Topics in This Issue:
- Minneapolis – Honoring George Floyd
- Refugees and Asylum Seekers
- COVID-19 Data
- Housing Vouchers
- Support for Families, Small Businesses and Non-Profits
- Community Share
- Poverty and Urban Stress Survey
- Local Tucson
- Broadway Widening
- City of Tucson Resources
As of last Friday, 464 health care workers in Alabama’s hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices have tested positive for Coronavirus. This image is of one of their outdoor testing sites. I’m pretty glad that I don’t have to wear a hazmat suit to come to work.
A doctor’s union in Brazil that has 3,000 members says they’ve had 150 of their doctors come down with COVID-19, 5 of whom have died. This is an ICU unit in Brazil:
More on our local COVID-19 situation below, but please understand that this is not behind us. I was on a virtual Conference Call with Dr. Robbins from the UA and one of his comments was “we’re not seeing the social distancing with our students (at off campus bars) that we want to see”. Correct – and even if you’re a young person who may not die from it, your behavior can result in infecting vulnerable members of your family, our community, or the health care workers who’ll be busy saving your life.
Thanks to all of you who work in that field. Know that there are many of us in the community who continue to be grateful for your work.
On Saturday, Diana, Ann, one of Diana’s sons and I spent the better part of the day downtown helping to clean the mess that had been created by protesters on Friday. The Be Kind is for Audrey – she kicked off the idea, and we ran with it. It’s also for my staffers who carved out time to paint and run errands in the 100-degree heat. I’m proud of my group. Others can provoke. We’ll just pitch in and help.
During our morning, we reached out to many of the business owners who we represent in the downtown core, asking their permission to do what you see in the image. Every one of them was eager for the help, and the Schwabes came down with water and food for the volunteers who joined us. We had people from the Star, Sundt, and owners of the Access Building, Penca, AC Marriot, Fired Pie, Cadence, Charro Steakhouse – and people who just wandered up and asked if they could join in the work. Dan Marries from KOLD stopped by. So did Dave Fitzsimmons from the Star. Some UA fine arts students showed up. Our artistic talents probably didn’t impress them much, but they understood the spirit behind the effort and were happy to lend a hand.
These guys stopped by to help as well. We appreciated their commitment to the downtown businesses they work to protect. I think he needs to keep his day job, though.
On Sunday, when my bride and I drove through the area to check on damage, this guy was busy putting finishing touches on our handiwork. We appreciate his involvement, too.
Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘a riot is the language of the unheard’. The Be Kind art we spread around downtown is also the language of the unheard. We really have to come together. Our local businesses are not the enemy. They’re struggling to hang on already. I’ll have more on the George Floyd issue below, but breaking up our business community and standing in front of police lines and inciting crowds is counter-productive.
This week’s update on Hill Bailey’s Drive Thru for Tucson’s Front Line includes La Mesa Tortillas on Broadway delivering 100 meals to St. Joseph’s Hospital for lunch last week. TPD was also the beneficiary of eats from Louisiana Cajun and Guero Loco BBQ. MIdtown TPD was taken care of by Ciao Bella Pizza. Their fund raising continues in support of health care workers and first responders. It supports our still struggling restaurants as well. Here’s the link to get involved:
https://tinyurl.com/s8jkrk4. This supports local business, and local heroes.
Jen O. also gets a Be Kind this week. Jen lives in midtown, over on 1st Street. Her project has been to plant in her front yard one poppy for every person who has died from COVID-19 in Pima County. At last count she said there’s ‘something like 167’ poppies honoring our lost community members.
It’d be great if we put her out of work, but as you’ll see in the COVID-19 update below, we’re heading in a different direction. Jen will continue to have her work cut out for her – and her neighbors will be the beneficiaries.
I ‘cut my teeth’ on the ‘60s. All the whippersnappers on my staff will have to look those days and events up in the history books. Geez, that’s even hard to write.
Or maybe they won’t. Maybe all they have to do is turn on the evening news. Not the History Channel, but the nightly news. We see scenes of the mistreatment of our black neighbors in ways that should have been relegated to the past. Indeed, it’s present and accounted for, and it needs to stop.
Last week, Nikki Lee and I sent out a Release that speaks to our joint outrage at the events that triggered the street protests. I know our Police Chief agrees that the actions of the Minneapolis cops are inexcusable. I know every one of the TPD officers I work with understand that actions from across the country negatively affect our ability to continue the great community policing and relationship building we’ve been doing so well for the past several years. Here’s the release I sent out with Nikki. It speaks pretty much for itself.
The events that took place downtown on Friday night began peacefully, and then escalated. There were 4 arrests – one for 2 felony counts of Aggravated Assault on a Peace Officer, and 3 for Obstructing a Thoroughfare. The crowd size ended up at around 400. TPD had to pull in officers from across the City, ending up with about 175 gathered to help manage the crowd. There was extensive vandalism, dumpster fires, broken windows and damage to a cop car. In addition to the rocks and bottles that were thrown, there were shots fired from near the protest. Multiple people were observed to be openly armed.
After we were all in bed on Saturday, there was more senseless violence. As was the case on Friday, people in the crowd were armed. There was more damage to private property. I’m sure our experience, and the events that took place up in Phoenix, worked together to cause the Governor to institute a week-long 8pm curfew. To be clear, that does not mean you cannot go outside after 8pm all week. It means the police have a tool to use for groups of people wandering around intent on doing damage. These exceptions were drafted into the announcement:
There’s some really ugly stuff going around in the social media world. I don’t pay attention to it. It’s sad that we’re so divided now. It’s like tribalism – we can’t disagree without hating. My hope is that Tucson rally’s behind the groups who are working to find solutions, and not those who are intent on dividing.
Our work with refugees and asylum seekers didn’t end when construction started over at the Benedictine. Although the number of people crossing the border seeking asylum has diminished, those who are here, in both Tucson and in Phoenix, are among those suffering job loss due to the pandemic. Many have been working in the hospitality sector where job loss is severe. Many of the people who lost jobs didn’t qualify for unemployment insurance or any of the Federal stimulus money.
The group “We are all America” has put together a refugee emergency fund. Their fiscal agent is the United Way, so it’s legit. The funds they gather will provide direct cash assistance to refugee and asylee families who are suffering right now due to COVID-19 related losses. I know there are needs all over our community. This is a group that’s falling in the ‘assistance crack’. If you feel you can help, you can check out the campaign through this link:
As you know, there’s a move to open up businesses and other activities in States across the country. If science is for real, that may well cause us to take a step back in the progress we’ve made with Coronavirus. Arkansas is an example. On May 1st they had 29 new cases reported. On May 29th, after having opened up a couple of weeks earlier, they had 239 new cases reported. The results of Arizona reopening won’t be known until the virus has had a chance to infect, spread and manifest.
Nationwide, historic death patterns from one year to the next are fairly stable. The NY Times reported that in recent years there are about 7,500 American’s who die daily on a typical summer day. This year, starting in mid-March, deaths have surged to over 10,000 per day at the peak. This graphic shows the trend pretty clearly.
The phrase the medical people use for those above-average deaths is ‘excess deaths’. From March 15th through April 25th, Arizona experienced 400 excess deaths. This graph shows the Arizona experience, with ‘excess’ being the orange space above the red line.
Yet, the Governor said we’ve been making progress and our number of infected is where he’d like it to be in order to justify the reopening. If true, that should be reflected in the data being collected by the Arizona Department of Health Services. I share these maps each week. This is the map showing the number of COVID-19 cases by county from two weeks ago:
And these are last week’s numbers, provided by AZDHS:
The comparison of the raw numbers from two weeks ago:
Compared to last week:
I take these snapshots on Sunday afternoon. It’s likely that by the time you read this, Arizona will have topped 20,000 cases.
Per the CDC, reopening is supposed to be based on 14 straight days of decreasing numbers. That’s not happening in Arizona, or in Pima County. On May 12th, Ducey began the process of gradually reopening the State. The numbers jumped around a bit, but look at the last three days of May and you’ll see the decision to reopen may have brought with it the beginning of a resurgence.
We’ll know more in the coming days. Please don’t get lazy with wearing your mask and keeping safe distances from others. I believe we’ve done as well as we have because so many people followed the protocols. Others maybe not so much:
We are not out of the COVID-19 woods. Please continue wearing a mask when in public places, limit the number of people with whom you’re in direct contact, and social distance. Epidemiologists refer to ‘herd immunity’. That’s the point at which so many people have become immune to a disease that the virus can’t any longer find enough new bodies to infect, so it dies out. In Arizona, we don’t have enough widespread antibody testing to be able to accurately compute how close we are to the target of 60% immune. New York City is our poster child for infections. They’re at just under 20%.
Arizona and Pima County in particular aren’t anyway near even the 20%.
You can track the State data every day at www.azdhs.gov or just wait for the newsletter. While you’re waiting, please follow the guidelines. It’s too easy to lose focus and get comfortable again. The result might be more unpleasant the second wave through.
Please, when you’re riding on any of our transit systems, use a face covering of some sort. That’s for Sun Tran, the Streetcar and for Sun Van. Our drivers, and your fellow passengers deserve that level of consideration.
Our Housing Department is focused on finding housing for 250 families by the end of June. Due to the Coronavirus, even people who have a housing voucher to help defray some of their rent are having a tough time finding a housing unit. If you’re a landlord or a potential landlord, we would love to hear from you as we make internal process changes in an effort to expand our Section 8 housing supply.
Several months ago, I convened a meeting that included City and County housing people, along with landlords and representatives from our local multi-family housing authority. We explored many of the impediments to retaining landlords. Our Housing folks are now implementing some of what we heard. I’m hopeful the proposed changes will help with the supply issue.
Some of the changes include waiving non-health and safety inspections, increasing the amount of rent support we can provide, ensuring payments within 30 days of having a contract issued and even helping tenants with covering their move-in costs. If you own rental property, please give us a try. There are thousands of people right here in the community who are waiting for good housing. To get involved, please either call or email to Gwen Nesbitt. Her number is 837.5348 and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put Operation Lease Up in the subject line.
Last week we voted to approve the use of our CARES money. The vote for the proposed allocations was 4-3. I was in the minority. It’s unfortunate to see some of the ‘winners’ in the vote framing it as a vote either for or against working families. As I said during the meeting, the CARES money is very simply Federal emergency relief that we are supposed to be using to cover our operational deficits first. If we have funds left for other causes following that, great. Coronavirus isn’t going away based on our fiscal year start, so we have to be careful with how we spend it. That’s not for or against working families. That’s just being prudent with the taxpayer’s money. Because of the tenor of that exchange, I’m not going to lay a bunch of numbers on you. It’ll all come out in the wash as we work through our budget issues.
Instead, I want to share the positive news of our having unanimously allocated $5.5M from the CARES grant to fund families, non-profits and small local businesses. The allocation is broken into three different parts, each with its own application process. It’s important to note that each of the allocations requires recipients to be provided the funds based strictly on COVID-19 related needs.
The ‘Workers and Families’ allocation is going to be managed through the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona. We’re providing $3M. The grant awards will be limited to not more than $1,200 for families, and not more than $700 for individuals. The WFSA will be reaching out to community-based organizations to help kick start the allocation/application process.
The small business funding is going to be run through the YWCA. We’re putting $2M into this program. In this case it’ll be the YWCA who administers the grant program, not community-based organizations. The awards will be one-time grants of up to $10K to each eligible business. Each recipient must be operating within the City of Tucson. Each recipient will need to document the need for emergency financial relief. All of that will need to be based on COVID-19 related losses.
We’ve given $500K of the CARES money to the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona for providing assistance to local non-profits. These grants will be made to non-profits who operate either within the City of Tucson, or in the City of South Tucson. The maximum one-time award will be $20K. As with the other two components of this $5.5M funding program, recipients will need to demonstrate they’re providing the funds to support COVID-19 related needs.
There are lots of needs out in the community. I’ll continue to support our use of the CARES money in ways that both meet those needs but are consistent with our responsibility to you for putting together a structurally balanced budget. We can’t do it all, but we’ll do what we can.
While the City is working in support of the needs we see out in the community, another group is formed to do the same, and to do their outreach using the skills our friends and neighbors can bring to the table. Community Share is connecting teachers and students with others from our region who bring real-world experience into the teaching environment. They compare it to being a ‘human library.’
The Community Share program involves connecting industry and business leaders, arts and culture professionals, and technical trades and skills to our teachers. The skills being brought into that learning environment will be used to help provide instruction that’s based on the actual experiences and knowledge the Community Share partners bring to the table. It’s about making school relevant to the kids. How better to do that than by bringing the real world into the teaching environment.
Look at their website and decide if you might have something to offer. The site is found at https://www.communityshare.us/. Teachers, students and parents are all struggling with how to maintain a great learning process during the COVID-19 shutdowns. There will continue to be learning and pedagogical challenges as we move back towards in-person instruction. Community Share is one tool you might want to consider as a way of using your unique talents to help during these tough times.
Our very own Alison Miller, former Ward 6 staffer, now foster-mother of two puppies is heading up the Housing and Community Development effort to gather feedback on the new Poverty and Urban Stress report. It’s really a data hub that has several interactive maps that you can use to look into individual neighborhoods and pull out data related to income, race, education, crime, age, employment, and a bunch more. It’ll be a tool we use for future planning, and importantly for making grant applications.
You can look over the report through this link: https://poverty-and-urban-stress-cotgis.hub.arcgis.com
Plan on spending a few minutes with it, exploring the various maps and links within each map. The report contains a lot of information. What Alison is after is input as to both how the report is formatted, suggestions on how it might be made more useful, and if you have thoughts on other data sets that might make it a more valuable tool. She needs your input by next Monday, so budget a little time between now and then. If you have questions, you can reach Alison at email@example.com. Here’s the link that takes you to the survey.
This week’s Local Tucson item is our Mom’s Demand Action June event. It’s the annual Wear Orange event. This year it comes with a couple of twists.
Orange is always our theme color. It’s the color hunters use for safety vests. The idea is to send a ‘be safe with guns’ message. One of the changes is that in addition to orange, this year a theme will include red. That’s to honor the unsolved murders involving indigenous women. If you’re not aware of the significant issue that is, even in neighboring communities, please plan on joining in the event.
There is a second change. As with so many other ‘gatherings’ these days, due to COVID-19, Mom’s has to do this year’s Wear Orange event through Zoom. That’s fine though. The speakers will bring important messages, related to the indigenous women issue, as well as other gun-control related topics. There will also be some music – the part of the event they’ve asked me to participate in, so stick around until the end.
Mom’s is doing a pre-register for the event this year. You’ll need to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to sign up for the event. It’ll take place this Saturday, June 6th from 11am until 12:30pm.
We’re focused on some pretty important and mind-consuming issues. The COVID-19 virus, the social justice issue that’s front and center, our budget challenges. The list goes on. But so do the shootings, some of which could be avoided with some common sense gun legislation. The topic may have been temporarily pushed off the radar screen, but the killings continue. Please join us this Saturday to hear the various ways you can get involved and make a difference.
This week’s last Be Kind is a pre-emptive thank you to all who join us next week in the Team Up to Clean Up Tucson citywide event.
The Governor has let the foot off the COVID-19 brake and things are gradually opening back up. I’d love it if it really was gradual – there have been too many socially intimate gatherings in bars and restaurants – but we have to deal with the conditions we’re dealt with. What we can do is team together and take some time to spruce up the community.
The week of June 8th - 13th will be a time where you and your neighbors can join City staffers in this City-wide event. Watch the heat, wear a mask, stay appropriately socially distanced, and help.
Your group can officially sign up for the event at this link: https://stories.opengov.com/tucsonaz/published/cQnEIF1DI.
As I walk/jog through our great community, I see people already out doing the sort of stuff that makes it a great place to live. This’ll be a great way to get outdoors and see your neighbors, at a distance, but in 3D.
Finally, for this week, the Broadway widening project continues. It will affect your travel plans along that street, between Country Club and downtown.
Starting today, and lasting through the coming weekend, plan on temporary closures at Highland. That’s about a half mile west of Campbell in case you’d like to divert before getting stuffed in traffic.
They’re installing a sewer bypass system across Broadway. There’s no way to trench without stopping and redirecting traffic. To avoid all of this, hit Cherry and head north to 9th Street. Remember – you're driving in a residential neighborhood at that point. Please drive under 25 mph until you reconnect with Broadway.
Council Member, Ward 6
- COVID-19 Updates: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/covid-19/covid-19-updates
- I Want To... : https://www.tucsonaz.gov/i-want-to
REBIRTH OF THE SANTA CRUZ RIVER AND THE RETURN OF AQUATIC SPECIES VIRTUAL PRESENTATION THIS WEEK - The next monthly virtual meeting of the Santa Cruz Watershed Collaborative features Dr. Michael T. Bogan from the University of Arizona speaking about the “Rebirth of the Santa Cruz River and the Return of Aquatic Species.” Dr. Bogan’s presentation takes place Wednesday, June 3, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m., with time for questions. He will be speaking about the rapid return of dragonflies and other aquatic species since the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project was launched in Downtown Tucson. The project restored perennial flow to the river via the discharge of treated effluent, and many aquatic species have returned after more than a 100-year absence. Tucson Water is a member of the collaborative. Register in advance for the free event at the link below.
Santa Cruz Watershed Collaborative
Santa Cruz River Heritage Project