August 28, 2012

Mayor’s Update – August 28, 2012

Mayor’s Update
Tucson, Arizona August 28, 2012
Tucson Water Advanced Water Treatment Facility
At the groundbreaking for Tucson Water's AOP Facility.

Last month, Tucson Water broke ground on a new water treatment facility next to its existing TARP facility. TARP stands for Tucson Airport Remediation Project, a long-term project to clean up groundwater contamination from industrial sources on the south side of Tucson.

TCE (trichloroethylene) is the most well-known of the contaminants, but 1, 4-dioxane is another. Tucson Water’s new AOP (Advanced Oxidation Process) water treatment facility removes this contaminant using hydrogen peroxide and ultraviolet light.

I was happy to speak at the groundbreaking, and applaud this investment in Tucson’s future.

City Manager Richard Miranda told how, when the EPA issued a new, lower limit on 1, 4-dioxane, there was no hesitation on the part of Mayor and Council to do whatever it took to secure the safety of our groundwater. Given the troubled history of this issue in decades past, our City Manager spoke of his pride in working for a city government that puts the health and well-being of its people first. I couldn’t agree more.

Welcome President Hart
With City Manager Richard Miranda and University of Arizona President Dr. Ann Weaver Hart.

 #360Plan  The University of Arizona’s new President, Dr. Ann Weaver Hart, took office last month. Dr. Hart comes to the U of A from Temple University in Philadelphia, where she served as President for six years.

Dr. Hart very graciously paid a visit to City Hall, where we had a pleasant and productive meeting. We discussed ways the University and the City can pool resources to help each other and the community as a whole.

I am excited to work with Dr. Hart and the University on a variety of issues, including education and entrepreneurship. The U of A has many experts on education – Dr. Hart is one – and its researchers make groundbreaking discoveries with amazing regularity. Taking those discoveries and using them to create businesses and jobs here in Tucson is one of my goals.

Working to support excellence in education and encouraging entrepreneurship are part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Meet New Staff Members
From left to right: Karla Avalos-Soto, Carmen Noriega, James MacAdam and Mark Cannon.

Four new staff members joined my office last month. They are, from left to right, Karla Avalos-Soto, Carmen Noriega, James MacAdam and Mark Cannon.Carmen is my new Executive Assistant and Karla, James and Mark are aides. Karla works primarily on health, education and welfare; James, on the environment and transportation; and Mark, on the arts and constituent service. That said, it’s a small staff and roles can and do overlap.

Many thanks to Andrew Greenhill, who served as my Chief of Staff for the first half of the year. Andrew’s knowledge of the City and his passion for good and open government has been invaluable. I congratulate him on his new role as Assistant to the City Manager.

Splash Pad
Splash Pad at Balboa Heights Park.

I wish they’d had these when I was a kid.

Last month, the City parks department opened its newest splash pad at Balboa Heights Park, a pocket park in an economically-stressed neighborhood. Near Stone and Grant, the park also houses the Marty Birdman Recreation Center.Splash pads are designed for fun and safety. They have no standing water, so there’s no lifeguard. Water shoots up at different intervals – as geyser, fountain or mist. Not knowing when you’ll get soaked is half the fun.

Council Member Karin Uhlich awarded federal CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding to the Friends of Marty Birdman Center, an all-volunteer non-profit, to pay for design and construction of the splash pad, which was handled by our parks department. Thanks to all for a great job – your work is a big hit with the kids!

Mayor and Council Meetings Update

 #360Plan  A number of issues came before Mayor and Council in the last two months.

Annexation We completed two annexations: one at the southeast corner of River and Craycroft; the other, east of Wilmot and south toward Drexel. Each year, our region loses tens of millions of dollars to Maricopa County because the state shares revenue based on population in incorporated areas. Annexation helps Tucson, but it also helps everyone in Pima County.

Marist CollegeMarist College. Mayor and Council directed staff to try to negotiate an agreement with the Diocese of Tucson, which owns Marist College – a three-story adobe building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Marist is located across the street from the Tucson Convention Center.In any agreement, the City would have:

  • The option to take title to the building
  • Right of refusal on any sale of the building
  • Proceeds from any sale of the building

Also, as part of any agreement:

  • Some part of the building would be used for a public purpose
  • The building façade and architectural features would be preserved

Federal CDBG funds (Community Development Block Grant) would be used. No money would go to the Catholic Church. In addition, available funds would need to be sufficient to stabilize the building. The matter will come back before Mayor and Council to assure these conditions have been met before any agreement is entered into. I am hopeful that a way can be found to preserve this important part of Tucson’s history.

Main Gate Urban Overlay District The Main Gate Urban Overlay District (UOD) is the area directly across from the University of Arizona, between Park and Euclid, Speedway and 6th Street. Within the UOD, a property owner can opt to develop under existing zoning or UOD zoning. The purpose of a UOD is to encourage transit-oriented development. The Main Gate UOD is on the modern streetcar route.

After a year-long public process, multiple hearings and stakeholder meetings, by a vote of 4 to 3, Mayor and Council approved a height limit of 10 stories for a property next to properties already approved for 14 and 13 stories. This was 2 stories higher than what neighborhood activists demanded.

Throughout the process, many modifications were made to the UOD in response to public input, such as reducing the bulk of buildings, increasing setbacks and strengthening protections to deter demolition of historic properties.

Furthermore, had the property in question been sold to the University and leased back by the developer, City zoning, including height limits, would not apply.

When parties cannot agree and a matter comes to a vote, some will be disappointed. After walking every block of the area, after listening to all sides, I felt that 10 stories was a reasonable compromise.

Becoming a more incorporated valley, through annexation or incorporation, is part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Ward 3 Graffiti Wipe Out
Ward 3 Graffiti Wipe Out.

Equipped with a bucket of supplies, a map of graffiti locations and some instructions, a large group of volunteers spent a Saturday morning in July tackling graffiti in Ward 3. I was happy to welcome to them to St. Francis Cabrini Church for coffee and donuts beforehand.

Volunteers came from neighborhood associations, Carrington College, Community Gardens of Tucson, Community Renewal, EPIC Youth Corp, and Job Corp.

Thanks to Council Member Karin Uhlich’s Ward 3 office for organizing the event, to the volunteers, to Graffiti Protective Coatings for the instructions, maps and supplies, and to Dunkin Donuts, Eegees and Subway for the food.

PCC Aviation Technology Program
At Pima's Aviation Technology Program for the Aircraft Arrival and Turnover Ceremony.

 #360Plan  Pima Community College is a major educational asset in our community, particularly for technical and vocational education. Their Aviation Technology Program recently received a donated 727 jet from FedEx valued at $800,000.

Along with representatives from Congressman Grijalva and Congressman Barber’s Offices, I was pleased to congratulate the administration, faculty and students, and to thank FedEx for its extraordinarily generous gift.

True to form, FedEx delivered on time. The jet flew in for the turnover ceremony having just made its last delivery.

Collaboration between industry and education is one way communities win. Many thanks to FedEx and congratulations to Pima on this gift and its outstanding program.

Medicare’s 47th Birthday
Celebrating Medicare's birthday with Tucson seniors.

Last month, I attended a birthday party for Medicare – the program is in its 47th year – at the Donna R. Liggins Recreation Center, that regularly serves low-cost lunches to seniors.

Part of his War on Poverty, Medicare was signed into law July 30, 1965 by President Johnson at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Library. Johnson wanted to honor Truman for proposing national health insurance twenty years earlier, in 1945.

Medicare covers 95% of our nation’s seniors, as well as many who receive disability benefits. Before Medicare, nearly half the country’s seniors had no health insurance. Since Medicare, the poverty rate for seniors has been cut in half.

Homeless Connect
Talking to media about homelessness in our community.

Twice a year, Tucson and Pima County social service agencies – government and non-profit – get together to provide a one-stop shop for homeless in our community to connect with services.

Taking care of issues such as outstanding legal matters, getting a Social Security card or ID, can remove obstacles to getting benefits. From there to temporary housing, healthcare, workforce training – even haircuts – Homeless Connect brings just about everything under one roof for the day.

It’s always eye-opening to see the variety of homeless in our community – from the very young with one or both parents, to teens, to adults of all ages, men and women. Many thanks to the Red Cross for organizing this event and to the innumerable agencies and volunteers who participated.

Help the Food Bank
From left to right: Karla Avalos-Soto, me, Dot Kret, Peter Nordbeck. Dot and Peter volunteer with the Food Bank.

Thanks to Peter Nordbeck, a dedicated volunteer who runs a One Can a Week program in his neighborhood, the Mayor’s Office now has a Food Bank collection box in our conference room. The idea is: One Can a Meeting. I agreed to hand out more collection boxes, and so far over a dozen have gone out.

Can you put a collection box at your workplace – maybe a spot where you hold meetings? It’s a good reminder of need in our community. More than that, it’s practical help that’s sorely needed.

To request a collection box, contact Karla Avalos-Soto in my office, (520) 791-4201.

Green Roundtable
At the Green Roundtable.

I met with representatives from a number of local environmental organizations last month, to learn about their programs, to talk about some of my environmental priorities, and to introduce new staff member James MacAdam. James was already known by many in the room from his work with Watershed Management Group.

Tucson is fortunate to have an incredibly diverse environmental community, focused on different areas and projects. I look forward to finding ways to work together, particularly on the environmental parts of my 360 plan – solar, shade streets, urban trails and water conservation.

Camp Snowball
Greeting participants at Camp Snowball.

 #360Plan  A noted educational workshop for students and teachers takes place here in Tucson every year.In July, I greeted participants at Camp Snowball, which promotes systems thinking and sustainability. This year’s camp was led by MIT professor Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline.

Educational leaders from across the country and around the world attend Camp Snowball, a program of the Tucson-based Waters Foundation. You can watch a presentation about this year’s camp, and systems thinking, here.

Working to support excellence in education is part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Girl Scouts STEM Summer Camp
A lively group of Girl Scouts.

Finally, a shout-out to our local Girl Scouts for participating in STEM Summer Camp at the University of Arizona (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The girls, ages 8-12, were learning about and doing projects using solar and other renewable energy.

I had the pleasure of stopping by to meet the girls and I don’t know when I’ve had more great questions come out of one room – really energetic and engaged. Just goes to show what happens when kids get excited about learning, and these girls definitely were. Thanks for the invitation and keep up the good work!

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