Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- Car Related Deaths
- Broadway Widening
- Parading on Tugos
- Touching Lives
- City Workers
- Local First: The Shanty
- Zoo Management
- More Animals
- Arizona Bowl
- City Holiday Closure Schedule
- Events & Entertainment
Two of this week’s Be Kind items are from feedback I received from newsletter readers. First, thanks to Mike M. for sharing that the guy who wandered into the Waffle House, found the employee asleep, cooked his own meal, cleaned and paid – well, he was hired. The educated guess is that he replaced the guy who was asleep on the job. Lesson learned.
A big thanks to Winterhaven residents Don and Lela who wrote to reinvite me into their neighborhood after having been rebuffed by a resident grinch. Not that I was going to change my route, but now for sure I’ll continue loping through the Festival of Lights, even after the holiday season ends.
Below is a shot of 22-year-old Spencer Sleyon greeting 81-year-old Rosalind Guttman (“Roz”). They met through an online scrabble app and through a series of exchanges that lasted several months, a member of Spencer’s church (Amy) decided they needed to meet. He lives in East Harlem. She lives in Palm Beach, Florida. The flight took place and this was Spencer’s description of their first meeting: “When I met her it was so natural. It wasn’t like anything spectacular, or different than you speaking to one of your friends.” He had described Roz to his friends as, “my best friend is an 81-year-old white woman who lives in a retirement community in Florida.”
After the visit, Roz wrote to the lady who had funded the trip and said this:
I’m at a loss for words to describe today. Without question, it was one of the most memorable days of my life. I’m still basking in the glow of warmth and friendship. You and Spencer extended yourselves to me and embraced me in a most unbelievable fashion. My only words in this moment are a humongous thank you. I love you both to the moon and back.
Given the tenor of the news-of-the-day lately, I love that story “to the moon and back” too.
We visited the newly remodeled Hermitage Cat Shelter last week. These little guys are looking for a home, along with about 300 other cats and kittens out at the shelter. Stop by and check out the great work Lee and her staff and volunteers have done. Even if you don’t end up with a new family member, you can help with food or cash donations, or volunteer your time in multiple ways. The Hermitage has already adopted out about 50 percent more cats this year than they did last year, which is amazing considering that they were without their facility for most of the calendar year. You can find them at 5278 E. 21st St or at www.hermitagecatshelter.org.
A reader reminded me last week that it might be good to do a refresher on why I even do these half-staff sections each week. It’s very simply to keep the point front and center that while we lower flags to half-staff when “significant” shootings occur, every shooting is significant to those involved. Those involved include the victims who must live on either with life changing injuries from the incident or family members who have lost a loved one. In an article shared with me by David G., I was also reminded that survivors are often family members whose lives are forever changed because they instantly become full time care givers to their newly disabled loved ones. All of them are included in the umbrella term “survivor.”
An article titled “Americans don’t really understand gun violence” appeared in The Atlantic. Here’s a link to it in its entirety.
It covers multiple themes, including how we have very poor data sets on the causes and impacts of gun violence, largely due to the congressional act of defunding Centers for Disease Control research work. I’ve written about that several times. If you can’t study the root causes and deeper impacts of any particular occurrence, you cannot build protocols for addressing it. That’s where the NRA’s lobbying of congress has placed us.
Another theme in the article is the one I mentioned above: survivors and the ways their lives are forever changed by shooting events. Here are a couple examples from the article.
An 11-year-old victim in a Richmond shooting was shot in the brain and lost significant use of parts of her body. Absent some medical breakthrough, that’s an impact of gun violence that she’ll live with for her whole life. It’s not captured in any data.
A woman was shot in the arm during a workplace incident 15 years ago and is still suffering her own form of PTSD and “waiting for my old self to come back.”
A guy was shot while simply standing on a street corner and now has permenant brain trauma. He can only speak three words. His mother now cares for him while living on $650 per month in government benefits.
Those are survivors – and they’re victims – and they’re not reported; forgotten except by those who live close and share the lifetime impacts.
So I include a half-staff section each week to make sure we continue to keep the issue of gun deaths in mind. But we also must keep in mind the issue of survivors and victims who live with the baggage the shootings have left them. Thanks to David for sharing the article and helping to drive home that important point.
In Silver Spring, Maryland, police were called to a house and found a 61-year-old guy dead inside from a gunshot wound. His 88-year-old mother was also dead in the home. It was an apparent murder-suicide. Family members, concerned over his motives had called police when they learned he was headed to his mother’s house. Those family members are survivors/victims forever.
Two women, one 50 and one 57 years old, were found dead in a home in Palo Alto, California. Police responded to a shots fired call. They’re piecing together the evidence but this incident also appears to be a murder-suicide. The victims were domestic partners and their family members on both sides of the relationship are forever survivors/victims.
In another domestic violence incident, a man shot his estranged wife on the campus of Penn State University. The victims were 49 and 52 years old. It was another murder-suicide. Survivors/victims in this case may well include those who witnessed the incident while it was happening.
Please contact Emerge Center for Domestic Abuse if you think a friend or loved one is in an abusive relationship. The hotline number is 795.4266. Call 911 and ask for the TPD Mental Health Support Team if you know of someone who is suffering from what may be signs of depression or another set of symptoms that may end up causing harm to themselves or to others.
While the issue of gun violence results in victims/survivors who live with the physical and psychological affects of the incident, the same is true of car crashes. That’s car-on-car, car-on-pedestrian or car-on-bicycle/motorcycle. Sadly, the frequency trend is headed in the wrong direction.
These data are from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That 37,461 killed on our roadways in 2016 represents a 5 percent increase over the previous year. That came on top of a 9 percent increase in 2015 over 2014. So the trend line is wrong, a phenomena that the report shows hasn’t taken place since the 1960s before seat belts and collapsible steering columns.
You can see from the chart that nearly 6,000 peds were killed last year. That alone is a 9 percent increase over 2015. The cycling death number is the highest it has been since 1991. We’ve killed 57 people in Tucson this year. We’re clearly not a positive trend setter.
One area I continue to want to see us up our game is in our road design, and in how we manage traffic/ped/bike safety. I’ve mentioned previously some of the areas I’m working on with Living Streets Alliance and the Bike/Ped Advisory committees to get changes through TDOT administration. Those include:
- Adding safety amenities to crosswalks so drivers are more aware of pedestrians in the area
- Reducing speeds along many of our roadways
- Making speeds consistent along roadways so drivers and pedestrians aren’t operating with rules-of-the-road that change every quarter or half mile
- Protected left hand turns at major intersections and as a design standard for new roadway projects
- Changing our hands-free device ordinance from being a secondary offense to a primary offense
- Road diets where it makes sense
- Implementing a Complete Streets Policy that encourages multi-modal transportation
I totally get that we’re a car-centric culture. The data show the American traffic fatality rate has reached about twice as high as Canada and four and a half times that of the United Kingdom. If we had their fatality rate, we would save about 30,000 lives on our roads. Tucson should lead by example.
Bill Schultheiss is a transportation engineer who works for the Toole Design Group – road planners who have contracts nationwide. He’s quoted in an October 11th Streetsblog USA article, “Traffic Engineers Are Ethically Bound To Protect The Public Safety. Too Many Do Not.” These two comments resonated with me:
In the context of what’s out on the ground, it’s quite obvious that we cared more about prioritizing automobile travel. We didn’t think about other people on the road and we didn’t design for them.
Cars can go anywhere. It’s not like we’re missing a network for car travel. We need to finish what we started. We need to make what we have safe for the most vulnerable before building any more.
I include this section here because of the Broadway update coming below and because we’re still waiting on some feedback from TDOT on requested changes consistent with the list above. That feedback was promised during a recent meeting we held with staff and representatives of the BAC and PAC. The changes are not expensive and they will place Tucson in line with progressively designed cities that already exist around the world.
This final quote from Schultheiss: “If you look at the history of our profession, we have not fully embraced our number one ethical mandate: to protect the safety, well-being and health of the public.”
That doesn’t have to be the case locally.
By way of reminder, Mayor & Council voted 5-1 last year to approve the alignment and to begin property acquisitions on the Sunshine Mile. I was in the dissent, largely because the project reflects neither a community need based on traffic counts, nor the desires of the large majority of participants in community forums held for over three years in advance of that vote.
Subsequent to the vote we worked with Rio Nuevo and approved of them signing up Project for Public Spaces (PPS) to work with community constituents and devise some concept plans for how we might preserve both buildings and character and develop destinations along that two mile corridor. The clear assumption at the time was that we’d see what PPS came up with before moving forward with demolitions and buying out property owners who may not be directly impacted by the alignment. Simply put, that’s not happening.
By way of example, this note came to us last Friday:
In addition to that, early last week I had contact with some property owners who have space in the Solot Plaza. The message from our Real Estate contractor was they had until July to vacate, at which time demolitions would take place in advance of utility line work coming later in the year.
If we’re demolishing buildings right now, the study and work done by PPS, in collaboration with hundreds of community members was a waste of taxpayer money.
There’s an early draft of the PPS study – unfinished and not yet presented to the public – that appeared to capture some of what we heard during the Broadway open houses over the course of the past few years.
It’s key to make sure that everyone involved is moving together with the same goal. That includes the city, RTA, Rio and now PPS, and the community. It appears we have the city and RTA doing one thing while Rio, PPS and the community are trying to mold a different conversation, without slowing down progress on Broadway.
I’ve asked for a full discussion on the RTA and the health of its funding stream. That item has now been pushed back for two study sessions in a row. This timeline is still on the website for Grant Road:
The RTA expires in the same year they’re saying the middle section of Grant is supposed to begin construction. That $30M project cost estimate is therefore unfunded, unless they have a piggy bank somewhere in which they’re storing up cash to continue construction work after they’re no longer collecting the half cent sales tax. This is a discussion that won’t go away by simply taking it off from our agenda.
Broadway can be a wonderful project for less than the $71M project budget. But if we continue demolishing buildings and moving businesses out, the PPS study is a waste, and the budget will be spent, leaving nothing to help with projects such as Grant Road.
The issue won’t go away, so count on updates in the immediate future.
Walking the talk, I was very pleased to be joined by Chris from our office along with five members of the Living Streets Alliance as we rode the Parade of Lights on Tugos, the Tucson bike share system. The parade announcer called it the Ward 6 family. I’ll take that.
What a great way to advertise the bike share opportunity, riding past likely 10,000 Tucsonans lined up in a holiday mood around downtown.
Complete Streets as a policy is a way of designing roadways such that they’re safe for cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. The LSA folks are heading up the study effort. We should have something mid-2018 for the M&C to consider.
The “family” is grateful to Anna Zivarts from Time of Day Media for jogging alongside us with a baby in a backpack on her back to shoot the pictures. Check out this video she took as well.
I’m going to combine two items here, each related to touching lives that may need some TLC given the tough circumstances they face.
First, if you follow this newsletter you know I’m a big supporter of the work Emerge! is doing on behalf of the domestic violence victims who live in our city. Last week we hosted their annual Holiday House. Thanks to Emerge! and its volunteers, hundreds of moms and their kids will be able to share gifts donated through the love of the Emerge! support group this holiday season. When writing about its work I often mention Emerge! CEO, Ed Mercurio-Sakwa. In the case of the Holiday House though, Lori and Theresa did all of the heavy lifting to stage and staff the multi-day event. Those ladies are Santa angels and deserve to be recognized.
If you are looking for some very meaningful ways to reach lives in need, consider contacting Emerge! and asking what opportunities they have for you to get involved.
Similarly, Young Life is a non-denominational Christian organization that reaches out to young people who may be wrestling with any number of life choices. Didn’t we all? On Saturday, February 17, the Fox Theater will host a benefit concert, the proceeds from which will all go to support the work Young Life is doing. The information about the show is on this flyer.
Last week I spoke at the interfaith meeting hosted by the Islamic Center of Tucson. It was the third annual such event – a chance for us to come together under the banner of unity. Other speakers represented Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker and in my case a non-sectarian/non-religious message. In each case, the theme was reaching out and touching lives, using the skills and belief system you embrace. They handed out some material at the event with this Quran verse printed: “None of you has faith until you desire for your brother or sister that which you desire for yourself.” Sounds like the Golden Rule. Emerge!, Young Life, and plenty of other worthy nonprofits exist in our city. Each makes a difference based on the involvement of people who step up and get involved. It’s not hard to find ways to be that person during this holiday season and beyond.
While the nonprofits I mentioned rely to a very large degree on the help of volunteers, we as a city employ over 300 workers who are doing direct public outreach, delivering programs and services to many of you. They are doing so earning wages that need a boost. On Tuesday, we’re finalizing a pay increase that will address workers whose wages are under what voters approved through Prop 206.
With the exception of a handful of Environmental Service workers, all of the employees who will receive the pay adjustment are Parks & Recreation employees. This table shows the job categories, their current wages and the amount they’ll receive as of Christmas Eve:
There’s a domino impact when certain workers are singled out for pay increases. That’s called “wage compression,” where the lower classifications are being compensated at wages comparable to those up the employment ladder. With the increase in pay for the 314 workers shown in the table, another 200-plus will also receive a pay bump to adjust for the compression impact. In total, these adjustments will have a $71K impact on our General Fund budget.
Prop 206 calls for further pay increases to $11 per hour on January 1, 2019 and to $12 per hour on January 1, 2020. We at the Ward 6 office want to thank all of our employees, especially those who are representing the city at the lower end of the wage scale. We all play an important role in delivering services to the public. Thanks.
I introduced this image in a recent newsletter. It’s the drink coaster I’ve had produced thanks to the generosity of the Southern Arizona Crime Victims Attorneys. This week’s Local Tucson item is a thank you to The Shanty on 4th Avenue for being the first local pub to take a supply and distribute them to customers.
The Shanty was opened in 1937 by Barbara Nugent. Today it’s still in the family. Bill Nugent runs the place. While they get decked out for the holidays, using the drink coasters as a reminder to drink responsibly speaks to their ethic and dedication to making Tucson and the 4th Avenue area safe for all visitors.
They’re open seven days a week from noon until 2 a.m. Bill is giving his employees a rest and closing on Christmas Eve.
Over the course of the summer, a group of citizens has been studying how the zoo is currently managed and looking at other jurisdictions to see if there’s a different model that might make sense for us to consider. That was all happening during the run-up to the Prop 202 and 203 vote – the one-tenth cent sales tax hike earmarked for zoo capital expenses, maintenance and operations. The propositions passed and we have a draft proposal from the citizens task force related to management. With those now in front of us, I have asked for a study session to talk about how it all works together.
Before I share the memo I submitted for the study session, it’s important to make two points. First, we have the option of keeping the current management form and disregarding the task force proposal. Nothing is locked-in at this time. Second, what is being considered is not “privatizing” the zoo. That’s how it has been described when people have asked me about it. Privatizing would include selling off the asset and giving control and ownership to a private sector entity. What’s being discussed is simply changing some of the terms of the current Management Operating Agreement we have in place with the Tucson Zoological Society. Those two are much different animals, sorry.
Here’s the memo I submitted for our discussion. It touches on how we’re going to manage the new sales tax revenues, how we’re going to manage the planned zoo expansion, and what we’re going to do with the task force draft proposal.
Whether or not we elect to adopt some or all of the task force recommendations, we must have tools in place to properly manage the new sales tax money. That money was “sold” to the voters based on some loosely defined zoo expansion plans. Those need specificity and a game plan for where and when that expansion will take place. The hard work of the task force also deserves to be discussed and considered. No management system is perfect. I’m sure there are areas the task force has identified that will make sense to include in the updated MOA we have with the Zoological Society.
I supported the zoo tax. I’m grateful to the voters for having supported it and I’m grateful to the task force for their work. The study session discussion happens on Tuesday. I’ll report out on what we decide in an upcoming newsletter.
People out on the east side receive and read this newsletter, so I want to be sure to include this short note of caution. There has been a bear sighting out near the residential areas around Snyder, south of Sabino. The people I’ve spoken with who know about this stuff suggest he’s likely just foraging for food in people’s trash. It’s best to not set your cans out for pick-up until the morning they’re scheduled to be serviced (see City Holiday Schedule below).
Also out on the east side, a dead skunk was found in Jesse Owens Park. PACC tested it, and the skunk came up positive for rabies. A witness said he saw some unleashed dogs pawing at and nibbling on the carcass. Anyone who believes their dog may have had contact with that carcass should immediately take the pooch to the vet. The PACC chief veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Wilcox also recommends people who live in the area get a rabies booster for their dogs. There have been 74 rabies cases reported in Pima County so far this year, so that advice is not being overly cautious.
This message is for those of you who either aren’t football fans or don’t plan on attending the December 29th Arizona Bowl in Arizona Stadium. You can still be involved in the game and demonstrate your support for our local teachers, police and firefighter families and the military families who live in the area.
The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl has a program they call the Heroes Tribute Program. Last year that program included over 13,000 game tickets and $200K in cash dedicated to supporting our local heroes. Given that track record, they’re doing it again.
Heroes include teachers, first responders, and both active duty military as well as veterans. Both individuals and businesses can underwrite the price of game tickets to send heroes to the game. The holiday giving season timing is perfect, and the impact on both the local economy and the individuals who receive the gift tickets is immeasurable.
Kick-off is at 3:30 p.m. on the 29th. There will be both pre- and post-game block parties around downtown. New Mexico State will be playing Utah State. They played in the 1960 Sun Bowl, which was the last time NMSU was in a bowl game. The game story line is fun, both teams are sending large contingents of fans and you can send locals to enjoy the experience as well. The bowl website for getting involved is www.novaarizonabowl.com.
Here is a note so you can plan on holiday services. The city will observe Christmas on Monday, December 25 and New Year’s Day on Monday, January 1. On both of those days, neither residential nor commercial trash and recycling will be collected. For those two weeks, your service will be pushed back by a day in order to accommodate those closure dates. In addition, the Los Reales Landfill will be closed on both the 25th and the 1st. We hope you and your families each have a safe and enjoyable rest of the holiday season. There’s lots to do. Please be safe doing those activities you choose.
Council Member, Ward 6