Topics in this issue...
- Be Kind
- Smithsonian Refugee Art
- Fund Raiser for Casa Alitas
- Alitas Center – County Juvenile Facility
- Moon Landing Week
- Pascua Yaqui Trust Land
- Complete Streets
- Sunshine Mile Survey
- Complete Streets Bill
- Gil the Wonder Pup
- Downtown Desert Deals
- Events and Entertainment
Friday evening we had a wonderful event celebrating the Art of Asylum. The Be Kind section this week will highlight several of the people who invested so much of themselves into preserving the art, displaying it and sharing the stories associated with the pictures.
We had a full house for the opening.
I am grateful to City Manager Ortega, who also attended with his wife Pat, for not calling our Fire Chief about the room occupancy. It all ended well.
Val James ran the program. She has done so at the monastery since shortly after we moved in last January. At least twice per week, she summons the kids to the ‘art room’ and facilitates a painting/drawing time. The only instruction given to the kids is to ‘paint what you love.’
Here is an example of the creativity that comes from the kids.
These two little kids are thanking the volunteers who served them at the monastery for helping them to remember their home in Honduras – wings (Alitas) on the building expressing an inner hope for the future tied to their time here? Or perhaps hope of returning home someday? It’s art – open to interpretation.
Here is another one. This has a lot in it. Notice the depiction of the border fence with people on both sides. Note the gates opening with the big city behind. What the kid writes on the left hand side is that they were never abandoned by God on the road getting here, and wishes blessings on the volunteers who took care of them at the monastery. On the right hand side, he wishes peace on those who have fallen while being tortured and sequestered – may they rest in peace. The writer is 9 years old.
Up in the art room, there are numerous volunteers who spend time with the kids during the art sessions. And yes, there’s often a verbal language barrier, but art is the universal language so the communication that happens is fluid. I write about the hundreds of volunteers who serve at the Benedictine – the art group is a special subset of the whole deserving of a Be Kind mention.
A Be Kind to the many of you who carved out time on Friday evening to come and join in celebrating the art. I fully understand the sensitivity over the upcoming use of the County facility (my op/ed from the Sunday Star is below). And yet, all of that was set aside Friday evening as we gathered to reflect on the spirit contained in what the kids produced. That same spirit will travel from the monastery over to the County building next month. It will truly be the Alitas Center in spirit.
Lots of work went into hanging the show. Thanks to Antonia and Val for spending the week getting the show ready. It will be up in our community room through August. Please come by and take your time moving around the room appreciating the deeper messages contained in the works. As you do, remember these kids’ trauma, and their grief. Every picture was drawn or painted by a young person literally days after having been released from an ICE detention facility, and days after having travelled across Mexico from their homes to get here. Recognize that even in the midst of that, they’re kids, and they’re still able to express joy. We can all learn from that cue.
In a timely juxtaposition, there was a NY Times article last week telling about art the feds are seeing from the refugee kids coming through their detention facilities. Note the stark difference between what the kids are drawing after having been in a CBP facility in comparison to the monastery with Alitas.
Here you see what appears to be people lying on the floor covered by blankets – behind bars. No wings there. The Smithsonian is gathering much of this and is considering using it to document this phase in our history. They did similar reflective exhibits in the aftermath of 9/11, and after Hurricane Katrina. Their Director, Emeritus Brent Glass, said this initiative is consistent with the museum’s mission “to inspire people to know more about American history and to hopefully create a more humane society”. To see an example of a humane approach, visit the Benedictine.
A poem that is up in the Ward 6 community room, which came from one of the kids who passed through the monastery, seems to also reflect some of the lingering memories from the CBP experience:
We have great partners in Catholic Community Services, and in the many volunteers who have kept this compassionate work going. That compassion transcends the physical structure in which we’re serving the refugees. It will permeate the Alitas Center as well.
To that end, I wrote this op/ed that appeared in the Sunday Star. The Star edited out about 100 words for space. I’ll include the whole thing here so you can see what I submitted to them last Friday:
As you read these words, somewhere in Guatemala a young mother is sitting with her children. She has watched two infants starve to death and has seen her husband murdered by gang members. She sits with what’s left of her family making arrangements to begin the arduous journey across Mexico to reach the U.S. border, connect with extended family somewhere on our east coast and begin the process of putting what’s left of her life back together. She will arrive in Tucson around the time we have completed the initial work restoring the County Juvenile facility. She will walk into an air conditioned space with carpeting and open and safe play areas for her kids. She will be welcomed by a volunteer who will tell her she is safe, welcome and loved.
That young mom will neither know, nor will she care that years ago that facility may have been used to restore some of our youth who had gotten in trouble with the law. All she will know is that it is a place of respite on her journey where she will be surrounded by the loving and compassionate volunteers who have kept the Alitas Project alive in Tucson for the past 5 years.
Since January of this year, we have seen over 12,000 refugee guests pass through the Benedictine monastery. The story I’ve related above contains a theme that is common among those people whose lives have been touched in the Alitas work. Until the conditions from which they’re fleeing are changed, there is no reason to expect others will not continue to follow, doing exactly what you and I would do to preserve the lives of our children.
Since 2014, Catholic Community Services (CCS) has been managing the refugee welcoming work at various locations around the City. It began in the former Greyhound Bus Depot where we had a curtain cordoning off a small segment of the waiting area. It has been, and continues to be housed in various churches around town. In January we moved into the Benedictine. At the time we knew that by the fall we would need to find a new space. The area around the monastery will be redeveloped. Many of us have been working on finding a new facility for the past several months.
The deal points for the new site are a tough lift. The facility will need to accommodate areas for food prep, food storage, clothing distribution, medical triage, some I.T. connections for making travel arrangements, sleeping quarters, shower facilities for literally hundreds of guests, activity areas for the refugees to use during their 2-3 day stay, and close proximity to the Greyhound station. It will need to house up to 200 people at a given time. Those needs have necessarily constricted our options.
The CCS staff are the pros at this operation. Even groups such as Salvation Army who have toured the work being done at the monastery have said they want to learn the model. Allowing CCS to continue doing what they have done so well is also a necessary part of this refugee issue as it evolves in our community. Catholic Community Services, with the aid of the hundreds of volunteers they’ve been managing for months at the monastery does not need a government-led oversight board at whatever facility they’re operating in. Our job is to help locate the facility and get out of the way.
I, along with others who have been involved in the refugee work have toured multiple facilities looking for that new location. We’ve seen vacant schools, vacant youth centers, vacant warehouses, vacant medical facilities, and more. Until we were presented the option of the County Juvenile facility, none were able to meet the needs this work demands. It is to the county’s credit that they saw the opportunity and have made the offer. As the alterations are made, the site will transform into a long term solution to what will be an on-going need.
That young mom will arrive in Tucson. She and what’s left of her family will enter the County facility and will feel for the first time in maybe forever a sense of relief that she is safe and that she is valued as a person. That’s Tucson. The facility needs a name. That name should reflect the great work done by CCS and the Alitas volunteers. Let’s call it the Alitas Center and dedicate the work being done there to the compassion our residents have shown throughout our stay at the Benedictine.
Over the weekend it was reported that there is some push back against the use of the County facility, and the result is a ‘stop-work order’ having been placed on that building. The suggestion is that CCS should move into a TUSD school, have the County pay to get it ready and leave the County facility vacant. It’s easier to offer suggestions when you lack a thorough background on what’s at issue.
Here is the simple reality. I checked with TUSD on one of the sites now being pursued. It was not available. Here is that email exchange with mine dated June 2nd on the bottom – the reply dated June 22nd on top:
Fact: Pima County was never “in the process of preparing Hohokam” for anything. The County has never said it will spend funds to upgrade a vacant school. Fact 2: CCS was never interested in that site. It is way too far out of town and has never been of any interest to the CCS folks. Now that there is some political pressure relative to the County facility, Howenstine all of a sudden has good showers and a kitchen that can be used.
Catholic Community Services operates two houses in midtown. When we lose the monastery, and if cooler heads don’t prevail, CCS will have the capacity to house 20 refugees. That means releasing refugees on the street to fend for themselves. That is the reality the opposition to the Alitas Center owns. I’m still believing that this will work out well.
We’ll get all of this back on a good path, and recoginzing that, it was nice to see that even the Tucson Acupuncture Co-Op is raising funds to assist a variety of non-profits who are involved with the migrant/refugee work. One of them they’re helping to support is Casa Alitas.
There is a five week fundraising campaign being organized in cooperation with a national network of acupuncture clinics. The fundraising focus is on non-profits who are providing aid for migrants and families along our southern border. The Tucson acupuncture group is located at 204 E. Ft. Lowell. If acupuncture is your thing, and if you want to marry that with support of some border initiatives, check them out. Here are the summer fundraising dates and organizations who’ll benefit:
July 13-20: FIRRP (Florence Immigration & Refugee Rights Project)-The Children's Project:
July 21-28: People's Defense Initiative
July 29-Aug 5: Casa Alitas
Aug 6-13: Puente AZ
Aug 14-21: No More Deaths
The clinic hours are:
Call them at 867.8004 to make an appointment. The website is www.acupuncturecoop.com. It’s great to see the work being done to support refugees has such a broad following.
With the flurry of activity over the past few days, how we got into the County facility to begin with has its own story. It began early in the year when several of us began looking for alternate refugee intake sites. Catholic Community Services took the lead because they have been the operating partner for the past 5 years, they have the model in place and know what the required elements are. As I said in my op/ed, any useful facility will need to house up to 200 people, come with a commercial kitchen, shower facilities, living quarters, room for medical work, internet, and ideally activity areas for the kids and families. It also needs to be available 24/7, and for an extended period of time. That’s for starters, and that has placed some significant limitations on site selection options. Jointly we’ve explored over 2 dozen possible sites.
Ultimately, the County gave CCS a tour of the Juvenile Center. Shortly after that tour, the Tucson Diocese Bishop wrote and formally requested use of the facility. Here is that letter in full:
The chatter from the opposition is that this is a jail. In fact, it’s a series of dorm-like clusters, each with an activity area, showers, meeting rooms and open common areas. The areas labeled POD 700, 800 and 900 are the ones that are being renovated. These are not jail cells. And the upgrades will make them superior to some of the dorm rooms that exist on the UA campus.
The Bishop’s letter came on July 3rd. On July 8th the County Administrator advised the Board of Supervisors of the request, outlined proposed deal points for a long term lease, and let the Bishop know the plan was moving forward. This is the letter Mr. Huckelberry sent back to the Bishop accepting the request for the facility:
All systems go – until the monkey wrench was tossed into the mix with the emergence of the non-starter TUSD options last Friday evening. That bump in the road appears to have been navigated and I’m hopeful that we’re back on track.
Both the County and the City will be applying for Humanitarian Aid through the Arizona Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency. On the County side, no Stonegarden money can be spent for Sheriff overtime until they receive this Humanitarian funding.
All of this is a very big deal in this community. Hundreds of you have volunteered and have donated to the work. I don’t believe your work was well served by the sidetrack it took last week, largely by people who have not been involved and doing the heavy lifting. But that’s likely behind us and we can move on with the original plans. It’s important to recognize the needs of the people being served. This poem by world renowned Somali poet Warsan Shire speaks to the large issue of refugees. It’s a little dark, so use your descretion about sharing it with your kids.
July 20th is the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. If you haven’t seen the movie Apollo 11, it’s worth the trip. Throughout this week, Flandreau Planetarium will be holding a series of events and exhibits all related to the moon landing. All of it will culminate this Saturday with their One Giant Leap Day. They’ll have planetarium shows along with a bunch of special exhibits and presentations. The UA has been a major player in space exploration so Flandreau is the perfect spot to celebrate the Apollo mission.
They’re offering special discount prices for these events. Use this link to their webpage to learn all the specifics.
There were a couple of brief news stories last week related to the possibility of a casino going onto land over at I-10 and Grant. It’s the location of a former movie theater. The land is owned by the Pascua Yaqui tribe. What we did was not any form of a rezoning to allow a casino. We agreed to support the tribes effort to place the land into Trust. That means a few things. One is that the land would be ‘in Trust’ – held by the U.S. in Trust for the tribe. That would effectively make it a part of an Indian reservation. And when that whole process is finished, it will then make it possible for the Pascua Yaqui to begin work on a casino. Or on whatever other commercial and/or residential uses they’d like to see on the site. If that happens, it’ll be years off in the future.
Allowing that process to move forward includes an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between us and the tribe. If we’re sort of de-annexing the site, we want to make sure we’ve got clear understandings on multiple deal points. One is revenues. Our IGA will make sure we’ll continue to receive tax revenues equivalent to what we’d have otherwise received, but for the Trust development. We need to ensure TPD and TFD have suitable access to the area. There will be agreements in place for trash pick up, road maintenance responsibilities, and all the other services that are now assumed to be City of Tucson obligations. Some of that will change, and some won’t when the IGA is framed.
One key part for me was to make sure that when development happens, the fact that the land will now be the property will effectively be carved out of the City should not result in the elimination of public process when it comes to rezoning and redevelopment. Our City Attorney confirmed that when development incentives are requested, as they are for all major projects, the normal City public processes will be adhered to. And when I asked the Chairman of the tribe about their public process he confirmed that they reach out and get community input. It won’t be identical to ours, but I appreciated both of those answers.
With specific respect to the casino, if that is ever contemplated, we’ll get 90 days notice, and we’ll negotiate a separate IGA related to that project alone. And if all the negotiations fail, there’s a provision for binding arbitration built into the agreement.
The media stories fixated on the possibility of a casino. While I agree that that’s the very likely direction this is headed, understanding that it’s years down the road, and that a separate agreement will be drawn up ahead of it were I believe points that could have been made more clear. If you’re a gambler, don’t bet on a casino at I-10 and Grant in the next couple of years.
Last week we advanced the Complete Streets policy along one more step. I’m still looking forward to the eventual design manual. That’s where the multi-modal, aesthetic and safety elements will be put into place. But ahead of that we’re working through the structure of the coordinating council and how that council will affect some of the existing Boards, Committes and Commissions. After last week’s study session, we’re close.
The Complete Streets Coordinating Council will be one of the two committees formed to advise and make recommendations to M&C on the final Complete Streets design elements. The CSCC will be a large group of 20 members. Only 17 will be voting members. Who appoints them is one thing still to be decided on. That should be presented to us for discussion in either our August meeting, or the first one in September.
The other advisory committee is the Technical Review Committee (TRC.) That one will be made up of City department representatives, each bringing a different transportation/roadway perspective to the table. Those will include of course our TDOT director, parking, planning and development and likely several others. They’ll guide the work of the CSCC before any final recommendations are brought to M&C.
Also to be decided is the fate of the existing BCC’s related to transportation. That group includes our Transit Task Force (busses,) Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Park Tucson Commission. Staff had recommended each of them be dissolved within 9 months of when the new CSCC is formed and starts work. That should occur before the end of this year. I expressed opposition to that. I believe each of those BCC’s looks into a unique set of issues that are beyond the ability or scope of what the CSCC will be working on. Forming the Complete Streets committee does not have to come at the expense of eliminating the others. We’ll see the final staff proposal on that when this gets back onto our agenda.
Ultimately this is supposed to be about safety, and forming roadways that are inviting to multiple modes of users. Autos for sure, but also bikes, busses, and pedestrians. And as we learned during the Broadway expansion process, getting RTA buy-into our preferred design will be another piece needing our attention.
Rio Nuevo is moving ahead in their design process for the Sunshine Mile. They held several public outreach sessions, gathered input from those, and are now soliciting input in the form of an on-line survey. Here’s the link for you to participate.
The survey will only take you a few minutes, but getting your thoughts into the design team may affect your enjoyment of Broadway for years to come. The Broadway Citizen Task Force spoke often about creating destinations and neighborhood scale commercial development. Creating walkable/bikable spaces. Those are what we’ll hope to see drafted into the Complete Streets design elements. And they’re the sort of thing you can suggest in the Sunshine Mile survey.
And on a related note, the RTA is right now reaching out to neighborhoods and businesses asking to set dates for them to come out and make a presentation on reframing the current RTA program and setting a date to get it back on the ballot. The current RTA runs through 2026.
When they contacted me about helping to set up these presentations, I offered our community room for a large one. I know there’s a lot of public interest and believe we’ll be able to get a decent sized crowd. But their preference right now is to make smaller presentations in front of individual neighborhoods. If they feel the need for a larger one later on, they’ll let me know. So for now, if you’d like to have someone from the RTA come to your neighborhood meeting and make a pitch for the next round of the RTA, contact Mindy Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call her at 495.1427.
Or you can wait for the larger meeting I’ll probably be booking later in the fall.
On a final transportation-related item, there’s some movement in Congress related to a federal Complete Streets policy. It’s being led on a bipartisan basis by our own Ruben Gallego, plus Steve Cohen (Tennessee,) Adriano Espaillat (New York,) and Senator Ed Markey (Mass.) It’s goal is similar to ours – safety and accessibility.
It’s a pretty lengthy bill. Here’s the opening portion where they describe what’s meant by “complete streets”:
The overall goals of the Bill are to encourage adoption of CS policies, provide technical assistance in forming them, including attention being given to alternate modes of travel, and to help with funding.
Determining who gets the funding support will be tied to how well the jurisdiction is adressing the following areas in its CS guidelines:
Lots of potentially positive stuff going on related to roadway design. I’d encourage you to get your oar in the water for the RTA2 and Sunshine Mile requests for input. Those are very local, and will have very local impacts.
I’ve written about Gil before. He’s now looking for a forever home. Here’s his story.
Gil’s now 2 years old. Gil was shot in the spine and is now permenantly paralyzed in the hind end. But you can see from his expression that he’s a happy little guy, especially now that he no longer has to drag himself along. His ‘walker’ is his legs. He plays well with other dogs, loves to snuggle and his foster mom says he’s a treat to have around.
Gil’s foster mom travels a lot and so can no longer care for him. He’s looking for a new home. Best case, of course, is a new and permanent family. Next best is a new foster situation. The hope is to have one of those in place by mid-August.
If you might be interested and would like to meet Gil, please reach out to Kim at 289.0549, or Nancy at 403.4632. It would be great to get him placed in a loving, long-term situation.
It is summer and once again, this year, more than 35 downtown businesses are joining forces to entice you into visiting the downtown core and experiencing our revitalization first hand. The Deals are this week’s Local Tucson.
Thanks to the legwork of our Downtown Tucson Partnership staff, and to each of the participating merchants, the variety of options this year is better than ever. You can get deals at restaurants, breweries, happy hour, clothing and jewelry, museums and health clubs. By going to www.downtowntucson.org/deals you will see the full listing of the participating businesses.
The deals are good through the end of August. Summer is generally a drag for businesses so anything you can do to support our locals would be great.
Council Member, Ward 6
Tuesday, July 16, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Open Studios under the Full Moon
METAL ARTS VILLAGE 3230 N. Dodge Blvd.
Twelve artists open their studios and invite the public to come explore/Working in steel, bronze, wood, glass and more, the arts at the Metal Arts Village create everything from home décor to museum quality sculpture. Watch demos, sign up for classes, enjoy entertainment, refreshments, food from Molecular Munchies and Los Locos Tacos food trucks, sample a craft beer at the Award Winning Tucson Hop Shop, Tucson's best craft beer hall. Enjoy a free concert in the sculpture garden by Paul Opencensky Project.
Friday, July 19, 7:00PM
Pima Animal Care Center, 4000 N. Silverbell Rd.
Midnight Muttness! Free Spays & Neuters at HSSA
The summer months are the busiest at PACC, so the staff is looking to clear some kennels to make room for incoming pets.The shelter sees as many as 130 pets a day during the summer-People can help ease congestion by adopting or fostering.Those who are interesting in fostering can walk in and take a pet home that night. DJ, food trucks, a bounce house, craft tables, and giveaways/Central Pet will be giving away free I.D. tags for every pet adopted.They will also be drawing for raffle baskets every hour and handing out food samples that are available at the store in PACC’s lobby.For those who can’t adopt or foster, the shelter is always in need of donations.The shelter can take physical items or monetary donations can be made to Friends of PACC, the shelter’s official nonprofit partner/Pima Animal Care Center 4000 N. Silverbell Rd. 520-724-5900.
Saturday, July 20, 7:30 PM
FOX THEATRE 17 W Congress St, Tucson
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Tickets $25 - $75
MOVIE SCREENING & FUN!
VIP Tickets are available and include a pre-screening party at 5:30pm with cocktails, appetizers 50/50 Raffle and more! Proceeds for the party and tickets to the movie benefit the Andra Heart Foundation.
All Tickets to the event include Popcorn, Soda, Ice Cream and an Andra Heart Tiffany Blue Ornament.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’s is an exciting and entertaining romantic comedy about a charismatic girl from high society and an unrealized writer. The film is loosely based on Truman Capote’s novella of the same name. A provocative story with a touch of an inappropriate comedy, romance and melodrama. The story portrays the unlikely friendship of flighty Manhattan party girl Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn) and Paul Varjak (played by George Peppard), a quiet and insecure writer with an obvious problem of writer’s block. What follows is an adventurous romp through life in the early 60’s. The set and costume design for the film are exquisite and the theme song “Moon River,” is a haunting reflection of the action of finding one’s way through life’s ups and downs.
MORE ABOUT THE ANDRA HEART FOUNDATION
In 2010, Andra died of an undiagnosed heart condition. She had a plan to save the world and the foundation was created to keep her vision alive. The Foundation supports and provides opportunities for community members to learn CPR, provides cardiac screening programs for students as well as Automatic Electronic Defibrillators (AED) to schools, educates the community on the warning signs for Sudden Cardiac Death and advocates for volunteer and community activism.
Sunday, July 21, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM
St. Philip's Classic Farmers' Market
St. Philips Plaza, 4280 N Campbell Ave, Tucson
Arizona State Museum, 1013 E University Blvd | www.statemuseum.arizona.edu
Arizona Theater Company, 330 S Scott Ave | www.arizonatheatre.org
Children's Museum Tucson, 200 S 6th Ave | www.childrensmuseumtucson.org
Fox Theatre, 17 W Congress St | www.FoxTucsonTheatre.org
Hotel Congress, 311 E Congress St | hotelcongress.com
Jewish History Museum, 564 S Stone Ave | www.jewishhistorymuseum.org
Loft Cinema, 3233 E Speedway Blvd | www.loftcinema.com
Main Gate Square,
Friday Night Live Summer Jazz Concert Series, Geronimo Plaza – 814 E University Blvd FREE ADMISSION, Fridays at 7:30pm, Validated parking in Tyndall Garage after 5pm | https://www.maingatesquare.com/2019-friday-night-live-jazz-concert-series/
Meet Me at Maynards, 311 E Congress St | www.MeetMeatMaynards.com
A social walk/run through the Downtown area. Every Monday, rain or shine, holidays too! Check-in begins at 5:15 pm.
Mission Garden, 946 W Mission Ln | www.missiongarden.org
A living agricultural museum and ethnobotanical garden at the site of Tucson's Birthplace (the foot of "A-Mountain"). For guided tours call 520-955-5200
Raices Taller 222, 218 E. 6th St | Fridays and Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm | www.raicestaller222.com
Rialto Theatre, 318 E Congress St | www.rialtotheatre.com
The Rogue Theatre, The Historic Y, 300 E University Blvd | www.theroguetheatre.org
Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, 414 N Toole Ave | www.tucsonhistoricdepot.org
Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way | www.tucsonbotanical.org
Tucson Convention Center, 260 S Church St | tucsonconventioncenter.com
Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N Main Ave | tucsonmuseumofart.org
UA Mineral Museum, 1601 E University Blvd | www.uamineralmuseum.org
Watershed Management Group, Living Lab 1137 N. Dodge Blvd. | www.watershedmg.org
Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson, 2130 North Alvernon Way | www.yumegardens.org