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Pima County to vote on new boss, Tucson considers homeless plan

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The Tucson agenda

Pima County to vote on new boss, Tucson considers homeless plan

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

  • Acting County Administrator Jan Lesher is set to step out of the wings and take over for Chuck Huckelberry on a permanent basis.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comActing County Administrator Jan Lesher is set to step out of the wings and take over for Chuck Huckelberry on a permanent basis.

Chuck Huckelberry's hulking tenure as the Pima County administrator is coming to an end. The age of Jan Lesher may be set to begin.

Huckelberry is retiring six months after a terrible bicycle accident left the biggest boss in Pima County hospitalized and going through physical therapy.

The Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday during  their regular meeting to accept his resignation and move on to considering Lesher as his replacement.

Lesher has served as Huckelberry's right hand since January 2011. She's prepared to take the job, although I had heard that she wasn't interested in it. Then again, Caesar rejected the crown a few times before he declared himself emperor. And Lesher's made plenty of moves rearranging high-level posts in the months she's been the acting county administrator.

Huckelberry will be hard to replace. His tenure saw him stabilize a county government in the early 1990s, after then-Board Chairman Ed Moore's rampaging efforts to remake it as he saw fit. Huckelberry established the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan later in the decade. He helped start the Regional Transportation Plan in the mid-aughts. And he steered the county through the economic hellscape that was the Great Recession and through much of the coronavirus pandemic.

For more than a quarter-century, Huckelberry was the go-to guy to get something done in Southern Arizona.

Lesher, as acting and interim administrator, has been a pretty strong leader through the latter stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Of late, she's pushed the board to take care of county employees with a variety of moves ranging from back sick pay to flexible scheduling. 

Gaining staff loyalty is a darned good way to start being the boss lady.

Goin' back some day to Teatro Carmen

County supervisors will also discuss naming the Teatro Carmen stage in Barrio Viejo "the Ronstadt Family Stage." It's part of a plan to raise $3 million plan to spruce up the facility, which also served as a Black Elks club for decades.

At the same, the city of Tucson has jumped in with an idea to rename Tucson Convention Center Music Hall after Linda Ronstadt.

Lesher goes to pains to point out that the Ronstadt family stage would recognize the musical contributions of the entire family. Frederico Ronstadt moved to Tucson the 1882 and was involved in music around town for years, as was other members of the family.

Without Linda, the Ronstadts are the Drachmans. And yeah, they might have all been involved in music, but Linda made the cover of Time Magazine in 1977. Fredrico did not. Her backing band formed a little side hustle that sold 200 million records, under the "could-make-something-of-themselves" monicker "Eagles."

I don't know if the city and county's Ronsdtad-i-fying of local musical landmarks is a coincidence or competition to big-foot one another out of spite. Heavens, why would I think that?

Meanwhile, the board will consider an agenda item that actually predates Huckelberry in voting on subdivision approval for two projects associated with Rocking K Ranch. 

Rocking K was a massive rezoning that was approved in the early 1990s and much of it remains unbuilt. It's out on Old Spanish Trail and East Valencia Road.

The builders would have four years to build the 268 homes on the two parcels or the subdivision plat agreement would expire (or the builder can ask for an extension). Tucson won't be waiting for 30-plus more years for something to happen out there.

A fireworks display at La Paloma is scheduled for April 10. Neighbors in the Catalina Foothills may want to tend to their dogs around 7:30 p.m., because the plan is to launch 253 shells with 703 aerial effects.

Meanwhile on the addendum of the agenda for Tuesday's meeting (where the supervisors play by putting their own items on the list of what to discuss), Supervisor Matt Heinz is asking the board to spend $6 million to beef up the County Health Department. He is also asking for more money to be added thereafter.

And then there's Steve Christy. The lone Republican has a lot he wants to bring up: a discussion on taxes in the upcoming budget to make sure the rate doesn't increase; an update on a county lawsuit against the city over Tucson Water's new higher charges on customers outside city limits; and he'd like the County Attorney Office's Victim Services program to be restructured to better help rural residents in the wake of PCAO quietly dialing back those services.

Christy and his staff know full well the board can't "restructure" anything in the County Attorney's Office. The county attorney is elected by voters to structure her office how she sees fit. This does, however, give him the opportunity to voice some complaints/gripes/gentle suggestions.

Live, from Alameda, it's Tuesday afternoon and evening!

Let's move over to the Tucson City Council, which will be meeting in public. Yeah. Head down to 255 W. Alameda Ave., and take part in the fun.

During the regular meeting, the council will vote on the appointment of a new director of the Transportation and Mobility Department. Samuel Credio has spent 11 years with the city and the last 14 months working in City Manager Mike Ortega's office. Credio will make $175,000 a year.

Ortega made the hire but it requires approval by the Council.

The Council will also vote on a plat for 310 homes on South Wilmot Road and East Diablo Sunrise Road. The project conforms with zoning, land-use and subdivision rules for the city, so the council can't really say no. 

But with Rocking K, that's 578 homes set for approval during the week ... and counting ...

See, there's this housing crunch going on and prices are exceeding what the local population can afford without doing themselves (and the rest of the economy) financial damage.

Along those lines, the city staff will report during the Council's afternoon study session some good news on the homeless front. Since November, the city's three transitional shelters have housed 130 people and moved 33 of them into permanent housing, while 88 are receiving transitional services and fewer than 10 have returned to homelessness.

Then there's some not-so-good news. The council, sitting as the Public Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, will vote on writing off $26,175 in unpaid rent and damages incurred between November 2021 and February 2022.

If the city continues to roll up unpaid rent fees, then they could lose points with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developments when it comes time for future grants.

Take a walk around the block, Republicans. The City Council is writing off scofflaws to apply for more social welfare. That's gotta stick in your craw.

The board/commission/council also will vote on a five-year master plan to satisfy federal rules in applying for those grants.

Then city leaders will face flat-out bad news because it looks like the city is going to have to overhaul it's Native Plant Protection Ordinance not a month after they overhauled their Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance.

Same reason applies to both, apparently. The plant protections have proven unenforceable. We know this because Ortega says in a memo to the Council, that the city has not enforced it. It's that or the Development Services Department needs a new director.

Protecting native plants is necessary to keep invasive plants from taking over. Also, Tucson's not the home of the oak tree. It's Saguaro Central and needs to stay that way.

What's theirs is mine

I want to take a detour down to Santa Cruz County for a sec, where county supervisors will hold a public hearing on whether to accept a 134-acre piece of land from a mining company to turn it into a public park. In return, the county would cede to the mining company a right away needed for its planned operations.

The gift comes from a Aussie mining giant South32, which bought a concern called Arizona Mineral Corp, and now owns plans for mining silver and other minerals in the Patagonia Mountains.

Some down in Santa Cruz County really oppose this mine and question the deal. They are also critical of the county's purported secrecy about the details. Well, the details are coming Tuesday morning.

Also down south, the Nogales City Council will cast a vote on technicalities required to pay off part of their unfunded public safety pension liabilities with bond money.

The council voted in January to issue bonds — IOUs to bondholders — to pay off $16 million of its $33 million pension liability. Then the plan is to invest the money and use the gains to pay off the debt.

Now they apparently are setting up the method to invest the money and where they want their money managers to put it for the most return with the least risk.

If the economy tanks, Nogales is screwed. If the market trends upward, then Nogales can pay off a big debt with very little fuss and muss.

Prior to the regular meeting, the council will hold a special meeting in executive session to interview candidates for city magistrate. The council is using the personnel issue work-around of the open meeting law to hold this meeting behind closed doors.

I don't know. Judges seem like they should be interviewed more out in the open. 

Westward weed

In South Tucson, their city council will vote on some liquor license applications and to change the zoning code to allow for medical marijuana dispensaries and "cultivation locations."

I once took a pot plant with planting soil from a friend of mine leaving town. I put it outside, thinking "Maybe someday I'll grow a plant."  Then I forgot about it during a period of heavy rain. A few months later I had six feet of felonies growing on my balcony. 

Would I have been in more trouble with Tucson police or a zoning inspector?

Looking northward, the Oro Valley Town Council has a very light agenda that includes the town taking over a small stretch of Westward Look Drive that serves two houses and stables for horseback riding and changes to the town's strategic plan.

The strategic plan identifies seven focus areas (Effective and Efficient Government, Public Safety ... the usual suspects) outlines rough initiative about how to reach goals.

I gotta say, though, the plan is nine pages long. Making it the probably the shortest strategic plan (that I know about) in America.

Good to know the OV Council puts about as much stock in these plans as I do.

From the days of yore

And in Marana, the Town Council is about to be cut loose from a 2009 "administrative directive" covering social media. The old rule, which probably made sense at the time when the council was trying to figure out Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, gave the power to regulate one another's posts and tweets.

Well, 12 1/2 years later, the council realized social media doesn't work that way. So the town is writing new rules for social media and none will apply to elected officials.

Welcome to 2013, Marana.

And finally, throw on 91 more homes in Gladden Farms, also up for final plat review, to the Rocking K total and city totals. So local governments will be clearing the way for going on 700 homes in one week.

During the month of February, the Tucson Association of Realtors reported just 900 homes on the market.

Rising prices are signals to builders to make more product. The market might be working the way Econ profs say they do.

I smell a housing boom in the air.

The Tucson agenda

Public meetings this week:

Pima County Board of Supervisors

Tucson City Council

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors

South Tucson City Council

Marana Town Council

Nogales City Council

Oro Valley Town Council

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