October 8, 2013

Mayor’s Update – October 8, 2013

Mayor’s Update
Tucson, Arizona October 8, 2013
Ending Veteran Homelessness in Tucson
At the press conference announcing our initiative to end veteran homelessness in Tucson by 2015.
At the press conference announcing our initiative to end veteran homelessness in Tucson by 2015

This summer, flanked by a number of key partners, I announced a major initiative to end veteran homelessness in Tucson by 2015.

Ending veteran homelessness is a goal of the Obama administration. Thanks to our strong performance addressing chronic homelessness in recent years, Tucson has been selected as one of 25 cities to lead this effort.

Housing First is an approach that puts people in housing first and then provides them with wraparound services. Having stability increases their success, in staying in housing and in dealing with other issues, such as mental health or substance abuse.

To reach our goal, we’ll need to house 52 veterans a month — with about half that number consisting of chronically homeless veterans. And, we’ll need to cut processing times in half.

We’re still working on getting HMIS (Homeless Management Information Systems) data access that will give us data from partner agencies, including CODAC, Compass, Primavera and the Red Cross, but we do have numbers to report from the VA for the period June 10 to August 1.

  • 18 veterans housed — 17 of them chronically homeless
  • 14 housing vouchers issued
  • 18 accepted into VASH
  • 4 interviewed

54 homeless veterans in or on their way to housing from just one partner agency!

VASH stands for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, a HUD/VA program that issues vouchers to chronically homeless veterans with medical, mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Other programs that serve homeless veterans include City of Tucson public housing and Section 8 housing.

How you can help


Cash donations help with furniture, household items, moving expenses and the navigator/outreach team. You can give online at 51homes.net or, if you prefer to write a check, you can give to CODAC at 1650 E. Ft. Lowell Road, Suite 202, Tucson, AZ 85719 and put 51homes in the memo. If you have furniture or household items you’d like to donate, contact 51homestucson@gmail.com.


Volunteers are needed to help with move-in — especially if you have a truck or van. Contact 51homestucson@gmail.com.

Volunteers are also needed for the annual Street Count, to ask people experiencing homelessness a brief set of questions and record their answers. Surveyor training is Monday, January 20 in the evening. The day of the count is Thursday, January 24 (times vary). Contact streetcount2014@gmail.com.

Navigators from the outreach team have been going out every day, searching the community for homeless veterans to help. It can take several visits before someone who’s lived outdoors for years will start the process of getting into housing. But these are the folks most at risk, and so the work the outreach team does — difficult as it is — is key to this effort.

I look forward to the day there are no more chronically homeless veterans in our community because they’re off the streets and in housing. If we stay on schedule, that day will be December 31, 2015.

Making the Case for Tucson and Trade: Washington to Mexico City
Being introduced to the Mexican Congress by Senator Beltrones, with Mayor Guzman of Nogales, Sonora and Chairman Yucupicio of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
Being introduced to the Mexican Congress by Senator Beltrones, with Mayor Guzman of Nogales, Sonora and Chairman Yucupicio of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe

This spring and summer, I traveled to Washington, D.C. and Mexico City to make the case for investment on both sides of the border to increase trade and tourism in our region.

Trade can be a job creation engine for Tucson and Arizona — as it has been for other border states.

Washington, D.C. In Washington, I met with Arizona’s congressional delegation and with high-ranking federal agency officials. Topics included border infrastructure, economic and workforce development, homelessness, immigration, the streetcar and Tucson’s Cherrybell Post Office Processing and Distribution Center.

In my meetings, I urged support for immigration reform as well as investment in infrastructure where I-19 connects with the expanded Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. Also, I spoke at a panel on the strategic importance of having robust, efficient ports of entry with Mexico.

Mexico City, D.F. In July, I led a trade mission to Mexico City that included Mayor Rámon Gúzman of Nogales, Sonora and Chairman Peter Yucupicio of the Pascua Yaqui Nation. While the elected officials met with government leaders, a business delegation met with Grupo Silanes, a global pharmaceutical company, and the Mexican Business Council, which represents some of Mexico’s largest businesses.

We received a number of important commitments as a result of our meetings. High-ranking officials told us the Mexican government would make improvements to Aduanas (Customs), to Kilometro 21, where folks have to stop to obtain travel permits, and to Highway 15, which leads into the border at Nogales on the Mexican side. The Mexican government has already worked to expedite trade and tourism at other ports of entry, and they are prepared to do the same at Nogales. All good news.

Reading Seed — Helping Every Child Read by 3rd Grade
At the press conference announcing a drive to add 500 Reading Seed volunteers.
At the press conference announcing a drive to add 500 Reading Seed volunteers

We have more than doubled the number of Reading Seed volunteer reading coaches in our community — 607 new volunteers as of last week!

Reading Seed is a program of Literacy Connects that pairs trained volunteer reading coaches with children in grades K-3 who are behind in their reading skills. There’s no set curriculum. Children read books on subjects they like. Yet this informal approach yields results — faster reading gains than children without a reading coach.

According to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 74% of Arizona 4th graders read at a level below proficient and 42% read at a level below basic. That’s not good news, because children who don’t read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate high school on time.

I worked with the Arizona Daily Star to get the word out about this great program and the need for volunteers. Many thanks to everyone who volunteered or donated — including, of course, the Rotary Club of Tucson and the Tucson Festival of Books, long-time supporters of Reading Seed and Literacy Connects.

I especially appreciate that Reading Seed works primarily in schools that serve low-income neighborhoods. Education is a path out of poverty, and literacy is the first step.

Walk 100 Miles with the Mayor
With some Tucson kids who completed the Walk 100 Miles with the Mayor challenge.
With some Tucson kids who completed the Walk 100 Miles with the Mayor challenge

A hot day in June marked the end of Walk 100 Miles With the Mayor with more than 2,000 runners(!) competing in the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5K, sponsored by Tucson Medical Center and the Southern Arizona Roadrunners. The event started with a children’s 1K (which I joined in for).

During the challenge, Tucsonans logged more than 44,000 miles! Quite a few met the 100 mile goal, including a number of children and teens: Sam Celaya, Daniel Euler, Nik Gruber, Bradley Hayes, Emerson Langham, Alysa Olivas, Isabel Olivas and Omar Sotelo. Congratulations to all who participated!

In January, we’ll be kicking off another challenge, one with no end date. It’ll take some time, but I’m confident that Tucson Moves a Million Miles will reach its goal eventually. How far can you, your family, friends and co-workers go? Groups can sign up as well as individuals at MayorRothschild.com/walk.

Streets Bond Work Underway
Milling asphalt on one of Tucson's gateway arterials.
Milling asphalt on one of Tucson’s gateway arterials

Work on Tucson’s major streets is well underway, thanks to the $100 million streets bond passed by Tucson voters last November.

You can see the map of major streets to be resurfaced here. A volunteer citizens’ oversight committee has been appointed to make sure the money is spent as promised. Many thanks to these volunteers!

As I said at the kickoff, held just outside the airport, if we want jobs and economic development, we have to make our city attractive to businesses, their customers and employees. Good roads are an important part of that.

Visit Tucson’s New Brand
Visit Tucson's Brand Anthem video.
Visit Tucson’s Brand Anthem video

There have been some very positive changes at the old Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. For one, the name is now something folks can remember: Visit Tucson. For another, the agency launched a major branding effort for our unique town, and I think they nailed it. See what you think — and send a copy to your friends and relatives. Here’s the video: http://youtu.be/PKEg0BinQ2o.

Fall Ballot Measures

There are two measures put on the ballot by Mayor and Council in this fall’s city election.

Proposition 401 — Permanent Base Adjustment

All cities and towns in Arizona are subject to a state-imposed limit on the amount of money they’re allowed to spend — regardless of how much revenue they bring in. So, if this spending cap isn’t raised from time to time, what you end up with is money sitting in the bank that can’t be used to deliver city services. Proposition 401 does not increase taxes or the city’s ability to increase taxes. It just lets the city spend money it already collects. You can read more here.

Proposition 402 — Plan Tucson

Another requirement the state imposes on cities and towns is the need to create a general plan every 10 years and have that plan approved by voters. Plan Tucson is a statement of general principles that was developed out of an exhaustive public process to meet that state requirement. It has no binding effect on law or policy. You can read more here.

Tucson’s Environmental Services Trucks Go Green
Two of the new, CNG-powered collection trucks.
Two of the new, CNG-powered collection trucks

Tucson’s Environmental Services fleet is going green, one collection vehicle at a time.

The switch from diesel to CNG (compressed natural gas) will reduce the city’s carbon footprint substantially — a 20% reduction in carbon emissions for these vehicles — all while saving money on fuel and maintenance costs.

The city purchased 14 CNG trucks this year, and will fully convert its collection vehicle fleet over five years. When fully converted, Environmental Services will save nearly 600,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.

Tucson has always been in the forefront with CNG. Sun Tran was one of the first transit agencies in the nation to use CNG. Good work from our forward-thinking city staff!

Tucson as an Export Hub
With other area mayors, speaking at the Port of Tucson celebration.
With other area mayors, speaking at the Port of Tucson celebration

The Port of Tucson, a privately-owned intermodal shipping facility on the southeast side of town, has had some good news lately.

First, it was given permission by Union Pacific to process international cargo via ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles — a boon for local businesses that import or export, as costs of shipping by rail are significantly less than by truck.

Then, the Port of Tucson received a $5 million TIGER grant that will help it expand to where it can service a train with 240 containers in less than 15 hours.

Their next goal is to connect with European markets through the Port of Houston.

Export workshop

Building our region’s logistics infrastructure benefits many local industries. For companies new to exporting, my office held a second export workshop in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, including the Arizona Small Business Development Network, the Arizona Commerce Authority, the City of Tucson, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service, the Arizona Center for Innovation, the Microbusiness Advancement Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Located just 60 miles from the border, Tucson is uniquely positioned to benefit from trade. Mexico is, by far, Arizona’s top trading partner. In 2011, Arizona exported about $6 billion in goods to Mexico. Imports were about $6.2 billion.

TIA Solar Launch

The Tucson International Airport has completed Phase One of a project that installed 1 megawatt of solar panels, enough to offset about a third of the terminal’s power needs. The panels also provide covered parking for the main hourly/daily public parking lot.The project was funded by a $5.7 million Federal Aviation Administration grant, with $280,000 from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

It’s great that one of the first things people see when they fly in to Tucson is solar, an industry that has great potential for our region. Congratulations to the Tucson Airport Authority and designer/builder Barker Morrissey, who finished the job a month ahead of schedule and under budget.

New Art Exhibit at Mayor’s Office
With Randy Hansen, whose art is on exhibit in the Mayor's Office.
With Randy Hansen, whose art is on exhibit in the Mayor’s Office

Visitors to my office these days are enjoying the photography of local artist Randy Hansen.

Works are from his Blackwolf Series — large prints of small details in our desert surroundings, with digitally amplified colors.

Randy is both artist and social activist, having worked for many years as a counselor with gang-affiliated and at-risk youth. Combining his passions for art and helping youth, any sales from this exhibit will benefit Casa de los Niños.

Youth Job Fair Success
At a packed Youth Job and Career Fair.
At a packed Youth Job and Career Fair

This summer’s United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona/Pima County OneStop’s 2nd Annual Youth Job & Career Fair had a huge turnout. The event offers youth age 16 to 24 resume workshops, online job banks, career counseling and, most important, an opportunity to interview with actual employers.

Ever since the recession, youth unemployment has been disproportionately high. Nationally, as of August, 2013, the unemployment rate among teens was 22.7%, down from a 2010 high of 27.2%. For youth age 20 to 24, the numbers were better, at 13%, but still well above the national average of 7.3%.

My office held a breakfast roundtable to encourage more employers to hire youth. The Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce both reached out to their membership, and while employer participation in the job fair was higher this year than last, it still was not enough to meet the need.

Can your firm hire youth this summer, or sooner? Contact Pima OneStop‘s Pledge-a-Job Program at pledgeajob@pima.gov to learn more.

A Bus From Newtown
No More Names logo.

The “No More Names” bus tour visited Tucson this summer and I had the opportunity to welcome some of the parents of murdered children from Newtown, Connecticut.

These are folks who never imagined they’d find themselves speaking out on national gun legislation, but they do so to honor their children’s memory, and to keep other parents from experiencing such a devastating loss.

As we approach the third anniversary of our own tragic mass shooting, and as mass shootings and gun violence continue across the country, Congress still has not taken steps to reduce gun violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in states that require background checks for all handgun sales, 38% fewer women are murdered by their partners. It’s long past time that Congress closed the loopholes on background checks.

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