I hope that everyone had a happy and safe New Year’s Eve celebration.
I want to express my thanks and appreciation for the opportunity to serve as your Councilmember for Tucson’s Ward 5.
It has been a pleasure serving with and working with my colleagues on the Council, as well as the neighborhoods, businesses in the Ward and in the City of Tucson.
This year, I had the privilege of serving as your Vice Mayor. I was selected by my colleagues to serve in this post, helping the Mayor, when necessary, and representing our great City.
The work continues to bring Tucson through the dark economic tunnel that we’ve been in. This had been the worst economic time our community has faced since the Great Depression.
When I was sworn into office in 2009, I got the message voters sent in terms of what was needed, reforming city government, economic development and creating jobs.
Over the past six years we have accomplished much of this, drawing new businesses to Ward 5, helping other businesses expand their operations, annexing property and fighting to ensure that barriers to economic development are addressed, averted and that doors for new businesses are open.
This past year, Ward 5 has seen a tremendous amount of investment from business. The Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce had praised my efforts to make Tucson more business friendly.
I’ve worked hard to bring changes to the process to set up shop and to be able to operate in our city, including the Certificate of Occupancy, streamlining of the development process, approving the biggest commercial annexations of land in 15 years and the most area for our city and adopted a proactive approach from my office in assisting businesses to open up or move into Ward 5.
In this past year, some of the things we have seen in Ward 5 included:
The $75 million dollar construction project beginning on the Home Goods Distribution Center in the Ward. When completed next year, HomeGoods will hire an initial 400 employees and when at capacity, 910 people will be employed. This will have an economic impact to our community over more than $830 million dollars. The HomeGoods Distribution Center received the Metropolitan Pima Alliance Common Ground Award for the development and collaboration to bring this to our community;
The construction of the new, Fed-Ex Ground Hub in Ward 5, with an additional 160 new jobs being added to their payroll;
Expansion of the workforce at VXI Tucson and Costco, by 150 and 50 jobs respectively;
CAID Industries expanded their operations with another 30 positions bringing their total to 82, with an average salary of $62,000;
Cinemark Theatre building their new, 14-screen theatre at the Bridges between the Costco and the WalMart Supercenter;
The completion of the Kino Parkway/22nd Street intersection improvement and overpass, which was also acknowledged by the Metropolitan Pima Alliance with a Common Ground Award for the project;
Annexation of land in and surrounding the Tucson International Airport, plus a new lease agreement with the Airport Authority, that has the option to annex the entire facility;
The successful, second annual, Kidz Expo, sponsored by Arizona Bilingual, where 2,000 young people received backpacks and other school items;
Tucson’s Post Office and Processing Center, known as Cherrybell, is still open and off the closure list (for the moment). This marked the fourth year that Cherrybell was open after it was deemed to be closed in 2011 by postal service authorities. I want to thank our federal and state officials, who have worked with us so far in this effort;
Tucson’s Rodeo Parade Committee holding its 90th annual event, the largest, non-mechanized parade in the United States and get ready for the 91st in 2016;
Sun Link getting its 1-millionth rider two months ahead of projections;
Dedication of the new public entry way at the Los Reales Landfill;
Working with the barrios and neighborhoods in dealing with the situations at Santa Rosa and Santa Rita Parks and assisting the Tucson Raiders Youth Football Program in their efforts to find practice fields, and being honored by the Raiders for the Ward 5 offices advocacy on their behalf;
Handing out more than 2,000 thank you cards to veterans at the V.A. Hospital over the Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day Weekends;
Emceeing and hosting the second annual Knights of Columbis/LULAC Veterans Tribute Dinner at the Knights of Columbus, Council 1200 in Ward 5;
Approving a concept plan for the Broadway Corridor transportation project; and
Helping the Humane Society, AWASA and volunteers, with the 48 hour, free spay-neuter MASH event at Los Ranchitos School, for which 850 dogs and cats were spayed and neutered, plus another 500 dogs and cats received vouchers to get spayed and neutered. If a cat or dog had not been vaccinated, they received the shots needed at the event and through the voucher effort too. A total of 1,350 animals and the owners were helped.
This year the Citizens Charter Review Committee, that I helped to bring forward the proposal to form, drafted two charter proposals that were forwarded to the ballot (mayoral parity and ending department directors civil services protections) and were approved by voter by overwhelming margins. There is still work to be done with the 1929 document to bring it into the 21st Century.
In 2015, it was great to get final approval by Mayor and Council on the “Ban the Box,” dealing with the city’s employment application and giving an opportunity for those reentering society. My years of experience with the Sheriff’s Department showed that this was an important issue. Later in the year, Pima County also passed a similar ordinance.
This past year, more roads and neighborhood streets being repaired in Tucson under Proposition 409, for which the work is under budget and ahead of schedule, so that more streets and roads are being worked upon. It was reported by the Arizona Daily Star, that the city was bumped from the worst roads list. There is work still be done and we strive to make our roads better.
In 2015, interim City Manager Martha Durkin and Police Chief, Roberto Villasenor said farewell. Martha Durkin and Roberto Villasenor are two community servants that will be missed and for which I want to thank for the commitment to Tucson.
Tucson has a new City Manager, Mike Ortega, for which I have had the opportunity to work since July 1, and is bringing his ideas and proposals forward on making the city government better.
On January 19, Christopher Magnus becomes the next Chief of Police for the City of Tucson. I will be meeting with Mr. Magnus and look forward to hearing his proposals and discussing his plans for Tucson Police. We are blessed to have one of the best law enforcement agencies in the country.
One of the awards that I had received in 2015 was the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans “Champion of Social Security,” Award, for my efforts for senior citizens in my Ward and the fight to keep the Cherrybell Post Office open.
This past year we have had many successes and faced many challenges. During my time as your Councilmember I have not seen a good budget for the City of Tucson. In 2009, just eight days after being sworn into office, the City Manager informed the Council the City faced a $33.5 million dollar budgetary shortfall.
I’ve dealt with budget deficits ever since and the Mayor and Council has balanced those budgets with the help of the staff from the City Manager’s Office.
The City faces challenges for the upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2017. This past month, the City Manager began discussions with the Mayor and Council about the budget and the city’s priorities.
One of the biggest challenges for the City budget is the public safety personnel retirement system situation (PSPRS), for which Tucson Police and Tucson Fire are a part of. PSPRS is overseen by the Arizona State Government and which mandates how much cities and towns in Arizona are to contribute to PSPRS, as well as the public safety employee.
The Arizona Legislature had passed legislation, making changes to PSPRS. The cities in towns, Tucson included, had made changes to their contribution rates for PSPRS as stated by the new state laws passed.
A total of three lawsuits were filed by employee groups for which two had been successful in court and the Legislature is expected to lose the third lawsuit as well.
The result of the two lawsuits warranted cities and towns to make a bigger contribution. Tucson paid and additional $18 million into PSPRS for the current fiscal year and for next year’s budget, the City will have to pay an additional $27 million in the upcoming fiscal year budget.
Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega stated that the City will be facing a projected budget deficit of $40 million dollars for Fiscal Year 2017, which would start on July 1.
As I did last year, I will be hosting a community forum on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget with city staff so that the Ward 5 neighborhoods will have the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns about what city services they should be providing and what needs to be looked at further. Your feedback will be important.
Another year has passed and we’ve seen successes and challenges, new businesses open and new issues arise, people we’ve worked with leave and new individuals coming on board. My staff and I have been working hard to improve the quality of life for all in our great city. My staff truly have been a lantern of hope for folks needing help.
Happy New Year
Richard G. Fimbres
Your Ward 5 Councilmember