Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
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.
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.
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?