Topics in this Issue:
- Be Kind
- Planned Community Development
- Water Security
- More TPD
- Local First
- Household Hazardous Waste
- Bus Stop Cleaning
- San Gabriel Basin
- City of Tucson Services
- Events and Entertainment
As many of you know, since my mom died earlier this year, I’ve been slowly finding a home for some of her things in ways that I hope honor her. For example, some of the art has gone to Sister Jose’s women’s shelter. A friend of hers sold several pieces to support the Artists Guild Scholarship program. Mom would have loved to support that work. Last week, a young couple who bought some of her stuff agreed to meet with me and learn more of her story. The 2 ladies are in their mid-twenties, and are in the early stages of planning a life together. In the ‘60’s, it was a much different story. Same sex couples could not be ‘out’, for fear of their safety or losing custody of their kids. I’m very grateful for the Kindness of the two 20-somethings who shared their story with me and embraced the legacy that helped set the stage for their own ability to share a relationship that was scorned back when many of us were fighting for civil rights of all kinds. Meeting these two felt like completing a circle in time. Let’s not allow the current administration to roll back the clock to those ugly times.
Similarly, you may have heard that Syracuse University has recently had a series of racial and anti semitic incidents on their campus. A Be Kind mention to the ‘Cuse janitor who, while cleaning off the graffiti, has also been posting his own positive messages in its place. One said “good energy,” and another “Kindness changes everything.” The University should give him some very public, positive recognition.
I’m still picking up my mom’s mail at her PO Box. Last week she got a solicitation from Lugo Charities for their Bike in a Box program. Over the past 11 years, Lugo Charities has taken financial donations and buys bikes for needy kids during the holidays. The letter came to mom because she participated in the past. I plan on keeping her name active again this year by investing in our local youth through this program. I hope you’ll consider doing the same. The contact information for Lugo Charities is www.lugocharities.com. The give-away is going to happen, with the Claus family present, at 10am on December 7th at the Elks Lodge – 1800 N. Oracle Road. They’re taking donations now so none of the kids goes without. Do you remember your first bike? I do – mom bought it for me for $45 dollars – big money back in the day for a single mom to afford. Now, 50+ years later, through this event you can provide a new bike for a little kid for $55. Pretty good job of holding inflation in check.
Last week we had a chance to look at our FY’20 first quarter budget projections. When I started doing this in ’09, the message we received at this same time was a projected $40M deficit. We’ve made some excellent progress – based on preliminary projections, we’re looking at an unassigned fund balance of a positive $44M. That’s an $80M swing. It’s something nobody in the media reported, but that you should know.
I know budget talk can put some people to sleep, and I don’t want to lose you so early in the newsletter. So I’ll keep this brief. This table shows (bottom right cell) the good news. It means we will have some money to invest in some of our on-going needs. We still have plenty, so this isn’t ‘mad money’ we can just waste. And, it’s your money, so we will treat it respectfully.
We got to this point because, as we climbed out of the recession, we made some very good fiscal development decisions. Not always easy ones, but clearly good investment calls. Back in ’09 our sales tax revenue was around $169M. Now, it’s bumping $220M annually. Sales tax drives our engine. It’s earned through private sector success. Come downtown sometime and wander around and you’ll see plenty of great examples of that success.
One more chart, then I’m done. It shows our revenues, and the costs we expect to have this coming year.
What did we spend some of our last-year’s cash carry forward on? Things such as I.T. upgrades, one-time cash distributions to our workers, a Fire Academy, and setting aside money for a building maintenance fund. All of those needs continue. So do others such as increasing police staffing, vehicle replacement, and investing in a contingency fund to take care of unplanned infrastructure emergencies.
This was a preliminary look at our budget position. A new Council will be seated on December 2nd. They will have a much different message awaiting them than Richard and I did when we were first elected. Our budget position is a credit to all City staff who have helped pull through the tough times of the past decade.
I just said that much of our budget progress is the result of having made good development decisions. That doesn’t mean every development opportunity is one we should grab at. Last week, I believe we had in front of us an example of that. While I was on the short end of the vote (5-1) I believe some of the others on M&C were uncomfortable with some of what was approved. We’ll have a chance to test that as the process of this Planned Community Development (PCD) moves forward.
The PCD will be the development of 2,500 acres of land out on the east side. Again, no media coverage of what I think is a pretty big deal for the region. This map shows the site boundaries:
What you see outlined in yellow is all State owned land. It’s within the City limits. If it was not within the City limits it would be subject to development standards contained in the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. One major part of that Plan is the commitment to 80% open space and 20% development. In the PCD the M&C approved, that ratio is flipped; 80% developed space and 20% preserved space within that 2,500 acres. Losing that open land within the City is just one of the reasons I opposed the deal.
The PCD is said to follow the Houghten Area Master Plan (HAMP) – a development roadmap that was put together back in 2005. That’s even before the current RTA was put to the voters. Things have changed in how we get around in the past decade+. They’ve also changed in how the community has developed. We should expect that to continue to be the case in the decades to come. This PCD won’t be built out for over 20 years. And yet, last week we locked into place zoning entitlements that will guide how the 2,500 acres will grow. The density is locked in. The open space is lost.
The way this project will work is that the State will auction off sections of the 2,500 acres. As each is auctioned off, it will be developed according to the terms we just approved. Some will be residential, some commercial. The commercial is described as “Village and Town Centers.” All things being equal, the scale of that commercial would be great. It’s the local, neighborhood scale commercial we’re hoping to see along the Sunshine Mile. But contrary to what one of my colleagues said, dropping 80% developed space into 2,500 acres out near the eastern boundary of the City, along Old Spanish Trail, is not ‘infill.’ It’s now lost. Or it will be if this work is allowed to happen.
One way the M&C can still weigh in opposing the work is by exercising some of our water rights. The State is committed to providing to the City of Tucson 14,000 acre feet of water. Until now, despite our best efforts, they’ve held the water close to their vests and not let loose of it. As each of the 15 development parcels for this PCD come up for auction, an Intergovernmental Agreement between the State and the City will have to be agreed upon. During the M&C meeting last week I raised this issue of the 14,000 acre feet. Others joined in – and they seemed to suggest that we’ll capture that commitment when we negotiate the IGAs. That’ll be good, but the land is still lost to development significantly more dense than what is allowed under the current zoning.
I mentioned this development to the Harvard Club last week during a luncheon address I gave. One guy correctly pointed out that we also don’t want to see more developers heading out into the County and dropping wells into the ground, eating up our groundwater supply. True enough. And yet, this PCD is within City limits. We won’t be seeing wells drilled on this State land, and we didn’t need to agree to the levels of density called out in the deal that was just approved.
We’ll get our chance to claim our 14,000 acre feet of water when we see the first IGA. Twenty years is a long time to predict our water, or our development future. We just locked in zoning entitlements for that period of time. That will bring hardscape to replace our Sonoran desert. It’ll bring buildings in place of wildlife habitat. With all the chatter about climate change, preservation of open space, and water security I hear from colleagues, I was surprised to be the only one who voted in opposition to the PCD.
We’re serving CAP water through our City water system right now. The PCD is planned to also use CAP water. Until we see changes in the allocations to CAP, we’re ok. Last year we had a heck of a time negotiating a multi-state Drought Contingency Plan. That is, a plan putting contingencies into place for the drought we’re experiencing. One piece of that was paying agriculture interests over $20M to continue dropping wells and pumping groundwater. The DCP will need to be renegotiated within the next 5 years. The PCD is in place for over 20 years. Without successfully negotiating new water agreements, the planned development for the east side may be looking at leaving CAP to some unknown degree and needing to dip into our groundwater system. Who knows what our water situation will be in 2040 and beyond. One thing we do know is that we won’t likely be in a better position than we are today.
One problem I’ve written about over the course of the past year is the PFC problem we’re experiencing in some of our groundwater wells. It began with levels of over 1,000 parts per trillion out by DM. In September, I shared that out by the Air National Guard base at TIA we’re seeing levels 10x that amount. This map shows the levels and where they’re occurring. The purple, red and blue lines are of particular concern.
I received a call last week from Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star reporter. I reaffirmed to him that I believe we should be adding both the Department of Defense and the State into our water contamination litigation, not as a part of the 3M lawsuit, but fresh litigation with each of them. The levels of contamination allowed by the EPA are 70 parts per trillion for this stuff. That’s a ‘health advisory’ – it needs to become a Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) or EPA money won’t be allocated for remediation. But 70 is not 1,100, and it’s not 10,000. Even this uber-conservative EPA would have to concede the contamination levels we’re seeing need remediation. That means money. According to our D.C. lobby team, that means the DOD because “that’s where the money is.”
Our D.C. team doesn’t prefer to be called a ‘lobby’ arm of the City. I generally don’t use that term, but since we’re not seeing any success from our Congressional delegation to move to an MCL and free up money, the D.C. team is indeed lobbying on our behalf. It’s clear to all that there’s an issue needing to be addressed. Even the DOD last week acknowledged the problem is bigger than they had ‘realized.’ This quote from last weeks Military Times:
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment (I didn’t know there was such a thing) Robert McMahon said Wednesday that continued Department of Defense efforts to identify locations with potentially harmful levels of chemicals uncovered more sites, namely National Guard facilities.
He said the Department will name the sites when it has verified the number of locations. “As part of this process, we think there are probably more installations, and I’m not ready to tell you what that number is, but we found that we under-counted.”
Well, if he looks at our map, he can add Tucson to their list.
We just approved a 20+ year master planned community on 2,500 acres of State owned land that’s located within City limits. We will have to negotiate an update to our DCP. We’re in litigation trying to find money to control and remediate a PFC plume that’s in our groundwater system. I see a disconnect in that series of issues. Hopefully we scale back the PCD through digging in when we see the first IGA approving terms of the auctioning of the State land. And hopefully we win litigation soon so we can begin cleaning up the plume and will never be in a bind when a shortage is declared on our CAP deliveries.
I attended a hearing on the Genna case last week. There was some movement forward – after 7 years – but the hearing won’t happen until after we pass the 8 year mark since she was shot to death by the guy who was living with her. The family is staying in the background. I can tell you that they’re devastated by having to wait yet another year to achieve justice for Genna.
One statement made during last week’s hearing was that this was not ‘a cold case.’ In fact, it was every bit a cold case until my office provided TPD, and through them the County Attorney’s office, a full review of the files, including photos, witness statements, and a reconstruction of the crime scene. While others would now assert they ‘took a fresh look at the case,’ those of us close to how this is unfolding know the truth. But the goal is to get a jury to hear the evidence – evidence that would not have ever been presented if we had allowed the 2012 County Attorney dismissal of the case to go unchallenged.
One example – in ’12, TPD told the County Attorney that they had commissioned an official armorer’s report to determine whether or not the claim by the killer was plausible. The claim was that he was putting a new grip on his loaded Glock, with Genna and their 3 year old standing nearby, and the gun accidentally fired, killing her. At the time, TPD told the County Attorney their armorer said that was plausible, and that accidental discharges like that were common. Here’s what we provided to TPD, from their own records, and which are now a part of the “new evidence.” The “Q” is questioning by TPD, and the “A” is the TPD armorer:
The numbers on the left hand column change because the statement I’m pulling from moves from one page in the report to the next. The point though is that the TPD allegation that they had conducted an official armorer investigation into the crime scene was false. Our Detective Whitfield was married to a TPD armorer and casually asked him while they were lounging around at home what he thought about it. It was based on that allegation that the County Attorney dismissed the case back in 2012. We’ve now presented the full set of facts to people who are now moving ahead with a legitimate prosecution.
What about where the armorer says other officers have made ‘the same mistake?’ He’s not talking about trying force a new grip onto a loaded gun. He’s talking about an accidental discharge under quite different circumstances. Here’s his explanation:
There’s more from that same witness statement. The case will resolve based on whether or not the actions of the killer were reckless. This statement from the TPD officer being interviewed puts that question to rest:
And this –
Neither I, my staff, nor anybody associated with the family understands why it took us having to extract records from TPD, put them all together, hire an outside guy (who is being defamed by some of the prosecution and TPD in current conversations,) and re-present all the information – which they’ve all had in their possession – to get this back on the proper track.
There will be a “motion hearing” next March. The trial will begin in August. Right now, it's scheduled to be an 8 day hearing with up to 25 witnesses. It’s really much simpler than that – as you can see from the statements I’ve included above. There’s plenty more where that came from. We’ve waited 7 years. We’ll stay engaged for the duration.
That wasn’t a real positive TPD item – but it also doesn’t reflect my respect and good relationship with the Department. I hosted a multi-neighborhood meeting recently in which TPD was present to listen to and discuss with residents the crime they were experiencing in their midtown neighborhoods. I’ve hosted several of those and the feedback I get from residents is that they appreciate the opportunity to share information.
At this recent meeting, one guy made some allegations that need to be corrected. When claims are made about TPD service, the officers and leadership take them seriously. They did so in this case, checked out the allegations and have reported back to me that they weren’t at all accurate.
The claim was that a resident had tried to contact his Lead Police Officer for a 2 week period and couldn’t get anyone to respond. His point was that TPD is ‘unresponsive’ and ‘nobody cares.’ I always find the ‘nobody cares’ claim to be a bit odd, especially when it’s generally tossed out during an evening event at which several cops, me and some of my staff are there to listen and help.
In this case, TPD checked out the claim and found that in fact, even though that LPO was away teaching at the SWAT school, he had made arrangements for another officer to stay connected with the resident, made several attempts on his own during the training to follow up, and closed that communication loop when he returned from the training.
During a real-time forum such as the one I hosted, TPD cannot be expected to have on-hand information to answer claims made on the fly, such as the one made by this guy. I appreciate the unit Captain going back and actually reading the text message exchanges and other communication surrounding the ‘nobody cares’ assertion. If you attended the recent Duffy/Mitman/Highland Vista TPD meeting, I’m sharing this so you know your TPD contact process is working well, and that in fact, the officers and command staff do ‘care.’ We at the Ward 6 office appreciate their efforts.
I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving, but some from my staff said I needed to get in the spirit, so here you go.
The Berger Performing Arts Center is hosting A Christmas Carol coming in just a couple of weeks. It’s really a Charles Dickens Festival that’ll run December 6th through the 8th, and then again from the 13th through the 15th. You can go on line and get tickets now.
The two weekends offer pretty much the same series of shows. This is the schedule for the first weekend:
If you can’t make it on those dates, it repeats starting on Friday the 13th, and through Sunday the 15th with those same showtimes. It’s one of those timeless musicals – to check for seating, either call at 319.0400, or go on line at www.arts-express.org.
And staying in that same ‘spirit,’ coming this weekend is the Reid Park Arts and Crafts Fair – well timed for getting an early start on holiday giving. I won’t be doing that – I’ll be there playing guitar and doing some light rock cover. I may even throw in a Lady Gaga number. No Christmas carols. You can get that at the Dickens shows. The Fair is this week’s Local Tucson item.
The Fair runs on both Saturday the 30th, and Sunday, December 1st. They’ve got over 160 vendors lined up. The pieces include art of all kinds, photography, pottery, jewelry, mosaics, quilts and a bunch more. And food – both to buy and wrap, and to buy and eat while you’re at the Fair.
The show runs from 9am until 4pm on both days – depending on weather, so watch the forecasts. I’ll be following the Tucson Flute Club that’ll play from 11 until noon on the 30th. My set runs from 12:30 until 2pm, unless its raining. The best way to access the Fair is by using the Country Club Concert Place entrance. If you’d like more information about the event, call them at 791.4877.
I write about our recycling program and the challenges it’s having. We’ll soon be looking at changes to it. One constant though is our Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program.
Much of what I share in the recycle updates includes references to contamination. There are several products that we do accept through the HHW program that you cannot put in the blue bins. Examples of those include auto fluids, car batteries, cleaning products and engine oil filters. Do not put those in the blue bin, but do bring them to the HHW disposal centers.
Not everything is fair game, even at HHW. Please do not bring old caked on paint cans, explosives, ammunition or television sets/CTR’s. None of that sort of thing will be accepted. For a full list of both the “Do’s” and “Don’t's” of the HHW program use this web site:
HHW materials are collected every Friday from 8am until 2:30pm at 2400 W. Sweetwater and the first Saturday of every month at 7575 E. Speedway. That opportunity is coming on Saturday, December 7th.
We also take the stuff Monday through Saturday, from 8am until 4:30pm at the Los Reales landfill (5300 E. Los Reales Road.) If you can’t make any of those, you can call for a special at-home or at-business pick up for a $25 fee.
If you have questions about what you can bring, or anything more about the program, contact Kendra Hall at Kendra.firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll take care of you.
I’ve also written recently about where to call if you see any of our bus stops that need attention. AdVision is our vendor, and I’ve given their contact information. Evidently, Sun Tran and AdVision put their heads together and decided a more efficient way to get the bus shelters cleaned was to go straight to Sun Tran.
We have about 2,200 bus stops in the Tucson area. Sun Tran is going to take on the responsibility for oversight, and will ensure the stops are cleaned of litter, power washed and made presentable for our transit customers – and for residents who live in the area around bus stops. If you see overflowing trash cans, litter, graffiti, vandalism or homeless camps building up around the stops, please contact Sun Tran at 792.9222, or email the location to SunTranInfo@tucsonaz.gov. You can also email them photos of the problem. Sun Tran will be the direct point of contact with AdVision.
We had a recent flurry of activity around some W6 bus shelters and AdVision was very responsive. I guess we’ll see how this process works out.
One more change in reporting direction. This isn’t a procedure change, but I’m correcting an email contact that I had in previous newsletters. Straight from the TDOT web site comes this instruction:
If it looks similar to what I’ve had in the newsletter, that’s only because it is – except look closely at the Bird email and you see it’s email@example.com. I’ve had bird.com. So eliminate the “m” and you’re golden.
Scooters are picked up, charged overnight (the ones they can find) and replaced in diverse locations the next morning. The companies hire people to do those drops. Last week I received this email from a local business person:
I read your newsletters, so I have seen the information you have been sharing on the scooters that have now become part of our downtown.
Here is something that just happened to me 5 minutes ago.
I have a 15 min loading zone in from of my store. A Bird Scooter person came and lined 4 scooters up on the sidewalk smack dab in in the middle of the zone and quickly got in his truck. I was working with my mailman, but went out and tapped on the scooter man's window and I said "Sir, you placed these scooter in a loading zone and people can't get out of their cars to unload packages." He looked me dead in the eye said "why should I care" rolled up his window, and drove off.
Myself and an apartment dweller from the apartments above moved the scooters to a more appropriate place.
I just wanted to share my encounter with you. It doesn't seem like Bird is trying to hard to fit into our community.
A very similar account was shared related to dropping scooters in front of a business on 4th Avenue. I’ve asked for a December 3rd study session to address this pilot program. It is working just a Shirley and I predicted that it would.
With that, onto this week's gallery of clutter and unsafe riders.
These girls have just dodged the guys riding the scooter on the sidewalk – a common occurrence in and around the downtown area.
…for example -
And yet, sometimes riders actually do get into the bike lanes where they’re supposed to be. In this case though, riding ‘with traffic’ would be a better, and more legal choice. Not riding double on the scooter, and wearing helmets would probably be something for these gents to consider.
Or we see them riding in the street just jacking around in traffic. I doubt this is Durham’s “first-mile/last mile” group of riders saving the environment.
Another common sight – scooters completely blocking the sidewalk. Or in the case below, blocking the fire hydrant and laying in the street.
They often come in pairs – birds of a feather…
TDOT just invested $50K for sidewalk work, trees and other streetscape work along 4th Avenue. The merchants kicked in another $5K. Now that work is being used as docking stations for irresponsible scooter riders.
Blocking the sidewalk, and with Tugo bikes neatly docked in the background.
Or just laying around trashing out the area.
And each week I get emails from people who object to having them parked outside their houses in residential areas.
When this one was reported, Bird’s answer was to send the person back to get an ID number off from the handlebars. At least they ended the email this way:
Thanks for writing in and reporting this scooter. Can you please provide the Bird ID of this scooter It is located on the handlebars. Have a great day!
People are getting justifiably frustrated with this mess.
You don’t need to ‘scoot’ around to help the environment. That point was made in the recent designation of Tucson as a “Runner Friendly Community” by the Roadrunners Club of America. It’s the first time Tucson has received this recognition.
I run all over town and see others doing the same every day, so this award doesn’t surprise me. What’s cool about it though is that it’s based not only on individuals being out there jogging, but it also recognizes the running infrastructure we have in place (the Loop and the multi-use path around Reid Park for example,) as well as business and government support for the activity. Thanks are due to both Run Tucson and the County Office of Attractions and Tourism for putting the application together and getting the designation process started.
There are several reoccurring events around town that you can participate in. There’s Meet Me at Maynards every Monday downtown. That starts at 5pm at the historic depot. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there’s a workout group that meets by the Annex Fields at Reid Park at 6pm. On Wednesdays after work you can join a group at St. Phillips Plaza for some jogging along the Loop. That starts at 5pm. I’ve promoted the weekly ParkRun that’s held Saturdays in Himmel Park at 7am.
If you need a support group, there are several opportunities. Otherwise, it’s easy enough to just head out the door and go for a run on your own. No excuses left.
A quick note of thanks to our TDOT staff, Tucson Clean & Beautiful and the residents of San Gabriel for their collaborative work getting this new basin ready for the winter rains. When it rained last week, the new basin clearly did its job.
Working with the County Flood Control District, TDOT and Parks, we have a similar project just kicking off over in Palo Verde neighborhood. As we put more of these neighborhood-scale basins into place, stormwater runoff will be less of an issue for neighbors to deal with.
Council Member, Ward 6
Follow this link for contact information you might need from time to time to access all sorts of City services. You’ll find Environmental Services, Tucson Water, how to report graffiti, some Tucson Codes, and a bunch more. You are completely still welcome to contact us directly at the Ward office if you’d like some help navigating the system, but there will be times you just want to make a call on your own.
Saturday, Nov 30, 8am-9pm
The 25th Annual Parade of Lights | Jacome Plaza
The Downtown Tucson Partnership is proud to welcome the community to celebrate the holiday season with the Mister Car Wash 25th Annual Parade of Lights & Festival! The Parade of Lights & Festival is Downtown Tucson’s premier holiday event that brings together the local community from all walks of life to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season and Tucson’s unique culture.
Schedule of Saturday, November 30th events:
8:00 am FREE Sun Link Streetcar Rides All Day Long
8:00 am – 10:00 pm Small Business Saturday – Shop Small
4:30 pm Festival Begins – Live Entertainment | Jácome Plaza
5:30 pm Mayor’s Tree Lighting Ceremony | Jácome Plaza
6:30 pm Parade of Lights starts
7:45 pm Parade Ends
8:00 pm Dancing Under the Lights: Santa Pachita
9:00 pm Event Ends – Thanks for Attending!
More information here: https://www.downtowntucson.org/visit/parade-of-lights/
Tuesday, Dec 3, 5:30 - 8:30pm
Rainwater on Tap | Watershed Management Group Living Lab, 1137 N Dodge Blvd
Raise a glass with us to honor the rebirth of the Santa Cruz River and the growing movement to restore Tucson’s heritage of flowing rivers. We’ll unveil our newest interpretive exhibit at the Living Lab – featuring the story of the Santa Cruz River’s glorious past and our future vision. Learn about the great mesquite forest, native fish, beavers, and your part in charting a new path for our rivers.
Come prepared to enjoy an evening outdoors. We’ll have the chimenea, gas heaters, and hot cider fired up to embrace the fall night in style! Your pre-paid cover of $15 includes two drink tickets ($20 at the door). Visit https://watershedmg.org/event/rainwater-tap for more details.
Nov 29 - Dec 1, 10 am to 5 pm
Western Heritage Festival at Old Tucson | 201 S Kinney Rd
Join Old Tucson and the Arizona Sonora Western Heritage Foundation in celebrating our roots with a Western Heritage Festival! Check out local cultural groups including the Arizona Civil War Council, Ha:San Preparatory & Leadership School, and more to be announced! Plus, Power from the Past will have engines on display and their ice cream machine to serve guests tasty treats! Santa will be in the Old West to help kick-off the holiday season! This fun and educational event is great for the whole family, so don't miss out on this celebration of Western heritage.