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City Council to tackle housing, economic development; TUSD throws subs a bone

The Tucson agenda

City Council to tackle housing, economic development; TUSD throws subs a bone

A quick look at what's planned for local government meetings

  • A map of an infill zone where growth will be encouraged to build up, so Tucson doesn't sprawl outward.
    City of TucsonA map of an infill zone where growth will be encouraged to build up, so Tucson doesn't sprawl outward.

Economic development and homelessness are two pretty big issues facing the Tucson region.

So reader, you will be glad to know that both should be solved, once and for all, by 5 p.m. Tuesday. The Tucson City Council will discuss their strategies to improve the economy and put a dent in homelessness during its afternoon study session.

Back in December, the Council approved a plan to fight homelessness. It had some interesting stuff in it but there's nothing that jumps out as new and creative. 

Tucson City Manager Mike Ortega wrote in a message to the Council “Acknowledging that there is no one solution to address homelessness, staff is working on a coordinated approach using existing and expanded shelter and housing inventory as well as resources and programs currently managed across various city departments.”

Actually, there is one solution to homelessness: Put people in homes. What he means is there’s no money to do that, no easy way to get homes built for the homeless and no obvious way to get around state law to keep landlords from rapid-fire evictions allowed in the Arizona Landlord Tenant Act.

Where do we start with economic development?

The state requires the city have an up-to-date economic development plan to be eligible for grants distributed by the Arizona Department of Commerce.

So Tucson is going to get a new plan. It rehashes the same old boilerplate. The city will work to attract new business, retain existing businesses with a focus on jobs that come with multipliers (jobs in certain fields create more jobs in other fields to capture all the spending money).

There are catch phrases like “Execute a lead generation initiative for business expansions and relocations.” Boy does this illustrate why hyphens are important. They mean “lead-generation initiative.” Or are they talking about a demographic group named after one of the elements on the periodic table? “Generation Lead.”

What’s missing from both strategies are metrics to measure the success or failure of each plan. Failure is so toxic in government, that the fear of it undermines success.

I saw an interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt where he discussed working with the military and this was his number-one gripe. Government shouldn’t be afraid to fail if it’s failing at Mach 1.

He’s right. A spectacular failure trying to solve a deep and chronic problem in Tucson maybe should be celebrated more than a long, slow, lumbering stasis of CYA. The community would learn a lot more and there would be a sense of urgency.

Tucson has been a low-wage town forever and it has long battled homelessness. I’m not looking for that to change now because it’s as much an issue with the voters as it is the leadership.

I’m not going to just bag on the city. The Council will take up extending a policy that does appear to have worked.

Do infill, don't inhale, why recharge?

An infill incentive district was established in 2009 to encourage growth in the urban core, so Tucson can grow up and not out. The district’s boundaries are basically, from the banks of the Santa Cruz River over to Interstate 10, up through Downtown and west of the university to Grant Road. A number of incentives are offered to establish densities.

It’s a great way to battle sprawl. Since the policy was adopted, more than 1,100 units were built and 180 of them met the definition of “affordable.” The policy expires in 2023 and the Council is preparing to expand it a year before that happens.

Councilman Steve Kozachik has also has asked the city staff for an update about the Becton Dickinson plant planned at East Valencia and South Kolb roads.

Specifically, he wants to know about the plant’s use of ethylene oxide in sterilizing medical equipment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the substance may be linked to nausea, vomiting, nervous disorders, miscarriage and cancer.

The EPA has no specific standard for exposure. It doesn’t even have what is knows as a “reference dose” to measure the effects of exposure. However, it is covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Administrations regulations dealing with “highly hazardous material.”

It’s important to note that what one doesn’t find is reference to phrases like “Ethylene Oxide has been proven to elevate the risk of (terrible condition here). The language reads more like “may be linked to …” and I’m wading into chemistry, so I’m going to wade out of chemistry.

Council members will also debate how to respond to the Central Arizona Project's approval of storing water to be used for Rosemont Mine's proposed operation for south of Tucson. Honest to God, I'm starting to think my granddaughter Audrey's granddaughter will cover the Rosemont Mine's approval process after we all merge cybernetically with on Planet Beyonce.

Just dig, already.

Business looks to be light on the City Council’s regular meeting agenda for Tuesday evening. The Council will hold a public hearing with an eye toward approval of plans required to receive $12 million in federal home assistance grants. This money is part of the American Rescue Plan, signed by President Joe Biden to deal with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Getting the dander up

The Flowing Wells Unified School District will have to decide whether to delay approval of a new curriculum for 60 days so the public can review the material.

The course is taught with the McGraw Hill textbook “Perspectives and Voices.”

This better not be what I think it is. The district provided no background material for the agenda so I’m left to poke around.

Here’s how the book was described in a press release:

“The curricula – United States History and World History for high school, and United States History: Voices and Perspectives and World History: Voices and Perspectives for middle school -- prioritize student engagement with lessons that foster critical thinking as well as empathy and understanding.”

Sniff ... sniff ... Do I smell woke communism?

The Tanque Verde Unified School District will vote on compliance with a Pima County requirement to wear masks, at least through the end of the month. Adults will be required to wear masks in any school facility, if the school board OKs the measure.

Some people feel about public health the way I feel about censorship. We each stand opposed.


Meanwhile, over in the Tucson Unified School District, the Governing Board will vote to hire two assistant superintendents, a diversity and equity program manager and a director of student relations.

Candidate names were not attached to the agenda item, which will be discussed during executive session, where personnel issues are hashed out behind closed doors and the public only gets a glimpse of what happened later.

The board will also be voting on a policy that would allow advertising on school property – including buses.

According to draft language, the ads must be: “1) age appropriate; 2) do not promote any substance that is illegal for minors such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs or gambling; 3) and comply with the state sex education policy of abstinence.”

Anecdotally, I’ve been hearing about problems in keeping substitute teachers on the rolls. Let’s face, it this isn’t an easy gig in the best of times. With a respiratory virus running rampant, these times are not the best.

So the school board is talking about throwing subs a bone: Paying them to attend the same professional development workshops other faculty get. Substitutes must work 45 days during the school year, have active accreditation and be on the district’s current roster to be eligible.

Spell check

The South Tucson City Council will get an update on the city’s neighborhood revitalization plan. That’s the only item on their agenda as of Friday at 9 p.m., other than attendance, call to the audience and adjournment.

While the agenda has limited information, the city's plan is to work with the Primavera Foundation, which has been a partner in rehabbing the square-mile city since 2007.

The Amphitheater School District Governing Board is, in fact, meeting but is doing itsy-bitsy business. So allow me to recognize the winners of the district spelling bee. Don’t make a face. Spelling is hard. I’m a writer – not a speller.

So you got one up on me, Kiera and Muhammad.

So congrats to:

  • First place: Kiera Franks, Cross Middle School.
  • Second place: Natalia Hightower, Wilson K-8 School.
  • Third place: Neal Qin, Amphi Academy Online.
  • Fourth place: Kian Huff, Cross Middle School.
  • Alternate: Muhammad Yusuf Maruf, Walker Elementary School.

Rio Nuevo

The Rio Nuevo District Board will hear from their lawyers next week about developments in a years-running lawsuit with Nor-Gen.

The agenda for the Monday meeting is linked from the district's agenda listing page, but there's a mistaken indication that the meeting was set for Friday, Feb. 4, rather than Feb. 7. But both an email from Rio Nuevo and the agenda document itself state that the meeting is set for the first business day of the week. So maybe they'll get that typo fixed, so the public isn't misled about what's going on when.

The board reached a deal in 2015 with the company to build a hotel, an exhibition hall to serve as home for Tucson gem and mineral shows and a civic plaza, among other things.

The board has since decided Nor-Gen failed to meet the terms of the deal and sued the company. Its’ been a back and forth with both sides attorneys and the board’s attorney has asked for a meeting to update members on the legal back and forth.

The Tucson agenda

Public meetings this week:

Rio Nuevo District Board

Tucson City Council

Sahuarita Unified School District Governing Board

Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board

Flowing Wells Unified School District Governing Board

Tucson Unified School District Governing Board

South Tucson City Council

Tanque Verde Unified School District

Wedneday: 5 p.m., regular meeting.

Marana Unified School District

  • Thursday: 6 p.m., regular meeting. No agenda released yet.

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