Steve K's Newsletter 06/08/20

Topics in This Issue:

Before I get into other items, it's important to remind us all that gun violence continues. It's clearly in the background, behind COVID and the social justice issues we're seeing in the news every night. Thousands of people continue to lose their lives daily from gun violence. On Saturday, Mom's hosted this year's Wear Orange day, virtually. We heard from Dr. Randy Friese on the trauma he sees from a medical perspective. And we heard from Representative Victoria Steele on the epidemic of unaddressed murders of indigenous women. I continue to be grateful to both of those friends for sharing their life experiences. 

Mom's gave me the space to share in song. Here's the video, edited by Tucson 12's own Lety Bazurto. She did another wonderful job.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mva2DyeZ2Jo

 

The past week included an issue of such foundational importance that it even took COVID-19 off the front pages. I use this blue light space to honor hospital workers and first responders. While it was the actions of a group of four Minneapolis police that was the catalyst for all of the activity we saw during the week, our own local police responded in ways other law enforcement agencies can learn from. We at the Ward 6 office thank them for their professionalism in the face of tough conditions. 

(photo credit: Josh Galemore, Arizona Daily Star) 

This picture was taken during the Sunday evening demonstration outside of TPD Headquarters. It shows our cops kneeling in solidarity with citizens who were doing the same – all in support of the truth that Black lives indeed matter. Please do not bother to email me and tell me that “all lives matter”. Of course they do. The issue is that our Black neighbors deserve validation that they’re included.  

With the reoccurring killings of Black people by vigilante citizens chasing joggers or guys just out walking, or by rouge cops abusing their authority, the issue boiled over. TPD’s message as shown in the photo is one of understanding and one of agreement. 

I was not surprised to see that ethic permeate our police force. I supported the hiring of Chief Magnus, at least in part because of his involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement back in Richmond, California. This photo was taken during a BLM rally while he was chief back there. I posted similar ones in newsletters prior to our hiring Chris. He brings that pedigree to TPD. 

So, a big thanks to our police officers who showed their empathy for the concerns our residents expressed. There will be calls for equity analyses of our policies and practices. I welcome those analyses, and from conversations I’ve already had with leadership, I know they’re on board. Tucson is a compassionate community and our cops are a part of that. 

Our hospital workers are embracing the Black Lives Matter voices too. The White Coats for Black Lives movement across the nation deserves to be noted and honored as well. 

Campaign Zero 

Back in 2015, in response to incidents similar to the George Floyd murder, Campaign Zero was formed. Its founders were a combination of activists and researchers whose aim was to gather and publicize data related to police department policies. They wanted to disclose just how widespread the problem of police brutality is. The result of their research was what soon became known as the Police Use of Force Project, or 8 Can’t Wait.  

The study identified eight police practices that, if adopted would result in a significant reduction in killings. If all eight were adopted, the report suggested an agency could see up to a 73% drop. Those eight policies include: 

1) Ban on chokeholds or strangleholds 

2) Require de-escalation training 

3) Require warning before shooting 

4) Exhaust all other means before shooting 

5) A duty to intervene and stop excessive force being inflicted by other officers 

6) Ban on shooting moving vehicles 

7) Require a use-of-force continuum 

8) Require comprehensive reporting each time an officer either threatens to or uses force.  

I thought it’d be interesting to see how various Cities compared. Here’s the matrix from the study: 

A blue cell says the city has adopted the policy. A red cell says they have not. Here are a few cities of interest: 

The Minneapolis City Council over the weekend passed ordinances to ban chokeholds. Too little, too late. And it will require court approval before it goes into effect there. 

Conservative Mesa is only slightly better than Birmingham, Alabama.  

What about Tucson? 

Two cities in the nation have adopted all eight of those policies. San Francisco did as a result of a lawsuit. Tucson is the only other city in the nation that has adopted all eight of those practices. And we’ve done it without having to be told to by a court. 

In the wake of Minneapolis, there will be cries to disinvest in police. Other proposed changes will involve our hiring practices, some modification of the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ policies, tougher measures to get rid of violent officers and adding more officers. Hiring more cops can help by reducing the stress that excessive overtime places on people. Yes, cops are people. We all get stressed when fatigued. 

The Tucson Police Department is not above being reviewed. I know our command staff will embrace that. TPD is a national leader – not perfect, but at the top of the ladder. Any internal review is most effective when it’s engaged in a non-accusatory manner, and by people who bring a serious intention of improving conditions to the table. I look forward to having that discussion with the community and with TPD in the days ahead. 

 

I had a similar conversation with 137 of my close friends from the UA athletics department last week by Zoom. This Be Kind is for all of my ICA (Intercollegiate Athletics) friends who shared their stories. The Zoom was about listening. We did that for nearly two hours. I’ve worked there for over 30 years. These were the two most meaningful and transparent hours since I hired on. 

The participants were coaches and staffers from the UA athletics department. We opened with individuals sharing how the current national and local news is impacting them. The floor was opened to our Black staff to share. As a White guy it became evident pretty quickly that we’re living in very different worlds. Some examples: 

I’ve never had to sit down with my kid and explain to her how to respond if she was ever pulled over by a cop. Every one of the Black staff/parents have had to. The theft of the kid’s innocence is the collateral damage. I heard that it’s simply exhausting to answer the question “how are you feeling”. Just express support and tell Black friends you’re there when they need a supportive hand. I heard that to say our goal is to “not see race” isn’t a shared goal. Our Black coaches and staff want you to see their color and to respect that. Otherwise, “you’re not seeing me.” In our mixed-race families, the conversations about what’s going on has an added level of complexity for the kids. They just see mom and dad. Also, don’t engage in willful blindness. Speak up. Don’t let racist banter go unaddressed in your circle of friends. Our ICA coaches and staff deal with both overt racism and more subtle racist cues every day. I don’t live it, so I appreciated the opportunity to just sit and hear the real talk.  

The officer who killed George Floyd had multiple prior complaints about his actions related to use of force as a cop. That should not be lost on any of us. The guy’s track record certainly wasn’t lost on our coaches and Black staffers. 

    

Colin Kaepernick effectively ended his NFL career by ‘taking a knee’ during the National Anthem as a way of protesting the treatment of Black people in this country. Here’s what you might not know about his action. Originally, in protest of police brutality Kaepernick simply stayed seated on the bench during the anthem. The team long snapper, Nate Boyer was a former Green Beret. He explained to Colin that in the military, taking a knee is a sign of respect for a fallen soldier. Together they agreed the protest was important and it was also important to honor those who fought to preserve his right to make the statement. Kaepernick moved from sitting on the bench during the anthem to ‘taking a knee’. It’s too bad the whole ‘knee’ episode failed to include that part of the story. It speaks loudly to Colin’s true intent; objecting to the mistreatment of Black people, but not dishonoring those who fought to allow us the right to conduct such demonstrations. 

I appreciate the TPD expression of solidarity by taking a knee alongside the Tucson citizens who were demonstrating last week. Those are all statements we need to embrace.

Especially when images of others ‘taking a knee’ stand is stark contrast. 

   

 

COVID-19 Data 

Sadly, the demonstrations that took place over the past week did so with the ongoing pandemic lurking in the background. A virus doesn’t give a pass to people who are out celebrating on Memorial Day or people out standing up for an important social justice cause. We’re right now seeing the impacts of the Memorial Day partying. I’m concerned that in about two weeks the results of the demonstrations will also manifest themselves in increased COVID-19 infection rates. 

Even if young people who are out protesting don’t manifest with severe symptoms, they may become vectors for community spread and extend this cycle, infecting more vulnerable members of their families and the broader community. 

I was on the Bill Buckmaster Show last Wednesday. During the show I said that I felt our reopening the City on June 8th was premature. After the show I sent Regina a note expressing the same. On Friday, the City manager sent out a memo formally extended the City shut down until June 22nd. The move is simply a response to --- wait for it --- science. What does that extension mean to you? All City service counters and lobbies are closed. That includes the Ward 6 meeting rooms. All evictions on City-owned properties will be suspended until June 30th. The same is true of Tucson Water suspending water shutoffs. Our aquatic facilities, including the Edith Ball Therapy Center will remain closed and the park recreation centers are still closed. Transit fares will continue to be waived. Finally, we will not be collecting Household Hazardous Waste at either Los Reales or Sweetwater.  

Please continue using the Park Tucson 15-minute free pick-up zones at downtown businesses. They need the help as we continue working our way through the pandemic. 

The City Clean-Up Project is also now delayed until June 24th. I know that many of you aren’t sitting around waiting on the City to say, “go ahead and pick up the trash, and yank the weeds you see in your neighborhood.” Thanks for that. 

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: 

We’re now over 3,000 cases in Pima County. That’s the largest one-week increase since this all began back in March. 

And the comparison of the raw numbers from two weeks ago:  

Compared to last week: 

Ducey said over the weekend that he does not feel he was premature in reopening the State. I don’t think that was true when he did it, it’s not validated by the data, and it’s not true now. Of course, he opened things up prematurely.  This is all pretty simple – look at the numbers.  

Here’s Pima County Deputy Administrator Jan Lesher’s daily count, updated to the end of last week. I’ve been sharing 14 day counts in recent newsletters because the CDC says we need 14 days of decreasing infections before scaling back on the restrictions. We have not come close to seeing 14 days of dropping numbers (follow either the ‘Change from Previous Day’ for the County or for the State in the table). But this week I’m giving you the past month. Right before Memorial Day I wrote in this newsletter that it appeared we may be hitting a plateau in infections. The numbers were in the mid 20s per day. On June 5th, there were 214 new cases reported in Pima County. 

  

On May 6th the State had a 402 increase in new infections. On June 5th it was 1,579. On May 6th Pima County had an increase of 46 new infections. On June 5th it was 214. We’re at over 1,000 deaths in Arizona since this began last March. There’s some serious cognitive dissonance going on up in Phoenix if our Governor believes things are headed in the right direction. 

Last week I asked that you (we) not get lazy in wearing masks, social distancing and following the other CDC guidelines. We’ve seen partying and protesting on the news that will unquestionably set us back. Numbers don’t lie. This is not the time to reopen the City, and it’s not the time for people to feel COVID-19 has run its course.  

These are the testing numbers from Jan’s June 5th summary. They're for May 30th through June 5th. 

There’s more testing going on. For those who would suggest the reason we’re seeing more infections reported is that we’re testing more people, I’d just point to the numbers by day. 

That’s 9,543 tests in the past week and 5,867 new infections. If testing is yielding about a 6% ‘positive’ result, those new infections are people who are largely out in the community, asymptomatic.  

Sweden relied to a great extent on citizens’ sense of civic duty and did not impose mandatory restrictions. They ‘asked’ rather than ordered people to avoid non-essential travel and to avoid large groups. Restaurants, bars and gyms have remained open. This NY Times chart shows the death rate per 100,000 population of that approach compared to others.  

People keep saying, “we’ll get through this.” We will. But it won’t be a vaccine that’ll be the way out. It’s behavior. Please review the CDC recommendations (social distancing, masks, small groups, stay home if sick) and follow them. 

You can track the State data every day at www.azdhs.gov.  

COVID-19 Budget Impact 

Normally much of the newsletters during this time of year would be devoted to explaining how our budget talks are going. That’s all pretty shadowed by COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter issues, but we’re bumping up against our required due date for submitting the FY’21 budget. This week we’ll have a public hearing on it.  

We had a plan to adopt what the City Manager called a structurally balanced budget – structurally balanced by June 30th, 2021. The pathway to that was a combination of spending reductions and the use of CARES federal money to offset up to $74M in COVID-19-related payroll costs. Last week, Mayor and Council voted to change the CARES allocation, giving $24M to salaries, putting $30M of it in ‘Reserve’ and shifting money from what the Manager had proposed over to some very worthy social needs. Unless there’s some movement, we’ll empty our reserves by the end of the coming fiscal year. That’s irresponsible and I won’t be on board if that’s the direction this heads towards. 

As a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns, our sales tax revenues are way down. No surprise – here's a chart showing the losses. The green line is our actual sales tax receipts, and the blue bar is our adopted current budget. You can see that we were tracking pretty well until March. 

The same dynamic is true of our bed taxes. The hospitality industry took a nosedive when COVID-19 hit. Track the green line (actuals) vs. the blue bar (adopted budget) and you see how we’ll be needing to make up some significant ground. 

June 30th is the end of our current fiscal year. Between now and then we’ll be finalizing our budget for FY’21. Some of us learned back in the 2010 era that one-time money does not get you to a structurally balanced budget. 

UA Reopening 

I listed up above some of the guidelines that’ll be in place now that the City is pausing our reopening. The UA is working towards the Fall semester and is considering numerous workplace and classroom policies that are geared to helping build confidence in students, faculty and staff that the environment on campus will be safe for everyone. It’s all fluid, changing as Coronavirus conditions change. Some of the early thinking includes measures such as reducing the number of workers in shared spaces (social distancing concern), staggering work shifts to minimize crossing paths, continuing some telecommute arrangements and looking into one-way movement in buildings.  

If you go to campus buildings this fall, you’ll see hand sanitizer in prominent locations, everyone wearing a mask when out in common areas or in shared offices, sneeze-guards where over the counter transactions are going on, and classroom occupancy is going to be reduced. That’ll make getting classes at convenient times more difficult, so if you have someone registering, do it early. 

The testing process will be a big component of how the campus reopens. While taking the viral tests is important, what will be equally important is educating students on the importance of following CDC guidelines related to crowd sizes, masks and doing their part to avoid community spread. With the ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions having been lifted, there will be no way to effectively enforce any of that education off campus.  

Stay tuned on this. It’s already June and these plans, as is true of how the City responds to the changing landscape, will evolve as we move through the Summer and into Fall. 

COVID-19 Hugs 

Even with all the restrictions we’re being told to follow, there’s still some guidance coming out that'll help us stay in contact with our loved ones – literally. Physical affection reduces stress. It calms our sympathetic nervous system. Hugs can therefore be stress relievers. But we have to make sure we’re doing even that responsibly. 

Johannes Eichstaedt is a social scientist who works at Stanford. He was quoted in a recent NY Times article as saying, “Affectionate touch is how our biological systems communicate to one another that we’re safe, that we’re loved, and that we’re not alone.” So hugging is important to our sense of well-being and safety. Carolyn Ellis lives in Ontario, Canada. She invented a ‘hug glove’ for Mother’s Day as a way of being able to give mom a big hug and keep everyone safe. 

  

It’s nice, but it’s not a tool I’m going to be lugging around to grab the occasional hug from loved ones. Fortunately, there’s some advice on hugging coming from Dr. Linsey Marr. She’s an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech. To be totally transparent, her main advice is to avoid hugging. Ok, but if you insist on a quick hug, she gives the following pointers. 

First, don’t hug face to face. That’s the surest way to transmit the virus. You’re close, facing each other and giving COVID-19 a perfect opportunity to infect. 

If you do hug, wear a mask, try to hug outdoors, and try to avoid skin contact. Do not hug someone who’s coughing or has other symptoms. Position your hug in ways other than face to face. Turn your head or share a peck on the head from behind. Here are a few graphics that were in the article Dr. Marr was interviewed in: 

So, keep them brief, step away quickly after the hug so you’re not breathing into each other, and use a safe position. And don’t talk while you’re hugging.  

So many rules for such a simple and yet important part of our lives. It’s safe to assume we will not be seeing an Executive Order outlawing hugging during COVID-19. Just follow the safe guidelines. 

COVID-19 Jogging 

We’re also reminded how important getting outside and getting some exercise is to staying healthy. Of course, there’s COVID-19-related advice on how to do that, too.  

I run every morning. While out on the Loop it’s sometimes hard to avoid being close to others. Either walkers, runners or bike riders. I wear a mask when coming up on people, but I found this graphic instructive to help avoid potential transmission, even while outdoors while doing a healthy activity. 

If you’re following someone, the 6’ social distance rule doesn’t apply. People breath harder during exercise, so stay farther back than the 6’. Or run/walk side by side or slide over so that you’re not running in their respiratory cloud. This is all a part of our current human condition if we want to do the things we love (hug/run/walk) and stay healthy. At least we can still do them all, safely. 

Recycle Audit 

This week we’ll be voting on a grant that our Environmental Services staff will use to help us craft public outreach and education related to our recycling program. I know many of you care deeply about the issue. I see your empty bottles every single day out behind the Ward 6 garage. Last week I turned in another 200 gallons of crushed glass/sand for use by our TDOT workers. We don’t want to lose our recycle program. The grant will help us design a new one. We’re losing over $3M annually now. We cannot afford to continue with that. 

The grant is for $140K. With it, we’ll conduct a contamination audit. Approximately 30,000 households will be chosen at random and a pre-audit will be done. That’ll be taking samples of what’s being recycled for a couple of months. During that time, we’ll send some mailers educating them about the dos and don’ts of recycling. We’ll include some information about the contaminants we’re most often seeing in their barrel. I don’t think most people intentionally put non-recyclables into the blue bins. This will help redirect the contaminants to the regular trash barrel.  

After a few months of that educating, we’ll take a post-audit set of samples to test the effectiveness of the mailers. When we let staff know that eliminating the recycle program is not an option, they committed to an education program. This grant will be a step in that direction. I’m hopeful it’s effective. We all want to up our recycling game. Leaving $3M on the table every year cannot be where any newly revamped program ends up. 

“The People’s Garden” at Botanical Gardens 

Our friends over at the Botanical Gardens are inviting you to help create a new display on their grounds. It’ll be called The People’s Garden. The display will be made up of plant specimens that you bring in. It’s their way of staying engaged, even during these very tough days. 

The People’s Garden will include potted arrangements that will be brought in by the public. Plant and grow your fall flowers in pots that are 4”, or larger and take them over to the Gardens. Please label your plant by species and variety (common names are ok). You can take them by the Garden’s now. Just deliver them to the front gate between 8am and noon on a weekday. Include your name on the label so that can also be a part of the display. You can follow the development of this new exhibit by following their website at www.tucsonbotanical.org.  

My Local Tucson item this week is another Be Kind. It’s for our County partners out at Pima Animal Care Center. They’ve begun a program to help pet owners who are being impacted by the COVID-19 infection. 

The program includes free vaccinations, as well as some non-surgical medical procedures – did you catch that? It’s for free. The procedures that are included are things such as treating ear infections, allergies, urinary tract infections and those sorts of problems your furry family member may be suffering from. Not surgical procedures.  

PACC has set up a COVID-19 outreach clinic process. Use this link to see if your pets needs qualify for any of these services - See if you qualify.

During COVID-19, all medical procedures are being done by appointment only. They cannot allow people to drive up and sit in the waiting room for extended periods of time. So try the link and see if your furry loved one can get some free help, and then make your appointment. 

PACC is still looking for foster (or adoption) families. They have programs in which you can get help with pet food and some supplies during COVID-19. We at the Ward 6 office are grateful for the work they do. To learn about all of what’s happening out there, use this link:  PACC  

Sincerely,

Steve Kozachik
Council Member, Ward 6
ward6@tucsonaz.gov

 

City of Tucson Resources

 

Events

Masks Alive! A Borderland Series

June 10 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Live on Borderlands Theater's Facebook and YouTube pages!

Renowned sculptor/mask maker Zarco Guerrero returns telling poignant, culturally and temporally relevant stories through characters based on real people who we all can find familiarity and comfort in. Characters like “Vato Poeta,” “El Narizon,” “La Comadre,” and “The Smoker” address real topics that kids are faced with today like bullying and self-love, violence, and the pandemic. Join us for Parts 2 and 3 in the Mask Alive! Series where Zarco takes us inside his studio/gallery to see how his masks are made and meet new characters each performance!

Performance 1 in the Masks Alive series can be streamed on Borderland’s YouTube Channel.