The Tucson agenda
Pima Supes continue game of housing commission bingo
Tucson Council to get updates on RTA Next & new water policy, plus more in local gov't meetings this week
Housing, and its general lack of affordability, will go before the Pima County Board of Supervisors again this week.
What follows is a clichéd case of task force bingo that sums up why people hate government.
The board is slated to vote to disband an affordable housing commission and restart one that includes two representatives of each of the five supervisors, one appointed by the county administrator. Additionally, staff is recommending three commissioners be appinted by the city of Tucson, plus one each from Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita and South Tucson for a total of 18.
An affordable housing task force established in 2021 recommended eliminating the commission and starting from scratch with a new set of bylaws that would be more amenable to quorums and such.
The 11-member commission – not the operative 22-member task force – had failed to gather in a quorum since 2020 and hasn't been able to legally meet. In fact, there are just two duly sworn members on the commission.
The board told the task force "Meehhhh, maybe we'll keep the existing commission and, despite the task force's recommendation, but change the bylaws to make it more functional."
Then the board took two months to rewrite the proposed language governing an updated housing commission, that is not a new commission mind you. It's just got new rules, will have new members and represent jurisdictions not included in the original commission.
Yeah, you gotta love the Rube Goldberg mechanics and the utter lack of urgency.
Get 10 people in a room and tell them to go do something!
Meanwhile, County Administrator Jan Lesher asked the geographic information services folks to identify county owned land ripe for development. Something told me that took four seconds to kick out 30 properties.
Meanwhile, the board will consider a rezoning of 61 acres at South Cardinal Avenue and West Valencia Road to make way for 273 homes.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend the board deny the project. The roads just can't handle the traffic in the area, commissioners said.
Every new housing project will increase traffic and the whole region is struggling to meet transportation needs. It's a bit of an alarming development because the commission can use similar rationale to reject other projects.
It's a market thing. When home prices are doing what they doing in Tucson, it shows demand is outstripping supply. So new homes aren't about providing for future growth. They are required to satisfy the needs of the existing population.
Also on the housing front, Board Chair Sharon Bronson has asked for an inventory of county properties that can be used for temporary homeless shelters.
A hard Sells
There's an election coming up and Republican Supervisor Steve Christy continues to bird-dog the Elections Department, Specifically, he's concerned about enough Republicans being chosen to serve as election workers.
Basically the law says that key election workers (called judges, inspectors, ,marshals and clerks) be staffed at party parity. Essentially, for every Democrat, there should be a Republican.
The county is having problem finding Republicans in Sells, according to a memo provided by the Elections Department. And Republicans don't want to drive out to the reservation to do the job. The county can get around that if they make every effort to hire nonpartisan registered voters.
Gentle aside: Anyone seeking reassurance about the prospects of a civil war, should take heart in the fact that Arizona election deniers really don't want the inconvenience of driving a few miles to the Tohono O'Odham Nation.
My great, great, great, great, great grandfather – Jedediah Beelzebub (not real name) – walked from New York to South Carolina in the first war among the states.
A party loaded with election deniers and eager to prove fraud in Democratic strongholds now can't muster the troops willing to drive in their air-conditioned F150s the 64 miles down State Route 86 to watch an election. This doesn't seem like a "til-our-dying-breaths" crowd.
This isn't to say what Christy is doing is crazy. He's the only Republican on either the county board or Tucson City Council. He's taking care of his folks just as a Democrat would if the situation were reversed.
Pima County Constable Michael Stevenson has announced his resignation from Justice of the Peace Precinct 10. Stevenson, a Republican, didn't make any specific complaints about the county in his resignation letter, simply citing personal reasons for his departure. His term runs through the 2024 election.
His position will be filled by the board and because he's a Republican, they have to replace him with a Republican.
The Tucson City Council will get a rundown of two lists of regional transportation planning projects – one slate of work that will likely go unfunded from the 2006 RTA plan and another that is part of the city's dream list for RTA Next, which could go to voters in coming years.
The city is likely to have $150 millionish in unfunded projects promised in 2006. They are on all parts of town, from Camino Seco, to Silver Bell Road and from Valencia Road to Tanque Verde Road.
The Council still isn't sure how to move ahead with that unfulfilled to do list but is scheduled to spend another 30 minutes talking about it during Tuesday's study session.
The RTA's technical committee of engineering staffers from across the region has submitted a $4.5 billion wish list for work to be done across the county as part of RTA Next. Problem: RTA Next is set to generate $2.2 billion over 10 years in sales tax revenues.
The city of Tucson managed to get $553 million of its $610 million in priorities included in the RTA's master list. No, these are not the previous and unfunded projects, but rather a series of modernization initiatives across Tucson.
The thing about that list is that it's a highly doable roster of work that Tucson could fund on its own. The Council has openly discussed going its own way and leaving the RTA.
So stay tuned about how the unfunded projects might progress and how the city and the RTA's other jurisdictions might proceed.
Also during the study session, the Council will get an update on the city initiative to stock its fleet with electric vehicles to the degree they can.
It's going... slowly. The city has either bought or is is buying 25 electrical vehicles. One problem is a lack of charging stations. The city is eyeing a few city properties where they can install these stations.
A good start? I guess. A critical mass to make EV's ubiquitous enough to facilitate a community full of them? Hardly.
The Council will also consider three changes to water rules as it tries to plan for possible water shortages caused by the drought.
The city's elected leaders told the staff back in June to come up with a series of recommendations about how to get ahead of possible shortages, and now three new policies will be presented during the study session.
None of the following ideas are anywhere near becoming ordinances. There are still meetings to be held and stakeholders to be engaged.
One policy would require new multi-family and commercial projects install irrigation meters. The idea is to get a handle on water use and discover leaks. The staff is not yet suggesting higher rates for irrigation.
Another idea is to create a low-impact development ordinance. The idea is to take the city's rainwater harvesting ordinance now in place for commercial projects and expand it to residential development.
A third policy under consideration is to establish rules requiring new construction use low-use plumbing fixtures. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certifies these fixtures under the "WaterSense" brand. WaterSense is an optional federal program Tucson may turn into a mandate for new projects.
Of waste, chemicals and higher fees
Tucson Water will also ask the council for permission to start putting together plans for a PFAS water treatment site at the Randolph Golf Complex.
Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances are the bounty of the chemical industry and are used in a variety of consumer products. However, they don't break down and are coarsing through parts of Tucson's water system. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base brass has admitted it let some of these substances get released into the groundwater.
So, clean up for the toxic release of freedom.
Earlier this year, Tucson Water a pilot project to remove PFAS from the city's water. The permanent plant at Randolph golf course would take the city a long way toward dealing with the problem.
The Council will also get an update on the 10 tasks they demanded of the city staff to turn Tucson into a "zero waste community."
They're talking landfills and diverting refuse. Figuring out how to deal with urban solid waste has baffled civilization for millennia.
But Tucson seems to have it figured out. Check out the teeny tiny, itsy bitsy goal city Manager Mike Ortega wrote in a memo:
"The Zero Waste Plan will convert our linear economy to one that is more circular - treating waste as resources while minimizing the community’s carbon footprint."
MAGAs start your engines.
Dude, if you are going to reconfigure Tucson's economy, maybe hold a special session just on that.
The City Council will vote on issuing public notice that water rates, parking prices and development fees may be rising. They're moving ahead with a host of rate increases but first must warn the public they are coming and hold a public hearings on each tentatively scheduled for December 20. They wouldn't be trying to hold it right before Christmas to limit public participation, would they?
I find that impossible to believe.
The rates would then be voted on in January.
A wet withdrawal
The Marana Town Council will vote during its Tuesday meeting on a new plan by the Arizona Water Banking Authority about how to start withdrawing stored water.
Arizona towns and cities can store water they are entitled to in aquifers and then pump them at a later date. The state has updated its plan to do that and the council will vote on whether to agree to those terms.
The council will also vote on a change in zoning ordinances. Most of them are minor but one clarifies a prohibition of a medical marijuana cultivation site in town limits.
The practice is already banned but the town didn't define "cultivation site" so what was banned has been sort of up in the air. The new definition reads: "any cultivation site that is located at a separate physical location or site from a medical marijuana dispensary with a valid, unexpired conditional use permit."
So even if the dispensary is allowed, the owners can't grow the product in Marana.
There's also a change of an ordinance so vendors can sell shaved ice on public rights of way. OK.
In Oro Valley, the town council will vote on re-upping with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to help enforce a "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area."
Is Oro Valley a high-intensity drug trafficking area? It's probably more related to policing U.S. Highway 77 (North Oracle Road).
More policy updates from Phoenix
The Vail and Sunnyside school district governing boards will tweak policies much in the same way other boards have based on changes to state law.
In fact, the districts outsource many of their policy updates to the Arizona School Board Association. Shouldn't policy changes be done at the local level? And shouldn't there be some deliberation about how to abide by the law while still delivering the kind of educational product parents can expect?
I'm not sure that's something that should be outsourced to Phoenix.
The Vail district will also vote to approve the coolest trip of the year – of any district – for a handful of Vail Academy and High School students.
If the board approves, 16 of them will travel to Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California to study the ocean floor.
Students will attend the Catalina Island Marine Institute.
The Tanque Verde Unified School District Governing Board will get a legally required bond and over-ride update about the status of funds.
About $2.8 million remains of the original $6.1 million bond approved by voters in 2020. In all, 86 percent of the spending so far has gone to construction.
A budget override – exceeding the district's spending limit – of $2 million was generated in fiscal year 2021-22. The money has been split between class size reduction, K-6 special programs, all-day kindergarten, advanced placement classes and hiring registered nurses and librarians.
Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bruce Bracker will ask his colleagues to discuss a possible plan to provide county-wide broadband using transmission towers.
Interesting. There's no other supporting material than that but, hey, why not discuss it? Not sure how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will feel about it but they might as well discuss it.
Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 25 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.