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Tucson City Council to consider lifting eviction hold on city-owned housing, ponders water supplies

The Tucson agenda

Tucson City Council to consider lifting eviction hold on city-owned housing, ponders water supplies

Local school budgets trickling in for approval, plus more in local gov't meetings this week

  • Eviction notices on an apartment window. The Tucson City Council is ready to start evictions in public housing if arrangements with past-due tenants can't be reached.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comEviction notices on an apartment window. The Tucson City Council is ready to start evictions in public housing if arrangements with past-due tenants can't be reached.

The Tucson City Council is planning to lift the eviction moratorium on municipal public housing units.

At a Tuesday study session, city staff will ask for an informal nod to move into a new stage of dealing with tenants who have fallen behind on their rent on city-owned apartments.

There have been numerous moratoriums on evictions initiated and removed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The federal restrictions were either lifted by the administration or barred by the Supreme Court.

The city's moratorium applies only to housing on property it owns.

City Manager Mike Ortega said that 190 tenants owe about $135,000 in unpaid rent. Frankly, that's pretty good and kind of blows up Thomas Hobbes' idea that without threat of a monstrous government, chaos and anarchy ensue.

In all, 79 percent of tenants are current on their accounts. The ones who owe anything average less than $1,000 in arrears apiece. So the city,  wisely isn't actually moving evictions but is preparing to set up payment plans so these tenants can get caught up.

Water, PFAS and industry

Tucson Water will also give the Council an update on plans to deal with potential rationing as a result of Lake Mead's continued evaporation.

The council can't vote on any action during a study session but city staff will provide an update about what arrangements are being made with which users ahead of what seems like inevitable use limits on Colorado River water.

Tucson water users are — for the moment — safe from any restrictions or rationing because the local water system has spare capacity. Going forward, things could get more tricky over the long term.

Water has never been unimportant in Arizona. It's always been bubbling just below the surface (unlike the dyhydraoxide compound itself, which is nowhere near the surface of anything, anymore).

The issue has very recently been popping up a lot, not the least of which is the state's $1 billion freakout over Arizona's long-term supply.

Shower while you can, Tucson.

While discussing the river water shortage, the council will also get an update on PFAS — polyfluoroalkyl substances — found in some parts of Tucson's water system.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued new findings declaring the chemical compounds a contributing factor in thyroid disease, elevated cholesterol, liver damage and kidney and testicular cancer. Even in small doses, many PFAS chemicals can be harmful.

The Council will get an update on where the city stands on its PFAS remediation efforts, and members are free to offer guidance on what to do next.

As the Council will take about month off after this meeting, the agenda for the regular meeting is packed with liquor licenses, event permits and rote business.

One big item on the Council's agenda is the approval of a 2,100-acre industrial park along Interstate 10 between South Houghton and Colossal Cave roads.

It's called a Planned Area Development, which means it's got different kinds of zonings on the site — in this case devoted to industrial use.

The project has been through its city approval process and the staff points out that the project conforms with applicable city planning efforts to manage growth.

Most importantly, though, the project originates on state land and the state land department has long understood its mission to sell parcels at their, ahem, "highest and best use." A low-impact, residential sustainability experiment ain't gonna fly on state land (unless maybe the next governor is named Katie Hobbs).  

Now all we need is industry. 

A Midtown rezoning is on the agenda that would convert a mobile home park at 4028 E. Blacklidge Dr. into a single family housing development. 

Neighbors might prefer new stick-built homes populating the neighborhood but the rezoning seems to be part of a trend to expel low-income earners from Midtown areas. 

It will be interesting to see if the Council raises that point as they have total discretion over rezonings. 

On the other hand, the Council is set to vote on allowing a bingo night at the Far Horizons RV Park. Will the fun never end.

The council will also respond to a request from Arroyo Chico neighbors to convert Winsett Street, from Treat Avenue to just west of Country Club Road, into a one-way street, with travel heading east only.

Traffic nerds can find  right here a full list of one-way streets in the city's ordinances.

Drainage and data

Speaking of nerds, some computer/data base smart people up in Glendale have developed a program that allows them to glean all sorts of detail in state sales tax records. 

The town of Marana wants some. So the town's finance staff is asking the town council to approve buying the Glendale application for $7,000, so it can better analyze tax data. 

The council will also vote on approval of a grant application to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to double the planned replacement of 1,848 meters scheduled for Fiscal Year 2022-23. 

Also on deck is a proposed an agreement with Mandarina South L.L.C., to widen the drainage system along  West Tangerine Road.  

Mandarina South is building a drainage system to make way for a development of 49 acres it owns on I-10 and West Tangerine Road. The town is widening Tangerine and has planned to accommodate that project with its own drainage system.

The developer and the town are now seeking an agreement for the Mandarina Drainage Upsizing. Yes, I told that story so I could type the words "Mandarina Drainage Upsizing."

Mandarina South will cover the costs of the project. 

More budgets and less culture war

The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board will vote on a $353 million budget that includes a modest reduction in taxes. According to the data the district provided, a $250,000 home will get an $80.35 cut in taxes from the district.

That's largely from the secondary tax rate, which the board has little to no control over, while the primary property tax rate remains unchanged.

The board will also vote on a partnership with San Francisco educational support organization WestEd, to provide professional improvement among teachers.

Remember all the outrage about teaching race relations in schools the way they actually happened, rather than how fragile white folk wish they had gone down?

Well, TUSD is set to approve it's "culturally relevant" textbooks for the upcoming school year and they apparently passed the state-mandated review period. The ability to review was meant to assist some parents in their outrage that race is taught in schools.

But these are just two of the books that made it through the process, as described by TUSD to anyone who cared to complain:

"The Black Kids," By: Christina Hammonds Reed, Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. The Black Kids, this book successfully tackles a complex subject by juxtaposing a legendary manifestation of racial disharmony with a promising tale of racial progress. This book explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots -Proposed for Grades 10th –12th.

"Chicano Movement for Beginners," By: Maceo Montoya, Publisher: For Beginners. Chicano Movement, this ELA book is an important attempt to stave off historical amnesia. It seeks to shed light on the multifaceted civil rights struggle known as “El Movimiento” that galvanized the Mexican American community, from laborers to student activists, giving them not only a political voice to combat prejudice and inequality, but also a new sense of cultural awareness and ethnic pride."

It sure seems like those descriptions contain nothing but trigger words for a certain segment of the population but the book but the board's agenda packet contains no comments criticizing the material. So I guess Tucson is cool with it. Go team.

The idea is just plain stupid that we can teach about injustice with more concern for fragility than progress. Stories of injustice should make people feel uncomfortable and if little Kylie feels discomfort, it's not proof that she's a racist, it's proof she possesses a human decency — something which should be fostered.

It's the little brat who learns about thumb screws and Wounded Knee and says "So?" that we have to watch out for.

The complete list of books is here.

The board is also revising its policy for public comments to the board to reflect certain new realities in the post-COVID world. The proposed guidelines would include a section that reads: "Speakers shall not threaten, harass, or intimidate any Board member, district staff or student, or other member of the TUSD community. Speakers shall refrain from using language that is obscene or vulgar."

Golly, I wonder who that's for? Anti-mask protesters did make a show of themselves at the Vail Unified School District during the height of the pandemic. And there have been plenty of outpourings of opposition to teaching race in school that whites find disquieting.

The plan is to propose this language, post it for public view and see if some believe that they should be able to threaten school board members.

Kidding aside, this could get a little tricky under the First Amendment because "We're going to vote you out," could be read as a threat, when it's a political statement. They might want to tighten up that language provide clarity to distinguish political speech from personal threats.

The district's Five-Year Strategic Plan will also be debated ahead of a final adoption.

As it stands, it's a pretty straight-forward strategic plan that pledges innovation with technology, providing culturally relevant education, career development for district teachers and employees, while strengthening ties to the community.

Vail, Amphi budgets and buses 

The Vail Unified School District will vote on approval of its $119 million budget during its meeting this week. Taxes are again, coming a down a little on the Southeast Side too.

The combined property tax rate in fiscal year 2021-22 stood at $3.0465 per $100 of assessed valuation but it's been reduced by $0.16 per $100 of assessed valuation to $3.0449 per $100 of assessed valuation.

The district has a $7 million increase in school funding and that increase has to do with the state's complicated system of deciding the levels of "base support" for local districts.

The property taxes people pay are based on the taxable portion of their property value. So it can vary from the total assessed valuation. 

The Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board will vote on its final budget, which includes a net tax cut of $0.05 per $100 of assessed valuation, even as secondary property taxes increase — by about 8 cents per $100 in assessed valuation — to pay for voter-approved overrides.

The total budget as reported to the state is $106 million, which is a 5.9 percent increase over last year. 

The average teacher salary under the new budget will pay a smidge over $50,000 per year.

Here's an interesting feature of the teacher evaluation system employed by the district: assessing student progress remains frozen.

Yes, the district will use testing scores from the 2018-19 school year to measure student growth. Except it absolutely does not. 

The district is in a bit of a bind here because the state canceled standardized testing in 2020 because of coronavirus. The canceled last year some of the data it uses. 

There's just no complete data to measure student progress. So how about throwing away all this teaching to the test B.S., and accept the fact that everyone knows who the good teachers are, regardless of test scores.

And the district is set to award bus service contracts to all five vendors who submitted a bid, because the district says it's "not advantageous" to have just one transportation vendor. 

They are Mountain View Tours Flagstaff Limousine DBA Divine Buses, Industrial Bus Lines Inc DBA All Board America,  Citizen Auto Stage DBA Gray Line Tours and Bee Line Transportation LLC ... Keith Bee is coming back, baby!

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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