Hot stuff: Tucson & Pima County gov't set to discuss heat measures

Well, it’s “ice break time on the Santa Cruz River” or whatever the infernal tradition is that ushers in triple-digit temperatures in Tucson.

As suggested by a t-shirt maker whose product was popular on the University of Arizona campus back in the day: “It’s F&*ing Hot!”

The Pima County Board of Supervisors and the Tucson City Council have noticed, and both will discuss the desert’s inevitable heat and what can be done to protect people from it.

On this, the city is well ahead of the county. Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher put a heat item on the agenda basically saying “Hey, we should talk about the weather.” The county wants to develop a communications plan.

The city has a 68-page report full of suggestions and action plans for what to do about that nasty sun out to get us all.

Tucson has three overarching goals and then more than 60 “action steps” to achieve them. Goal 1: Raise awareness and protect people from the heat so it doesn’t kill people. Goal 2: Cool people’s homes and community centers, where people might try to escape the heat and Goal 3: Cooling neighborhoods. 

Goal 1 can be summarized as public outreach, collaboration with employers and contractors, while punctuating with asking the Legislature for more power to regulate for heat. Be happy this Legislature doesn’t pass laws preventing local rules requiring water breaks, a la Texas.

Goal 2 focuses on community cooling centers and “resilience hubs.” The city has two community cooling centers already, for the unsheltered needing to escape the sun. Resilience hubs … I had to go online to search for what in the name of Wilbur, they were. This from

Resilience Hubs are community-serving facilities augmented to support residents, coordinate communication, distribute resources, and reduce carbon pollution while enhancing quality of life. Hubs provide an opportunity to effectively work at the nexus of community resilience, emergency management, climate change mitigation, and social equity while providing opportunities for communities to become more self-determining, socially connected, and successful before, during, and after disruptions.

 I don’t know what that means, either. I do however marvel at the deployment of a half-dozen buzz words in a single sentence (“community-serving,” “quality of life,” “nexus of community resilience,” “social equity,” “self-determining, socially connected” and Milleni-Z’s favorite euphemism “disruptions”). It ought to be printed in black letters and displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. That’s a soup can.

Alvin Toffler wrote in the Third Wave about community work centers being the way of the future.  Sounds vaguely like this. He wrote the book in 1980 and got the paperless office right.

Goal 3 is to provide neighborhood-wide cooling options like Mayor Regina Romero’s 1 Million Trees initiative.  We all laughed at it (by we, I mean journalists) but it has actually succeeded in planting more than 107,000 around our town.

That’s a legit start.

Trees provide shade and they can absorb the heat better than, say, rocks and dirt. Cover more of the area with trees. Cool the place down.

Tucson also has an Urban Forestry Program, seeking to preserve and expand tree canopy during construction projects.

Then there’s “tree equity,” which absolutely triggers the Newsmax crowd but is an actual thing. Don’t believe me, see what would happen if the Council voted to move the trees from Sam Hughes and Colonia Solana over to Tres Pueblos or Drexel Park.

Sam Hughes residents would be chasing the tree service guys’ truck down the street brandishing their New Yorker magazine like Scots wield claymores.

Incentives for improved-energy efficient cooling are also part of the deal.

The county meanwhile, is working on talking about it.

Sun Tran Next

Sun Tran and Sun Express are also up for rejiggers, which the Council will discuss during its study session Tuesday.

The whole idea is to rework Sun Tran and Sun Express service to improve service, meeting demands in the market, without adding any money to the overall programs. Some routes will be altered slightly and others discontinued entirely. High-traffic bus lines will get expanded service times and/or run more frequently.

The plan begins by screwing me.

Line No. 1 will no longer run down Swan Road, instead moving a mile to the east and running down Craycroft from Glenn Street. The 34 will run north on Swan up to Glenn. However, the 1 will no longer take riders Downtown. Grrrrrr. It’s like how the 9 (East Grant Road) line stopped going to the University of Arizona. More Grrrr as Sun Tran people continue to isolate this writer from easy access to either.

Then it moves on to changes for the rest of Tucson. I’m including the major overhauls. To see how you are affected, read the bottom of the 80-page summary. They make it pretty easy to peruse.

The No. 4 line down East Speedway will have expanded hours, as late as midnight on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.

The No. 16 and 18 lines will be merged into a single route down North Oracle and that will account for 12 percent of all boardings on any given day. Hours will be expanded to midnight weekdays and 11 p.m., on weekends. As soon as more money comes available, plans are to increase the frequency to one bus per 10 minutes.

North Stone Avenue has been deemed too close to North Oracle and North Euclid/First Avenues served by the 6 line.

So the 18 line down Stone is headed to a farm upstate, where it can run and play with the Grant Road stop on the UA campus. It will be joined by the 22’s service down West Speedway. A new Route 62 will take over part of the service, running from the Tohono Tadai Transit Center to the new Amazon facility at West Ina and North Silverbell.

The 27 line down Valencia will turn into a straighter shot as it will no longer dogleg north to Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus, which will instead be served by the 29.

Express routes are also up for a major overhaul.

Routes 102X and 104X will be combined into a single Route 124X. The new route will zigzag from Oro Valley to Interstate 10 into Downtown.

Similarly, routes from Marana and Oro Valley to Raytheon Aero Park will be combined into a single Route 205X.

The 108X line down Broadway will cease to operate as service is slated to be expanded on the regular 8 line.

Service on Route 401X, from Golder Ranch Road down North Oracle to Tohono Tadai, will be extended to Downtown during peak hours, when the frequency will increase from every hour to every half-hour.

Icing the budget

The City Council will also move to hold a public hearing and vote on the final $2.4 billion, 2024-25 budget. 

There aren’t a lot of major changes to the city spending plan because of a looming deficit next fiscal year and uncertainty about what the heck is going to happen with the state’s budget woes. Trouble in the Legislature almost always results in trouble south of the Gila River.

The governor and Republican leaders have yet to work out a budget deal to fix a budget deficit of $700 million-ish dollars, largely because of giveaways to higher income earners and the flat-out rich.

But yeah, the real problem in Arizona is brown people wanting to come through here or stick around and do work that needs to be done.

Outgoing City Manager Mike Ortega has done some really good stuff but might I suggest to his replacement, Timothy Thomure, bring back the budget book. Ortega likes to just submit the legally required accounting form to the state.

Budget books, though time-consuming, actually help members of the community figure out quickly what’s going on, with snappy graphics and plain vernacular.

If the city is going to take away my bus service to Downtown, it can throw me this bone.

The Council will also take a look at the deal offered the Tucson Roadrunners to keep them from a permanent move to Phoenix.

The team is trying to move up to Phoenix for a few games this upcoming season before eventually relocating permanently to the Valley.

Roadrunners’ management faces plenty of complications to pull off the move, so there’s an outside shot Tucson could keep the AAA farm club for the Utah Whatevers, (formerly, the Arizona Coyotes and yet to be renamed).

The Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board already OKed their part of incentives to keep the team around, ponying up to cover half the team’s arena rent, 50% of their office lease, and dropping a $2 per ticket fee.

Now the city needs to approve their part of the package, which would keep the Roadrunners playing in Tucson for 30 games next year. The Council needs to sign off on the hockey team playing six “home games” away from the arena (and likely in the Phoenix metro).

Stay tuned.

Also set for executive session is a private, legal discussion about how the council should proceed with Tucson Electric Power Co.’s proposed plan to run power lines through Midtown, from East 36th Street to West Grant Road and Interstate 10.

Part of the realignment is expected to be above ground and let’s just say these lines are not aesthetically pleasing. Neighbors are upset. On the other hand, TEP swears up and down that this 10-figure investment is necessary to improve system-wide reliability. So others will be upset if blackouts happen as a result of not building the connection.

All I know is a giant publicly traded corporation rarely wants to invest millions of dollars in anything other than stock buybacks. So I tend to err on the side of trusting this is necessary.

The Council will vote during its regular meeting on a new towing ordinance to protect residents from excessive charges and random confiscations.

Among other things, the new ordinance:

  • Caps maximum towing charge, after-hours fees, and storage fees
  • Standardizes sign design required to tow from private parking areas
  • Prohibits charging an amount greater than that posted on the required signs in the parking area (not including credit card fees)
  • Prohibits charges for an incomplete tow
  • Requires permission from the property owner (or their representative) to tow from private parking areas
  • Requires photo evidence of the parking violation

This is the brainchild of Councilmember Kevin Dahl, who requested a new ordinance a year ago. The rules resemble those in place now in cities around Arizona, specifically in the Phoenix area.

Amygdalas, human and canine

The collective dogs must have eaten Pima County’s homework because the Board of Supervisors apparently has next to nothing going on during its meeting Tuesday. At least that’s what their bare-bones agenda shows.

Part of me wants to lead with my editorially required “All Dog Alerts” about fireworks permits.

There’s a discussion about excessive heat, which appears to be more of freestyle dialogue (or the county staff doesn’t have a report done as of Friday morning).

The Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on re-upping the contract with the group Humane Borders to place water in the desert for migrants. I’m sure no one will gripe about that. It’s not like immigration gets anyone’s amygdalas rattled.

Aside from that, it’s fireworks.

Six displays are in the works for late June and July 4. They are slated to start: June 22, at 9:15 p.m., at Skyline Country Club, June 29 at 8:45 p.m., at Forty-Niner Country Club and 45 minutes later at 9:30 p.m., at Tucson Speedway. Next are a pair of July 4 displays. One is at Tucson Country Club, beginning at 9 p.m., and another starting at 9:15 p.m., at Skyline Country Club.

So cover Fido’s ears.