New film – Urban Farming – Growing Cities

This Friday night you can see “Growing Cities”, a new film about the urban farming movement in America.

Friday, June 27, The Sea Of Glass—Center For The Arts cinema will host the documentary, Growing Cities. The film, which follows the urban farming movement in America and its potential to revitalize our cities and change the way we eat, has been chosen as an Official Selection of 22 esteemed Film Festivals since its release in the Fall of 2013.

In their search for answers, filmmakers Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette take a road trip and meet the men and women who are challenging the way this country grows and distributes its food, one vacant city lot, rooftop garden, and backyard chicken coop at a time.

They discover that good food isn’t the only crop these urban visionaries are harvesting; they’re producing stronger and more vibrant communities, too. Growing Cities is a journey to an America that believes in a more sustainable, just, and healthy future for all.

The Sea Of Glass—Center For The Arts is also host to the Food For Ascension Café, an all-organic, vegetable-forward restaurant serving fresh cuisine made from locally-sourced ingredients. As part of their “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever” philosophy, Food For Ascension hosts films, demonstrations, classes, lectures and workshops at the Sea Of Glass on locally sourced and naturally grown food and its preparation for the benefit of optimal health, disease prevention and wellness through nutritional education; sponsored by the Soulistic Medical Institute, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.

Film starts at 7:00 P.M.; 90 min. Discussion to follow. Tickets are $5.00 advance / $10.00 day of show. Proceeds benefit teen young adult rehabilitation programs and Avalon Organic Gardens Internships. For those in financial need, call 520-603-9932 about Avalon Organic Gardens Hands-In-The-Soil work reciprocation program (call 1 week in advance of shows).

The Sea Of Glass—Center For The Arts is located just off 4th Avenue at 330 E. 7th Street, Tucson, Arizona. For more information call (520) 398-2542 or visit http://theseaofglass.org.

What climate activists should learn from the Monterey Shale downgrade

What climate activists should learn from the Monterey Shale downgrade

by Kurt Cobb

Published by Resource Insights on 2014-06-01

Original article: http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2014/06/what-climate-activists-should-learn.html

 

There is an important hidden lesson for climate activists in the vast downgrade of recoverable oil resources now thought to be available from California’s Monterey Shale. Almost all climate activists have rejected any talk that the world’s oil, natural gas and even coal supplies are nearing plateaus and possibly peaks in their production. That’s because they fear that such talk will make the public and policymakers believe that climate change will be less of a problem as a result or no problem at all.

 

Any yet, for obvious reasons climate activists rejoiced when the Monterey downgrade was announced. But this only served to highlight the fact that climate activists have lost control of the public narrative on energy and can only steal it back by including constraints on fossil fuel supply as part of their story.

 

In fact, climate activists have been content to accept fossil fuel industry claims–the two parties agree on little else–that we have vast resources of economically recoverable fossil fuels, the rate of production of which will continue to grow for decades–unless, of course, climate activists stop this trend. This stance makes for an heroic narrative, but misses what is actually happening in the minds of the public and policymakers, minds which must be won over in order to address climate change effectively.

 

Let me explain.

 

The hype surrounding the now vastly downgraded treasure trove of oil once thought to be recoverable from California’s Monterey Shale acted as a siren song on a state long devoted to energy innovation and a gradual transition away from fossil fuels. After all, California is the only state that has a climate change policy that will force businesses, localities and households to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions drastically and thus reduce their fossil fuel use drastically.

 

Sirens, mythological beings who are part woman and part bird, are said to send sailors to their demise through irresistible singing that lures them to crash on rocks they would normally attempt to avoid. It turns out that the thought of large amounts of readily available hydrocarbons under California has had a similar effect on the state’s sustainability-minded population.

 

Of course, large deposits of readily available oil would have spelled large amounts of money, both as income to individual Californians and as tax revenues to various California governments. And, such oil deposits would have also spelled large contributions to California politicians in whose hands the fate of drilling and production regulations lie.

 

But the siren song of oil in California ended abruptly when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that, based on new information, the Monterey Shale actually contained 96 percent less recoverable oil than previously thought. Climate and anti-fracking activists were overjoyed. This vast resource in all likelihood will not be heavily exploited, and most of the oil in it left unburned. (Yes, the oil is still down there. The EIA just doesn’t think anyone will be able to recover it profitably using known technology.)

 

Since the 2008 spike in oil prices, the oil industry had been looking for a way to convince the public and policymakers not to abandon fossil fuels in favor of renewable, sustainable alternatives. When the so-called “revolution” in hydraulic fracking provided a temporary bump in U.S. oil and natural gas production, the industry found its message. With rising production America would now become a new oil and gas superpower, ending its fossil fuel imports and even exporting some of its largesse to the rest of the world. (This claim is proving to be a wild exaggeration, but that doesn’t keep it from being effective.)

 

The other purpose of this narrative–which has been heavily touted in the media–is to change the conversation from climate change to rising fossil fuel supplies and the benefits that such supplies will bestow on America and ultimately the world.

 

So far, the oil industry’s strategy has worked famously. The media and the public are abuzz with the message of renewed American strength and prosperity resulting from fracked oil and natural gas. Yes, there are stories about the environmental and health hazards of this process. But, the vast majority of Americans remain far away from and therefore unaffected by these hazards.

 

As long as the news is about the success of fracking and even about its hazards, the public will fixate on the question of how to obtain the country’s supposed newfound abundance safely rather than on the unfolding horror of climate change.

 

But, there are, in fact, two justifiable reasons for us to move away from burning fossil fuels: climate change and supply constraints. We need to transition to other energy sources because fossil fuels are accelerating climate change AND because we simply do not know when these fuels will decline in their production rates. Current evidence suggests that the risks of such a decline are mounting.

 

Unless climate activists embrace this dual message, they will be ceding the argument to the fossil fuel industry. With its huge financial resources the industry will continue largely unopposed to spout the abundance narrative which experience now tells us trumps discussion of climate change.

 

Read for yourself any glowing account of America’s new oil and gas abundance and you will ALMOST NEVER see any mention of climate change.

 

But, the Monterey Shale downgrade is not an isolated incident. It’s part of a pattern of downgrades that are making expectations about the trajectory of oil and natural gas production in the United States more realistic.

 

Moreover, world prices for oil when measured using the average daily price have hovered at or near record levels for the past three years despite the shale boom in America. Worldwide oil supplies have barely grown since 2005, even as China, India and the rest of Asia have increased their demand. (That demand has been in large part accommodated by declines in U.S. and European oil use resulting from sluggish economies and changes in driving habits due to declining incomes.)

 

U.S. natural gas production has been stagnant since the beginning of 2012 even as prices have more than doubled. The shale gas miracle is gradually unravelling and we may even be headed for a natural gas supply crisis in the United States.

 

The evidence is compelling that the risks to fossil fuel supplies are rising and that the world’s and the nation’s reliance on them is a dangerous dependency. That combined with the national security implications suggests that the United States (which remains a huge importer of oil) and all other energy importing nations are far better off moving toward energy supplies that are entirely homegrown and can be relied upon indefinitely.

 

This is a forceful argument when combined with concerns about climate change. And it is a necessary addition to the arsenal of climate change activists if they expect to refocus America and the world on the imperative of addressing climate change effectively.

The great imaginary California oil boom: Over before it started

The great imaginary California oil boom: Over before it started

by Kurt Cobb, originally published by Resource Insights  | May 25, 2014

 

It turns out that the oil industry has been pulling our collective leg.

 

The pending 96 percent reduction in estimated deep shale oil resources in California revealed last week in the Los Angeles Times calls into question the oil industry’s premise of a decades-long revival in U.S. oil production and the already implausible predictions of American energy independence. The reduction also appears to bolster the view of long-time skeptics that the U.S. shale oil boom–now centered in North Dakota and Texas–will likely be short-lived, petering out by the end of this decade. (I’ve been expressing my skepticism in writing about resource claims made for both shale gas and oil since 2008.)

 

California has been abuzz for the past couple of years about the prospect of vast new oil wealth supposedly ready for the taking in the Monterey Shale thousands of feet below the state. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) had previously estimated that 15.4 billion barrels were technically recoverable, basing the number on a report from a contractor who relied heavily on oil industry presentations rather than independent data.

 

The California economy was supposed to benefit from 2.8 million new jobs by 2020. The state was also supposed to gain $220 billion in additional income and $24 billion in additional tax revenues in that year alone, according to a study from the University of Southern California that relied heavily on industry funding.

 

But that was before the revelation by the Times that the EIA will reduce its estimate of technically recoverable oil in California’s Monterey Shale by 96 percent–almost a complete wipeout–after taking a close look at actual data for wells drilled there already. The agency now believes that only about 600 million barrels are recoverable using existing technology. The 600 million barrels still sound like a lot, but those barrels would last the United States all of 40 days at the current rate of consumption.

 

Americans had been counting on the seemingly oil-rich Monterey Shale for more than 60 percent of a supposed newfound bounty of domestic oil locked up in deep shale deposits. But it turns out that the Monterey is rich with oil in the same way that seawater is rich in dissolved gold. In both cases the resource is there, but no one can figure out how get it out at a profit. The EIA previously estimated that resources of so-called tight oil, the proper name for oil from deep shale deposits, could reach 23.9 billion barrels for the United States as a whole. Overnight that number shrank to 9.1 billion.

 

The firm hired to do the original estimates, INTEK Inc., was saying as recently as December that it planned to raise its estimate for the Monterey to 17 billion barrels, presumably based on representations made to it by the industry.

 

The firm assumed, apparently without any justification, that the Monterey Shale would be just as productive as other shale deposits such as the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas.

 

But the geology of the Monterey is riddled with folds and far more complex than other U.S. shale deposits, something that wouldn’t have been too hard to find out from existing geological studies and well logs.

 

We cannot be sure whether those who wrote the wildly overoptimistic INTEK report were eager to encourage drilling and investment in the Monterey, something the oil industry certainly favored. But the colossal miss suggests the possibility that INTEK and its analysts have grown too close to the industry and are serving it rather than the EIA which commissioned the report.

 

It’s no surprise that those who work in the oil industry are perennially optimistic. This high-risk business isn’t for the timid. And that optimism is necessary if the industry is going to raise the capital it needs from investors. But it should be obvious that relying on the oil industry for objective information that will form the basis for public policy is a mistake. Independent sources and objective data are important cross-checks on the industry’s understandable but often misleading enthusiasm.

 

The other explanation for the Monterey miss is that the analysts at INTEK are simply colossally inept. Note that INTEK was also responsible for the overall U.S. assessment of 23.9 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil lodged in deep shale formations. The California miss alone reduced estimated U.S. resources to 9.1 billion barrels, a cut which by itself calls into question the entire premise of renewed American oil abundance. But, the gargantuan misreading of the Monterey Shale’s resources also suggests that the firm’s estimates for other areas of the country need review as well.

 

A February 2013 comprehensive report on U.S. tight oil and natural gas from deep shales released by the Post Carbon Institute presaged the Monterey disappointment by pointing out how little oil had been extracted per well using advanced techniques in the Monterey Shale. A follow-on report issued in December focused exclusively on the Monterey and concluded that the INTEK/EIA estimate was vastly overblown. Not surprisingly, neither of these independent reports received any oil industry funding.

 

It is well to remember that the above numbers are all just estimates, and that they are for so-called technically recoverable resources. The estimates tell us little about how much oil from the Monterey or elsewhere might actually be economically recoverable, that is, profitably extracted. For that reason, the oil that is ultimately extracted from the Monterey and other deep shale deposits will likely be less than any estimate of technically recoverable resources. That means that even the 600 million barrel estimate for the Monterey may turn out to be too optimistic.

 

The industry counters that improved technology could change what seems unobtainable now into accessible oil. But, it cites no specific developments that are not already in use and therefore reflected in current estimates of what we can hope to extract. And the idea that we should base our public policy on innovations that no one has thought of yet seems more than a little unwise.

 

Moreover, while technology can improve, the laws of physics don’t. The industry is already moving from the so-called “sweet spots” in shale deposits to those that are more difficult to exploit. That process will continue until the laws of physics and economics team up to make drilling unprofitable, and that will be the end of the shale boom in the rest of the country.

 

________________________________________________________

 

P.S. In a previous piece I asked, “Will anyone who is currently predicting U.S. energy independence be punished if the story turns out to be wrong?” My answer was probably not. Now, we will find out if that turns out to be the case. My guess is that the oil industry will redouble its efforts to convince the public and policymakers to continue to believe something which cannot be supported by the evidence.

 

P.P.S. Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle the following in response to the Monterey Shale revision: “People forget that the boom taking place in Texas and particularly North Dakota did not happen overnight. There were decades of operators trying to understand the technology and the geology.” He seems unable to recognize that in the decades that it may take to figure out how to unlock the Monterey Shale, California and the world will be working hard to create an advanced energy infrastructure that will make the Monterey irrelevant. Technology isn’t standing still in renewable energy either.

Request to RTA Board — April 25, 2013

Request to RTA Board

April 25, 2013

Honorable RTA Board:     Thank you for my reappointment to the CART as an original member. I continue to be honored to serve the RTA and larger regional community in this role.

Having closely followed the Broadway Blvd Project at public meetings and interviews, I want the following comments to be considered by the RTA. These comments reflect my sense of responsibility regarding the role of the CART to oversee the fiduciary mission of the RTA and reflect significant changes in the larger community.

The 2006 RTA Plan is essentially a plan to increase the regional capacity for safe modes of mobility. While economic and political constraints did limit acceptable RTA projects to correcting deficiencies in the existing system, PAG and regional jurisdictions in 2006 were anticipating high future growth,  more than 50% increase in population near the end of the Plan period. One RTA campaign piece warned voters that a 550% increase in vehicular congestion would result if the Plan did not pass.

Needless to say, these and many of the original assumptions did not play out and most probably will never play out, in particular driving behavior due to high vehicle fuel costs indefinitely. Indeed, we have observed significant changes in travel mode preferences as well as population growth rates. Walking, biking, car sharing, and bus ridership have all increased much more than proportionally and population movement to urban centers has been significant.

Interpretation of the voter will as expressed in the 2006 election results therefore should come down to implementation of “equivalent functionality.” This means that what we plan and build for the Broadway Corridor Project, as well as any RTA project for that matter, should reflect the ballot plan in terms of  equivalent “trips” summed over all modes rather than simply car lane capacity.

Currently, the RTA is overly concerned with the notion of funding roadway lanes and roadway cross-sections instead of multi-modal corridors and multi-modal alignments. The RTA Grant Road Improvement Project did include parallel bicycle boulevards and recently did find funding for their construction. In the case of Grant Road, PAG’s own published data shows vehicular traffic counts on the segments of Grant Road included in the 2006 Plan declined 20% between 2004 and 2010. Yet the RTA Project is increasing roadway lane capacity at least 40%.

An overwhelming and growing group of Broadway Blvd stakeholders question the significant roadway lane expansion and associated removal of structures given all of the assumption changes since 2006. While Broadway’s role as Tucson’s most important multi-modal corridor and high capacity transit designation continues to be strongly supported, the somewhat rigid position taken by the RTA is not. The ringing cry at the Broadway Blvd Taskforce public forum a month ago was: “This is Tucson’s last chance to get it right.”

I truly believe that it would be madness to ignore the preferred vision the community is saying it wants and continue to plan and build and spend scarce resources for a future that will most probably never exist. If that becomes the case, Tucson will suffer irreversibly.

The bottomline is this. We live in a very different world than seven years ago. We have a voter-approved mobility plan and funding source that no one wants to scrap and redo. We don’t need to bring in the lawyers. We as a region have immense obstacles to overcome in order to attract the young skilled workforce that will attract better paying jobs going forward. Smart, sustainable development which is urban, multimodal and mixed land-use is what the new generations prefer. Our region has already begun to move in this direction. The RTA needs to loosen up and join with the active parts of our community including the Broadway Taskforce and Coalition to find every possible way to make this happen.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bob Cook,  RTA Citizens Accountability for Regional Transportation Committee

Request to RTA Board — April 7, 2011

 

A Request and Proposal to the RTA Board

by  Bob Cook,      April 7, 2011

 

Honorable Board members, I come before you as a planner, engaged citizen, and veteran of many local planning efforts. I was an active participant in the RTA planning process and because of the generous treatment for transit expansion, the streetcar project, and making our communities more walkable and bikable, I enthusiastically supported the final plan. I wrote three affirmative ballot arguments and personally paid for two. I am currently an original member of the RTA CART committee.

 

I am here today to repeat a request I made two years ago that the RTA establish a transparent, contingency planning taskforce with citizen members. While most people now agree that some of the original 2006 planning assumptions have not been borne out and may no longer apply, there is still strong adherence to the notion that the fundamental basis of the 20-year plan is valid and should remain intact as the “will of the people” even though the world is dramatically different now, just five years later.

 

During the past year, different aspects of the RTA Plan have been the subject of discussion by the public in various media. I want to draw attention to the letter Rick Myers, original Citizens Committee Co-chair, wrote to the Board on March 18, 2011.

 

First, he states that none of us could have anticipated the current economic climate. I take exception to this. Some of us, myself included, argued passionately that the region’s two greatest risks going forward is our transportation system’s vulnerability to peaking oil production and our region’s lack of competitiveness with respect to other regions which have aggressively implemented smarter development patterns. Some of us saw our current predicament coming.

 

At the time, the response by the citizen’s committee ranged from quietly ignoring these arguments to ridiculing them. Meanwhile, governments and military organizations increasingly have been studying the implications of petroleum constraints going forward. The March 25, 2011 issue of Science, the most respected U.S. science journal, reports that scientists and analysts not under contract to the oil industry now believe that non-OPEC oil production may have already peaked and thus there may be no let up in prices going forward. The only reprieve in nominal prices will be due to demand destruction similar to what we saw in the Fall of 2008.

 

Mr. Myers ends his letter by expressing strong support and strict commitment to implementing the original plan over the next 15 years. Increasingly however, more of us are betting that housing and population growth in this region will not return to pre-2006 levels in the next five years and given the growing risks in the financial markets, probably not in the next ten years.

 

Thus , it very well may be folly to rigidly adhere to a plan when so many of the underlying assumptions remain questionable, including costs and revenues, population growth rates, the ability of jurisdictions to fund budget shortfalls, high VMT (vehicle-miles-traveled) projections, and low preferences for alternate modes. It is understandable that jurisdictions including the RTA strongly resist any tampering with the Plan given that this is the first dedicated regional transportation funding source to correct long-standing deficiencies.

 

Nonetheless, it is important and prudent to approach the future with eyes wide open. Most people want normalcy to return. But if it doesn’t, we need alternative strategies for critical public investments. The uncertainties we face entail exposure to mounting risks. I therefore request that the RTA establish an ongoing contingency planning taskforce to identify possible action plans based on emerging realities.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

Bob Cook

 

BROADWAY COALITION: Design Criteria for the Improvement of Broadway

BROADWAY COALITION:  Design Criteria for the Improvement of Broadway

Based on all the facts we have examined and studies available to us, from the RTA as well as from national studies [See our website: https://sites.google.com/site/broadwaycoalition], we have arrived at a set of criteria that should be applied to all alternatives proposed for the Broadway Boulevard Improvement Project, in order that the result be a more livable city.  We believe these criteria are in line with the Mayor and Council’s instructions to the Broadway Project Citizens’ Task Force:

 

1. Advance the notion of place (quite different from the notion of corridor), including

affording residents in the area a range of services and amenities, establish a unique

identity, etc.

2. Preserve the structures that exist along Broadway and provide safe, easy access to

them;

3. Enhance the business climate/viability;

4. Promote use of alternative modes of transportation and give particular attention to

pedestrian and bicycle activity and safety;

5. Be visually appealing;

6. Aid the movement of a people using a variety of forms of vehicular traffic;

7. Contribute to environmental sustainability, and

8. Be a fiscally sound, affordable approach.

 

 

Proposals that meet these criteria should be given positive ratings; those that do not should be rated negatively, the fewer they meet the more negative the rating.

 

100-Foot Max WIDTH Resource Page

Broadway Coalition Design Criteria for the Improvement of Broadway

Arizona Daily Star June 8th OpEd : Pro 100′ width Broadway by Robert Cook

Arizona Daily Star June 8th OpEd: RTA viewpoint by Douglas Mance

Follow-up lobby letter to public officials June 9th by Robert Cook

It is the width, not the number of lanes: Broadway Coalition notes

Broadway Coalition: Some Thoughts on Money

Major Report on Mobility Trends and Future Implications

2006 RTA inflated traffic and population projections

2007 PAG Annual Report shows population projections on steroids

Request to RTA Board — April 7, 2011

Request to RTA Board — April 25, 2013

 

 

Urban Agriculture and Harvgesting – Ward 3 Neighbors Alliance

This is the annual Ward 3 Neighbors Alliance meeting on Urban Agriculture and Harvgestin.  The goals of the program are:

  •  inform both gardeners and interested neighbors about the resources in the community,
  • look at the big picture around urban gardening. We want to consider: Creating a Citizen Science & Desert Food Masters certification, matching food supply to demand and creating a true desert oasis in Tucson.

About 10 organizations will provide brief presentations on opportunities to create an urban food supply for Tucson.   Adam Smith of the City of Tucson Office of Integrated Planning will review the draft City urban agriculture landuse code they are developing.

The meeting will be at the Ward 3 Office conference room at 1510 E Grant

RTA and County Should Heed Community’s Vision for Broadway Project

RTA and County Should Heed Community’s Vision for Broadway Project

 By Robert Cook , June 8, 2014

This is the June 8th Sunday Arizona Daily Star Guest Opinion without the Star’s edits. Note the Star’s edited headline is: “8-Lane Roadway No Longer Makes Sense.”

 

The two-year design phase of the Broadway Boulevard, Euclid to Country Club Project is reaching its final months. And not without controversy over funding and design elements. A successful outcome will require broad agreement between the Regional Transportation Authority, Pima County, Tucson Mayor and Council, and the many community stakeholders including residents, businesses, and visitors along Tucson’s historic Sunshine Mile and west to downtown.

 

The Broadway redesign is a bellweather project that will set a highly visible precedent for regional planning in the decades to come. The result of this process will signal to what degree local government is willing and able to scale infrastructure projects to actual needs and preferences. Importantly, the design outcome will be an indicator whether the region can flexibly adapt to significant changes in our economy, demographics, urban design standards, energy and resource costs, and serious Southwest climate change.

 

From the beginning, the City-appointed Citizens Task Force and the Broadway Coalition have questioned the wisdom of rigidly following the 2006 ballot language specifying a 150ft-wide, 8-lane roadway. This would require removal of more than 115 existing buildings in the right-of-way. Such acquisition and demolition would cost in excess of $42M, not counting the lost tax base these historic properties represent.

 

The 2006 RTA Plan was based on inflated traffic projections. The actual, lower traffic volumes have changed very little in the past two decades. The major question has been why expand car lane capacity when recent studies show that people are increasingly shifting to other modes of mobility. Should our limited public funds be invested in unnecessary infrastructure?

 

Community stakeholders support a maximum 100ft. width design that could accommodate a 5-lane option with significant pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements which also anticipate future high capacity transit. The high capacity system would serve both local and suburban demand to the east and could be partially funded by the savings from eliminating 50 feet in right-of-way and construction costs and the tax revenues from increased destination business activity.

 

One only needs to look at the transformational investments along the Modern Street Car line including UMC, UA Maingate, West University, Downtown and the westside Mercado District to see that vibrant urban change and economic activity can happen without widening roadways.

 

Transit-oriented development not only preserves historic values but is currently the most successful type of development in Tucson. Visually beautiful places where people walk, bike, meet, and share life is what the new as well as older generations are demanding in urban settings where growth is occurring.

 

The research supporting the 100ft. width is robust. Rapid suburban population growth is no longer the key to future prosperity because of higher resource costs and climate impacts as well as the preference for urban living by the new “millennial” generation. Safety is also a big issue for roadway design. The U. S. currently spends nearly $900B per year due to automobile-related accidents.

 

The rising cost of oil itself looms large as a design factor. This impacts both road fuels and asphalt prices. The truth is that we built our economy on $20/barrel oil and we are now in the era of $100+ oil. Per capita driving behavior since World War II shows continuous increase until 2005 when it began its current slide downward.

 

It is time for the RTA, County, and City to actually address the realities of the emerging 21st Century and let go of 2006 assumptions and the wishful thinking that everything will return to the world of 10 years ago.

 

What’s needed now is a significant change of heart to match the serious choices ahead.

 

Robert Cook, a 50-year resident of Pima County, is a two-term member of the RTA Citizens’ Accountability for Regional Transportation Committee, Past-chair of the Tucson-Pima County Metropolitan Energy Commission, and current member of the Pima County Planning & Zoning Commission. Robert co-founded Sustainable Tucson in 2006 with many other committed neighbors.  Email him at unispan@dakotacom.net.

 

The public is invited to the final Broadway Boulevard Planning Forum on Thursday, June 12th: 5:00 – 8:00pm,  Sabbar Shrine Hall, 450 S. Tucson Blvd

Options available for Broadway project that meet RTA’s ‘functionality’ test

 

Options available for Broadway project that meet RTA’s ‘functionality’ test

by Douglas Mance,  Special to the Arizona Daily Star,  June 08, 2014

 

The last time I addressed the Broadway Corridor Citizens Task Force, I let them know I wanted those dedicated volunteers to succeed in their efforts to come up with a design that would be acceptable to all of the funding entities: the Regional Transportation Authority, Pima County and the city of Tucson.

 

On another occasion I addressed the same body as the ex-officio liaison to my CART Committee (Citizens Accountability for Regional Transportation). I let them know that I felt that their process now was like a “bowling alley with gutters.” My intimation was that if the task force put forth a plan that ignored the 2006 ballot language, they might jeopardize the chances of it being funded at all.

 

The Broadway task force now needs regional community guidance so it can avoid rolling a gutter ball. On Thursday the entire regional public needs to participate in a public forum on this important Broadway project.

 

Prominently stated in the 2006 voter-approved Regional Transportation Plan is the overarching policy that “functionality is not to be diminished.” Some of the task force proposals would clearly diminish functionality.

 

At risk here is more than $42 million from the RTA, more than $25 million from Pima County and $3 million from the city of Tucson. The obligation that both the RTA and Pima County has is to the voters of the entire region and the entire county. The obligation attached to the city of Tucson, the Broadway project manager, seems to be to city voters only.

 

The city’s apparent unwillingness to take into account other regional vested interests could paralyze the efforts to find a common ground. Or this could be a wonderful opportunity to allow three representative governmental bodies to work together to find an elegant compromise solution for this important stretch of Broadway — a gateway to a vibrant downtown for the entire greater Tucson region.

 

I have served on the CART committee since its inception in 2006, and all of us on the committee have a stated mission to “ascertain that the Regional Transportation Authority plan is implemented as presented to the voters of Pima County on May 16, 2006.” The CART is a recommending body of citizen volunteers who will be making our recommendation on the Broadway Corridor RTA project directly to the RTA Board.

 

Like the volunteers on the Broadway Citizens Task Force, we CART members perform our duties because we believe in and we are very proud of our community. The CART committee is also dedicated to keeping the promises made to the 2006 regional voters. The Regional Transportation Plan is a comprehensive plan that contains many hundreds of incredible and visionary component projects, and naturally, not all the projects carry the same popularity levels.

 

That being said, the RTA Plan represents one of the most successful compromises that the Tucson region has ever agreed upon and funded, and if we endanger the plan now by going against the will of the voter and the taxpayer, we run the real risk of affecting the credibility of this entire plan and similar future plans.

 

Within the portfolio of Citizen Task Force Broadway Corridor design options that are now on the table, there are options that may meet both the functionality tests that the voters approved and the fiduciary responsibility that the RTA plan places upon the RTA Board. Unfortunately, there are also some options on the table that will diminish multi-modal transportation functionality on Broadway.

 

We have before us a wonderful opportunity to bowl a good score on this important transportation corridor. All we need to do now plan together and avoid gutter balls.

 

 

Douglas Mance is a longtime financial adviser and resident of the greater Tucson region. He is also a two-term member of the RTA Citizens Accountability for Regional Transportation Committee. Email him dmancerta@comcast.net

 

The public is invited to the final Broadway Boulevard Planning Forum on Thursday, June 12th: 5:00 – 8:00pm,  Sabbar Shrine Hall, 450 S. Tucson Blvd

 

 

 

Follow-up lobbying letter to public officials and community activists

 Follow-up lobbying letter to public officials and community activists

by Robert Cook,  June 9, 2014

June 9, 2014

Dear  Public Official,

I am writing in response to the Guest Opinion published in the Sunday Arizona Daily Star June 8th (see attached.) While I was the author supporting the vision of the Broadway Coalition and the Citizens Task Force, the piece represents the work of hundreds of committed professionals and activists in this community who are at the forefront of bringing forth solid analyses as well as forward-looking ideas about what is to be done.

 

We want to expand the community’s conversation about such complex issues — since that may be the only hope for making better decisions and taking more effective actions. The fundamental economic truism we must face is simple: To do what is needed for our prosperity, we have to stop public expenditures on what is not needed.  And we do not build what we cannot maintain.

 

As I wrote in the Star piece, the design outcome of the City of Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard, Euclid to Country Club Project is going to say a lot about whether we will become a more resilient and vibrant region.  There is so much good research out there to show why the community stakeholders’ vision is the direction we should go. For example, a recent study in Omaha, shows that transit incentive programs increase demand for transit and are less costly than providing parking. We have not even begun to talk about this research and its implications for better solutions here in Tucson.

 

We have heard from Douglas Mance and other proponents of the view that every specification in the 2006 RTA Plan must be rigidly followed to maintain credibility with the voters. That is nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Investing precious public funds in unnecessary infrastructure raises greater questions about public accountability. While I personally believe the RTA is one of the best performing local public agencies in managing and delivering projects, in this case insisting on a rigid interpretation of the 2006 RTA Plan can only damage its reputation. Excellence in public works also requires creativity, good design, and responsiveness to quality of life issues and the economic realities of the community.

 

The proponents of the rigid RTA interpretation also tell us that the community’s preferences for the Broadway redesign would reduce  “functionality of mobility,” a key goal of the Plan. Again, the opposite is true. As a “smart growth” strategy, transit-oriented development doesn’t diminish, but actually increases “functionality of mobility.” The recent transformation along the Street Car route is dramatic evidence that even when no roads are widened, mobility functionality as well as economic vitality can increase significantly. The UA is planning to serve 20,000 additional students in the next decades with thousands more staff and faculty as well. The Street Car will play a critical role in their mobility.

 

While the many benefits of the community-supported design are clear, the remaining question is who will pay for the consequences of an unsustainable, out-of-scale roadway if we end up rigidly following the ballot language specifying a 150ft-wide, 8-lane design?  I think the answer is clear —  it’s us, our children, our grandchildren and the generations to come.

 

Contrary to official rhetoric, the RTA and County can remove the obstacles to what is best for the region.  So please, join us and help make this project one we won’t regret, a project which will make Broadway Blvd, Euclid to Country Club, a Tucson Centro destination that the whole region can enjoy and benefit by.

 

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration,

 

Robert Cook,

Member, RTA Citizen’s Accountability for Regional Transportation Committee

Tour – River Road Gardens

This meeting of the Feeding Tucson Champions’ Network will include a guided tour of the River Road Gardens, 3605 East River Road (on the Waldorf School campus) at 11:00

Jon McNamara & Emily Mabry have a successful CSA garden and will provide a tour for the FTCN.  Then, we will adjourn to the school and discuss what it will take to get more of these.

Join us Sunday for a tour of a local farmer and a discussion of how to create a Secure Food Supply for Tucson.   If you want to get regular invites to similar activities, visit the <FeedingTucson.org> website and join.

ST June Meeting – BUILDING RESILIENT NEIGHBORHOODS: Eco-villages and Social Cohesion

BUILDING RESILIENT NEIGHBORHOODS:

Eco-villages and Social Cohesion

Monday, June 9, 2014, 5:30 – 8:00 pm

Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Lower Level Meeting Room,

101 N. Stone, (free lower level parking off Alameda St.)

With climate change increasing the likelihood of heat waves, flooding and other emergencies that may overwhelm first responders, and when “sheltering in place” becomes the default response, will your neighborhood be a caring and sharing place? Do you have a neighborhood association or group projects?

What is the level of trust on your street? How meaningful are conversations with your neighbors? Do you recognize your neighbors? Are they trustworthy? Do they keep to themselves?

Whether at an Eco-village start-up in Avra Valley, or an Tucson urban neighborhood the challenges and opportunities are great.

Join Sustainable Tucson’s public meeting to explore the value of community cohesion. It may move you to organize where you live.

Speakers will include:

David Burley, organizer at Tortillita Eco-village, Avra Valley. This rural effort to create community can teach us much about starting from scratch including the fundamentals of sharing water and gardening.

Joanie Sawyer, teacher and community activist, past City of Tucson PRO neighborhoods facilitator, Sustainable Tucson core team founder.

Michael Ray, Limberlost Neighborhood Association, President; Inventor and owner of Nurse Tree Arch, LC3.

Both Joanie and Michael are members of the Vulnerable Communities and Neighborhoods Task Force, 2014 (an outcome of the 2013 Climate Smart Southwest national conference).

Come to Sustainable Tucson’s June 9th meeting to find out more.

Doors open at 5:30 pm. The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.