Tucson is a city full of people with ideas. Big ideas. Small ideas. New ideas. Old ideas re-imagined. Tucson is a great place to live, and by unleashing the power of our ideas, we can make it even better. We can break out of old debates between business and neighborhoods or between left and right by listening to each other, working together, and applying creative problem-solving to our challenges.
When I started this page there were 25 weeks left before the August Primary election. Every Wednesday I will share an idea for how to make government work better. Twenty-five weeks. Twenty-five ideas.
I believe that we all rise together. We can help Tucson prosper and we can make sure that all members of our community share in our prosperity, whether they have been here for generations or just arrived yesterday.
I am running for Mayor to continue the successes we have seen under Mayor Rothschild, and to grow our economy even further. If we do it right, we can end cycles of homelessness, poverty, illiteracy, illness and prejudice. The strength of our community depends on the strength of our individual residents and our willingness to use our diversity to cement our unity as we create a greater Tucson together.
Idea Number One:
Renovate Aging Houses Through Job TrainingBenefits:
- Lower utility bills for seniors
- Help seniors stay in their homes
- Save energy and mitigate climate change
- Provide paths out of poverty
- Train new workers
As Mayor I will be convener-in-chief — bringing people and organizations and resources together to solve community problems. In large swaths of the central city, eastside, and southside, Tucson has aging homes that are reaching the end of their lifespan and in need of repair. Construction workers are in short supply. I propose working with Pima Community College, building trades unions, builders, and JTED programs to create a new job-training program. Apprentices will learn their skills by fixing up the homes of people who can’t afford the repairs otherwise, especially seniors living on their own. As part of this program, solar hot water heaters and increased insulation can reduce utility bills and usage of fossil fuels that emit carbons. We can help alleviate poverty, keep seniors independently living in their own homes, give young people training for a great high-paying career, mitigate climate change, and solve a job shortage in a vital industry.
Idea Number Two:
power sun tran with the sunBenefits:
- Reduce fossil fuel use and mitigate climate change
- Reduce maintenance & fuel costs
- Quieter, cleaner buses
- Demonstrate our commitment to clean energy
- Create new high-wage jobs
Electric buses are now able to run for more than a thousand miles on one battery charge, and their cost is now not much more than a CNG or diesel bus. Electric engines have fewer moving parts and cost much less to maintain, meaning those small upfront costs turn into significant savings over time. The buses are quieter and cleaner for riders and the neighborhoods through which they pass. Since transportation is the largest emitter of carbons, we can make an outsized impact on mitigating climate change by powering Sun Tran with the sun: Contract for enough solar power to run the entire system, once we have swapped out for electric buses. And this sends a clear message to the growing number of forward-thinking employers who demand a community commitment to fighting climate change from cities where they will move and expand, creating new high-wage jobs. There are so many wins here, it’s hard to keep track of them all.
Idea Number Three:
City departments should treat residents like valued customersBenefits:
- Increase responsiveness to city residents and businesses
- Create a cleaner, safer city
- Ensure accountability in government
- Support our small businesses
- Instill a sense of ownership in our community
Tucson is a city full of bright, creative, resourceful people who care deeply about our community. Every interaction between city departments and the public is an opportunity to tap into that resource for the betterment of us all. When a resident wants to start a business or improve a home, Development Services should find ways to help, not hinder, and turn around approvals as efficiently as possible. When a resident reports a pothole, Transportation should repair it as quickly as possible. When a neighborhood association reports illegal dumping, Environmental Services should clean it up as soon as possible. When a resident needs to report a crime, TPD should respond as quickly as possible. Our city employees are doing a good job, but they need the support – including adequate personnel and strategic IT deployment – to support us all, so that city interactions help, not hinder, our individual and collective pursuit of happiness.
Idea Number Four:
Put more commissioned police officers
and firefighters on the street
- Reduce crime rates
- Reduce response times
- Increase economic development
- Increase quality of life
- Improve community relations
Everywhere I travel throughout Tucson I hear from people of all backgrounds and beliefs that they don’t feel as safe as they should in our community. That hurts our quality of life and our ability to attract businesses. Although our first responders are doing an excellent job, response times are longer than they should be. There is one reason for this: We do not have enough commissioned officers and firefighters on our streets to cover our entire city. For example, we currently have just under 800 police officers — one-third less than in 2005. Yes, we can streamline procedures by bringing in civilian behavioral health aides to respond to mental health based calls and free up officers and firefighters for other calls. But there is no escaping that we must invest in additional personnel and substations so that Tucson Police and Tucson Fire have the resources they need to develop good relationships with Tucson’s diverse communities and keep us all safe.
Idea Number Five:
Prioritize education over incarceration
- Reduce recidivism while increasing public safety
- Ease re-entry into the community for inmates
- Increase skilled workers
- Lower crime rates
- Reduce chronic poverty
- Save money
One bright spot in government is that there is increasing bipartisan cooperation on prison reform. This is an issue where Tucson should take a leadership role. More prisoners need to be treated for the addiction and behavioral health issues that often got them in trouble in the first place. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are keeping reformed prisoners behind bars too long, only increasing their problems with readjustment to freedom once released. Too many public dollars are wasted on warehousing people who could otherwise be contributing members of society — dollars that could instead be invested in education. As Mayor, I will work with Pima County and Pima Community College to convert a wing of the Pima County Jail into a branch of Pima Community College, to offer job training and general education classes to nonviolent inmates and the general public in mixed classes. As prison populations decrease, we can transfer funds from incarcerating people to educating people, easing readjustment and reducing the chances those prisoners will ever offend again while increasing our skilled workforce, reducing crime, and breaking cycles of poverty in our communities.
Idea Number Six:
Create a public option for healthcare for all Tucsonans
- Keep our community healthy
- Reduce financial struggles for our residents
- Support small businesses and sole proprietors
- Encourage businesses to move into city limits
- Help our hospitals stay financially healthy
While I was able to work across the aisle at the Capitol in 2013 to expand good healthcare to 400,000 Arizonans, healthcare is still a struggle for too many Tucsonans — especially sole proprietors and very small businesses. As Washington attacks our healthcare, we can offer quality, affordable options for all Tucson residents and serve as a model for the rest of the nation by offering a public healthcare option, starting with small businesses and sole proprietors. We can self-fund our city employee plan and hire a third-party administrator — saving tens of millions annually in the process — and open it up to City residents who would be offered better coverage with premiums at a fraction of the cost of those found in the shrinking individual insurance market. This would encourage entrepreneurs to start growing businesses instead of toiling in dead-end jobs simply to get health insurance, reduce financial struggles for folks trying to find a way to afford rising premiums, reduce unreimbursed care costs at our hospitals, and act as an incentive to get businesses to move into city limits and create more jobs.
Idea Number Seven:
Turn our public schools into community schools
- Bring new support to public schools
- Break cycles of poverty
- Engage families in their children’s education
- Increase academic achievement
- Lower city costs for social services
LeBron James has rightfully received a lot of publicity for the work he is supporting at previously failing Cleveland public schools — work that is producing astonishing results. Less known is that the “community schools” concept underlying his “I Promise” project is already in place right here in Tucson in the Flowing Wells School District under the leadership of Superintendent David Baker. The idea is, kids do better when their families do better, and public schools provide a promising platform to help entire families succeed — not just the kids. The city can step up to help this concept roll out citywide, convening coalitions to provide GED classes, basic healthcare, low income bus passes, use of the computer lab, career counseling, microlending, and job training for parents as well as kids. Poverty is the root of many of our city’s problems and Tucson can beat poverty with a full commitment to supporting our public schools and the families they serve. This breaks damaging cycles and saves taxpayers money in the long run by reducing the need for social service spending in the first place.
Idea Number Eight:
Create a Community Resiliency Plan for extreme climate emergencies
- Mitigate climate change
- Prepare our residents for warming temperatures
- Enable our economy to thrive in harsher environment
- Demonstrate our resiliency
- Unify and keep our community safe
There is no doubt that climate change exists, is human-caused, and that we are on the front lines in the fight for human survival. It’s time we form a battle plan. Even if we were able to phase out the burning of fossil fuels entirely as a world, the damage we have already done to our atmosphere will continue to grow as our climate continues to warm; the only question is by how much. Our obligation as civic leaders is to make sure we have a solid plan to help our community weather the upcoming storm and not only survive, but thrive. As Mayor, I will convene U of A scientists and public policy experts to develop a Climate Resiliency Plan that we will put into place as soon as possible to assure our future health and prosperity for everyone in our community. Studies on shelves are of no use to us; we need to take decisive action to preserve our quality of life and our economy.
Idea Number Nine:
Develop a Regional Public Transit Authority
- End constant battles for funding in the city
- Provide more accountability to the public
- Improve quality and frequency of service
- Focus all transit decisions on transit planning principles
- Reduce carbon emissions and congestion
Nearly every year there are battles over what key city priority gets funded and what doesn’t. Transit is always under threat, and too often cuts are made that are not in the best interests of the system and can lead to reduced ridership and more cuts the next year. Many communities already have an RPTA which handles all transit planning and funding, and contains an elected board that is accountable to voters — we can do this too. The resulting focus on transit will improve the system reliability and quality for all users and will likely lead to dramatically increasing ridership and a sense of ownership which will lead to more community support, reduced carbon emissions, less congestion, and more economic development of the type we have seen in the corridor where we invested in the Modern Streetcar.
Idea Number Ten:
Increase access to college counseling
- Break cycles of poverty
- Increase investment in our children
- Add skills to workforce
- Raise personal income
- Attract high-wage businesses
Our community is full of brilliant students who don’t know about resources available to help them get into and pay for a great college education. Why? There is a severe shortage of counselors in our public schools who are forced to focus more on disruptive students than their classmates. We need to provide ALL of our students the resources they need to succeed. Counselors are particularly lacking in low-income schools which have received a disproportionate share of the devastating education cuts of the last decade. The Metropolitan Education Commission offers a limited college counseling for low-income teens so that they can find the right college and the right financial aid and be prepared to succeed. As Mayor, I will find ways to support and expand this program to that we can invest in the people who will power our future economy — our children.
Idea Number Eleven:
Build privately funded passenger rail from Guaymas to Tucson to Phoenix to Vegas
- Save money and time
- Increase travel safety
- Create good jobs
- Bring investment to our region
- Reduce carbon emissions
A road trip on I-10 can be fun, but it can also be dangerous, slow, and mind-numbing. Arizona’s Department of Transportation, with federal support, conducted a five-year study establishing the feasibility of a passenger train between Tucson and Phoenix. It’s now on a shelf. This project can be so significant for our future economy that it should be built and expanded to connect us with Guaymas, Phoenix and Vegas, and fueled by solar energy which can generate enough electricity to power the train. We can do this without spending taxpayer dollars. Private passenger rail companies are now building projects in key corridors with private equity. As Mayor, I will convene regional partnerships and call key leaders in interested companies to sell them on the benefits of our corridor. We can get this deal underway to create good jobs, share in regional prosperity, and give us attractive options to get to where we want to go without burning carbons.
Idea Number Twelve:
Use information technology to fight homelessness
- Leverage existing resources
- Reduce city costs
- Lower emergency room visits and 911 calls
- Clean up neighborhoods
- Bring homeless people back into the economy
There are too many people suffering from homelessness on the streets of Tucson. We have some terrific agencies working to shelter them and they have done excellent work, particularly with homeless vets, but there is much more work to be done. An approach called “Housing First” is working around the country — create housing, identify the homeless, get them a home, then provide wraparound services where they live. Some studies indicate 85% success rates in ending homelessness. We have many resources being used to solve this problem, but those resources too often do not work together. Technology can help. Apps are being developed to merge databases from different agencies, identify and triage homeless people in real time, and identify the right housing for the right needs. A Mayor’s Commission on Ending Homelessness can help bring this initiative to reality.
Idea Number Thirteen:
Recycle vacant big-box stores into new urban centers
- Make housing more affordable
- Strengthen surrounding neighborhoods
- Extend economic energy to the eastside and southside
- Create good jobs and encourage new startup businesses
- Reduce carbon emissions
Sears, Super K-mart, and many more big-box stores are closing throughout our city as retail moves increasingly online. These vacant buildings create urban blight that threatens surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. What happens if we see them as an opportunity for retrofitting our city to work better for the 21st century? We can marshal city resources to encourage redevelopment of these parcels into mixed-use developments with sorely-needed affordable housing, business incubators, childcare centers, and more. Places where people can live, work, and play — new urban villages that are connected with high-capacity transit like bus rapid transit or streetcar extensions. We can create jobs in creating new and vibrant uses that meet today’s needs and mitigate climate change.
Idea Number Fourteen:
Fix struggling neighborhoods, one intersection at a time
- Streamline delivery of services
- Strengthen local neighborhoods
- Reduce emergency calls
- Increase economic activity
- Encourage collaborative social service work
Grant and Alvernon is the poster child for intersections struggling in every way. Addiction, vacant stores, potholes, and homelessness are rampant. I propose creating a Mayor’s task force to focus community resources on improving neighborhoods like this, one at a time. Even at this forlorn corner, there are building blocks present that suggest solutions. Grant Road RTA funds are on the way to improve the streetscape. Two frequent bus routes meet there. The Tucson Botanical Gardens is a neighbor. Many recent refugees live nearby with strong entrepreneurial energy. We can change the dynamic if we take some of the former Fry’s parking lot and — under the management of Tucson Botanical Gardens and agricultural refugee agency Ishkashita — refugees can grow crops using their own indigenous techniques. The Walgreens on the NW corner can be converted into a behavioral health clinic and a library for GED, computer, and language classes, and other community resources, run by a coalition of local agencies funded by grants. The creativity and determination of Tucsonans to solve problems is boundless.
Idea Number Fifteen:
Bring in tens of millions of additional revenue without raising taxes
- Strengthen city finances without raising taxes
- Better public services like pothole filling
- Expand public safety
- Shift public funds from Phoenix to Tucson
- Include all Tucsonans in our democracy
Pima County has the largest unincorporated area of any county in the state. This is a big part of the reason why we have less funding for public services like road maintenance than other communities: The state of Arizona parcels out “state shared revenues” (a portion of state income, sales, and vehicle taxes) only to incorporated areas. What that means is, our region is losing (by some estimates) up to $70 million a year that is instead largely being sent to Maricopa County to help with their public services. This is an outrage. We can fix this by encouraging our friends and neighbors in the Catalina Foothills and Northwest Tucson — my Senate constituents for the past six years — to annex themselves to become a part of the city. There are many factors we can use to sell the deal, including better service from police, fire, and garbage pick-up. As Mayor I will do my best to make the case and urge our northern neighbors to become a part of a Greater Tucson, so that we can all prosper together.
Idea Number Sixteen:
Bring new jobs in the Virtual Reality (VR) industry to Tucson
- Attract clean, high-wage industry
- Create good jobs for variety of skills
- Leverage current economic strengths
- Build new growing business sector
- Commit to the future
Tucson is a city of brilliant, creative, forward-thinking people who are skilled at storytelling in all its forms. Thanks to the UofA and the astronomers and aeronautics experts working here, we have an international reputation as a center of innovation in optics. And renowned alternative healthcare pioneers like Dr. Andrew Weil make their professional homes in the Old Pueblo. These factors are collectively an excellent foundation on which to build the capital of the rising field of Virtual Reality. The experience of VR is immersive and can put your mind places it could never otherwise go. The applications are limitless — not only gaming and movies where you are in the center of the action, but also in job training and as a therapeutic tool for addiction, depression, and PTSD in clinical settings. Our proximity to pioneers in Los Angeles and the Silicon Valley position us well. As Mayor I will reach out to business leaders to pitch Tucson as the Hollywood of VR.
Idea Number Seventeen:
Work to Keep U of A graduates here to grow new businesses
- Increase the number of startups
- Create good jobs
- Foster a spirit of innovation
- Build a growing economy into the future
- Partner with UofA
One of the best ways to bring great businesses to Tucson is to grow our own. Too often, both undergrads and graduate students have left our community after graduating from UofA. They are collectively a tremendous resource that creates a constant supply of new, good jobs for all of us as they start and grow businesses based on their discoveries and innovations. As Mayor, I want to work with the University to conduct exit interviews to find out why they are not staying, how we can make our community more enticing for startups and skilled graduates, and use that information to work to keep our Wildcats here in Tucson, benefitting their businesses and our economy.
Idea Number Eighteen:
Increase City support for our education system
- Establish education as foundation of our community
- Reduce poverty
- Increase opportunity
- Grow economy
- Reduce city costs over time
Education is the foundation of our success as a community. Education helps us break cycles of poverty, and makes us more inviting as a place for businesses to start up, relocate, and grow. Any investment in education from pre-K to K-12 to community college and university will create a long-term return on that investment many times over — as our children become well-educated adults, they will become law-abiding taxpayers with greater personal resources, and city budgets will need to spend less on social services, law enforcement, and the justice system. This is why I believe support of education should be a core component of what we do as a city. If the state government continues to refuse to provide an adequate investment in our schools, we must find ways to pick up the slack right here. The cost will be much more than offset by future savings from a well-educated, better functioning society.