Topics in this issue...
- Be Kind
- Be Smart
- Differential Water Rates
- Environmental Services Surcharge
- Complete Streets Policy
- Campbell & Grant
- Himmel Park
- Clean Energy Initiative
- Benedictine Monastery
- Pima Animal Care Center
- Microchipping & Adoptions
- Zoo Management & Expansion
- Local Tucson
- Events & Entertainment
Last Wednesday La Frontera, AZWorkforce, the DES and Compass Affordable Housing sponsored a job fair in support of veterans in the community. The event ended in employment for some and contacts for others. All involved are committed to a repeat event, expanding to include new businesses and new programs offered to our veterans. Thanks to the sponsors for pulling the event together.
You’re likely aware of the volcano eruption that occurred recently in Guatemala. What you may not know of is the local initiative raising funds to support the victims. All of the proceeds will be sent directly into the volcano region, providing urgently needed items such as diapers, hygiene supplies, filtered water, blankets, etc. GUAMAP is a 501c3, so there are tax considerations that come with your donations. You can find them at www.guamap.net.
We’re less than a week away from the Ward 6 Red Cross blood drive. In the past week you’ve heard about forest fires, extreme weather on the east coast, and injuries suffered through major auto wrecks and gun violence. It continues. The need for blood donations continues as well. Please sign up by emailing Chris here at the Ward 6 office at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Red Cross website and use Ward6 as the sponsor code. The event will run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 16.
We’re now up to 6,270 gun deaths this year and neither Congress nor the state legislature has taken any action to stop the carnage. We will act locally on June 26. More on that below.
In Deming, New Mexico, a 67-year-old guy shot and killed a 43-year-old man and woman. He then turned the gun on himself, committing suicide. Police say this was a domestic violence related murder-suicide.
In Lexington, Kentucky, a 55-year-old guy shot and killed his 44-year-old wife. He then shot and killed himself. It was another murder-suicide in a domestic abuse case.
In Columbus, Ohio, a 34-year-old guy shot and killed his 24 year old partner. He then committed suicide. Another domestic violence murder-suicide.
In Chesterton, Maryland, a 54-year-old guy shot and killed his wife’s son from another marriage. He was later found shot dead from a suicide bullet. Yet another domestic abuse related murder-suicide. Are you sensing a trend?
In the past week you’ve likely seen the high profile suicides in the news. However, the losses due to suicide happen every day in cases, most of which you’ll never hear about.
In a NYT story last week, Benedict Carey reported nearly 45,000 Americans aged 10 and older died from suicide in 2016. Firearms were by far the leading method. They accounted for roughly half of the suicides. Suicide rates have risen 25 percent nationally between the year 2000 and the year 2016. Nearly every week I’m reporting at least one murder-suicide related to a domestic violence situation in this half-staff section.
Arizona considered a “red flag” law in which family members and others can petition to have guns removed from somebody deemed by the court to be a danger to self or to others. It was not adopted. Too much from the gun lobby. In both Indiana and Connecticut, they have realized a decrease in gun-related suicides after passing red flag laws. Many believe – and the data show – that keeping guns out of the hands of people who pose a danger to themselves or others will save lives. We did not take that step in last year’s Arizona legislative session.
Meanwhile, police chiefs of major cities adopted a set of gun policy initiatives.
For a long time the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) has advocated for sensible gun policies such as the red flag laws. The chiefs understand that adopting such a law will save lives. Some of those may be either DV victims, suicide victims, or both. We have to get beyond the notion that taking a gun from someone who may use it to kill himself or somebody else is “anti-Second Amendment.” It’s compassionate.
Here’s a list of the MCCA legislative policy positions related to the use of guns. It’s a rational list. The list shows how we can indeed save lives simply by passing laws or ordinances that speak to keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and people who have demonstrated some indicators they may be a danger to themselves.
- Adopt Universal Background Checks for all gun sales and close both gun show and internet loopholes
- Strengthen NICS definitions of prohibited purchasers to cover all appropriate domestic violence cases, with strict judicial procedures for appeal and reinstatement
- Support “Red Flag” legislation and regulations to preclude gun purchases by mentally disturbed persons with histories of violent behavior
- Ban “bump-stock” devices that replicate fully automatic weapons fire
- Maintain ATF regulations and restrictions regarding silencers
- Reinstate the assault weapons ban and encourage stiffer penalties for illegal guns
- Ban high capacity magazines (10+ rounds)
- Ban internet ammo sales, require in-person transactions, records of sales and licensing of ammo vendors
- Oppose legislation that would require States to recognize any and all concealed carry permits
- Oppose legislation that further erodes ATF authority
- Prevent known terrorists from purchasing firearms and/or ammunition
On June 26, we’ll address some of the points in the chief’s report. The event is called:
The 26th is the sixth anniversary of what is currently a cold-case killing that occurred in Tucson. We’re expecting a relook that’s currently ongoing to yield a fresh result. Six years ago, no charges were filed.
There will be a significant full report on that case once we know the direction its going. For now it’s safe to say it involves domestic violence, the use of a weapon after drinking for a length of time, child endangerment, and even if the story claimed by the shooter is to be believed, it’s negligent homicide. We have to have a new conversation in Tucson about what level of responsibility to which we demand the system hold people accountable. That’s what the 26th is about.
So far Emerge, NOW, Mom’s Demand Action, TPD, Gun Violence Prevention Arizona, Everytown, Homicide Survivors, some from the state legislature and the Pima County Attorney’s Office are all signed on to be a part of #URResponsible. We will have testimonials from people who have lived through some of these kinds of events. One of those is Joyce Luna. She’ll share both her story and some music that came from events she lived out.
Please join us at St. Mark’s church – 3809 E. 3rd St. I’m extremely grateful to Pastor Bart Smith for welcoming this event into their sanctuary. We’ll begin at 6:30 and end by 8 p.m. with a candlelight vigil in memory of victims. The message to the legal system will be clear: handle a gun in an unsafe manner and this community demands you be held responsible for the results.
I’ve written about the Moms’ Be Smart program before, but it’s right in context when talking about #URResponsible. It is the responsibility of adults to be smart about how guns are stored and handled, not kids. You can find this graphic on the Moms’ website describing the program:
Secure all guns in your home and vehicles
Model responsible behavior around guns
Ask about the presence of unsecured guns
Recognize the risks of teen suicide
Tell your peers to be SMART
Come on the 26th. This is just one of the programs you’ll be able to get more information on at our event.
Last week the M&C began the process of charging Tucson Water customers who live in unincorporated Pima County higher water rates than those who live within the city limits. We are not discussing changes to the water rates TW customers pay who live in towns around Tucson (Marana and Oro Valley, for example), just people TW serves who live in unincorporated areas. Here is the language of the motion as it was adopted:
It was MOVED by Council Member Durham, duly seconded, to direct staff to begin the statutory process that will allow Mayor and Council to consider the adoption of a rate structure for Tucson Water customers under which:
- Customers located outside the City of Tucson and within unincorporated Pima County pay a higher rate than customers located within the City; and
- Staff is directed to initiate the process in a manner that gives the Mayor and Council options of 5%, 10%, and 15% with respect to the level of the differential rates.
Richard and I voted against even starting down this road. To be fair to the rest of the M&C, if we change our rates later this year and do these differentiated rates, we will not be unique in the state. This table shows what some other jurisdictions already do in relation to in-city versus out-of-city rates:
I’m aware that the American Water Works Association is challenging the move based on some legal precedent, as well as the distinction between a “fee” and a “tax.” We’ll see how that sorts itself out, but M&C moved ahead with this regardless.
This is not being done to shore up Tucson Water’s finances. The plan is to divert the new revenues into the general fund to help us pay for other city needs. We certainly have those needs. The question is what other funding source do we want to develop in order to fund them. Funding from differential water rates is now on the table.
Staff is beginning the public process we go through when adjusting water rates. It’ll include public presentations, a public hearing and finally a vote by M&C on whether or not to change our rates. We do that by ordinance, not through a public vote at the ballot box.
Within unincorporated Pima County, TW has about 68,000 accounts. We’re considering a variety of possible differential rates. If we charge a 10 percent increased rate over what customers are now paying, the estimate is that it would yield us $5 million new dollars. For each 10 percent increase above that, the revenues to the city would increase by about $5 million. A 20 percent increase in rates would get the general fund about $10 million and so on.
It does not cost us more to supply water to customers who live in unincorporated Pima County than it does to serve customers who live within the city limits. In fact, there are parts of Tucson where it costs us more to serve than it does in some parts of the unincorporated area. Forty years ago when something like this was first proposed, the argument for a “lift fee” may have been valid. With our water infrastructure built out as extensively as it is now, our cost to serve people who live outside the city is not more than it is to serve within city limits.
This is not about cost of service. It is very simply about us wanting to increase revenues. It’s about wanting to use this as a tool to compel annexation or incorporation. The region receives more revenue from that state if more towns choose to incorporate or to be annexed into the city.
In his Sunday article, Joe Ferguson from the Star did a good job of making it clear this effort was not initiated by Tucson Water staff. If M&C divert the money into the general fund, Tucson Water does not benefit from the rate increase. We’re already increasing your water rates by about 7 percent this year. This will be on top of that, but only for customers who live outside city limits. My request was that when these new rates are adopted, we place a separate line item on your water bill that shows the money raised by this fee for the 68,000 customers it will affect and call it an “annexation fee.” That’s what this is about.
I understand the need for revenues as well as anyone seated at our table. My vote against this fee is based on equity. If we’re charging more for a service, it should be based on cost of delivery, not some other motivation that, while it may be legal, may not be fair. This differential rate will hit all TW customers who live in unincorporated Pima County – rich and poor alike.
The legality is being looked into. If the policy passes that scrutiny and unless there’s a groundswell of opposition, I expect these differential rates will be approved later this year.
We also gave staff direction to bring back an ordinance change that’ll tack a $1 surcharge onto ES trips to your home or business. These new dollars are going towards enhancing some of the quality of life services Environmental Services provides. The new surcharge is estimated to raise $2 million annually. Call it a Complete Neighborhood Program.
As described, the idea is to put in place the tools within ES to work more directly with neighborhoods in addressing quality of life concerns. Not all will have the same needs, so the surcharge will not be programmed for a specific list of projects. Rather, we have identified an array of types of services that the new dollars will enhance. Some of those include Brush & Bulky, maintaining alleys, street sweeping, tree maintenance, graffiti abatement, sign replacement and street lighting. Not every area of the city will have the same needs. The dollars are additional to what ES is now bringing in so we can enhance service.
This is going to be about building partnerships with neighborhood groups and working hand-in-hand. We know from experience that the neighborhood that’s invested in itself is the area clean of weeds, graffiti and other nuisance messes. These new dollars are intended to ensure partnerships develop smoothly and effectively.
The Living Streets Alliance (LSA) is right now making its way through a draft of our complete streets policy manual. Now add this Complete Neighborhood Program and you’ll see that their combined work will result in a cleaner, nicer city in which to live and raise your kids.
Last week, the majority of the members of a Phoenix Commission that was set up to frame their own Complete Streets Policy resigned. They quit this volunteer job because it was clear to them the City of Phoenix was giving them lip service and was not committed to seeing the policy enacted. I do not at all get the sense from Tucson staff that they will try to dodge or malign the LSA and community work on this policy.
LSA is reaching out for your input. They’ve developed a workshop that can be shared with groups interested in taking part. They’ll come and be a part of your monthly neighborhood meeting, Rotary Club, church group, etc. They’re also hosting a workshop of their own during which you can share your input. That’s coming on Wednesday, June 20 from 9 a.m. until 11:30 at the Dunbar Spring auditorium. For each of those contact Evren@livingstreetsalliance.org. She’ll get you signed up for whichever of the options you’re interested in. If you want to attend their workshop, you need to let her know by June 13.
Arizona had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation last year. Our number of traffic fatalities in Tucson continued to increase. It’s intuitive that designing roadways in ways that incorporate safety amenities will help to reverse that trend. If you’d like to offer your input, get ahold of LSA.
Speaking of Complete Streets, we’re a bit closer to sitting down with staff now to talk through how we put some TLC onto the southeast corner of Campbell and Grant. Now that Bookman’s and Walgreen’s are gone, the contractor is finishing leveling the site. Below is a rendering of what will form the starting point for talking to staff about how to put in a temporary “parklet” which will be an aesthetic upgrade to the vacant land.
The ground rules were simple. No heavy emphasis on infrastructure and keep in mind that someday Grant will be widened so whatever goes in here will be removed. We’ve had great support from the city manager, staff, the surrounding neighborhoods and Paul Durham. My hat’s off to the Catalina Vista neighbors who have invested a ton of work getting us this far. It’ll be fun sharing the final result as it comes to fruition. I expect it’ll build on the similar effort put together by the Sam Hughes, Rincon Heights, and Broadmoor-Broadway neighbors at the old Panda site on Broadway.
Last week we began talking about floating bonds to pay for parks upgrades. I’ll write more on that when we come to a resting place on it, but the fact that we might be going to the voters and asking for the bond approval doesn’t mean parks upgrades are all on hold. If you wander through Himmel you’ll see a long-awaited playground now under construction.
This is a rendering of the shade canopy that’ll be going in.
The new play structures include slides, climbing elements and a tree house. One of the playgrounds will be appropriate for kids ages two through five and the other for kids ages five through 12. The work just began and will be done in mid-September. It’s funded with parks impact fees. I’m grateful to the parks staff for working with Friends of Himmel, the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association, and our office to pull this together.
For those of you familiar with Himmel and the “historic” slide located over by the pool, don’t worry it’s staying. It’s actually adult height so forget your age and go have some fun on it. Just remember the metal gets a bit toasty during the summer.
We had a full house last Friday evening for the forum I hosted on the upcoming Clean Energy Initiative. To refresh you, here’s the language describing what the signature gathering is all about:
We had both sides of the issue represented. On the pro-initiative side we had LD10 state representative Kirsten Engle and Kevin Koch from Technicians for Sustainability. TEP sent along Larry Lucero and Justin Orkney. Larry is one of their upper administrators and a very public face for the utility. Justin is the Senior Program Manager for Renewables. He began his career working with TFS.
I appreciated the wealth of information both sides presented. I cannot use this newsletter or the Ward Office to advocate for or against any ballot measure, but I can summarize some of the salient points each side brought to the discussion.
On the pro side is the idea that if we don’t tell the utilities what we expect and by a date certain, they’ll get there on their own time schedule, if at all. The Arizona Corporation Commission is bought and paid for by utility lobbyists, as is the state legislature. That means the voters need to take the reins and set the standards and the timeline. The goal of the initiative is 50 percent renewables, with some options (such as nuclear and heat generated from burning waste) carved out of the equation. They’re out gathering signatures to get it on the November ballot. The deadline for getting those is July 5.
TEP represented the con side from the utilities. Their main points included the cost to customers if the initiative is adopted. They said if it passes, the annual cost for TEP service will increase by $500 per household. The ACC is the governing body for setting standards like this and so to enshrine this mandate in the state constitution would prevent any public discussion about needed changes if that became necessary later on. The ACC is a public and open forum. The pitch was to let them handle setting these sorts of renewable standards through their normal course of doing business.
The audience asked a bunch of great questions. They ranged from where nuclear and the Palo Verde plant fits in with these goals, to questions about the viability of energy storage for solar, the actual accessibility of the ACC to regular folks, and to initiatives now under consideration by the state legislature. Nobody who came to the forum left without having heard at least something they may not have considered coming in.
This is a very important vote, assuming it gets to the ballot. I’d encourage you to go to the TEP website to learn more about their side of this issue and to the clean energy site to find out more from that perspective. Be an informed voter in November.
I’m going to give updates weekly on the monastery rezoning. The Star ran a big piece on it last week and they print rather constant stream of letters to the editor. Based on the number of emails I receive on the topic, I know there’s broad community interest in the issue.
As of early last week I had received a letter from Ross Rulney (property owner) stating that he is prepared to move forward with 40 foot student housing, turn the interior of the monastery into a student housing facility and no longer consider public uses for that space. Overlay onto that the continuing Historic Landmark rezoning process we have in process. That means a couple of things. First, no demolition permits can be pulled while the HL rezoning process is still moving forward. As I’ve advised staff, I began that process to include the buildings and the site. Any site analysis they’re asked to do must take that into consideration.
Those are the lines currently drawn in the sand. Given the sensitivity and potential for litigation built into all of that, I reached out to Ross and invited a one-to-one conversation on whether we could work towards a middle ground. His last proposal included a massing diagram that still takes the height of his development up above the pitch of the roofline. To his credit, we met and had a frank conversation. He left and committed to sitting down with his architectural team and civil engineers to see if a sweet spot can be found. I told him I continue to believe there’s a win to be had for both sides that will include compromise. We’ll see if we can get there.
What would a newsletter be without some critter sections?
Last week we approved a renewal of our Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) intergovernmental agreement. Broadly, that’s how much we’re going to pay the county for the services we contract with them out at PACC. In recent years, the negotiations became testy. I think we’ve sorted out all of that and are now moving ahead in a good partnership.
One way they’re helping to keep everyone’s costs down is upping their game with respect to private donations to the center. In January of 2016 they formed Friends of PACC as a separately incorporated nonprofit dedicated to fundraising for the center. Friends hired an executive director late last year and the results of that refocus are encouraging. This chart shows that early success:
PACC still receives philanthropic gifts as well as grants. Through it all, I’m hopeful that we’ll begin to see our contributions reduced so we can focus those dollars on other city priorities. The trend line looks good.
On a complementary note, we’re hosting the joint microchip and adoption event on July 14. All the rooms in the Ward Office will be dedicated to getting your pets microchipped and getting you the opportunity to adopt a new family member. No Kill Pima County is running the chipping piece and PACC will be bringing some pups by for adoption.
The event will run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. There’s a $10 fee for the microchipping. That gets your puppy or cat registered with Found Animal Foundation so you can track them if they get lost.
PACC is essentially doing this as a “free” adoption event. There will be a $20 fee, but that really just covers the licensing costs. They won’t be charging anything extra for the spay/neuter or as a specific fee for the adoption itself.
Please bring your cats in carriers and your pups on a leash if you’re coming for the chipping. Anytime they’re out in public, it’s important that their vaccinations are up to date.
I met last week with the Tucson Zoological Society (TZS) and got an update on how the management of the zoo discussions are progressing. We should be seeing a proposal in the very near term. It is their perception that talks are going well and that we shouldn’t have any snags once the sides have worked through a few more details.
The management contract is really a situation somewhat similar to what we’re doing with OB Sports to manage golf and IMG to manage the TCC. In the case of the zoo, it’d be the TZS managing the zoo operations. We’d pay them a fee and they’d take on the staffing and operations of the zoo. We’ll work together on the capital projects that will be coming once the one-tenth sales tax money begins to build up.
The one-tenth sales tax that you approved is going to fund operations to a certain level as well as zoo expansion and exhibit upgrades. All of that was captured in the ballot language. A piece of the capital work (new exhibits) is the new Asia Expansion. It’ll be over west of Lakeshore Drive. This map shows a conceptual diagram of the site:
The red hash marks show where the new zoo fence perimeter will be installed. This picture also comes from their planning document:
It shows just east of Lakeshore the expansion of the South America exhibit. It extends the current fence line to the south, but keeps the cancer memorial open as well as some of the other activity sites.
From a timing perspective, they’d like to get started as soon as possible. This graphic shows the project work broken into three phases, with design for Asia already underway. You can find a full view of the timeline in the zoo master plan at this site.
My point in sharing is to let you know the agreement between the city and TZS is nearly ready to come to us for a vote. I shared with TZS that I’m not happy with the way a couple of the existing zoo keepers are being forced into other city jobs and not allowed to simply work out their terms with the city at the zoo. I’m going to make a final pitch to see if we can’t simply make that happen. Nevertheless, the rest of the agreement is touching the points of concern I had raised early in the negotiations (term, property ownership, off-ramp, project management involvement, timing/phasing of the projects, financial maintenance of effort, and some more).
No word quite yet on when this will be back to us for consideration, but with a couple of exceptions, I like what they’re coming up with.
This week’s local Tucson item is an invitation for you to attend the Sustainable Tucson summertime potluck. It’ll be held here at the Ward 6 office on June 12 starting at 6 p.m. I suspect they’ll just go until people start to wander out. The space is theirs for the evening.
The group meets in our community room monthly. The June meeting will be their potluck along with a discussion entitled Building Community thru Food. Learn about their Food Resilience Network and how you can become a part of the group on a regular basis. Bring a local dish if you’re so inclined, but this group won’t turn you away if you’re just coming to be a part of the evening and to hear the presentation.
Doors will open at 5:30. It’s free and everyone is welcome. If you’d like to check them out ahead of time, you can at their website: www.sustainabletucson.org.
Council Member, Ward 6
Events & Entertainment