Paul's Note - May 26, 2023

The following is from Kat Stratford, who works in my office and is deaf: 

This last Tuesday, if you happened to attend or stream the Mayor and City Council meeting, you may have thought it was an average meeting. There were no extraordinary items on the agenda. The call to the audience, while always dramatic, was not particularly salacious. 

But for one marginalized group, something was most definitely not business-as-usual. For the deaf and hard of hearing, this was the first City Council meeting that they have had full access to. 

That’s because for the first time, the City of Tucson has added CART captions to the video feed. CART, or Communication Access Real-time Translation, is exactly what it sounds like: a captioner typing out the captions in real time. 

This is vastly different from previous meetings, which relied on the closed captions provided by streaming services like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. While those services can be helpful, in a setting like a City Council meeting, the captions can be so riddled with errors that they’re rendered almost completely useless. For the Deaf community, this effectively bars us from participating or even watching. 

With CART captions, for the very first time, I saw Mayor Romero say, “all those in favor say, ‘aye,’” as opposed to, “say eye.” Delays and missed words were virtually non-existent. In short, I had access to a city council meeting for the first time since becoming Deaf. This kind of access is monumental, because so very few places use this service, even though the deaf community makes up a significant portion of our state’s population. 17% of Arizonans or 1.1 million Arizonans have at least some hearing loss. And 20,000 Arizonans grew up deaf, also known as being “culturally deaf.” Those are huge numbers of people who deserve equal access, not just to City Council meetings, but in all areas. 

When the City of Tucson added CART, it didn’t necessarily get a lot of attention. It might even seem like a small thing to many. But by becoming a leader in accessibility and inclusion, the City of Tucson is sending a message to the disabled community: you matter. 

I truly hope that other cities in Arizona, as well as businesses everywhere, will begin to incorporate services like CART to give all Arizonans equal access. 

You may have seen recent stories of a new invasive plant species taking hold in Arizona, oncosiphon piluliferum also known as globe chamomile or stinknet. 

Stinknet is native to South Africa and since its arrival here has been covering empty lots and desert spaces, choking out wildflowers and other native plants. Stinknet can cause rashes, asthma attacks and other issues even after a short period of exposure. These problems get even worse if dried out stinknet catches on fire.   

While officials in Maricopa County have all but given up on eradicating this noxious weed north of the Gila, we still have a chance to fend it off here in Southern Arizona. The Arizona Daily Star had a piece about what the Audubon Society is doing to fight it off back in April.  

The other good news is that the U of A – Pima County Cooperative Extension has recently hired on an invasive species outreach educator, Ben Tully. Ben is looking for opportunities to present to community groups, Neighborhood Associations, and HOAs to educate folks on identification of invasive species and best practices on its removal. Email Pat Burns in my office to help get Ben scheduled at a meeting of yours in the future if you’re interested,

Be aware that paving work is underway on Pantano between 22nd and Broadway. This is part of the $100 million Tucson Delivers bond projects that voters approved in 2017.  

The repaving work will take place Monday through Friday from about 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of September. All residential and business access will be maintained during this work; however, access may be restricted intermittently when heavy equipment is directly in front of driveways. 

If you need more information on this project, please feel free to contact my office.