Karin's Note: Thursday, September 26, 2013

 -Ward 3 Events
-Upcoming Area Neighborhood and Coalition Meeting(s)
-Citywide Events
-Did You Know?

Dear Tucsonans,

Let’s Remember

Last week I attended a dinner in honor of Military Prisoners of War/Missing in Action at the VFW Post 10188 in Ward 3. The line of empty seats at the head table, one for each branch of service, and the ceremonial placement of lemons (the bitterness of continued absence), salt (symbolizing the tears and loss of loved ones), and each one of the rituals of remembrance touched everyone in attendance. Afterward, a veteran from the VA Rehab Center for the Blind said to me “this is what people should see and experience, instead of all those blood and guts movie thrillers. It brought tears to my eyes.”

I want to be sure our community takes some steps over the coming month to let our veterans know we remember their service and sacrifices. Please consider contributing to the Veteran’s Day Parade Committee as I work with my colleagues to promote widespread support and attendance of the annual event. I learned during my decade of work with the Primavera Foundation that close to 40% of homeless men in our community served in the armed forces (a percentage no doubt higher now with the return of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan). Our city has been chosen for the federal initiative to end veterans’ homelessness, and we can all contribute to that cause as well. 

I received a tour of the grounds of VFW Post 10188 after dinner from Commander Daniel Rowland, District 5 Dept. of Az. He and others involved told me more about the ways they support veterans, active duty service members and their families, and children and families living in the neighborhoods surrounding the Post. They have an exciting vision for improving the property to bolster that work. I’m grateful for the opportunity my staff and I will have to help them realize those plans over the coming months. Thanks again to all involved with VFW Post 10188.

Ronstadt Transit Center

In my community enote last week, I noted that I had been hearing concerns from many groups about rushing into any bid process for development/enhancement of the Center. Timing matters. Details matter. The downtown will remain in major flux until the streetcar starts running and other major projects in the area come to fruition. Sun Tran will complete a Comprehensive Operational Analysis at the end of this year, and in January the Federal Transit Administration will release final rules for “Joint Development” on properties like this that are restricted for the continuing operation and benefit of transit systems. 

I had anticipated a Manager’s recommendation to delay action until more of all that dust settles. However staff led by Nicole Ewing-Gavin and community planner/architect Corky Poster recommended we proceed with a first step: soliciting expressions of qualifications and interest (through a formal Request for Qualifications) from prospective private sector partners. Responses would help the City gauge interest in and, most importantly, gain a clearer vision for the achievable potentials at and around the RTC.

I wish I could report that the polarized dynamic about this property has subsided. It hasn’t. Some remain convinced that any change at the site will hurt transit and sacrifice benefits to the public in favor of profiting private interests. Others view transit and public priorities (like open space and multimodal facilities) as obstacles to the only public benefit that makes sense in their minds--commerce. No wonder there’s intense conflict from those seemingly irreconcilable perspectives.

Nearly a year ago I began a community conversation regarding the Ronstadt Transit Center and asked folks to consider a “both/and” approach rather than an “either/or” mindset.  What if public amenities like transit and open space reinforce the success of economic development (plenty of studies document that)? And what if private investment and partnership were the actual (and perhaps only realistic) mechanism for further benefitting the public--improving and enhancing transit services while also creating more jobs and needed tax revenue? Can “joint development” accomplish several priorities to the broad benefit of the public?

Most community folks seem willing to entertain the possibilities; many also regularly revert to “either/or” because it could so easily get messed up. The City has an admittedly poor track record at brokering these kinds of potentials.  At the same time, we have also learned a great deal from past mistakes, will have the Federal Transit Administration looking over our shoulders, and absolutely recognize that we have to remain transparent and consistent in our efforts if we hope to attract private partnership and retain public support.

See the full report prepared by Poster Frost Mirto, May 24, 2013 (PDF, link fixed)

Tucson deserves our focused efforts and that we keep trying. Surrendering to the status quo at and around RTC when the area could be made better would sell us short. Sitting on potential that could generate sorely needed revenue for transit services and create jobs would also not serve us best.
So we took a measured step on Tuesday. We’ll be working to finalize the Request of Qualifications and the process of reviewing submissions so it can be released for responses in January/February.  And I’ll do my best to keep populating that uncomfortable middle ground where everyone seems at least equally unhappy, and a little bit hopeful.

Small Business Assistance Line

I'm pleased to share the news that yesterday the City Manager's Office launched the Small Business Assistance Line, something for which I've been advocating for the past two years along with the city's Small Business Commission.

The phone line is designed to be a one-stop shop that will help small and medium-sized business owners and entrepreneurs navigate the City’s departments, programs and personnel, so they can spend less time dealing with the bureaucracy and more time focused on growing their business.
The Small Business Assistance Line – 837-4100 – is available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is available in both English and Spanish.

Staff from the City Manager’s Office of Economic Initiatives will work individually with callers to address questions and determine business owners’ needs, guide business owners through City processes for licensing, planning, and permitting, connect business owners with City staff and resources to provide solutions and refer them to additional business resources available, both private and public sector, at the local, state, and federal levels.
Trends and data from this centralized hotline will help us further improve City processes and services. Based on the guidance provided by the city’s Small Business Commission, I am confident the Small Business Assistance Line in the Manager’s Office will be a great success!

Safe Harbor Update

As I've mentioned in previous notes to you, Councilman Kozachik and I convened a working group last year to look at new policies, procedures and strategies the City could employ to help businesses maintain their viability during public construction projects, and help the affected areas remain vital and attractive locations of commerce. This group, called the Safe Harbor Working Group, includes representatives from the Ward 3 and Ward 6 offices (thanks much David and Molly!), City Manager's Office, the Mayor's Office, every department or division head who interacts with private businesses in one form or another, and Britton Dornquast and his team from MainStreet (which for the past 7 years has been the eyes and ears on the ground on all RTA projects, assisting impacted businesses with getting through construction as whole as possible). 

Over the course of the past year, the Safe Harbor Working Group's recommendations have led to Mayor and Council action in May to provide temporary, targeted sign code relief, historic signage relief, and new standards for COT project manager training, as well as leading to administrative actions within TDOT to help all impacted businesses along major roadway improvement projects with issues around signage, access, and communication lines.

Today, the Safe Harbor Working Group is presenting its further recommendations  to the City's Small Business Commission for their input, and will be soliciting further input from RTA-affected businesses at two workshops in October (see details below).  I am very appreciative of the many hours this group has put in to move these issues forward, and I encourage all business owners who share these concerns to attend at least one of them. I look forward to taking up further recommendations from the Safe Harbor Working Group once they've incorporated this critical input from impacted business owners.  

Thank you,

Ward 3 Events:

-Doolen Middle School Soccer Fields and Walk Path Dedication – Saturday, September 28 at 9:30 a.m. Special thanks to the TUSD, the Fort Lowell Soccer Club, the City of Tucson’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Doolen/Fruitvale NA for their work in making this project a reality. Ribbon cutting event!

-GAIN/National Night Out – Tuesday, October 1.  There are several events planned for the annual GAIN/National Night Out evening in Ward 3.  Once again, Balboa Heights Neighborhood is throwing a party at the Marty Birdman Center from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Similarly, the Ward 3 Neighbors Alliance along with St. James United Methodist Church at 3255 N. Campbell is hosting a multi-neighborhood gathering from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.  For more information about either of these contact the Ward 3 office at 791-4711.


-Music, Food and Pet Fair – Saturday, October 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Council Member Karin Uhlich, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and the Friends of Mansfield Park invite you to a fun-filled, free morning! Activities begin at 10:00 a.m. with a performance of “Pinocchio” by the Wind Quintet at the Tucson Symphony Center at 2175 N. 6th Avenue (just south of Grant road). Across the street at Mansfield Park (2000 N. 4th Avenue) Tucson Police Department’s K9 unit, Pima County Animal Center and Pet Partners and Handi-Dog volunteers will be on hand to answer questions. The Doolen Middle School Jazz Band will perform. Bring your pets—certificates will be awarded for best costume, hairdos and other categories. There will be face-painting, prizes, magicians and food trucks. More information available at the Ward 3 Council Office, 791-4711.

-Junk Vehicle Collection & Electronics Recycling Event – Saturday, October 12 from 8:00 a.m. to Noon. Ward 3, in coordination with Tucson Clean and  Beautiful offers this opportunity to residents. The electronics recycling will take place in the west parking of  St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox church, 1145 E. Fort Lowell. Bring in your old, unused computers, copiers, phones, cables, stereo equipment and more. But please—no televisions!!

In addition, if you would like to schedule your junk vehicle pick-up (and receive $100) call Tucson Clean and Beautiful at 837-6834 to pre-register. You will need to provide your name, address and vehicle description. On pick-up day, you will turn over the notarized title to the vehicle.

-Special Olympics Fundraiser at Mr. K’s BBQ – Saturday, October 12 from Noon to 5:00 pm. 4911 N. Stone Avenue. Celebrate 2 years of business and donate to a great cause. Car show, Uof A Pep Band, Mariachi Milagro, booths and games..and of course, BBQ! More info: 878-6066.

Citywide Events:

-Love of Literacy – Saturday, September 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Children’s Museum Tucson, 200 S. Sixth Avenue. This free admissions day includes appearances from storybook characters and hands-on activities for kids up to 10 years of age. More info: 792-9985.
-Fire Benefit Concert for St. Demetrios – Saturday, September 28 at 7:00 p.m. Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress Street. Artists Bill Cantos, Mari Falcone, the Jim Howell Band along with the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Big Band. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Tickets available at the Fox Theatre Box Office, on line at http://foxtucson.com/  or at St. Demetrios Church at 1145 E. Fort Lowell Road.  More information is available at (520) 888-0505 or

-Sunday Pops in the Park – Sunday, September  29. 7:00 p.m. Reid Park’s DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center.  Free concert, beautiful surroundings and weather and wonderful music.

-Safe Harbor Business Assistance:  Feedback and Idea Workshops –  Wednesday, October 23rd from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at Fire Central, 300 S. Fire Central Place (across from the TCC),  and Friday, October 25th from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at  Patrick Hardesty Center, 1100 S. Alvernon Way.  The Safe Harbor working group seeks input from RTA project affected businesses on proposed policies, procedures and strategies that the City could employ to help businesses maintain their viability during public construction projects (see background info in Karin’s note above). 

-Did you know…?

…that September is National Preparedness Month?  Do you and your family know the best escape routes out of  your home in case of emergency? Make sure your household has emergency plans in place, and that all family members  are aware of them. Engage your children in your emergency planning too. Check out FEMA’s website: https://www.ready.gov/kids to get started.

that Cox Communications is once again sponsoring free Movies in the Park this fall? Friday, September 27, Toy Story presented at Kennedy Park; Friday, October 4, Toy Story 2 presented at Freedom Park: Saturday, October 26, Toy Story 3 presented at Reid Park. All movies start at dusk, but come early (5:30 p.m.) to enjoy jumping castles, face painting, clowns, music and food trucks. More info: saaca.org or call (520) 797-3959.