Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- State Militia
- Keeping Your Hands on the Wheel
- Fry's Design Review
- Broadway Logjam
- Puppies and More
- Animal Health Center
- Stormwater Harvesting
- Arizona Stadium Renovations
- Local First: Center on 4th
- Mural Art
- Events & Entertainment
According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), we are now seeing the highest number of displaced persons throughout the world than at any time on record. Over 65 million people around the world, many from nations described in a very challenging manner by the President last week. These are data from the UNHCR that describe the worldwide problem:
So where do they come from? Haiti, Somolia, Sudan, Central America. This graphic shows the spectrum.
This week’s Be Kind recognition goes to the many volunteers who serve throughout our community in support of people who come here fleeing persecution and abject poverty in their own countries of origin. If you’d like to get involved, here are three local agencies who are doing important work with displaced persons.
- Refugee Focus of Tucson (now known as Refugee Services at Lutheran Social Services) – 120 N. Stone – 721.4444
- International Rescue Committee in Tucson – 2199 N. Kolb, #103 – 319.2128
- Iskashitaa Refugee Network – 1406 E. Grant – 440.0100
In the past week you’ve heard the vulgar descriptions surrounding the issue of immigrant and refugee nations. Check with these agencies if you’d like the real story on the conditions people are fleeing and how you can help.
You know this place if you’ve driven on Country Club, near Speedway. The Benedictine Monastery is a true Tucson treasure. The sisters have been serving the community for decades. The property has been sold and this month they’ll celebrate their final services in our community before leaving to join another order in Kansas. One of the services will be on the evening of January 19, but that may be a sold-out affair. If you’d like to join in their final service, the one most likely to have room left will be on Sunday, January 21 at 9 a.m. They’ll close the chapel following that final Mass. We’re grateful to Sister Joan and her colleagues at the monastery for their valuable service to the community.
On a somewhat related note, I’m inviting you to join us next Sunday, January 21 for Sacred Space here in the Ward 6 community room. They’ve asked me to share some music prior to the teaching, which is an invitation I always appreciate. It’s my release.
Sacred Space is not a religious service. The group explores various approaches to extending compassion throughout the community. Sometimes it’s a function of a spiritual practice. Other times it’s through direct community involvement. Each week they present different musicians and different teachers. Come join us on Sunday. Gather at 4 p.m., music starts shortly after that, followed by the teaching. Next week the presenter is Pam Hale Trachta on the topic of Spiritual Activism. As a special addition, following Sacred Space at about 5:30 there will be an art exhibit opening in our community room featuring artwork from Connor Grove and Jack Busby. It’s up now and is very cool stuff. Come join us for the whole afternoon of activities.
In Ellenville, New York last week a 55-year-old guy sought out his former girlfriend and her current boyfriend – also both 55 years old – shot them and killed them. Then he took his own life. Another example of DV, guns and a troubled former lover ending it all for all involved.
Another triple shooting occurred last Tuesday in Virginia Beach. Two of the victims – both guys – are dead. A woman who was also shot will survive. Police are investigating the motives, but as with so many of these, it appears to be another DV connection.
In the Bronx last Wednesday, two women – one 54 and the other 29 years old – were shot and killed by a 54-year-old guy. He was also shot. Although, the details of how it all went down aren’t clear. What is clear is that the two ladies are dead, and the guy – who was the killer – is in serious condition.
To ensure we’re all well-armed and prepared for any contingency, there are now three bills under consideration up in Phoenix that would allow you to privately purchase guns that are suited for the military or law enforcement. Here’s the language describing what “a person who is or has been a member of the militia of the State of Arizona” will be empowered to purchase:
So who’s included in the “state militia?” Current law defines that as any “able-bodied citizen of the state” between the ages of 18 and 45. But these bills expand that to eliminate the age restriction as long as the person is “capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”
Under HB2057, 2058 and 2059, the state legislature does not allow bump stocks, but you can see the array of weaponry they want you to buy, presumably so you can fend off the military and police when they come knocking at your door. Bayonets, any magazine capacity, and any mounting equipment that’s in use by the Army. There will be another Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Aurora, San Bernardino, Charleston, and Tucson with this sort of irresponsible legislation making its way through legislative bodies across the country.
According to a January 8 article in Governing the States and Localities magazine, traffic fatalities have risen nationally by 13 percent since 2013. Our local experience of nearly 60 fatalities on our roads last year alone is the unfortunate norm. Last week we joined Oro Valley and Pima County in voting to change our hands-free ordinance to a primary offense in Tucson. That means if you are using your phone, tablet, GPS or other electronic device while behind the wheel, you can receive a citation for that (effective when we take the final vote on the ordinance language, likely later this month).
Last March we passed this same prohibition, but at that time it was a secondary offense. That meant the only time you could be cited for it was if you were also committing another moving violation that caused the officer to pull you over. The data in the table below demonstrate a couple of things. One is that this behavior occurs all over town. The other is that as a secondary offense, it’s pretty worthless as a public safety enforcement tool.
You can see that number of people on their phone while driving in one day. Those data are for a seven-month time frame. I fully supported making the ban a primary offense.
On the evening before the vote, I received this note from VeloVets. They’re a non-profit that works with disabled veterans here in Tucson and the region.
That sentiment reflected the vast majority of the input I received. I appreciate those who wrote and didn’t straddle the issue. It’s about public safety and should not be conflated with other issues.
Is there evidence that making this a primary offense will materially impact the safety of the public? Yes. We were provided multiple sources demonstrating that evidence. The sources ranged from local (the Oro Valley experience), to El Paso, San Diego, Alabama and the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration. Pedestrian traffic fatalities were measured in 2016. The data showed a 25 percent increase between 2010 and 2015. Pedestrians now account for the largest proportion of traffic deaths than at any time in the past 25 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving collisions account for 885,000 of the national total, including over 3,100 fatalities.
Our hands-free ordinance won’t solve all of that. In fact, over the weekend we suffered our first traffic fatality of 2018. It was a pedestrian hit while crossing the street outside of a crosswalk. No cell phones were involved. It’s not always the driver who’s at fault. But waiting for all the road safety pieces to be ready to implement before we take any steps would have been irresponsible. In the same way dropping speed limits on our bike boulevards before we have all the other safety measures in place for those streets was the right thing to do, so was this.
The full process needs to follow the general principles found in Vision Zero, the nationwide movement in which cities are adopting a variety of road safety measures. Enforcement and providing the legal tools to enforce is one of the legs on that Vision Zero stool. Other parts of that movement include road design elements, speed control measures, signage, lighting and education. In New York City, they completed over 115 street safety engineering projects last year. In San Francisco they added 700 improvement projects. Those include things such as speed humps, signal upgrades, sidewalk upgrades and traffic calming measures. In both cities they’re experiencing significant reductions in pedestrian deaths on their roadways.
As I said during the discussion we had on this item, the goal is not to be punitive or confiscatory. That is why I recommended that we reduce our fines for first, second and third offenses. This is about education, not hurting people in a disproportionate manner. The lower fines will be a part of our ordinance.
There is no single magic fix to the national trend in traffic deaths. The step we took will help us locally, if not with fatalities associated with distracted driving, certainly with injuries associated with it. I’ll also continue working on the other elements of street safety that we need to adopt. But, contrary to some of the input I received from groups who actively advocate for the complete streets and Vision Zero approach, we don’t wait until we can do everything before we do something. We did and good for the M&C who supported this measure.
Another example of a split vote is the one we took on a 16-acre commercial development a mile from the Saguaro East buffer zone. I did not support what was in front of us, but it passed, so I’ll give you a snapshot of how it’s evolving through the design and approval process.
By way of reminder, this is what was presented to us on the night of our public hearing.
It’s a 96,000 square foot Fry’s, with a service station and other retail. Prior to that public hearing the Fry’s had been in excess of 98,000 square feet, but because they have to keep the combined parts of the project managed by Fry’s to under 100,000 square feet, the design team produced a smaller version on the night of our vote. Since that change did not occur in front of the Zoning Examiner, allowing for public input locking in the smaller proposed design, I objected to the timing of the change. But it went through.
I used the word evolving above. That was by design because in looking at the review comments the city has sent back to the design team, I see that the size of the Fry’s has again been changed. This time it’s back to just under 99,000 square feet. That’s for the store proper, not the associated gas station. The new size includes some outdoor sales areas, but since they’re not assigning a cash register to those displays, they’re evidently being left exempt from the 100,000 square foot calculation. If you were to add them in and include the gas component, the design would be illegal.
Evidently our own plans reviewer has issues with how this has again morphed back towards the big box it once was. These are the comments sent to the Fry’s development team just before Christmas, a month after our vote for the 96,000 square feet.
We were told on the night of the vote that the Fry’s would be 96,000 square feet. It grew again. Any council member who supported the original plan or the mayor may bring the project back for a revote if they’re bothered by this.
I don’t believe we’ve seen the end of the whole conversation related to this rezoning. There were irregularities in how we changed the terms of the neighborhood plan and there appears to be a continuation of the site development alterations. I know it’s not only my eyes that are scrutinizing this project. There’s far too much potential precedent built into how this ends for it to simply stand on the 6-1 vote approving the PAD.
I’ve written a lot about Broadway and the upcoming widening. I have shared some potential good news with the incorporation of Rio Nuevo and the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) to add some creative design possibilities to the corridor. I’ve also shared some frustration at watching the city process proceed along in the normal course of how they do things, to the exclusion of Rio and PPS. Now I believe the logjam that has been this parallel path is close to ending.
Project for Public Spaces conducted a walking tour of the Sunshine Mile and gathered input from multiple stakeholders. They have now finalized their report and I will be asking for a study session during which it can be made public. With Rio money, you paid for it. The draft I’ve seen appears to be consistent with what the public asked for during the long design phase for Broadway. The challenges will be timing and funding. Still, the proposal reflects this guiding principle, expressed by the founder of PPS:
At present, Rio has expressed some general interest in a few sections of the corridor. We need to complete an agreement with them that somehow either transfers ownership of the parcels to us, the RTA or Rio. Rio needs to work with property that is publicly owned or their ability to invest is restricted by state law. That’s the piece the real estate folks haven’t been getting across sufficiently to property owners. That’s the piece I’ve been advocating strongly to see clarified.
In conversations I’ve had with city leadership over the course of the past couple of weeks, I’ve been assured that the right legal means are being identified so Rio can engage property owners prior to final decisions with respect to relocation or selling out. Place-making design concepts can be moved forward and I’m hopeful we’ll start seeing some design wins along the corridor soon, consistent with our responsibility to approve development agreements.
On a related note, at the last study session I asked for an explanation on why the RTA is moving High Capacity Transit (HCT) dollars around while we’re still unclear as to either the final design options for Broadway or the financial status of RTA projects generally. Over the weekend I was advised that the $1.1M they moved had been previously programmed to conduct environmental analyses of some proposed transit corridors. But the regional transit authority isn’t ready to go ahead with those studies, so to avoid losing the money (use it or lose it in 2018) they elected to reprogram it and put it to other uses. I’m told PAG anticipates the long range transit plan will be complete around the end of this year.
I mention that here because of the ongoing question regarding RTA revenues, project schedules and how that plays into planning for some of the unfinished RTA projects in Tucson. Broadway has been discussed as a potential HCT corridor. Creating destinations along the Sunshine Mile will enhance the viability of investing in that manner. If we simply demolish the structures along the corridor and ignore the possible value in inviting Rio and PPS design concepts into the conversation, the result may be losing an opportunity to set a new place-making design template in motion.
Complete Streets modeling is being developed. Broadway doesn’t need to wait on the completion of a Complete Streets design manual to take advantage of PPS and possible Rio funding. Demolishing buildings prior to considering concepts with potential funding partners obviates the whole discussion.
Meet Russell, Cooper, and Mike.
They’re on the Save the Saveable website which features pooches, along with kittens who have some health needs that go along with their need for a home. On Saturday, January 27, The Loft will host an event that is a fundraiser for Save the Saveable, but will also include the classic comedy film, Best in Show. The full event will run from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., with the show starting at 4. There will be raffle prizes, food vendors and KHIT DJ Kricket will emcee the event. The movie is rated PG-13. You can get tickets online only until 11 a.m. on the 26th and of course at The Loft on the day of the show.
I write about our shelter and rescue groups on a fairly regular basis. Save the Saveable is working to expand public awareness of the at-risk animals housed out at PACC. This event will help them with that important community service work. Plus, the movie is a kick. You can learn more about their work at www.nokillpimacounty.org.
On Sunday, January 28, the newly remodeled Reid Park Zoo animal health center will be doing their ribbon cutting. The project is the culmination of some significantly important fund raising work by the Zoological Society. The new facility will be a state-of-the-art medical care facility that’ll support the zoo’s work on animal welfare and animal conservation. Groups can request tours once they’re up and running – being sensitive to the fact that it’s a working facility where the primary concern is the well-being of the animals under their care.
We’re indebted to our partners at the Zoological Society. The experience for the animals and the public at our zoo would be entirely different if it were not for their very important help in funding and staffing the place.
Last week, we received an update on progress in encouraging the public to harvest stormwater. From my perspective, we’re making small strides in an area that we should be taking huge leaps. The need exists and the means are available.
This chart shows how many residential rainwater-harvesting rebates Tucson Water has have paid out to customers. Level 1 is passive, largely earthwork systems (basins) and Level 2 are active cistern installations.
We just recently affirmed with staff that the city should be advocating for the use of stormwater basins and other harvesting mechanisms on private property and not just in public rights of way. On Tuesday, I added that even where those properties are in flood prone areas, we should eliminate our policy of denying permits for harvesting landscape work and instead use those site conditions as a way to require more extensive design than normal to reduce the potential of downstream flooding. We were told that change will be made.
Our passive systems capture mild rain runoff. Drywells have the capacity to capture larger rain events and produce a positive impact on the aquifer. When I asked why we aren’t more heavily engaged in promoting their use, staff raised issues of silting and maintenanc. Those are accurate concerns, depending on the watershed and soil conditions that exist in a given area. However, there are plenty of areas rich with potential for dry wells and we’re not exploiting those opportunities.
Torrent Resources designs, constructs and installs dry well systems. These maps are instructive to make the point that we in Tucson aren’t where we could be in using dry wells.
The green flags are where Torrent has dry wells in the Tucson area. Compare that to this map showing their use in the Phoenix area:
We have room to improve.
In layman’s terms, a dry well is a two chamber system that captures large amounts of stormwater and returns it deep into the aquifer. This diagram shows how they work:
This photo gives a better real-life perspective on the magnitude of the systems:
State law controls how deep the storage wells may go and how far above the aquifer they need to be. The concern is of course for water purity and not injecting impurities into our aquifer. State law also controls the rate of infiltration. What we don’t want is to begin creating pools of standing water all around town. Everyone who knows about the systems understands the importance of those criteria.
This is an example of a basin that incorporates both a regular, Level 1 basin (earthworks), but also a functioning dry well. Paul Durham and I will continue to advocate for these in strategic areas around town. The potential to ease some of our stormwater damage, while improving the retention rate of our stormwater exists. I believe it’s an opportunity we need to more fully explore and implement where they make sense given the soil conditions in an area.
During an interview between periods at a UA Hockey match last week, Tim Gassen asked me to speak a bit about my job in the athletics department. I’m always happy to share that part of who I am with people. Here I’ll give an update on the start of a capital project that may impact how you travel around the southeast quadrant of campus.
We’re starting the next phase of Arizona Stadium upgrades today. This work will take place on the lower east side of the stadium, adjacent to some dorms and the mirror casting labs. It’s a sensitive location and one that will involve some close coordination with those other tenants in the stadium.
The work will involve gutting the rooms that are now beneath the lower bowl seating, replacing them with new fan amenities (concessions, restrooms, a student lounge, and more) and cutting new openings into the stadium seating area so the student lounge area has direct access to the seats.
In addition to that work, we’ll also reshape the southeast entry ramp and add more concessions and restroom upgrades to the east of what used to be Cherry Avenue, the street that runs under the east side upper deck of Arizona Stadium. We’ll upgrade that walkway and extend the eastern perimeter of the stadium. If you normally access campus on the east side of the stadium, that access point will be eliminated starting on Tuesday.
The work will take us through the summer and will be done for the first home game this fall. This graphic shows the general construction site.
None of the construction vehicles will be using residential streets to access the site and you should not be seeing subcontractor parking in your neighborhood if you live around campus.
This is one of five rather large capital projects the athletics department has under design or construction right now. It’ll be a busy spring and summer. I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening in that quadrant of campus.
This week’s Local Tucson item is an invitation. The Southern Arizona Aids Foundation (SAAF) has been working on a new youth center with a focus on client services for the LGBTQ community. It’s called the Thornhill Lopez Center on 4th and they’re set for a grand opening and open house this Thursday, January 18. I’m very pleased to join Supervisor Elias in commemorating that opening.
The goal of the space is to open it as a safe place for LGBTQ and allied youth to come and study, access art and programming of a variety of kinds. In the words of Curtis Thornhill for whom the center is named, “The Center on 4th will remind our whole community that our youth are loved and welcome.”
The center is located at 526 N. 4th Avenue. Their normal hours will be Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. and every third Saturday evening. Stop by if you can and show your support for this new addition to the Avenue.
Last year we finalized a program in which artists may propose mural work on our utility boxes. This one at the corner of 6th and Euclid is the most recent one for which the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona has received an application.
I’m sharing this with you for a couple of reasons. One is to let you know this program is still ongoing and you’re welcome to submit your work if you’d like to take part. To get involved you’d first contact Jesse Soto at TDOT at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can walk you through the rest of the process.
The other reason I’m sharing this is to allow you to offer our Public Art and Community Design Committee your input on this particular proposal. The West University neighborhood leadership has weighed in in support. Pie Allen will be notified of the project for their input as well. Those are the two neighborhoods adjacent to the intersection.
These are renderings of what the artist proposes:
He describes the intent of the piece like this:
The Public Art committee will be reviewing the project proposal on February 14 at 3:30 p.m. Their meeting is open to the public at the Pima County Housing Center at 801 W. Congress. If you’d like information on the mural art program or would just like to share your input on this proposal and cannot make that meeting, contact Natalie Wardlaw at email@example.com.
Council Member, Ward 6
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