Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- Lightening things up a bit
- Supreme Court Decision
- Gun Apps
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Tucson Water Department
- Green Water Infrastructure
- Prop 101 Open House
- Zoning Meeting
- St. Elizabeth's Health Center
- Local First: Friends of Himmel Park
- Blood Donations
- Sacred Space Poetry
- Events & Entertainment
For over a year I’ve led the newsletter with a flag at half-staff as a way of honoring those who have died from gun violence and have not received the respectful recognition that the flag conveys. Given the events of the past week and the ramped-up rhetoric we see all around us, I’m going to open my newsletter with a new focus this week. I’d like to set the tone of simply being kind.
In Tucson we have the perfect emblem to send that message. Through Jeanette Mare’s Ben’s Bells Project, Tucson is the epicenter of showing that we as a community are built on the ethos of kindness. M&C has demonstrated that through policy, such as adopting the Charter for Compassion.
This week we will be unveiling a new addition to City Hall – designed and built by volunteers over at the Ben’s Bells studios and across the community. Here’s a sneak peak:
It will be the first thing you see when you enter council chambers. Paid for by the Kimas Foundation and constructed in love, what I’m calling the “Arizona Bell” will be unveiled in a Be Kind rally outside council chambers this Thursday at 12:00 p.m. Please come.
Each week I’ll be looking for acts of kindness around the community or beyond with which I’ll now open the newsletter. This does not diminish the importance of continuing to recognize the need for common sense gun safety laws. It is simply to set a new tone at the start of the newsletters: one of unity in the face of the divisiveness we see in the country and one that calls out kindness as a legitimate item for a newsletter. We see too little of it in the media.
Do you need some ideas for how to show “random acts of kindness?” How about these:
- Adopt a soldier
- Be kind to someone you may dislike
- Cook a meal for someone
- Clean up graffiti
- Donate used books to a library
- Forgive someone a debt – and never bring it up again
- Give a food voucher to a homeless person
- Volunteer in a classroom
- Sing at a hospice
- Do some yardwork for an elderly person in your neighborhood
The ideas are endless. Come and join us Thursday at City Hall and celebrate Tucson for the kind community we are.
I’m grateful to Jeanette Mare and Colleen Conlin from Ben’s Bells for their work on the Arizona Bell and to all of the volunteers who pitched in to make this change at the entryway to City Hall. It speaks of who we are as a welcoming and giving community.
This quote seems appropriate: "We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters, and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry whereever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America – none, whatsoever.” - Ronald Reagan
In Birmingham, Alabama last Monday, police responded to reports of two guys arguing in the street – and carrying “large guns.” They arrived to find a double homicide, a dead 20- and 21-year-old in a house nearby. They’re still investigating.
In a retirement community in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, police found a 54-year-old guy and a 53-year-old woman both shot dead. Based on what they found at the scene, they believe it to be a murder/suicide. The couple had been in a relationship with no apparent issues pointing to domestic violence.
In Nashville, police found a 41-year-old guy who had apparently killed his 30-year-old partner before turning the gun on himself in an evident domestic violence situation. When police arrived they saw the woman already dead and the shooter standing in his driveway with the gun pointed at his head. They tried to talk him out of it, but he shot himself while they were making the attempt.
On Sunday, there were three separate incidents in which police were under fire. In Kissimmee, Florida two cops were killed as they responded to reports of suspicious activity. The shooter, a former marine who had been treated for mental health issues, is now in custody. In Jacksonville, Florida, two cops are hospitalized as the result of a shooting that occurred when they responded to a suicide call. The caller, the shooter, is dead. And in Fayette, Pennsylvania two cops were shot as they were chasing a guy who stole a PlayStation game. The chase turned into a shootout. The thief was killed in the incident. That’s six police officers shot in three separate incidents on the same day last weekend.
Remember the TPD Mental Health Support Team. Tell the 911 operator you’re concerned about a mental health issue if you suspect that sort of training would be of value when police arrive. If you’re in a domestic violence situation, the Emerge! Center for Domestic Abuse 24-hour hotline number is 795.4266.
Lightening things up a bit…
That’s Gertrude Mokotoff and Alvin Mann. They met eight years ago at a gym while working out. She’s 99 years old, and he’s 94. On August 5th, they got married. How cool is that!
Credit Justin Gilliland/The New York Times
Alvin said, “The age difference never really bothered me because we just hit it off, and I wasn’t about to let her go.” They still work out twice a week at the gym. They had about 50 family members and close friends at the wedding.
Supreme Court Decision
Last week we received the long-anticipated ruling from the Arizona State Supreme Court on our policy of destroying guns. This was part of a self-congratulatory email sent out by the NRA in reaction to the decision:
“We applaud the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling,” said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “Firearms should not be summarily destroyed by local governments."
Quoting “he who shall not be named:” Sad. We were not “summarily” destroying guns. More to the point though, this decision had absolutely nothing to do with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It did, however, have serious implications for other constitutional questions, each of which the court ignored.
This is the legal definition of Home Rule:
The right to local self-government including the powers to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals, and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt.
That is what the case was about. The decision handed down has vast implications for every jurisdiction in this state. Cities can adopt charters. We have one that voters approved over 100 years ago. Its purpose is to allow us to be as free from state interference as is possible.
A part of our charter gives us the right to take and dispose of property. We’ve been doing that with all sorts of property for years. One of those pieces of property is guns. The state legislature amended state statute to prevent us from destroying guns in reaction to the gun buy-back I organized in 2012. Last year an Oro Valley representative filed a complaint with the Attorney General saying our gun destruction policy is pre-empted by state law. That’s the rub – state authority versus our ability to decide what to do with property that comes into our possession, guns or otherwise.
In his decision, Justice Bolick made this statement: "a charter city generally may do anything that the state does not expressly forbid."
That broad statement is what this case is about. Not guns, not the Second Amendment. It’s why the League of Cities and Towns joined us in this litigation.
Bolick says if charters were to be given the respect many of us believe they should, we’d have what he calls “independent petty states within this state.” That is what this court thinks of your ability to elect your own representation and to give us the authority of enacting local laws governing our local issues. The governor, legislature and court think your interest in self-governance is “petty.” I disagree.
To that last point, the court says how we handle guns is of statewide concern because they are responsible for “police powers” and for guarding the Second Amendment. They feel if we destroy guns that come into our possession, it steps on their policing authority and runs counter to the Second Amendment. In their briefs they said “more guns in circulation makes us all safer.” They said if the city takes guns out of circulation it raises the cost of guns (supply and demand) which is counter to the Second Amendment goal of making guns widely accessible. I cannot think of more tortured reasoning.
The statute under which this action was brought by the state is SB1487. The most critical piece of it says if a local jurisdiction is in violation of state law, we may lose all of our state shared revenues. We may lose it month by month while our “illegal” ordinance is on the books. For us, that’s about $115M, or just over $10M per month. The Supreme Court of this state told us our ordinance allowing us to destroy guns – even if you bring one to us and request that we do so – is a statewide issue and is therefore pre-empted by state law. If we do not repeal that ordinance, we stand to lose our state shared revenues.
The court did not address that sanction – loss of state shared revenues. We argued that it’s punitive and confiscatory. By leaving it unaddressed - by ignoring it and punting - the court let it stand.
This is the Arizona Supreme Court. We have no avenue to appeal. This is not a federal case and so we have no appeal rights to the 9th Circuit where our charter authority has been respected multiple times. It is disrespected within the State of Arizona.
We have a local ordinance through which we offer rebates to people for the installation of rainwater harvesting systems. Under SB1487, if a legislator from Show Low felt that ordinance ran counter to some existing state law and argued the state should control water policy, we’d be subject to having the ordinance deemed illegal and face losing our state shared revenues if we didn’t repeal it.
We just dropped speed limits on our bike boulevards by 5 mph. If some legislator from Prescott felt managing the flow of traffic and speed limits needed to be controlled by the state and passed legislation that made our local ordinance in conflict with the new one they passed, we could similarly be in the position of losing state shared revenues if we didn’t repeal our local ordinance.
Justice Bolick’s reasoning is that we have the charter authority to run our own elections. Beyond that, we’re expected to do what the state tells us to do. It’s written into the unanimous opinion in this case.
Every city and town in this state lost its sovereignty through this decision. That means to me that every constituent I represent across this city has now seen our ability to establish local laws that reflect the values of this community placed at risk. It is reversible only if there’s a change in the state legislature and they vote to rescind SB1487 and other state statutes which now tie our hands.
This case was about guns only to the extent that they are the piece of property some in the legislature have a fetish over and can’t bear the thought of local governments determining disposition of them. These “civil libertarians” are telling you that even if you want your personal property to be taken out of circulation and you feel the city is the most efficient way to get that done, your right to determine what you want done with it doesn’t matter if that property is a gun. They know better.
While the court decision was not primarily about guns, this item is. It’s about the creation of new apps that make it easy to buy and sell guns without needing to validate your credentials.
TacSwipe is being advertised as the place you can “find someone who has the hunting or tactical gear I want.” It’s a Dallas startup that allows you to navigate your way through an app, find the weapons you’re after, do some negotiating with the other party over price, and consummate the sale. In their material the disclaimer about eligibility simply says, “Just like the newspaper or Craigslist it’s up to the buyers and sellers (not TacSwipe) to insure that the buyer is licensed and able to purchase a gun within the laws of whatever state they live in.” What could possibly be safer?
At a recent candidate forum, one of the guys on the panel with me said he felt our gun laws are fine just as they are. That statement came after I opened with the fact that it’s legal in this state to buy a gun out of the trunk of a car – cash and carry with no questions asked. I’d add buying through the newspaper, Craigslist, or through an app is asking for a bad ending.
I’ll do a soft tease now – more to come later. On Sunday, September 24th over at Monterey Court, I’ll be taking part in this year’s Concert Across America for gun safety. This time I’ll play my guitar and sing for an hour-long set from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. The theme is gun violence/gun safety, but the music is simply a way of gathering people together to support the nationwide gun safety movement. I’m pretty sure the notion of buying and selling guns through your phone is not going to be high on the list of anyone taking part.
Environmental Protection Agency
If preservation (restoration) of Home Rule is important to you, you may also consider the preservation (soon to be restoration) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a reason to take part in our electoral process. At the moment, the administration is making changes to rule-making and water quality rules. As reported in a recent New York Times article, the changes are being made in relative secrecy.
Branden Camp/Associated Press
The Trump EPA administrator is Scott Pruitt. His background in industry may not be a reason to be concerned, but recognizing he was appointed by a guy who referred to climate change as “a hoax”* gives me reason to focus on what’s happening in the agency with a new level of concern.
*Full quotation: "A lot of it’s a hoax, it’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a moneymaking industry, O.K.? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”
Some of the concerning items mentioned in the Times article include: Mr. Pruitt terminating a decades-long practice of publicly posting appointment calendars for himself and all top agency aides; asking career employees to make significant changes in rules that regulate water quality, but doing so without making records of the changes; shutting down data collection of emissions from oil and gas companies; and taking down more than 1,900 pages from the agency website related to climate change. Those changes were exposed through a Freedom of Information Act inquiry made by the Environmental Defense Fund.
This is important stuff. Even William Ruckelshaus, a guy who served as EPA Director for two former Republican presidents says the agency should operate “in a fishbowl.” He gets it. There is concern that as the EPA is operated under increasing secrecy, the impending release of a report tied to the National Climate Assessment may be compromised or delayed. That’s a report written by scientists which presidents are required by law to conduct every four years. Its intent is to inform policy in areas related to droughts and their effects. Think CAP, Lake Mead and how that impacts us locally and regionally. Trump policies affect local politics.
Watch for the release of this report or at least a draft of it later this year. The Times reported some scientists are concerned their work may not be fairly reflected in it. We have begun the process of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, are in the process of removing National Monument designations from land all across the country (including our own Sonoran Desert), have focused on resuming coal fired power generation, and have had to reset the Drought Contingency Plan negotiations we were engaged in last November. Lots to keep an eye on as it relates to the environment and the agency responsible for overseeing environmental policy.
Tucson Water Department
I regularly express pride in the work we’ve done in the area of water security. We have a robust series of incentives and rebates in place that encourage conservation. Our rate structure is tiered in a way that promotes conservation. We’ve been very proactive in ensuring the quality of our water is top notch. We’re at the table in a serious way negotiating drought contingency terms with other lower basin states, the feds and CAP. Despite the changes we see looming at the EPA, the M&C and Tucson Water take our position in the desert and in a drought very seriously.
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is an international nonprofit that’s made up of water quality professionals. It has over 33,000 members worldwide. They include scientists, engineers, regulators, plant operators, and all sorts of people who know the field.
Last week for the second year in a row, Tucson Water was recognized by the WEF as a Utility of the Future Today. As the name of the award implies, it’s a recognition program that reflects forward-thinking and innovation in the way the utility is managed and operated.
The WEF was looking at three areas in particular, each of which TW embraces. Those include community outreach, energy generation (support of green infrastructure), and watershed stewardship. I interact with a wide group of water advocates. I hear compliments on the way we manage Tucson Water all the time. This recognition validates that input.
They’ll receive the formal award during a WEF Technical Exhibition Conference to be held in Chicago later this year. I speak a lot about the very good story we have to tell related to downtown redevelopment. I can add to that the very positive ways in which our water delivery is managed. Special kudos to Tim Thomure and his staff over at Tucson Water for their work.
Green Water Infrastructure
…and we can always do better.
We offer incentives for installation of rainwater harvesting cisterns. We allow for curb cuts that will direct stormwater into basins that are located in public rights of way. Those are all good. Some of us on the council have been advocating for an expansion of the stormwater diversion policy so it includes water that’ll be used on private property. There has been resistance to that by some staff, largely from a perceived legal perspective.
Very briefly, the legal objections are based on the notion that downstream users may have rights to the stormwater we’d be diverting onto private property. Those prior appropriated rights don’t apply if we use the water for the public purpose represented by our current policy, i.e. diverting the water into a public right of way. But if we allow say a privately owned apartment complex to divert stormwater onto their property for the purpose of growing landscaping, expanding tree canopies, and helping our groundwater levels, that “private use” becomes problematic to some.
Paul and I have requested a study session discussion of this issue. We’re somewhat less than convinced of the validity of the staff concerns. We’re willing to roll the dice on being challenged if we adopt a new, more lenient policy. Here’s the text of the letter we’ve submitted on this item:
DATE: August 14, 2017
TO: Honorable Mayor and Council Members, City Manager, City Clerk
FROM: Council Member Kozachik, Council Member Cunningham
SUBJECT: Curb Cuts and other Storm-water Diversion Measures
We request the following item be agendized for the September 19th Study Session:
Please set aside 20 minutes on the September 19th study session for a discussion of expanding approval of curb cuts and other storm-water diversion measures to include feeding basins and landscaping whether it exists on public or private property.
The City currently allows neighborhoods to install curb cuts and bore holes to divert storm-water from streets into basins that are located in public rights-of-way. The result is expanding our tree canopy coverage area, a reduction in greenhouse gases, and providing shade to passers-by. Add to that the positive aesthetic impact on the area and its clear this policy is of significant benefit to the community.
Currently there is resistance on the part of staff to allow an expansion of the basin/curb cut policy if the storm-water is being diverted onto private property. The same climate and aesthetic effects exist whether the water is feeding a basin on public or private property.
We believe the whole community benefits from capturing stormwater, getting it off our streets and using it to grow trees and other landscaping, even if that is taking place on private property. Stay tuned. The item is now formally on the September 19th agenda.
Prop 101 Open House
We’re starting the public outreach promised as a part of the Prop 101 work. Everyone is invited to come and hear a brief staff presentation on the upcoming process and then to share your thoughts about particular streets of concern. The midtown meeting is coming this week. Here’s a portion of the public announcement:
STREETS OPEN HOUSE
TUCSON DELIVERS – BETTER STREETS
Thursday, August 24, 2017
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Brief Presentation at 6:15 p.m.
Sabbar Shrine Center, 450 S. Tucson Blvd.
I appreciate the overwhelming ballot support you gave to the proposition. Now it’s up to us to deliver. As we did with Prop 409 and the roads, we’ll make it happen with the 101 dollars as well. Come to the open house and become a part of the process.
While I’m tossing out meeting reminders, mark down Wednesday, August 30th for the discussion on new state-driven zoning rules. I’ve joined TRRG in inviting the city manager and some of our planning folks to come and walk us through the changes in law.
Briefly, the state has changed the rules as they relate to how rezoning cases may be challenged and the number of votes it takes for M&C to deny a rezoning. We’ll talk about those new standards and likely use some examples of cases you may be involved with to make the points. The meeting will run from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Please join us here at the Ward 6 office. At some point these changes will impact you.
St. Elizabeth's Health Center
On my Facebook page last week I shared a little about an event I participated in along with Supervisor Richard Elias. We were celebrating National Health Center Week over at St. Elizabeth’s. The work they do is so important to our community that I want to take a bit of this week’s newsletter to familiarize you with them.
Since 1961 the staff and volunteers at St. Elizabeth’s have been serving the uninsured and underserved in Tucson. They offer all sorts of medical services ranging from family medical care to nutrition, dental work, behavioral health, breast cancer detection, OB and prenatal care, and on and on. The beauty of what they offer is that these essential services are made affordable for those who may otherwise not receive them.
St. Elizabeth’s survives on the strength of the volunteer medical providers who serve at the clinics. Last year they received over 12,000 volunteer hours of service amounting to over $400K in in-kind benefits. The community was the beneficiary.
Community and rural health clinics are in jeopardy if cuts are made to their niche in the health care system. If that happens, it is the needy who will suffer. Also if that happens, we may well see rural clinics close down due to increased financial strains. The support clinics such as St. Elizabeth’s receive from those in the medical profession who give their time and talents is beyond measure in terms of impact on the underserved.
If you know people who may need some sort of medical assistance, but who are avoiding it for purely financial reasons, call St. Elizabeth’s and see if they might be an option. You can reach them at 628.7871. Their website is www.saintehc.org. I share this as another way of encouraging you to advocate for extending health care to those who will surely suffer if the cuts under discussion in D.C. are put into effect.
Friends of Himmel Park began on January 30th, 2015. They’re an all-volunteer group of residents who are committed to the preservation and restoration of all the amenities at Himmel. That’s both the landscaping and the built environment.
I’m including the Sam Hughes neighborhood logo only because Himmel is located in that neighborhood. The park is heavily used by people from throughout the community and as such Friends has members who represent a diverse cross section of the city.
I’ve been working with them on some upgrades to the park. With the help of city staff, Tucson Clean & Beautiful, and of course volunteer assistance, we’re close to seeing some very positive changes over at Himmel.
We as a city rely on the support of volunteer efforts in all sorts of ways. That includes the Boards, Committees and Commissions we have. It also includes work of residents such as the Friends of Himmel Park. They are a truly deserving group to be the focus of this week’s Local Tucson item.
We’re just a few weeks away from the Ward 6 Red Cross Blood Drive. All the information’s in the flyer. We need you to pre-register. Contact Alison here at the Ward office at Alison.Miller@tucsonaz.gov or 791.4601.
The need for blood donations never goes away. It’s not just when we suffer a natural disaster. Every day health care providers are using donated blood. If you’re comfortable with the process, it’d be great if you could help a stranger in this way.
Teresa Jones is the founder and nurturer of the group who uses our community room weekly on Sundays at 4 p.m. Sacred Space is a place where people gather to share pretty much what’s going on inside themselves – spiritual, personal, just real stuff. There’s a teaching and some music each week. Promo-tease: I’ll be sharing some music on Sunday, September 3rd.
Last week one of the people who attended shared a poem she had written with me. I found it touching – and so will close by passing it along to you. It comes under the heading, “Some people don’t believe in heroes. They’ve never met my dad.”
When a child, we look out our windows
And tears come in our eyes
And no military dad or mom at the holidays to hold us
We suffer in the schools
And get bullied
Because our fathers may be PFC or different ranks
And not Officer Military in position
And they yell and get angry easily
He or she may sit there with depression
We may stay in our rooms to stay out of the way
Because their moods change
They give medication and he becomes addicted
We hear them crying at night, having nightmares and screaming
He sits on the chair, with no words to say the next day, with no expression
Then we go to his or her grave after leaving a note before suicide
My dad’s hero was John McCain, a POW who suffered
But you hear on TV a man calling POW’s not heroes
There are all kinds of veteran’s organizations
But I haven’t found one for us Army Brats who suffer.
Council Member, Ward 6
Events and Entertainment