Tag Archives: sustainability

Legislative Whirlwind Part 4: Lettuce & Birds (video)

Lettuce in Yuma

Here we can see miles of fields of Romaine lettuce with crews of migrant workers in the distance. In the foreground are 1000s of discarded outer Romaine lettuce leaves. Workers severely trim lettuce heads down, so they can be sold as “Romaine hearts”. The leaves will be plowed back into the ground for nutrients, but still, the waste was surprise to someone like me who heard “waste not want not” many times while growing up.

During our Yuma Legislative Tour in December, we saw miles and miles of lettuce, cotton, broccoli, seed crops, and more. We got muddy and trudged around the Romaine lettuce fields with migrant workers, and we also toured a cotton gin. (More photos are here on my Facebook page.)

After our first day of touring Yuma’s agricultural areas, we heard multiple presentations at a hosted dinner paid for by different growing/ranching industry groups and served up by 4H and JTED youth. The presentation by Paul Brierley, director of the University of Arizona Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, stuck out in my mind. He talked about using engineering technology to help growers in the Yuma area. According to the UA website, “The [Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture], based in Yuma, is a public-private partnership (PPP) between the college and the Arizona and California desert agriculture industry, dedicated to addressing ‘on-the-ground’ industry needs through collaboration and research.” The website continues on to say: “More than two dozen industry partners from Yuma and Salinas, California, have invested in the center, together committing more than $1.1 million over the next three years.”

Brierley is an affable engineer who grew up on a large farm. According to Bierley, the primary problem that industry partners wanted the PPP center to tackle was “productivity”. He talked about different ways to boost productivity by using technology. For example, Brierley said that the date palms needed help with pollination. He showed a photo of a migrant worker pollinating date trees using a machine that looked like a leaf blower strapped on his back. This human-assisted pollination worked, but to improve productivity, the UA and Yuma growers began experimenting with drones. They found that drones to be more efficient pollinators than people. Technology to the rescue: mechanical birds. (For some jobs, this is the future: people being replaced by machines.)

Another problem area that had been identified as a hindrance to productivity was birds.

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Sustainable Econ Dev: $70 Mil for 2 Corps or $1 Mil Each for 70 Local Businesses? (video)

World View

Contractors have begun blading the desert at the World View site.

In the name of economic development, Rio Nuevo and Pima County are poised to dole out $70 million in corporate welfare to two big corporations– $50 million to Caterpillar and $20 million to World View.

Ironically, one day before the Rio Nuevo Board announced the multi-million-dollar Caterpillar package for Tucson, I posted this article on saying “no” to Wall Street debt and corporate welfare and “yes” to helping local small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive with low-cost loans.

Let’s think about this a moment. These two governmental entities are have voted to invest $70 million worth of taxpayer funds in two companies– one company is being lured away from other states to move here and the other is a Tucson company with big ideas and little cash. Is borrowing millions of dollars to give it away sustainable economic development?

According to data from the University of Arizona Eller College, Tucson has one of the highest per capita rates of new patents in the US. We also have new start-up tech companies being nurtured at the UA Tech Park. We have smart scientists + new ideas. Why aren’t we helping entrepreneurs and growing our own local businesses with low-cost loans via a public bank?

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Broadway Widening… Again! How Many Times Do the People Have to Say ‘NO!’

Broadway Village Shopping Center, designed by Tucson icon Josais Joesler, is one of the most unique shopping locations in Tucson. It could be destroyed with the widening of Broadway.

Broadway Village Shopping Center, designed by Tucson icon Josais Joesler, is one of the most unique shopping locations in Tucson. It could be destroyed with the widening of Broadway.

UPDATE: About 200 Tucsonans came to the Tucson City Council meeting publicized below. The Arizona Daily Star reported that the city “got an earful” from residents who want a modest project on Broadway. The final City Council vote will be Tuesday, April 19.

Remember all of those public meetings in which the citizens of Tucson said they don’t want Broadway Blvd turned into a massive eight-lane highway?

Or how many times we said we wanted to keep valuable historic buildings on Broadway? Or how many times we said that following obsolete growth projects was a silly idea? Or how many times we said, “We’re widening Grant Rd., why widen Broadway, too?”

Well, apparently, we have not told the Mayor and Council, “Enough is Enough” enough times.

I thought the fight over sustainable development and modest expansion of Broadway had been won months ago when the citizens task force voted to go with a smaller foot-print for the widening– a plan that the neighbors and concerned citizens agreed with– but no. Developers, real estate speculators, and automobile promoters are putting pressure on the Mayor and Council to ignore the will of the citizens.

TONIGHT – April 5 at 5:30 p.m. is another major public hearing on the Broadway Widening Project. Note the location change. It will be at the County Board of Supervisors meeting room. Details from the Broadway Coalition, link to a petition to sign, and links to four years of past articles after the jump. 

Tucson Loves the Streetcar: 60,000 Ride in First 3 Days (images)

SunLink StreetcarTucsonans celebrated the debut of the modern streetcar in a BIG way this past weekend– by riding it en masse. Following multiple ribbon-cutting ceremonies along the route on Friday, July 25, 2014, 17,000 Tucsonans rode the SunLink streetcar on the first day alone.

A total of 60,000 people total rode the streetcar for free over the three-day weekend and flooded special events, restaurants, bars, and retail venues along the route. If social media is any indication, the well-organized celebration was a smashing success, with hundreds of smiling streetcar riders posting Facebook selfies, Tweets, and random video clips of the festivities and their experiences on the streetcar, at the pop-up downtown beach, or at the multiple events. The city is to be commended for orchestrating a complicated roll-out of a new mass transit service. From ice-cold water bottles and helpful volunteers at all of the stops to a pop-up beach party off of Congress, every detail was well planned and well executed.

The modern streetcar was part of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) vote in 2006. The RTA package included something for everyone– road widening for the sprawl promoters and bus pullouts, improved bike paths, and the streetcar for the sustainability activists.

But the streetcar is far more than a mass transit service. Here are the top 10 reasons why the modern streetcar (and mass transit) are good for Tucson– and good for you.

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Ronstadt Transit Center: City, Developers Ponder Proverbial Political Football (video)

RTCneon326-sig-sm72by Pamela Powers Hannley

Anyone who has lived in Tucson long enough knows that the vitality of downtown has ebbed and flowed with the winds of politics and the fortunes of capitalism.

Thanks to infrastructure investments, tax breaks, land deals, and the promise of Rio Nuevo college students with Daddy's credit cards, downtown is again on the upswing– with swanky bars, over-priced restaurants, micro-breweries, maxi-dorms, and a modern street car to deliver college students to the main gate of the university.

With the smell of money in the air, capitalists are ready to play "let's make a deal" with Tucson's Mayor and Council. One city property that developers have been trying to score for years is the Ronstadt Transit Center, on Congress. Once surrounded by seedy bars, funky diners, and shoe-string art galleries, the Ronstadt Center is now in the thick of downtown's rebirth as Mill Ave South.

Anyone who was around in 2009-2010 when developers lobbied for a land swap deal that would include ~40% of the Ronstadt Center for commercial development  should pay attention to what's happening now. Details and video after the jump.

At the February 5 meeting of Mayor and Council, Councilwoman Karin Uhlich moved that the city contact Corky Poster of Poster Frost Mirto to "begin a public planning process that will create a development vision and set of goals for the Ronstadt Transit Center (RTC) site, incorporating input from the recent Streetcar Charrette, the Downtown Tucson Partnership, the transit working group, the Bus Riders Union, adjacent property owners, surrounding neighborhood associations and the general public… Using the development vision and goals along with the information gathered in the stipulated staff analysis above, she further moved that the City Manager return to the Mayor and Council within 60-90 days with a draft Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking a qualified development team to plan, design, construct and own/lease/manage some components of an integrated mixed use development/transit center." [Emphasis added.]

Taking advantage of the 60-90 day public comment period, approximately 250 people filled the Rialto Theater on April 2, for the Bus Riders' Union public discussion about the future of the Ronstadt Transit Center.

After a few short speeches and a brief  history of why the Ronstadt was built on Congress Street in the early 1990s,  audience members were given the floor. From toilet paper and restroom doors that close and lock to sustainable downtown living to adding kid-friendly/people-friendly community space to the Ronstadt, about 20 citizens offered suggestions to improve the space. Not one person spoke in support of the idea of mixed use commercial development that would include retail or more maxi-dorms.

Instead, people spoke about the importance of the Ronstadt Center to their lives, the importance of community spaces to the health of our city, and the importance of an accessible public bus system to downtown.  (Watch a compilation of comments here.)

"We have to look at this from the aspect of what is best for the city–not what is best for developers," local attorney Bill Risner said. Risner and others cautioned attendees about the motives of developers who want to change the Ronstadt into a mixed use facility. He said they are looking at the Ronstadt as a "prime piece of real estate"– not as a resource for the community.

"We don't need a stores, not retail. We don't need a shopping mall above the Ronstadt," said one bus rider.  "We need public spaces for all of us [like playgrounds, band shells, gathering places]. Places where we all feel safe… [We need] things that bring us together and not tear us apart."

The idea that the Ronstadt Center should be developed as a community space– not a commercial space– came up multiple times.

"Make it beautiful."

"Make it a space we can be proud of."

"Act like this is a benefit and treat it that way."

Another common theme was that downtown businesses don't like the looks of the poor people who ride the bus and frequent the transit center. One speaker speculated that businessmen, developers, and even the Mayor and Council would rather push the "poor, the addicted, and the mentally ill"– along with the transit center– out of downtown and out of sight, rather than dealing with the problems that created their predicaments.

In their remarks following public comment, Uhlich and Councilwoman Regina Romero both alluded to their struggles to keep the Ronstadt Transit Center downtown. Although the current proposal calls for mixed use development plans for the Ronstadt, past development proposals have called for moving the transit center out of downtown.

If the standing room only Rialto crowd, the public comments, and the 4-inch stack of comment cards are any indication of public interest, the Mayor and Council need to tread lightly on the idea of commercial development on Ronstadt Transit Center site. The city has not had a good track record on negotiating with developers in the past. Remember the downtown hotel fiacso a few years ago? Former Mayor Bob Walkup and the City Council were ready to put millions of dollars into development of a downtown convention hotel– until the people rose up and said, "No way!"

I believe that the current Mayor and Council should heed the words of former City Councilwoman Molly McKasson when she cautioned against the city putting "all of its eggs in the development basket."

A few years ago when developers closed the gallery row in the 200 block of Congress Street to make way for more bars and restaurants, I wrote this story– What Is Our Shared Vision for Downtown?

My question still stands: What is our shared vision for downtown? Do we want 4th Ave and Congress Street to be Mill Ave South– with college bars and maxi-dorms– or do we want a vibrant community core for all of us?


UPDATED with New Events: Progressives, Mark Your Calendars for April Events!

RonstadtApril3 Update: New events have been added for April 6 and 9.

It’s only April 1, but already there is an impressive line-up of progressive events taking shape this month. In addition to these educational events, there are multiple fund-raisers for candidates, parties, and causes in April.  The list below is not meant to be all-inclusive. (Check out Facebook and the Pima County Democratic Party calendar or the calendar on Blog for Arizona for other events– including multiple opportunities to donate.) The Tucson events included here are all free and are related to one or more Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) core policy issues: economic and social justice, universal healthcare, clean elections, ending corporate personhood, clean environment, or ending the wars.

April 2: Community Vision for the Ronstadt Bus Center

The Tucson Bus Riders Union and the Primavera Foundation are sponsoring a community forum to gather Tucsonans’ ideas on what should be done with the Ronstadt Transit Center on Congress Street. For several years, developers have been eyeing the Ronstadt Center for demolition and relocation out of downtown. If you believe that it is important for a sustainable city to have a bus terminal downtown—near restaurants, retail shops, major employers, and the new street car line—come to this meeting at the Rialto Theater, beginning at 5:30. For more information, call 624-0312 or email busriders@tucsonbusridersunion.com or go to the event’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/events/496939023698809/.

April 3: Solar Energy Efficiency vs the Status Quo

The Tucson Chapter of Drinking Liberally is sponsoring a joint presentation by Bruce Plenk, City of Tucson Solar Energy Coordinator, and Russell Lowes, Sierra Club Rincon Group Energy Chair and Research Director forwww.SafeEnergyAnalyst.org. The DL social hour begins at 6 p.m., with the speakers beginning around 7 p.m. on the patio of The Shanty. For more information, check out DL’s Facebook event http://www.facebook.com/events/104680899727634/.

More events after the jump.

NEW,  April 6: Imperialism and Resistance in Central America

Kaufman, coordinator of the Alliance
for Global Justice, will present this talk at the Salt of the Earth Labor
College (SELC). With years of solidarity work with popular movements in Central
America, including recent trips to Honduras,
Kaufman is one of the strongest voices for a change in US foreign
policy. He has been calling for an end to US policies that leave many Central
Americans in poverty. The talk begins at 2 p.m. at SELC, 1902 E. Irene Vista. For more information, check out their website http://saltearthlaborcollege.org/index.php/schedule.

April 7 & 28: Cyclovia Tucson Car-Free Bike Rides

Cyclovia– a community event celebrating cycling and sustainable living– is holding two “car-free” and “care-free” community bike rides this month. On April 7, a downtown loop ride will take participants from downtown through the Armory Park Neighborhood. On April 28, the Cyclovia route will travel through midtown Tucson neighborhoods. Booths, demonstrations, and kids’ activities will dot the routes; both rides will be 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Go to Cyclovia’s websitehttp://www.cycloviatucson.org/ for maps and more information.

April 9: The Privatization of Prisons: History and Effects

Saguaro Eastside Democrats will present Diane Wilson who will discuss the history of prison privatization and the results of this trend in Arizona and nationally. Her information is based on research by the American Friends Service Committee and the PEW Foundation. The meeting will be held at the New Spirit Lutheran Church, 8701 E. Old Spanish Trail; socializing begins at 6:30 p.m., formal program at 7 p.m. For more information, go to the Pima Democratic Party’s calendarhttp://www.pimadems.org/event/sed-the-privatization-of-prisons-history-and-effects/.

NEW, April 9: AFSC JusticePalooza

American Friends Service Committee's JusticePalooza will be held at La Cocina
in downtown, beginning at 6 p.m. Please join AFSC and friends for a night of
music, entertainment, and good food and drink. There's no cover, but AFSC
gets 10% of everything you purchase at La Cocina. For more information,
including a list of musical guests, go to their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/events/547114365310197/.

April 11: Stop Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Not long after Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio won re-election in November 2012, a recall began. William James Fisher, Recall Arpaio Campaign Chair, will detail how and why Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are working together to recall Sheriff Joe. The event begins at 6 p.m. at Las Cazuelitas Event Center, 1365 W. Grant Road. For more information about the recall, go to Respect Arizona’s website https://www.recallarpaio.com/.

April 15: Can a Local Bank Protect You from a National Recession?

Democrats of Greater Tucson will present a talk on public banking by Jim Hannley, a registered investment advisor and chair of PDA Tucson’s Economic and Social Justice Issue Organizing Team. DGT meets for lunch at noon at the Dragon View Restaurant, 400 N. Bonita. Buffet lunch is $8.50.