Councilman Cunningham hosts town hall

Panel of city directors hopeful for Tucson’s future

Ward 2 Councilman Paul Cunningham emceeing at a town hall held at the eastside city council office on June 5, 2019.

“The tea and the cookies were paid for by my Mom,” City Councilman Paul Cunningham said at a Ward 2 town hall meeting held on Wednesday night. Right after telling the 50 to 75 attendees the pizza might’ve been paid for with tax dollars. They forgave him with laughter.

Cunningham mostly emceed the event often imposing time limits on the speakers who included Captain Justin Lane of Tucson Police Department’s eastern division, Diana Alarcon, director of the Transportation Department, Brent Dennis, director of Tucson Parks and Recreation, and Scott Clark, director of Planning and Development Services.

Captain Lane discussed the approximately 130 square mile division’s changes in strategy since he took the helm in March of 2018. “We’re up against some pretty big challenges,” he said, referring to the sheer size of the division.

“What we’ve decided to do…is to take a more qualitative approach to the problem.

“It’s simply recognizing that there’s a 10 percent element committing 90 percent of the crimes,” Lane said.

Lane has mandated a goal of 25 percent crime reduction division-wide and said there was a 21 percent reduction overall since he started last March.

“That last week of May was rough boy,” Cunningham said in reference to crime activity in Ward 2.

Captain Justin Lane, head of the eastern division of the Tucson Police Department meets with Ward 2 candidates at a town hall meeting on June 5, 2019.

A recent Florida transfer, the transportation director touted, an email address where anyone who spots a need can request pothole repair, sign replacement, and trimming or debris removal.

Alarcon also discussed Operation Splash, an initiative to protect residents during the upcoming monsoon season. Details can be found in the link.

Clark presented three tools for helping residents keep a keener eye on development in the city including Notice Tucson, an email alert system you must register for here. You can custom tailor the system to notify you of developments based on available preferences. The other two tools are the development activity map and the inspection portal.

Clark said Tucson is, “averaging a quarter of a billion a year in new construction annually.”

“The complexity and the value has changed significantly,” Clark said, referring to Tucson’s recent growth upward rather than outward.

“In preparing for this town hall I started realizing how much things have changed,” Cunningham said before listing off changes that included revitalization of Palo Verde Park, increases in police force personnel, and the size of Tucson’s general fund.

“The city’s doing better than it was when we started,” Cunningham said. But he was also quick to point out some of his own initiatives that backfired including asking Geico to bring more jobs — they did, but now are moving out of his ward in the process of expanding. And, rallying a turf revitalization in the parks that was upended by the unusually wet winter.

A few attendees brought issue with Camino Seco, calling for the road’s widening.

“It’s so crooked and uneven, it’s dangerous to drive,” resident Ellie Balchan said. Balchan and a few other attendees talked about how they were promised in the early 2000s that a bond would go towards widening the road in their area to four lanes.

Cunningham said it was a county bond and the funds were diverted from their original purpose long before he took office, but, that he would still strive to make it happen over the next five years, for now he just wants to repave it.

Cunningham’s seat is up for re-election in August, but he made no mention of it at the town hall and most of the attendees appeared to be supporters, one of them greeted him, “How’s it going mister senator.”

The parks and recreation director commented on Cunningham’s persistent enthusiasm and the councilman quoted Vince Lombardi in response, “Do your job with enthusiasm or you will be fired with enthusiasm.”

Brent Dennis, director of Tucson Parks and Recreation speaks with Ward 2 constituents at a town hall on June 6, 2019.