Steve K's Newsletter 07/06/20

Topics in This Issue:

 

 

This blue light opening is dedicated each week to showing support for our health care providers and to our first responders, both police and fire. I have a friend who has been battling COVID, both in the hospital, and now quarantined at home. During her stay at TMC, her family came and wrote this message on her hospital window.

It’s both a blue light recognition and this week’s first Be Kind honor.

The message inside that message is that our doctors, nurses and techniciansd are surrogate family while people are literally out-of-touch in the hospital. In a way that’s very similar to how our teachers’ jobs have been expanded to include so much more than educating our kids in subject matters, health care employees during COVID have had to take on some extra-emotional support work. That, in addition to the very difficult medical care they’re at work to provide. This week Ward 6 again thanks our health care providers for all they’re doing to help our friends and loved ones get back home to their ‘other’ family.

I’ll have more on COVID later, but this graphic shows how overstuffed our local ICUs are. 

As of last weekend, we had 31 ICU beds available in all of Pima County. Also consider that the staff who works those units are as overworked as the beds are overused. 

Thank a health care worker, and take COVID seriously.

Healing Tucson

Over the weekend I sent out this message. If you don’t follow social media, the context of it may have been lost on you. I’ll fill in the blanks below.

What was behind that was a two day flurry of posts on social media that began with a completely innocent constituent service inquiry by Nikki Lee in Ward 4. A caller asked what our process is for allowing people to paint ‘statements’/’art’ in our public rights of way. We’ve got an LGBT rainbow crosswalk on 4th Avenue, and a recently painted Black Lives Matter mural on Stone. Nikki forwarded the question onto City staff, a permit was issued and that was that. Or not.

Before I describe some of the background I want to make a couple of things clear. First, the guy who was asking the question is not a particularly sympathetic figure. I don’t care about that. My interest is in what’s legal, and whether making a national issue of this is a battle worth forcing. Given the tension we’re already facing, I don’t think it was.

The group asking the question was Tucson Behind the Blue. They’re a local group who has in the past raised funds through their Foundation to do things such as buy personal protective equipment for cops and raise funds to support the families of officers. In this case, they were asking permission to paint a blue line on Stone Ave. outside of the TPD headquarters to show support for the police. The guy who made the request also had up on his Facebook page a bigoted comment that included an image of a Confederate flag. That is not the poster child I'd have chosen, and that is what began an escalation.

A City staffer who was recently hired out of another Council office flagged the permit request and passed it onto the mayor. The mayor sent out a message stating that the City Manager and a Council office had allowed a ‘white supremacist’ access to our City street, and the permit to paint should be rescinded. The City Attorney did so and a 48 hour barrage of social media attacks began on Nikki. We have to be better than that.

The group had requested the right to paint a blue line on Stone Ave. outside TPD headquarters to show support of the police. That’s the sum and substance of what evoked the whole series of events, and what provoked my Release. 

Take aways? First, Nikki did absolutely nothing wrong. My staff and I regularly connect constituents with City staff to help navigate our approval processes. We do not demand a background check prior to helping. Any criticism aimed at the Ward 4 office was completely wrong.

As I mentioned above, Tucson Behind the Blue is a local group who supports the police. I don’t know any of their members, but Google them and you’ll see their work. It’s to be applauded. The guy who made the permit request has on his Facebook page some images that I personally find offensive. Conflating those posts with a request to paint a blue line on Stone was also wrong. The police deserve our support.

Ok, so right here, given the political climate I have to add in the obligatory caveat – no, not all cops are good, and no, we should not support police activity that is out of bounds. Nobody on the City Council believes that we should, but today we have to make that clear. 

The City has a precedent of allowing ‘statements’ to be painted on our public right of ways. If we are going to change that, we should adopt a policy (if we can, legally) that says going forward, we will not issue permits for that kind of thing. Paint your Be Kind flowers, but not political statements. Otherwise, we may be exposed to a 1st Amendment charge of denying a group the ability to make their statement based on content. I believe in this case we may face exactly that. And that we may be exposed to litigation if Behind the Blue wants to pursue it. We could win, but is it a good use of our resources to escalate the issue of painting a blue line on the street at TPD HQ? 

The infamous Klan/Skokie case comes to mind. It’s from 1978 – a neo-Nazi applied for a permit to march in a Jewish section of Skokie, Illinios. Two weeks later, the Skokie Board of Commissioners passed some rules that called for the marchers to post a $350K insurance bond, they banned the distribution of flyers promoting hate of groups, and they banned marching in ‘military style’ uniforms. The Nazi group sued under the 1st Amendment right of free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that the group could not be prohibited from marching peacefully based on the content of their message.

Our case may be about more than the content of the message being expressed. It may also touch on freedom of association (also a 1st Amendment issue) one member of the group is alleged to have with a hate group. If the City Attorney feels our action in rescinding a permit we had already issued didn’t step across the ‘protected speech and association’ line, I’ll be interested in hearing how that is. 

There’s also the issue of whether or not we can even adopt a policy prohibiting this sort of expression now that we’ve allowed it in the past. Can the government take away a right that we’ve given, and if so under what conditions? These are legal questions. What we know is that we allow people to paint statements on our streets. We had issued a permit. Then we rescinded it. Was that really a fight we needed to pick, especially given today’s climate with respect to police activities and how we can show support of the agency?

We also have to be careful in alleging somebody is a member of a hate group, and doing so using our City positions to deliver the message. That could be slander. I had a good chat with Dylan Smith from The Tucson Sentinel and he said the guy asking for the permit may have waived his status as a ‘private citizen’ when he entered this public debate. I’d hate to think that people requesting a permit from us open themselves up to allegations of unsavory associations. We’ll see if that has any legs in this case, too.

The most important part of this is that we have got to tone down the attacks, be less rigid in how we approach others who may disagree with our positions, listen with an open mind and be willing to grow and learn. Social media is not a good venue for that process. We’re better than all of this. 

Distracted Driving

Shifting gears for a moment, last November up in Oro Valley, 21 year old Caitlin and 22 year old Paul were killed in an auto crash. Their car was rear-ended and pushed into the path of an on-coming vehicle. They were t-boned and killed immediately. The driver of the car that caused the deaths was cited for failure to control speed. But there’s a lot more, and we’re just now starting to unpack the police and legal records. Similar to Genna’s story, we’re hoping to see this end with a more satisfying sense of justice for the two single moms who lost their kids.

Here’s a little of what I have from the records I’ve already reviewed. The driver said she was going 35 mph. The police cited her for going 53 mph. There was an open whisky bottle on the front seat. No breathalizer test was given and even though she had difficulty with each part of the field sobriety test, she was allowed a pass by the Oro Valley police on the charge of having an open bottle of alcohol in the car. 

The driver said she had not been on her phone. Oro Valley was proud of the fact that they were one of the first Southern Arizona jurisdictions to adopt a distracted driving ordinance. The phone had no text messages for 6 minutes prior to the accident. The driver said she had not erased any texts. She said she had left her home at approximately 3:40 pm. The crash occurred at 3:42 pm. The phone records from a Golder Ranch Fire employee who was on the scene showed that he had a text exchange with her at 3:41. The texts had indeed been erased from her phone prior to the Oro Valley cop looking at it after the crash. There were no skid marks from her car indicating that she saw the car stopped in front of her and tried to avoid hitting it.


  
When you are behind the wheel, you have one single job. It’s not to make calls and it’s not to text. We’re just beginning to gather the records on this case, and just as we are chasing down Genna’s case, we will do what we can to ensure Caitlin and Paul get their fair day in court. Poor investigating by the OVPD may have originally led the County Attorney to ignore the clear lying that was going on, but we’ll try to paint a more clear picture so the next time it’s in front of that office, the result may be different.

Ducey Executive Order Closes Bars

A week ago, Governor Ducey relented, recognized that science is for real and took a couple of steps in the direction of public health. Above I shared our current ICU bed capacity condition. Here’s the ventilator use/availability situation in Pima County.

That’s 163 total available, and 139 in use – for the entire County health system. The County Health folks have more on order.

In Phoenix last week, a clothing boutique called Antique Sugar posted a mask requirement on their door. The employees got so much grief from customers who didn’t want their liberty infringed that they posted this message on the door: “We’ll be happy to debate the efficacy of masks with you when this is all over and you come in to sell your dead grandmother’s clothes.” They’ve got my business if I’m ever up in that area and looking for some used clothes.

Super Spreader Alert –


I've now been told by multiple people that our local Home Depot’s are not requiring masks. In fact, a guy stopped me on the Loop this morning and told me that other customers were confronting people with masks and being, well, being jerks. The employees say management is not going to require masks. If you’re looking for home goods, you might want to keep this in mind.

Ducey’s new order re-closed bars, effective last Monday. He also closed indoor gyms and fitness centers, indoor movie theaters, water parks, and tubing on the Gila. People have asked me about restaurants and other retail operations. They are not closed, but our local ordinance says any business is supposed to have their employees wearing a face covering, and if they cannot maintain 6’ social distance, they can require that of customers, too.

Here are the State-driven definitions of a bar, as covered in the Ducey Executive Order:

I don’t think the Executive Order hits the right notes. I issued this statement immediately after the Governor announced his move:

For swimming pools, the Executive Order mandates 10 or fewer people congregated in or around the pool, and maintaining social distancing. 

I’ll close this part of the COVID update with these two graphics. I snipped them from the Ducey press conference. It’s too bad it took this level of infection to compel even this level of response.

 

When I write about Kindness in these newsletters, it’s not me going out looking for extreme acts of goodness, but more to highlight the little things our community members do that just show how invested we are in our own local goodness. We need so much of that during these really tense and divided times. So with that in mind, neighbor Dave took his time and effort to give this fountain a paint face lift, saving our Parks crew from having to do it. The small pocket park now looks brighter, thanks to Dave’s Kindness.

Police Reform

In the aftermath of the recent in-custody fatality that TPD was involved with, we’re looking at several policy changes intended to prevent any similar incident reoccurring. Last week we took the first step by implementing a requirement that both Mayor and Council will be immediately advised of any in-custody death. So will the public. While this is a positive step in terms of being open with you about these sorts of incidents, if/when it happens the notification will have to make it very clear that what’s being released is preliminary information. There will be investigations to follow. I’ve got concerns that in these days of social media where perception can become reality, releasing information before an investigation is conducted may impact our ability to deal fairly with everyone involved. It’s a risk, but it’s a risk we have to take to send the right message of openness in how we operate.

There are some other pieces of the framework we’re putting together. One is forming a working group under the City Manager that’ll include representation from our TC3 program (it works with 911 to get repeat callers to the right services they may need, and not to just send a cop or paramedic crew), our mental health support unit, housing people and non-profits. The goal is to talk about new ways 911 calls can be redirected. Prior to creating the program, we’ll be doing outreach to the community to hear your thoughts. I’ll be working with the City Manager’s office to coordinate that outreach with Ward 6 residents and businesses.

Other parts of the reform we’re looking at include internal and citizen review processes. Some examples include clarifying the work of our Independent Police Auditor, reviewing how our internal Critical Incident Review Board (Sentinel Unit) operates, and making changes to how the Citizen Police Advisory Review Board (CPARB) functions. Those reviews, along with upgrades to how we maintain and share incident data will take time to sort through, but all of it is consistent with the ethos of the department that Chief Magnus and his leadership have been working to put into place. 

 I’ve suggested they also look into a program being used in several police departments around the Country called the EPIC Program. It stands for Ethical Policing Is Courageous. The training involved reflects a culture change in many police departments. I think we’re ahead of much of what that program has to offer, but everybody can do better, so it’s worth a look.

I also believe we need to look internally at how this incident played out. I shared several areas of concern in last week’s newsletter. That includes things such as timing, who was notified, when, decision-making authority, and lots of links in the procedural chain that we need to sort through. This is just the start of this review process. I’ll of course write more as things develop.

COVID-19 Data

I break up the COVID sections so I can give a different perspective on the updates. This is my weekly data piece. Let’s start off with what’s happening nationally vs how we compare to other countries.

After having watched some of the activities people took part in over the holiday weekend, and knowing how similar behavior played out after Memorial Day, I think it’s fair to expect our infection rate to continue to go up. The failure to think of others places reopening schools at risk, which will make it more difficult for parents to return to their workplace next month. Employers will need to begin right now planning telecommute policies for their workforce.

Most of the workforce that’ll be affected by the challenges of school closures are in the 20-44 year old age category. They’re also disproportionately represented as the ones out on the beaches and in the bars. Early on in the COVID pandemic, we were told it was the elderly who were contracting the virus. Younger people have now become that group. This is Pima County data:

As is shown in this graphic, true enough – the 20-44 year olds aren’t ending up in the hospital, which is great. They can stay home and home-school while they’re sick. That’ll be a drag for everyone involved.


Fatalities are still primarily the elderly. Get your parents and grandparents infected and you can see in these last two graphics how that may impact them.

 

A Trip Down Memory Lane

With all of that background, instead of giving you the last 30 days’ increases, I thought this week I’d take you all the way back to the start of our local COVID experience. Here’s the first chart we saw; the March data for both Arizona and Pima County. At the end of March there were 1,289 cases in the State and 202 here in Pima County. Now we’ve got nearly 300 deaths in Pima County. That’s substantially more than the number of cases we had back in March. It was on March 30th that the Governor issued his Stay at Home Executive Order.

Here’s what was happening during the last week in April. You see that despite the Stay at Home, the State numbers had surged to just over 7,600, and in Pima County we were nearly where the entire State was at the end of March. It takes time to slow the infection rate, which is why being late to the decision is so critical.


      
Seeing that as progress, Ducey ended Stay at Home on May 12th. You can see the impact that had. At the end of May, the State was bumping 20,000 cases of COVID and Pima County was over 2,300. I had written a Guest Piece for the Star advising him to NOT end Stay at Home. Sometimes it’s unfortunate to have been right.

On June 29th, the Governor relented and re-imposed a partial Stay at Home. I described it earlier in this newsletter. In the month of June our Statewide COVID infection numbers increased by a factor of 4. In Pima County they escalated from 2,300 to over 8,000. 

My reaction, after having written multiple letters to the Governor, Guest Pieces and had several quotes in both the Star and in the Republic was something like this guy’s:

 

Here is the comparison of the raw numbers from two weeks ago:

Compared to last week:

Here’s your weekly update on the State wide COVID numbers. From last week’s newsletter:

 
Here are the numbers from AZDHS as of last weekend:

 
By the time you read this, Pima County might have hit the 10,000 mark and the State may have topped 100,000 people who have contracted the virus.

So where do we go from here? The advice of medical experts is that if you are in a vulnerable category (age and/or pre-existing medical condition) you are safer at home. Regardless of age, do not congregate in large groups, wear a mask while in areas where social distancing is difficult, do not go out if you have symptoms, and do not claim it’s your liberty to spread COVID around the community.

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

 

This week’s Local Tucson item is some good national exposure our most recent Historic Landmark home is getting. The Ball-Paylore house was built in 1952. In 2019 the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation (THPF) bought it in sort of a pre-emptive/preservation move. Given it’s size and proximity to the UA campus, there was a likelihood the property would have been purchased, demolished and turned into a rental. Now that’s off the table.

The place has a pretty funky floorplan. You’re looking in their back windows and can see it’s an odd-geometric shaped house. The yellow wings on each side are shade screens that can be moved to follow the sun. Even back in ‘52, the designers had energy efficiency in mind. 

Credit goes to the THPF for seeing the jewel, purchasing it, completely restoring the interior and they’re now using it to house a visiting UA guest lecturer. The national recognition is an article highlighting the house that appeared in last week’s National Trust for Historic Preservation newsletter. 

 

Sincerely,

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

 

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