Paul's Ward 3 News and Updates
Friday, January 8, 2021
News and Updates
Pet of the Week
Ward 3 Neighborhood Association/Coalition Meetings
Ward 3 Events
City Wide Events
Did You Know?
Ward 3 News and Updates
Dear Ward 3 residents and friends, we wish you a strong and healthy New Year. Council Member Durham and the Ward 3 staff look forward to continuing the work that we have engaged with you and the new projects and ideas that we will generate together in 2021. The optimism and good cheer that normally accompanies a new year, have been darkened in the first week of January. The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a fundamental symbol and institution of our American democracy, was an affront to all Americans, regardless of allegiance to a political party or philosophy. We stand in opposition to the individuals and groups who choose to undermine our democratic values.
Today was the 10th anniversary of the horrific January 8th shooting in Tucson. It serves as a reminder of how important it is to come together as a community and to work toward civility.
In addition, the rising COVID infection numbers are alarming. This week Arizona saw some of the highest numbers recorded anywhere. In this week’s newsletter we bring you those sobering numbers. But there are too positive developments as Pima County ramps up its delivery of vaccinations.
Lastly, we say goodbye to Assistant City Manager Albert Elias who served his home town for more than 35 years and we welcome the new executive director of Literacy Connects, based in Ward 3, whose longtime director steps down.
Farewell to Albert Elias
Monday was a bitter-sweet day as the City of Tucson wished a happy retirement to a long-time dedicated employee. Albert Elias received a warm, virtual send off by several dozen city employees, former employees and his wife, Sarah Elias.
Albert was emotional in expressing his appreciation to his co-workers on his final day on the job. Since he joined the City in 1984, the University of Arizona graduate and Tucson native worked in various departments and was department director for Transportation, Planning and Housing and ultimately finishing his career as Assistant City Manager. He was lauded for the many major city projects that carry his imprint. But what was his first job? He was an entry-level planner, answering phone calls and reviewing applications for basic licenses.
“Your work paved the way for the City’s downtown revitalization, the creation of the RTA, the construction of affordable housing, design of Plan Tucson, the passage of several bond projects, and the development of the Sun Link streetcar, among other achievements,” said City Manager Michael Ortega, reading from a proclamation signed by Mayor Regina Romero and City Clerk Roger Randolph.
Albert Elias celebrating the opening of the Sun Link streetcar.
Albert grew up in Armory Park, the second child to Alberto M. Elias and Viola Banes Elias, both Tucson natives. He attended the former All Saints-Cathedral Catholic School and Salpointe Catholic High School. His older sister, Ana, was a public school speech therapist/educator and his late younger brother, Richard, was County Supervisor for District 5, which includes part of Ward 3.
His family has long roots in Tucson stretching back to our colonial Presidio era. His great-grandparents Francisco Moreno and Rosa Elias Moreno established in 1915 El Tucsonense, the landmark Spanish-language newspaper that reported on the successes and challenges of Tucson’s growing Mexican-American community. It folded in the early 1960s. Albert’s father operated for many years Old Pueblo Printers downtown on South Stone Avenue, the same shop where El Tucsonense was produced.
Albert Elias and his late brother, Richard Elias
Albert reminded the participants that when he joined the City, it was more than a new job for him. Something more important came to him. He attended a new employee orientation where he met his future wife, Sarah, who also was a new city employee. Albert said he always tells new City employees that they’ll never know what good fortune will come when they join the City.
Mayor Romero, one of the speakers in the virtual retirement celebration, lauded Albert’s love of community and commitment to Tucson, values passed onto him by his family. Other speakers spoke of his dedicated mentorship to fellow city employees, his selfless sharing of his time with any and all who sought out his assistance and of his calm, unflappable demeanor in the face of challenges and crises.
“Your influence on our City’s progress is due to your versatility and strong leadership,” City Manager Ortega read from the proclamation. “You represented Tucson nationally in the Rose Center Fellowship program, working in partnership with other cities to create sustainable, healthy, and affordable communities.”
Former Assistant City Manager Albert Elias, on the left, with Ward 3 Council Member Paul Durham and Ward 5 Council Member Richard Fimbres.
City Manager Ortega ended the proclamation with the words: “Your dedication and commitment to our City, our people, and our future is deeply appreciated. Your influence will be remembered, your presence greatly missed.”
In a round of joking, the Zoom participants predicted how long it would take until Albert tuned into a Mayor and Council meeting. He said it will be a while before he does. But Albert did promise that he would remain committed to his city.
He’s retiring but not disappearing, he said.
Literacy Connects Coming and Going
After nearly 20 years of leading efforts to improve literacy efforts across Tucson, Betty Stauffer will step down as executive director of Literacy Connects based in Ward 3. But the programs that were born and grew during her tenure will continue to be nurtured and expanded by the non-profit's new director, Tucson-born Matt Tarver-Wahlquist.
“They are big shoes to fill,” Matt said of his predecessor.
Yes, however, Matt will fill those shoes and then some.
“I think it was his depth of nonprofit experience, his smart questions and his calm, confident demeanor, and his passion for improving lives and communities,” said Betty, listing the reasons the board of directors selected Matt as her successor.
Matt became executive director on Dec. 1 and immediately immersed himself in the organization, acquainting himself with the staff, the organization’s programs and community partners. To make the transition smoother, during this pandemic, Betty remained to work with Matt. Her final day will be Jan. 15.
While the pandemic posed challenges it also presented Literacy Connects with opportunities to continue its educational programs and, in some cases, lead to greater success.
“It has forced us to learn new skills by adopting more technology and open up the possibility of reaching more people,” said Matt.
Literacy Connects, located at 200 E. Yavapai Rd. in the Amphi neighborhood in a converted church and school with nearly 15,000 square feet, offers adult basic literacy, English-language instruction for adults, reading enhancement for children and young students, Spanish-language high school equivalency preparation classes (GED), and an arts and literacy program, Stories That Soar!, that encourages young people to express themselves through words and arts.
These programs and efforts, said Matt, provide people opportunities to expand and enrich their potential and give them confidence to succeed. But because of the economic fallout from the pandemic — workers losing their job or wages cut, children losing school time or dropping out — there were challenges. To overcome those obstacles, the staff at Literacy Connects adopted and adapted new methods to deliver learning programs. The staff focused on how best to deliver its literacy programs virtually. Already there are signs that the demand for learning remains and is even growing. The adult Spanish-language GED classes have grown to accommodate more people, all of whom are learning remotely, some of whom live in other communities in Southern Arizona.
Matt returned to his home town with his wife, Charn Coonan and their two young sons from San Francisco where Matt had worked for nearly 20 years in the non-profit world. Matt and his wife wanted to raise their sons in the desert ringed by mountains but he had no job waiting for him. He knew, however, that he wanted to continue to work with a non-profit organization whose mission aligned with his values.
When he discovered the impending departure of Betty, he believed he found the right match. He was attracted to Literacy Connects’ reputation, mission and a staff that fosters a culture of collaboration.
That culture evolved over the years under Betty’s leadership. She came to Tucson from Cleveland and in late 2002 she was appointed director of Literacy Volunteers of Tucson. In 2011, after several years of discussions and meetings, the organization and four other literacy support groups formed as Literacy Connects to provide a more focused and stronger collective to provide literacy programs that span from early literacy to adult literacy. With the support of Tucson’s residents, organizations, businesses and government, Literacy Connects now has an annual budget north of $2 million and reaches a greater number of people.
The organization also works hand in hand with other non-profit groups, including Habitat for Humanity and the International Rescue Committee to contribute to the Amphi neighborhood.
Critical to its success and future growth, Literacy Connects relies on its 1,000 or so volunteers who sustain the organization, who celebrate it, and who help children, young people and adults make that transformation through learning and reading. To become a volunteer, go to this site. If you can make a tax-deductible contribution, click here.
Matt is confident that Literacy Connects, it’s staff and the people and families it serves will come out stronger in the pandemic’s wake. It will take a community-wide effort to enhance people’s learning English and improving their reading skills, all of which are directly tied to creating a stronger Tucson, socially and economically.
“Our services will be needed more than ever,” Matt said.
Arizona is Number One (In COVID Cases)
But, not in a good way. We learned on Monday that Arizona was outpacing all other areas, both nationally and globally, in the spread of COVID-19 cases.
Not surprisingly, this has put further pressure on our hospitals. TMC and Banner have both called off elective surgeries as a consequence. Additionally, Dr. Cullen shared with Mayor and Council on Tuesday, that we are witnessing significant backlogs in the ERs. Dr. Cullen shared that early in the week, 90 people were waiting in the ERs to be admitted.
In addition to an acceleration in cases, we are also seeing an increase in local deaths. In total, Pima County residents have experienced 75,000 positive cases and over 1,100 deaths.
But there is good news. Tucson has been selected as a site for implementing monoclonal antibodies (IV) as a COVID-19 treatment via TMC. We are the second location after El Centro, CA to be selected by US Health and Human Services to provide this promising treatment.
On the vaccination front, even though national news regarding the handling of immunizations has raised important alarm bells, our Pima County Health Department remains positive and on track. As a community we are still in Priority 1A. That means CVS and Walgreen’s are providing vaccine shots at long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities as part of a federal contract, and TMC and Banner are providing vaccine shots to medical workers. As of Tuesday, Pima County had been allocated 65,000 vaccine doses, 47,000 have arrived in Pima County and 20,335 vaccine doses had been administered.
The County Health Department could likely transition to 1B (seniors 75+, essential protective services, education and childcare workers) around January 18.
We know many of you have questions regarding when you will be able to be vaccinated. Our Pima County Health Department is rapidly bringing on distribution centers for group 1B vaccinations. There will be a list where you can sign up to be vaccinated if you meet the 1B criteria. This is the website to check for new information.
Many of you have heard about the unemployment benefits and one-time stimulus checks that were included in the 2021 Congressional spending bill. What you may be less aware of are the additional COVID-19 relief dollars that are heading to states and, in some cases, to cities. Here are some highlights that the City of Tucson is tracking closely:
CDC Eviction Moratorium Extended to 1/31/21
$25 Billion in Rental and Utility Assistance (Arizona will Receive $485 Million)
$638 Million for new Federal Low-Income Water/Wastewater Emergency Assistance Program ($638 Million)
$22 Billion for COVID-19 Testing, Tracing and Mitigation
$54 Billion for K-12 Education; $22.7 Billion for Higher Ed
$10 Billion in Loan Forgiveness for USPS
$7 Billion in Broadband Assistance
$20 Billion for Vaccine Purchase and $8.75 Billion for Vaccine Distribution
These additional supports will be critical to mitigating the negative impacts of COVID-19. To be clear, the support is not as broad as what Congress made available through the Cares Act which was passed last spring. More assistance will likely be needed as local jurisdictions stretch to provide administrative resources to coordinate vaccine distribution and mitigate the negative economic impacts that so many households are facing.
Of particular importance to Ward 3 constituents is how we will work together to best administer these rental and utility assistance funds to keep Tucsonans in stable housing.
Rental and Utility Assistance
Here’s what we know now regarding the $25 Billion COVID relief for rental and utility assistance. The City of Tucson recently applied to receive its eligible allocation for the new Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. These funds will provide for the payment of rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs, and utility and home energy cost arrears on behalf of eligible households. The estimated amount of funding that could be made available to the City of Tucson is $16,370,886. We expect to receive confirmation and funds soon.
We will bring you additional information on rental and utility as well as eviction prevention efforts over the next few newsletters. Please stay tuned.
Transit Mask Policy
If you are a frequent reader of the Ward 3 newsletters you know the current status of the COVID-19 situation. Because of its severity, at this week’s meeting the Mayor and Council adopted a new policy for transit users and operators.
All transit riders and bus operators are required to wear a mask or face covering. The use of the face covering must comply with CDC direction for proper use, meaning it must snugly cover the nose and mouth.
The adjustment made this week requires that if an employee or customer cannot medically tolerate a mask, they must use a face shield as a reasonable modification. Sun Tran/Sun Link will provide face shields to employees and will make face shields available at transit centers. Sun Tran already provides masks for riders.
Due to the nature of COVID-19, the failure to follow these procedures poses a health threat. Therefore, if a customer does not wear a face mask, face covering or face shield they will not be permitted ride. If an operator chooses not to wear a face mask, face covering or face shield they will not be permitted to work.
Sun Tran – Sun Link Hiring Fair
Sun Tran and Sun Link are hiring and will host a job fair tomorrow, January 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the administrative offices, 3910 N. Sun Tran Blvd. (near Prince Road and Interstate 10). Full-time employment with a competitive salary and excellent benefits. Sun Tran is looking for bus drivers.
A Commercial Driver License (CDL) is not necessary to apply for the bus driver position, but Sun Tran will provide a $250 hiring bonus to those who already have a valid CDL. Job seekers should bring identification and be prepared to fill out an application at the job fair.
You can learn more here.
Pet of the Week
Oh, Frank. What a gerbil! Frank is a huge music lover and enjoys most genres. Except yodeling. Yodeling is not his thing and will actually cause him great distress. If you are not a yodel-enthusiast and are looking for just a cool gerbil to jam with, Frank is your gerbil!
You can find Frank at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
To adopt Frank you can start by filling out the adoption application and contact the Humane Society to set up a meet and greet.
Ward 3 Neighborhood and Coalition Meetings
10 am-12 pm
Meeting ID: 815 0946 1188
Alvernon Grant Initiative
Zoom – Email firstname.lastname@example.org for link
Ward 3 Events
Ward 3 Neighborhood Series
Registration is now active for the next two sessions. Please join at the links below.
January 21 at 5:30pm
Session 6: E-Newsletters
February 4 at 5:30pm
Session 7: COVID Compatible Events
16TH ANNUAL GREASE COLLECTION AND RECYCLING EVENT THIS WEEKEND - Start off the new year right by taking your leftover holiday grease to the 16th annual Grease Collection and Recycling Event. Six collection sites including the Ward 3 office, will be open to accept fats, oils, and grease stored in containers this Saturday, Jan. 9, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD) reminds you that these items from your kitchen should never be poured down the drain. They can be recycled into biodiesel, a cleaner-burning fuel. Follow the links below for more information and drop-off locations. To ensure the volunteers and community participants remain safe during the pandemic, you're asked to wear a mask when dropping off grease containers. You can also take grease, fats, and oils to the City of Tucson's Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program. Follow the HHW link below for the address and hours.
Pima County Protect Our Pipes/Grease Collection
Pima County RWRD
Pima County Protect Our Pipes/Grease Collection
Pima County RWRD
City Wide Events
Public meeting on zoning regulations regarding medical and adult use marijuana
The City of Tucson Mayor and Council have directed staff to update Tucson’s zoning regulations related to marijuana dispensaries in light of the recently passed voter initiative (Proposition 207, Smart and Safe Arizona) to allow adult use marijuana.
Attend a public meeting to learn more about the voter initiative to allow adult use marijuana, the existing regulations for medical marijuana, and potential amendments to the Unified Development Code (UDC) related to both medical marijuana and adult use marijuana, and share your feedback and suggestions. More information is available here.
Meetings will be held virtually on Monday, January 11 at 12pm and Tuesday, January 12 at 5:30pm.
Did You Know?
Glass Reuse Plan
EGSD is hosting three Virtual Town Halls for residents to learn more about the glass reuse program. The town halls are open to the public and will be over Zoom.
Here is the schedule:
Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 @ 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 @ 10 a.m.
Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 @ 6:30 p.m.
Council Member Paul Durham is on Social Media!
Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMPaulDurham/
Follow us on Twitter: @CMPaul_Durham