Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- TPD Priorities
- Culinary Dropout on Grant
- Fry's Update
- State House Bill 2333
- Water Bills in Phoenix
- Zoo Tax
- Broadway, Rio Nuevo & Project for Public Spaces
- Campbell & Grant
- Broadway Volvo
- TUGO Ridership
- F-35s in Vermont
- Animal Health Center & UA Vet School
- Monsoon Squad at Ward 6
- Local Tucson: Edible Baja Arizona
- Better Safe than Sorry
- Events & Entertainment
Iskashitaa is our local nonprofit that works on behalf of the refugee population here in Tucson. It’s a volunteer driven group that harvests and distributes food, creating opportunities to integrate refugees into our community. Last week when their delivery truck broke down, the Kimas Foundation immediately pulled together a grant donation to get it repaired. No down time and the Iskashitaa work will continue as planned.
I want to share this invitation. That lady looks to be a young and healthy person. I’ve known her literally since she was a baby. She died last week at the age of 59 from the flu.
We are hosting a flu shot clinic here at the Ward 6 office. In cooperation with the great folks over at El Rio Health Center, we are offering free flu shots this Wednesday evening from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., while supplies last. You’ve seen the news reports from all over the country of healthy people of all ages dying from this year’s strain of the virus. If you’re at all concerned, please consider coming by and getting a vaccine.
Tremendous thanks are due to Nancy Johnson and the El Rio staff for helping to make this happen. This will be a drop-in event, so no advance reservations are needed.
Thanks to the folks who showed up on Saturday to give blood at our Red Cross Blood drive. Any contributions are welcomed and all will go to some needy person the donors will never meet. If you couldn’t make this one, join us next time we host a similar event.
Last week in Oklahoma City, a police officer responded to a 3 a.m. “trouble unknown” call. He was confronted at the door by a 56-year-old guy with a gun. The officer shot and killed him during the exchange. A relative of the man was found dead inside having been shot with the gun he was brandishing at the door. Thankfully, the officer was uninjured.
That’s the crime scene in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. A lady was found shot in the head while driving and ended up driving her car into that garage. Later in the day, police tracked down her husband through cell phone pings. He had committed suicide by gunshot. Same gun as the one used to kill her. Domestic violence.
In Wayne, Pennsylvania, police reported to a home after neighbors called in a “check welfare.” Papers and mail had been piling up. Upon entering, they found a 20-year-old man shot dead, along with a middle-aged woman. They had been in that condition for about a week. Police had been to the same residence earlier in the month on a domestic incident. No arrests were made during that first visit.
In a recent email, Chief Magnus shared with M&C the top ten 2018 priorities and goals he and his command staff have set for the department. While we wrestle with the budget and funding for recruitment, retention and wage compression (similarly for all city departments), it’s important to also look at the other work that’s on the top of the police to-do list for this year. I’ll combine some of the goals where they overlap some.
I’ve already mentioned the staffing issue. Everyone is aware and is working towards the common goal of looking for funding that will help us retain the men and women trained to serve in these public safety roles. Within our fiscal constraints, we are aligned with the chief on this.
Community engagement is one of the areas I’ve joined many of you in applauding Magnus since he took over a couple of years ago. That work will continue this year through a program called C4 – Community, Crimes, Crashes and Calls for Service. Through intra-departmental data analysis, it’ll help inform deployments based on trends and assure an efficient use of our resources. Add to that the continued emphasis on community policing work through direct contact with you, as well as both the Community Advisory Committee and Critical Incident Review Board. It’s through developing relationships that we multiply our staffing efficiencies. This week I’ve been involved with multiple examples of neighbors and businesses providing important information to me and TPD, the results of which have been arrests that may not have otherwise occurred. We all benefit by interconnected community work.
A part of that community touch is the implementation of a broad web-based crime reporting protocol. In addition, we’re using front desk call-takers at our substations. I’ve shared that information at numerous neighborhood association meetings. Each option gives residents and businesses that additional “touch” opportunity. We’re also upgrading the Volunteer Program/Community Outreach Coordinator to assist in prevention work. Again, the goal is community engagement.
Add to that our continued supervisory and management training which demonstrates the whole culture of self-analysis that the chief and command staff have put into place. That training is both physical and mental fitness. Our internal wellness program is an important component for TPD’s ongoing training and it demonstrates a commitment to our workers.
Our internal due process (“Procedural Justice”) also importantly assures fair and complete communications up and down the chain of command. These are tough jobs. We have to provide for a balanced internal review and be fair in reviewing incidents.
We get the need for money. We at the Ward 6 office are grateful to the chief, his command staff and the troops for also working hard on these other areas. It’s all aimed at continuing to provide a top notch public safety outreach into the community.
Last fall we welcomed the arrival of Culinary Dropout to the corner of Grant and Tucson Blvd. If you haven’t visited the place, give it a try. They have a unique ambience and a very good menu. When you go though, please get there safely.
Co-workers and constituents who have witnessed customers headed to the place raised two issues. One is jaywalking across Grant about 100 yards east of the Tucson Blvd crosswalk. Last week we suffered more pedestrian-car incidents. One was another fatality – a 68-year-old intoxicated woman who darted out into traffic. If you’re crossing Grant to get to the Dropout, use the crosswalk. Grant is a busy street. Getting run over at that location will ruin your day.
The other condition we’ve seen is cars headed east on Grant, crossing into the westbound left turn lane at Tucson Blvd and lining up to turn into the Dropout parking lot, facing oncoming traffic. That’s unsafe and it’s illegal.
I reported that condition to city traffic officials and they went out to observe for themselves. Indeed, cars were doing exactly what was described. In response, you’ll soon see pavement markings alerting eastbound traffic that they need to pass the left-turn lane before merging for the turn into the Culinary Dropout parking lot. We’ll also shorten the left-turn lane a bit to allow for that merging traffic movement.
I’m grateful to city engineering for their quick work on this. I’d add though that if you’re going to visit the Culinary Dropout, you can access them very easily off from Tucson Blvd. Enjoy the place, safely.
I’ve written about the 22nd & Houghton Fry’s rezoning item a few times, each in an effort to let you know the issues and how they are progressing. I did not support the rezoning (6-1 vote last November) because I felt it had procedural flaws. Most importantly, I believe our vote improperly changed the terms of the Houghton East Neighborhood Plan. There’s a process for doing that and a rezoning in my opinion is not how it’s supposed to happen.
A few weeks ago I shared how the site plan was evolving back to a condition much different than what the M&C approved last November. In fact, based on plans submitted to city staff, the Fry’s development team had increased the size of the building to the point it potentially violated even the terms of the rezoning they agreed to. A store of over 100,000 square feet was specifically proscribed in the rezoning and yet that’s what they had submitted to staff for review.
In response to the plan review questions, staff has now taken a closer look at the submitted plans and placed a hold on any further review. The Fry’s team has been told to return to what was approved by the M&C before any more review will be conducted. This is the language in the letter sent out regarding that part of the project:
Our Design Review team found that the plan submitted for review did not represent the drawings submitted to Mayor and Council on the night of their public hearing. Staff has requested that the applicant resubmit their application with the site plan that was provided to Mayor and Council for the public hearing. The review of the project is stopped until such time as the correct set of drawings are received.
That’s good. At least the project will be held to what we voted on. But the question remains as to whether or not that vote was consistent with how we should be amending an area plan. I stated at the public hearing that we were ignoring flaws in how open space was calculated and allowing significant grading of riparian areas that is prohibited by the HENP as well as installation of a dozen gas pumps in a flood plain. I further raised the question about the size of the store jumping around from the time of the zoning examiner to the time of our public hearing (and now again to the time it’s submitted for plan review). I’m not alone in voicing those concerns.
Last week we were advised the DeConcini Law Firm had issued a Notice of Claim was. In it they request we halt implementation of the Fry’s development, citing some of the same issues I raised on the night of the public hearing. This statement comes from that Notice of Claim (“TCC” refers to the Tucson City Council):
I was the lone dissenting vote, so I’m sure the city will defend what M&C did in November. Time will tell whether that legal defense will be successful. For now, staff will not review the project until Fry’s pulls it back into line with what we voted to approve. While they do that, the attorneys will be sharpening their pencils in defense of their respective positions.
Last week I sent out an email asking you to consider advocating against a piece of legislation that if approved and signed will significantly reduce local control over how we manage home-based businesses.
HB2333 was in front of the House Commerce Committee on January 30. The bill pre-empts local rules such as the kinds of operations allowed in residential neighborhoods, limits on the number of employees, and regulations on things such as traffic coming and going from the place of business (house). If signed, it will allow things such as call centers, retail operations, auto repair shops and massage parlors in residential areas, allowing up to three employees, with no consideration for the number of customers or clients who come in and out of the homes daily.
The committee is made up of nine members. The local Tucson Representative is Todd Clodfelter (R). The bill passed out of committee on a straight party-line vote 6 to 3. I appreciate the many of you who worked in opposition. You weren’t alone as the City of Tempe and City of Phoenix also took part in efforts to kill it in committee. Continue your work though. It’s not law until it is passed and signed by the governor.
Thanks to Andrew Greenhill from our government liaison office for the head’s up on this and many other bills.
There are more troubling water-related bills under consideration up in Phoenix. Cape Town, South Africa is currently running out of water due to their drought. A city of four million people is facing a situation in which people may be forced to turn off their taps. While that real-time example of the impacts of ignoring drought conditions is going on, legislators are again pushing bills that will ease the requirements that currently force developers to demonstrate a 100-year water supply before they can move ahead with their projects. This is similar to efforts Gail Griffin made last term, which made it to the governor’s desk before being vetoed. I will keep you up to speed on their progress this time around.
A former government official in Africa, speaking of the Cape Town situation said, “Nature isn’t particularly willing to compromise, and if you haven’t prepared for it, you’ll get hammered.” They are getting hammered. We don’t have to if we pay attention to the reality of living in a desert.
Also related to Phoenix is the implementation of our zoo tax. How is Phoenix involved? First, since the propositions that passed the tax involved a change to our charter, the governor is required to sign off on it. He didn’t do that until January 30, so we couldn’t begin collecting the tax money until February 1, despite the fact that the proposition language said January 1. With the signature, we now have the one-tenth cent add in place.
Phoenix was also involved because we have to work through the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) to collect the money. Due to a series of their own internal issues related to an antiquated and cumbersome database and collection system, they were trying to push us back to March before we started collecting. They initially claimed we hadn’t given them sufficient notice, but we were able to demonstrate otherwise and so the February date is in place. I suspect our finance people will be spoon-feeding information to ADOR until they get their piece fully online.
None of the money collected will be spent until next fiscal year. The voters adopted the zoo tax last November after we had already adopted our budget for FY18. We can collect the money, but we had no way of incorporating any expenditures of the funds when we voted to approve our budget last June. So the money will accumulate in a zoo fund, we’ll continue working with our partners in the zoological society on a management arrangement, and the funds can begin being spent after July1, 2018. We’ll account for them during this spring’s budget talks.
On Tuesday, I’ve invited Rio Nuevo and the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) to present a study session item on design and development along the Sunshine Mile. The goal is to preserve some buildings that may otherwise be demolished and in the course of that preservation effort, create a sense of place that the public has been asking for throughout the roadway public involvement process.
For example, could we take these bungalows, save them from demolition and create an inner courtyard surrounded by the rehabilitated buildings, repurposed as commercial attributes to the area?
That’s just one example of where I’d like to see the discussion go.
To facilitate the Rio Nuevo participation in the development process a few things have to happen. One is the site needs to be within the Rio Nuevo development district. Many people believe that’s only downtown. In fact, when the TIF District was originally drawn up, it extended all the way out Broadway to Park Place at Wilmot. Therefore, all of the Sunshine Mile is included in the taxing district.
The property needs to be publicly owned. Therefore, the city or RTA will first need to take ownership of the parcels. At that point, Rio and PPS can come in with development proposals and invest in that adaptive reuse process. Whether the money used to purchase the buildings was from RTA or non-RTA sources drives who needs to sign off on the eventual development plan. All of that will be what we talk about Tuesday.
To be clear, I don’t believe the expansion of Broadway is justified based on traffic counts. Nevertheless, M&C voted to approve an alignment, the final touches of which are being finalized right now. So the focus becomes what happens outside the curb lines and how can we preserve the character of the area. I’m hopeful this partnership takes us in a good direction, one reflective of what the citizen panels we’ve heard from for the past several years have called for.
Here’s an update on the Campbell and Grant development plans. In the past week, I’ve had contact with two representatives of the ownership group who has been trying to lease out the Bookman’s and Walgreen’s buildings. Each confirmed they have been unable to find a tenant and plan on taking down the buildings very soon, likely in February.
On Broadway, when the city demolished the old Panda restaurant, we invested a small amount of money in creating a public space instead of simply leaving a vacant lot for years. I’ve mentioned that idea to one of the guys I spoke with from the ownership group and while he didn’t ante up any cash to help with the costs, he was not averse to the idea. It would need buy-in from Catalina Vista and some funding source (there was roadway money to help with Panda) before that idea moved forward, but I’ve put it on the radar screen of several of those parties. We’ll see where it goes if in fact the demolition moves forward.
What was a surprise to the ownership group is that 2021 is not the construction date for the Grant Road widening at that intersection. As I reported last week, the more likely period is 2023 or 2024, at the earliest. Talk of extending that beyond the 2026 sunset date for the RTA was met with the same sort of frustrated disbelief by the ownership group that I have expressed. We’ll see about the dates, funding and possible public interim use as this all sorts out.
Banner UMC owns much of the property to the south of the Bookman’s and Walgreen’s buildings. Right now, they’re primarily focused on building their hospital. I’m told there are no active discussions between Banner and the Bookman’s group about a sale of the parcels with the intent of combining them into a larger development that takes up the entirety of the site that’ll be left over after Grant is widened. That project – whatever it ended up being – could start tomorrow since we know the Grant alignment. However, until Banner has the bandwidth to refocus, nothing is happening; thus the idea of the public space.
We are scheduled to have the RTA funding update at our February 21 study session.
A final reminder about the public presentations related to the proposed rezoning of the Broadway Volvo site near Park and Broadway. These public meetings are scheduled and are open to everyone’s input.
Last week I met with our bike share vendor and others to sort through some deployment issues, primarily related to 4th Avenue and how Tugo affects the street fair. Those issues were pretty easily resolved. In addition, part of the meeting included an early look at how the system is being accepted by the community. I’ll share those data with you here.
First, if you would like to sign up as a member (there are several options) you can find all of the information at the Tugo website: tugobikeshare.com.
They have daily passes, as well as monthly, annual, low-income, senior, and more.
What they’ve seen in other jurisdictions is eventually a split between daily renters and membership driven rides of about 25 percent daily versus 75 percent memberships. Even after only a couple of months in operation, our rides are headed in that direction. As of February 1, 70 percent of the rides have been by people who have signed up in one of the membership categories.
Since kicking off the system last November, there have been over 6,100 rides booked on Tugos. We freeloaded on the system when we rode in the Parade of Lights, so even more if you count our group that night. The data show that a typical 24-hour pass user takes between two and three rides on that pass during the day. The average trip time is about 22 minutes.
They track each of the docking stations for usage. The top five stations are Main Gate (by far the most used location), the 2nd Street Garage, North Mercado, University Blvd and 3rd, and the Main Library. Clearly, the UA population is driving ridership early in the program. However, if you look at the next five top stations, they include the 4th Avenue locations, the Ronstadt Center and McKale. The use figures are pretty close (about 275 rides in those locations since opening) so as use fluctuates after the end of the UA semester, we may see the docking stations on 4th Avenue shift up to higher in the rankings.
So what’s all this bike riding doing for the environment and your body? From the total of 4,219 miles ridden, the Tugo folks calculate about 117,000 calories burned and 2,827 pounds of CO2 saved. Sounds like many of you can now celebrate with a hot fudge sundae if you ride to the 4th Avenue Dairy Queen on a Tugo.
Last week we received a quarterly report from our vendor under contract to help preserve Davis Monthan and missions here in Tucson. Originally, the reports were to come monthly, but getting them at all was a lift, so I was pleased to receive the update.
The report this time was a call for the community to step up and jointly support the DM missions, as well as a discussion about noise impacts from overflights. It spoke about economic benefits and generally how much the base means to our local economy, things we’re all familiar with. One section had this to say:
Another topic of concern was noise related to encroachment. As shown in the cases of Layton and Burlington above, many communities deal with encroachment around airports, both civil and military. The AF preferred location in Ft. Worth has similar challenges and communities throughout the country work closely with the military to mitigate the effect of all types of noise, including aircraft noise, on their citizens. For example, it might be worthwhile to look into possible state tax incentives for homeowners within the 65 decibel contours, who are interested in upgrading their homes for noise attenuation.
Additionally, it might be prudent for local Arizona State Representatives and Senators to look into the feasibility of using some of the $97M in Arizona State taxes (Maguire Report pg. 35) generated by the military bases in Arizona to fund a program of this type locally and to encourage their Arizona State counterparts to do the same statewide.
It was interesting to me that they listed Burlington as an example of how a community worked together to mitigate effects. In fact, they’re in litigation and the Department of Defense has purchased homes near the base as a way of easing some of the strains. I’d add that asking people to look for funding to mitigate the noise impacts is a strategy that in at least my opinion puts the onus on the wrong party. Perhaps looking for missions that don’t create those significant impacts is another approach, especially considering how unlikely it will be that the Arizona state legislature is going to allocate extra funding to Tucson for noise mitigation.
The December 21 edition of the Air Force Times announced some decisions about basing the F-35 fighter jets. According to that article, the Air National Guard’s next two F-35 squadrons will likely be based at Truax Field in Wisconsin and at Dannelly Field in Alabama. They’re “aging out” the F-16 units at both of those bases.
That’s the F-35 aircraft that is now priced at over $400B dollars, a figure Senator McCain called “a disgrace.”
The announcement was interesting and relevant to Tucson for a few reasons. One of course is that DMAFB has been studied for possibly receiving a squadron of F-35s. As more alternate bases are selected, it both decreases the likelihood of choosing DM and makes the work to continue rehabilitating A-10s more important. More on that below.
The other interesting connection to the announcement and Tucson is sort of a rabbit trail. The Air Force has already chosen Hill Air Base in Utah, one in Alaska and the Burlington Air Guard Station in Vermont. It’s the Vermont choice that has some similarities to Tucson.
Residents in midtown Tucson filed a lawsuit over possible environmental impacts if the base is chosen. The suit was withdrawn, but can be resumed if the DOD decides to reconsider DM for the F-35. Those sorts of lawsuits are not unique to Tucson. Burlingon residents also filed an environmental impact lawsuit over the basing decision. They lost that court battle in 2016, but last week the residents took another step in opposition to the jet.
Last week residents gathered enough signatures to force a vote by their city council to place the question of basing the F-35 on the ballot. They’ll have a public vote on March 6 asking the city council to oppose basing it in Burlington. The ballot item is advisory and non-binding, but it will ask the city council to request cancelling the warplanes from coming to Burlington and request a quieter mission. They’re a pretty well-organized group, even having produced logos like this in support of their efforts.
It will be interesting to watch the vote and the response of the city council if the voters adopt the measure.
In the past I’ve shared snippets from the Bechman study we commissioned a few years ago which advised us to avoid putting all our hopes in securing a single mission (the F-35) and to advocate for DM on the basis of it being a great place for other options. One is the Air Operations Center we supported a few years ago, a huge investment in computer infrastructure from which manages air operations in pacific theaters. We also have the boneyard, unmatched anywhere in the Air Force. Add to that the training opportunities we have at the Goldwater Range south of Tucson, drone training missions and of course, the A-10. Last year the DOD committed over $100M in retooling the wings of that aircraft. They just announced another significant commitment to continuing that work, extending the lifespan of the A-10. It’s a mainstay at DM and is widely supported throughout the community. Also add to that the news that DM is being considered for new missions involving the A-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine. Each went through testing last year at Holloman AFB in New Mexico.
Pending the outcome of the public disputes in Burlington, they’re scheduled to have 5,500 F-35 sorties training over their city as early as next year. The FAA has a program through which it has purchased houses close to the airport that were vacated in anticipation of the planes’ arrival. I’m encouraged by the recent announcements relative to the A-10 and the many other features DM has to offer. We’ve heard that unless a community comes together and sends a loud message of broad support for the F-35, they won’t come. It’ll be interesting to watch how the Burlington issues sort themselves out.
Last weekend my bride and I joined about 100 others at the Reid Park Zoo to celebrate the opening of their new health center. I mentioned to one of the docents that this opening was happening at nearly the same time as the new PACC facility and the new Hermitage Shelter. The Humane Society is coming up on their new grand opening too. It’s a confluence of wonderful news for our furry friends as we expand and improve the animal welfare component of our community.
Each of the new facilities will have a UA component. Dean of the Veterinary School, Dr. David Besselsen will be sending students to intern at each of the sites. That hands-on work will not only benefit the students, but given the diverse locations and interactions, the work constitutes a unique and creative way for them to pursue their degrees. The certification committee will certainly take that into consideration next year when the school presents its credentials for recognition.
The Reid Park Animal Health Center is a new 11,000 square foot hospital that allows the vets to provide whole-life animal care. It’s a mix of surgery and general treatment areas that include hydraulic tables to assist in moving particularly large animals around. I’m grateful to the Zoological Society for pulling together the funding partners, led by Freeport-McMoRan, The Kemper & Ethel Marley Foundation and the Ruth McCormick Tankersley Trust, plus dozens of others who remain committed to keeping ours a world class zoo.
Through our partnership with the Watershed Management Group (WMG), we have water harvesting and sustainable landscape projects in place around the ward office. There is also a group of volunteers that WMG trains to help maintain our gardens. That group, the Monsoon Squad, is looking for some extra sets of hands to assist in the pruning, pulling and policing work on our property
Jackson Graff is studying Sustainable Built Environments at the UA. He’s interning with WMG and is overseeing the work at Ward 6. Our public demonstration project fits well with his field of study. If you share a passion for preserving and conserving our natural landscape and resources, Jackson would love to sign you up to take part in the Ward 6 Monsoon Squad’s work.
If you have some time, please reach out to the WMG folks at www.watershedmg.org/advocacy/monsoon-squad. They’re hosting a new member orientation on Wednesday, February 28 and are signing up participants right now.
This week’s Local Tucson item is a magazine, a bi-monthly publication that highlights all things food in and around Tucson. Under the direction of Doug Biggers, Edible Baja Arizona is our local go-to for where to visit and how stay connected with Tucson as a City of Gastronomy.
Doug, formerly of the Tucson Weekly and the Rialto Theater began Edible Baja back in 2012. It’s published to promote our local food movement. You won’t find ads for fast food burgers, but you will find a listing of farmer’s markets, food, drink, culture and agriculture in and around Tucson. They’re free at over 350 locations around town or you can purchase a subscription. Visit them at www.ediblebajaarizona.com.
Finally, here’s a reminder that you don’t know what’s underground and that digging or swinging a pick to find out may ruin your day – or your water line. Before you dig and while you’re in the planning stages of a project that will include some excavation, remember to contact Arizona Blue Stake first. They’ll come out about two days after your call for service and mark all underground utilities.
Blue Stake was established back in 1974. They’re a private, nonprofit agency dedicated to saving your bacon. You can call them for service Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. simply by dialing 811. Find them on the web at www.arizona811.com. Their marks on the ground are valid for 15 days, so plan your work around that.
Council Member, Ward 6
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