when Tucsonans are asked to stay at home, if at all possible, to stem the COVID-19 virus.
Let me introduce you to Chef Juan Almanza who did just that. The chef opened El Taco Rustico at 2281 N. Oracle Rd., just south of West Grant Road last month. He started up less than a week after the city declared a local emergency and ordered many businesses to shut down and for restaurants to close their dining rooms.
Cynthia Almanza, daughter Mara Samantha and Juan Almanza
The chef’s story is one I would like to share with you because it shows the fortitude and resiliency that many of Ward 3’s residents and business owners have in these days of social distancing to preserve public health.
The chef said he that as the crisis grew he had the opportunity to withdraw from his lease commitment but he decided to stay the course. “This (the crisis) is going to pass,” he said.
Almanza is well known among Tucson’s taco lovers and foodies, including some of the city’s top chefs. For four years he operated a popular taco stand at the Tohono O’odham Swap Meet, on the city’s southwestern corner. His fans flocked to savor his various seasoned meats. But the chef had long dreamed of opening his own brick and mortar restaurant. His loyal customers also encouraged him to do so.
As it turned out, Almanza and his family lived behind the Ward 3 restaurant which was home to Café Marcel. Late last year he found out the restaurant and the kitchen equipment were for sale. He and his wife Cynthia decided to take the plunge.
They signed the lease and by March 2 the Pima County Health Department issued Taco Rustico its license. Initially, Almanza wanted to take it slow. He planned to continue operating the taco stand on the weekends while working out opening kinks at the restaurant.
Then the swap meet closed on March 18. Almanza said he had no choice than to forge ahead with the restaurant which he opened on March 21.
“I started from scratch,” he said.
Opening a new restaurant is daunting at any time but opening one during a pandemic when people are quarantined at home and eating out less is beyond daunting. Still the chef is full of steely optimism.
He said his customers from his taco stand are discovering his new location. Local media attention has helped spread the word. And some of his biggest boost has come from fellow chefs who have helped him create a new website and create a marketing plan, the chef said.
Almanza, who immigrated to Tucson with his wife from Mexico in 1993, said he likes the challenge.
The chef said that he and other local restaurants can ride out the storm if Tucsonans order take out at least once a week. He said Taco Rustico can survive if at least 25 customers a day order their favorite tacos, quesadillas, burros, tortas and sopes.
Taco Rustico is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s telephone number is 520-623-3478. Find the menu here.
Chef Almanza has the faith that Tucson is strong and will emerge with new-appreciation of its local businesses. I share his faith.
The State of Local Business
As you know, The City of Tucson’s Economic Initiative’s office is providing information on additional funding streams for our local businesses. As part of this effort, they have also launched a local business survey to make sure they are able to respond to our small and medium-sized business owners’ needs. You can take the most recent survey in English
or in Spanish
Here is some of what we’ve learned so far from our first web-based survey of more than 380 businesses.
96 businesses reported being closed
48% were forced closures
Majority are still able to receive a majority of the supplies/services they need to operate
Majority are still able to deliver/ship goods and services
38% changed their employee count due to COVID-19
More than 80% are paying their employees even if unable to work
85% report decreases in weekly revenue
62% do not have standing lines of credit
22% could make it 4 weeks before closure
14% could make it 12 weeks before closure
Biggest concerns: Financial Impact on operations (67%), decreased consumer confidence (55%) and global/US recession (49%)
24% say they will make permanent reductions to their workforce in next 3 months (between 1 and 50 people with one respondent suggesting 90 people could lose their jobs).
The top needs identified by businesses are employee resources and assistance referrals.
The results are sobering but also indicate that our small businesses are doing their part to provide for their workers. The City of Tucson and Congress are working to provide additional sources of funding for these businesses.
Small Business Relief - City of Tucson Resiliency Direct Loans
I shared with you last week that Mayor and Council were considering an additional small business no interest loan program. I’m happy to share that it passed unanimously.
The eligibility requirements for small businesses, sole proprietors, 1099 contractors and 501 (C) (3)
nonprofit organizations to participate in the City of Tucson’s Resiliency Direct Loan program are summarized below:
1. Applicants’ place of business must be located within the Tucson city limits and meet the
have a valid City of Tucson business license, if required
have an existing business bank account or willing to establish
businesses and nonprofit entities must be registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission and be in good standing
sole proprietors and 1099 contractors must document their status by submitting
2. Applicants must be locally owned and operated; franchises are eligible if listed on the SBA franchise registry and locally owned; national corporate owned chains are not eligible.
3. Businesses must have fewer than 50 employees (FTE) Loan Terms:
maximum loan amount of $50,000
10-year term with flexible repayment options, including no payments for the first 6 – 12
loans can be used for Working Capital (payroll, rent, utilities, etc.), Marketing, Inventory and Equipment
no prepayment penalty
no collateral required for loans under $25,000
Applicants can apply for the Tucson Resiliency Direct Loans at www.BDFC.com
Fourth Federal Relief Package
At the drafting of this article, Congress has passed a $484 billion COVID-19 relief package. The bulk of the bill, $310 billion, is to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP is a loan/grant program that is designed for small businesses (less than 500 employees) to apply for a loan to ensure they can keep employees on the payroll. If businesses maintain their current payroll commitments then the loan converts to a grant.
The bill also contains $75 million in assistance for hospitals and healthcare providers. $25 billion is allocated to increase COVID 19 testing as part of a national strategic testing policy that will focus on increasing domestic testing capacity including testing supplies. For more information on the PPP and other funding options for small businesses please visit the City of Tucson’s Economic Initiative Office
(and be sure to check out the additional small business supports under “City Wide-Events”).
Governing During COVID-19 – Stay at Home, Anti-Eviction and Support for Seniors Updates
Stay at Home Order
There’s been a lot of discussion about when various parts of the country will be ready to move toward “reopening” the economy. In reality, we need to understand this as a phased reduction in physical distancing restrictions and, per the guidelines from the White House last week, is based on public health metrics. Below is a helpful one-page guide developed by Pima County earlier this week that demonstrates what is needed to enter into Phase 1 and what criteria we have and have not yet met.
What is missing from the criteria is testing of asymptomatic cases. I think this is a major blind spot. In short, we must increase our ability to test all symptomatic cases (which we currently are not able to do) and then reach the point where testing can be wide-spread for all. I want you to know that the City of Tucson is doing everything possible to get us there and the current relief package (reviewed above) may help us reach that goal sooner precisely because there can now be a unified national testing strategy.
I’ve shared with you over the last two newsletters some tools to help prevent evictions. Making sure that all Ward 3 residents have the tools needed to safely stay in their homes is a priority for me and my staff during this time. It’s important that residents know that the Governor’s executive order does not stop all evictions and only postpones those where the resident notifies the landlord about their loss of income due to COVID-19 and has supporting documentation. Even if you are protected by the Executive Order, your unpaid rent will be due in the future. You can find more information related to this on the Ward 3 website
You can find resources to avoid an eviction on the Ward 3 website
. I’ve also shared (and you can find it on our website) information on how to apply for rental assistance through the state to avoid an eviction caused by loss of income from COVID-19. Here’s a quick rundown of that information.
If your friends and neighbors do not have a computer, they should:
Press 8 for COVID-19
Pick a language, press 1 or 2
Press 5 for Eviction Prevention
NOTE: Applicants who are able to complete an online application are urged to do so, in order to free up the 211 line for applicants who do not have access to a computer or the internet.
All others needing regular rental assistance (situation not caused by COVID-19) must use the regular HOTLINE Number 520-724-3667 between 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Mon thru Fri.
As regular readers know, my office prepared 4,000 bilingual fliers that include resources to prevent an eviction. These handouts were shared with families whose children were picking up meals at Amphi and Flowing Wells Unified School Districts last week. We are ready to do this again and provide them to other organizations as needed. Let us know by responding to this email if you would this flier either digitally or in hardcopy to share with your networks.
Support for Seniors
My office will be working with various City of Tucson Departments to get some simple and important information out to seniors in our community. One of the things we know is that seniors who do not have internet access are very vulnerable to isolation right now. Having dependable phone numbers available where they can get accurate information is critical.
If you are a senior who is looking for a safe way to connect with other seniors, the AARP community connection line is available at 1 (888) 281-0145.
If you are a senior in need of direct services, Pima Council on Aging is here to help. Call the PCOA Helpline at (520) 790-7262.
Protect yourself against COVID-19 related scams. If you think it’s a scam, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network at 1 (877) 908-3360.
If you have a neighbor or relative who is a senior living alone, please be sure to check in on them. You can even print out the information above and write a note on it with your phone number and tape it to the mailbox. There are lots of ways for us to reach and connect with each other right now. For those who our digitally-isolated seniors, this is more important than ever.
Stay home and stay strong.
- Paul Durham
Pet of the Week
According to the staff at PACC, Bella is an affectionate girl who loves all things pets, scratches and belly rubs. She was found as a stray and lived with another dog for a while before coming to PACC, but she needs to meet any existing dogs before moving into a new home. Bella really loves to be around people, she’s crate trained and housebroken. The person she lived with before coming to PACC said she loved to be petted for a half-hour every morning and night, and she has the unique habit of chewing on her toenails (contortionist, or just trying to do her part to save you both the drama of a nail trim?). You decide!
Please complete an adoption survey at www.pima.gov/adopt
and staff will contact you in the order interests are received. If you are not contacted within the next 48-72 hours, Bella has already been adopted but feel free to continue to look for other pets!
As most of you may know, social distancing is a priority at this time and so PACC has a new way to adopt and foster animals at the shelter that involves making an appointment.
To Be Contacted For An Adoption Or Foster Appointment, fill out the dog or cat survey below:
Ward 3 Neighborhood Association/Coalition Meetings
Due to COVID-19 regularly scheduled neighborhood associations in Ward 3 have been cancelled until further notice or you hear differently from your neighborhood association.
If your neighborhood association is meeting remotely and would like to have the information provided here, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
and let the Ward 3 office staff know. The same email can be used if you would like assistance in setting up a meeting remotely.
Webinar: Navigating the Impacts ofCOVID-19 for Small Businesses Part VI
Join the City of Tucson Office of Economic Initiatives for this free webinar Monday, April 27th, from 3-4 pm.
Learn how to access Kiva Tucson's community-backed, no-interest, no-fee business loans, get the latest information on Federal funding availability, and get a first look at the Tucson Resiliency Fund recently authorized by Mayor and Council.
Webinar Series Part I - V are now available at ConnectTucson.
Did You Know?
Wi-Fi service is now activated in every public library from 6 am-10 pm. The libraries will remain closed but people will be able to sit in their car or within close proximity to the library and access the internet services (password: pclibrary) The password is case sensitive.
The library has also made an Infoline available to answer questions and help find accurate and trusted information on a wide range of topics. Library staff is available to support English and Spanish speaking customers.
The Infoline can be reached at 520-791-4010 Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm.
Iskashitaa Refugee Network is still harvesting fruit from local trees to prevent food waste and increase food security! Food is given to refugee families and food banks. There is more need now than ever.
Iskashitaa harvesters practice all the recommended COVID practices to ensure that no virus is transmitted. Homeowners do not need to be present during harvest.
Since all fruit donations are given away, financial contributions to support Iskashitaa operations are greatly appreciated.
Food Bank Has Online Map For Those In Need
With many people seeking food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona offers an online map of where to go for those who need help. The Food Bank has locations in Tucson, Marana, Amado, Green Valley, Nogales, and a few other locations. You can find a link to the map below.
Pima County Offering Low-Income Home Repair
Pima County's Home Repair Program for Children and Their Families provides limited-time, grant-funded home repairs and energy-efficient improvements. Applicants must live in unincorporated Pima County, including the City of South Tucson, and the towns of Marana, Sahuarita, and Oro Valley. The residence must be pre-1978 site-built housing. No mobile homes or manufactured housing are eligible. Income limits apply. Repairs can cover roofing, plumbing, electrical, weatherization, and other areas. Applications are available in English and Spanish.
How Arizona Workers Impacted By COVID-19 Can Access Unemployment Benefits
According to the Governor’s website, the fastest and easiest way to apply for unemployment assistance is online at www.azui.com
anytime between 12:01 a.m. on Sunday through 6:00 p.m. on Friday. Individuals without Internet access should call 1 (877) 600-2722. Hard copies of applications are also available in the documents center (UB-105 Arizona Initial Claim for Unemployment Insurance) at www.azdes.gov
A step-by-step guide on the application process and what information is needed can be found here.
More information about unemployment benefits from DES can be found here. A FAQ fact sheet can be found here.
For information on job openings ARIZONA@WORK staff can provide people with no-cost job assistance to help them get back to work. More information about the services available and a list of jobs with immediate openings can be found at: www.ARIZONA@WORK.com.
Council Member Paul Durham is on Social Media!
Ward 3 has Facebook and Twitter pages so you can keep up with our Council Member and stay in touch with what's happening in Tucson and around the Ward.
Follow us on Twitter: @CMPaul_Durham