Topics in this Issue:
- Be Kind
- Migrant Detention
- Gun Sales
- Neighborhood Yard Sales
- Some Homeless Items
- Cope Community Services
- Constables and Evictions
- Feeding the Homeless
- Complete Streets on Toole
- Move Tucson Ambassadors
- Cultural Asset Mapping
- Local Tucson
- Advance Directive Meeting
- Ball-Paylore House
- City of Tucson Services
- Events and Entertainment
Last week I had a piece on Greyhound Bus allowing Border Patrol onto their buses to ‘check papers’ of migrant passengers. The CBP folks had issued a statement saying Greyhound was not required to allow those checks. It was my position (and that of the ACLU and multiple advocacy groups across the Southwest) that Greyhound is making millions of dollars from this group of people, and to allow the on-bus I.D. checks was an unwarranted search that should be terminated. Late last week, Greyhound agreed to stopping the process. They will alert CBP, post notices on their buses, and educate drivers to the new policy. Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts on the issue with Greyhound. The collective voice has resulted in an appropriate response from the company.
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King is quoted as having said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Kindness matters. And showing Kindness in the seemingly small acts in our lives is what I try to demonstrate in these opening pieces of each newsletter. Last week, Ann and I attended the Tucson Urban League Drum Major Awards luncheon. It is their annual affair where they recognize the work of people in the community who are doing the work of serving others. This year’s honorees included two of my colleagues.
But the Be Kind is for the women at the reception table who went out of their way to find a seat for Ann and me. We had not registered correctly, and yet were escorted in despite our mistake. Congratulations to the award winners, and a big thanks for the Kindness we were shown by the two ladies who helped us in.
If you come to a large athletic event at McKale, you may see this ‘Lady’ walking around with her handler:
In fact, her name is Lady. She is one of the bomb sniffers who patrol the arena before events. The Be Kind is for her work. If you see her, approach and give her some love. Lady will not only receive it all but will nuzzle up against you and encourage you to give more. She’s a honey and does a great job of both sniffing for explosives and being a great P.R. advocate for the events.
I introduced you to Cassandra last year while we were still navigating migrant families through the Benedictine. She was very pregnant at the time and yet was bringing in hundreds of ‘blessed’ rosaries for the families. Well, since then she has had her baby, and is back teaching. Last week she and her class brought in just a few items for the needy who we continue to serve out of the W6 office:
Cassandra is teaching Kindness to her classes and the kids are clearly taking the lesson to heart.
Above, I mentioned the work we have been involved with – along with hundreds of you – at the Benedictine, and now at the Alitas Welcome Center. Taking in people who are fleeing persecution and abject poverty, feeding and helping them on their way to next of kin while they make their way through our legal process. I have also shown pictures, like this one, of detention facilities they are kept in before arriving to Tucson. Last week a Federal judge agreed with many of us in determining that those conditions are unconstitutionally inhumane.
I am in regular contact with the Alitas leadership, checking to see what is happening with the number of asylum seekers who are arriving at the Center. Last week was one of the slowest we have seen in literally years. This is not due to conditions in Central America having been resolved. It is because of the Remain in Mexico policy this administration has implemented. While some may feel shutting the door is a good thing, many of us find the practice inconsistent with the values on which our country was founded. And the federal court just affirmed that our Constitution matters in determining the conditions CBP can keep people in.
People are losing their lives in Central America from gang wars, starvation, and governmental corruption. We evidently did not learn our lesson from having turned away the S.S. St. Louis on May 27th, 1939. It carried 937 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. It ended up back in Europe where 254 of them were killed by the Germans. The Trump Remain in Mexico policy is costing people their lives. For those who do make it to our temporary detention facilities, our national values dictate we treat them humanely. That is not just my opinion. The federal court system just agreed.
Thank you to all of you who have continued to work with us on addressing the needs of this vulnerable group.
And while I have the Constitution on my mind, a thumbs up mention goes to State Representative, Randy Friese, and State Senator, Tony Navarrete. They’re sponsoring mirror legislation in the House and Senate that attempts to bring a bit of sanity to gun sales in Arizona.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
This is an AK-47:
You’ve seen them at the scene of plenty of mass murders. In Arizona, and therefore, in Tucson, you can buy one out of the trunk of somebody’s car in the parking lot of a shopping center for cash, with no questions asked about your criminal or psychological background. It is my belief that the framers of the Constitution did not have anything remotely close to that level of irresponsibility in mind when they crafted the 2nd Amendment.
Randy and Tony have Bills pending in the Arizona legislature that very simply say all gun sales must go through a licensed dealer – not out of the trunk of a car. Licensed firearms dealers must do background checks. Back when I was growing up, and when the NRA stood for gun safety, they agreed with that position. Now, not so much.
The Senate Bill is S1624. The House Bill is H2322. You might want to consider contacting the Legislature and offering your support of both Bills. In the alternative:
How about a change in focus – something uplifting.
We have two large neighborhood scale yard sales coming up in the next couple of weeks for those of you who like to troll those events.
First, on Saturday, February 29th, Garden District is hosting theirs. It will be scattered at multiple locations throughout the neighborhood. Garden is located between Grant and Speedway and between Alvernon and Swan. The multi-home sale will begin at 7 a.m. and will last until mid-day. If you drive through the area, you’ll see plenty of signs directing you to the sites. Or you can check their website after 5 p.m. the night before for the most up to date map of the sales. That site is www.thegardendistrict.org.
If you don’t find everything you are after at Garden, on Saturday, March 7th, you can head to Peter Howell neighborhood (PHN) and do some more looking. Peter Howell is bounded by Speedway and Broadway, and by Columbus and Alvernon. This event will run from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Instead of scattering the sites, PHN will host their neighborhood-wide sale at 4270 E. Holmes St. There will be lots of stuff to choose from, and the proceeds go to support the work of the neighborhood association. With one exception – one neighbor is donating half and half, between PHNA and Peter Howell Elementary School. Good causes – happy hunting.
Last week, Mayor and Council gave some direction to staff on a couple of changes coming to the City Recycle program. All of what we were discussing with respect to the program is framed by the $4 million we are losing on recycling now that the international market has fallen off the financial map. There is no heart on the Council to simply drop the program, as has been done in cities in Arizona. But we do need to make some changes to make what we’re doing more efficient. We began that change process last Wednesday.
One change is we voted to make the Every Other Week (EOW) recycling pick up a permanent policy. For the past few months, it was being tried as a pilot to see how people responded. In fact, the blue bins we are now picking up bi-weekly are nearly full, and we have not seen a drop off in tonnage being collected. When people have requested an additional barrel due to the amount of recycle material they’re gathering, we assess the request and, in many cases, have provided that barrel. So the EOW program is now moving ahead as a permanent change. It saves us fuel, labor, and wear and tear on the vehicles. And with fewer miles being driven, it is better environmentally.
Another change we formalized is our ‘3 strikes’ rule on contamination. This graphic shows where we stand in relation to other cities in terms of our recycle contamination rate:
That nearly 30% contamination rate means that about a third of everything we take to the Material Recycle Facility (MRF) is trash, not recyclables. It costs the City $400,000 per year to pay Republic Services to separate and dispose of the contaminated ‘recycle’ material. The ‘3 strikes’ rule is that if our drivers identify a residence that continually includes unacceptable material in the blue bin, on the third offense, we will remove the container. It costs us far less to just toss trash into the landfill than to recycle it – and adding on the contamination fee we are charged just adds to that differential. I have had the ‘do’s and don’ts’s’ of recycling in the newsletter several times. It is always available on the City website at https://www.tucsonaz.gov/es/residential-recycling. And we even have a phone app you can use - https://www.tucsonaz.gov/es/recycle-coach. There is no reason customers who are playing by the rules should have to subsidize those who are not. I support the application of the ‘3 strikes’ policy. If we reduce that contamination rate to 15%, we save taxpayers $400K per year.
We still have work to do. Those two changes will not bring the program to even a break-even financial point. If you follow this newsletter, you know I’ve been advocating to change how we collect and recycle glass. This graphic shows what a money loser glass is in our recycling program:
The parts of the graph that are below the “0.00” line are costs to the system. Above that line are revenues. You can see that glass is costing us way more than we’re getting for it – about $500K annually. That is why we need to reboot that part of the recycle program. While many cities are just dropping glass collection, I believe we can do better than that.
Crushed glass is sand. If you came to our meeting on Friday evening where we talked with staff and the City Manager about recycling, and glass in particular, you had a chance to see and feel the product produced by crushing bottles. In Tucson, we collect only about 43% of the glass that is consumed in the local market. The rest ends up in the landfill.
The City buys about 500 tons of sand per year. During every monsoon season, we give away over 20,000 sandbags full of sand we purchase. We pay about $4,000 per year for that sand. And we maintain about 20,000 sandbags on hand at all times for the City’s own use. None of the purchase of 500 tons of sand is necessary if we crush our own glass and create it for our own use. And it can be used for alley potholes, lining pipe trenches, mixing with concrete, and even just containment at the landfill. There are plenty of uses. The issues are how do we gather the amount of glass we need to make any of those uses doable, and how do we work with our current recycle vendor (Republic Services) to amend our current contract so we can remove glass from their contract. Since we are paying Republic for the part of what you see ‘below the line’ in the graph, we are covering the losses, not them. And they use those payments to offset some of their own operating costs. So, there are several pieces to the puzzle. Finding a use is currently not one of them.
During our meeting last Friday evening, we collected a lot of good ideas for how to implement a community scale collection program. Scattered, multiple sites is one. Focusing on commercial nodes such as downtown, South 12th Avenue, Miracle Mile and 4th Avenue – go to where the bars are – is another. Getting grocery stores to add a glass collection bin to what they are already doing with plastic bags is another. Send me your ideas. The Mayor and Council have asked to see a plan for how this can be done. We are not just removing glass from the blue bin part of the process until we have got that game plan thought out and approved. I am confident Tucson will lead on this and turn a local problem that every City in the country is facing into a responsible local reuse program that others can copy.
a) COPE Community Services
b) Constables and Evictions
c) Feeding programs
A couple of weeks ago, Diana, Ariel, and I attended a multi-neighborhood meeting that was hosted by TPD over at the Hardesty substation. The goal was to hear from residents about crime activity they were experiencing so TPD could use that information in deployment decisions. During the meeting it was suggested the clients at a nearby Cope treatment clinic were the cause of the crime in the area. Cope leadership was in attendance at the meeting, and in its aftermath offered this statement:
I believe 3 points made in their statement need to be highlighted. First, the community meeting I pulled together with the neighborhoods and TPD (and Cope) is now going to be a monthly focused meeting where we track the progress being made in terms of criminal activity in the area. It is a model we have in several other areas of town, and it works as long as everyone involved is committed to sticking with it and providing useful information when we meet. Cope is ‘engaged in the newly formed task force’ and will therefore be at the table both hearing and providing input at each meeting.
It is also important to point out that the work Cope does is to offer treatment that is aimed at helping people get back on their feet. From the Cope statement: “those actively in treatment have higher recovery outcomes and show improvement across socioeconomic factors.” The work they do tracks with the desires of the neighbors – if homeless people need assistance, living in alleys and washes is not where they are going to get that help.
Finally, TPD offered data, and Cope affirms it. Since they began operating in that area in 2015, crime statistics have decreased in the surrounding neighborhoods. It is not eliminated. It is decreased. And there is a caveat that was repeated multiple times not only in the recent meeting, but in pretty much every neighborhood meeting I attend where crime is a topic. The police only know what is reported. If residents feel calling is not going to make a difference, and therefore do not report ‘petty crimes’ or suspicious behavior, TPD can’t know, and that is not included in the data. Call 911, or call the non-emergency hotline for your area. You will not always get a cop showing up at your driveway within minutes following the call, but your input will be a part of the data set used by TPD when tracking ‘hot spots’ in the community. Clip this and post it on your refrigerator:
There are ten constables who work the Tucson and Pima County area. One of the many jobs they do is to serve eviction notices. As a part of the work we have been doing out of the W6 office, I had occasion to meet with one of the ten constables a couple of months ago to talk about how that eviction process works, or doesn’t, depending on your perspective. In many cases the answer is that the process is broken. At least three of the ten constables I know of want to implement changes that give people a fighting chance to avoid becoming homeless due to eviction.
One piece of the broken process seems to have been resolved. When we met, the lady I spoke to told me the constables were not getting notices of impending evictions until literally hours before the family had to leave the property. Working through the County Administrator’s office, they are now getting those notices about five days before the eviction is to take place. For the three constables I know and have been working with, they are now using that information to do some outreach and try to put options and resources in front of the people who are facing eviction. That’s giving people days to work on solutions, not hours.
The ‘solutions’ is the other part of the issue that has been broken. Based on conversations I have had with constables, and with our own housing people, we seem to have a game plan in place to at least help in addressing this piece of the challenge.
The City has vouchers we can use that are intended to defray portions of rent costs in our Section 8 housing program. As with all Federal programs, there are rules in place that guide how the vouchers can be used. Some of that is related to the quality of the housing. We don’t just put people into trash heaps – each housing option needs to be inspected before we can let a voucher be used for it. In the past few years, the City has not been handing out all of the vouchers we have available. Most of the reason is internal processes that need to be tightened up. And one of those is the time it takes to do the inspections.
Old Pueblo Community Services (OPCS) is one of our partners in the Tucson Pima Coalition to End Homelessness. OPCS is one of the non-profits we provide with emergency shelter vouchers. They’re also in a position to do inspections of proposed housing sites. During our last study session, I was able to get confirmation that OPCS can be used to expedite our emergency housing inspections, and they may hand out an emergency shelter voucher to one of our constables when a client is facing imminent eviction. If they need more vouchers, we should provide them from the stock we have that are currently going unused. Working in partnership with the constables who know of the coming evictions, OPCS to do the inspections and the City to provide the vouchers, we should be able to treat people with more compassion than what was the case a few months ago when I first began this exchange. All of the pieces are now in place. It’d be great to get the other seven constables on board with the program so even more families could be served with this level of compassion.
Earlier this month, one of our new Community Service Officers (CSO) posted a message on social media that sent all the wrong signals about how we treat the homeless in our community. While it got some play in the media, I haven’t seen any of them cover the factual explanation of our feeding policy.
First, it’s important to point out that TPD is not running around citing people for feeding the homeless. But we do have a policy on the books that outlines the manner in which feeding can take place. It is a public health and safety issue that we implemented as things got out of hand in the downtown core a few years ago. The policy was crafted in cooperation with the Pima County Health Department, our Parks Department, City Attorney, and TPD. It has been working fine. Nobody’s being busted for feeding a hungry person. But the policy has a legitimate intent and application.
The social media post implied that you cannot offer a homeless person food, or the City will come after you. I have no idea what the CSO who posted that was thinking, but that’s simply not accurate. Here’s what the policy actually says. It’s Tucson Code 21-4 (b)(4), in case you want to look it up in its entirety.
First, if the feeding activity is likely to attract more than ten people, we require you to get a permit. There is no cost for that permit if you’re giving the food away, and the permit can be renewed for up to a total of sixty days if no health or safety issues are developing associated with the feeding program. Our parks cannot become a free-for-all, so monitoring how the feeding is impacting a given area is a part of a balanced policy.
If the feeding activity is one that requires a Pima County Health permit, you have to show proof that you have got that before we issue the permit. For example, if you are handing out food you are preparing, the County has rules on how that is to be done. In those cases, you need to get that County approval. If you are just giving out pre-packaged food, no health permit is involved.
We do not require a permit if you are distributing free water or free food on certain holidays. And if the event is say, a birthday party in one of our ramadas, you do not need a permit. The policy only applies when food is being given out to the general public.
When we amended the Code in 2015, we actually made distribution of food easier than it was beforehand. Facts matter. The permit requirement existed prior to the 2015 changes. That requirement was for distribution of food to even fewer than ten people. Ensuring the distribution is not resulting in unsanitary public health conditions – for the good of the recipients, and for the beneficial use of our parks by everyone – was a reasonable addition.
Out of respect for our homeless population, people legitimately reacted to a poorly conceived social media post. Local media should do a better job of studying an issue before reporting and feeding the misinformation.
We are at the front end of adopting design standards that will guide roadway design and construction. I have written a bunch about Complete Streets. Using those kinds of design components, Toole Avenue will soon get a Complete Street/Complete Facelift, courtesy of the great partnership our Transportation Department has with the folks over at Rio Nuevo. We want you to be a part of the early planning effort.
On Saturday, March 7th, from 10 a.m. until noon, we will be hosting a planning discussion specifically geared towards getting public input on what elements you would like to see considered for the Toole upgrades. The meeting will take place right around the corner from the Arts District at our Park Tucson conference room at 110 E. Pennington St.
The streetscape enhancements will take place between Congress and Stone, on Toole. If you’d like to provide your input through our on-line survey, use this link: www.tucsonaz.gov/tooleavesurvey.
On a similar note, we are recruiting for Street Ambassadors. They will be heading out across the community gathering input from residents on what they would like to see in our mobility master plan, Move Tucson. It is based on sort of a peer-to-peer contact where our Ambassadors will be greeting people on the street and collecting their thoughts.
The program will run from March through June. Street Ambassadors be collecting surveys, as well as handing out information at various community events. The commitment is for about three hours per week during that twelve week period. And there is a required three hour training meeting that will be held from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, March 14th. There is a stipend involved – you won’t be doing this for free.
In order to become a Street Ambassador, you need to be a City of Tucson resident. It is preferable that you’re bilingual, but not required. You need to be comfortable approaching people with the survey. And while you don’t need a planning background, we will certainly like it if you are excited about the Move Tucson and mobility planning process. That is what you are helping gather the information to support.
Use this link to the nomination form if you are interested, or if you have people you would like to suggest: https://bit.ly/2Hfbrjo. The nominations are due by Sunday, March 1st.
When you think of ‘cultural assets,’ what goes through your mind? Here’s a hint – the list is not limited to the built environment. In fact, in a recent presentation of a program that is about to begin, this slide was included. You can see the items of cultural importance is pretty open-ended.
A project is coming out of the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA) that you can get involved with. In fact, they want you involved. The project will enlist residents from around the community in helping to identify local cultural assets. Those assets will eventually be included in a phone app that will document places, groups, and events identified through the input received from the outreach.
The app is going to be designed in collaboration with neighborhood volunteers. It’s a ground-up effort. If your neighborhood gets involved, you will receive the status of Designated Campus Colleague, which will allow you access to the app, The goal is to map elements of neighborhoods that make them unique on the app.
There will be a meeting on Wednesday of this week to roll out the program and begin signing up volunteer Designated Campus Colleagues. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the small conference room at El Banco (Pima Community Housing Center, 801 W. Congress St.). If you can’t make that meeting, but would still like to sign up or would just like more information about the mapping effort, contact Helen Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s Local Tucson item is the upcoming El Rio Neighborhood Center health and safety fair. The El Rio Neighborhood Center is located over at 1390 W. Speedway. The fair is being conducted in partnership with our Parks Department and the UA College of Pharmacy.
They are going to have free screenings that will include blood pressure, cholesterol (my # has gone from 271 down to 198), vision, osteoporosis, diabetes and more. The health information is for both kids and for adults. And they will have activities for the kids as well as the health stuff.
The fair will be held on Saturday, February 29th from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Everyone is welcome. You can check it out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/elriohealthfair/.
Don't forget to pre-register for the Our Family Services Advance Directive workshop they will be presenting in our community room on March 24th. It will run from 6 p.m. until probably 7:30 or 8 p.m., depending on the size of the group and how many questions get asked.
Having your papers ‘in order’ is an invaluable benefit to those you will leave behind. You are not too young or too old to come and get that process started. Call to register at 323-1708.
In closing, last week we began the public process of adding one more structure to our list of Historic Landmark (HL) properties. We have several – perhaps the most noteworthy recent addition being the Benedictine Monastery. On Wednesday, we started the rezoning process for a house that is located on the 2300 block of East Waverly – the Ball-Paylore House. This is one of the early construction drawings for the place – note its unique shape:
It was built in 1952. The original owners sold it to the Koffler family, a former UA President. It is now owned by the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation and will be used for visiting lecturers, likely who will be coming to speak on the importance of preservation. This is what the interior looks like today:
The rezoning process is just beginning. I suspect we will be popping some sort of cork when it is through and Ball-Paylore is formally added to our HL list. I’ll let you know when that event happens.
Council Member, Ward 6
The City of Tucson incorporated our 'city services cheat sheet' onto their main page. If you click "I Want To" on the city website (where you're reading this) you'll find information on many city resources, from contact numbers and emails for environmental services, water, how to report graffiti, codes, and more. We will continue to work with IT to keep this section updated, and the google doc distributed will no longer be updated as things change. You are completely still welcome to contact us directly at the Ward office if you’d like some help navigating the system.
Saturday, February 29
Tucson Peace Fair & Music Festival
ARMORY PARK, 222 S 5th Ave, Tucson, AZ
Arizona's largest gathering of peace, social justice and environmental groups is free and open to the public.
Saturday, February 29
Native Nations Day at the Presidio Museum,Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum, 196 N Court Ave, Tucson, AZ
The Tucson valley has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. Today we will celebrate Native American heritage through crafts, food, and lectures during this presentation for all ages.
Arizona State Museum, 1013 E University Blvd | www.statemuseum.arizona.edu
Arizona Theater Company, 330 S Scott Ave | www.arizonatheatre.org
Children's Museum Tucson, 200 S 6th Ave | www.childrensmuseumtucson.org
Fox Theatre, 17 W Congress St | www.FoxTucsonTheatre.org
Historic Fourth Avenue, See Facebook page for weekly events: https://www.facebook.com/events/2343613065903248/
Hotel Congress, 311 E Congress St | hotelcongress.com
Jewish History Museum, 564 S Stone Ave | www.jewishhistorymuseum.org
Loft Cinema, 3233 E Speedway Blvd | www.loftcinema.com
Meet Me at Maynards, 311 E Congress St | www.MeetMeatMaynards.com
A social walk/run through the Downtown area. Every Monday, rain or shine, holidays too! Check-in begins at 5:15 pm.
Mission Garden, 946 W Mission Ln | www.missiongarden.org
A living agricultural museum and ethnobotanical garden at the site of Tucson's Birthplace (the foot of "A-Mountain"). For guided tours call 520-955-5200
Raices Taller 222, 218 E. 6th St | Fridays and Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm | www.raicestaller222.com
Rialto Theatre, 318 E Congress St | www.rialtotheatre.com
The Rogue Theatre, The Historic Y, 300 E University Blvd | www.theroguetheatre.org
Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, 414 N Toole Ave | www.tucsonhistoricdepot.org
Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way | www.tucsonbotanical.org
Tucson Convention Center, 260 S Church St | tucsonconventioncenter.com
Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N Main Ave | tucsonmuseumofart.org
UA Mineral Museum, 1601 E University Blvd | www.uamineralmuseum.org
Watershed Management Group, Living Lab 1137 N. Dodge Blvd. | www.watershedmg.org
Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson, 2130 North Alvernon Way | www.yumegardens.org