In the aftermath of the worst phases of the Coronavirus Epidemic, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero delivered her third State of the City Address at the Tucson Metro Chamber and highlighted her and the City Council’s work and accomplishments in dealing with COVID-19, public safety, the economy and equality, affordable housing, infrastructure, and the water crisis/green sustainability.

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The Mayor comes on at 25:56.

Photo from Mayor Regina Romero Facebook Page.

Reminding the audience that her vision for Tucson is “an equitable, sustainable, thriving desert city,” Mayor Romero started her address by recounting the trials residents had to endure with the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We cannot underestimate the destruction and continued consequences of the global pandemic; including the extraordinary loss of life. In Pima County alone, we have lost over 4000 of our neighbors, family, and friends. The cost of this pandemic on Tucson and our world is nearly impossible to quantify. We continue to see the effects on our children whose education and social development were interrupted. We continue to face shortages and delays caused by global supply chain issues that cause the inflation we feel today. There were so many people and families who were living on the brink, paycheck to paycheck, who lost jobs or had to stay home with their school-age children or care for family members with COVID. There were so many small business owners and entrepreneurs who figured out ways to shift their business models to try and keep afloat. Some, did not survive. It is true, our understanding of COVID-19 and ways to keep ourselves and each other safe has grown since the early days in 2020. Even so, we need to remain vigilant. My most sincere appreciation goes to the Pima County Board of Supervisors, for making sure vaccines, boosters, and tests are readily available, in an easily accessible way, at low to no cost. Thanks, also, to President Biden and our Congressional delegation for their tireless work making sure that they took every necessary step in helping us ALL mitigate this disease. The Federal Funding made available through the American Rescue Plan has been transformative; especially the funds that were sent directly to cities like Tucson that received $136 million dollars to invest in a brighter future. We continue to work to make sure every single Tucsonan experiences a resilient recovery.”

After reminding the audience that her ethic is to work collaboratively and creatively with all public and private stakeholders, the Mayor then explained the steps she and the Tucson City Council had taken to improve public safety, affordable housing, infrastructure, small business, and the water crisis/green sustainability:

On public safety, Ms. Romero cited moves that have helped Tucson residents including:

  • the hiring of Chad Kasmar as Tucson’s Chief of Police in 2022.
  • the receipt of at least five federal grants to help fund Tucson public safety projects.
  • the hiring of Sharon McDonough as Tucson’s new Public Safety Communications Director. She has been charged with helping to help “stabilize our 911 Communications Department.”
  • eight million dollars to “bring the newly remodeled Emergency Communication Center, serving 9 Public Safety Agencies in the Tucson region.”

On the economy and equity, Mayor Romero pointed out that:

  • she and the Council had passed a “historic wage increase” for City Employees.
  • “hired Laurice Walker as Tucson’s FIRST Chief Equity Officer.”

She also announced later in her speech the formation of the Transform Tucson Fund which will provide:

  • “Our AVANZA Revolving Loan Fund for Under-Represented Entrepreneurs. I’ve asked my colleagues on the Council to JOIN me in adding $1.5 million to the $3 million in funding secured by the IDA from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • The City of Tucson Small Business Program and the City of Tucson IDA are co-locating to our one-of-a-kind small business incubation center. This facility will help small businesses get access to capital and wrap-around support under one roof.
  • Our public-private partnership with the Tucson Association of Realtors and the IDA will bring $1.5 million dollars to fund the Essential Worker’s Mortgage Assistance fund.”

The goal of this program is to further energize Tucson’s robust and comprehensive economy by “powering the future of Tucson with green jobs and infrastructure, greater diversity and upward mobility in our small business ecosystem, investments in a 21st-century workforce, and a resilient, climate-adapted city.”

On affordable housing, the Mayor relayed:

“…The City of Tucson was a successful partner in distributing $53 million in Federal Rental Assistance Funds to support more than 9,800 households in Tucson and South Tucson. Another $10 million dollars was used to convert vacant hotels into transitional and low-barrier shelter housing and to provide support services for those experiencing homelessness. We continue to provide affordable and stable housing through our Public Housing Authority, which assists over 5,300 households with rental assistance through our Housing Choice Voucher Program and over 1,500 public housing units that the City of Tucson owns and operates. In response to the needs of the 31,000 older adult households in Tucson who are housing-cost burdened, meaning they pay 30% or more of their income on housing, the City of Tucson is taking concrete action. The City of Tucson successfully applied for and received its first-ever Low Income Housing Tax Credit project. This historic partnership with the Arizona Department of Housing will use $2.1 million dollars in tax credits to build The Milagro on Oracle.

This project, an excellent example of adaptive reuse, will bring 63 units of affordable housing for older adults to the Grant and Oracle area. It highlights the possibilities that result from re-imaging what is possible with public/private partnerships. Our approach to providing resources for our unsheltered neighbors is multi-faceted…We have created a Homeless Encampment Reporting Tool. This puts the power in ALL of our hands to provide precise information to help direct service outreach and cleanup. These may include Environmental Services clean up, Housing First services, or enforcement. In another exciting step, the City of Tucson’s Housing First team and Community Safety, Health, and Wellness Teams have co-located to the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center. This will improve efficiency. In 2022, Housing First staff have provided outreach to 1512 individuals and connected 225 people to permanent housing.”

On infrastructure, she praised local efforts such as the passage of Proposition 411 which “will bring $740 million over ten years to fix every residential road, and build needed pedestrian and bicycle safety infrastructure for Tucson.”

She also cited the funding provided by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, thanking the efforts of Biden/Harris Administration officials like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for approving the funding of projects like “$25 million RAISE grant for the City of Tucson’s 22nd Street Bridge Revitalization Project.”

On the Water Crisis and Green Sustainability, Mayor Romero stated:

“Every single Tucsonan deserves a city that holds its resources dear and takes actions today to build our climate resilient future. To that end, I have worked with my colleagues on the Council, Tucson Water and City Staff, our federal delegation, and statewide partners to take clear action to address Tucson’s water security. Without safe, reliable, sustainable water resources, cities, including Tucson, will not exist into the future…When I was invited to testify in Washington D.C., before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, I was able to share the actions we have taken, along with those of Mayors and Councils in the past, that have secured our water future for several decades to come.

Under my leadership, we have continued to take strong action to protect our water future focusing on increasing conservation, making the decision to wisely leave nearly 26,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead this year, with a commitment to do so again in the next three years.

In the face of rising temperatures and extreme heat, I have worked in conjunction with our consultants, Buro Happold, all Council Members, nearly 1000 Tucsonans in person, and over 4000 in online surveys, to craft specific strategies in a Climate Action Plan that will guide us in mitigating the effects of climate change and builds Tucson’s climate resiliency. Acting on climate in bold ways is one of the demands I hear from Tucsonans most frequently. I am happy to report that Tucson’s draft plan, Tucson Resilient Together, will be available for public review early in 2023 and a final version will come before Mayor and Council for a vote. Our plan, the FIRST of its kind in Arizona, and one of the FIRST of this scope in the nation brings together the best of the knowledge we hold here in Tucson, including input from often marginalized communities with cutting-edge science and research from the University of Arizona. A Climate Action plan, such as ours, positions Tucson strategically to compete for federal dollars. And, we have already been successful. Our EV Roadmap has paved the way for Tucson to become the city with the largest low and no-emissions electric bus fleet in the entire Southwest!”

Striking a note of maternalism and optimism, Mayor Romero concluded her address with:

“As you have heard, 2022 has been busy. I love being your Mayor and am proud of the work we are doing to benefit every single Tucsonan. Working together, we will achieve the just, equitable future we envision, where every single Tucsonan can live their best lives in our beautiful, thriving, resilient city.

We are one- Somos Uno Tucson.”

 

 

 

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