December 31, 2012

Mayor’s Update – December 9, 2012

Mayor’s Update
Tucson, Arizona December 9, 2012
City Incentive Spurs Downtown Development
Breaking ground at One E. Broadway.
Breaking ground at One E. Broadway

 #360Plan  The first development to take advantage of Tucson’s new Central Business District GPLET incentive will be One East Broadway, which broke ground this fall. A mixed-use high-rise with PAG, the Pima Association of Governments, as its anchor tenant, the $17.9 million project will be built by local contractor Caylor Construction.

GPLET stands for Government Property Lease Excise Tax. GPLETs offer a guaranteed return to taxpayers, who must benefit more than the developer from the temporary property tax abatement. And, the developer must complete work and increase the property’s value by at least 100% before receiving the abatement.

Tucson’s business incentives: GPLETs are just one of 21 special incentives the City of Tucson offers businesses. Some are geared toward large businesses; others, toward small, or any size businesses. Some are available citywide; others, in certain areas only. To see if an incentive is available in your area, click on the “See map” links at

Once I learned that other Arizona cities had successfully used GPLETs to develop their downtowns, I pushed for Tucson to form its own Central Business District, so we could offer this incentive. I want to thank my colleagues on the Council for voting unanimously to pass the Central Business District and GPLET incentives this spring.

Downtown redevelopment and informing the community about Tucson’s business incentives are part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Tucsonans Pass Prop. 409, City Road Bond
At the press conference announcing passage of Prop. 409.
At the press conference announcing passage of Prop. 409

 #360Plan  This November, Tucsonans voted to pass Prop. 409, the City’s road bond initiative, which adds about $18 per year per $100,000 of assessed value to a homeowner’s property tax.

About $99 million of the $100 million bond will go to resurface roads in the City, with the rest going to cover the cost of issuing the bonds. Road work will be competitively bid out to private contractors, creating local jobs.

I was pleased the Proposition passed, as there is really no other way to pay for the work needed. Along with City Manager Miranda, Tucson Department of Transportation Director Daryl Cole, and my colleagues on the City Council, I am determined that funds will be spent as promised. We will work to earn the trust Tucsonans have placed in us.

Prop. 409 starts generating revenue to pay for road resurfacing in 2014. Using a one-time refinancing of debt, the City secured financing to pay for road resurfacing in 2013. For a map that shows what major roads will be worked on when, click here.

A Bond Oversight Commission will be appointed to review progress on the program. To apply, send a résumé to the City Clerk at by December 31, 2012.

Passing a bond to fix our roads is part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Tucson and International Trade
At a joint press conference with the Governor of Sinaloa, Mexico.
At a joint press conference with the Governor of Sinaloa, Mexico

 #360Plan  This fall, I continued to work on facilitating international trade for our region.

Meeting with the Governor of Sinaloa, Mexico The Governor and I met in Tucson and discussed trade, tourism and tomato imports. All three are important economically to Tucson and Southern Arizona.

Tomatoes from Sinaloa are imported through Arizona, forming a major part of Nogales, Arizona’s $3 billion produce industry. Recently, growers in Florida tried to undo the agreement that has governed tomato imports for over a decade, potentially disrupting trade between the U.S. and Mexico.

In August, I registered my opposition with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, which would have to find that undoing the agreement is in the public interest. In fact, on at least three prior occasions, the Department has made the opposite finding.

The Governor and I also discussed border infrastructure, rail and air transport, and tourism. I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet and discuss matters of mutual importance to our regions.

Touring Tucson's inland port.
Touring Tucson’s inland port

Touring Tucson’s Inland Port This fall, I visited the Port of Tucson, a private venture of developer Alan Levin that is undergoing a major expansion that will allow it to serve seaports in Texas and California at a price that should encourage companies to relocate here.

According to Mr. Levin, expansion, which should be complete this month, will allow suppliers to ship goods to China for less than it costs to truck them from Nogales to Long Beach.

Working to increase international trade and tourism are part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Mayor, ACA, SBDC Host Bankers Roundtable on Commercial Lending
T.J. Jennings, of the Arizona Commerce Authority, presents information to local bankers.
T.J. Jennings, of the Arizona Commerce Authority, presents information to local bankers

 #360Plan  Because I want to make sure Tucson businesses and bankers are knowledgeable about all the programs and services out there to help them succeed, I invited the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) to present a at a bankers roundtable for Tucson-area commercial lenders on the ACA’s Arizona Innovation Accelerator Fund (AIAF) program.

AIAF is an $18.2 million dollar loan participation program funded through the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative and managed by the ACA.

Through the program’s partner lenders, funds are made available to eligible small businesses to create jobs in Arizona. Businesses in industries targeted by the ACA – such as aerospace, bioscience, defense, optics, renewable energy and semiconductors – receive priority application status. To find out more, contact your lender, the ACA or the Arizona Small Business Development Center.

Recruiting new and retaining existing employers are part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable, ASDB Centennial
With Mayors Satish Hiremath of Oro Valley and Duane Blumberg of Sahuarita.
With Mayors Satish Hiremath of Oro Valley and Duane Blumberg of Sahuarita

 #360Plan  Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable Along with a number of other Arizona mayors, Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix and I formed the bipartisan Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable to achieve better educational outcomes statewide.

The Roundtable has received generous funding from the Helios Education Foundation and research and technical assistance from WestEd. Joining me to announce its launch in Tucson were Mayors Satish Hiremath of Oro Valley and Duane Blumberg of Sahuarita, as well as Helios Founding Chairman Vince Roig, Helios Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Barbara Ryan Thompson and WestEd Policy Center Director Paul Koehler.

The group will support local education initiatives, as well as share what works and learn from what doesn’t. It brings access to national and state expertise as well as online tools and resources.

Here in Tucson, my own Mayor’s Education Task Force is focused on both ends of the K-12 spectrum: increasing reading proficiency by 3rd grade and decreasing the dropout rate.

An ASDB student shows me how he browses YouTube.
An ASDB student shows me how he browses YouTube

Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind Centennial Celebration Arizona’s progressive founders created schools for the deaf and blind in Tucson the same year Arizona became a state. Classes started that fall, and ASDB has continued its tradition of providing quality education in a caring environment ever since.

I was pleased to join faculty, staff, students and alumni for their Centennial Celebration, tour ASDB’s new museum of the school’s history and visit with students, one of whom showed me how he browses YouTube using JAWS screen reading software and a Braille display and keyboard. As I’m pretty much a Luddite, I didn’t pick up much. But I was impressed, and proud that the ASDB Sentinels call Tucson home.

Supporting excellence in education for all is part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Mayor’s Solar Business Roundtable
At my roundtable for solar businesses.
At my roundtable for solar businesses

 #360Plan  This fall, I met with representatives from Tucson-area solar businesses, from installers to manufacturers to utility-scale solar providers. My goal was to hear from them what their issues were and what the City can do to help grow the solar industry in Southern Arizona.

Some installers voiced a preference for standard solar permit fees, rather than temporary fee waivers. Another point raised was the need for focus on which aspects of the solar industry Tucson will work to grow, and how. I look forward to continued discussions, and work, to help our local solar businesses succeed.

Working to grow Tucson’s solar industry is part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

RTA Funds Tucson Bike & Pedestrian Projects
Bike commuters at the UA.
Bike commuters at the UA

 #360Plan  Recently, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) voted to boost Tucson’s share of funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements to more than $4.5 million. Previously, most funding has gone to projects outside City limits.

Specifically, funding will go to four HAWK crossings, three bike boulevards, part of the Arroyo Chico Greenway and part of the Loop, a pedestrian and bike beltway on the outskirts of Tucson.

Thanks to my colleagues on the RTA board for voting to allocate funds for projects inside Tucson. Improving bike safety and commuting in the City are ways we can help raise our status from Gold to Platinum as a Bicycle Friendly Community, as well as improve health and fitness for Tucsonans.

Expanding our network of bike and pedestrian paths and working toward Platinum designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community are part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Tucson Business Permitting Process Fast, Easy
At the opening of QuikTrip's 100th Arizona store.
At the opening of QuikTrip’s 100th Arizona store

 #360Plan  This fall, QuickTrip opened its 100th Arizona store in Tucson on Alvernon south of 22nd. That’s a lot of experience doing business in Arizona. So I was very pleased to hear QuikTrip’s Director of Real Estate, Troy DeVos, say that Tucson was the fastest and easiest city to do business with in the state, taking a month or month and a half to permit stores, “versus nine months up north.”

QuikTrip is consistently ranked one of the top 100 companies to work for by Fortune magazine and has 2,000 employees statewide.

Working to recruit new employers, retain existing employers, and provide excellent City services are part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Curacao Opens Southgate Store
At the opening of Curacao.
At the opening of Curacao

 #360Plan  With much fanfare, including a solo performance by American Idol finalist Allison Iraheta Curacao opened its first store in Tucson, at the Southgate Shopping Center, I-10 and South 6th Avenue.

Curacao built its business model on serving the Hispanic market, hiring bilingual staff and making it easy for immigrants to ship goods to friends and families in Mexico, Central and South America.

Curacao’s Southgate store created 200 local jobs, many hired from surrounding neighborhoods. Along with City Council Members Richard Fimbres and Regina Romero, I was very pleased to welcome this addition to Tucson’s retail establishments.

Working to recruit new and retain existing employers are part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

St. Mary’s Hospital Completes Renovation
St. Mary's Hospital renovation.
St. Mary’s Hospital renovation

Congratulations to Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital for completing a beautiful renovation and modernization of its historic facility. St. Mary’s has won many awards for the quality of its health care, and has been named one of the top 5% of hospitals nationally.

Tucson’s outstanding health care options, and particularly our hospital providers, are a draw for businesses to come to our community, as well as an industry that attracts and maintains a high-quality workforce. On top of that, they keep us healthy, including some who have no ability to pay. So I was happy to express my appreciation for St. Mary’s at the dedication ceremony for their renovation. We owe them many thanks.

Tucson’s New Recycling Facility Takes (Almost) All Plastics
Presenting awards to local businesses for their recycling programs.
Presenting awards to local businesses for their recycling programs

Tucson gained a new, state-of-the-art MRF – Materials Recycling Facility – this fall.

Owned and operated by ReCommunity, Inc., the facility greatly expands recycling options for Tucsonans.

Before, only two kinds of plastics were acceptable for recycling. Today, Tucsonans can recycle almost all plastics – numbers 1 through 7 – as well as aluminum, cardboard and paper. In fact, it’s easier to remember what can’t be recycled: plastic bags, plastic film or styrofoam.

It was my pleasure to recognize local businesses who started recycling programs or who had achieved recycling milestones. In Tucson, just 10% of businesses recycle – despite the savings recycling can create for their bottom line. I urge businesses to contact the City’s Environmental Services Department for a free Waste Audit – to find out what materials you can recycle and how recycling could save your business money.

Tucson’s Poet Laureate to Promote Arts, Reading
With Tucson's first and current Poet Laureates, William Pitt Root and Rebecca Seiferle.
With Tucson’s first and current Poet Laureates, William Pitt Root and Rebecca Seiferle

 #360Plan  This fall, I appointed a new Poet Laureate, Rebecca Seiferle. Rebecca has published four poetry collections; each has won national awards. She is also fluent in Spanish and has translated works of Latin American poets.

Rebecca will visit K-12 classrooms, using poetry to help get children excited about reading – and writing.

I am very pleased Rebecca has volunteered to take this on. At the press conference announcing her selection, she recalled how she taught poetry at a kindergarten class and had those same students years later, as college students, say they remembered her from that time. The arts can have a strong, and positive, impact on children!

Thanks to the Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) and the UA’s Poetry Center for reviewing applications and selecting finalists. To see if Rebecca is available to visit your classroom, email

Appointing a Poet Laureate and increasing reading proficiency by 3rd grade are part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Senior Housing, Senior Corps
Sentinel Plaza: beautiful, affordable housing for low-income seniors.
Sentinel Plaza: beautiful, affordable housing for low-income seniors

 #TucsonPoverty  Sentinel Plaza This fall, I spoke at the dedication of the beautiful, new and LEED Gold Certified Sentinel Plaza Apartments, along with City Council Member Regina Romero, whose Ward the project is in.

Providing low-income housing for seniors, the facility houses residents who moved from the old Armory Park Apartments over the summer.

The move was definitely an upgrade. At Sentinel Plaza, apartments are about 1 1/2 times larger than most apartments at Armory Park. Plus, the new facility boasts common areas, fitness rooms and a library; and each apartment has built-ins (reducing the need for furniture), energy-saving appliances and two closets. The location is good as well – near supermarkets, across the street from El Rio Community Health Center and near the streetcar and bus lines.

Built with assistance from federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, the project cost an estimated $27 million, put up by private investors. Congratulations to the City’s Housing & Community Development Department, local architect Lizard Rock Designs, local builder W.E. O’Neil, and developers Senior Housing Group and Evergreen Partners.

Thanking Senior Corps staff and volunteers.
Thanking Senior Corps staff and volunteers

Senior Corps I also spoke at a recognition event for volunteers with Senior Corps, a program of the federal government through the Corporation for National & Community Service.

These volunteers were part of the Senior Companions program – a great idea that pays senior citizens a modest stipend to help other senior or disabled citizens with things like grocery shopping, light housework or rides to the doctor.

The program keeps seniors living independently longer without becoming isolated. This is important, because health can deteriorate in isolation. People can skip meals. Homes can become unsafe to live in. As I said to the volunteers, “The value of this program is companionship.” This is the kind of innovative, low-cost program we need more of, especially as our population ages.

Working to reduce poverty is one of the Mayor’s initiatives for Tucson and Southern Arizona.

Luis G. Gutierrez Bridge Dedication
Looking east over the Luis G. Gutierrez bridge.
Looking east over the Luis G. Gutierrez bridge

Known during construction as the Cushing Street Bridge, I was pleased to speak at its dedication as the Luis G. Gutierrez Bridge, named for a former Tucson City Manager. Tucson’s Channel 12 did its usual fine job capturing the event on video.

Pedestrians and bicyclists will share the bridge with the streetcar. In my comments (full text here), I noted that the route led from the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center and BIO5 to the oldest part of our city, continuously inhabited for over 4,000 years -linking science and technology with culture and history. As this is my vision for Tucson, I was happy to see it play out even in our streetcar alignment.

Many thanks and congratulations to City staff, the architects, artists and builders for a job well done, and to Mr. Gutierrez, for a bridge he and his family will always be proud of.

Walks for Good Causes
At the 2012 Walk to End Alzheimer's.
At the 2012 Walk to End Alzheimer’s

As summer heat left us and glorious fall weather returned, many worthy causes stepped up their fundraising – literally – with various walks. I was able to attend several, including the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2012 Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona’s Southern Arizona Kidney Walk and the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation AIDSWalk, for which I recorded a public service announcement. Many thanks to the participants for making a difference.

The grand prize for walking, however, has to go to a young man I met at the screening of Little Red Wagon, a film based on the life of Zach Bonner, who started collecting donations for victims of Hurricane Charley in his little red wagon at age 7. At age 12, Zach walked across the U.S. to help homeless youth. Read more about this amazing young man at his foundation’s website.

Mayor’s Health & Wellness Task Force
Announcing the formation of my Health & Wellness Task Force.
Announcing the formation of my Health & Wellness Task Force

 #360Plan #TucsonPoverty  I am very fortunate to have outstanding volunteers on my Health & Wellness Task Force – which is true of all my task forces. This fall, I held a press conference announcing the formation of this group and its role in the broader context of dropping Tucson down on the list of high-poverty metropolitan areas in the U.S. – currently we stand at number six.

Health and wellness relate to poverty in a number of ways. Food deserts – areas without nearby access to fresh, whole foods – tend to occur in poverty-stricken areas. Lack of access to healthy food is a major obstacle to choosing a healthy diet, and an unhealthy diet can lead to diseases such as cancer or diabetes. Exercise, too, can be more difficult in poor neighborhoods, especially if they lack parks, recreation centers, or safe places to walk.

So the goals I’ve set this task force are increasing physical activity for Tucsonans of all ages, increasing access to healthy foods, as well as familiarity with healthy foods and awareness of the importance of choosing a healthy diet, and improving health overall, reducing the prevalence of conditions that can be improved with diet and exercise.

Creating a Mayor’s Task Force to work on Health & Wellness is part of the Mayor’s 360 Plan.

Tucson’s Refugee Community
Meeting African refugees at the International Rescue Committee in Tucson.
Meeting African refugees at the International Rescue Committee in Tucson

 #TucsonPoverty  Poverty does not strike everyone alike. Some are more vulnerable than others. Tucson’s refugee community, which often must overcome major language and cultural hurdles in a very short time to find work in this country, is one of our most vulnerable populations.

I had some experience working with refugees through my synagogue in the 1980s, when Soviet Jews received asylum here. It’s important to realize that hard work alone does not guarantee success in the United States. Just think how you would have to adjust, if you were suddenly transported to Bhutan to live as a subsistence farmer, with a totally different language, alphabet, and customs.

Tour International Rescue Committee I met with staff and refugees at the IRC, which helps refugees find housing, acquire language skills and prepare for life and work in the U.S. One of the IRC’s most notable programs is its mental health component, providing counseling for victims of torture.

Touring TFAP, Tucson Family Advocacy Program.
Touring TFAP, Tucson Family Advocacy Program

Tour Tucson Family Advocacy Program Although not a refugee program per se, TFAP provides services to many refugees.

TFAP combines legal, medical and social service expertise under one roof. And with our complicated health care system – even more so for refugees – legal and social work are often required to get patients the care they need.

I was happy to see this program so well-integrated into the UA’s Family Medicine Clinic at Alvernon. Many thanks to the staff, board, donors and volunteers of both these programs for the vital work they do.

Working to reduce poverty is one of the Mayor’s initiatives for Tucson and Southern Arizona.

Job Corps
With Mayor's Office intern and Job Corps graduate Josue Romero.
With Mayor’s Office intern and Job Corps graduate Josue Romero

The Mayor’s Office could not run without our interns. Over the past year, one stellar intern – who trained many of his peers and who stayed with us longer than any – was Josue Romero, who came to us through Job Corps.

Soft-spoken, reliable and diligent, Josue was the best advertising Job Corps could have for its program. We miss him and wish him well as he moves on to paying work.

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