Tucson Progressive

Pamela J. Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona

Imagine Greater Tucson: Midtown ‘Community Conversation’ Reveals Consensus

IGT staffer Patrick Hartley facilitated the midtown community conversations with the help of intern Kiry Nelson.

Over the years, Tucson has had no lack of planning, but building consensus and getting projects off the ground has been an issue (1, 2, 3, 4).

Tucson’s newest planning effort is Imagine Greater Tucson (IGT). Announced in September 2010, IGT’s initial funding is through matching grants from the Federal Highway Administration and the Pima Association of Government. The grants fund a community planning and research phase which hopes to build consensus and plan for Greater Tucson’s future.

IGT is in the information-gathering phase. As such, they are holding “community conversations” all around the Tucson valley and gathering data through a web-based survey. To date approximately 200 people have participated in a community conversation, and about 600 have taken the online survey.

Last night’s community conversation was held at the Ward 6 office in midtown Tucson, but there are community conversations scheduled for Vail, Sauhuarita, Oro Valley, and the Tucson Foothills in the near future.

About 20 Tucsonans plus a handful of IGT staff and volunteers and representatives from the county participated. Several neighborhood leaders representing the El Rio, Garden District, Rincon Heights, Blenman-Elm, Palo Verde, Arroyo Chico, and Miramonte neighborhoods were present.

Attendees were split into 2 groups, and facilitators led brainstorming sessions and asked attendees what they valued about living in Tucson and what they would like to change.

As a bastion of liberal thinking in the Tucson, there was quite a bit of consensus  in our group. Using free-form conversation and large multi-color stickies, we identified 9 important areas of conversation: Transportation, Education, Political Culture, Built Environment, Economy, Creative Environment, Natural Environment, Outdoor Activities, and Cultural Diversity.

Green stickies represent things attendees value about Tucson, while the pink stickies identify areas to change. Above are stickies for environment, creative culture, and cultural diversity (mostly things we valued). Tucson's creative community (in the center) received universal support (all green).

Once all of the things we valued or wanted to change had been identified in each of these areas, the colored stickies gave a clear picture of our conversation. The group universally valued Tucson’s natural environment and climate (duh), the creative environment, the liberal values (remember we were in midtown), and the multicultural nature of Tucson. Also, universally, the group had many, many things they wanted to change in the areas of transportation, education , p0litical culture, built environment, and the economy.

There was general disgust for Arizona’s state government– saying they are out-of-touch with citizens. Attendees pointed to the disenfranchisement of Tucson voters who are represented by Democrats in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Particularly in the area of education (which had all pink/change stickies), the group said there was a dangerous disconnect between the citizens of Tucson who value education and voted for the sales tax to support education and the Arizona Legislature and Governor Jan Brewer who they fear will give away the money in tax cuts instead of funding the state’s future through support of K-12 and the university system. (Sure enough, there was a story in today’s Arizona Daily Star about tax cuts proposed by the governor. Doesn’t she know we’re broke?)

Also, vilified by the group was the greed of developers and land grabs by mini-dorm builders and the University of Arizona. The group lamented the loss of historic neighborhoods to build cheap student housing and buildings for University expansion. They pointed to empty lots, dilapidated apartment buildings, and sub-standard trailer parks that could be razed for multi-family or student housing– thus filling a need, eliminating blight, and preserving neighborhoods. There was an obvious love-hate relationship with the UA. The group valued education and innovation the University provides but didn’t like the University’s destruction of neighborhoods.

Rather than go into all of the details we discussed– sustainability, water supply, alternative forms of transportation, yada, yada, yada– I suggest you attend a community conversation or check out the raw data collected from the community conversations, which is on the IGT website.

The data gathering phase is projected to last through February 2011, followed by a planning phase (March – October 2011), and a concrete how-do-we-get-there phase (November 2011 – October 2012). I encourage all of you to get involved in this process by attending a community conversation, filling out the survey, volunteering, and/or donating to the cause. IGT will be using sophisticated descriptive data analysis and mapping software to analyse the data gathered.

Unlike the charter change process that brought us the failed Prop 401 initiative, IGT is not an initiative of the local corporatists from Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

Here are the stickies for political culture, built environment, education, and economy (mostly things we want to change). You'll note education (second from right) is all pink/change stickies.

Imaging Greater Tucson also is not to be confused with Imagine Tucson, which appears to be a campaign to encourage local business people to wear US flag pins that say “Imagine”.

Get involved. Let’s create consensus, stop the in-fighting about failed projects and niche issues, and build a future for our children and grandchildren. My new granddaughter was born on Monday, November 29. I want to leave her the legacy of a good education, clean environment, and a stable economy– not the mess we have now. How about YOU?

11 comments on “Imagine Greater Tucson: Midtown ‘Community Conversation’ Reveals Consensus

  1. Hugh Holub
    December 1, 2010

    One of the facets of all the various “regional” planning schemes has been a decided lack of understanding what the “region” is…. the metroplex that is emerging reaches down to Nogales, Sonora…and over into Cochise and Pinal counties.

    A basic problem that has dogged the Tucson area is no one has ever grasped how really huge the emerging urban area was going to be and will be out into the next 50 years. We’ve already got commuters working in Tucson and living in 3 neighboring counties.  I-19 has more traffic than I-10 east of Tucson. We’ve got 1.5 million people in the metroplex already.

    Though they are viewed as inconsequential players today…. the other jurisdictions such as Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, Pinal and Cochise and Santa Cruz counties are all sitting on where the majority of the region’s future growth is going to occur.

    One thing that has been clear for a long time is that none of the other jurisdictions are particulary inclined to accept Tucson or Tucsonans as being the dominant driver of regional planning.  That is why, in fact, we have the other towns…and will probably see more emerge in the future.


  2. Mark B. Evans
    December 1, 2010

    I wonder if any of the outraged people pounding their metaphorical shoes on the podium Monday at the Rio Nuevo audit public hearing will attend any of the IGT meetings? My guess is few will.
    Bitching about the ineffectiveness of government is easy. Not a lot of thought or effort needs to go into bitching.
    But actually joining together with neighbors and community members to identify and solve problems? That’s hard.
    You want government to work? Kwitcherbitchin and get up off your butt and do something about it. The government is us. We are it. It only works if we make it work.


  3. Carolyn Classen
    December 1, 2010

    Well, our discussion group in the other room of Ward 6 came up with very similar ideas about what we liked and wanted changed, but whether change will happen is another story in Tucson. I did attend that Rio Nuevo public hearing on Monday, where a lot of people lambasted that fiasco in downtown Tucson due to the sheer waste of millions of taxpayer dollars.  I still have hope that something concrete (with implementation of recommendations) actually comes out of this IGT process.


  4. yayabrotherhood
    December 1, 2010

    “the liberal values”



    • leftfield
      December 2, 2010

      It may be hard to believe, but you should be grateful for ‘liberal values’.  First of all, without them, there would be nothing for you to stand in opposition to.  Secondly, liberals tend to be tolerant types.  In the absence of liberalism, people on the left might think  twice about being tolerant of reactionaries. 


  5. yayabrotherhood
    December 1, 2010

    From the results looks like, as usual, only underemployed liberal progressives attended. Normal people were apparently to busy earning money to pay for their confiscatory social programs.


  6. mike_brewer
    December 2, 2010

    My God, this consensus stuff is endless.  I was one of the participants in the 2007 Tucson Town Hall at Ventana Canyon. What happened to that “concensus?”
    It has become apparent that Tucson is so intractably controlled by a cabal of  long time families, that all the consensus in the world is not going to turn the ship of power.


  7. Alan Baltazar
    December 2, 2010

    “…vilified by the group was the greed of developers and land grabs by mini-dorm builders and the University of Arizona. ”  My question here is where are the students going to live? The expensive Mercado District ? Where will the money come from if these idiots want to renovate these blighted neighborhoods which are owned privately ?  Are these the same morons that want to have a top notched transportation system in Tucson and yet, refused to have at least one crosstown freeway? You want to live in a fantasy utopian world but pay cheap, go visit disneyland.


  8. chuck freitas
    December 2, 2010

    I,too, have attended many meetings over a 20+ year period. AZ Townhalls, too many consensus hearings/meetings regarding water, transportation, growth/no-growth, environment,Rio Nuevo, etc.,etc..

    Most end up producing nice looking booklets and little else! 

    One set of meetings resulted in the passage of the Tucson streetcar system. The progressive consensus will cost the taxpayers megabucks to build and then operate.  The O&M, for example will cost 3 1/2 million dollars per year–and that figure does not cover pension costs.  Just increase the garbage fees to cover it, right?   Study/planning/consensus = zero without an action plan. IGT learn from the trolly/streetcar process.


  9. ella
    December 2, 2010

    Hugh all the other municipalities can plan for all the growth they want but without water and the infrastructure to provide water to the growth model, that practice will either never come to fruition or be short lived.  To the conservatives living on the outskirts of town what do they care what the midtown people want and why take the time to denigrate them? Its their neighborhoods and you wouldn’t want them opining on what you want and feel any more than you should be opining on what they want an feel.


  10. Pingback: “The Big Reveal” by Imagine Greater Tucson - Carolyn's Community

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The Tucson Progressive: Pamela J. Powers

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals–not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election.

My platform focused on economic reforms to grow Arizona’s economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, grow local small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs.

In the Arizona House, I was a strong voice for fiscal responsibility a moratorium on corporate tax breaks until the schools were fully funded, increased cash assistance to the poor, expansion of maternal healthcare benefits, equal rights, choice, unions, education at all levels and protecting our water supply.

After three terms, I retired from the Arizona Legislature in January 2023 but will continue to blog and produce my podcast “A View from the Left Side.”

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