Topics in this issue...
- Be Kind
- Deferred Action Kids
- Litigation in Arizona
- Local Resources
- Parks & Recreation
- Benedictine Update
- RTA & Downtown Links
- More Streets
- TDOT Director
- Honors College
- Local Tucson
- Botanical Gardens Update
- Film in Arizona
- Randolph Golf
- Events & Entertainment
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School carnage, a group from Ben’s Bells made contact with survivors and extended a compassionate, healing hand from Tucson. Now students from Canyon Del Oro are reaching out to their counterparts in Parkland, Florida. They’ve painted the names of shooting victims dating all the way back to Columbine onto Ben’s Bells Kindness Coins and have sent them to victim-survivors who were involved in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. If you’d like to help them offset their costs, you can do so at www.gofundme.com/bens-bells-stoneman-douglas.
I started working in the UA athletics department back in 1987 while still a student working on my Masters in the College of Ed. At the time, Lute Olson was our head coach. Last Thursday supporters filled the north pavilion at McKale to show our respect to him for the work he has done in the community. The unveiling of the statue honoring him was the focal point, but more revealing were the speeches made by former players (Damon Stoudamire, Matt Muehlebach and Pete Williams), each speaking to the life lessons they learned under Lute. Those lessons have stuck with the guys and still guide them today. The Be Kind is for the dozens of former players, ADs (Jim Livengood and Ced Dempsey came back for the event) and supporters who showed up on a warm and breezy afternoon to tell Lute that we recognize what he has meant to Tucson. I know he was truly touched by the event.
A big thanks to Moms Demand Action (and Tony) for coming by last week to spend some time sharing thoughts on how to continue working well together on the issue of gun safety in our community. Moms is a completely volunteer driven group working to make ours a safer city. It’s great to see their dedication, honed by some hard experiences in gun-related incidents.
To that end… This week, Thursday, June 19, another vigil/memorial event will be held on the UA Mall to keep the gun safety momentum going. UA art students, Moms Demand Action and Nursing School honcho Lisa Kiser are organizing this one. Lisa was around when our own UA mass shooting incident took place at the College of Nursing back in 2002. We’ll remember Robin Rogers (50), Barbara Monroe (45) and Cheryl McGaffic (44) during the event this week. We’ll remember the hundreds of other victims, as well as survivors who live on in the aftermath. The event will include dance, music, art of various other kinds and some speakers. We’ll continue the call for significant legislative action on gun control.
The event will have an arts-themed approach. Please plan to join us and show the students you’re behind their involvement in this issue and the legislature that we’re not going away. I’m honored to have been asked to do a little speaking and share some music as well.
United Health Care & Our Family Services
Ann Charles secretly signed me up for a step challenge through United Health Care. For two weeks, I wore some goofy wristband that counted all my steps (averaged about 50,000 per day). That was enough to win a $200 donation to a nonprofit.
Beth Morrison runs Our Family Services. They have a wonderful homeless youth program that is now the recipient of United’s generous donation. We’ve worked a lot with Beth’s group and I’m happy to get them a small boost. Thanks to Robin Paraiso from United for helping to make this happen.
If you know of or are a youth in need of assistance, call the Our Family hotline at 537.8696.
In Pine Grove, California, a four-year-old girl reported that her father had shot and killed himself. When police arrived, they found the 27-year-old man shot as well as his 26-year-old wife and his 60-year-old father. It appears to be a double murder-suicide.
I’m working with the family whose daughter was murdered by her boyfriend and has not yet been to trial. Their three-year-old son witnessed the scene. We’re looking for some justice in that case and hoping the best for the young boy who went through that trauma.
Anthony Fusco and his adoptive daughter, 20-year-old Katie Pladl, were both were found shot dead, along with Katie’s seven-month-old baby. The child was born from the marriage between Katie and her biological father, 45-year-old Steven Pladl. The dad/husband was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound several miles from the scene of the triple homicide, all near New Milford, Connecticut.
In Gwinnett County, Georgia, three children under the age of 10 reported to the apartment manager where they lived that their dad had shot and killed their mom. He then took his own life.
Children and guns in this week’s half-staff section. Please look at the Moms Demand Action website for the Be Smart program I’ve written about in the past. It’s how to make sure your kids are only visiting homes where guns are stored in a responsible and safe manner.
As long as young people are the theme (UA rally, half-staff), I’ll also share this update on the Tucson involvement with the national response to the Trump rescission policy related to DACA students.
With that September 5, 2017 memo from DHS, the Trump administration began the process of ending DACA. Litigation began to work its way through the various parts of the legal system. We are now signatory to a challenge of the DACA Rescission Policy in both the 2nd Circuit Court and the 9th Circuit Court. In the first one, we join 41 other cities and counties, as well as the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The 9th Circuit amicus we’ve signed onto has 39 other cities and counties involved in the action.
Legal jargon can get tedious, so I’ll just give some high points of our brief. At its most basic level, we’re saying the DACA kids only know this country as home. This quote from the brief makes that fundamental point:
Under the umbrella of “promises made, promises kept,” we’re saying good faith needs to mean something. The rescission policy amounts to the feds saying “the joke’s on you” for trusting the government when Obama invited you out of the shadows. Our brief points to the many ways DACA residents are engaged in all areas of our communities, including sports, the arts, the military and the business community. DACA also promotes public safety by bringing thousands of young immigrants into the position of establishing positive relationships with law enforcement, being willing to report crimes committed by others, and not allowing themselves to be victimized by others. For example, I’ve written in the past how in the immediate aftermath of the rescission policy announcement, reports of domestic violence began to drop off among the Latina community.
In Los Angeles, foreign-born residents make up nearly half of the workforce. They contribute over $3 billion in state and local taxes on an annual basis. In New York, over half of all the businesses owners are foreign-born, with foreign-born residents making up about one-third of all income earned in the state. The media focus has been on college students. Clearly, the rescission policy touches much more than that group.
This is who has signed onto the brief: Tucson, LA, Atlanta, Boston, Berkley, Austin, Cambridge, Chelsea, Dallas, Cook County, Chicago, Gary, Indiana, Holyoke, Mass., the city and county of Denver, the city and county of Honolulu, Houston, Ithaca, Iowa City, King County, Las Cruces, LA County, Long Beach, Madison, Miami, New Haven, Monterey, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, the National League of Cities, the National Conference of Mayors, Portland, Providence, Rochester, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Fe, Seattle, Somerville, Mass., West Hollywood and Seattle.
Here is the concluding comment in the brief these groups all signed. As I said, promises made should be kept:
The state legislature once again is trying to tell us how to run our local elections. That’ll at some point end up in court, again.
HB2604 made it to Ducey for his signature last week. It’s the bill they tried last year that would have set local elections in even numbered years. He didn’t sign it last year. If he does this time around, we’ll be lining up for yet another fight in the courts.
That litigation won’t likely come for a while. We’re scheduled to have a local election in 2019. On that ballot will be the mayor, along with wards 1, 2 and 4. As 2604 is written, localities are forced to move to even numbered year elections if our 2019 election results in voter turnout of at least 25 percent less than what happened in the most recent gubernatorial election. That’s this year’s midterm. My crystal ball says the midterms this year are going to see a pretty high voter turnout. That means the odds of our local election next year falling below that 25 percent threshold is probably better than a 50/50 bet. If it does, the new law kicks in and we’re off to the races.
The impact would be on our planned 2021 election. That’d be when I’m up for re-election again, along with Richard and Paul Durham. The new law would force us to delay our 2021 election until 2022. Not sure what would happen to the people elected in 2019. That would depend on how the litigation turned out.
We’ve been challenged on how we run our local elections before. We’ve won every one of those challenges. Maybe that’s why you didn’t see anything about this in the media. Nevertheless, it’s yet another example of Phoenix trying to micromanage how we do business in Tucson. Our charter gives us the right to conduct our elections as we see fit. The court said that’s a most basic local decision. If Ducey decides to challenge that clear court position by signing HB2604, your tax money will once again be spent defending Home Rule against the overzealous and hypocritical state legislature.
We’ve already alerted Ducey that we won’t be taking this laying down. Here’s an excerpt from the letter he already received from us on this bill:
The courts have already made that determination. Here’s hoping they don’t have to do it again.
We have a local charter that lays out many of the services we must provide to you. We have several local utilities and other agencies providing services as well. This coming Saturday, we’re hosting a mega-resource fair, at which you’ll have the opportunity to browse through the many services provided and very likely find ways you can save considerable amounts of cash in the process.
You can see all of the groups who’ll be represented at the fair. We’ll open at noon and then you can just walk through as you find your areas of interest. No formal program, just come on by. As you can see, there will be lots to pick over.
Highlighting our Parks & Recreation department, their summer 2018 activity guide is out now. Beginning today, you can pick up a copy at any P&R center, any of our pools or the administration office over in Reid Park. Local libraries will also receive their copies this week.
The guide has a complete listing of the leisure classes, swimming lessons, kids programs, camps and all the other activities we’re offering through the parks department. The guide also has the registration guidelines. Here are some dates you should keep in mind:
Registration start dates:
- Online: Saturday, April 28, at 6 a.m. – KIDCO, In-Betweener’s Club, and Jr. Staff in Training
- Online: Saturday, April 28, at 9 a.m. - Leisure classes (and Gymnastics I), Aquatics, and Learn-to-Swim Lessons
- Walk-in or phone-in registration begins: Wednesday, May 2, at 9 a.m. – all classes o Walk-in or phone-in registration only for Gymnastics II/III, Tapping II, Therapeutic Recreation Programs, and Adaptive Aquatics
- Monday, June 11, at 9 a.m. – KIDCO year-round
- Wednesday, May 2, at 9 a.m. for all classes and Summer KIDCO
- Monday, June 11, at 9 a.m. – KIDCO year-round
To make it easier, you can also look over the guide online at www.tucsonaz.gov/parks. You can register online according to the dates I’ve shared above at www.ezeereg.com. If you have questions, call the registration desk at 791.4877.
I’ve shared with the owner of the site that this development item is one of the most sensitive of the many coming at us in Ward 6 right now. Others include some on and around 4th Avenue, student housing being discussed for Speedway and Euclid, the Campbell and Speedway mixed use project, and the student housing now going up at Park and Broadway. Each has its challenges, but none has generated the region-wide interest the chapel has.
I met with the Miramonte folks last week and gave them an overview and update. By way of very brief review, the site you see in the aerial view is zoned for office use on the western (left) half and for high density residential on the eastern half. If developed according to the allowable zoning, among many other options it could be used to build up to about 880 student housing beds built in a four-story structure. There is nothing protecting the existing buildings shown in the image from demolition by a developer.
Okay, that’s the extreme of what’s allowed. I have gone on record saying that it’d be a pretty gutsy move by any developer to come into this community and take down that structure. No local developer would want to be “that guy.” So, what’s on the table that’s more likely?
I shared the initial seven-story proposal in last week’s newsletter. Since then I’ve met with the development team, expressed to them that I simply do not support that proposal and they’ve now come back with some modified options. The one they seem most wedded to now is a six-story building on both the north and south side of the monastery, and a three-story building on the east. Each of those would be built over a ground level parking area. The seven-story proposal had the north and south buildings at 91 feet tall, and the eastern building at 58 feet tall. Now the idea is to drop those to about 80 feet on the north and south and 45 feet on the east. This will be a community conversation, but my comment was, “I’m not sure one story gets you to where we need to be.”
The next step for the development team is to run their proposal past city staff to see if they first need to amend the Miramonte Neighborhood Plan. If the answer to that is yes, they’ll have a public process of identifying where the plan needs amending and then going through a lengthy process trying to achieve that. My reading of the plan is that what’s being proposed complies with the general terms of the neighborhood guidelines. If staff agrees, the development team will more fully develop their plan and we’ll schedule a formal neighborhood meeting. As we’ve done in previous meetings on this item, the date and time of the meeting will be widely advertised.
Another project that has the potential for some controversy is the now over-budget Downtown Links. That project has gone through a multi-year public design process. Now that it’s out to bid, the last leg of the work has come in with bids $16 million above budget. Staff and the RTA are now working on ways to bring it back to what funding can handle.
The RTA has met with bidders and is talking through options relative to how to reduce costs. Those conversations didn’t yield the results they were after, so all of the bids on the project have now been rejected. A full analysis of the project is being conducted, looking for ways to value engineer it back into budget. Over the next few weeks, that analysis will be completed. I’ve pointed out publicly that we cannot simply make the value engineering decisions in-house and push ahead. The public was involved in the initial design and it must be included in the redesign, cost-cutting decisions.
When I first began asking how the shortfall was going to be addressed, the reply was that working with the contractor, “means and methods” were being reviewed, and the hope was that’d open ways forward on the project. Means and methods are how you manage the building of a project. Staging, materials, phasing, scheduling, and those sorts of things. In addition, some discussions related to construction methods and materials. I said at the time we wouldn’t be finding a 40 percent cost overrun through means and methods. They’ve now evidently agreed and we’re taking a broader re-look.
I was also told that Downtown Links is the only project facing this shortfall. Given that we still have not seen bids on either Broadway or Grant (phases 5 & 6, the Campbell and Grant segment), we really can’t predict this won’t re-emerge again when those bids are received. The only thing that’s a given for me in this is that the public was included in the original design work and you need to be included in any reconsiderations as the bids for these projects start coming in.
That’s a conclusion from a study I read in the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.
These are the kinds of crosswalk markings they’re comparing:
We’ve all seen the example at the top of the image. The options proposed to get more driver awareness are those shown on the other legs of the intersection. Maybe this if we can get more creative.
I think Tucson could buy into something more visible and catchy than just lines painted on the road.
So what’s the purpose of this section of the newsletter? I’ve been wrestling with staff for well over a year, trying to get a less restrictive approach to painting crosswalk lines onto roadways. Currently, we simply say our policy is not to do that at uncontrolled intersections after we have repaved the streets, even if crosswalks had been in those locations before the repaving. Okay, but let’s find a solution other than just saying no.
I’ve quoted StreetsBlog before. This time on the issue of unmarked crosswalks, they challenge what I’ve heard from city staff, that marked crosswalks can give pedestrians “a false sense of security.” That notion is based on a 1972 study by a researcher named Bruce Herms. He found that intersections with marked crosswalks had higher injury rates than ones with unmarked crosswalks, concluding that the markings must have made the difference, encouraging risky behavior. StreetsBlog and I beg to differ.
First, let me say that the best solution would be multiple treatments at crosswalks. Identifiers in addition to the markings would benefit everyone. These are examples:
The 40-year-old Herms study also found that most pedestrians were struck at the middle or near the end of their trek across the roadway. That indicates motorists failing to yield, not some guy just stepping out into the roadway in front of a car which by the way also happens, so please don’t write telling me that sometimes peds are to blame. I get that, too.
The point is that if you get 75 percent of the way across the street, you expect the cars will be stopping. That’s not the risky behavior Herms’ study suggested was taking place.
I’m working with staff right now on an Alvernon crossing that had markings painted before the repaving and now it doesn’t. I think we can find a way to get the markings repainted, perhaps more creatively than just the parallel lines on the road and perhaps with some additional indicators or signage. Perhaps we can us that as a model to implement in other areas of the city.
We’re losing too many pedestrians to allow staff to dig in and show no flexibility in changing how we’ve “always done things.” This can be a part of the Complete Streets discussion, but it doesn’t have to wait on that before we start doing some things differently and hopefully saving some lives on Tucson streets.
I haven’t even mentioned raised medians yet. There are plenty of talking points we can still engage.
We’re hiring a new Transportation Director. The position was posted this week and it will remain open until filled. The city manager is hoping to see some early signs of interest, begin the application review and bring in some candidates to start the hiring process. Nobody will be here any earlier than a month though.
The game plan is to conduct an internal assessment of the applications and then get input from other staff, council offices and the public. What that involvement looks like hasn’t been spelled out yet. If you’re interested in what we’ve posted, this is the general description of the position.
Master's degree in Civil Engineering, Traffic Engineering, Transportation Planning, Business or Public Administration (or closely related field)Seven years of progressive transportation management experience
Over seven years of supervisory management experience in the administration of a large multi-functional transportation operation
Professional Engineer (PE) in the State of Arizona is preferred
City leaders have identified the following additional traits and competencies that the ideal candidate will posses:
Visionary leadership demonstrating a high level of initiative, resourcefulness, innovation and problem solving skills
Excellent listening skills and the ability to engage effectively with diverse stakeholders
Strong customer service focus with the ability to develop strategic solutions to problems
Ability to employ razor sharp focus on doing what is right for the community
Cultivates an affirming and inclusive approach to Transportation policies and practices
Ability to develop and strengthen new and existing community partnerships
Exhibits organizational savvy that is improvement driven and process oriented
Clear and concise communication skills both verbally and in writing
Genuine concern for employees' success, hiring, training, empowerment, and staff development
Skills to maximize employee productivity, personal growth, and morale
The UA has submitted the plans and documents related to the Honors College to city staff. The development services folks, along with city attorneys have reviewed them and found they do comply with the intent of the agreements we reached for mitigating the impact of the project on surrounding residents. Will that happen in ways that would have been the case if the development had gone through a full zoning review? Certainly no, but given the set of facts we faced, we got some wins in the project that weren’t guaranteed when the ownership of the site was transferred to the state.
Quick review: American Campus Communities bought some land north of the campus planning boundary. They proposed a student housing development about six years ago. It was rejected. Instead of working with neighbors to find common ground, ACC worked out a land ownership deal with the Board of Regents, effectively taking the site out of city jurisdiction when it comes to any of our zoning regulations. The UA could have rejected the offer, but the prior administration was intent on moving the Honors Dorm to this site, so the deal went through. Under the current administration, we were able to come up with some mitigation amenities.
Building permits have been issued. Construction is underway. What was submitted to the city are the purchase documents, drainage reports, a traffic analysis, and construction drawings indicating some of the mitigation work. Those include traffic flows, commitments to pedestrian safety elements, work on the right-of-way of Park Avenue, and the massing of the buildings that was finally agreed upon.
I’ve expressed my hope to President Robbins that future student housing might take place within the campus footprint. There’s plenty of surface parking and several old one, two and three story dorms that could serve as sites for vertical development. The sites could be built up with similar land use and management arrangements as were struck with ACC. The UA is right now in the early stages of revising and updating the campus master plan. We’ll see how that idea fits in with those revisions.
This Local Tucson is both a thumbs up to the Garden District folks for their winning grant application and a reminder that Tucson Clean & Beautiful still has some funding remaining for storm water projects. If you go to the TGB link you’ll see all the program information including an application brochure and a broad description of the program itself. Each ward in the city is eligible for $45,000 in projects. I know they’re still taking applications, so check out the site and see if your area of the city still has some funding availability.
The intent of the grants is to allocate money for neighborhood-scale storm water collection projects. For example, what you see in the photo above. They’re after things like curb cuts that’ll help to take water off the streets and beautify our residential areas. I have it on good authority that it will in fact rain again someday, so now’s the time to contact TGB and get your neighborhood’s project queued up for some design and funding help. We’re grateful to the Tucson Water folks for spearheading this program and for working hand in hand with us on making it a valuable community asset.
I’m still receiving letters of support for the Botanical Gardens’ effort to expand onto what is now the former Fry’s grocery store site at Grant and Alvernon. Each letter gets passed onto Michelle over at the Gardens and will form a part of their application packet.
The very initial reaction from Fry’s was that they couldn’t do the deal with the Gardens. I’m sure the intense community support for expanding the Gardens onto the site caused Fry’s to sit down with the Gardens’ board and at least hold out some hope that a compelling offer would indeed be given strong consideration. The TBG group is now forming that offer. The submission will go in very soon, so please write if you’d like to be included as a supporter. I also know they’re trying to put together a large financial package. Let me know if you’ve got interest in being a part of that and I’ll get you in direct touch with the Gardens’ leadership.
Meanwhile, their programs continue as usual. They’re finishing up the butterfly magic show and have just opened exhibits as varied as a quilting garden and blacksmithing. If you haven’t been there for a while, now’s as good a time as any.
The Urban Gardening Festival is also coming in a couple of weeks. It’s their one-day event on Saturday, April 28 from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Throughout the day, there will be a variety of classes teaching you various home-based gardening techniques, how to cook with what you grow, and more. In the morning, there will be music in the picnic area and I’ll be playing from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. It should be a fun day with something to touch a wide array of interests. I know they’ll appreciate your support of the work at this urban oasis.
While you’re marking your calendar, The Loft is hosting Shelli Hall and others of us who are passionate about bringing the film industry back to Tucson and Southern Arizona in a big way. The great thing about this event is it’ll have voices from all over the state speaking to the value of film and the availability of local crews and other talent ready to pull off some impressive production work.
On May 21, we’ll have representatives from the state film office, independent film producers, the coalition of film and media production, and of course our own Visit Tucson film office honcho, Shelli Hall on the panel. The purpose of the event is to continue promoting film opportunities locally. I know there’s a significant outreach to get an audience made up of the public, as well as members of the film industry who may be looking for locations such as ours.
If you work in any facet of the film industry locally or if you support our efforts to get Tucson back on the map in a big way in this industry, please join us at this free event on the 21st. I’ll write about it more as we get closer. This is your “save the date” note though.
I’ve been asked from time to time about what’s going to happen to our golf enterprise. We run five courses, three of which consistently lose money, plus the Randolph courses which are in a little better than break-even condition operationally. All of the courses have capital needs for which we currently have not identified a funding source.
For a few years there has been some very light conversation about making changes to Randolph in an effort to bring professional golf tournaments back to midtown. Right now, there’s a PGA tournament being held out at the Omni course, on the far northwest side.
One of the ideas floated by a combination of the Conquistadores and Rio Nuevo is the notion of building some commercial development on the Broadway frontage and using the tax base generated from that to fund improvements to the course. As it sits now, the golf course would not be attractive to the pros.
To my knowledge, this idea has not progressed beyond the conceptual discussion stage. This is an excerpt from a letter sent that’s related to the Conquistadores proposal.
Honorable Mayor and Council:
As you know, the Tucson Conquistadores have been exploring a concept of improving the Randolph Golf Course in an effort to bring the senior PGA event back to midtown. The concept also considers creating a UA athletic hub at Randolph (baseball, golf and tennis) based upon improving the golf course and tennis complex. This item was intended to be discussed at the April 17 study session, but because of the lengthy agenda on the 17th it was moved back to May 8. So that staff and the public can get a better understanding of the Tucson Conquistadores concept, they will be presenting it to the Tucson Greens Committee on April 19 at 3 pm. The meeting will be held at the Randolph Golf Complex. The Greens Committee agenda will be going out later today or tomorrow.
To each of the people who have asked me about this, I’ve promised a very public process as the ideas are discussed. As noted in the letter, we’ve seen nothing concrete, some rough conceptual ideas, but nothing close to a proposal that is even ripe for beginning a public conversation.
The Greens Commission is a public body made up of representatives from around the community, each with a different connection to golfing. That group will receive the Conquistadores presentation this Thursday at 3 p.m. I’ve looked over their agenda and this is right up near the top, so if it’s all you want to hear about, get there on time and you won’t miss it.
The commission meeting will be held at the Cactus Room at 600 S. Alvernon. Parking is free. I understand this same presentation is headed to our May 8 study session. No materials have yet been posted for that meeting.
Council Member, Ward 6
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