In the run-up to the holiday season, the Palo Verde neighborhood is gathering food and other supplies for the youth served by Youth On Their Own. There are collection boxes scattered throughout the neighborhood: 3688 E. Fairmount, 1640 N. Country Club, 1902 N. Winstel and 3416 E. Waverly. The only location with time-of-day restrictions is the Country Club address (Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.). Food donations need to be canned or other packaged items. Clothing should be new underclothes, flip-flops, chapstick and personal hygiene items. If you would prefer to make a cash donation, do so by December 14 to PVNA Holiday at 3688 E. Fairmount.
TPD is in the holiday spirit with this fun video that gives tips to avoid being ripped off during the season. Thanks to the officers who took part in putting it together. The issue is serious, but the message is offered in a light-hearted way.
At a Waffle House in West Columbia S. Carolina - a customer came in at 2 a.m. and found the cook asleep. Instead of waking the guy, he cooked his own meal (a Double Texas Bacon Cheese Steak), cleaned the grill and paid for his meal. The cook slept through the entire event.
Here’s a final reminder to join us on Thursday, December 14 at the Islamic Center of Tucson for the third annual holiday interfaith gathering. We’ll begin at 6 p.m., but people start arriving around 5:30. There will be a series of speakers, tours of the newly remodeled facility, food and good company. It would be great to see the place full of the goodwill Tucsonans bring.
Another holiday get-together you should put on your calendar for this week is Saturday’s Downtown Parade of Lights. As is tradition, I was asked to ride in a convertible and wave at the people lining the streets. I really don’t sit in cars and wave at people. I’d much rather be in close contact with you. So instead, I asked to ride a Tugo bike. We’ll have at least seven of us on bikes adorned with holiday lights (thank you Bicas). Come on out for this year’s Parade of Lights celebration. Thousands of people enjoy it annually. If you’re around Stone, Church or Pennington, you’ll be in the right place. The parade begins at 6:30 p.m.
A quick note to the grinch who met me as I was jogging through Winterhaven with “you’re not welcome in this neighborhood.” Well, try to get over yourself and enjoy the holidays, even with those you may disagree with politically. It’s really better for your health – mental as well as physical.
A tragic shooting incident took place in Aztec, New Mexico on Pearl Harbor Day. Two high school students were shot and killed while at school. The shooter was found dead at the scene by police. No motive is attached to the killing.
Another Pearl Harbor Day shooting took the lives of two people in Tamarac, Florida. Police were called to a house after receiving reports of a shooting. They entered the barricaded house, only to find a man and woman shot to death. They believe it to be a murder-suicide DV incident.
A final Pearl Harbor Day incident took place in Mooringsport, Louisiana. It was another DV-related murder-suicide. Police arrived on the scene after receiving a 911 call about shots heard. A man and woman were found shot to death inside of the house.
Lots of holiday cheer in the Be Kind section and lots of broken hearts and lives in the half-staff reminder.
On a related note, the NRA is pushing for what’s called a Reciprocity Bill. If it passes congress and is signed by Trump, it will mean people with concealed carry permits in one state will no longer need to qualify for that same ability when crossing state lines into another state with their own laws on the books. It’s a least common denominator law that takes away sovereign authority from the receiving state.
There’s a coalition of gun safety groups working with police chiefs across the country to send congress a message that removing the ability of states to set their own standards for gun safety is unwise and unsafe. In Arizona, our legislature stops cities from setting our own gun rules. Yet by supporting these concealed carry reciprocity bills, they concede even their own ability to set gun laws and instead accept what other states decide is best. The moral and ideological hypocrisy is striking.
Police chiefs and gun safety advocates throughout the country are opposed. I worked with Zoe Grover, the ED of Stop Handgun Violence, and Pat Maisch of Mom’s Demand Action to get our own Police Chief Magnus to sign onto a petition circulating nationwide in opposition to the bill.
The concealed carry reciprocity proposals currently before congress are H.R. 38 and S. 446. If you agree that we should not support allowing other states’ laws to control our standards on gun safety, let your congressional representation know.
Chief Magnus also weighed in last week on the issue of "sanctuary cities." His actual point was different from that simple descriptor, but since I’ve already been challenged to defend the alleged intent of the article, I’ll use it here.
In an op-ed posted by the New York Times, he made the case for returning local policing to local police forces. Forcing police departments to be arms of ICE has a demonstrable effect on our ability to engage local constituents as sources for turning in tips and reporting crimes. The fear of deportation trumps the fear of being a victim.
This is an excerpt from the Chief’s op-ed:
The harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and Mr. Sessions’s reckless policies ignore a basic reality known by most good cops and prosecutors: If people are afraid of the police, if they fear they may become separated from their families or harshly interrogated based on their immigration status, they won’t report crimes or come forward as witnesses.
Threatening to remove local law enforcement resources under the guise of “cracking down on illegals” is self-defeating. Police forces with fewer resources are simply less able to protect their communities.
I appreciate Chief Magnus’ willingness to step up and defend local decision making, both in the area of gun safety and with respect to our interactions with the entire community, documented or otherwise.
Here’s a link to the Chief’s full op-ed: https://nyti.ms/2nyUJok.
Last Monday, Richard and I were joined by new council member Paul Durham in being sworn in for new terms in office. I appreciate the support so many of you offered throughout the spring and summer, and through Election Day. It means a lot to both me and to my staff.
During my remarks at the inauguration luncheon, I touched on four main points all under the umbrella of Tucson Values. It was a theme during the campaign and one that’ll carry over now into how I approach serving.
One of the values I mentioned is inclusivity. It’s a part of what Chief Magnus wrote about. Last Monday it was on full display during the swearing in ceremony. For the first time in the city’s history, we had a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew each give an invocation at the ceremony. I was proud to be associated with that display of Tucson and our ethic of embracing others, regardless of our differences theologically.
I also mentioned Home Rule as a Tucson Value. That is evident in my opposition to the concealed carry reciprocity bills and the feds’ threat of withholding local police funds if we don’t instruct our officers to act as ICE agents. Last session there were at least 14 bills in the state legislature that targeted local decision making. I will continue to resist those when they’re reintroduced in some new form this session.
Smart Growth was a third Tucson Value I mentioned. We just approved a zoning change for a new Fry’s out on the east side. Fry’s will be shutting down stores when the new one opens, so this wasn’t a jobs vote at all. I’ll continue supporting growth that protects our Sonoran desert, prioritizes renewable energy supplies, and puts a premium on water security. I’m supportive of the work we’re doing now to create a Complete Streets policy that makes everyone who uses our roadways safer.
Tucson also values fiscal responsibility. We’re finally at a structurally balanced budget, which took us six years out of the recession to reach. Now that we’re there, I’ll be prioritizing recruitment and retention of our police and firefighters to the extent we’re able within our budgetary realities.
I appreciate your support throughout the election season. Tucson Values trumped the tired negativity that the other side brought to the discussion. Thank you.
The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was passed by congress in order to direct how law enforcement agencies may spend funds obtained through asset seizures. When a person is arrested for felony racketeering, assets either used in the commission of the crime or gained through criminal activity may be sold. The funds are distributed – both from the state and the federal levels – to law enforcement agencies. There are rules guiding how they may be spent. A few weeks ago, a report surfaced related to how those dollars are being allocated by the county attorney. An investigation is ongoing. In reaction to that, I asked for a report on our own processes related to how the money is received and how expenditures are tracked and approved. Staff has provided a very comprehensive report in response.
When it is determined that the criminal activity involved qualifies as RICO-related, assets are placed into evidence and the Pima County Attorney’s Office (PCAO) is advised. They’re the agency responsible for adjudicating felonies in Pima County. Once the court and PCAO adjudicate the case, the evidence may be sold. The funds end up in a TPD, counter narcotics or city attorney account.
There are certain things the money may be used for and things it may not be spent on. The county attorney is under investigation for alleged improper spending. The rules are clear. Impermissible uses of the funds include things such as use of forfeited property by non-law enforcement personnel, creating endowments or scholarships, personal or political uses, purchase of food or beverages, creating petty cash accounts or buying things for other law enforcement agencies. The money is intended to supplement the budgets of TPD/CNA/City Attorney. We may not offset their budget by the amount of RICO money they have in their accounts.
We have three RICO accounts. The TPD account has these balances:
There’s also a Counter Narcotics account. It has these balances:
The City Attorney gets a share. That account is carrying these balances:
So you can see it’s not huge dollars, but it helps supplement our budgets.
All of the purchases are paid on a reimbursement basis. They’re reviewed by multiple sets of eyes before the agency is made whole. The vetting process includes city finanace, TPD or CNA, the PCOA or the Attorney General’s office. No transaction is finalized and paid without having been sent through that food chain. Once the purchase has been approved, it can be made and the reimbursement is taken care of.
Some of the expenses paid with the funds are for things such as operation of the drug unit, law enforcement training, purchase of law enforcement equipment, and drug and gang education. In our case, each of those must benefit TPD or city law enforcement work, not be transfers of funds to other agencies.
After asking the question, I’m grateful for the full response and am confident our funds are being looked at by enough people that illegal expenditures are highly unlikely. I join many of you in watching to see how the county attorney spending investigation turns out. A recent case involving the Pima County Sheriff’s expenditure of RICO funds turned up some improprieties. The rules are clear. The investigation is likely to take a while to complete.
I’m going to touch on two land use items: the sign code and area plans. First the sign code.
In 2015 the Town of Gilbert, Arizona lost a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on their sign code. It was a 1st Amendment free speech decision. The result caused probably every city and town around the country to take a look at their sign codes and make revisions so they didn’t fall prey to similar claims. Tucson was one such city.
As a part of the revision process we decided to take a comprehensive look at our sign code and see where changes could be made that would have a positive impact on the business community without sacrificing quality of life concerns. For me the lines in the sand were not allowing any changes that had a negative impact on our astronomy industry and not facilitating visual clutter. I believe we achieved all of that.
It’s important to give a large amount of credit to our city staff for navigating this process. Throughout the process we held 14 public subcommittee meetings, heard 28 calls to the audience, responded to 49 suggested edits, and received input from 146 stakeholders representing 32 organizations. Nobody can say they didn’t have an opportunity for a voice in the process.
I’m not going to list all of the changes we made. The sign code is a rather arcane document and unless you live in it, much of the language isn’t something you’d grab as easy-reading before going to bed. However, it’s all important since it affects visual clutter around the city, the ability of businesses to legitimately advertise, and the value we place on protecting our dark skies.
I’ll share a few of the changes we adopted. One of the most important was simply placing the sign code within our overall Unified Development Code manual. This avoids bureaucratic overlap and makes applying for and getting approval of a sign a more efficient process. Everyone still has a seat at the table, but we’ve put them all around a single table, instead of a more elongated and duplicative process.
Another change has to do with how real estate signage will be treated. Staff is working with realtors and home builders to come up with standards (a template) against which sign applications will be evaluated. Not every housing development is the same in terms of size or location, so a one-size-fits-all standard would be unfair and unworkable. With the template, the zoning administrator will work from some agreed upon standards and conditions that will allow for appropriate advertising of housing developments and homes for sale without sacrificing the visual standards we all want to see throughout the city. It’ll be the flexibility built into a framework that forces some level of specificity – the oxymoron I mentioned several weeks ago at our study session on this item. I believe it’ll work out well for all involved.
Another change is in electronic signs. Our previous standard of not changing copy more frequently than once every 10 minutes was excessively restrictive. Through the process of gathering input from all sides on the frequency question, staff recommended and we adopted a new one change per minute standard. We also clarified that when a business changes the actual fixed copy on their sign, unless the work requires some other permit – say for changing out electrical or electronic components within the sign – no other city approval is needed. Going from Joe’s Deli to Sam’s Deli won’t kick in any administrative approval process.
We touched several other areas such as how to treat signs that aren’t visible from the street but are within the interior of a shopping center, how to measure the sign face size and height, defining a “premise” as the entire unified site on which signage is being requested to reduce applications for variances, how we define “roof signs”, and more. To those of you who don’t live and work in this stuff you can see just from that description what I mean when I say the content can become somewhat arcane. But drive down the road and take in the variety of sizes, colors, shapes, heights and locations of signs and you can understand why this is an important issue and took a lot of work to accomplish.
When the draft of the changes came to us, it came with the unanimous recommendation of each committee that had been working on it. We made a few tweaks based on some late input, but the vast majority of the heavy lifting was done by the stakeholders and staff.
And yes, we approved the use of feather banners conditioned on limits in color and number. As I’ve said, I think they’re fun and festive. I believe the controls staff recommended are appropriate.
We put an 18-month review period on these changes. During that time we’ll have a chance to see how the new standards are working. I suspect that after all the input received from so many directions, things will work out well.
Last week I met with the city attorney and a development team to discuss the proposed Speedway and Euclid student housing project. Throughout the conversation I made the point that this project is not being proposed in a vacuum. We have very recently seen the Main Gate student housing overlay, a proposed project at Broadway and Park, the Honor’s College challenges, and a new student housing project going in at Tyndall and 2nd. Some of those involved required rezoning. Some should have but may not. Some involve amending area or neighborhood plans. The Fry’s on 22nd Street should have been an area plan amendment, but was achieved through a rezoning. My point was that the Speedway and Euclid proposal is being made at a time when residents are feeling as though their voice has been summarily disregarded. I understand the perspective from the developers side is different, but that’s the horse race Speedway and Euclid enters.
Speedway and Euclid right now involves amending the University Area Plan. I wrote about it in last week’s newsletter. The week prior to that I wrote about the Fry’s rezoning. It too has an area plan amendment component. It may end up in litigation as a result of the M&C vote. In an effort to bring forward a very public and open conversation about the value and weight of area plans, I’ve asked for this study session item:
To be fair to residents who have worked hard on crafting neighborhood and area plans, the squishy “basic harmony” standard needs some clarity. In the Fry’s case, it meant building in a flood plain and a riparian area when the neighborhood plan explicitly prohibited both. The way “consolidated open space” was incorporated into the site design challenges the notion of basic harmony with standards in the Houghton East Neighborhood Plan. Everyone involved deserves to hear how those words are going to be implemented. Speedway and Euclid is a request to amend an area plan, so the conversation isn’t simply academic.
Fry’s has now confirmed what I said during the Fry’s public hearing. That is, this isn’t about adding jobs. They’re shutting down the Fry’s on Harrison when the new store opens, as well as the one at Grant and Alvernon in February. There’s also talk about shuttering a Fry’s out on Kolb. Employees are being asked if they’d like to transfer. That’s shifting jobs, not adding them. That’s duplicitous when one tactic used at the public hearing was to drag out a bunch of union workers wearing “Jobs” badges. As was true several years ago with the proposed downtown hotel, those promised jobs may be illusory.
A related issue is when design standards called out in Neighborhood Preservation Zone (NPZ) manuals kick in. There was a recent situation in a midtown neighborhood in which staff interpreted the terms of the NPZ one way, while the neighbors who had participated in drafting it had a contrary interpretation. Staff issued a permit and construction went forward. Laying the framework for when and how to allow input as to interpretations for these design manuals and the weight that input will be given is what this study session item is about.
The city participated in putting all of these plans together. So did residents. None of them were crafted by a single entity without a wide and lengthy public process. The Unified Development Code says they need to be adhered to. We need to find some basic harmony between what the UDC calls for and how we’re in fact operating.
The conversation related to how to make our streets safer continued last week. Over the objections of some – not all – of our streets division staff, we have dropped speeds on our bike boulevards by 5 miles per hour. It’s a step.
Through conversations I’ve had with streets folks, we’re also conducting a study of implementing protected left hand turns. The study is happening at Speedway and Campbell. It’s my hope we join the rest of the region in using that intersection management tool at all of our major intersections and as a design guideline for new construction going forward.
“Protected left” simply means the left hand turn is allowed when no other movement is taking place through the intersection. It’s the “turn on green arrow only” idea. We’re studying it but studies from all over the world have already confirmed it’s the way to reduce crashes and car and ped-bike collisions.
Staff is ordering a traffic pendant that’ll have four options. They prefer a “flashing yellow” option to the protected left so at certain times of day cars can turn on the yellow. I’ve shared this study with them (engineers love studies).
In the study, they used a simulator and tracked drivers’ eye movements to see what they were fixated on when the various light options appeared. On page 53 of the report, they indicate seven percent of the drivers failed to fixate at all on pedestrians. Even when they do look at the pedestrian, page 10 of the report shares this:
The driver may be so attentive to the FYA (flashing yellow arrow) indication and the demands of vehicle control during the required maneuver that he or she may not notice pedestrians or may even “look but not see” any pedestrians—even though pedestrians may be present.
They call it driver inattention – a condition where the driver may look at an object but not process it due to juggling competing inputs. I don’t want to get too into the research weeds, but the short message I’ve shared with staff is the protected left is safest.
Plus, they don’t need to spend the money on four head pendants.
These are used all over the place and require no added cost to upgrade to larger hardware.
The Portland study I referenced above concludes on page 54 with this thought:
Any permissive movement (note: the flashing yellow is a permissive movement) at a signalized intersection has the potential to increase efficiency (note: efficiency is moving traffic) to the detriment of safety by increasing the potential number of conflicts between movements.
That affirms separating pedestrian and bike movements from people turning left.
The folks from the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the Bike Advisory Committee and Living Streets Alliance – all city partners on our Complete Streets Policy work – support the notion of joining the county and adopting protected lefts at major city intersections. The conversation will continue.
Conversations are also continuing about reduced speed limits on city streets, crosswalk safety amenities, and road diets in areas that make sense. With 57 pedestrian deaths this year so far on our streets, continuing to rely on the same studies we seem to read and hoping things change isn’t a rational solution.
That’s Contessa and her baby. Contessa is the 11-year-old mom of the new baby tapir out at the Reid Park Zoo. She and the proud papa, Tupi celebrated the calf’s arrival about a month ago. The kid is just now getting out into public view.
He’s looking for a name. The folks at the zoo are holding a contest so the community can take part in helping Contessa and Tupi choose a name for their kid. They’ve winnowed the choices down to three: “Iibu” (a fruit tree that tapirs eat back home in Nicaragua), “Tilba” (it means “tapir” in Miskito, the language spoken in Nicaragua), or “Darien” (a corridor that connects Panama and Columbia and is also home to tapirs). You can vote up until midnight on December 14. Here’s a link to cast your vote: http://bit.ly/2A53qbr.
One of the selling points of the one tenth cent sales tax increase voters approved in support of the zoo is their work in animal conservation worldwide. Contessa came to Reid Park Zoo specifically to breed with Tupi. It’s part of a species survival plan they’re taking part in – a plan that wouldn’t be possible if the zoo wasn’t accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Managing threatened species is one of the reasons I supported the tax and it is this week’s Local Tucson item.
Here’s one more animal related item. Last week Petco Foundation surprised PACC with a grant to assist them in expanding their work with Alzheimer’s patients. The shelter sends kittens to treatment facilities around town as a therapy tool for the patients and a way of getting the cats some TLC. The program involves the patients taking care of at-risk kittens by feeding them and taking them under their wing for a while. The goal is of course to get the kittens adopted out.
The grant was for $250,000, so it was a significant investment into the community by Petco. Kristen Auerbach is the PACC Director. She’s taking the lead on getting the program out into the community. Right now they’re working with Catalina Springs Memory Care, Copper Canyon, Handmaker and the new facility Hacienda at the River. Great work by the folks in the facilities, PACC and of course Petco.
Another partnership in the community is the relationship between the Garden District and Tucson Botanical Gardens. The Gardens are located on Alvernon, just south of Grant. On Sunday, December 17, Garden District will again hold their holiday party at the Gardens Pavilion. The party will run from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. All are welcome to this potluck. Attending also includes free admittance to the Gardens. Right now the annual butterfly exhibit is on display. It’s a chance to meet residents from Garden District and take in the Botanical Gardens.
If you can show up a little early to help with set-up, the folks from the neighborhood would appreciate it. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to combine some food, fellowship and a trip through a true community asset.
For your planning purposes, Santa has scheduled a rooftop landing a little ahead of his normal schedule. On Saturday, December 23, Santa will make a showing in the Peter Howell neighborhood at 4218 E. Irving Circle. There’ll be an opportunity for kids of all ages to have their picture professionally taken (thank you David Carter Photography) with him. The landing should happen at 6:30 in the evening. The Peter Howell Board and the Mitchell family can be thanked for this fun event.
Council Member, Ward 6