Topics in this Issue:
- Be Kind
- Water Security
- Student Housing
- Rio Nuevo Audit
- Local First Arizona
- Porch Pirates
- City of Tucson Services
- Events and Entertainment
Last Thursday evening, Ross, his wife Lisa and I were invited to the Catholic Community Services (CCS) holiday party. During the event the Bishop and leadership from CCS kindly presented us each with a momento in respect of our work in support of the migrants at the monastery.
Also last week, Mayor & Council passed a Memorial in opposition to the mis-named “Migrant Protection Protocol” (MPP) that the Trump administration is trying to implement. The Bishop also wrote a statement opposing the policy. This is a portion of the closing paragraph from what he sent out:
He is correct. MPP does not provide ‘protection’ at any level.
The rollout is going slowly, and as a result we’re still seeing 50-75 new guests daily at the Alitas Welcome Center. That’s a good thing – sending them to Juarez is sending them into a situation in which they will be fighting for their survival.
Because the MPP program is not yet hitting Tucson, we are still in need of donations for the asylum seekers. The items are by now familiar to you – whatever you’d pack to take on a several-day bus trip with young kids. I’ll add a couple of other ideas that came straight from the list I received last week from the Center:
Since it’s getting cold now, this new suggestion:
Volunteer opportunities are still available, too. Contact CCS leadership at firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll let you know how to get involved.
This is a rendering of what will soon be a Memorial Garden located outside of our Parks & Rec Admin building in Reid Park. When our Parks Director lost his dad last month, donations were dedicated to Tucson Clean & Beautiful. Through the very Kind input from TC&B, as well as local landscape architect Jon Choi, the gifts will soon become a community green infrastructure garden. There’ll be some signature trees, along with other smaller ones filling in the space. Most importantly, it is dedicated to the memory of Brent’s dad, and to the loved ones others in the Parks family have lost this year. I am honored to take part in their dedication ceremony at 9:30am on December 19th. My mom was a long-time Audubon member, Southern Arizona Hiking Club member, Birder and otherwise lover of all-things outdoors. It’ll be nice to honor all of that along with the rest of the ‘family’ who will be there to dedicate memories.
Another act of Kindness came last Friday from the Chasse Builders and their staff. It flowed from this invitation:
You know about the Fire Fighters Chili Cook-Off. In this case, it is the crew building the new Union on 6th project who reached out and offered chili, plus warm clothing to those in need. Through the event they distributed over 50 gallons of chili to between 150 and 200 community members. We see this sort of outreach around special holidays like Thanksgiving. Having the Chasse workers do it on a relatively random evening was great to see.
Speaking of Tucson Fire Fighters, a big thanks to the men over at Fire Central for the Kindness they showed during the lunch/tour they gave to my daughter, her kids and I last Friday.
Ann Charles from my office won a raffle at the Gootter Foundation dinner and this was the prize. A 2 and 4 year old kid will remember climbing on fire trucks and eating lunch with fire fighters for a long time. It’s sort of a full circle – Gootter donates AEDs and Tucson Fire was the beneficiary a few years back. Now they’ve given back through a Gootter prize.
International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) is a network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that operate in over 100 countries. They’re committed to working to reduce the use of toxic chemicals, and by extension reducing the harm they pose to human health. I’d add, to the environment generally, and to all living things. You can find IPEN at www.ipen.org.
Last year they issued a report on possible substitute products for fighting fires – alternates to the AFFF foam we’re suing 3M over. The report was presented at the Stockholm Convention in Rome. It’s not just some off-the-shelf production by people who don’t know their subject matter.
To refresh you, AFFF is a foam used by the military and others to extinguish jet fuel fires. It contains PFCs which are chemicals that when they get into the groundwater, they stay around for decades. And they’re toxic. In the industry they’re known as the ‘forever chemical.’ We’ve found it in some of our water wells in concentrations that are hundreds of times higher than the EPA health advisory limit. We are not serving water from those wells, but we cannot operate with a long term strategy for dealing with PFCs that simply includes turning off wells. I urged that we initiate litigation against the product manufacturers (3M and others) to compel them to pay for containing the plume, replacing our lost well capacity, building treatment facilities and paying O&M on them in the future. That lawsuit is moving forward. I have also made it known that I will support adding the Department of Defense and the State to litigation over this stuff. Our contamination is a result of how the products were handled out at DM and the Air Guard station at Tucson International Airport.
Ok, that’s the background. What about 3F products? The specifications for the military fire fighting foam requires that whatever they use contains fluorochemicals. That requirement dates back to the 1960s. Every time someone demonstrates a product exists that does not contain them, DOD and chemical manufacturers rise up and shut down the conversation. There’s a lot of money involved in the whole issue. Public safety seems to be an afterthought, if it’s one at all.
The IPEN report cites multiple examples of other countries and companies who are using fluorine free products. The 3F products don’t bring the environmentally destructive impacts along with them. And they work as advertised. They’re being used at major airports around the world. In Dubai, Dortmund and Stuttgart Germany, London Heathrow, Manchester and Copenhagen. Every one of the 27 major airports in Australia have moved from AFFF to 3F products. So have British Petroleum and Exxon Mobile. It’s used to address major incidents such as spills at refineries, bulk fuel storage tanks and oil/gas production facilities. People all over the world marvel at the DOD and our reluctance to use the non-toxic products. Fluorine Free Foams are available, certified and effective. This graphic dates back to 2015, 3 years before the Stockholm report was issued:
They knew about, and were using this stuff in other countries long ago. It’s time we did, too.
I wrote above that we’re not serving you water tainted with PFCs. But there are private wells, owned by private landowners, who may be using water that has the stuff in unacceptable quantities. After Tucson Water shared the report on ANG test results, the State Department of Environmental Quality reached out to over 90 private well owners and initiated testing for PFCs. So far they’ve only finished testing 8 wells. In 3 of them they’ve found PFCs that exceed the EPA standards – one with levels of around 2,300 parts per trillion (the EPA standard is 70ppt.) Those wells are out by the Air Guard base. Testing of private wells over by DM is just beginning. I don’t know, and nobody has answered my questions as to whether employees who work on base or out at the ANG unit are drinking uncontaminated Tucson Water or water from a private well. I’ll keep asking.
The Senate is right now asking in the Defense Authorization Bill that PFOS and PFOA immediately be listed as chemicals deserving of EPA Superfund clean up funding. Remember, these are the ‘forever chemicals’ that the industry has been plowing into the environment for decades. And the U.S. military insists they continue using it. There are options we should be exercising at the local level. Lead by example.
This is one of the concluding remarks from the IPEN report:
The issue of PFAS is on our December 17th study session agenda.
Over the weekend I ran across an exchange that’s happening between staff and a proposed new development. The exchange is in the early stages – staff has asked for more information before they respond to the rezoning pre-submittal application. The site is the SE corner of Speedway and Euclid. The idea is to assemble 7 existing parcels and do this:
They want to build 95 units that would include 337 beds. Here’s a rendering of what’s being proposed:
That would be looking towards the southeast, from in the middle of the intersection.
It belongs within the campus footprint, not across the street from West University.
The application form I’ve seen includes instructions from staff back to the developer (Capstone). Where those instructions discuss process, these notes are included:
I briefly met with this group several months ago, told them the process will be all up-hill for them and honestly thought they were going to pursue other locations. Evidently, they’re back.
I won’t let Genna’s case go dormant while we wait for the continuation of the trial process next spring. Remember, she was killed by her live-in under circumstances he called ‘accidental.’ The allegation is that he was putting a new grip on his locked and loaded Glock when it accidentally fired, killing Genna. Their 2 year 10 month old kid was lucky to avoid having been shot, too.
Nearly 7 years ago the County Attorney dismissed the manslaughter charge. In doing so, she said her office relied on what was purported to be a TPD armorer report that said the incident was plausible, and that similar things happened even with police officers all the time. Evidently not feeling it was important enough to test that claim, the County Attorney’s office simply pushed the case aside. The report was not legit (see my newsletter from 11/25.) We now have the case properly back in the process. The current charge is once again manslaughter. I’d say that’s at a minimum. We’ll see what a jury says.
I have never believed dismissing the charges was a defensible decision. For comparison, last month just outside of Indianapolis, a 15 year old girl was shot and killed when a kid in the back seat of the car she was driving was messing around with a loaded AR-15. That’s one of the military style guns that in Arizona you can still buy out of the trunk of a car for cash, with no questions asked. In the Indiana case, the shooter is being charged with reckless homicide and criminal recklessness while armed with a deadly weapon. One might ask what legitimate purpose a 16 year old kid had running around with a loaded AR. The gun guys say it’s his Constitutional right. Look at the facts of Genna’s case and those same charges could/should apply.
Locally, there’s a group called Citizens for a Safer Pima County. They’re trying to get the County Board of Supervisors to join the City and require background checks on all gun sales that take place out at the County Fairgrounds. One of the gun shows they host out at the Fairgrounds is called Crossroads of the West. Some of the people associated with running that show have already plead guilty to the illegal sale and transport of guns in other jurisdictions. Why the County Supervisors are having a tough time with this decision is simply astounding. To his credit, Richard Elias is on board.
Genna’s case will be taking place during next year’s political campaign for Pima County Attorney. I’ll be talking to each of the candidates to see how they feel about the case – and will let you know.
In 2009, the State Auditor General conducted an audit of the then Rio Nuevo boards activities. Many of us had concerns that the board was operating as an arm of the City, very little was being built with the tax money they were receiving, and generally Rio at the time was not functioning as was intended by the enabling legislation. In fact, the Audit concluded ‘gross financial mismanagement,’ characterized by multiple millions of dollars spent on design for projects that never got off the ground. Many people wanted criminal charges to be filed but the Auditor General’s report showed mismanagement, not criminal behavior. In response, the State Legislature threatened to dissolve the District.
The board that was in the saddle back then was replaced – a couple of times – and fast forward to today and see the development successes we’re having in the downtown core. There are multiple cranes operating right now building hotels, housing for mixed demographics, office and retail space. Working together, we’ve turned an important economic development corner. The current Rio board is a big part of that turnaround.
Last week they released the results of the current Rio audit. This one sentence characterizes the report:
“The accomplishments of the District in the latest performance audit period are truly exceptional as a number of actions taken by the District have allowed for major projects to advance in the District and have also improved the long term outlook for the Tucson Convention Center.”
Credit where it’s due: Rio is no longer guilty of ‘gross financial mismanagement.’ We’re partnering with them on several significant projects that will help boost our tax base, to the betterment of the wider community.
I’ve written in the past about the $65M investment Rio is making into the TCC. That’s appropriate – they own it, and it is in fact the “primary component” of the District. Without having that multi-use facility, Rio would never have been formed. Now the goal is to improve the TCC so shows and events continue to come and justify all the work going on in the surrounding downtown area.
Some of the investments made/planned for the TCC include a new ice plant to support the Roadrunners, a new 300 slot parking garage to both help park events and to relieve parking pressure on adjacent Barrio Viejo, infrastructure upgrades to the TCC I.T., lighting and surrounding streetscape, and new meeting rooms. There are also plans to improve the visitor experience at both the Music Hall and the Leo Rich Theater.
Kudos to Rio – kudos to the City and County for pulling in the same direction and being able to change what 10 years ago was a very negative narrative concerning downtown. Our downtown development trajectory is headed in the right direction.
I don’t include the recent addition of escooters as being an example of that trajectory, though.
Last week, the M&C decided that now is not the time to end the scooter program. I disagree, but I’m one vote. Nobody else on the M&C joined me in supporting that move. They did, however, tag onto the 100 slide Power Point I shared during the meeting that displayed multiple flaws that exist in the program. Those include parking in piles, blocking ADA access, riding double, riding against traffic, not using helmets, riding on sidewalks, and a bunch more. During our discussion, Councilmember Cunningham and Councilmember Durham made a point to indicate that the City is indemnified from lawsuits in case someone gets injured while riding the scooter. To that I’d add this – our focus should not be in making sure we’re free and clear from litigation. Our focus should be on the safety of the program. The way its being operated now is simply not safe.
The M&C told City Manager Ortega to meet with the companies and have them address the many issues I laid on the table. Durham thinks if they hang a helmet on the handlebar, it’ll solve the helmet issue. Cunningham wants people to get money off their next ride if they actually comply with our parking requirements. There was talk of setting aside parking spaces along 4th Avenue. Nobody who suggested that was involved in the recent meeting I held with City administration and 4th Avenue merchants in which we heard loudly and clearly that they do not want any parking lost on the Avenue, and do not want disincentives such as increased meter rates imposed, especially now that major construction is beginning again. We agreed to both of those requests during that meeting. I guess you had to be there, though – and none of the other council members were. Thus, the misguided suggestions. The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association had let M&C know before last weeks vote that they want the scooter program stopped. They were ignored.
We’ll see how seriously the companies take what they heard. Their first response though was not what I’d call a demonstration that they had listened. Their App is now asking riders to sign a petition to ‘save the scooters.’ Asking the choir to sing is likely a tactic they’ve used in other jurisdictions where they faced expulsion. I don’t place that in the category of a good faith response to what they should have heard at our meeting.
The NY Times had this article recently:
In it, Renkl gave some data on injuries in other cities. In Austin, nearly ½ of the people injured on scooters suffered sustained head injuries, with 15% of those classified as ‘traumatic.’ Less than 1% were wearing helmets. Whether or not we’re indemnified isn’t the issue.
In Nashville, a 26 year old rider was killed when his scooter collided with an S.U.V. His parents are starting their own petition – to ban the scooters calling them ‘unsafe at any speed.’ Ralph Nadar would love it.
Rented scooters now exist in over 100 cities in the U.S. and in Eurpoe. A guy was killed recently in Paris while riding a scooter. The week before that a 5 year old boy was killed when he fell off the scooter he was sharing with his mother. We see underage and double-riders every day in Tucson.
The Bird and Razor reps bragged last week at our meeting about how many scooter trips people in Tucson have taken. For both combined there are an average of about 1,500 trips per day. That is alleged to have saved several tons of greenhouse gas emissions – based on the false premise that those trips displaced a car trip. A little closer look at the data though shows the average length of trip is less than a mile, and the duration is 9 minutes and 11 seconds. Those trips are bar-hopping or just joy-riding – not trips taken in place of a car.
I believe the M&C are naively expecting the companies to achieve in Tucson what they have been unwilling/unable to achieve anyplace else in the world. But CM Ortega is meeting with them to address what was laid on the table last week. We won’t get rid of them ahead of the 4th Avenue Street Fair – which was my goal – but at least the issues are front and center now. More on this soon.
I’m giving a couple of light shows this week's local Tucson recognition. The Tucson Botanical Gardens (TBG) is hosting Luminaria Lights for one more weekend, and the Zoo is in the midst of Zoo Lights. Both are shows the whole family will enjoy.
The TBG show started last weekend. It continues this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In order to make getting to and from the event more convenient for you and your family, Sun Tran’s Route 11 passes right by Grant and Alvernon.
If you take the bus, make sure you keep in mind that the last bus passes by there on Saturday at 9:18pm, and on Sunday at 8:13pm. Luminaria Lights ends at 8:30 both nights.
I’ve written about some of the parking challenges the Gardens have had with the new owners of the VASA shopping center. Keep that in mind, avoid blocking peoples’ homes in the adjacent neighborhoods – but by all means, check out the event.
And of course, Zoo Lights. Santa will be there for kids of all ages. The show runs every night from now through December 23rd from 6pm until 8pm. It’ll be back after Christmas on the 26th through the 28th. Santa will be back in the North Pole resting up for those dates, though.
They’ll have some special shopping nights called ZOOtique (December 15th and 21st) so keep those in mind if you need some stocking stuffers.
The holiday season always brings Grinch out, too. People are already reporting thieves coming onto their porch and ripping off packages that were delivered. You can take some steps to protect yourself if you expect to have something delivered. If you’re sending something to someone, take a minute and work with them to plan in advance.
FedEx will deliver your package to a local Walgreens. Amazon has special lockers scattered around town. One is the Whole Foods by the Ward 6 office. And you can have USPS deliver your stuff to a neighbor or your place of work - you just have to let them know.
Other strategies include signing up for delivery alerts with the shipper. Tell neighbors that you’re expecting something and have them pick it up for safe keeping if they’re home when it arrives. Give your neighbor a call at work if you’re home and you see that something was left on their porch. Doing the holidays together, we can make sure Grinch stays in his place.
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.
50th Anniversary Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair
December 13 - 15
Historic Fourth Avenue
10:00 AM to dusk
The Fourth Avenue Street Fair brings together 400+ arts and crafts booths, 35+ food vendors, two stages, street musicians, jugglers, carnival food, a kids' art area, face painting, balloons, and more. The Fair is produced by the North Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, Inc., a local nonprofit. The funds are used to support the Avenue’s infrastructure, invest in local neighborhoods and other nonprofits, and to create other free community events throughout the year on Historic Forth Avenue. Free Shuttle Service is provided from the Pennington Street Garage and the Tyndal Avenue Garage by VIP Taxi. We also recommend parking along the Modern Streetcar line and using Sun Link! Visit https://fourthavenue.org/fourth-avenue-winter-street-fair/ for more information
Holidays at the Markets
December 11 - 15
Heirloom Farmers Markets, specific locations below
9:00 AM to 01:00 PM
Get your local holiday shopping done at Heirloom Farmers Markets 5th annual Holidays at the Markets event at the Green Valley Village Farmers & Artisans, Trail Dust Town (Home of Pinnacle Peak), Oro Valley Steam Pump Ranch and Rillito Park farmers markets. This holiday week will have something for everyone, including live music, vendor holiday deals, a free Heirloom raffle, and plenty of holiday gift ideas.
- Wednesday, December 11 at Green Valley Village * Live music from Gabriel Francisco and Kenny Holcomb, vendor specials, Animal League of Green Valley Santa pet photo booth, free holiday raffle, 140+ artisan and food vendors - 101 N. La Canada Dr., Green Valley.
- Friday, December 13 at Trail Dust Town (Home of Pinnacle Peak) * Live music, vendor specials, kids activity, free holiday raffle, and 12 food vendors - 6541 E. Tanque Verde Rd., Tucson.
- Saturday, December 14 at Oro Valley (Steam Pump Ranch) - Live music, vendor specials, 50 food vendors - 10901 N. Oracle Rd., Oro Valley, AZ.
- Saturday, December 14 at Rincon Valley Farmers & Artisans Market - Live music, vendor deals, kids holiday activity, 50+ artisan and food vendors - 12500 E. Old Spanish Trail, Tucson.
- Sunday, December 15 at Rillito Park (Food Pavilion) * Live music, featured chef at the market, vendor specials, free holiday raffle, 80+ food and artisan vendors - 4502 N. 1st Ave., Tucson.
Winterhaven Festival of Lights
December 14 - 29
06:00 PM to 10:00 PM
For 70 years the residents of Winterhaven have hosted the annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights as their gift to the community. The festival is a celebration for everyone, regardless of religious affiliation. Light is a common theme among many of the major religions of the the world. Walk through every evening, or see the lights on the move with hayride tours, bus trolley or a pedal-powered group bike ride. Drive-through night Sunday December 29th only for those who can't or choose not to walk. Please bring a donation of food or money for the Community Food Bank.