Steve K's Newsletter 06/29/20

Topics in This Issue:

Last week, Texas Governor Abbot said, ‘the safest place to be in Texas is at home.’ UA President Bobby Robbins said the same thing about Arizona during his Thursday press briefing. He went further to say that if you are immune suppressed through some medical condition, do not leave your house unless absolutely necessary. This blue light recognition once again goes out to our health care providers. For about a month it appeared we were on the downward slope of COVID. This graphic shows what’s happening in our hospitals now:

Based on the COVID data that right now exists in Arizona, Robbins said he would not open campus to students. This is June. There’s still time to go before he has to make that call, but one of his primary points of focus is the impact another round of COVID will have on our doctors, nurses and techs. I continue to be grateful to all of you who are serving in these dangerous conditions.

This weekend is the 4th of July. The City has cancelled our fireworks celebrations for two reasons – one is we don’t want to encourage people going out into large groups and potentially spreading the virus. The other is the ongoing Bighorn fire in the Catalinas and the fact that we’re in a high-risk fire condition. 
 

The other group once again being recognized for their hard work in public safety is our firefighters. Ward 6 continues to send our thanks to each of them, as we do for the health care workers. We have thousands of neighbors who are busy at work every day protecting the life and property the rest of us value. Give them a virtual pat on the back when you see any of them out and about.

Police Chief Chris Magnus

In two weeks, we’ve gone from celebrating our police force by recognizing ours as the only one in the nation that has voluntarily adopted all of the “8 Can’t Wait” standards for policing, to becoming the focus of national news over an in-custody fatality. During a press conference I and my entire staff attended over at the TPD west side substation last week, the Chief offered his resignation over the incident. I immediately found the City Manager in the room and voiced my support for retaining Chris. Within an hour after the conclusion of the presser, I’m aware of 4 of my Council colleagues who had done the same. 

Everybody familiar with the fatality is mortified by the event. Magnus called me one evening last week and shared the details. He too was devastated by the loss of life. And yet, his stepping down was not the answer to what took place. Even the family of the deceased said as much.

The offer of resignation was a personnel matter to be resolved between the City Manager and the Chief. Department Heads in the City report directly to City Manager Mike Ortega. In making the decision to either accept or reject the offer, Mike weighed multiple factors. One of course was the solid support Chris has from a super-majority of Council members. He also considered input that came flooding in from around the community. Based upon all of that, Ortega sent out this note less than 24 hours after the resignation offer had been tendered:

In the wake of yesterday’s news conference regarding the in-custody death of Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez, I spent time with Chief Magnus discussing thoughts about his offer to resign his position as the Police Chief.  Based on these discussions and the strong support for Chief Magnus the majority of you have already publicly expressed, I am not accepting Chief Magnus’ offer of resignation nor am I requesting it.

Chief Magnus demonstrated strong leadership yesterday when he stepped up to take responsibility for the actions of his officers. I appreciate the direct accountability and responsibility he took for his team, but his resignation will not help us continue to transform our police department. Under Chief Magnus’ leadership, our police department has developed into one of the most progressive in the country.  We still have work to do to continue transforming our police department to meet our community’s expectations.  I believe Chris’ leadership is exactly what we need during these difficult times.

I think it is also important for me to let you know that the family of Carlos Ingram-Lopez, through their attorney, has communicated to me that they did not ask for the Chief’s resignation, and they do not want him to step down or be removed as the head of TPD. Many community members and neighborhood leaders have also reached out to me to express their support for Chief Magnus and the work he has done in their neighborhoods and in our community.

As your City Manager, I have worked hard to build an executive leadership team that is innovative, progressive, and responsive to the needs of our community. They push each other and their staff to make Tucson a phenomenal place to live. Chief Magnus is an important part of that team. I look forward to the work we will do alongside you as we move forward. 

The City Attorney has confirmed for me that the information he provided at yesterday’s press conference regarding the consideration of the Chief’s offer to resign was correct. Under Arizona law and the Tucson Charter, consideration and acceptance of the Chief’s offer to resign is left to me as the City Manager. Specifically, the Charter provides that the Police Chief is appointed by the City Manager, subject to the consent of the Mayor and Council; while the removal (or the reduction in rank) of the Police Chief falls to the City Manager.

In the day following his offer to resign, I responded to multiple questions from news agencies both in Tucson, Phoenix and CNN/Atlanta. Given our national focus on policing, that was to be expected. Losing our Police Chief was not what the doctor ordered in reaction to the fatality. I sent out this message minutes after having received Ortega’s.

Friends, 

Today, City Manager Ortega exercised his authority under our Charter and elected to reject Police Chief Magnus' offer to resign. I, along with 4 of my colleagues support that decision. It affirms the proper, Charter-driven role of the City Manager, and it sends a strong message of support from a super-majority of the Council for the Chief. 

Everyone on the City Council is heartbroken at the loss of life we've all viewed in the in-custody video. There were mistakes made. Nobody has tried to hide that, and all facets of the case have been, and continue to be investigated. Appropriate justice will be afforded the victims in this case. The reality is that Chief Magnus has both supported, and in fact initiated those internal reviews. He is to be commended for that transparency and willingness to hold police accountable.

Chris Magnus has been a model Chief for the City of Tucson for 5 years. I look forward to him being with us for a long time to come. It speaks highly of the City Manager to recognize the input he has received both from the City Council, the public, and from the family of the deceased for taking quick action to retain our Chief. We face difficult budget and policy challenges. Chief Magnus deserves to see the support of a super-majority of the Council as we continue to address those issues.

Be well, 

SteveK

Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal

That’s Dave in the small orbiter hovering outside the mothership in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hal’s the on-board computer that the crew relied on to run things. In this case, Hal refused to open the doors, which left Dave with a dilemma. Hal was insubordinate and he was placing an entire mission in jeopardy. You’ll have to watch the show to see how it worked out.

We have a dilemma. Transparency – opening the doors on this in-custody fatality is where we have to get. During the 1972 Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker’s opening remarks included the challenge for the oversight commission to learn ‘what did the President know, and when did he know it.’ It has been 20 years since 2001, and going on 50 years since Watergate – we're still chasing transparency. You deserve it, and so does the Mayor and Council.

I’ll get to the actual incident below. What bothers many of us is the lack of clarity on what was happening institutionally between April 21st, the date of the fatality, and two weeks ago when Mayor and Council first learned of the event. Who knew what, and when? Until now, our primary focus has legitimately been on the tragic loss and the events that took place that night. But there are lingering issues that need to be openly looked at. 

We’re told that the person who reviewed the tape of the incident simply didn’t think it warranted running up the food chain. Is one person really tasked with making that decision? If not, did multiple people in leadership come to that same unbelievable conclusion? Either way, there’s an inherent flaw in judgment, and a broken internal review process. Every in-custody fatality should be reviewed by the Chief and his immediate staff if for no other reason than to brief them on a significant police/citizen encounter. Coming to any other conclusion is Hal refusing to open the pod bay doors.

In labor law, termination is gently known as institutional capital punishment. In all of my experience with labor relations I’ve been taught that if a person’s actions are so egregious that they warrant termination, that act needs to happen swiftly. Not two months after the fact. And certainly not after having returned the person to continue the same duties he was performing when the dischargeable offense took place. Who made that decision in this case? With what level of internal review? More pod bay doors we’re going to open, with or without Hal’s approval in this case.

When was the case turned over to the Pima County Attorney’s office? The Tucson Sentinel reported the case went to the County Attorney on June 11th; that means there was internal debate over it for days ahead of that date.

In 1971, Gil Scott Heron released The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It came out in the midst of social unrest related to race relations, Viet Nam and the Nixon impeachment hearings. One stanza goes like this:

"Green Acres", "Beverly Hillbillies", and "Hooterville Junction"
Will no longer be so damn relevant
And women will not care if Dick finally got down with Jane
On "Search for Tomorrow"
Because black people will be in the street looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be televised 

People of all colors are looking for that brighter day. We’ll find it with openness and transparency. Chief Magnus has asked the FBI to investigate this incident. Let’s toss into that investigation a review of our own internal processes so this never happens again. 

Houston, we have a problem. Open the pod bay doors, Hal.

The Incident 

The officers who responded to the 911 call mishandled the incident. Everybody who has seen the body-cam video, including the police union, agree with that. What’s unfortunate though is the mischaracterization of the events by some – including on the Council – calling it ‘extreme police violence’ and even ‘murder’. I’ve already heard from some of you who want the police department dismantled and their budget slashed. That’s the part of the national tension we’re experiencing. 

The officers failed to use the de-escalation training they’ve received over and over while on the TPD force. They should have called EMTs sooner. They should have altered the man’s body position and given him water. There was a lot that should have been done differently. Magnus accepted their resignations, but said had they not offered to resign, they’d have been terminated.

I listened to the 911 call that led up to the incident. The call was placed after 1am by the man’s 66-year-old grandmother. She was distraught to the point it was difficult for the Operator to understand. The incident took place in her home because according to the grandma he had not been allowed to stay the night with any other family members. The Nana continually cried out that he ‘was crazy’ and on drugs. She tried to leave and he blocked her exit. This snippet from the call:

She at various times said she was scared and that he was hurting her. 

The call lasted about 12 minutes. We have one Council Member who feels we should be sending social workers out on these sorts of calls. That’s clearly not what the caller was after. I think it’s naïve.

When they arrived on scene, the officers blew it. They didn’t put their training into place. When they assessed the situation, it should have been handled as a medical emergency. And yet, this is the lab report of the man – the grandma was right. 

I don’t expect this recounting to change minds of people who have already decided this was ‘extreme police violence.’ And I don’t share it in an effort to justify any of the actions taken by the officers who were on the scene. I do share it though because these kinds of details are not generally a part of the media coverage we see. It’s background that helps to frame what led up to the events. I think that’s relevant. 

There will be enhanced citizen oversight of police activities. We can improve the level of social service support officers have when called into domestic violence situations. I’ve written plenty of times how those are the most dangerous for police. It’s where many of their own fatalities occur. But leading with a social worker, given the nature of the 911 call, is certainly not safe for anybody involved.

Many of us are grateful to the City Manager for rejecting Magnus’ offer to resign. All of us are going to work – constructively, I hope – with Chris and his team to improve on what took place in this incident.

Here are a few ideas to perhaps start the conversation. Julian Castro offered these during his short-lived presidential run last year, so clearly all of them do not apply to our immediate case. They bear some consideration. It’s too bad the Feds won’t take the lead, but that shouldn’t stop Tucson from doing our part in leading by example:

I’ll have other suggestions to consider when this item comes to our agenda. Bottom line – inculcate into our officers that in every encounter, we’re dealing with another human being. And if somebody asks for water – give it to him.

Let’s drop in a Be Kind right here – to ease the tension. Cigna Foundation is inviting non-profits to apply for grant money – they're awarding up to $5M to improve the health and well-being of children. They’ve been doing this since 2019. This year the awards are focused on youth mental health.

This is part of a 5 year, $25M initiative by Cigna. Prior to COVID, Cigna found that up to 20% of kids experienced some form of mental illness. The pandemic is only making that worse. Think anxiety, loneliness and isolation. 

The grant awards will be considered for either school-based programs or non-school-based work. If you’re involved with a non-profit who’s doing that sort of work, you should consider looking into this Cigna free money. In order to see if your program is eligible, start here.
 

And how about these two little guys who took donuts and some artwork they made to our firefighters!

In exchange for their Kindness, they got to spray the firehose. Future academy class for TFD? Note that even the kids have masks on.

COVID Data

Do you remember March? Lots of us were thinking about where the ‘Cats would be headed after the Pac12 basketball tournament. Others were planning graduation celebrations. The world was normal. This graph shows what has happened since then – and most alarmingly, in the recent weeks. Three states have now issued travel warnings for people coming from Arizona. If you’re flying to the east coast, make sure you’ve got an extra 14 days to build into your trip. You’ll be asked to self-quarantine due to the spike in Arizona COVID cases.


Last week I penned this Guest Piece for the Star. 

In mid-May when Gov. Doug Ducey “reopened the state,” there were 11,736 cases of coronavirus in Arizona. In Pima County, there were 1,623 cases. Last week, the governor finally allowed local jurisdictions to require face coverings be worn in public spaces if they chose to enact such regulations. The day he made that decision, Arizona’s COVID-19 case count had grown to 46,689, and in Pima County we had over 5,000 cases. Clearly reopening the state was a mistake.

During the press conference in which Ducey conceded to local control on the issue of masks, he also conceded that “bad actors” in the business community are not adhering to his recommendations related to social distancing. The governor called out bars in particular for continuing to violate CDC guidelines and allowing customers to pack in shoulder to shoulder, violating both proximity, and time-in-contact guidelines put out by health-care professionals. While noting the violations, the governor shifted enforcement to local government.

If we are enforcing, then we should also set the rules.

The Tucson city charter gives the City Council the authority to “make all regulations which may be necessary or expedient for the preservation of the health and the suppression of disease; to make regulations to prevent the introduction of contagious, infectious, or other diseases into the city.” We should immediately act on that authority and reclose bars, and resume takeout and curbside restaurant service.

When the initial stay-at-home rules went into place, we saw the coronavirus infection rate beginning to flatten. Even with Ducey’s liberal definition of “essential” functions, we were making progress. Bars were closed, and restaurants were limited to takeout or curbside service only. Hospital bed capacity was not being threatened, supplies of personal protective equipment were adequate, and most importantly, the virus infection numbers appeared to be nearing a plateau. Now, all of that has changed.

Ideally, Ducey would reimplement, on a statewide basis, the parts of his own stay-at-home order that closed bars and limited restaurants to takeout and curbside service. Gyms are adopting rigorous sanitizing protocols, and other businesses can be a part of the solution by requiring face coverings for everyone inside their facility.

Why treat bars and eating establishments differently? Because they are different. Mask-wearing is not possible, and that alone is a risk factor for community spread.

Before he takes this step, the governor will wait until our ICU bed capacity is exhausted, our health-care workers are exhausted, our PPE supplies are exhausted, and the infection rates and death rates are even more extreme than they are today — which is why we should act locally, even if that means a legal challenge from the state.

We know that more strict stay-at-home rules work to control the virus. We saw it working back in March and April. And we’ve seen the impact of loosening the restrictions prematurely. The economy will not recover until the virus is better controlled. And until we have a vaccine, we must put into place rules that control behaviors that are exacerbating community spread of the virus.

Masks are one part of the solution — in business settings where they are practical. In food and beverage settings, they are not. Curbside and takeout service is the middle ground we should adopt locally, once again showing the leadership that really should have been coming from Phoenix all along.

Rely on our charter authority and put the rules into place. While the court process plays itself out, we at least will have acted to make ours a safer community.

Later in the week, the Governor held a press conference during which he was asked if things had deteriorated enough to warrant him doing what I had suggested. They have not. Sadly. 

Throughout the week I received emails about the Guest Piece. My guess is that this person would not appreciate my approach:

In fact, there is a benefit to wearing a mask. It’s sad that’s still up for debate in some people’s minds.

And this is a part of an email that came to me from the owner of one of our downtown restaurants:

I am not surprised that adverse conditions forced me to reclose my restaurant last Friday night. For all our best efforts it was inevitable. It is important to clarify that restaurants are not unsafe when properly run. People are unsafe. Wider community of infection creates even greater community spread to the point that no matter how well thought out and strictly applied our safety plan is, we can not withstand the onslaught of infected people who insidiously slip through our defenses. This is an insidious disease. Its tentacles weave deep into the fabric of our community. We must do more to protect ourselves from it.

More data to support his point. This was presented last Thursday. Things are considerably worse today.

There aren’t enough seats in Arizona Stadium to fit all of the people who have contracted Coronavirus in Arizona since this began a few months ago. 

There are differences between how it’s manifesting in Maricopa County and in Pima County. They’ve got more cases p/100,000, but we have more deaths p/100,000. Just speculating, that could be us having an older demographic population.

And for all of the younger people, ages 20-44, you all are not invulnerable. While you may not end up in the hospital, although you might, you can infect others.

It’s all pretty simple. If you care at all about others, whether in your family or otherwise, wear a face covering when in public places where it’s difficult to maintain at least 6’ distance. And this:


Our friends on 4th Avenue are on board. They’ve crafted this poster to alert people who visit the Avenue that they’re taking this pandemic seriously.

Contrary to the belief of the person who wrote in not believing that masks make a difference, there are two contrasting infection graphs that make the opposite point. In the Bay Area, officials from 6 Counties came together back in March and took some meaningful action. They banned large gatherings, shut down schools and did a shelter-in-place ordinance. Check out this chart that shows the results from NorCal compared to the rest of the State.


Similarly, across the Country in Miami-Dade County, they closed beaches, schools and did their own shelter-in-place order. You can see the progress they were making before their governor did a Ducey and opened their State:

COVID Money

Let me take a little diversion before hitting some more data. Last week the City Manager announced that the City has received just under $1.5M in two different COVID-related grants. These are Department of Justice grants, applied for by the combined effort of TPD, the City Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, our 911 folks and City Court. The money will be used to benefit each of those agencies. Here’s how:

  • PPE response kits for TPD officers that’ll include the normal gloves, masks, thermometers, hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Laptops, tablets, and other electronics to support continued telecommute for staff in the City Attorney and Public Defender's Office. This will replace their older increasingly un-reliable computers.
  • Funding to cover costs for public defender video visits with inmates. 
  • Speaker systems, webcams, seek scan temperature devices, and masks to support the City Courts reopening protocol.
  • Overtime funding for Police Officers, Crime Scene Specialists, and Police Records Specialists to deal with backlogs caused when we shut down City services and went virtual.  
  • Purchase of drones and ancillary equipment to serve as a force multiplier and to allow for a greater advance determination of response type and required PPE.
  • Purchase of laptops for TPD professional staff to work from home.
  • Lobby and front entry way reconfigurations at sub stations for better cleaning and sanitizing, and the installation of transaction trays.
  • Reconfiguration of employee areas at sub stations to provide for better social distancing and workplace separation.
  • Temporary staffing and overtime for a number of positions in City Courts, the City Attorney's Office, and the Public Defender's Office to address case backlogs.

Thanks to Amber Kerwin who is working out of the City Manager’s office for all of the hard work she’s doing to track these grant allocations.

Also, the Downtown Tucson Partnership is offering 2 new grants to help downtown businesses with COVID losses. To be eligible, the business must be located in the Downtown Business Improvement District. 

One of the grants is called the Downtown Outdoor Café Grant Program. It will grant up to $5K to help businesses build or enhance their outdoor seating café areas. The other grant is the Downtown Rebound Grant Program. This one will provide up to $2K to help businesses with costs associated with meeting new CDC reopening guidelines. If you’re a business operator in the BID, check this link to get more details on how to apply for one of the grants: Downtown Business Resources

Back to COVID 

This is a part of an email that came in from a local nurse. It could have gone up in the Blue Light section, but I wanted to save it as a reminder – this stuff is for real, and our local health care workers are putting themselves on the front line. There’s a little profanity, so if that offends you, skip to the maps below. It’s real emotion though, and ignoring science is something you won’t be able to just skip over.

“Just got home from a shift at Northwest, I cannot stress this enough; things are about to get very, very bad. Over 3200 new cases in AZ reported today, pretty much every COVID ICU bed in Tucson is full, resources are running out. People in their 20s with no preexisting conditions were intubated last night. People are getting it in bars, from their kids, at the grocery store. There is no warning, suddenly everyone in a group or family comes down with it at practically the same time. We are all tired of this and I know we have all been letting our guard down to some extent. It’s time to put our guard back up, people are going to start dying 100+ a day in AZ. There may not be adequate resources to keep your family member, your friend or you alive in the very near future. Do not be caught in any indoor area with other people without a mask for any longer than a brief encounter. Go grocery shopping as little as possible. Do not go inside anyone’s house or let anyone in yours. Eating in a restaurant or going to a bar would be a really fucking stupid thing to do right now. There will be no herd immunity, that would cost millions of lives. We are in this for the long haul, we’re maybe in the 3rd inning at this point. We opened up way too early and we are going to pay a heavy price for it. MASK THE F*&#K UP!”

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:


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

Compared to last week:

Final Chart for this week – the Lesher Daily Count. Look at the comparison even back to the start of June. We had double digit day increases in Pima County. Then the effects of reopening hit and now we’re consistently over 200 new cases each day. The State is over 3,000 new cases per day.  With this trend, I’m 100% not backing away from my interest in shutting bars back down and returning temporarily to take-out restaurant service only.

 
And my weekly reminder that you can track the State data every day at www.azdhs.gov.

Benedictine Progress

In the midst of the pandemic, and our 100+ degree days, the construction is continuing over at the Benedictine. I’ve spoken with the Project Manager on the site several times and know that Sundt is conducting wellness checks daily on all of their workers. In fact, they’re spending quite a bit of money doing that. (I also know JE Dunn is also doing it on a job I’m overseeing on the UA campus. The goal is to make sure your workers aren’t bringing COVID onto the worksite.) So far, so good.

These images show work that’s going on at the southern section of the site. What you see will be the 4 story condo buildings. The height is capped to be sure they won’t obliterate the view of the monastery. 

There will be similar construction happening on the northern edge. The cement you see in the lower right-hand corner of the picture is the foundation for the condo’s that’ll be on the eastern edge of the site.


I’ve spoken with Ross (the owner) about uses he’s thinking about for the interior. Early in the process, and allowed by our rezoning, there was talk of doing modifications to the interior and adding some more living units. While everything is still subject to change at this early stage of the project, the current thinking is to use what was once the nun’s quarters and meeting spaces for some shared workspaces that have become so popular. The sanctuary is still possibly headed towards being a food service use. Downstairs may contain some amenities that’ll be used by the tenants in the condos.

Right now, the construction is on schedule for completion mid-’21. 


Last Friday I took part in the 8th annual Genna Ayup memorial out at East Lawn. There were about 50 of us, distanced appropriately and all in masks. The ceremony was a bitter-sweet reminder that we’re still awaiting justice for her. The Kindness message goes out to all of the people who continue to support the family. We’re in this to the end.

Friends and family members met to do a balloon release in Genna’s honor.
 
Each was adorned with a personal message. Genna’s mom takes a bit of her daughter along for special occasions like this. Some of her remains are safely preserved in this brightly colored urn.
 
There is a motion hearing scheduled for later this month, with the beginning of the trial booked for August. Many, many people are looking for closure on this tragic failure to bring her justice.

My Local Tucson item this week is your pooch. Specifically, your puppies’ paws. As I mentioned in the Benedictine update, it’s hot outside. You and I wear shoes while we’re walking outdoors. The pads on your pup’s paws are unprotected from the ground heat. Here are some tips that come from the Animal Health Foundation of the American Kennel Club.

Dogs don’t sweat the way we do. When they’re exposed to high temps for long periods, they risk dehydration and overheating. That can lead to serious complications, including fatality. So, hydration is important.

What about their paws, though? The advice given by the Foundation is that if you cannot place your hand on the ground for 10 seconds without it beginning to burn, do not take your dog out on a walk. There’s a dramatic difference between the air temp and the ground temp. Especially if the ground is asphalt. So please do the ‘hand test’ before heading out on a leisurely walk. You may end up inadvertently burning your buddy’s paws.

In Phoenix they’ve also adopted this added protection. I know some of the County folks see this newsletter. It’s something for them to consider since most of the hiking trails people access are outside of the City limits.


Please also remember our leash law. Don’t let your pooch run freely while in the City. We have urban wildlife all over the City. That can evoke a ‘call of the wild’ that you may not want to get in the middle of. Even if it’s not that, people who are out with little kids, or who are out walking their own dogs (on a leash) deserve the consideration of not having to deal with dogs running freely in the neighborhood. It’s a safety thing for all of us.

Sincerely,

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

 

City of Tucson Resources