Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- January 8th Memorial
- State Gun Bills
- Tucson's Road Fatalities
- Good News on Roads
- Water Rates
- Water Resources Research Center Water Conference
- Brush & Bulky and Tucson Water Customer Service
- Rio Nuevo Extension
- Local Tucson
- Events & Entertainment
I always appreciate kind comments about the newsletter. This Be Kind is for the lady who pulled up alongside me on 3rd Street last week and shared through her open window, “Love your newsletter.” These take work. She made the walk over to the office from campus brighter.
In the Sacramento International Airport, a ticket agent very likely stopped two teenage girls from being caught up in a sex trafficking network. The agent, Denice Miracle (cool name that fits the story), noticed the first class, one-way tickets to New York for the 15- and 17-year-old girls had been purchased online by someone with a name different than theirs. They had a couple of small bags, no form of ID and no adult guardians. The employee alerted the sheriff, who worked with NYC and ended up connecting with the guy who had met the girls on Instagram. He had offered them $2,000 each to fly to New York and star in a music video. As soon as the police made contact via social media, all of his posts disappeared. Good for the ticket agent who could have just as easily processed the ticket. The end would have been much different for two families, and possibly more if the guy continued luring through the internet.
I’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating given the story of the two California girls. Your kids are not safe on the internet. Know what they’re surfing and warn them that there are predators they simply must be alert to.
You know of the Parkland, Florida shooting that took 17 lives last week. Another school shooting. It was number 18 so far in 2018. In a recent newsletter, I reflected on the lack of movement by any level of government on gun safety. I commented, “It’s going to happen again.” It just did.
Some 19-year-old former student took those lives last week. He had a semi-automatic rifle and multiple clips. I’m certain the framers of the Constitution had ownership of a weapon with the ability to fire dozens of rounds in seconds and inflict such carnage in mind when they envisioned “a well-regulated militia.” What is happening is not “well regulated.”
The kid wasn’t old enough to buy a beer, but we allowed him to buy an AR-15.
This is a comment by 17-year-old Ryan Kadel, a senior at the high school where the incident took place: “I’m kind of surprised it happened here, but I’m not really shocked. School shootings happen all the time, and then the news just forgets about them.” He’s right. Congress also forgets.
Nevertheless, we have these from our elected leaders. Civility prevents me from expressing my “thoughts” about these feckless and worthless gestures.
The state sued us over our policy of destroying guns you wanted taken out of circulation. The AG says more guns in the community make us safer. The former AG thought our policy of telling police when your gun is stolen should be pre-empted. He also thinks we shouldn’t have the ability to test blood alcohol when a cop has reason to believe you’ve been shooting your weapon and may be drunk or buzzed. The state is in the process of adopting a law that makes Arizona’s concealed carry laws subject to the weakest one in existence among other reciprocal states. They’re also trying to get “non-lethal” (undefined in the bill) weapons allowed on college campus, all under the guise of making us all safer.
Here are the 17 lives lost. Each was a family member, friend and loved one who is now gone.
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Scott Beigel, 35
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Aaron Feis, 37
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Chris Hixon, 49
Luke Hoyer, 15
Cara Loughran, 14
Gina Montalto, 14
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Alaina Petty, 14
Meadow Pollack, 18
Helena Ramsay, 17
Alex Schachter, 14
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Peter Wang, 15
Jamie Hunter is a photojournalist from the U.K. That’s the title of a slide show he put together during a visit to the U.S. in 2016. I’m joining Mom’s Demand Action to bring Jamie to The Loft on Monday, February 26th. He’ll present his photo essay that came from his visit, then we’ll open it up for Q&A and audience participation.
We booked Jamie’s event the day before the Florida massacre. Sadly, that incident made the show timelier than we had thought when Pat Maisch and I first discussed it. Here are some stats we own that are also part of the Hunter presentation:
Jamie shared his show with me. He shot these images during his trip to the States.
This is Marsha Lee from Harvey, a suburb town of Chicago. Her son was murdered in 2008. Note the gut-wrenching grief.
This is Nathan Taylor, a gun owner in action at his home in Southlake, Texas. I won’t give Jamie’s conclusions away up front, but the show is free so it’ll only cost you the investment of some time to come and hear for yourself.
We hear a lot from Congress about terrorism and the dangers presented by illegal immigrants. The reality is that if you’re shot in America, the odds are strongly in favor of your shooter being another American, not a terrorist.
Doors open at 6:30. The show begins at 7 p.m. I hope to see you at The Loft next week.
I’ve mentioned this case before, but in light of the unending gun violence we see, it’s good to give a short update on Genna’s story. By way of review, she was shot and killed over five years ago. The case never went to trial. Many of us believe it should have. Over the past several months, records have been reassembled, put into a cohesive timeline and turned over to authorities. I’m told we’ll have a disposition by the end of March. This too is the case of a young person shot and killed, leaving family and friends behind waiting for justice.
On Wednesday, we have an agenda item that may look a little odd at first glance, but it’s really pretty straight forward. It is geared towards providing long term maintenance for the January 8th Memorial going in at Presidio Park.
Right now, the city and county jointly own the entire area between city hall and the county building across Presidio. What we’re voting to do is cede ownership of the city’s portion of the site where the memorial will be built through what’s called a “quit claim deed.” This diagram shows the extent of what’s being given to the county:
The grey hashed areas are where the memorial will go. Right now, it’s jointly-owned land. We’re giving it to the county and they’re taking on the maintenance responsibilities for the memorial once it’s built. You’ve seen this image of what will be the finished product:
There are still donor and recognition opportunities for areas of the gardens, pavers, or other architectural elements that will be incorporated into the Memorial. If you’d like to learn how you can be a part of Tucson’s memorial, contact Crystal Kasnoff at email@example.com, or give her a call at 429.0045.
The website for the memorial is www.tucsonsmemorial.org.
In Phoenix, the push to protect guns continues.
HB2535 seeks to repeal the ability of Department of Child Safety directors and boards from regulating the possession, transfer and storage of firearms in foster homes. Right now there’s a policy in place that allows firearms as long as they’re stored in a manner that is secure, trigger locked and unloaded. Ammunition must be stored in a separate location. The state would remove that policy.
HB2211 continues the effort in Phoenix to make icons out of weapons. We already can’t destroy them, even if you ask us to. Now with HB2211, the legislature exempts all firearms from consideration as assets during a bankruptcy filing. Gun owners may already exempt a pistol or a rifle, so they’re still able to protect themselves. This bill excludes all weapons from a bankruptcy filing. That creates a special class of asset out of guns, which they of course already have done in the state legislature or we’d be allowed to take them out of circulation when you ask.
I don’t support either of those two bills. If you have thoughts, share them with the legislature.
We might as well get all the dark items out of the way up front. At last week’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, TPD gave their periodic update on contact with the public, as well as how we’re doing in terms of traffic incidents so far this year. Sadly, we’re headed in the wrong direction. We will not be celebrating a Vision Zero success in 2018.
At this time of year in 2017, we had seen five roadway fatalities, four of which were pedestrians. So far in 2018, there have been 11 traffic fatalities in Tucson and five of those were peds.
I met last week with some of the Living Streets Alliance group to talk about our Complete Streets Policy process. TDOT and the Complete Streets staff advisor Jenn Toothaker have tasked them to form a subcommittee and get crackin’ on the policy. The LSA group intends on forming a subcommittee that is inclusive of a wide array of community partners. If your group would like to take part, please either let me know or directly email firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s my hope we’ll have a policy draft by the start of summer so we can begin implementing safe-by-design policies and roll back the tragic numbers we’re seeing again this year.
On a similar note, you may know that we’ll be hiring a new transportation director. I’m sure the city manager and his team will ensure the front runners each bring open minds towards roadway design, safe and complete streets, and out of the box engineering. The protected left now in place at Campbell and Speedway, road diets or simply narrowing travel lanes to slow speeds, dropping speeds on residential and bike boulevards, alternative HAWK options, and more all need to become part of our routine road design conversations.
It’s not all bad news coming from TDOT and our work to make streets safer. On Wednesday, we’ll vote to implement a change I’ve been working on with midtown residents for nearly three years. The issue is the inconsistent speeds on Columbus from Grant to Broadway.
Currently along that two-mile stretch, the speed limit varies from 25 to 30 to 35 mph. When I’ve raised the issue of setting a consistent speed limit, some of the staffers have defaulted to a concept called the “85 percent rule.” That’s where they go out and measure speeds people are driving. If 85 percent of people gravitate to a particular speed, it’s assumed that the speed they’ve chosen is generally safe. To lower it will only cause people to ignore the posted limits and speed anyway. I’ve argued that letting drivers set the speed limits ignores our responsibility to consider what’s happening outside the curb lines and establish safe limits with those factors in mind. On Wednesday, we’ll be doing just that.
If the vote is approved, Columbus from Grant to Broadway will have a continuous 30 mph speed limit instead of the current varying ones. TDOT now supports the request. So does the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and many residents who live along that stretch of roadway.
I'm grateful to the staffers who have hung in there and worked towards this goal. I’m grateful to all of you, including BAC and PAC, for the advocacy on this pedestrian safety item.
On Wednesday, we’ll begin looking at changes in our water rates. Through the combined efforts of our Citizen’s Water Advisory Commission (CWAC) and city staff, we’ll be presented some options to consider. For me the main points will be what the actual rates for consumption we charge are, what we do with fixed fees for the infrastructure, how we address low-income customers, and what we do with our reclaimed water rates. We’re going to review each of those on Wednesday.
Since the cost of CAP water is increasing and servicing our debt for building out the system is increasing, there is some justification for an increase in rates. Finding a sweet spot where the utility can successfully operate that also keeps our rates affordable is what we’ll be looking to achieve.
Staff and CWAC will present three different pricing models. Each one meets the revenue goals they’ve identified for Tucson Water. In the “traditional” model, we simply divide the financial needs among all user classes (residential, multi-family, commercial, industrial, etc.). Water sales constitute about 80 percent of Tucson Water’s revenues, so some portion of the new revenue will have to come from the rates we charge. Spreading the needs equally is one option.
We’ll also be asked to “smooth” out the impact, keeping single family residences with a smaller portion of the burden. They represent about 90 percent of our customer accounts, using over 63 percent of the water we sell. Under the smoothing model, they will see a smaller rate increase as compared to the traditional, across-the-board method.
Finally, we’ll be talk about a smoothing rate model with an additional increase in cost for reclaimed water. The last time reclaimed saw a rate increase was in 2014. The proposal is to increase reclaimed by 5.7 percent.
This chart shows the comparison between those three models on residential users. Average residential consumption is about 800 cubic feet per month (a CCF is about 750 gallons of water). You can see from the chart how the various models would affect you. If you’re an above average water user, the complete charts are online with our agenda material.
I mentioned the importance of keeping an eye on how low-income users are affected by the changes we’re considering. Right now, if you qualify for low-income rates, you pay half of your water bill. We’re being asked to consider increasing the fixed portion of the bill, which has a regressive effect. If we do, the options recommended by staff are to give low-income customers the opportunity of either continuing with the current option or to pay just for their water use, minus the fixed cost. In this option, staff suggests we give away two free CCF of water. I’ve got issues with sending the message that water in the desert can be free, regardless of income level. The cost to users for those 200 cubic feet is about $1.87.
There are charts and graphs available online right now if you want to get more into the weeds of this. I say often that water security is one of the two most important issues we address at the M&C table. Ensuring the financial health of the utility is a big part of how we tackle the security issue at a local level.
If water is your thing, there’s a conference coming in March at the UA Student Union that may be of interest. The title of the conference is “The Business of Water.” It’s sponsored by the Water Resources Research Center. They’ll look at what factors influence the cost of water, how market-based transactions will figure into our water future, international and interstate issues, and the complex issue of water in the desert and how we manage it in general.
Over the weekend, there was a story in the news about legal fights going on between CAP users, the State of Arizona, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District and conservation minded groups. We have a good history in Arizona of being proactive on water conservation issues. We’re on the verge of declaring shortages on the Colorado. Now is not the time for tearing apart alliances formed to protect the resource.
The timing couldn’t be better for this expansive look at this topic. It’s not free. If you’re interested, register early by going to wrrc.arizona.edu.
We’ve heard from several of you from varying neighborhoods, that you’re receiving poor notice before the arrival of Brush & Bulky pick up. We’re also hearing customer service lines at Tucson Water aren’t as efficient as they had become not too long ago. I’ve checked into both of those and have confirmed the department directors are aware and are working to resolve both conditions.
Tucson Water has lost several customer service reps through attrition dating back to last fall. They’re in the midst of a major recruitment effort aimed at returning to previous staffing levels. A group of eight new account reps is just finishing training and will be on the phones the week of February 26. There’s also a group of 11 in the queue, scheduled to begin the six-week training in early March. They’ve also promoted from within, so more complex customer questions have some go-to help.
Brush & Bulky has had issues with the contractor who was responsible for sending out notices. We are not renewing their contract. With that deal expiring on March 8, we’re in the process of implementing an interim service contract with a different vendor while we decide on whether to rebid or bring the notification process in house. Several moving parts to this, but all involved recognize the value of Brush & Bulky and are working hard to make sure you have plenty of notice before it arrives in your neighborhood. I’ve offered to use this newsletter as one conduit for Ward 6 notices. We’ll do what we can out of this office to help as they work through the other pieces of this downtown.
Brush & Bulky service for several of the neighborhoods around campus is scheduled for the week of February 26. Click here for a map of when to expect Brush and Bulky in your neighborhood or visit ZoomTucson to type in your address. If you have questions about what you can or cannot leave curbside, call 791.3171 or go to www.tucsonaz.gov/es/brush-and-bulky.
When I was first elected in 2009, the relationship between the city, Rio Nuevo and the state legislature was strained and dysfunctional. At the time, there was litigation, an investigation by the state auditor general, and threats of dissolving the district. In the past eight years, we have rehabilitated our local relationships and are now seeing considerable investment by Rio. Soon the state will be asked to consider extending Rio Nuevo’s taxing authority. It’s my belief that the recent history and the positive trend line justifies support of the extension.
I’ve had my differences with conservative Representative Mark Finchem, but in this case he recognizes the value of the Rio Nuevo District and has sponsored a bill that will extend its taxing authority. The bill, HB2456, passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee on a 7-2 vote. It now moves to the house floor for a full vote.
Rio was integral to getting the AC Marriott up and running. It is key to Caterpillar, investment in the Mission Gardens, downtown façade work, the proposed TCC hotel, and is now a player in making the Sunshine Mile a destination the public has been asking for. Currently they’ll end as an entity in 2025. The bill extends that by 10 years, giving us more time to continue the great work we’re doing together.
Every successful major city worldwide has a vibrant city core. Ours is now making significant strides and we can continue that with the partnership we’ve established with Rio. I hope you’ll consider sending a note of support to our local representatives in the legislature. It will allow us to build on the successes we’re seeing.
I’ll close with two very different Local Tucson items. One is our Tucson Festival of Books and the other is a call to action in support of the needy in Tucson.
The Festival of Books is coming on March 10 and 11. It’ll run from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. both days. As in the past, it’ll occupy the UA Mall. This is a walking event, so don’t plan on driving down University Blvd to access the tents.
The festival is a huge opportunity to meet authors of a wide variety of books, mingle through informational booths that will cover as diverse an array of issues as you can imagine, and taste-test from multiple food court operators. This event attracts visitors from literally around the world and is a big economic boost to the local economy.
Each year about 2,000 volunteers make the event work. They help with everything from transportation, facilitating author events, staffing information booths, set-up and clean-up. If you’d like to work in support of the event, you can sign up here.
Finally, the current federal budget reduces funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) by nearly a quarter. The reduction will have an impact on low-income Tucson residents. We at the Ward 6 office are collecting food to be delivered to the Community Food Bank to help mitigate the effects the cuts will have on those most in need locally. If you are able, please drop off things such as peanut butter, canned fruit, canned veggies, cereal (please no glass bottles) and we’ll make sure it gets to the CFB. Thanks for helping.
Council Member, Ward 6