Topics in this issue...
- Be Kind
- Domestic Abuse
- Benedictine Monastery
- Puppy Mills
- The Bear that is a Bear
- Local Tucson
- Public Hearing on Water Rates
- Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona
- Events & Entertainment
I could fill the Be Kind section each week with people I meet out on the Loop while jogging. There’s the county worker who is always quick with a smile and a greeting or the British lady who rescues puppies and always has time to stop and let me play with her new family for a while. Last week, it was Kirsten, a young woman who holds dual German and American citizenship. She and I ran together for a while, sharing bits of who we are. She works at Health South, is recovering from breast cancer, will head home for some R&R and then return to work. She’s also training for the NYC marathon. She is a great ambassador for both Health South and for being out on the Loop connecting with folks.
Safe Routes to School is one of the many programs Living Streets Alliance helps deliver to the community. Last week, Chris and I joined Evren Somnez and her LSA counterpart Owen Daly-Forseth at Blenman Elementary School. He's actually a Lead Program Presenter with Environmental Education Exchange, not an LSA staffer. We have many partners in this work throughout the community.
Owen shared the Riders & Walkers interactive game with a classroom full of third graders. That’s him up front giving the presentation:
This Be Kind is for Owen and his work keeping the kids engaged while presenting some valuable safety tips for getting to and from school. This is one of the programs from which the RTA repurposed money. Some of us are committed to seeing it restored.
On a side note, this guy is painted on one of the inside walls of the school. I remember him from some of the Dr. Seuss books, but can’t find his name anywhere. If you know, send it along. It’s been bugging me since we left Blenman.
We had a couple hundred people take part in last week’s Ride of Silence. It was in respect of those who have lost their lives or been seriously injured while out on a bike on our roadways. This Be Kind is for the help offered by both TPD and TFD to make the event go smoothly. It was great seeing TPD on bikes as well, taking part in the messaging of the event. As I noted in my pre-ride remarks, they’re the ones who are often the first on the scene seeing the carnage. Our cops and paramedics get it. We need to continue working on the safe streets and complete streets policies that are now in the works.
One sad item. I’ve written about the TMC and PCOA Centenarians luncheon and how much fun it is to go and talk with the honorees. Last week one of them passed away. Aniceto Gonda was 101. He was born in the Philippines and he provided food aid to American civilians who were being kept in prison camps during WWII. He and his family moved here in 1985. Aniceto served as a volunteer at TMC. We’ll miss him at next year’s celebration.
This also fits in the Be Kind section. Saturday night I had an opportunity to chat with Mark and Gabby for a short while. Both are doing well. It was great to see them here in town. Both support my position on the Benedictine. More on that below.
This is a CNN news photo of one of the survivor victims of last week’s Santa Fe, Texas school shooting. Yes, my phrasing is intentional – “survivor victim.” She’s clearly going to join the thousands of others who now have to live with memories of murder. They dodged the bullets, but will live with that cloud.
In Santa Fe, 10 were killed and 10 more wounded. The killer was a classmate who got his weapons from home. Obviously, the dad (owner) hadn’t stored them safely. The school also had two armed school resource officers on site when the killing took place. So much for “let’s arm school personnel” as a tactic for preventing these incidents.
If this feels familiar, it is. We’re 21 weeks into 2018 and we’ve had 22 school shootings where somebody was either killed or injured. Those are incidents in which somebody other than the shooter was shot and it happened on school grounds in grades K through college. It also includes “accidents.” Accidents do not deserve to be ignored. The deaths that result are forever.
To be clear, an accident is one thing. Negligence is quite another. Intentionality is yet another. A case my office has been shepherding through the legal process is now close to being reconsidered. The distinctions noted here are important to the resolution of that case.
In Santa Fe, it was murder, plain and simple. As I’ve said before, without some guts at the congressional and state house levels, these incidents will continue.
In the immediate aftermath of the Santa Fe shooting, Arizona legislature Democrats signed onto a letter to the governor. This is what they wrote:
We cannot ban bump stocks in Tucson because the state feels it’s their purview. We can’t take your weapons out of circulation, even if you ask us to because the state feels the disposal of weapons violates state law. The legislature continues to allow the sale of assault style semi-automatic weapons with magazines capable of holding well over a dozen rounds of ammunition – sales for cash, from the trunk of a car with no questions asked.
It’s midterm election year. I sadly don’t think I’m going out on a limb predicting that Ducey will not bring the legislature back into session and adopt stringent gun safety laws and that we will have more school shootings between now and November.
Please join us on June 2 at the YWCA for our memorial in support of victims and survivor victims. We’ll have a variety of speakers, music and calls for activism. The speakers and our music start at 6 p.m.
Last week there were 5,219 gun deaths listed on the Gun Violence Archive website. Now we’re at 5,482 and counting.
That’s the scene on a San Jose rural road where police found two people who had been shot to death in their vehicle. The victims are both young adults. There are no suspects, which is making the nearby residents on edge.
Finding a domestic violence example takes very little searching. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a 47-year-old husband shot and killed his 36-year-old wife. He then turned the gun on himself. Two people are dead, leaving friends and family to try to sort it all out.
I’ve written before about the Citizen’s Police Advisory Review Board (CPARB). They meet monthly here at the Ward 6 community room. The meetings are open to the public. Each week they discuss cases presented for review by members of the public, and they often have special presentations. This past week that presentation came from Sgt. Lauren Pettey. Her topic was domestic abuse and how we are putting tools into place to help combat it. Our friends at Emerge are partners in the work.
One of the tools Lauren shared is the new “Intimate Partner Risk Assessment.” It’s used by judges now when considering the fate of a DV suspect. It will save lives.
The assessment questionnaire contains two tiers of questions the judge may ask. They’re intended to provide a risk profile based on some pretty direct questioning. Questions such as:
- Is he/she violently and constantly jealous of you?
- Has he/she ever used a weapon or object to hurt or threaten you?
- Has he/she ever choked/strangled/suffocated you?
- Do you believe he/she is capable of killing you?
Those are the Tier 1 kinds of questions. In Tier 2, they ask things such as:
- Does he/she use illegal drugs or misuse prescription drugs?
- Does he/she know or sense you are planning on ending your relationship?
- Has he/she ever threatened to kill you?
- Is he/she known to carry or possess a gun?
Those questions are asked of victims. They’re used to determine the level of risk involved with releasing suspects. In the case we’re trying to get reopened, every one of the Tier 2 questions would have been answered in the affirmative. I suspect some, if not all of the Tier 1 questions would have been as well. This was a life that could have been saved had this type of assessment been in effect.
Sgt. Pettey also shared with me a stack of what are called “shoe cards.” Those are small (2” x 3”) folded cards that contain emergency phone numbers and safety tips. They give direct emergency phone lines to Emerge and other bilingual crisis lines. You can slip them in your shoe if you’re feeling somewhat vulnerable in a relationship. Then you’ll always have contact information for seeking immediate help if you ever need it.
Stop by and I’ll give you a shoe card and other DV information. The Emerge hotline is always on at 795.4266. Domestic abuse is nothing to mess with or ignore. Prevention is key. Stop in and grab some tools that’ll help you avoid becoming a victim.
That’s Buckingham Palace. If you watched any of the ____________ wedding (fill in your own adjective – I know from my own household there are widely varying views about it) you’ve become familiar with it. The Brits have preserved it well. You’ll note they didn’t allow this sort of development to go on around it:
You may recognize that as the image presented for what the development team wants to do around the Benedictine. Jurisdictions each have preservation ethics. While our assets are much younger than Buckingham, doing this to them ensures they’ll never grow old with grace.
In 2014, M&C passed an ordinance to allow rezoning properties to an Historic Landmark designation. With that designation, the owner may not demolish the building without a new legislative act that allows it. This is the language from our code that explains who may initiate the HL rezoning process:
I’ve written about the plans for the site before. By way of quick review, the existing zoning allows for up to 880 beds of student housing. While under the ownership of the nuns, the landmark protection wasn’t placed on the land or the building. They did have the building registered as an historic site:
However, that doesn’t preserve the building if someone wants to demolish it and replace it with a student housing complex. I believe there’s an argument to be made that the building and site qualify as local historic landmarks deserving of preservation. If the owner is not inclined to engage that process, we have the authority to start it. With this memo, that’s what I’ve done:
The process is very public. If M&C agree on Tuesday, the process will start with staff putting together the documents needed to submit to the Tucson Historic Preservation Office, our Planning Director and the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission. They review the material and make a recommendation to the Zoning Examiner. The Zoning Examiner holds a public hearing, listens to input from whoever wishes to take part, and makes a recommendation of approval, approval with conditions, or denial to the M&C. We have the final vote. The process is rather lengthy, in the six to eight month neighborhood. While the property is moving through that process, the property owner may not pull a demolition permit and pre-empt the final vote.
Getting a demolition permit itself is a tough lift. This is from our code, describing what a property owner needs to submit before being issued a demolition permit on a contributing structure:
Someone told me that one of the Star reporters who was calling around for quotes said the owner can “go in and pull demo permits” ahead of our vote. As you can see, there’s much more to it than just licking the stamp and calling in the wrecking ball.
However, with the rezoning to HL now in play if M&C agree, the demolition is off the table until a final determination is made by M&C, after the process I’ve described above has taken place.
Of course, during that time the development team is entirely welcome to continue meeting with the public and designing a site plan that fits contextually with the surrounding area. I’ve facilitated some of those meetings and will be happy to continue bringing people together to talk, but the threat of demolition isn’t going to be a subtext driving design.
Proposition 207 is the 2006 voter approved so-called private property preservation rights act. It prevents jurisdictions from downzoning a property in a way that diminishes its value. Some have asked whether taking this HL approach exposes us to a Prop 207 lawsuit. First, just beginning the process doesn’t ripen any claim to the point of someone suing us. More importantly, there are two sides in any such lawsuit. A property owner would need to claim and demonstrate some loss of earning capacity based on the rezoning. I believe there’s a legitimate counter point to make. That is, protecting the asset in perpetuity increases its value and allows appropriate development to take place around it in ways that complement the monastery, not diminish it. I’ve shared that belief with the current property owner. That’s the horse race. I’m hopeful we’re able to come together and work out a design that avoids all of that and preserves the building and site in a way that everyone wins.
Our code says Historic Landmark designations are “intended to ensure the preservation of and rehabilitation of significant historic districts, neighborhoods, buildings, structures, sites, objects and archaeological resources” (my emphasis). The goal is keeping these assets active as community amenities. Call this an aggressive move by M&C or my “Hail Mary” to get some reasonable design talk going. Either way, if approved by M&C the conversation changes while this process is moving forward.
That’s an image of the window above the choir loft on the west elevation of the Monastery. Call it the light at the end of the tunnel I’m hoping to see in this process.
Joe Ferguson of the Star wrote a comprehensive piece last Saturday. Here’s that article: Tucson's Benedictine Monastery could be saved with City Council intervention.
Time for a little change of pace from the heavy stuff. First, this guy was purchased by a Chinese lady, Su Yun. She brought the “puppy” home about two years ago, thinking when she bought him that he was a Tibetan mastiff. As you can see, she mistook the “puppy” for an Asiatic Black Bear. That may explain her surprise at how much “the dog” ate. He has now grown into a 250-pound black bear who stands about two meters tall.
Her comment was “the more he grew, the more he looked like a bear.” Well, there’s a reason for that. Su Yun and her family have donated their puppy to the Yunnan Wildlife Rescue Centre. He’d bring in thousands of dollars if sold on the black market. Good on the Yun family for not giving into that temptation.
I was pushing a puppy mill ordinance in Tucson a couple of years ago, until the state legislature evidently received sufficient payment from the industry and passed a pre-emptive law. Chicago has puppy mill laws though and a mill dealer has found a way around it. Profit over ethics.
The incident begins in an Iowa warehouse where a mill churns out puppies. When a batch was 59 days old, they brought in a local veterinarian who cleared three of them for travel into Chicago where it’s against the law to sell commercially bred pets. One was delivered to a suburban pet show along with her pedigree papers. The other two though were somehow declared “rescue dogs” and with that label ended up for sale in a pet shop in Chicago. With a rescue label, they can sell the dogs for up to $1,000 each and skirt the local puppy mill law.
Our attempted ordinance would have forced pet shops to source their animals from rescues and shelters. The same is true of the Chicago ordinance. It seems the creativity of the unscrupulous has found a way to continue abusing puppies, using the “rescue” term to its own advantage. They’re providing hundreds of designer-mix puppies to pet stores each year, violating the spirit, if not the letter of that law. That behavior is hard for me to understand.
My hero for the week is a black bear who’s making the rounds in Rockway Township, NJ. He broke the car window of a local baker, reached in and ate two dozen freshly baked cupcakes left lying in a box on the seat. He ate them all – chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
After the piece about the puppy mill breeders who have no taste, I had to close the critter section with this story about a bear who shares my affinity for cupcakes. It doesn’t have to be a Ward 6 story in order to be included just to make you smile.
I’ve got a picture of Hotel Congress in my office that’s close to the daylight version of this one. The hotel, plus the customer and community amenities it hosts are this week’s Local Tucson item.
Located at 311 E. Congress, they have a restaurant, bar, rooms for the night, and Club Congress – a concert hall where I saw Christina Perry perform. You can see local acts all week long.
Another tenant in the building is our local radio station KXCI. You can find them at 91.3 FM. They play a wide variety of music and offer community discussions on all sorts of topics. My former representative on the Citizen’s Water Advisory Commission, Melissa Mauzy has a show on all things water. It’s one example of the important conversations you’ll hear on the station.
Check out the hotel at www.hotelcongress.com. You’ll find their menus, rental options, and schedule of events. Above I wrote about the historic Benedictine Monastery. Hotel Congress has been around since 1919 and it’s also truly a local historic icon.
On Tuesday, we’ll hold our final public hearing on proposed water rates for the upcoming year. Actually what’s on the table is a consideration of multi-year rates. Both a two-year and a four-year proposal will be included.
There are three broad categories of rate structures we’ll be considering. One is a traditional model where the financial needs of the department are spread relatively equally across all customer classes. That model would have the following effects, including about an 8.6 percent rate increase:
Another option we’re looking at is one in which the various rate classes pay differing rates, the goal being to impact residential users less than in the traditional model, and to continue sending a conservation message. The smoothing model results in this impact (7.3 percent impact to residential customers):
The third option allocates a higher cost to reclaimed water users. Right now, they’re paying about 69 percent of the costs associated with that service. In the “smoothing plus reclaimed” option, they’ll pay 73 percent. Here’s the impact on residential users under this model:
The main objections we’ve heard related to the reclaimed rate increase is from golf course operators. The value of the change to Tucson Water is about $500,000 annually.
Our costs for buying CAP water are increasing. There’s nothing we do to control those costs. However, it’s important we continue to buy our full allotment, saving water for a non-rainy day. We’ve seen plenty of those during the drought. Of course we’re also still doing upgrades to the system infrastructure which means debt and interest payments. So there’ll be some sort of increase.
The recommendation is “smoothing plus reclaimed.” The four-year plan anticipates reductions in rate increases over each of those four years. Beginning with an across rate class average of 6.8 percent and dropping about .5% percent each year until it gets to a 5.5 percent projected increase four years from now.
None of us like to vote for rate increases, but water is our lifeblood. We need to keep that utility healthy.
That’s the title of a voter initiative now being passed around for signatures. The goal of the advocates is to get it on this November’s ballot. I cannot use this city resource to advocate one way or the other on ballot measures. What I can do is educate myself and the public on any initiative. That’s what I’m working on with this ballot initiative.
Supporters have until July 5 to gather their signatures. I copied this image from their application form. They have to get a minimum of just under 226,000 signatures. However, due to the new state legislated strict compliance rules on gathering signatures, they’ll likely need close to double that amount in order to get the issue to the ballot this fall.
The very broad statement of the initiative is to force electric utilities to provide at least half of their retail energy sales from renewables by the year 2030. This is the exact language of the summary statement.
Those terms are more fully described in the full text of the initiative. Here are a few of the more important terms defined:
So who are affected utilities? In their rate increase proposal in front of the Arizona Corporation Commission, TEP self-described in this manner:
The Company is a public service corporation principally engaged in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity for sale in Arizona pursuant to Certificates of Convenience and Necessity issued by the Commission.
The ballot language defines an “affected utility” this way:
Therefore, TEP and its ratepayers will be impacted if the voters adopt the ballot measure statewide.
I am working with representatives of both sides on this issue to bring a panel presentation to the Ward 6 community room. The goal is to educate people on what the initiative would require. We’ll have representatives from TEP and likely someone from the state legislature who supports the initiative as well as a representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council. So we’ll have plenty of people who are familiar with how the initiative is intended to work and its impact on the utility.
The forum will be on Friday, June 8 here at the Ward 6 office. We’ll begin at 6 p.m. with presentations from each of the panelists, followed by some back-and-forth between them, and finally with audience Q&A. Come and get yourself up to speed on what the 50 percent by 2030 will mean, both from an environmental and from a financial perspective. Here’s a link to the full ballot measure:
Council Member, Ward 6