Paul's Note - February 26th, 2021

Back in 2010, I was appointed to a vacancy after the previous council member resigned. The final decision to appoint me was made by the mayor and the five remaining members of the council. There was a community process: we submitted applications and we all had a chance to make our case to be appointed. 

I have been re-elected by voters in Ward 2 and the whole city since then, but I still fell like it was good for me as a council member and for us as a community to have that process. 

Over the last couple of weeks, my colleagues and I along with community members have been discussing how to fill the impending Ward 3 vacancy. The City Charter only says that the council fills vacancies, and state law says they must be of the same party as the person being replaced. We could fill that vacancy with a simple vote of the council. Who ever can manage to get the support of four council members would be our new councilmember. 

We have decided to open up the process (although it’s shorter than the one I went through), and am fully in support of that. Not only because of the way I got appointed, but also because of a lawsuit regarding the dates of our elections. There is already an election scheduled for Ward 3 this coming November, but the legislature passed law last session that attempts to move our elections to even numbered years.  The legislature has tried and failed to control how we conduct our city elections in the past, but there is still the possibility that a judge could side with them. If so, the person appointed would be in office for a long time before having to answer to the voters. This makes public engagement more critical. 

We will be going over the applications and appointing at a special meeting on Monday. We have been getting emails from many of you supporting one candidate or another and I welcome that input. 

The outgoing Ward 3 councilmember, Paul Durham, has been an ally on the council and a personal friend for years before that. Before he was on the council, he was deeply engaged in energy issues and met with me on a regular basis on issues like solar power, electrifying the city fleet and incorporating renewable energy into our city planning. We continued to meet every few weeks after he got elected and I was always struck by the brain power he brought to city issues. Paul is one of the smartest and most thoughtful leaders our city has had. 

Family circumstances and his own health have cut his time on the dais short. I hope he can stay engaged on our city’s issues. I wish you well, friend.  

Over the course of this Black History Month, I’ve written about a couple of historical African American leaders in Tucson. For this final newsletter of February, I’ve got an individual that I was proud to know personally, Chuck Ford. 

Chuck was the first African American, and only so far, elected to the Tucson City Council. He served as the Ward 4 councilmember from 1979 through 1987. He was a great advocate for east side parks, at one point finding the funding to fix the dam at what was then called Lakeside Park when it had collapsed. The park is now named for Chuck. 

Jesse Owens spent some of his last years here, so after he passed away, Chuck worked to get an east side park named for him. When I worked to get improvements to that long neglected park, my staff and I did some research on that renaming. Believe it or not, there was resistance to renaming the park for an African American. It gave me an idea of what Chuck had to deal with as a community leader. 

Chuck was a political leader, but more important to him was his role as an educator. He had been a principal at several TUSD schools. Brent Davis, his colleague on the council and one of my predecessors, told me that it was important to him to be a role model for young African Americans and worked to be assigned at schools where he could do that. 

Chuck retired from education about twenty years ago but continued to be active in the community. He passed away in 2019. 

Chuck was a friend to both my father and grandmother. For me, both his life as an educator and councilmember has served as a great example. He used to visit my office (which used to be his since Wards 2 and 4 shared space back then) and chat with me and my staff. I valued his friendship and I miss our golf dates. Thank you for your leadership, Chuck.