Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- World Day of Remembrance
- 911 Call Center
- Caliber Hotel
- Broadway Widening
- More Artistic Opportunities
- Upcoming Art Exhibit
- City Elections
- Local First: Hydra
- Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports
- Events & Entertainment
Tucson Be Kind
I was happy to see the zoo propositions each pass so we can invest significant funds into the facilities out there. However, this Be Kind mention is to the dozens of teenage volunteers who are investing their own time to raise funds in support of the international wildlife conservation efforts of the zoological society, specifically on behalf of our new red panda tenants. Passing the zoo sales tax will protect the accreditation, which in turn allows the conservation work to continue. Thanks to the youth who are helping to make that possible.
Friday was the Veteran’s Day Parade in Tucson. None of those civic events can take place without the help of volunteers who carry a large part of the organizational and implementation load. In this case their work honored our local veterans. They deserve to be recognized for that kindness.
On a personal note, thanks to the many, many people who have called out a congratulations from their bike, while out walking or driving past. It’s very nice to have the election behind us and it’s very nice to hear your kind words of support.
Last week there was yet another mass shooting inside of a church. It was nearly two years ago that a racist shot and killed nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church. Last week it was 26 people killed during a worship service in the little town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The murderer was on his second marriage; the first one ended after he assaulted his wife and child.
(Photo Credit Todd Heisler/NY Times)
The shooter used what authorities call a Ruger AR-15 variant. It’s a knock-off of a standard military semi-automatic style weapon. Almost all of the AR-15 variants were covered by the federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 until 2004. The ban expired and now they are legal for civilian use. In Arizona, you can buy one for cash out of the trunk of a car without any questions asked about your mental or criminal history. They sell for between $500 and $900.
Trump said the shooting was “not a guns situation.” Really? Just like the Vegas shooting had nothing to do with the legality of bump stocks.
Here are those who were killed in the shooting. Where names appear together, it’s a husband and wife. Eight members of the Holcome family were killed, including an unborn child. In addition to the unborn, the ages ranged from 17 months up to 72 years old.
Dennis and Sara Johnson
Noah Holcome (17 months)
Jenni Holcome (Noah’s mom)
Danny Holcome (Noah’s dad)
Tara Elyse McNulty
James McNulty (Tara’s son)
Crystal Holcome (and her unborn child)
Richard and Theresa Rodriguez
Robert and Shani Corrigan
Brooke Ward (JoAnn’s five-year-old daughter)
Emily Garza (seven years old)
Karen and Robert Marshall
We’re certainly not immune here in Tucson. Last week there was a double murder with an associated suicide on the east side. A guy shot his wife and son, tried to shoot his brother but for a malfunctioning weapon, and then took his own life. Records show that he had a history of violent crime dating back over a decade.
In Scottsdale over the weekend, a 59-year-old guy shot and killed his 59-year-old wife. He then turned the gun on their three-year-old and nine-month-old children before taking his own life. Police say the couple was having “financial problems.”
World Day of Remembrance
Another kind of significant loss is when we lose friends and relatives in traffic incidents.
Living Streets Alliance is one of our important community partners on all things road design and safety. Please join us on Sunday, November 19 as we join communities around the world in remembering those who have lost their lives in roadway accidents.
This event is one aimed at increasing awareness of the need for each of us to play our own role in making Tucson streets safer. Some of that is design. To that end, we’re working on a Complete Streets Policy, a document we hope to finish next year that will guide roadway design in ways that respect all users of our roadways. That includes cars, other modes of transit, bikes and pedestrians.
Awareness also includes the behaviors of bikers and pedestrians on the road. We’re all sharing the same space, regardless of how we’re getting around. With that, we all bear a level of responsibility in making ours safer streets.
Mostly though, the 19th is to remember those we have lost. If you have lost someone or know others who have, please come and take part in this vigil. You can use this link to let the LSA folks know you’ll be participating.
2017 is a record-setting year for loss of life on our roadways in Tucson. We have reduced speed limits on our bike boulevards, are working on a protected left-hand turn program, and are in discussions with TDOT on increasing safety protocols around marked crosswalks, but we can do more. Stay tuned. The necessary conversations are taking place. I’m encouraged by the breadth of involvement by both city staff and members of the community.
911 Call Center
At almost every neighborhood meeting I attend, a part of my message is to encourage you to call 911 whenever you see suspicious behavior or any form of crime in your neighborhood. TPD command staff meets weekly and reviews calls by area. If they see trends in one area, it may affect their deployment priorities. Your calls are important information for them to track activity.
If you have non-emergency calls, it’s still important to make the incident a part of the police record for when they hold the weekly deployment meetings. If you simply wish to report an incident and don’t want to tie up the 911 lines, you may call 791.4444. It’s answered between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week. We also have patrol substation numbers listed online. Here’s a link you can use to find the one that applies to your area.
We sometimes hear that call wait times out at the 911 center are an issue. That’s being addressed in several ways. Your input has been a valuable tool for city management to understand the need to act.
First though, continue calling about suspicious activity. If your call is clearly not an emergency, the dispatcher may place you on hold so they can address a truly time-sensitive call. You are not placing others who have life and safety needs at risk by calling.
Staffing in the communications center is always an issue. If you’ve ever toured the place you know it’s a stressful, high-stakes job. We have increased pay levels and we are in the process of hiring staff. We are adjusting the procedural pieces of that process to shorten it and will simply leave the job posting open so applicants can always be considered, instead of just when we sense a need to hire in numbers. We know that need will not disappear.
We are consolidating the police and fire communication functions out at the center. In addition, dispatchers are being cross-trained so each will be in a position to dispatch to either a police or a fire emergency. All of that will make the operation more efficient.
That’s an image from the City of Sacramento 311 call system. It’s a call line and a phone app available to the public as a resource for multiple uses. 311 systems are becoming more and more common in cities throughout the country.
What may make the largest impact on the comm. center operation is the implementation of our own 311 system. We get over a million calls per year out at the 911 center. Staff estimates that close to one third of those are non-emergency and in some cases are calls requesting city services totally unrelated to police or fire. Calls about water bills or trash collection for example. Many other jurisdictions have a separate line for non-emergency calls: the 311 system. I met with fire leadership about his last year and they’re working hard with the city manager’s office, police and other city departments to get this alternate call system into place. If we can reduce the call load out at 911 by 30 percent, everyone gains.
I’ve toured the 911 center multiple times. You may recall my work back in 2011 when the center was having both staffing and systemic issues. Those were temporarily resolved, but we can do better. I’ll continue to update you on the changes as they’re implemented. We at the Ward 6 office very much appreciate the hard work our dispatch team puts in. We will continue to support the work invested by city leadership as the consolidation moves forward and as the 311 system is integrated into the public safety protocols we offer the community.
When I was first elected in 2009 there was talk of the city back-stopping bonds in support of a $200M convention center hotel that was to be located on the west side of the TCC. Given that there was no private sector downside risk to the project and the excessive price points built into the proposal, we successfully defeated that project in 2010. The City of Phoenix went forward with their downtown hotel and are now trying to off-load it while losing tens of millions of dollars in the process.
Last week the downtown AC Marriott opened. It’s about 130 beds at mid-range price points, all funded with private dollars. Last week we also gave approval for a rezoning around the TCC to begin the process of developing a Caliber Hotel on the east side of the TCC, bringing in another 125 rooms. We’re getting to the scale of what the 2009 hotel was going to be, but doing so using private dollars at price points that are Tucson affordable.
Built into our approval was a discussion of the need to take a look at how neighborhoods surrounding the TCC are already being impacted by overflow parking. When special events occur at the convention center, the free parking exists in the blocks generally to the south of the site. That’s Barrio Viejo: an historic neighborhood with narrow streets, largely made up of single family, owner-occupied residences. We owe it to them to address the parking issues the TCC is causing even without the addition of a new hotel, in much the same way the city works with neighborhoods around the UA campus to address overflow parking related to university-sponsored special events. We approved the rezoning for the hotel and we gave direction to staff to initiate contact with the neighborhood leadership to address the parking issues.
A reconfiguration of the existing TCC parking lot will address some of the parking concerns. Work done in conjunction with the hotel is adding 20 new spaces to the site. That, along with the plan to eliminate south-bound traffic onto Cushing Street out of the TCC parking lot will help. More to come though.
The hotel is proposed to be six stories, which is less than the 75 feet allowed on the site. It’ll come with a coffee shop and will be built with architectural elements that blend with the surrounding historic area. Importantly, it’ll add to our downtown room capacity which will help us in recruiting conventions and other events to the TCC.
We’re growing downtown in the way it should have been back when Rio Nuevo was formed. We’re partnering with the Rio Nuevo District, private sector developers and neighbors to hit singles and doubles, not trying to swing for the fence with projects none of us can afford and that don’t fit with who we are as a community.
Thanks are due to the project team, most importantly the Rio Nuevo staff who has taken a lead role in public outreach on this project. It’s all a part of the good story we have to tell with respect to how we continue to grow out from the recession.
Some growth that still needs that design and development conversation is the RTA widening of Broadway. That conversation continues on multiple angles.
By way of quick review, the widening was passed by M&C 5-1 (Regina was absent for the vote and I voted no) and is nearing the end of the design stage. An open house is planned for after the first of the year. In a release, the project team promised a “video fly-through showing how the corridor will look after completion” as part of the open house. That will be interesting since the property acquisition and land use components are still under discussion. I know many will be looking to make sure the “fly-through” does not purport to show a final design that’s already baked into the plans.
On that note, Rio Nuevo has hired the Project for Public Spaces. They are an international design consultant looking at the Sunshine Mile in terms of creating nodes and destinations that are walkable and bikeable from nearby residential areas. The parcels along the corridor to be used as the first examples of what can be done is still under discussion. We should have more on that after the first of the year as well.
At the west end of the corridor, an eight-story student housing project is about to break ground. They hope to have that 595-bed facility up and running for the fall 2019 semester. While I understand the land use decision by the developer, I’d have much preferred to see some sort of retail component go in to benefit the neighborhood. That ship has sailed though.
A public art component is a part of all RTA projects. Dirk Arnold was selected through a competitive process orchestrated by the Arts Foundation to oversee the Sunshine Mile art. Dirk will work with the community, the design team and design professionals as he proposes art projects that are intended to reflect the Sunshine Mile themes. As that work progresses, I’ll make a point of getting word out through the newsletter about when and how you can see what’s being proposed and participate in that process.
More Artistic Opportunities
Broadway isn’t the only place local artists can get involved in community art. The Arts Foundation is advertising several other opportunities. It’s something they do on a regular basis. To keep current on what’s available you should be a regular visitor to their website (www.artsfoundtucson.org). One that I’ll be enjoying the fruits of is called the Bike Barometer on the Loop Project. It’s a partnership between the Arts Foundation and Pima County’s Wastewater Reclamation Department. One element they’re hoping to see is some shade for people out on the Santa Cruz portion of the Loop. The deadline for submissions is November 20th. They actually have two of these Loop opportunities open – both with the same closing date – so your chances of being selected are double.
A call for some temporary art out at the airport is closing on November 15th. The pieces will be up for calendar year 2018 and will be displayed in the main terminal. This call is limited to Southern Arizona artists only.
The Foundation is also working with the Tucson Museum of Art on a call for artists 18 years of age and older. This will be a statewide juried exhibition featuring Arizona artists only. The deadline is March 2nd and the work will be on exhibit from July until October of next year. Having seen my mom get ready for shows I know this isn’t too early to let you artists know about this. They’ll do the selecting from digital images or video submissions.
Arizona College students are invited to submit for the 37th Annual Governor’s Arts Award competition. There will be a small $100 prize, but the more important part is that the winning submission will be featured on the cover of this year’s Governor’s Arts Awards program.
Here is how they describe what the evaluators will be looking for:
The work should celebrate artistry, culture and unique characteristics of Arizona as the artist sees them.
The deadline to submit is December 22nd. The ceremony will be held at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix on March 22nd. Google “Governor’s Arts Award” for all the specifics on how to get involved.
I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, but I respect people who can create visual art. If you’re one of those, consider jumping into some of these opportunities and sharing your talents with the rest of us.
Upcoming Art Exhibit
Coming this Thursday over in the Downtown Artisans complex, recent Tucson arrivals Alan and Tracy Maymo will be hosting their own exhibit. They just moved here from Spain.
The exhibit will be a combination of paintings, clothing and accessories. The opening will run from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on the 16th at 186 N. Meyer Ave, about a block from the Tucson Museum of Art.
The paintings are Alan’s work and Tracy decorates the clothing and accessories. This will be her first show. Tracy uses Alan’s paintings as the take-off for her application.
I thanked people in the “Be Kind” section for calling out congratulatory comments as we pass on the street or out on the Loop. As I hope you know, last Tuesday we held citywide elections. Three council seats were up for grabs, plus a few ballot measures. I’ll share the final tally’s here.
We have over 400,000 registered voters in the city. Just under 35 percent took part in the election. While people who follow this stuff consider that a “good” turnout, I’m disappointed that only one third of registered voters participated. We address some important quality of life issues, manage a billion dollar budget, and there were important propositions on the ballot. There are still people who are mentally working through the November 2016 election, which many considered a surprise result at the presidential level. Please don’t sit out the 2018 elections coming next fall.
Thank you to the 48,892 who voted in support of rehiring my staff and me for another four years. I think UA football coach Rich Rod would take a 60-32 final score every week if he could manage it. We at the Ward 6 office are grateful for your very solid vote of confidence. We look forward to continuing the partnerships we’ve established over the past eight years.
I’ll add that Green Party candidate Mike Cease is a quality guy. He stopped by to congratulate me. He ran a principled and focused campaign and he’ll be around advocating for important environmental issues. I appreciate his involvement in the democratic process.
We have a new member of the council. Paul Durham will join us after defeating firefighter Gary Watson. Both of those guys ran good campaigns and each is an asset to the community. I look forward to serving with Paul in the coming four years.
Up above in the “Be Kind” section I wrote about the zoo propositions passing. We needed to adopt both in order for the one-tenth cent sales tax increase to become law. It will sunset in 10 years. During that time, we will see important investments in the zoo facility, including some not so sexy stuff like water lines and other infrastructure, and in other cases new and expanded exhibits for the animals. The zoo tax will help the Tucson Zoo at Reid Park to maintain their accreditation. One reason that’s important is the international wildlife conservation work they do. Without the accreditation by the Zoo and Aquarium Association, that work wouldn’t be possible. Thanks to all of you who saw the importance in passing these two measures. Soon we’ll be talking about management structure out at the zoo. These new dollars will be an important piece of that conversation.
I don’t know of many (any?) people who don’t recognize the value of preschool education. Proposition 204 brought that discussion out into the light of day. I was on record not supporting 204, not because I disagree with the notion of quality preschool training, but because I felt the proposition as it was written was flawed in some important ways. Probably most importantly was that it was $50M per year forever, with few specifics drafted into how it would be allocated. The voters evidently saw that and other issues as it went down by nearly a two-to-one margin.
Council members are paid $24K annually, plus a car allowance. That’s how it’s going to stay, 70 to 30.
This week’s Local Tucson item is a goodbye. For the past 23 years, Margo Susco has been running the Hydra clothing store on Congress Street in the heart of downtown. She’s a mainstay. At the end of the year, she’s calling it quits.
Margo has seen a ton in her time downtown. She rubbed shoulders with the iconic Cele Peterson, hung out with Johnny Gibson, has survived the recession and streetcar construction, and has seen the renaissance we’ve worked on together over the past 8 years. Her passion for the area is unparalleled and she’ll be missed.
Last week Gabi Rico from the Star called me and asked if seeing Hydra shut down, along with the vacancy across the street in the former Chicago Store worried me. I told her no. These are opportunities to see continued change and growth in the downtown core. That’s not to suggest losing what has been a downtown anchor like Hydra comes without some sense of loss. Those of us who have worked hard to see downtown thrive will miss Margo. It’s a page turn for her and for us as a city.
Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports
I’m guessing that most of you aren’t familiar with this group. If you run, walk or bike on the Loop or around Reid Park, you’ve seen some of these guys and gals rolling along and likely past you. Their rigs are impressive and their conditioning is as well.
Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports is a group who supports the physically challenged, but hardly “disabled” in their perspective. What they need is donated used rigid frame wheelchairs, sports chairs or adaptive cycles and any parts associated with that equipment. That includes everything from Velcro straps to tires and tubes, seats, wheels – parts they can use to repair the chairs used by the SAAS folks. If it’s usable and if it’s fixable, they’ll take it.
On Sunday, November 19, Mia Hansen and the SAAS group is hosting a “fix-it” event. What they’re doing is taking all the donated items and repairing chairs for those in need of the help. Yes, it’s emblematic of who we are as a community. I saw you give to nonprofits throughout my recent campaign. This is another example.
Here’s the flyer for the event:
The event will run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The location is 2342 E. Parkway Terrace. They can use your equipment, your talents and your donations. If you’re the media, they can use your coverage to help get the word out about what SAAS is doing in the community.
In addition to the gear noted above, they’re also accepting home-related equipment that can be used by those with mobility challenges. That includes things such as shower chairs and benches, portable ramps, and mobility scooters if they are in decent condition; items that will allow people to maintain their independence. What they don’t need are things like crutches and canes. Give them a call if you have any questions: Mark at 520-882-7937 or Mia at 520-370-0588.
The lunch they’re serving on the 19th is free so they’d appreciate it if you let them know you’re coming. If you want to check out the work SAAS is doing more generally, go to www.soazadaptivesports.org.
Council Member, Ward 6