Topics in this issue...
UA and the Final Four
Red Tag Changes
Local Tucson - Donovan Durban
In Phoenix last week, a nine-year-old kid was shot and killed by his two-year-old brother. The dad was a prohibited possessor, and the 28-year-old mom is now being held on four counts of child abuse. The parents were investigated by Child Protective Services in 2014, and while they were going through treatment for a variety of issues the kids were in foster care. They had been reunited before the shooting occurred.
In midtown Tucson last week, a 21-year-old guy took the law into his own hands, shooting and killing a 43-year-old whom he believed shot and killed his brother in the same apartment complex back in February. Our laws don’t allow for vigilante justice. The shooter is now in jail, booked on second degree murder charges.
Over the weekend in Las Vegas, a guy commandeered a double-decker tourist bus, shot and killed one person, and wounded another. The news report said he ‘surrendered peacefully.’ Something wrong with that statement.
And in Weston, Wisconsin last week there was another domestic violence related shooting. Four people are dead after a man went on a shooting rampage that extended from the lobby of a bank to a nearby law firm. The shooter was taken into custody. His wife was unharmed.
I once found a loaded gun on the side of the road while I was out running. As per the law, I turned it into the police. They checked to see if it had been used in any crimes, did a check to see if they could find the owner, and after the prescribed waiting period, they offered it back to me. I mention this because a guy stopped by our office last week announcing he had found a loaded gun while out in Tucson Mountain Park. He did not intend to turn it in.
If that’s you – and you’re reading this – turn the gun into TPD. They might need it for evidence in a crime. Destroying it may come later after they do their checks, but it could be important evidence in a crime. If you don’t want to turn it into the police, get in touch with me, give it to me, and I will – and I will commit to having it destroyed after they’re done with it.
Before I start in with some of the challenges we’re facing, I want to share what a wonderful event we had last weekend in celebration of the arts and Tucson. When I began working on this event with Debi and Julie from the Arts Foundation and playwright Ron Pullins, our mutual hope was that we’d see an array of artists come forward to share their work. In fact, that’s what we got.
Saturday’s event had poetry, painting, violin, film, song, and dance. And our own Caroline shared her work of culinary art.
Yes, we ate it.
The most amazing presentation to me was from a group of disabled artists who painted by instructing someone else through the process. The ‘artists’ choose the colors, shapes, textures and overall design, and then instruct someone else to be their brush – to do the actual brush strokes on the canvas on their behalf. The process takes a ton of time and TLC, but the results are straight from the heart.
We had DV victims expressing themselves through paint, we had a violinist who had played on the UMC mall after the January 8th shooting, a short film created by young people here in town, dance and movement expressing our unity, sculpture from two different artists, and I shared a little on the guitar.
I’m grateful to the Arts Foundation folks and Ron for working to pull this together. As we see a push to defund the National Endowment for the Arts at the federal level, understanding its impact on local artists of all sorts was our goal.
Marshall McLuhan coined the term ‘the medium is the message.’ He meant that the medium by which a message is delivered influences how the message is perceived. Our hope from Saturday is that policymakers will understand that whether it’s sent through song, poetry, movement, or form, art is valuable and deserves continued support from our federal government.
The director of two WWII-era films will present his work on Saturday at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center and on Sunday at the Jewish Community Center, located at 1288 W River Rd and 3800 E River Rd, respectively. Both screenings are free and open to everyone.
Arthur Dong will be the sole presenter on Saturday evening. He directed Forbidden City, USA, a documentary on Chinese American nightclubs that operated during the WWII era. On Sunday he’ll be back, but he will be joined by several other presenters for the film Coming Out Under Fire. That film is the story of GLBT WWII veterans and what they experienced. Erin Russ, representing the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, and Jennifer Dane, representing the American Military Partnership Association, will also speak after that screening. Erin is a veteran, and Jennifer is currently serving.
Recently I shared stories about Japanese internment camps – one of which existed here in Tucson – during the WWII period. The presentations you’ll see this weekend at the TCCC and the JCC are a further expression of the very rich cultural mix we have here. The TCCC event will begin with a free dinner on Saturday at 5:00 p.m., with the film screening at 6:15 p.m. On Sunday, the event starts at 1:00 p.m. with the film screening scheduled for 2:00 p.m.
If you’d like more information on the Saturday show, you can contact the Cultural Center at 292-6900. The weekend’s screenings are being co-sponsored by the Southern Arizona Senior Pride group. They’re your contact for the Sunday show at 312-8923.
I spoke at an event last week (thank you, Maddy, for hosting – it was a wonderful gathering), and during the talk, I spent some time on how important Tucson’s status as a Charter City is in protecting our ability to make local decisions on local issues. The issue I was referring to was the property disposal (gun breaking) case we now have in front of the State Supreme Court. We’re awaiting their decision.
Another case we’ve been fighting is the seemingly never-ending series of challenges to how we conduct our elections. Richard and I are running in primaries this August. Only Ward electors from our party can vote in that election. Then, in the November general election, everyone in the city can vote. That form of election is built into our Charter.
We successfully defended our Charter-driven form of election up through the 9th Circut. It was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, the justices unceremoniously told the plaintiffs to find something else to quarrel about. They declined to take the case. It’s not often you see a decision coming from the U.S. Supreme Court, so I thought I’d share it with you as we saw it:
Operative words: Petition DENIED. As the 9th Circuit affirmed, our system doesn’t violate any Constitutional Equal Protection standards. I hope you’ll take part in the primary and general elections later this year. Register to vote if you haven’t already.
In each session, the Arizona State Legislature drops a series of bills preempting local decision-making. They feel the need to tell us what to do. One current example is SB1122. It’s an attempt by the State to overturn our ability to require background checks on the sale of weapons at the TCC. The bill is still alive and moving through committees.
Sometimes we pay attention. Sometimes we don’t.
This is another instance of the Home Rule issue I discussed at the speaking engagement last week. These bills come with regularity, and they cover a wide spectrum of issues. Each time, the State alleges the issue at hand is of statewide concern and therefore localities shouldn’t make rules about it. Elections are one example. Statutes related to guns are another. So are plastic bags, a variety of zoning issues, how much we pay our employees, paid leave, and on and on.
Many of us have suspected these efforts originate from outside the state, funded by a larger effort. Last week in the Truthout Report, Simon Davis-Cohen affirmed that suspicion.
In an article entitled “Republican Legislators push for cities to be treated as ‘Tenants of the State,’” Davis-Cohen describes how the local preemption tactics we’re dealing with in Arizona cities are becoming common nationwide. Much of the legislation has very broad language. In Florida, SB1158 deals with “regulation of matters relating to commerce, trade and labor” for example. Protecting Home Rule and the most basic powers of local governance has become a battleground issue throughout the country. Many statehouses have swung to the right, so left-leaning cities like Tucson are digging in to preserve their ability to govern in ways that reflect their local values.
Home Rule is our protection against being governed by the State Legislature. It’s really no more complex than that. And so each legislative session, we formally oppose multiple bills as soon as we learn about them. Cohen reported that groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are a leading force behind these preemption bills. To the extent they can weaken our ability to write local ordinances, they control the governance of the region.
They base this ability on what’s called Dillon’s Rule. It comes from a 1907 U.S. Supreme Court decision that essentially declared cities are ‘children’ of the State. In January 2016, ALEC referred to Dillon’s Rule and wrote, “Local governments are tenants of the State.” Here’s a link to that paper.
At its most basic core, our defense is our Charter. It’s our constitution, voted on by the people. It outlines how we are to govern Tucson. It’s what the courts have referenced when siding with us on a variety of preemption laws that have come from the State.
We expect to see more of these laws, and we expect to continue to fight them. Even in cases where we may not have any particular issue with the content of the law being proposed, if it contains a provision that chips away at our local decision-making authority, we’ll oppose.
We just won our elections case, but it took us all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. We’re waiting to hear from the State Supreme Court on the gun destruction case. We expend immense resources to defend home rule. You should know. It’s a reason elections matter.
One example of a local ordinance we haven’t been preempted from adopting is the ban on the use of electronic devices while driving. It’s also an example of one of my consistent frustrations with the local media. The M&C voted in favor of the ban by a 5-2 vote. I was in the dissent. My frustration is that the reason for my dissent was not reported. That matters. I’ll clear up the gap in that reporting here.
On the day after the newspaper article announcing our vote came out, we got multiple calls asking why I hadn’t supported the ban. I’m the one who had initially suggested we move on this issue, so why jump ship now? It’s a legitimate question – and one that should have been addressed in the press coverage.
The M&C passed the ban on using hand-held electronic devices as what’s called a “secondary offense.” That means if a cop sees you using your computer while driving, unless there’s another reason to pull you over, you’re good to go. If you were also speeding, for example, you could be pulled over for that primary offense, and only then cited for use of the electronic device.
I voted against that simply because I believe using any electronic device should be a primary offense. We shouldn’t need additional reasons to pull a driver over. The M&C will study the ordinance for six months and assess whether or not it should become primary offense. My comment while voting was, “This should be a primary offense. We won’t learn anything in six months that we don’t already know.” That’s less than 20 words. I suspect the Star could have afforded that much more ink to clarify the story.
The fine for being cited under the new ordinance is $250 for a first offense, and $500 for citations you receive thereafter. Our streets are indisputably safer if you drive without talking on your cell phone. I hope even as a secondary measure, people respect the new law and, as they say, “hang up and drive.”
Last Friday, the word was that if Congress didn’t vote to end the Affordable Care Act, the administration was going to forget it and move onto other things he trumpeted during the campaign. They didn’t vote to change health care. Still, I don’t believe for a second they will simply walk away from altering it in significant ways. It was one of the two linchpins of the presidential campaign. No way is it a dead issue.
For that reason, our April 20th forum will move forward. Click here for the flyer. Please share it around.
Nobody on the panel thinks we should let our guard down and assume status quo will prevail on this topic. And the truth is, it shouldn’t. Any major piece of legislation can afford to be reconsidered and tweaked. But there’s a fundamental difference between that notion and what was under consideration last week.
The vote didn’t occur largely because some members of Congress didn’t think the changes went far enough. Removing over 400,000 people from the Arizona Medicaid rolls, destroying rural health centers, defunding Planned Parenthood, and setting up hospitals for a return to hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated care wasn’t “far enough” – not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars the State of Arizona would have had to find to continue expanded Medicaid coverage after the feds wound down their involvement.
So join us on the 20th and continue to engage on this signature issue... unless, of course, you believe it’s off the table permanently. If you do, you might also look out the window for some of these guys.
American Campus Communities (ACC) is a large student housing company that operates student housing complexes all over the country. They’re legit. Right now, they are in negotiations with the University of Arizona to build an honors college along the outskirts of the campus planning boundary. The project has raised concerns.
The UA competes with other universities for “the best and brightest” – that is, honors students. Right now, the honors enrollees are scattered around campus in different buildings, both for housing and class time. Other universities house their honors kids together. The ACC project is intended to bring 1,000 of them together under one roof will include classrooms, labs, retail amenities, a recreation center, and some UA administrative functions. Standing alone, it’s a good project.
The UA and ACC are right now crafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to frame the terms of how the project will be built, who will own the land on which it sits, who will manage the complex, and those sorts of details. As of last week, per the UA administration, “the final draft is nearly complete.” It has not been made public. The deal points will eventually enter into the public domain. Right now, though, the public is reacting to what we’ve been told, not what has been finalized.
Some significant pieces of what we’ve been told have caused the concern I mentioned. They have to do with process, precedent, and possibly the city’s tax base.
This map shows the campus planning boundary from the 2009 Campus Comprehensive Plan in the areas affected by the proposed ACC project.
At issue is the yellow block at the upper left side, outside of Precinct 3. This language appears in the planning document:
This plan also illustrates a possible University partnership housing project on UA property located north of the planning boundary.
One of the concerns, then, is that the UA is moving outside of its planning boundary. But that intention was announced back when the 2009 comprehensive plan was adopted. As I stated during the public meeting on this topic last Monday, I’m less concerned with the boundary issue than I am with the process by which the project is being constructed and managed – the MOU. However, residents who live in the immediate proximity to campus are legitimately concerned with the encroachment. The UA owns property outside the boundary. The MOU eliminates any public process for new development, even if, as in the case of ACC and the Honors College, the land is privately owned but will be placed in the hands of the UA through a lease agreement.
The block containing the project site is zoned residential, R-2. The project, as proposed, would be four stories tall on the east end and six stories on the west. The 1,000 residents represent a significant increase over the density that would be allowed with R-2 zoning. In the normal course of events, this project would go through a formal rezoning process, subject to public input. Those take time, and they take money. The terms of the MOU are being drawn in a way that bypasses rezoning because the hoped-for opening date for the new Honors College is November 2018. Doing a rezoning would force the project past that date, and the input ACC received during the public process would very likely not support the density or mass being proposed.
I’ve worked for the UA since 1988. I’m invested in the image and integrity of the University. It’s a key component of our community. During last Monday’s meeting – which was attended by nearly 100 residents, UA administrators, and the media – I stated clearly that I am concerned that the way this project is moving forward will have a very negative impact on trust and the UA’s credibility.
In addition, the template could be replicated anywhere in the city. As it is now being described, the MOU will include some sort of land transfer between the UA and ACC. The result will place ownership of the property with the UA. As a public institution, the university is exempt from city zoning rules. But ACC is going to somehow be signed on to manage the property. They’ll receive lease payments for performing that service. Without the UA owning the land, ACC would simply collect rent from the students. Instead, the lease payments will be their compensation.
During last Monday’s meeting, I also shared that I have asked the City Attorney to look into the legality of an MOU that bypasses our zoning codes but still makes the private property owner whole. If it’s a legal template, it can be replicated with any private property owner anywhere in the city, and by any public entity that can exempt itself from our codes.
We are finalizing rezoning processes with TUSD on two former school sites. One will be Pima Medical Institute, and the other will be a transitional medical care facility. The first is finishing the rezoning process now, and the other already went through it. Neither started out the way it will end up, but both projects have largely been embraced by the people who live in the area.
In the past few newsletters, I’ve also shared some tax and impact fee data. It’s not clear right now if the MOU for ACC will take the parcel off the tax rolls, or whether or not the city will receive impact fees for the development. Those are not insignificant dollars.
The University – my employer – is a major player in our community. Over the past few years, we’ve developed a very close working relationship in terms of outreach to the areas surrounding campus. If the MOU is indeed legal as it’s being crafted, it’s my sense that by intentionally bypassing the public process, by avoiding city codes, and possibly by taking property off the tax rolls, that relationship will be hurt immeasurably. That’s a lot to sacrifice. I’m sure you’ll see more on this item to come.
UA and the Final Four
Yes, I predicted the basketball team would make it into the Final Four. Well…instead, I’m looking forward to joining others at the Garden District Porch Fest coming on April 2nd.
The music will begin at various locations at 3:00 p.m. The musicians will break up their sessions in a variety of ways, from 90 minute segments up to the whole three hours, including breaks. I’ve been assigned to 4118 E. Linden, and I’m scheduled to play from 4:30 until 6:00 p.m. – unless I wear out before then. Come and join in singing some songs from ‘back in the day.’ The weather should be great, and the community-building these events foster is why we do them.
Of course, the event includes musicians of all sorts scattered throughout the neighborhood. Here’s the game plan for the afternoon. I hope you can come and support the neighborhood and just enjoy the music.
Red Tag Changes
One more UA-related item. Last week, we finalized changes to our Red Tag ordinance. This is what’s otherwise referred to as the unruly gathering ordinance. We have had to ratchet up the penalties over the past few years as a result of continued violations. What we’ve learned is that unless and until the financial sanctions hurt, the partying will simply continue.
A group of students led by the ZonaZoo Communications Director has been gathering signatures in opposition to the increased fines. What they want is a specific decibel level they can shoot for before any penalties are imposed. Well, we have a noise ordinance. That’s where you look for decibels. We also have a nuisance ordinance. That’s the unruly gathering piece.
To be clear, most of our landlords and off-campus student population are wonderful community members. They won’t be impacted by any of these changes. In fact, a survey conducted by the UA Campus Health folks shows most students on the UA campus are drinking less now than they were 10 years ago. This graphic shows the trends:
That’s the percent of kids surveyed who say they’ve had 5 or more drinks in one sitting twice or more in the past week. That’s important data since that level of drinking is also correlated with academic success. Here are those comparisons:
So most students aren’t binging when they drink, and those that are suffer academically for having made it a habit.
Our new Red Tag fines are $500 for a first offense, and they go up to $750 and $1,000 thereafter. And on a second and subsequent offense, they’ll also pay up to $1,000 of the costs for the police to come and break up the party. I’ll admit those are real numbers – at least they would have been when I was in school. My mom and dad weren’t going to fork out anything to cover my misbehavior, much less those amounts.
Hopefully the changes have the desired effect. That’s not to shut down partying, but to bring it into conformity with standards that should prevail in residential areas.
Take a look to the right for one final graphic from the study.
I’ll be meeting with the ZonaZoo guy and his counterparts. I’ve invited representatives from neighborhoods around campus. The hope is to build a bridge so the number of unruly parties begins to drop. We have the ordinance, but its my hope that relationships will be a more effective tool.
And speaking of UA parties, this final University add. Spring Fling will take place at the east end of the mall coming from April 7th through the 9th. There’ll be traffic and parking impacts you should know about. This map may be of some help sorting through the options.
The impacts will begin on Monday, April 3rd. Starting at 6:00 a.m., you won’t be able to access campus by car via the mall between Cherry and Campbell. Fences will go up, and you simply won’t be able to drive into the area. That will be true through 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11th.
If you plan on going and supporting the over 40 student organizations who put on the event, these are the hours they’ll be open:
Spring Fling Operational Hours
• Friday, April 7th: 4 p.m. – 11* p.m.
• Saturday, April 8th: 11 a.m. – 11* p.m.
• Sunday, April 9th: 11 a.m. – 6* p.m.
They close the gates an hour before closing time so only those who are already in the perimeter can continue with the rides and other activities.
The Sun Tran bus stop that’s outside of McKale will be temporarily relocated to Second St. and Cherry, on the north curb. And if you’re coming to campus from the east on a bike, there’ll be a protected bike lane on Campbell between University and Enke (just south of McKale.) Bikes coming from the west will head north up Cherry and wind your way back to Campbell via Second St. And if you’re driving to the event, you can park in the Cherry garage for $5. They’ll have several lots open, too.
To get all the information on the event, check out the Spring Fling website at http://springfling.arizona.edu. They’ll also have a hotline set up – 621-5610.
When I began doing this council work back in 2009, the neighborhoods surrounding campus and Spring Fling had a pretty challenging relationship. Now, due to mutual outreach, that’s no longer the case. It’ll be interesting to see if that same relational change can occur once I get the ZonaZoo red taggers together with neighbors. Here’s hoping.
Usually I give the Local Tucson item over to a business or a non-profit. Last week was our Botanical Gardens being included in the top 10 in the U.S. and Canada as destination gardens. This week I’m giving the item over to a city employee. He also used to work with our staff in the Ward 6 office, and many of you know him.
Donovan Durband left our staff and moved into what was then ParkWise. Now it’s our Park Tucson division. Donovan runs that operation.
Recently he earned a distinction that no other City employee has achieved, and that only a handful of parking professionals in Southern Arizona have on their resume. The International Parking Institute has awarded Donovan a Certified Administrator of Public Parking designation. They award the designation based on a combined skill set that includes innovation, professionalism and expertise in the field. Kudos to Donovan for this recognition.
We’re working on revisions to our whole Residential Parking Permit program. Donovan has been in the middle of that. It’s not easy balancing the interests of multiple competing parties. Having Donovan alongside as we roll out the public discussion on these changes will be valuable.
That shot, courtesy of Rillito Park Racetrack, is from a NY Times article that was shared with me last week by Ed Ackerley from Ackerley Advertising (locally owned advertising business). The guy to the left of the horse is Bob Baffert. If the name’s familiar it may be from his having owned the horse who won a Triple Crown a couple of years ago – American Pharoah. He got his start back in the ’70’s here in Tucson, racing much slower quarter horses out at Rillito. Now he races big time in places such as Dubai.
Last year the track got a reprieve when the County signed a multiyear agreement that was a compromise between the horse folks and the soccer folks. One of the issues that remains is the quality of the clubhouse. Baffert has said he’d one day like to come home and race again at Rillito. Note to County – invite him. In the athletics department we love touring our successful alums around showing them where our capital needs are. A win, place or show at the Meydan Racetrack in Dubai would pay for the entire rebuild of the clubhouse, and maybe a few soccer fields in the infield, too.
Tucson has some rich history. Rillito Downs is one piece the County has preserved.
Council Member, Ward 6
Events and Entertainment
Reid Park Zoo’s Summer Camp – Scholarships Available
Application deadline: April 15, 2017
Reid Park Zoological Society is excited to be able to offer full scholarships for Reid Park Zoo’s Summer Camp. Thanks to a generous donation, the all-inclusive scholarship includes camp registration fees, lunch for all 5 days of camp and an extended care option. Reid Park Zoo's summer camp is a week long, action packed camp for children entering grades 1-6. Each week includes animal and conservation themed activities, crafts, and up-close animal encounters. To learn more about summer camp at the Zoo, see when camp is being offered this year or to download the scholarship application please visit: https://reidparkzoo.org/resources/zoo-summer-camp-2017/.
Transportation Improvements Open Houses
Join the Pima Association of Governments (PAG) for a presentation and discussion of its draft short-range transportation improvement program (TIP), which includes projects to be scheduled for construction or design during FY 2018-22 across the greater Tucson region. Representatives of PAG member jurisdictions, Sun Tran and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) will be available to answer questions. The draft TIP document will be available for review online at www.PAGregion.com.
- Tuesday, March 28, 2017 | 5 - 6:30 pm
Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Library | 7800 N. Schisler Drive, Tucson
- Wednesday, March 29 | 5 - 6:30 pm
Randolph Clubhouse | 600 S. Alvernon Way, Tucson
- Thursday, March 30 | 2 - 3:30 pm
Joyner-Green Valley Library | 601 N. La Cañada Drive, Green Valley
Mission Garden, 929 W Mission Ln | www.tucsonbirthplace.org
A living agricultural museum and ethnobotanical garden at the site of Tucson's Birthplace (the foot of "A-Mountain"). For guided tours call 520-777-9270.
Children's Museum Tucson, 200 S 6th Ave | www.childernsmuseumtucson.org
Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way | www.tucsonbotanical.org
“Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” Exhibit, October 10, 2016 – May 31, 2017
Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, 414 N Toole Ave | www.tucsonhistoricdepot.org
UA Mineral Museum, 1601 E University Blvd | www.uamineralmuseum.org
Jewish History Museum, 564 S Stone Ave | www.jewishhistorymuseum.org
Fox Theatre, 17 W Congress St | www.FoxTucsonTheatre.org
Hotel Congress, 311 E Congress St | hotelcongress.com
Loft Cinema, 3233 E Speedway Blvd | www.loftcinema.com
Rialto Theatre, 318 E Congress St | www.rialtotheatre.com
Arizona State Museum, 1013 E University Blvd | www.statemuseum.arizona.edu
"Snaketown: Hohokam Defined" Exhibit, through July 1, 2017
Arizona Theater Company, 330 S Scott Ave | www.arizonatheatre.org
The Rogue Theatre, The Historic Y, 300 E University Blvd | www.theroguetheatre.org
Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N Main Ave | www.TucsonMusuemofArt.org
“Body Language: Figuration in Modern and Contemporary Art,” February 25, 2017 – July 9, 2017
Tucson Convention Center, 260 S Church St | tucsonconventioncenter.com
Meet Me at Maynards, 311 E Congress St | www.MeetMeatMaynards.com
A social walk/run through the Downtown area. Every Monday, rain or shine, holidays too! Check-in begins at 5:15 pm.