Topics in This Issue:
- Fire Containment
- Be Kind
- Two Important Anniversaries
- City Budget
- COVID Data
- Vice President Pence on Masks
- Pima County Ordinance
- Terms of the County Ordinance
- Banner UMC Recommendations
- City Reopening Delayed Until August 3rd
- Local Election Lawsuit
- Local Tucson
- Reid Park Splash Pad
- Be Kind
- City of Tucson Resources
With the extreme increase in COVID cases both locally, and Statewide, this blue light recognition once again goes out to our local health care providers. They’re on the front line, and yet again that line is getting thinner due to the surge in infections. Health care providers I know include Lisa, Tenielle, Randy, Rachael, William, another Lisa, Ron, Don, Kristin, another Randy, Julia, Matt, Richard, Nancy, and likely more that aren’t popping to mind. You add your own list. We at the Ward 6 office are grateful to them all for their hard and dedicated work.
Our thanks continue to go out to the firefighters who are up on the mountain saving property and saving our environment. These images from the Catalinas show the tough conditions they’re working in.
Tucson Fire is continuing to take applications. If you like adventure, you should go online and check out the job descriptions. I included that information in last week’s newsletter.
Over the weekend, Fire Chief Chuck Ryan sent out an update on the Bighorn fire. In it he included a primer on the term ‘containment.’ Throughout the course of the past week I’ve been wondering why the media reported it was “5% contained” one night, then up to 40% a few days later, and then back down to 21% the next day. Chuck included in his email a good explanation.
Neither of those photos look particularly ‘contained.’ When firefighters use the term it’s simply referring to the percentage of the overall size of the fire that is separated from homes or other infrastructure. It’s not how much of the fire that was put out. As the fire grows in new directions, as this one has, and continues to, it places more homes and things of value in peril. That’s the reason we saw the containment number go up, and then come back down again overnight.
We at the Ward 6 office are grateful for the hard work all of our TFD workers are out there doing.
This is a good place to drop in my first Be Kind. Last week the Red Cross set up shop out at Saguaro High School. They had volunteers spending the night, tending to the needs of people who had to evacuate from Mt. Lemmon. That spirit of giving permeates volunteers throughout our community – and last week it was Red Cross workers.
I worked alongside those volunteers in both Africa and in Sri Lanka after the tsunami. It’s great to have them here in Tucson taking on the important task of supporting our neighbors during their evacuation.
The Red Cross is looking for blood donations. With COVID, and people not going out into public as they did a few months ago, the blood supply has decreased significantly. There are certain donor eligibility requirements you’ll need to meet, but generally if you’re a normal healthy person, you’re good to go.
Please check these links for eligibility and to make an appointment. You cannot just walk in to donate at this time. Maybe after COVID that’ll return, but the need is now.
Thanks for considering donating this important part of yourself to others who are in need.
On June 26, 2012, Genna Ayup’s live-in shot and killed her. It has been 8 long years this weekend that the family has been waiting for justice for Genna. The killer continues to walk freely right here in Tucson, and the court system continues to ploddingly meander its way towards the case. I’m in regular contact with some of the family members. They continue to hope for a righteous outcome. So do we at the Ward 6 office, and we are committed to hanging with Genna’s family until the entire process has played itself out.
In Pima County, it cannot be ok to shoot and kill somebody in your living room, alleging you were merely placing a new grip on a Glock – on a loaded Glock – and that it accidently went off, killing your partner. That cannot be ‘oops.’ Motion hearings are next, to be followed by the trial. With COVID, things have again slowed down. Our interest in the outcome has not. Interestingly, there will be a new Pima County Attorney by the time this gets to trial. Politics should not play a factor in anything this serious – but when justice is delayed for nearly a decade, one wonders if a change of faces might not be what the doctor ordered.
On June 28th, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York. The Inn was a hangout for members of the LGBTQ community. The raid turned violent, extended for a series of days, and ironically resulted in being a catalyst for the gay pride movement. On June 28th, 1970, the first Pride March took place in commemoration of Stonewall.
The sign in the window could be in window’s today. We’ve come so far – and not at all. Take some time to sit and listen to someone who has a different life experience than you do. Then share yours. We simply need to bridge the divide that has come to dominate so much public discourse these days.
I pulled this data from a study done by Eller College economist George Hammond. It shows the sales and income forecasts from 2019 and projecting out a few years. Focus in on the “% Chg” rows. They paint the picture of factors that will impact our revenues, and that we have to keep in mind as we work towards final budget approval.
One important thing to realize with these projections is that they assume the worst of COVID is behind us, and that we will not see a major resurgence this fall. Even with that rosy assumption, they’re predicting a drop in retail sales of 6.8%, and a drop in non-farm employment of 5.6%. That will translate into millions of dollars we had counted on that simply will not be in the City budget for the upcoming fiscal year. We cannot change that reality.
Our City Manager and finance people have taken the revenue and expenditure projections and put them into a pretty simple table for us to consider. You don’t have to do all the math. Just scroll down to the very bottom right-hand corner. That ($42,555,830) is the deficit we’re projecting for the beginning of next fiscal year. For me that means we had better give the City Manager all the flexibility he needs in order to manage our finances throughout this coming 12 months. The M&C simply cannot reserve for our own pet projects dollars that might otherwise go to offset that upcoming deficit.
We do not know what the rest of this calendar year will bring. The State Joint Legislative Budget Committee ended their June update with the comment that the State deficit could range from “zero to $1B.” How’s that for hedging?
COVID data is spiking up. That could lead to even more dreary financials for us. We’ll be discussing the budget at our next M&C meeting. If anything comes of it, I’m hopeful that M&C return to the City Manager the ability to manage our finances in an effort to avoid that $42M cliff on June 30th of next year. A part of our setting policy has to also be doing that from 30,000 feet and leaving the flexibility to the Manager to manage the dollars from the ground during these very uncertain times.
Last week I sat in on the Governor’s press conference in which he announced he was allowing Cities to make our own rules related to wearing face coverings when out in public. Prior to that I had sent this email out – a follow up to the letter I had sent to him a week earlier.
I know he had also been getting pressure from Mayors around the State. During his remarks, Ducey specifically referenced the Nogales Mayor. I guess they’re tight. He chose to avoid mentioning any others who had let him know how we feel. But he heard – and he transferred leadership on this issue to local jurisdictions.
One of the points many of us make is that local decision making makes sense because local conditions vary from area to area. In his Power Point presentation, the Governor finally had to concede that point. He did so with this graphic:
Note, conspicuous by its absence, is Pima County. The Governor isn’t shy in making it clear he has no love lost for us. And yet, it shouldn’t have taken so long for him to understand that data should drive policy. And his own numbers clearly show that localities face differing conditions and should have the authority to craft rules that reflect those local conditions.
As I state in my letter cited above, we have provisions in our Charter that gives the City Council the authority to set local rules related to contagious diseases. If COVID isn’t that, nothing is.
Ducey’s presentation also included a graph that shows how the infection rate trend is increasing. I wrote down his quote – it's “increasing in the wrong direction.” Huh? And the Governor conceded that increases in testing cannot account for the increase in infections.
When he came on stage, Ducey was wearing a face mask. It’s the first time he has done that. Last week he had one in his pocket ready to display when asked about it by Howie Fisher – Arizona Capitol Times reporter who chatted with me and included this comment in his article.
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik cited a provision of the city charter giving the council authority "to make all regulations which may be necessary or expedient for the preservation of the health and the suppression of disease,'' saying that exists with or without Ducey's permission.
He said this community-by-community approach makes sense. "Conditions are different in different jurisdictions,'' Kozachik said. "What is the same is the science. Science wins. Mother Nature bats last and she's going to say, 'This is a virus and it does what it does.' ''
And so now the Governor is a champion of masks. Good deal – he even has a logo to prove it.
Vice President Pence on Masks
A quick diversion before getting back to the local COVID update. On June 15th, the NY Times had an article in which Pence was quoted, encouraging Governors to adopt the administration’s explanation for increased COVID numbers. Here’s that party line according to the VP:
“I would just encourage you all, as we talk about these things, to make sure and continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of increase in testing, and that in most of the cases where we are seeing some marginal rise in number, that’s more a result of the extraordinary work you’re doing.”
He also said that hospitalization rates due to COVID “are going down across the country.” Credit where it’s due – even Ducey rejected both of those claims when he turned leadership over to us at the local level.
One more quote – this one from Trump:
“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”
I wrote it down one night last week when I was watching the news. Ducey didn’t buy that either, and included this language in last week’s newest Executive Order.
He also called out what he referred to as ‘bad actors.’ Those are bars and restaurants that are not towing the line in terms of insisting on social distancing in their facilities. To address that, he added this language in the Executive Order:
Cities will be responsible for enforcement. The ‘written policies’ he refers to, from one of his prior Orders, include things such as maintaining 6’ between tables, chairs or desks, having clearly marked spacing marks on the floor or using some other visual cues to show the distance, removing furniture to encourage physical distancing, reducing seating capacity, and ensuring proper use of PPE (including masks.) Since his earlier standards were not being complied with, he gave us the mask piece, reiterated the distancing pieces, and gave us the responsibility to enforce those rules.
If we have to enforce, then we should set the rules.
In the immediate aftermath of Ducey handing localities the mask-ball, Regina issued another Proclamation mandating the use of masks in public spaces, and hours later the County passed an ordinance doing the same thing. There were modest differences between the two, so we held a special session so we could finally hear one another’s thoughts on the issue, and to adopt our own ordinance.
The County is the regional health care authority. Their ordinance included businesses within the City limits. They rely on State Statute to exert authority from a public health perspective over businesses that are within the City limits. Here’s that language:
However, within their own mask ordinance, they did not place pre-emption language, as the Governor generally does. I believe that under our Charter we maintain some regulatory authority over businesses and policies related to in-City areas. So the ordinance we adopted during our special session included two main parts; one is to reiterate that we have an on-going health emergency, and the second is that we reserve the right to come back and up the ante by adopting expanded regulations if COVID infection data continues to ‘increase in the wrong direction.’
So what are the new rules within the City related to wearing a face covering? Getting beyond all of the “Whereas” sections, the County has enacted these general rules.
These apply to people 5 years old, and older. There are exceptions built into their ordinance. I’ll list those later – the general idea though is that if you’re in a public space where it’s not practical to maintain at least a 6’ social distance, you are to wear a face covering. Most of the masks you see, including the home-grown types are fine. What’s a ‘public place?
That’s obviously a pretty broad description. If it were our ordinance (and it is, now that we’ve adopted their language) I’d say that’s good. The goal is to get people to wear masks when they’re out, say, grocery shopping, riding the bus, or hanging out in groups in a bar or restaurant (more on that below.) So what’s required?
Not everybody has to comply. The County wrote in several exemptions to the mask-wearing requirements. Here’s that list. They changed item ‘a’ to be ‘under 5 years old.’ Otherwise, if you don’t see yourself on the exemption list, but you feel you should be exempt (for reasons other than ‘don’t infringe on my liberty’) you can contact the Pima County Health Department and talk it out. Go to www.pima.gov and you’ll be given directions on how to file for your exemption. They’ll be listing the kinds of things that have been approved on that same site.
What about enforcement? Here’s where I believe they showed a lack of resolve. First, they set up what I call the ‘snitch line.’ Use that same www.pima.gov for reporting abusers. Somehow the County will make contact and try to educate the people reported. Before any civil fines are assessed, the Board of Supervisors has to vote on that assessment.
During our special meeting on this, I called that enforcement process lame. We need to remember why we’re even doing this. People are dying. When Ducey reopened the State last month, we had just over 11,000 coronavirus cases in the State. Now we have over 46,000. In Pima County, when he reopened the State we had 1,623 cases. Now we’re over 5,300. I’ll give you all the data below, but things are out of control. We’re now on the national news every night as being an international hot spot for COVID-19. A snitch line and a vote to enforce the most effective deterrent to community spread is pretty gutless. On Tuesday, we’ll be voting to enact a possible $50 fine, or 5 hours of community service. I’ll be supporting that.
Here’s your weekly update on the Statewide COVID numbers. From last week’s newsletter:
And here are the numbers from AZDHS as of last weekend:
That’s 1,400 new cases in Pima County, and nearly 10,000 new cases in Maricopa County.
Here is the comparison of the raw numbers from 2 weeks ago:
Compared to last week:
We’re going over 50,000 cases Statewide, probably by the time you read this. And another 152 deaths Statewide in the past week.
Look at the last 3 days in this daily count. Last week I noted that the State had around 1,500 new cases each day, and Pima County had well over 100 each day. This past week as the week wound down, the State was adding over 3,000 new cases and Pima County added over 300.
Add another 3,100 on Saturday the 20th, and 2.592 on Father’s Day. Also at week’s end, the State ICU bed’s-in-use is at 85% capacity:
You can track the State data every day at www.azdhs.gov.
With all of that, Banner issued some recommendations last week. They included them in the answer to a set of 5 fairly general questions.
First is, ‘should I attend birthday parties, weddings and other social gatherings?’ They make it clear that it’s at those kinds of gatherings that COVID spreads quickly. The Memorial Day celebrations have contributed to our currently increasing numbers. So will the George Floyd demonstrations. It’s how a virus works. Their recommendation – avoid them if you’re in a vulnerable category (age and underlying health conditions.) The larger the event, and the longer it lasts, the greater is your possibility of contracting the disease. Try to stay outdoors and wear a mask.
Is it now safe to hug, kiss, shake hands or high-five a friend or loved one? Well, no matter what Banner says, I’m going to continue hugging and kissing my bride. You should do the same with your honey. But generally, COVID spreads from person-to-person, even when someone is not showing symptoms. That has not changed. So they recommend social distancing, and again, wearing a mask.
Should I wear a mask to the event? Yes – wearing a cloth face covering in public settings is both recommended by the CDC, and now it’s the law in Tucson and Pima County.
Can I eat the food at a party? Their recommendation has more to do with the sanitizing protocols being used by the food server than quality issues related to the food itself. There have not been food-transmission problems, but the hygiene practices of your food servers might be an issue. Restaurants will now all have to have masks by servers and cooks. The Banner recommendation is to check with your party host to see what precautions they’ve taken.
Am I feeling Sick? Banner continues to say, before you go out into public, check for symptoms. Fever, cough? Stay home and contact your doc.
You can see the whole report at the Banner website at www.bannerhealth.com.
As we’ve been tracking the evolution of COVID, we’ve also been setting what has turned into a series of later and later reopening the City dates. The last one was for June 22nd. Last week, we pushed that back again. Seeing that the infection rates are escalating, there’s no point in thinking we’ll be ready to safely resume operations in a couple of weeks. The new target date is now August 3rd.
If your group had a July meeting date for any of the Ward 6 rooms, those are now cancelled. My staff is still working remotely, with the occasional visit to the office to make sure I haven’t made a mess of the place. But we’re all connected and you should not be having any issues getting responses to your phone calls or emails.
At the wider City level, all of the pre-opening protocols that we’ve had in place will continue. Those include:
⦁ All service counters and lobbies within City buildings, including Ward offices and City Hall, are closed.
⦁ All evictions on City-owned public housing are suspended through August 3rd.
⦁ Tucson Water will continue to suspend water shutoffs through August 3rd.
⦁ City recreation centers and aquatics facilities are closed.
⦁ All aquatics, youth, therapeutic, and senior programing are canceled. All leisure classes and softball leagues have been postponed.
⦁ The Senior Meal Program will continue in its modified form.
⦁ Transit fares are waived on Sun Link, Sun Tran, and Sun Van.
⦁ Tucson City Court began a phased reopening with restrictions on June 1.
⦁ Household Hazardous Waste will not be collected at the Los Reales Landfill or the Sweetwater location.
⦁ Park Tucson will continue to offer 15-minute free parking for take-out orders.
I’ll be ‘attending’ two more neighborhood leadership meetings this week – by Zoom. If you’re neighborhood Board is meeting and you’d like me to pay a virtual visit, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll do our best to make that happen.
I’ve written previously about the State law they passed in an effort to move our local elections off from our odd-numbered year timing, and onto the State-driven even numbered year cycle. The State Legislature has tried to make us move in the past, but so far, our Charter has controlled, and we’ve been allowed to stay on the odd year cycle. Last week, JD Mesnard filed suit with Attorney General Brnovich to try to make us shift to even numbered years. JD represents the Chandler area. He has a BS from ASU in music. I’m sure he’s a very nice guy, but he might want to focus on his own stuff and stay out of our Charter.
Here’s the operative part of his filing:
This suit is based on the same law they used to force us to stop breaking up your guns if you turned them into us and requested that. This is the same Attorney General who then said having more guns in circulation makes us safer. He'll now render a decision on whether we should move to even numbered year elections. Prior to us deciding to defend our Charter, we asked you at the ballot box if you wanted us to move our election dates. Overwhelmingly, you said no.
Our answer to Brnovich is due by July 1st. If we fight this and win, we will have a local M&C election next year, in 2021. If we fight this and lose, that election will be pushed back to 2022. I’ll be sure to keep you up to speed on how this progresses.
This week’s Local Tucson item is the start of our Operation Splash. If you’re bringing bottles by to have me crush them, you’re already participating in Splash.
Operation Splash is the annual ramp-up to the monsoon season. As a part of it, you’ll start seeing the promos warning you to avoid driving through running dips. Sadly, every hear some people ignore that. Some die as a result. Also, with Operation Splash we make sandbags available for your use. That’s where your crushed bottles will become a part of the program.
TDOT staff comes by about every 2 weeks and picks up the 5-gallon buckets of crushed glass that I’ve got ready for them. That ‘sand’ is being added to the TDOT supply and is taken over to the Hi Corbett parking lot, along with a supply of sandbags for you to come and fill up for your own use. The glass sand pile is open 24/7. We give you the sand and the bags. You just need to bring a shovel and do the filling.
If you see storm-related damage, you can report it at email@example.com. Or you can call 791.3154. Thanks to all of you who continue bringing your bottles. Please leave them outside of the garage in the rear of Ward 6. I bring them in daily and when I have some time, I crush them and turn it all over to TDOT. It’s good teamwork, and it’s saving the landfill.
Another Reid Park item is a survey the Parks people are conducting to get your input on the design of a new splash pad. It’s actually a series of pads that are being contemplated for the space over by the Edith Ball therapy center – by the zoo.
This is a rough rendering of what’s on the table. It includes both a toddler splash pad, and one for older kids. The project is being funded by the Prop 407 Parks bond that you supported a couple of years ago.
Please use this link to give us your thoughts on the concept design. The link will also show you more renderings of what’s being considered.
This survey will be open until Sunday, July 5, so if you want to share your opinions, please keep that in mind.
Finally, I can do this now that the guy has retired from the local news scene. I have a good rapport with lots of the local and Phoenix media – to the chagrin of some others who’d prefer to be the sole focus – and one of those contacts has been KVOA’s Matthew Schwartz. He has now retired, so it’s ok for me to give him some personal kudos.
Since he arrived in Tucson, I’ve known Matthew to be a guy who has been willing to dig into a story and let the chips fall. He hasn’t been afraid to speak truth to power. He’s fair, he knows how to maintain a confidence, and importantly, he’s honest. For a person in my position, those are traits I have to be sure of before working closely with media. It’s my hope that he left those values in place with the KVOA reporters he worked with.
Matthew now has a book out on Amazon. It’s called Confessions of an Investigative Reporter. It’s the only ‘leisure’ read I’ve taken the time to do since 2009 when I was first elected. It’s broken up into individual news stories. Many of them are local Tucson stories. You’ll recognize the names and remember many of the incidents. It’s the kind of book you can pick up for 15-20 minutes, enjoy it for a bit, then go back to other stuff.
Good luck in retirement, Matthew. And congratulations on completing the book.
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
BLAX FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE
Friday, Jun 26, 8:00 – 8:30 PM
ONLINE EVENT – free; register here
Many Black businesses are lumped into categories labeled “POC” or “ Minority”. These businesses are often overlooked and rarely receive benefits from financial assistance or access to funding.
Please join us on Friday, June 26th for an online event spotlighting Tucson’s Black Businesses. There will be a pitch competition titled: PITCH BLAX, where business owners have one minute to present their story, product and/or service.
BLAX FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE will also have segments of local news and initiatives.
THIS IS A 30-minute SHOW, so tune in early, grab some food/drink from your favorite Black business, and support.