Steve K's Newsletter 06/15/20

Topics in This Issue:

In the midst of the coronavirus and the key social justice issues related to our black neighbors, we now have the season’s first forest fire in the Catalinas.  

(Photo Credit to Paul Ingram / Tucson Sentinel) 

I’m sure these homeowners would agree that the blue light special recognition deservedly goes to all the firefighters who are out in the 100 degree heat protecting their homes. Not to diminish the value of those structures, but what a complete shame the loss of all the saguaros in this fire. A big thumbs down to the idiots who are flying drones and slowing down the progress in fighting these fires. I can think of few more self-absorbed activities. A big thumbs up to the men and women out doing the very difficult work of getting this fire under control. 

While that’s going on, TFD is hiring firefighting recruits. As you can see from the photo of the forest fire, this is hard work, conducted in difficult conditions. It saves lives, the environment and property. To apply, you must be at least 18 years old and have at least a high school diploma or a GED. After graduation you’ll be required to get an Emergency Medical Tech certification. 

There will be a written exam held on July 11th. Submit your application and if you meet the minimum requirements you’ll be sent an invitation to participate in that exam. Good luck – here's the full job description:  Read the job description.  

Crime Scene Integrity 

In April of this year, we unanimously adopted an ordinance that is now under pressure from some segments of the community. It’s unfortunate that what got people from out of State interested in our ordinance is grounded in false information. So goes social media. 

In the aftermath of our local demonstrations in support of George Floyd, word started filtering out across social media that the Tucson City Council passed an ordinance that outlaws videotaping police. Many in the media led with that as being the focus of our ordinance. Thanks to both Hannah Tiede from KOLD and Stephanie Cassanova from the Star for clearly pointing out what both what the ordinance really says, and what it’s intent was. 

The ordinance does not make it illegal to videotape police. The intent of the ordinance is to allow the police to establish a secure crime scene. That’s it. 

Early this year, TPD leadership shared a video of an encounter some officers had with a small group of guys who were disrupting an investigation. The entire encounter lasted about 20 minutes. I’m going to share with you just 2 minutes of what took place throughout that 20 minutes.  

The video contains extreme profanity. If that offends you, do not watch it. I’m sharing it because it clearly shows the conditions our police have been operating under and unless you’re a cop, you don’t have any idea this sort of behavior goes on. Here’s the clip. I pulled it from Hanna’s on-line story -  

 this, where officers were approached on the job and verbally harassed (Warning Graphic Language)

When I first saw the video I was amazed that the conduct isn’t already illegal. According to our City Attorney, the profanity is protected 1st Amendment speech. Our ordinance does not affect the guys right to be profane. And it does not affect his ability to tape. Here’s language straight from the ordinance that makes the point that a cop can set up a crime scene, and that videotaping is legal: 

 

 

Click this link if you want to see the entire ordinance. It’s very short and to the point: 

Ordinance 11746 

The incident in the video segment shows a couple of officers trying to field interview a robber suspect. Had the guy been armed, everyone’s lives would have been endangered. The ordinance allows police to set up a line, beyond which, the guy doing the yelling and taping cannot cross.  

There are two complaints we’re hearing besides the wholly inaccurate one that says we’re prohibiting taping. One is that we should have allowed more time for community input; and the other is that the way the ordinance is written could allow a cop to set up a crime scene so large that taping is impossible. 

As I said during our study session, if someone needs us to insert the word “reasonable” into the ordinance so people know we’re not going to play games with the size of the crime scene, fine by me. And fine by the cops. They’re not looking for ways to subvert the intent of the ordinance. 

With regard to allowing for more community input, the mayor and a couple of council members felt we should open up that dialog. That’s fine as long as we don’t ‘pause’ the ordinance while that dialog is going on. There have been zero arrests since it went into place, and there have been zero complaints about how it’s being administered. What we cannot do is reverse the ordinance and subject our officers to the treatment you see in the video, and place peoples’ lives at risk in the process. 

Police Defunding 

Another issue that consumed quite a bit of energy during the last M&C meeting is defunding TPD. The George Floyd murder, coming on the heels of other similar incidents in which black neighbors have been killed by cops has begun a nationwide move to ‘defund the police.’ I’m sorry to see TPD get painted with the brush that should be applied to rogue agencies. Last week I shared graphics demonstrating how TPD is a national leader in terms of policies we’ve adopted, in the areas of de-escalation training and prohibiting hands-on techniques such as strangleholds. If police agencies are abusing their authority, hit them hard in the pocketbook. TPD is not. 

As with the crime scene ordinance, the mayor and a couple of council members seem to be open to the idea of cutting the TPD budget. If I’m wrong about that, we’ll see in upcoming budget discussions. The reality is that we did reduce their funding coming out of the last recession in 2011. We are still trying to return our staffing levels to where they were back then. At every single neighborhood meeting I attend, I hear about long police response times. I hear that people like the community policing work that’s being done. Until this past M&C meeting, I have not once heard that we should cut the police budget. 

I pulled this graph from a NY Times article I read last week. In Tucson, we already do the first 4 of those. The discussion we’re now having relates to cutting funding.   

We want to hear your thoughts on both ordinance 11746 (crime scene ordinance) and police defunding. At our last M&C meeting we heard from about 30 speakers, all of whom wanted us to cut the police budget. As mayor Rothschild used to say – if you want to be heard, you’ve gotta show up. Here are two links you can use to ‘show up.’ The first is for your comments, and the second is an on-line input forum that will also ask you to give both geographical and demographic data. And it’ll let you see responses others have offered.  

 comments@tucsonaz.gov 

  https://www.opentownhall.com/portals/310/Issue_9027 .  

The public comments we received during our last M&C meeting came during our public hearing on the budget. That public hearing was left open so we can continue taking your input. Use one or the other link above to get involved.  

City Budget 

We did have more conversation about the wider budget process. I’m not at all comfortable with the direction we’re headed, and shared that during each of the last few meetings. 

On May 12th the City Manager recommended that we avoid spending down our cash reserves in order to position ourselves so we’d  be left with over $12M at the end of this upcoming fiscal year. Now he’s presenting us a budget that will leave us with just over $1M in reserves. That proposal is based on actions the M&C took related to how we’re spending the federal COVID money we were allotted. The only thing for sure in all of this is that we don’t know what the next 6 months will bring in terms of the economy and COVID. Planning to empty our reserves strikes me as irresponsible. 

I voted against a motion that was based on a request from the mayor.  I lost the vote 6-1. The vote contained four elements, each with budget implications. The four-part motion was framed in such a way that opposing it was tantamount to being opposed to social equity. Lost in the conversation was any notion of the short, medium and long term impact on our budget, and how this new set of motions will impact our own employees. 

During his weekly updates, I have heard multiple times the City Manager tell employees that we’re in a hiring freeze, that we will not be giving raises for the foreseeable future, and that furloughs are not off the table if things continue to go south.  The Mayor and Council just added 9 new employees, and are spending nearly $2M in new dollars, much of it on-going expenses. That is counter to the messaging the City Manager has been sending, and the added costs make furlough’s more, rather than less likely. It sends the message to our employees that M&C are different. We’re allowed to do what we want, despite the economic realities everyone else is living under. And when I questioned the City Manager about these new costs, he did not bring up any of this.  

The four items approved in that vote include an equity needs analysis at $500,000, a climate action plan at $275,000, hiring a new Housing-First director at $100,000 and hiring 8 new social workers at about $75,000 each. All of that is important. None of it is consistent with either the messaging we’ve been giving to our employees, the public or our current budget realities.  

That’s not an anti-social justice position. It’s simply doing what we tell our kids; we can’t afford it right now. 

Normally, we’d be adopting our budget by the end of June. Since there’s an ongoing public comment period related to how we fund police, our budget cycle will now be extended. On June 23rd, we’ll continue that public hearing and overall discussion of the budget. On June 30th, we will have to adopt a tentative budget. That will set our budget cap, but this time around it will not finalize where those dollars are allocated. That won’t happen now until July 21st. If you have input, share it through the links I’ve provided.  

Budget Town Halls 

Even in this ‘virtual meeting’ era, the City Manager’s staff is putting together a couple of public budget town halls. They’ll be an opportunity for staff to walk you through our budget process, and also for you to weigh in with your comments. The first town hall will take place from 5:30 until 6:30 on Monday, June 22nd. The second one will run from noon until 1pm on Monday, June 29th.  

This week City staff will be virtually meeting with M&C aides to test run the process. We’ve all sat through meetings where half of it was the presenter trying to figure out the technology. Avoiding that is the purpose of the trials. We’ll send out invitations to the town halls, along with instructions on how to actively take part. I hope this is important enough to you that you’ll invest some time in these processes.  

These are stressful times. So much of what we’re all dealing with is unprecedented – or in the George Floyd case, it’s a reminder to all of us that injustices occur daily, even if we’re not directly involved. So it’s important to be able to continue pointing to some of the seemingly small, but truly important acts of Kindness we encounter.  

How about Annie B. who took it upon herself to go through the small City nursery at Campbell and Grant and pull the weeds, generally making the space more aesthetically pleasing to the hundreds of people who drive by every day. Or friend Jean who is out encouraging others to invest in buying roses for the Cele Peterson Rose Garden at Reid Park. And there were the 3 young white guys I saw who stopped during their bike ride out on the Loop to help an elderly black lady with a flat tire. This stuff is going on, even while things may otherwise feel out of control. My staff and I join together in thanking all who stop to smell the roses, pull the weeds, or fix a flat. You make us a better City. 

This shot was taken during the June 1st demonstrations that took place in Naples, Florida. Officer Dan McCoy wanted to show solidarity with the marchers. To assure his own safety, Lisa and Cherry each grabbed an arm and escorted him during the march. Their Kindness shows we can agree on the fundamentals of civility while coming at that place from different backgrounds and perspectives. 

And this guy is Greg Watkins. He’s a UPS delivery driver who has been serving a Long Island neighborhood for over a decade. Last week, the neighbors decided to show their gratitude and surprised Greg with flowers, balloons, handmade cards and, well just a surprise Thank You. 

Let’s give them a momentary pass on the social distance rule. The Kindness shown to Greg for the work he’s doing during the pandemic should tug at your heartstrings. And thanks to all of our local delivery people who have kept at it throughout. 

COVID Data 

Last week we saw a continuation of the increasing COVID infection numbers. We have our hands tied by the State in terms of our ability to implement local rules, even on things such as mandatory mask wearing while out in public spaces. In a Hail, Mary attempt to get some relief from Ducey, I penned this letter and sent it off. 

I will let you know if/when I hear a response. Until then, all we can do is continue to track the numbers and work with our partners in the health care community to do what we can in support of their very important work. 

This heat-map from a recent NY Times article shows that Arizona is leading the nation in positive COVID test results. We are last in Education funding, so in some perverse sense, it all balances out. Nobody in Phoenix can say we have this under control. That is why I advocated for local decision making control. That leadership is not coming from up north. 

The weekly map I share of the county-by-county COVID count has shown every week since the beginning of this that Maricopa County’s infection number far exceeds any other County in the State. Why that’s lost on the Governor’s office is a mystery. Here’s this week’s comparison – what you saw in last week’s newsletter: 

Here are the numbers from AZDHS as of Sunday evening: 

That’s a jump of 800 cases in Pima County and 3,000 in Maricopa County in one week. We should have a mandatory face covering law State wide, if not locally. 

And the comparison of the raw numbers from 2 weeks ago:  

Compared to last week: 

And another 142 deaths State wide in the past week.  

Look at the last 3 days in this daily count. The State had around 1,500 new cases each day, and Pima County had well over 100 each day. And we lost 17 people in Pima County last week due to the fatal impacts of COVID-19.  

On the last 3 days of last week, we tested 1,600, 1,700 and 2,100 people, respectively. The infections are increasing at a faster rate than the testing, pointing to community spread and not just an increase in reported infections directly tied to an increase in testing. The issue continues to be individual behavior – if we don’t follow the CDC guidelines, we should expect the virus to spread. 

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

Our health care experts at Pima County are working with the City Housing Department to test and track residents who live in our public housing settings. Those congregate living arrangements are a perfect breeding ground for spread of the virus. Oftentimes, the demographics of the residents track with ‘vulnerable populations.’ The County shared this graph last week. It’s called the MMWR Weekly report. That’s CDC lingo for ‘Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.’ It runs Sunday through Saturday. The graph shows clearly how our regional trend is going up, and is another indicator that led me to write to the Governor. 

The County is also tracking the breakdown of those data based on age, race and sex. Here’s that report, in graphic form. And yes, the 20-44 age category is 2x the length of the others. No, I don’t know why they do it that way, but regardless of the reason, the fact that over 1,100 people in that grouping became infected shows it’s not just a virus seniors should be concerned with. 

Severity of the infections is also a factor the County is following. This indicator has been pretty consistent, showing seniors are by far the most often hospitalized due to COVID. That may well be a function of having other underlying medical conditions, but it’s real, none the less. 

Throughout the past week there was some talk about our hospital bed capacity becoming strained. UA President Robbins said he’d back away from reopening campus if our local picture began to look like New York’s did a month ago. This graph, produced by the State Department of Health shows our ICU bed capacity, and the current trend. 

The grey is available beds, and the red is what’s in use. We’re bumping 80% ICU capacity State wide.  

Here is the breakdown on the ‘Mortality’ part of the County report.  

I apologize for making this graphic-heavy, but it’s the easiest way to paint the coronavirus picture. Walking past the Red Garter Saloon last Friday and Saturday night I saw that the place was packed. As though this has all passed us, and there is no risk any longer. The customers were probably in that 20-44 year old age group. Therefore, not likely to be hospitalized from getting coronavirus, but still able to pass it along to others, some of whom may be seniors, and who may end up in the hospital over it.  

Please care about others. Follow CDC guidelines – 6' distancing, wear a mask, limit the size of groups you’re in, don’t go out if you feel sick, and get tested if you have symptoms. 

This week’s Local Tucson item is a bit off the norm for the kinds of things I include, but if there’s anything “Tucson” it’s Tucson Water. 

Beginning on Wednesday of this week, Tucson Water is starting a new online bill payment system. If you’re already an auto pay customer you must register in the new system in order to continue on auto pay. As with all-things I.T., the change-over has to include some manual pieces – this is that. 

The new online payment will be good for your water, sewer and Environmental Services payments. The new system will let you do the online pay, but also look at your past bills, choose an autopay date that’ll be consistent from month to month, pay by text/email, go paperless, and a bunch more. I know, this is  

exciting stuff. If you want more, after 8am on Wednesday go to this website and you can see all the fun stuff our Tucson Water staff has in store. 

 https://tucsonaz.gov/payutility 

Or if you’d prefer to talk to someone, call at 791.3253. 

With virtually everything being virtual these days, our friends at Reid Park Zoo have joined that trend with a summer-long ‘virtual zoo summer camp.’ On these hot days, with so much shut down, this is a great opportunity for you to send your kids to camp from the comfort and safety of your home. The two-hour, twice per week parental respite makes this my last Be Kind (to parents) for the week.  

Check out the zoo website at www.reidparkzoo.org and there is a link for the virtual camp. It runs from 1pm until 3pm, Tuesdays and Friday’s. They’re limited to 20 registrants per session, so you should pre-register to be sure you can get in.  

Each of the sessions has its own theme. You can see them all on the website and choose ones your kids will be particularly interested in – or choose them all. 

We at the Ward 6 office miss our zoo pals. Soon they’ll be opening with reduced entry capacity to ensure everyone visiting feels safe. I’ll be sure to include those plans in the newsletter as they’re rolled out. 

Sincerely,

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

 

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