Karin's Note: Friday, April 25, 2014

Karin's Note: Friday, April 25, 2014
-Ward 3 Events
-Upcoming Area Neighborhood and Coalition Meeting(s)
-Citywide Events
-Did You Know?
Dear Tucsonans,

I am pleased that the Manager’s formal budget recommendation has moved toward addressing key concerns raised by the community and Mayor/Council. Since the framing of what’s on the table varies widely in media reports and from Council offices, let me provide my take on it. First, the layoffs proposed are an unfortunate but necessary process to eliminate positions that can no longer be justified given the 23% reduction in our workforce. It’s unrealistic to think that vacancy management alone will responsibly shape our City bureaucracy. The changes would be called for regardless of budget challenges, in order to stay true to the promise that we as a local government are spending taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently. Duplicative or excessive management and administrative costs can’t be justified, nor can any top heavy agency profess to be prioritizing services to the public. It’s a tough truth to face, but we’re charged with using dollars to provide outcomes not to guarantee that every position in the City will be sustained regardless of what’s best for Tucson.

Within the past two years, for example, Parks and Recreation hired an out-of-state Deputy Director around the same time we were closing swimming pools. If we hadn’t pushed for management and administrative cuts in Parks and Recreation, that faulty approach would continue unchallenged. I agree that this problem is not isolated within Parks and Recreation. In fact, all of us voted during Wednesday’s meeting to direct the Manager to reduce the cuts to Parks and Recreation by $500,000 and to find comparable management/administrative savings in our General Services Department (which had not been slated for any reductions). I continue to believe that Parks and Recreation cuts (to management and administration NOT grounds, facilities, programs) are long overdue. We’re adding funding for service (like grounds maintenance) and cutting where it’s justified. That’s precisely why I support the Manager’s work to restructure our organization. We can’t stick with doing business as usual to avoid tough choices. Our choices must be based on improving service and reducing overhead, and that cannot be accomplished by taking the easy way out (like across-the-board, one size fits all cuts). The idea that everyone’s pay should be reduced in order to avoid eliminating positions that are no longer essential may seem comforting, but it’s not responsible nor is it sustainable. 
The Manager will be presenting more information on the specific plans for Parks and Recreation at an upcoming Mayor and Council meeting and we’ll proceed from there.  Regarding Parks department Recreation classes, the FY2015 budget does not cut class offerings; it simply stops budgeting for class offerings that end up getting cancelled every year due to the lack of participant registrations:
In the words of Director Fred Gray:
On an annual basis, we offer approximately 700 leisure classes and they are priced for cost recovery.  Historically over the past couple of years, approximately 1/3 of the classes are canceled due to lack of enrollment.  So instead of budgeting the capacity to offer classes that likely won't have sufficient enrollment, we'll simply scale back the offerings and not budget for the staffing which is predominantly non-perm employees. The class offerings will closer to 400 annually.
There are several categories of classes with many sessions in each category (Arts and Crafts, Ceramics, Dance, Gymnastics, Health and Fitness, Jewelry, Motor Development, Pottery, etc)  It hasn't been determined definitively what classes would be impacted but staff will analyze the historical registration and participation patterns to make those decisions. There could be fewer sessions in each category but again, we would also look at the most attended classes or the categories that seem to be the most popular.  For instance, we know that Pottery and Jewelry are popular as well as the classes in Motor Development for young children and their parents.  The Music classes tend to be harder to fill so we would likely reduce the number of offerings.  In addition, some fitness classes are very popular and we would continue to offer those. 
I’m not inclined to accept “don’t cut Parks and Rec” advocacy when the truth of the matter is that these kinds of adjustments make sense and could actually improve service to the public over time.
With regard to transit, the Manager clearly agrees that the transit system will be fiscally sound without raising fares. Raising fares would reduce ridership, an unwise step especially as the streetcar comes online and service changes could occur through the Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA). We will proceed with developing a fare policy that can guide future fare changes in a manner that encourages higher use of the transit system. The best way to get more money out of the farebox is to get more people riding transit. The General Fund investment needed for 2015 will not increase substantially over 2014 because other funding sources, potential savings from the COA, and management/administration cost savings that have been identified.  I believe the transit system budget is the only item within our budget that has been expected to cover both operating AND capital costs within its annual allocation. In FY2015, $3.4M of vehicle purchases have been incorporated into the budget. Without that factor, the system budget is balanced without fare increases OR service changes. The idea that raising transit fares will somehow help our overarching budget challenge is false. It’s not only the wrong place to look, but if managed from that perspective we will drive the transit system into lower performance which will hurt our economy and our region dramatically over the long term.
The Manager also partially restored funding to the arts, Access Tucson, human services (including economic/workforce development). Councilmembers Romero, Fimbres and I moved for full restoration of the funding and I am confident other colleagues will agree by the end of the budget process. In fact I agree with my colleagues that we need to be crystal clear on what resources will be used to cover the $750,000 needed for that restoration. I did note in our meeting that we now spend $400,000 on state and federal lobbying, at least $175,000 on miscellaneous contractual services, $167,000 for various national group memberships, and so on. The City also grants over $100,000 to human service groups out of TPD RICO funds that could still be effectively awarded if integrated with the Human Services competitive process. I’m sure other ideas will be brought to the table to work this through. In assessing the future of Access Tucson, we’ll need at least a year to appropriately evaluate best options for community and public programming, the building on Broadway and, perhaps most importantly the notable value of the bandwidth we control via the television stations provided through our cable license agreements. That bandwidth hasn’t even been discussed and represents an invaluable community asset we could lose without programming investments in Channel 12 and Access Tucson. I’m no expert on this, but cursory research indicates that an analog station (we control two) reaching a population of one million people could hold value in excess of several million dollars.
Beyond departmental and line item concerns, long term issues cannot be ignored. The proposed budget includes concrete action (rounding up our contribution levels) to fund the Tucson Pension program at 100% over the 20 year window we monitor. It also continues our significant progress on funding the Self Insurance Fund reserves. The FY2015 budget also will not deplete our stabilization funds and reserves, and will not rely on debt restructuring to achieve balance. It will also not be used as an excuse to scrap existing labor agreements. For years the Mayor and Council has been specifically informed about compensation packages for all labor groups, including public safety. We have been given detailed spreadsheets showing that, while our base pay grades particularly in public safety lag behind other Arizona cities we have stayed on par through “premium pay” programs like sick leave buyback. In the future, I believe that we will benefit by reverting to more transparent base pay grade changes. Past City Managers (over at least the last decade) have taken a different approach, and that has been approved through both labor negotiations and the annual approval of the Compensation Plans presented to Mayor and Council. We need to dissect why premium pay options have been considered (my understanding is that sick leave buyback basically came into effect concurrent with the phase-out of longevity pay premiums which had encouraged people to stay with TPD/TFD—the benefit accrues with years of service similarly). We also need to discuss these issues in the open, with full public transparency and in good faith.  To that end, we’ve directed Human Resources and the Manager to proceed with the open process and negotiations immediately.
You may take from all my reflections that we’re deep into the details of the FY2015 budget just as we should be. Most of the focus involves plus or minus $4 million, which is less than 1 percent of our $475 million General Fund budget. I am confident we will find resolution that balances our books next year and sustains progress for the long haul. Keep sending your feedback so we land where our community’s best thinking can take us.


Ward 3 Events:

- Friends of the Pima County Public Library Community Book Sale – Friday through Monday, April 25th – 28th from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at 2230 N Country Club Rd. For more information, call 520-795-3763.
- Doolen/Fruitvale Neighborhood Butterfly Garden Clean-up - Saturday, April 26 from 8:30 to 11:30 am at Sparkman Butterfly Garden, 2645 N Sparkman Blvd. Help clean-up the butterfly garden and meet your neighbors! Bring your gloves and favorite tools. Tools and water available. Lunch provided. Donations welcome. Feel free to drop by and say hello or stay for a while and help out.
- Shred-it Event – Saturday, April 26th from 9:00 am – noon at Mansfield Park 2000 N. 4th Avenue. Council Member Karin Uhlich and Pima County Constable Bennett Bernal invite you to bring documents that you wish to have securely destructed. Your first box is free and everything after that costs only $5.00 a box! Proceeds to benefit Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse and Lend A Hand. A flyer is available at https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/ward3/shred_it_event_April_2014.pdf or contact Brianda Torres at 520-791-4711 for more information.
- Earth Day High Ropes Course – Saturday, April 26th 9:00 am – 1:00 pm at UofA 4-H High Ropes Course 1985 W. Fort Lowell Rd. Join for a fun and interactive way to learn about Earth Day at the free, family event at the 4-H High Ropes Course. Climb the ropes, ride around the mountain bike trail, bake cookies in a solar oven, plant a tree, and more! Snacks will be provided, bring your reusable water bottles!
- Fiesta to Benefit Lend A Hand – Saturday, April 26th at 6:00 pm. Join your neighbors for a delicious, fun-filled Mexican fiesta to benefit Lend A Hand, the non-profit organization that provides free services to Seniors in 13 Tucson neighborhoods. Menu includes fresh guacamole, Nando’s mesquite grilled carne asada, coffee flan and more! $35 per person ($25 tax deductible). RSVP to Junie at jhos7@cox.net.
- Suppers for Signs – Sunday, April 27th 4:30 pm Reception and 5:15 pm Supper. Join the Jefferson Park neighborhood for supper, Louie’s famous Sangria, a raffle, and a display of historic photos from the oral history project. Supper is $15.00 and JP wine glasses may be purchased for $10. Proceeds will contribute to the purchase of 32 street signs for the Jefferson Park historic designation. By reservation only. Call 623-9044.

The Invisible Theatre’s Pastime Players – Monday, April 28th 7:00 pm at Doolen Middle School 2400 N. Country Club Rd. Invisible Theatre's Pastime Players has grown into a prototype of innovative arts education that focuses on ability rather than disability.  Exceptional education students at Doolen have been working with the Invisible Theatre’s artistic staff throughout the year and will showcase their program with The Me Inside of Me, a musical that celebrates ability. Come see this wonderful show and support local students. No reservations necessary – bring the whole family! For more information, visit http://www.invisibletheatre.com/Education/Pastime_Players/pastime_players.html

- Amphi Action Day - Saturday, May 10th 8:00 am - 1:30 pm at Amphi Park 510 E Navajo Rd. Help out with this great neighborhood event! Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Council Member Karin Uhlich and Graffiti Protective Coatings (GPC) are teaming up to help us abate graffiti and clean-up refuse in the Amphi neighborhood. We are looking for 30 volunteers from the community to help. Breakfast and t-shirts will be provided as well as lunch at the wrap-up celebration in the park. Please contact Brianda or Matt at 520-791-4711 or ward3@tucsonaz.gov for more information or to sign-up to volunteer. Volunteer groups registered by the 27th get their logo on the event t-shirt.

Upcoming Neighborhood and Coalition Meetings:

-Northwest NA – Wednesday, May 7th at 6:00 p.m. Donna Liggins Recreation Center, 2160 N. 6th Avenue

-Feldman’s NA – Thursday, May 1st at 7:00 p.m. St. Luke’s Home, 615 E. Adams
Citywide Events:
- Sustainable Historic Home Tour – Saturday, April 26 from 9:00am – 1:00 pm Maps of the tour available at KXCI, 220 S. 4th Avenue.  The City of Tucson’s Historic Preservation and Sustainability programs are organizing the Sustainable Historic Home Tour. This self-guided open house tour will feature historic homes in Tucson that have been “green retrofitted” to be more sustainable, while remaining sensitive to their historic characters.  Participants will travel to locations identified on a map, where the property owners and volunteers will provide information and tours. Sunscreen, hats, and walking shoes are recommended.  Please bring your reusable water bottles that can be filled up at the stops along the tour. For more information contact Jennifer Levstick at (520) 837-6961.
- Tucson Glass Festival IV: Young @ Art – Saturday, April 26th from 9:30 am – 10:00 pm at Sonoran Glass School, 633 W. 18th St. Young @ Art is a fun and affordable event where kids, families and the general public explore the glass arts through exciting demonstrations and experiences. Watch glassblowing demos, create glass art through free activities, win prizes, and watch as glass artists transform three children's desert-themed drawings into professional works of 3D glass art throughout the day. Only $5 to attend. Proceeds benefit SGS Youth Education Programs. Visit sonoranglass.org for more info.

- National Prescription Take-Back Initiative – Saturday, April 26th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at TPD Eastside Service Center 9670 E. Golf Links and TPD Westside Service Center 1310 W. Miracle Mile.  The Tucson Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency will again partner to bring the National Prescription Take-Back Initiative to the citizens of Tucson on Saturday, April 26, 2014.  During this event, the public will be able to bring unwanted or unused medications to either of two drop-off locations, where they can be turned over to members of the Tucson Police Department for disposal.  This service is being provided for free, and is anonymous - no personal information will be collected from citizens turning over medication for disposal.

-Colors of Our Voices: A Generation of Creative Youth (G2A) – Saturday, April 26th from 4:00 – 7:00 pm at Maker House, 283 N. Stone Ave. Tucson Arts Brigade invites all youth to a one day conference. Color of Our Voices: A Generation of Creative Youth (G2A) is an exciting new project curated by youth for youth which celebrates the unique creative voices of youth from all over Tucson. All ideas are welcome. This is your city. This is your voice. The event will include numerous workshops including Soul Flute, Bike repair and maintenance, modeling, book making, songwriting, monologues, recycled jewelry, a free wall, arts and activist and Japanese inspired art. For more information call (520) 623 – 2119 or email info@TucsonArtsBrigade.org.
- Fiesta Grande – Saturday and Sunday, April 26th – 27th  at Grande Avenue between Saint Mary’s Road and Speedway Boulevard. Get out your dancing boots and get ready for Fiesta Grande, Barrio Hollywood’s annual street fair.  Start Saturday out with a parade and then enjoy more than 16 musical and dance groups, including the great tejano sounds of Hollywood Knights, Conjunto Fear and Mariachi Tesoro. Over a hundred vendors will line Grande Avenue for your shopping & eating pleasures along with a carnival rides for your children. This event is FREE. More information at https://www.facebook.com/Fiesta-Grande-153900724674515/timeline/
- Alzheimer’s Association Wine to Remember – Sunday, April 27th 3:00 – 6:00 pm at Hacienda del Sol Resort 5501 N Hacienda del Sol Road. Enjoy an afternoon of fine wine and delightful company at the Desert Southwest Chapter’s 4th annual Southern Arizona Wine to Remember event. This event will be held at the award winning Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort in the heart of Tucson's Catalina Foothills. Guests will have the opportunity to participate in both a silent and live auction, both held on the exquisite grounds of the Hacienda del Sol. This event will feature fine wine, hors d'oeuvres and live music. Tickets are $50 per person, or $80 for two tickets. Sunday best attire is requested. Visit http://www.alz.org/dsw/in_my_community_63230.asp for more information.
- Student Safety Task Force Public Meeting – Wednesday, April 30th from 4:00 – 6:00 pm at  Gallagher Theater - Student Union 1303 E. University Blvd. The University of Arizona Student Safety Task Force is seeking feedback from the Tucson and UA communities around student safety and wellbeing. All are welcome to attend and share their thoughts. The UA Student Safety Task Force was formed because promoting the safety of students on and off campus is of primary importance to the Arizona Board of Regents and the Presidents of Arizona's public universities.
- Tucson IDEA School Prospective Family Night – Wednesday, April 30th 6:30 – 8:00 pm at PLAYFORMANCE 119 E. Toole Ave. Learn about the vision for this new, innovative school for grades K-3 and find out about enrollment opportunities. Call David at 520-310-3919 or email david@explorebuildlearn.org. For more info, visit www.explorebuildlearn.org.
- Finding Voice & Catalina ELD Program Celebration – Thursday, May 1st with a Potluck Dinner at 6:00 pm and Presentations starting at 7:15 pm at Catalina Magnet High School 3645 E Pima St. Finding Voice is a program dedicated to developing the English language, literacy, multimedia, critical thinking, and collaborative skills necessary to participate socially, academically, economically, and politically in local and global communities. Come and support this Multicultural, Multilingual Club and the Catalina Magnet High School English Language Development Program as students from around the world share their art, writing and more. Finding Voice exists as proof that immigrants and refugees can overcome their hardships, get along, and be active participants in their new homeland.
- Tucson Residents for Responsive Government – Thursday, May 1st from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Ward 6 Office 3202 E. First St. Tucson Residents for Responsive Government (TRRG) is a grassroots advocacy coalition whose mission is to effect concrete change in the way the City of Tucson interacts with its residents to ensure that transparency, accountability, integrity, honesty, and sensitivity to quality of life govern all city processes. Membership is open to any resident of the City of Tucson who supports that mission. Annual dues will be $10. Please RSVP to William.Altaffer@azbar.org if you plan on attending.
- Transit Talks – Saturday, May 3rd 10:00 am – noon at the Hardesty Center 1100 S. Alvernon Way. Join Transit Talks, a collaborative project of Core-Banc, Living Streets Alliance, Tucson Bus Riders Union and several local artists whose goal is to use creativity to share ideas about public transportation. Through creative “happenings”, Transit Talks will engage the community in thinking about the importance of public transportation – and draw into the conversation people who might not give transit a second thought. This meeting is to plan the creative experiences that will get people talking. All are invited to plan Transit Talks. Bring your questions, opinions and creativity!
Did You Know...?
…that the Odyssey of the Mind Team from Prince Elementary has qualified for a chance to compete at the World Finals Tournament? Congratulations students!! The World competition is May 27-31 and will be held in Iowa this year.  Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem solving competition. The program encourages creative thinking, teaches students valuable problem solving skills and helps students acquire team work skills. The Amphi team is reaching out to the community to ask for donations or tax credit to help them make it to the competition. Contact Prince Elementary or visit https://taxcredit.amphi.com/taxcreditdonation/ to give.
…that Literacy Connects is seeking volunteer reading coaches and basic literacy tutors? Help a struggling reader in grades K-3 master the basics and learn to love reading through volunteering with Literacy Connect's Reading Seed program or tutor adult learners in reading, writing and math  through the Basic Literacy program. Visit http://literacyconnects.org/ or call (520) 882-8006 for more information.
Literacy Connects is also currently accepting applications for in-school programs such as Stories that Soar, Reading Seed, and StoryShareCurriculum in the 2014-2015 academic year. Apply by May 2nd! 
…that Ironwood Tree Experience (ITE) is now hiring youth ages 15-20. ITE seeks highly motivated high school students (or "just graduated" youth) to research, make recommendations, plan and improve native habitat in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area (LCNCA) in Southeastern AZ. Project examples may include: wetland habitat restoration, reintroduction of the Chiricahua leopard frog and black-tailed prairie dog conservation. Selected youth must commit to a 9-session program in June and July 2014. Most sessions take place at LCNCA and transportation is provided. Upon successful completion, YES! participants earn a stipend of up to $250.   Apply by May 6, 2014 at https://ironwoodtreeexperience.org/join/
…that 51 Homes, a program that helps homeless vets transition successfully into permanent housing, is seeking donations of new and gently-used furniture and household items? Help Tucson end veteran homelessness by giving to this program. To learn more, visit www.51homes.net or email karla.avalos-soto@tucsonaz.gov
…that Mayor Rothschild is committing to save water by taking the Wyland Foundations Mayors Challenge for Water Conservation, and he is challenging all Tucson residents to do the same.  The Water Pledge is a friendly competition between cities across the US to see who can be the most water-wise. Mayors nationwide have challenged their residents to conserve water energy and other natural resources on behalf of their city by pledging at https://www.tucsonaz.gov/water/challenge. Cities with the highest percentage of residents who take the challenge in their population category win. Participants in the winning cities are eligible to win hundreds of prizes. Last year Tucson won first prize in our category. It helped raise awareness about water conservation, shed a positive light on Tucson, and a local resident even won a Toyota Prius!  Lets see if we can make it two years in a row.  You can Pledge for Tucson until April 30th at www.mywaterpledge.com using e-mail or Facebook.  Tucson residents pledge by completing a brief online survey on the ways they can or do save water and energy.