POLICE AND FIRE
One of the most important responsibilities of Mayor and Council is to make sure that Tucson is a safe place to live, work and play. Ensuring that the police and fire departments are well-staffed and well-equipped is key to a vibrant city. As the population of Tucson expands and the density of the city increases in urban areas and clusters, it is important that the council allocate the necessary resources to fund an expansion of officers and firefighters. The current budget to increase funding for equipment maintenance and replacement needs to be augmented to replace outdated equipment and provide police and fire with the best possible resources to complete their work.
Expand & Replace
Expand the current Police and Fire workforce. Currently with approximately 800 police sworn officers and just over 600 firefighters, the community needs to increase those numbers to not be stuck at 1988 levels. Together these agencies responded to over 400,000 calls in the last year, so it is important to give them the resources they need
311 Non-Emergency Phone System
Establish, fund and implement the 311 Non-Emergency Phone System. 311 is a non-emergency phone number that citizens will be able to call to find information about city services, be directed to city departments and other government and non-profit organizations for service, make complaints, or report problems like road damage or water issues. 311 is intended for non-emergency calls and saves the 911 system for life-threatening, level one phone calls.
TC3 Tucson Collaborative Community Care
Fortify the Tucson Collaborative Community Care, or, TC3 launched in early 2016 to employ trained professionals (nurses, social workers, etc.) to take the bulk of the nonlife-threatening calls related to substance abuse and mental illness. This system of sending a small vehicle (pick up truck, repurposed vehicle, smart car, etc.) to respond to a homelessness, mental health or non-life threatening situation enables the million dollar, eight personnel vehicle to be dispatched to accidents, fires, and life-threatening situations. Police officers and firefighters have been charged with being mental health practitioners, instead of our relying on professionals trained in this area.The city needspolice officers for fighting crime and fire personnel to combat fires and respond to accidents and medical situations needing top-line response.
The City of Tucson needs to continue to work within the confines of state law to tackle the problem of defined benefits vs. defined contributions. Police and fire personnel deserve the attention and this issue needs to be solved at the state level – as it directly affects the budget at the local level.
ROADS AND TRANSPORTATION
Tucson has 5671 miles of streets to maintain, 557 miles of bikeways, 590 traffic lights and a mass transit system to staff and maintain. For the community, this is a heavy lift. If there is one single issue that comes up in every local campaign rally, meeting, forum, neighborhood visit, or personal discussion with a voter – it has be “Fix Our Roads.” The city has diverted funds away from road repair for many years because of a slumping economy, revenues falling short of expectations, and needs elsewhere in the community. It is time to spend the money and effort to fix the roads and repair the surface streets.
Fill 8000 Potholes Per Month
In the last year, the transportation department responded to and filled approximately 4000 potholes per month on city streets. Although this is a large number, 8000 potholes per month need to be filled and repaired. A commitment to fund and prioritize filling potholes should be the number one focus of the transportation department in the coming months.
Put Our Money Where Our Roads Are
Make a commitment to use HURF and Bond money where it needs to go – to road maintenance and repair. Make sure that the budget is maximized for fixing roads, undoing deferred maintenance of the last several years, and have a plan that in 8 years all roads in Tucson will get the attention from repair to resurfacing or to renewal as needed.
Make Rapid Response Teams More Rapid
Tucson has a rapid response team, that fill potholes within 72 hours. That is too long of a response time, and there are too few workers. The community deserves four teams working full time on road repair, pothole mitigation and focused sign, striping and surface repair. Reported potholes should be filled in 48 hours. Through the 311 Non-Emergency Call System, pothole repairs needs to be the top transportation priority.
Introduce Recycled Plastic Into Asphalt
Tucson needs to solve pothole and recycling issues. With the current commodities crisis in the world, whereby plastic recyclables are less soughtafter by China and other foreign customers, Tucson has a dilemma about what to do with the blue barrel plastics being recycled by citizens. Tucson roads are filled with potholes. A solution is to grind the bottles and other recyclable plastics destined for landfills into pellets and mix the pellets with the usual rocks at the asphalt plant. Recent studies show plastic extends the life of the asphalt,perhaps a decade or more, and helps bond the asphalt so potholes are less likely to occur.
Synchronize and Modernize
Close to 600 traffic lights, and HAWK pedestrian crosswalks need to be synchronized through technology to maximize traffic flow on major streets. Using modern technology, current and new traffic management systems can time traffic signals and allow more vehicles to travel through the most intersections in the shortest possible amount of time, minimizing delays and maximizing flow.
The recently-passed Complete Streets Initiative will help Tucson travel into the next few decades by switching from automobile-centric streets and thoroughfares to adapting roads for multi-use including mass transit. This formalizes thecity’s intent to consistently fund, plan, design, construct and operate an interconnected street network for allanticipated users and transportation modes. Complete Streets Initiative will address all future transportation modes including robo-taxi, automated trucking, scooters, bicycles, motorcycles, and importantly – pedestrians.
Sun Link and Sun Tran and Technology
The city needs to use available and future technology to help provide more efficient transportation to those that need it. Using technology means on-demand, more efficient routes and scheduling, smaller feeder vehicles on arterials to bridge the first mile, last mile problem. The city should work with federal transportation authorities to have shovel-ready grants ready to go, as was the case when Sun Link was firstfunded.
The lifeblood of Tucson is economic development. It is the engine that results in the sales tax that drives the Tucson economy, delivers the revenues needed to fund city programs, and provides for a vibrant and active city. As a community, economic development and economic initiatives need to be foremost in planning for the community’s future. As Tucson grows, the infrastructure and revenues will grow.
Support the New Economic Initiatives Office
Support the newly-appointed Economic Initiatives Director and the increase in staff from two to five personnel. Utilize this office to reach out to prospective companies seeking to relocate to Tucson, support new companies that have recently come to Tucson, and reach out to existing companies who will provide 8 out of 10 new jobs in coming years. Companies large and small need access to programs, events and certifications that can help them grow. The office can continue to highlight the culture, food, options, mining, tourism and educational attraction of the community. Right now 7 out of the top ten employers are either government or are interfaced with government-related activities. The goal should be to invite other types of employment to diversify the workforce.
Focus on Quality Employment From Quality Employers for 80,000 Jobs
Close to 80,000 jobs are represented by the top ten employers including UA, DMAFB, Raytheon, State of Arizona, TUSD and more. The Economic Initiatives office needs the budget to grow and maintain these important employer relations including the Top 10: The University of Arizona 10,846, Raytheon 10300, Davis Monthan Air Force Base 9100, State of Arizona 8807, Tucson Unified School District 7688, Walmart 7450, US Custom and Border Patrol 6500, Banner Health 6099, Pima County 6076, and Freeport McMorran 5463.
Continue focus on Comercio Con Mexico
Strengthen the relationship with Mexico working with the Arizona-Mexico Commission, The Governor’s Mexico Trade Office in Mexico City, Visit Tucson, The Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. Arizona’s increased trade with Mexico is important to a vibrant southwest economy. Border issues continue to be a concern and Arizona needs to lead the way on trade and business in the face of uncertainty in federal issues. Tucson can benefit from this longstanding relationship with friends South of the Border.
Telling the Story of Tucson
The Office of Economic Initiatives needs to ramp-up marketing efforts in other states to encourage relocation and investment in Tucson.
The office needs to be adequately funded to communicate:
- The value of the Port of Tucson and the trade zone
- The vision of Tucson as a great place to do business
- The proximity to Mexico
- The vibrant economic sectors working in the community and the potential for growth
Collaborate with Tucson International Airport (TIA)
TIA provides Tucson with a gateway to the country with 8 airlines offering 50 departures per day,including non-stop service to 19 destinations. With 3.6 million passengers coming and going at TIA last year, this gateway affects the economic growth of our city. A ten percent growth in passengers would generate a one percent increase in regional employment. In the 1980s, America West Airlines created a hub system at Sky Harbor– as a result,Tucson lost direct flights while Phoenix has grown faster and outpaced the Old Pueblo. It is incumbent upon Mayor and Council to insure that they work closely with TIA for the maximum number of flights and that Tucsonans support those routes to spur economic development.
Mitigate Poverty and Increase Overall Standard of Living
The more robust the local economy, the more higher paying jobs and sales taxes are created. The availability of affordable housing has remained higher in Tucson than comparable cities, but Tucson needs to work on keeping housing affordable and working with federal housing solutions for more citizens. Education is a key to mitigating poverty, so supporting educational institutions makes sense. A commitment to transportation so students can travel to and from school and a commitment to safety so students can learn are top priorities. Initiatives to support neighborhood gardens, market gardens and farmer’s markets as well as exploring ways to share more leftover food from restaurants should have budget investment.
An Affordable Place To Live – Housing and Homelessness
The availability of affordable housing has remained higher in Tucson than in comparable cities. The council needs to work on keeping housing affordable and work with federal government on housing solutions for more citizens. As home prices and rents rise, more than 18,000 families are on the waiting list for Section 8 housing. There are about 700 apartment and homes that have rent subsidies available (only about 50 are single family residences). Rental rates have been steadily rising and median new-home prices hit nearly $300,000 last year. Streamlining the process for landlord participation in the Section 8 program is critical because local wages are not rising at the same rate as rents. (Source: https://tucson.com/business/affordable-housing-hard-to-come-by-in-tucson-amid-rising). Repurposing buildings for the homeless, like the new Center of Opportunity at 4550 S Palo Verde, is a meaningful way to mitigate homelessness in Tucson. It is estimated that as many as 2000 people are homeless in Tucson at any given time. Efforts to end homelessness should continue with special focus on Veterans, those who are mentally ill, and those afflicted with drug and alcohol abuse. One solution may be to repurpose vacant elementary schools as temporary shelters for homeless and immigrants – the Benedictine Convent on Country Club is an excellent example of how this can work.
PARKS AND LIFESTYLE
The city charter to build and maintain city parks to contribute to the well being of the community is entrusted with the municipal government.
Charter Mandate – Build and Maintain Parks
The city charter mandates investment in parks. The city is charged with maintaining a vibrant park system including 164 neighborhood and regional parks, 17 recreation centers and 225 ball fields. It is estimated that an additional $500 million could be spent on parks over the next 20 years to improve lighting, pools, pathways, fields, irrigation, planting trees and ongoing maintenance.
Grow the Grass
Two years ago, Parks and Recreation made the decision to discontinue over-seeding the park soccer fields for a multitude of reasons, the three main ones being; to improve the overall health of the primary Bermuda grass, to eliminate fall season interruptions, and to reduce the expense needed for seed, fertilizer, maintenance and,of course, water. The department needs to implement a better scheduling system and maintenance procedures to make sure grass is vibrant in all parks. An investment in grass and its upkeep and maintenance makes for a better experience for teams, children, parents and visitors.
Keeping Parks Safe and Clean
The annual budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 includes allocation for 10 park rangers. That number should be doubled to at least 20 new park-commissioned officers to keep the parks safe and secure. Additional allocation from general funds needs to go to bathroom cleaning, trash and garbage removal, tree planting and clean parks initiatives. Complaints about homelessness, remnants of drug and alcohol use in the parks and general cleanliness should be addressed through additional resources and planning.
Good Planning with Prop 407
In the coming years, The Parks and Recreation department needs to be good stewards of the $225 million approved byvoters in Proposition 407. The $225 million bond package is intended for capital improvements via General Obligation bonds improving City park amenities such as playgrounds, sports fields, pools, splash pads, and recreation centers,as well as connections like pedestrian pathways, bicycle pathways, pedestrian, and bicycle safety. The bond package will generate $225 million over nine years. The three-phase capital project needs good management, oversight and transparency.
WATER – The Liquid Gold of the Desert
It has been said that Tucson is: located in a desert, water resources are scarce, and drought happens.
4600 Miles of Water Lines
In Tucson’s future the 4600 of buried water lines will need to replaced, repaired or rerouted. Some pipes are up to 100 years old. Addressing this issue in a proactive way will help mitigate huge costs in the coming decades as water lines deteriorate.
Reclaim and Repurpose
Tucson has 200 miles of reclaimed water lines serving schoolyards, large institutions, golf courses and government facilities. This reclaimed water program has leveled off because of lack of demand and lower overall potable water prices, however, an effort needs to be made to increase the number of users so that drinking water is not used for irrigation purposes.
Address the Increase in Demand for Water
Since 2000, the demand for water has increased by 100,000 users as the population of the area increased from 650,000 to 730,000 users. Although the per capita per-day usage has fallen from 110 gallons to 80 gallons, a continued effort in addressing demand is paramount. Incentives can be created for installation of low-flow toilets, rainwater harvesting and reducing consumption.
CAP and The Future Flow
In 1968 when Senator Carl Hayden and others helped craft the legislation for the Central Arizona Project, Tucson began the switch from groundwater use to a combination of CAP and Groundwater blend. The current agreement allows for Nevada to receive 4% (300000 acre feet), California 58% (4.4 million acre feet) and Arizona 37.3% acre-feet per year. Arizona is at highest risk for reduction in allocation based on the agreement – so city officials need to work with state authorities to insure continued sourcing of water from the Colorado River Basin project. In April, 2019 a federal bill was signed authorizingadrought contingency plan, impacting 40 million Colorado River water users in the West, a milestone following years of negotiations between the states and stakeholders in the river’s water. The drought contingency plan helps reduce water usage now anddeals with a shortage if it is declared. /news/azpm.org/
One of the tenants of municipal government is for the city to provide garbage and recyclable services. As the community plans for future waste management and recycling services, operating current and future landfills, and plans for groundwater cleanup and air quality – it is important to support these efforts as they directly affect the quality of life and economic development.
TONS OF IMPROVEMENT
At Tucson’s Los Reales landfill, more than 1,500 tons of garbage arrives every day. The recycling rate from Tucson’s blue barrels has increased from 9% to 23% over the last few years. However, the recent commodities problem with companies not purchasing as much recyclable material from the city has created an economic and management hardship costing upwards of $3million. It is important that the city continues to work on waste management and recycling issues.
Laws pertaining to providing education and funding public education are the state’s responsibility. However, the city plays a role in advocating for education initiatives in the community.
Steps to Success
This mayoral initiative encourages students who have stepped away from public education to return to school and not drop out. Using local officials, celebrities and role models, volunteers go door-to-door encouraging students to stay in school. Almost 700 students have returned to school with almost 100 graduating because of the program that needs to be continued and promoted.
Partner with UA, PCC, CTE
The Office of Economic Initiatives needs to continue forming strong bonds with the University of Arizona, Pima Community College and Pima JTED (now CTE) to form a bridge from education to employment in the city. Collaborating with Sun Corridor, Visit Tucson, the local Chambers and others, the city can support training of potential workers and current workers in certificates, workshops and forums.
Externships – Guiding Graduates to Make the Grade
Externships provide students from the University of Arizona and Pima Community College entry level paid positions at area companies in fields of studyrelated to academic majors. This paid and for-credit program allows younger students (freshmen, sophomores and juniors) to experience the workforce in Tucson prior to making career choice decisions – resulting in more students considering staying in Tucson after graduation.
ADMINISTRATION AND LEADERSHIP
As the next Mayor takes office, here are some issues that will need attention.
As costs continue to rise, the City of Tucson will make a move to become self-insured.
Retaining and paying a competitive wage to City workers is a priority. Especially in arrears of police and fire and other skilled staff, the City will continue to explore ways to compensate workers to retain them – helping eliminate training costs and retaining institutional knowledge
The technology upgrade for City infrastructure is long overdue. With precision investments and long-term commitment, the city can upgrade the technology needed for a large organization, optimizing staff effort and efficiency.
BUILD FOR THE FUTURE
Let’s build our fire and police force.
Let’s build new roads and repair the ones we have.
Let’s build an economy that is profitable for all of us, no matter our color, religion, or origin.
Let’s build our parks into something for all of us to enjoy
Let’s build a better Tucson and a better tomorrow
You can help Dr. Ed Ackerley achieve his priorities for Tucson by making a donation to his campaign for mayor.