Topics in this issue...
- Tucson Be Kind
- City Hall Security
- Tucson City Golf
- Alaska's Permafrost
- Local First: Lute
- New Rezoning Protest Rules
- Voice of the People
- Extension of Premises
- Tucson Roadrunners
- Blood Drive & Shred-It Event
- Events & Entertainment
Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on families throughout the Gulf Coast area and inland. The easy reaction would be to watch it on the news and “feel sorry” for the folks. The kind reaction is what we’ve seen all week: people going into the area, helping those in distress with food, housing, clothing and tenderness. The volunteers who are doing this simply out of their core sense of what’s right deserve this week’s Be Kind recognition.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Ch. 12 photojournalist Lety Bazurto for her work shooting the entire Tucson Be Kind event we held to unveil the new city hall mosaic. In case you missed the event, here’s a link to watch it in its entirety, courtesy of Lety’s expertise.
I’m going to add another kindness kudo related to the storms in Texas. It’s a very Tucson example.
Last week on Monday I sent out both a press release and a Facebook post alerting residents of an urgent need for food. Here’s the background.
Three summers ago we were experiencing an uptick in the numbers of migrant families being dropped off by ICE at the local Greyhound bus depot. They were mainly women and their kids fleeing persecution in Central America. Working with volunteers and Catholic Community Services, we set up two local shelters that are still doing the heavy lifting of helping the families move onto their next of kin in the United States.
The common means of transport is by bus. The hurricane in Texas caused Greyhound to stop running buses east out of Tucson. That caused a backlog of families in the shelters. Overnight after the alert, we were innundated with donated food and cash in support of the families. That is the heart of Tucson.
That’s the common means of transporting our football team’s gear to away games. This week we’re inviting the public to fill it with relief supplies that’ll be transported to the people in Houston. It’s one of the ways the UA athletics department is reaching out in support of the folks who have lost so much in that region.
The UA plays the University of Houston on Saturday, September 9th. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are still available at 621.CATS. Following that game we will drive the trailer to Houston, donating your generosity to the people in the area.
The truck will be posted on the east side of the stadium all week. Volunteers will be on site receiving donations during these hours:
- Tuesday, Sept. 5: 6-9 a.m. and 3-8 p.m.
- Wednesday, Sept. 6: 6-9 a.m. and 3-8 p.m.
- Thursday, Sept. 7: 6-9 a.m. and 3-8 p.m.
- Friday, Sept. 8: 6-9 a.m. and 3-8 p.m.
This isn’t for food – there are other groups collecting that sort of thing. What we’re after are hygiene products and cleaning supplies. ALL UNOPENED, PLEASE.
Here are some examples of the kind of supplies we’re after:
- New, unused, unopened personal hygiene products
- New, unused, unopened household cleaning products
- Vinegar to clean mold
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Cleanup towels
- New, unused towels
There are lots of needs all around us. I’m touched by the way this community always steps up and shows our heart.
Remember Lety Bazurto from up above? She also edited a two minute piece on the Be Kind event. If you don’t have time for the full 30 minutes, give this link a try. She did a beautiful job of capturing the theme:
In Chandler last week a 23-year-old guy was arrested for going on a shooting spree in an apartment complex. Two people were killed and a third was wounded during the incident. Police arrested the guy and are still trying to figure out the motive.
In Clovis, New Mexico there are two dead and four wounded after a guy opened fire in a library. He was arrested at the scene. Charges are being prepared, but police are still piecing together the evidence and speaking to witnesses before deciding on what they can make stick.
Three are dead after a shooting incident last week in Visalia, California. Their ages were 18, 48 and 49. The shooter killed his wife and step-son while their four-year-old son hid in a closet. The guy was killed by police in the ensuing standoff. Another example of a domestic violence incident that turned fatal when a gun was introduced into the equation.
As a side note – we have experience locally with a case in which there was no question about the identity of a shooter who killed his wife. No charges were pursued. I’m working with the family right now to resurrect that case. More to come.
City Hall Security
At the entry to council chambers we now have our Tucson Be Kind mosaic. Unfortunately, due to the events going on around the nation, new security measures are being implemented for people visiting city hall.
Beginning today, all city hall workers will be required to wear their city ID at all times. It’ll be scanned upon entry. Lobby doors on all floors will be closed and locked during business hours. All city workers who are not assigned to city hall will check in through security and receive a day pass allowing them to access the various departments for that day.
Visitors to city hall will each be required to show a valid ID and to sign in with security. At that point they’ll receive a day pass to access the department they need to visit.
A few years ago we had to implement new security measures at the Ward 6 office. I didn’t like it then and still don’t. The “window” just feels very impersonal to me. Yet, the safety of my staff is paramount to me and based on some incidents we’ve had, the change was necessary. The same is true with the changes being made downtown at city hall.
Tucson City Golf
The public outreach on golf has begun. Kudos to Greg Jackson for his handling of the presentations. Chris and I attended the one held at Randolph last week and there’s another one this Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Apache Room at the Tucson Convention Center.
Several things are certain with respect to our golf conversation. People are passionate on all sides of the topic. There are no clear solutions at this point. We face an immovable capital need in the immediate future. Golf is treading water operationally, but the challenge will be how we fund the capital needs related to the enterprise.
We own five municipal golf courses. There are 40 courses in the region. They break down into nine private courses, six that are semi-private, 15 public courses, nine among the resorts, and one out at DM. For a community our size, that’s at the high end of what is recommended by the National Parks & Recreation Association and the low end as measured by the National Golf Foundation.
I mentioned that from the standpoint of operations, revenues and expenses are breaking even, with a slight positive bump last year. Here are those numbers for all five courses combined:
The long term challenge is that each of the five courses has built-in capital needs that we will not be able to avoid. Over the next five years, those will amount to about $300K per year. We didn’t make that much in excess revenue last year and lost money in each of the preceding three years. Extending that capital need out over 15 years it becomes a $25M obligation. We have to talk about how that will be funded.
Golfers who spoke at the Randolph open house feel the general fund should cover those costs. We pay for parks upgrades through the general fund (GF) and golf courses are parks with holes and sand. The argument is that we should cover capital needs through the GF as we are doing with irrigation and other needs for the rest of our parks. Note to golfers: be careful what you ask for. It wasn’t until this fiscal year that we were able to allocate significant dollars for parks irrigation upgrades and that money didn’t come from the GF. It came from Tucson Water, with significant push back from some members of the Citizen’s Water Advisory Committee.
Capital needs include things such as carts, irrigation, netting, bunkers, and cart paths. The needs from course to course are not equal. El Rio is facing a $1.1M capital obligation over the next five years. For Fred Enke, it’s $1.4M. It’s $2.7M at the two Randolph courses and $1.1M at Silverbell.
Each course has unique encumbrances built into what we can do with them. Those are land use restrictions that come from how the land was purchased. Very basically, each course must continue to be used for some public open space, whether that’s vacant park land, a golf course, or some other public green use. Otherwise, we have to provide acreage elsewhere in the city if we change the use of one of the golf courses. We cannot blade over a course and make it into a housing project, ignoring the land use issue. I heard a lot of conspiracy talk at the open house I attended, implying that a deal is already done and we’re selling Silverbell to turn it into some industrial or residential park. That’s simply not true. We are at the front end of a discussion. The open houses are meant to generate input from you.
One idea floated was to expand the use of the courses, inviting birders in to do their thing. The National Audubon Society has an international golf course certification program in which bird-attracting amenities are built into courses so they can be marketed with the Audubon brand. Logistically, it’d be a bit of a juggling act to accommodate bird watchers and golfers, but it’s an idea worth considering. What it doesn’t do though is identify a funding source for the capital needs.
Silverbell has some areas that were once landfills. In the past two weeks I’ve been made aware through presentations to our Environmental Services Advisory Commission that those landfills, combined with some water plumes containing contaminants, may limit the developable space out there regardless of what we may have in mind. So again, the conspiracy that we’ve made decisions about the fate of Silverbell in particular are simply not based in fact.
We might consider other uses for the courses. Randolph is close to the zoo.
While each course would present its own set of possible challenges, allowing walkers or other types of activities may open them up to a wider audience, helping to make public access less exclusive.
That may also drive down golf play if not managed well, which would cut into the revenues we are finally seeing swing upwards under the management of OB Sports. There are no easy decisions on this one.
OB is in the third year of a five year deal. The Conquistadors are in the middle of a multi-year contract at El Rio as well. We need to be sensitive to those arrangements while talking through options. That’s good business and it’s fair.
So, how to fund capital needs? A surcharge on each round of golf (200,000 rounds per year times a $3 surcharge) would yield about a half-million dollars. That would help if it didn’t make our greens fees uncompetitive and we ended up losing rounds played. It could be self-defeating.
I’ve asked to see what happened historically when we hosted tournaments and they turned profits. If that money ended up in the general fund, it’s disingenuous for us now to say capital needs may not come from that same fund. If they paid into it, the courses deserve credit for that. I’m waiting for those data.
As I mentioned in the opening of this segment, the conversation about golf and what we do with our courses is full of emotions. Our job is to respect that, set the emotions in their proper context and consider the broad needs of the city as we work our way through this item.
I’ll close with this. Golf spreadsheets do not factor in the positive economic impacts of golf tourism to the community. We’re waiting to see if the Eller College has good statistics that would help us weigh that element. Brent DeRaad from Visit Tucson got some data from a study he conducted last year and it indicated the average golf vacationer spends about $4,700 in our economy per visit. That’s good and it helps overall. What it doesn’t do is fund our capital needs.
Permafrost is a frozen subsurface layer of the earth that has long been assumed to be, well permanent – hence the name. It extends from a few feet below the surface throughout Alaska down to hundreds of feet. It’s slowly melting.
This summer I invited Dr. Joaquin Ruiz to a study session to share his observations on climate change. He shared some valuable photos of the loss of ice shelves in Greenland. As a follow-up to that I’m sharing some current photos and research coming out of a place much closer to home.
This is an image from a New York Times climate article that ran last week. It shows a 2010 image of the Alaskan permafrost sheet.
From that same piece of research, this is what it is projected to be in 2050:
The permafrost layers contain what is thought to be about twice as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere. It got there when plants died and froze before they could decompose. The fear is that as the permafrost layer melts, carbon will be released into the atmosphere and increase global warming.
These pictures show above ground evidence that the melting is taking place below the surface. I continue to hear the occassional person who doesn’t want to acknowledge this is taking place – or that it has an impact on weather patterns we’re seeing change. The science is clear for anyone who wants to study it.
We will continue the work we’re doing at the local level to make a difference in our own impact on the climate. There’ll always be more we can do. I look forward to hearing fresh input from the newly formed Commission on Climate, Energy and Sustainability.
My favorite Lute story is the night we were up in Tempe doing our normal number on ASU when their fans started chanting and trying to get a reaction out of Lute. All he did was to point up at the scoreboard and continue the drubbing. When I once reminded him of that, it was clear he too recalled it fondly. He remarked how his players at the time had also taken note and used it as a motivator that night.
Many of you know I work in the UA athletics department. I have since 1988. I’ve seen the immense impact Lute has had on our program and our community. We’re finally going to honor him with a statue that’ll be placed right outside of McKale Center.
In the course of one of our capital projects I got involved with a similar piece of work. We created a plaque and monument for one of our former football players who was killed in WWII. The work involved in creating a likeness is impressive. That work is now beginning for the Lute statue. We’re targeting next March Madness for the completion date. That’s appropriate and here’s why:
- Head coach for 24 seasons with a 589-187 winning record
- 1997 National Championship
- Four Final Fours
- 20 consecutive 20 win seasons
- 23 consecutive NCAA Tournaments
- 11 Pac-10 Titles
- Pac-10 Coach of the Year 7 times
- Member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Pretty good resume.
Steve Kerr is partnering with the department to help offset some of the cost. The timing is perfect. He was on the ’88 Final Four team that changed the trajectory of the program and this will be the 30th anniversary of that accomplishment.
Steve is teaming up with Original Retry Brand and will sell Arizona Kerr replica jerseys and t-shirts. All royalties will help fund the project. The ORB CEO will also match Kerr’s donation. The gear is available right now at the McKale A-Store (south end of the arena). It’ll also be available online at BearDownShop.com and at the UA Bookstore. We’re even selling them in Phoenix. Nice touch.
The remaining costs will be paid with private donations. Lute is deserving of far more than this week’s Local Tucson item, but it’s certainly appropriate since this is the first week the Kerr gear is on sale.
New Rezoning Protest Rules – HB2116
Thanks to Dan Bursuck from the planning department for his presentation last week on the impacts of a new state law governing rezoning protests. Thanks also to Mike Rankin and Scott Clark for taking part. The short message is that the state legislature has changed the rules so that challenging a rezoning is more difficult than it was previously.
There are two main parts to the new law. One has to do with how challenges of proposed rezonings are computed; the other is how to calculate a supermajority of Mayor & Council.
Previously, the “protest area” was determined by drawing a 150-foot-wide circle around the rezoning site. That circle did not count the width of the rezoning site and it did not count the width of any streets adjacent to the site. Here’s what one such site would have looked like:
While anyone can file a protest, those living in the blue parcels are within the protest area. If 20 percent of them on any one side protested, a supermajority of the M&C would be required to pass the rezoning. Here’s a hypothetical example from Dan’s presentation:
In this example, a supermajority of the M&C would have been required to support the rezoning because at least one of the four sides had a 20 protest rate.
Now, the law includes both the size of the rezoning site as well as the surrounding public rights-of-way in determining the 150-foot protest area. Here’s what the example from above would look like now:
You can see the number of people included is considerably smaller than it was before HB2116.
There’s a little more. In order to require a supermajority under the new law, more than 20 percent of the parcels need to file a protest AND those protests must represent more than 20 percent of the land area around the parcel that’s subject to the rezoning. Now using Dan’s example of the protests filed by quadrant, one condition is met, but not the other. Only a simple majority of the M&C would be needed to pass the rezoning.
Under HB2116, when a supermajority vote is required to support the proposed rezoning, the way that supermajority is calculated is also now different than it was before. Previously, a supermajority was six out of the seven of us. Now the legislature is rounding 75 percent to the nearest whole number. That means only five of the seven of us will be required to support a proposed rezoning.
There are over 1,200 bills making their way through the state legislature each session. In this case the bill was the combination of a couple of those – thus the various changes cobbled into one piece of legislation. It’s clear the intent was decided well before that final jewel was crafted. In the last session the state made it tougher on people to file petitions and they made it more difficult for people to challenge rezonings adjacent to their property. I see a trend.
Voice of the People
A different result was announced last week in a case where a small group of local citizens worked to force the United States Air Force to conduct an environmental impact assessment for Operation Snowbird out at Davis-Monthan (DM).
Here’s a short history. Operation Snowbird began years ago as a cold weather training mission hosted by DM. It was originally intended to allow pilots from places like South Dakota to come here in the winter and train in our nice weather. It has grown since its inception and is now a mission which hosts pilots from all around the world to train here throughout the year. The number of flights increased considerably. When asked to do a study on the impact, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a “Finding Of No Significant Impact” (FONSI). They based it on an Environmental Assessment (EA) that had been conducted in 2015. Believing that was a flawed result, citizens sued for a full Environmental Assessment to be conducted.
Last week the DOD announced the termination of Operation Snowbird. They cited budgetary considerations and reprioritizing of missions throughout the department. With its termination, they also issued a statement that withdrew the EA and FONSI that were being challenged in court. So the court case is moot since the operation being evaluated will no longer be conducted out of DM.
While it existed, Snowbird provided valuable training for the men and women who took part. It’s incumbent on the government though to consider the impact of what is does – regardless of which department is involved – on the lives of the people who live in the area affected by their work. In this case a long and protracted court fight was avoided.
Extension of Premises
When people are planning an event that will spill out into the public right-of-way, the proper process is to apply for what’s called an extension of premises. It simply means that for a temporary amount of time, you want to take over some of what is normally a public street or alley, usually adjacent to your place of business, so the party can take place without violating fire codes related to occupancy.
I’m sharing this item because I’ve heard far too often that there’s a notion floating around out there that when the city grants approval of the extension of premises, the event is somehow exempt from any noise or nuisance ordinances we have in place. In fact, this language is written in bold right on the application form:
THE GRANTING OF THIS PERMIT DOES NOT EXEMPT THE APPLICANT FROM THE CITY OF TUCSON’S ORDINANCE FOR EXCESSIVE NOISE AND UNRULY GATHERINGS.
I’d say that’s pretty clear. If you are planning an event that will require an extension of the perimeter of your building, please bear in mind that all city noise and nuisance conditions are still 100 percent in place during your event. The police will cite violators, so please respect the private property right of your neighbors to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. It’s all a part of “community.”
Tickets are now on sale for the upcoming Tucson Roadrunner hockey season. The inaugural season at the TCC was considered a great success by everyone close to the program and now they’re gearing up for season number two.
Last year we were in a rush to get the deal signed and the arena remodeled. In the midst of that we didn’t have the time to schedule in the hoped-for NHL preseason game. This time around, we will be hosting that event on September 25th. The Arizona Coyotes will face off against the Anaheim Ducks. Based on how so many of you responded to the team last year, I’d expect this game to be a sell-out so go online and reserve your seats now.
The Roadrunners season will begin on October 7th at 7 p.m. versus San Diego. I’ve met with their new team president and can share that the organization is gearing up for multiple promotional events including specials at the concessions stands, giveaways and theme nights.
This link has the promotional schedule: http://bit.ly/2v8jtmu.
This one has their game schedule: http://bit.ly/2wyaw9C.
Blood Drive & Shred-It Event
I am extremely grateful to all of you who have stepped up with food donations in support of the migrant families who have been stranded in Tucson due to the hurricanes over in the Gulf Coast region. Our back room has been a virtual revolving door of bags of food and multiple trips to the various shelters.
The same sense of pride in our community is reflected by the numbers of you who have signed up for this weekend’s blood drive. The impact of Harvey on the Red Cross’s supplies has increased the need and many of you have signed up to share a bit of yourself in response.
This newsletter will go out late Tuesday. We need to hear from you by the end of Thursday if you’re going to take part on Saturday. Call Alison at 791.4601 or email her at Alison.Miller@tucsonaz.gov and she’ll connect with you about a time to come by for your donation.
Thanks very much for all that you do.
Finally, we will also be holding a Shred-It Event this Saturday in conjunction with the blood drive. Stop by between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. with your documents that need to be shredded. Bring up to two boxes of documents and we’ll shred them for free. For anything more than that, we will be accepting $10 donations to either the American Red Cross or No Kill Pima County.
Council Member, Ward 6
Events and Entertainment