20150824_084341

Stand by, working students: the truth is coming

There is no time for you to worry about the stupid hat I am wearing. I grabbed the first one available from my disaster of a truck and so now I am promoting some big golfing brand I know nothing about – because I don’t golf – while sporting a Mexico soccer t-shirt.

I would  be safe from a future President Trump deportatio  only because his people would be very confused.

But, like I said, there is no time for you to worry about my hat. You are back in town, or brand new to your city,  and you need to know where to get great coffee and cheap, big grub. Or maybe you are one of those rich kids from LA and you need to know where to park your Beemer. Park it in my garage, you spoiled brat! I’m kidding. You’ll find this info useful too even though I am thinking mostly of poor and struggling students.

Yes, Pima and U of A students on a budget, I am your guy and  this is your blog. Seriously, this really is your blog. It’s the best. And I’m not saying I am the best blogger like a hip hop artist says he or she is the best rapper. This really is the best blog. In my mind it’s the best. In my warped, big-headed candidate Trump mind it is the best. In my it’s-August-and-I’m-delusional-because-it’s-been-so-hot-for-so-long-this-summer mind I’m the best. In my “Make America Great!” mind I am the best.

I’ve been watching too much CNN, but I know you feel me. Do the cool kids still say “feel me”?

Anyway, this week some time I will be posting my version of the truth: that is, my picks for best coffee, best grub, best everything for you to survive in Tucson, Arizona.

And what I mean by “best” is not like tall, skinny, expensive food. I’m talking about big, full-plated, authentic, delicious and affordable food; coffee you don’t have to finance to enjoy; and some fun stuff to do that is free or next to free.

But wait, there’s more! I will also share a little about the expensive stuff you can “take” your parents or big sister or brother to when they visit and feel sorry enough for you that they will pick up the check.

See, I got you covered, homie! You too, out-of-state-temporary-homie!

But, seriously, we appreciate your business. Local mom and pops depend on your dollars and we know how precious those few bucks are while you are getting through college.

I’m here to help you spend that money responsibly: on local businesses that keep money in town for my boy’s school, roads and public safety. You may not get that now, but you will when you are all grown up with a job and a family and stuff.

Ok, I gotta get going  and grab a better hat before someone accuses me of trying to get all hipster. Too early for accidental irony, my part-time homie!

 

20150705_121021-1 (1)

How Nana beat Walgreens: FAQ on the fight for Barrio Hollywood self-determination:

Don’t mess with a Barrio Hollywood nana. Seriously.

Unless you want a political ass-kicking.

And, apparently, that is exactly what the City of Tucson and a handful of self-appointed characters received last Thursday: a thorough, democratic, decisive and beautiful slap down by the people of Barrio Hollywood (BH).

I’m going to add to the ongoing discussion by using a “Frequently Asked Questions” format. This might bring a different perspective, because, really, the questions keep rolling in; new and honest questions; tired, old questions; question meant to offend; and questions meant to distract us and maybe even hurt us.

Let’s give it a shot:

I heard a crazy meeting took place at El Rio last Thursday. What happened? 

Thanks for asking, hommie! (come on, do you blame me for starting with a softball?) By a ratio of almost 7 to 1, over a hundred BH residents and supporters packed a room at the El Rio Neighborhood Center and voted 69 to 10 to change the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association (BHNA) bylaws, making it official that only residents of BH are eligible to vote within their association.

So you guys hate the businesses in Barrio Hollywood? What did they do?

No. Of course not. In fact, most of the businesses support the BHNA and the annual Fiesta Grande and we support them. Members of the BHNA and the Fiesta Grande  (keep in mind that they are not the same thing: they are separate organizations) have worked tirelessly to promote BH businesses over many years. Get this: one of the biggest reasons the Fiesta Grande was started back in 2003 was to celebrate our mom and pops and let the rest of Tucson know that Grande Avenue was open for business after that gigantic sink hole that opened up on Grande & Speedway was repaired. They benefited from our promotion, and they have continued to benefit from the 12 fiestas that followed. And we continue to plan and put on the Fiesta Grande every year at no cost to the businesses. They get all that free publicity from our volunteer work!

Dang

I know, right?!

Since then, we have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for neighborhood improvements like the Cambio Grande that added all those beautiful murals, benches, sidewalks and brick paving. We have raised money for the Late Night Hoops program at El Rio; raised money for scholarships to benefit local students; recognized barrio (and Tucson) heroes like Lupe Castillo, Richard Rodriguez Sr., Henry “Hank” Oyama, and many more. And this annual street festival has always been free for the enjoyment of BH residents, their relatives and friends and for the entire Tucson community.  It averages 50,000 in attendance each year. It is a big, West Side, family oriented party that everyone has come to love.

If you have been, you absolutely know this.

And I must emphasize again that we have provided 13 years of promotion for Grande Avenue businesses via television interviews, press releases, radio, print, etc. This kind of marketing and advertising is very expensive if you try to buy it for your business directly-  it is valued in the tens of thousands of dollars if bought in the private market. But we secured it at no cost to them over the years. We put Grande Avenue on the map. But a small handful of businesses and outsiders don’t appreciate that.

So, not all of the businesses have a problem with BHLA and the Fiesta Grande?

Of course not. CP, owner of Mariscso Chihuahua, not only supports us, he also helps us plan the Fiesta Grande every year. Others supportive businesses include; Taco Giro, LaTortilla; Lulu’s Hair Salon; American Legion Post 59; Regi’s Automotive Repair; Our Liquors, Manna From Heaven Indian Fry Bread; St. Mary’s Mexican Food; and on, and on.

But there are a handful that you will have to ask yourself where they stand. Like Rat’s Chilli Dogs.

You mean Pat’s? 

Never heard of them.

All I’m saying is that I am done with the handful of haters who don’t appreciate what we have done for our kids, our barrio streets, and even for them, the businesses. You mess with my Barrio Hollywood family, you mess with me. So I am done with Rat’s.

You mean Pat’s? With a “P”?

Next question.

My name is Jon. I’m white. I am thinking of opening up a business in Barrio Hollywood. Maybe even moving into the barrio with my family. Is it true you guys would have a problem with that? 

Jon, where do you get this stuff? Come on, man. Of course you would be welcomed. Gentrification is not a black hat, white hat kinda of phenomena. It is more complicated than that. If you are respectful of the priorities, culture, history and people of BH, I know you will be welcomed. While a primarily a Chicano barrio, BH is pretty diverse, actually, and good people of many backgrounds and ethnicities live there.  And, as a resident, you will have a vote if you get involved with the BHNA.

We just urge you to be respectful. Follow the advice given by Luke Salcido at the special BHNA meeting in question:

“.. I was born and raised in Tucson. Almost 30 years. (I don’t live in Barrio Hollywood, but) I got a lot of people that I love in Barrio Hollywood. My family is from right there on 12th and 27th where there was a panadero, a business owner. We were Chicanos in a primarily Yaqui neighborhood… (the panadero) didn’t go in there and try and tell them how to run their neighborhood because they have their own culture, they have their own traditions. If you want to do that, you now, and you want to build coalitions, and build partnerships, you don’t go in there and tell the people that have lived here for years what to do. You come in and you ask. And you be respectful of the people…”

Live by those words, Jon. And, if you only open up a business in BH and decide not to live there, don’t expect a vote. Like long time BH resident Manny Jacques puts it, “This is our neighborhood. This is where we sleep and where we wake up.”

I don’t get a vote even with a business there? That doesn’t seem fair.

Don’t be rediculous, Jon. Look, I don’t live in Marana so I don’t get to to vote for Marana’s next mayor. What’s so hard to understand? This is a basic principal of democracy. That’s how it works. Next question.

I’m a senior at Tucson High and I am writing an essay on this issue. I detect an attitude from many of the people in Barrio Hollywood. What’s your problem? There seems to be a lot of shouting and social media fights.  

So, ya know…. who cares?

I don’t understand.

Barrio Hollywood is a very special place with many very independent, passionate people. Actually, you can say this is true for much of the West Side barrios. Specifically, however, BH has a long history of activism. El Rio Neighborhood Center and Joaquin Murrieta Park were not just given to West Side residents: they had to be fought for. There was a lot of shouting back then too. People even got up from a meeting and just crossed the street and physically took over the golf course.

Just because the meetings get a little heated, just because residents speak their mind (sometimes – maybe often – loudly), just because the subjects we raise and how we talk about them make people uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we are wrong and it doesn’t mean we need to adjust to your comfort level.

Historically, Barrio Hollywood people have been fiercely independent. Nobody cares who represents us at the Ward 1 Office, they just better represent us well. The Fiesta Grande was not an event that was created or organized by the City or the Ward 1 Office – it was, and still is, completely independent. If politicians want to come to the fiesta and say hello, we will bring them on stage so they can do so. If they don’t come, we don’t care. They serve us, we don’t serve them.

Wow. I like that. I didn’t know about the El Rio story.

That’s because local politicians refuse to fight for the return of the Mexican American Studies program to your school. Otherwise, you probably would have learned all about the El Rio story by your Sophomore year. Next question.

What’s the deal with all the reports on TV and newspaper about all this? I’m confused. 

We have a local journalism/democracy problem in this town that seems to be only getting worse. It has been getting steadily worse over the years. But we still have some good people trying to do some honest reporting (and we have lost many good journalists due to the economic downturn: good reporters are people , they also have to feed their families).

That said, for such an important meeting, you would think there would be many reporters there. Instead, only two journalists from two media outlets showed up, and a hand full of bloggers/writers,  including your truly.

And, of course, the media that did not show up produced the worst coverage of the event.

Go figure.

So let’s take a look at the coverage so far, starting with the “no shows”:

If you read Ernesto Portillo’s piece in the Arizona Daily Star about this neighborhood association meeting you notices that;  it didn’t list the results of the 69 to 10 slap down vote; it described the BH as a neighborhood in need of “healing” when, actually, the vibe was extremely celebratory after such a great victory; and, again, he wasn’t there and neither were any Arizona Daily Star reporters that we are aware of.

Writing about an event he was not present at was probably the most troubling of all. However, I have a lot of respect for Mr. Portillo. I know he has very thick skin, as all good journalists should. So I do believe that future writing on this subject – which is sure to continue – will receive better, more thoughtful coverage.

The KGUN 9 report was even worse. It was completely one-sided. I hear we’ll get another opportunity to share our side soon – now that maximum damage has been done, that is.

The AZPM piece was better (especially the interviews segments with actual residents) because, well, that AZPM reporter was the other one that actually showed up. See how that works?

Now, if you really want the best report on what went down last Thursday, check out Maria Ines Taracena’s piece in the Tucson Weekly. This is by far the most accurate report on what happened. Now, she stayed for the entire meeting, start to finish, and talked to as many people as she could. She deserves a lot of praise for a job well done.

Not to get off the subject, but this is not the first time the Tucson Weekly has provided excellent investigative reporting. It is now under the leadership of Managing Editor Mari Herreras who has done her fair share of independent and courageous investigative reporting. And unlike Mr. Coyote who produces stories about tall, skinny, expensive food once every couple of months, the Tucson Weekly continues its tradition of comforting the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I know, know. I’m being hard on Mr. Coyote. He manages to put out a few good pieces. But, like I said about Rat’s, you mess with our peeps, you mess with all of us. We don’t have time for a privileged, arrogant coyote to take up space hating on important journalist. Instead, we need to encourage and support more honest coverage of pressing issues impacting our families and less stories about pretty food. There, I said it.

So why won’t the Fiesta Grande organizers open up their books and prove there is nothing fishy going on? 

So, have you returned that car you stole?

Excuse me? 

After the hand full of outsiders lost the bylaws battle (they got stomped 69 to 10, remember?), they are now suddenly throwing out a ridiculous red herring: they couldn’t beat us with an open, transparent vote, so now they are changing the subject and trying for character assassination.

Maybe the lone business owner who has trouble losing should start a new conversation by writing a check and supporting our fundraising efforts like other businesses have. It’s really hard to take a business owner seriously when he and others refuse to simply start a business alliance for themselves like the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association or the Sunshine Mile or the Main Gate Square.

Too lazy? Easier to just try and profit off the work of a non-profit that raises money to benefit kids and seniors?

But why can’t the Fiesta Grande committee open up their books?

Why don’t you shut up and volunteer to clean up Grande Avenue when it’s time to prepare for the next fiesta? Maybe help carry the musicians heavy equipment? How about attend a few of the 20 or so planning meetings? Maybe help pick up the garbage late on a Sunday night after the whole thing is over? Who sent you, anyway?Next question.

Why is this whole thing so important to you? I hear you don’t even live in Barrio Hollywood. 

Ah, but I can walk there from my house within a few minutes. My son just finished playing his first season of Western Little League T-ball at Joaquin Murrieta Park. His grandparents and great grandparents lived in Barrio Hollywood. And, for the past 13 years,  I have been honored to be invited by BH residents to emcee their annual Fiesta Grande.

This exceptional barrio already has more than capable residents to fend for themselves such as; Margaret and Patrick McKenna and, well, all the McKennas;  longtime educator and activist Lupe Castillo and her equally outspoken partner and attorney Margo Cowan, former chief aid to County Supervisor Carroll Scott Egan, the organizing master Pernela Jones, former City Council Member Steve Leal, and upcoming rock star Bunny Uriearte.

Wow. Makes you wonder why anyone would want to pick a fight with Barrio Hollywood in the first place.

But, the fact is, there are many West Siders and Tucsonans that care about Barrio Hollywood too. And, once in a while, we get invited to help fight some good fights.

The people that continue to attack Barrio Hollywood should know about other West Siders and friends who support BH. It goes something like this: if you mess with Barrio Hollywood, you also mess with the Baldenegors & Cruz Family, the Robles and Ortega Family, and the Sequeiros Family. If you push BH, you get pushed back by advocates of the former Mexican American Studies Program (MAS), you get pushed back by the El Rio Coalition II and you get pushed back by many other neighborhood association leaders from across our city. If you were at that meeting and took some time to look around, you would recognize this. It was historic.

And, I have to say, of all the political events I have been involved in over the last 30 years of my adult life in Tucson, this BHNA meeting was among the most powerful and uplifting one of them all. I think a lot of people felt that way because just about all the key supporters were present. It is no small thing to fill a room like that in the middle of summer in Tucson, Arizona.

Ok, so I live in Limberlost Neighborhood on the North Side of town. Why should I care about this battle happening in Barrio Hollywood?

You should care about this for the same reasons you should care about what happened to Access Tucson, what may happen to the Ronstadt Center (some say that battle is over but I don’t buy that the public transportation battle in general is over), what is happening to long-time locally owned mom and pops downtown and across the City, what is not happening for the working poor in this 8th poorest city in the nation, and, most relevant to you in Limberlost, how services, self-determination and power is diminishing for all neighborhoods across our City.

Via letters and media reports, City official are now hinting at calling for Mayor & Council involvement in looking at the overall City guidelines to consider changes to neighborhood association governance because of this so-called “division” in Barrio Hollywood. This appears to be an attempt at co-opting the narrative to give Mayor & Council an excuse to meddle in the governance of neighborhood associations. 

The Mayor and Council will now have a choice: leave BH alone and allow the residents to determine for themselves how they will be governed, or use this manufactured crisis in BH as a pretext to open up the neighborhood guidelines and weaken all NA’s by making it mandatory to allow business and property owners to vote.

The cynical side of me might suspect that those that were upset because BH residents  didn’t roll over and allow the theft of El Rio by the private Grand Canyon University - ok purchase, although “theft” is closer to the truth – a couple of years ago would love neighborhood guidelines changes that would weaken NAs and strengthened businesses and property owners.

See where this is all going?

My message to the Mayor and council is simple: If you are going to bring up anything regarding what NA’s need, you will first have to address the resources you have severely reduced for them over the years. And once you have done that, the first order of business has to be to bring those resources back to the level they were once at so that residents are better able to organize and determine their own governance and priorities.

Anything short of first returning resources to NA’s at the level they used to be will be interpreted as an unveiled attempt by the City to usurp NAs right to govern themselves while they are still suffering from diminished membership participation due to the reduction of City resources.

Lot’s of NAs have been talking about innovative ways to organize themselves and to advocate for their needs. I have always supported new, symbiotic partnerships between NA & local business: We have more in common with each other than we do with local politicians. There is power in that potential partnership.

Many NA leaders are closely following what is happening in Barrio Hollywood. They saw Nana give Walgreens a nice, political ass-kicking and I suspect that inspired them.

Wow. I get it now.

I knew you would.

Something special happened at that Barrio Hollywood meeting.

A packed room at El Rio in the dead of summer, over a hundred in attendance? Young and old? This was an extremely unprecedented turn out for a neighborhood association – again, during the dead of summer! That just doesn’t happen while many families are on vacation or just trying to stay cool in front of the swamp cooler.

Well, I take that back. The City also received an ass-kicking two summers ago over the whole Grand Canyon University thing.

Ok, so this last whoopin’ was a big deal too. It was historic.

You know where to find us if you need another. Don’t mess with our nanas!

1517520_997337723643958_2080635163230146975_n

Character counts in Barrio Hollywood

As the media war over Barrio Hollywood’s fight for self-determination continues, I remembered and incident that took place at the Fiesta Grande two years ago. It involved my friend Linda Victoria who has donated her art on several occasions to help raise money to benefit Fiesta Grande programs and a business owner who has recently gone to a local news station to criticize the organizers of this annual event.

I asked her to share her story. She graciously agreed:

To a hammer, all are nails
by Linda Victoria

In matters of Barrio Hollywood (and everywhere else for that matter), a wise woman I know said once that solutions lie “between Revolution and Disneyland”. In matters of Barrio Hollywood, it’s all Revolution.

My first taste of Revolution in BH came a couple of years ago at Fiesta Grande. An older man and a young lady strode into my vendor booth. I greeted them while noticing that the man was visibly angry and was breathing heavily. He said, “You did not pay me to use the Pat’s sign in your painting.”

Confused, I said, “what?”

He repeated, “If you are going to use Pat’s in your painting, you needed to pay me for permission and you failed to do so.”

Bewildered, I said, “But isn’t Pat’s a public neighborhood landmark?”

He said, “It belongs to me and you did not pay me for permission to use it.”

I managed to say, “Gosh, I only wanted to promote the culture of Barrio Hollywood. Isn’t this free advertising for you? Maybe you should be paying me?”

The man & the young lady were taken aback (so was I – I NEVER think on my feet like that)… the young lady just said, “Wow.”

He then demanded my card and said he was taking it to his lawyer.

Was I shaken? Yes!! I felt like I’d been beaned with a hammer. I was frightened for weeks. Luckily I never heard further from him.

If he had been even a little curious he would have learned that I knew nothing of Fiesta Grande politics, and that I love creating art that pays homage to Tucson’s rich historical culture. Being from Santa Fe, NM, I witnessed gentrification first hand. In Tucson, I want to do what I can to document our historical neighborhoods while they’re still in tact. That’s it. I give the original files to the neighborhoods themselves to use in ways that help with fundraising and preservation. That is my joy.

 

375669_10151013905993685_729586238_n

This Thursday, help Barrio Hollywood say YES to barrio self-determination!

Call your nana! Call your hommie! Call your prima! In fact, call anyone and everyone who lives in Barrio Hollywood and make sure they vote this Thursday, July 2nd, 6pm, at El Rio Neighborhood Center to protect their collective voice against the same outsiders that tried to destroy El Rio only a couple of years ago.

I know, I know. They are a determined, petty, little group, aren’t they? They just won’t go away. And they constantly underestimate the residents of Barrio Hollywood. Yet, here they come again.

In a nutshell, outsiders are trying to stop the Fiesta Grande - seriously, what kind of people want to stop the best barrio party in town, even after all the money raised to benefit the neighborhood? – and weaken decision making abilities for Barrio Hollywood residents.

Get this, if they have it their way, Walgreen’s may have the same voting rights as a nana who has lived in Barrio Hollywood for 50 years. So, the real question here is: are you for corporate personhood or are you for nana power? Come on, man, you know you gotta be down with nana!

Instead of allowing outsiders to take control of Barrio Hollywood, let’s support great business owners like CP, the local owner of Mariscos Chihuahua, who constantly plays a very supportive role for all residents in that neighborhood. He understands that his restaurant benefits from the 13 years of branding the Fiesta Grande has provided him. He knows better than to speak for the residents: instead, he is thankful for the revenue he makes from the hard work volunteers put into the annual Fiesta Grande every year and he always finds ways to give back.

But, until we have more responsible business owners like CP stepping up, we need to push back on the outsiders this Thursday.

So, again, call your nana! Call your hommie! Call your prima! Call everyone in Barrio Hollywood and make sure they vote for barrio self-determination this Thursday!

I will write more on this topic soon. But, for now, please take a moment to read the following important background and details on this scheduled vote from Scot Eagan, a Hollywood resident for 35 years.

Thank you!
Miguel

…………………………………………………….

What is going on in the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association, and why residents attend the next meeting at 6pm on Thursday July 2nd at El Rio Neighborhood Center?

The Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association (BHNA) has been in existence since 1989, and in those 25 years the residents of the neighborhood have democratically elected the President and other members of the Executive Committee.  In that time, those leaders have been in the forefront in the formation of the annual Fiesta Grande, wrote grants that helped repave Grande Avenue’s median lane, installed park benches and water fountains, and contributed thousands of dollars to keep open midnighthoops at El Rio Center and other programs.
For a relatively poor neighborhood, many good things have been accomplished by BHNA.
Non-residents came and changed everything!!!
Then the strange election of January 2014 occurred, and things changed considerably for the worse.  On election night something happened that nobody had ever witnessed in the 25 years before — people who reside outside of the neighborhood (but who own property in Hollywood) came en masse, and using a loophole in the bylaws elected a new President who had hardly ever attended neighborhood meetings or ever helped with all the work in the past.  Many of those who voted that night almost two years ago have never even been to a meeting since!  They came, they voted, and then left the mess for other to clean up.  The person they elected — Kasey Carlton — immediately tried to solidify her power by changing the bylaws to her benefit.
Each Hollywood resident should have a vote!!!
One of the first things Ms. Carlton proposed was a bylaw change that would make it so each HOUSEHOLD would only get one vote, as opposed to each resident (one person one vote).  This would give her, as a single resident, twice as much power as a couple, and four times as much voting power as a family of four.  The residents of Hollywood stood together and defeated her attempt to destroy the democratic vote of the association, as well as other restrictive voting schemes (for example, she wanted only one member of a family to be on the board: a direct attack on the McKenna family which has been the foundation of both the neighborhood association and Fiesta Grande).  Other bad proposals she made were turned down as well by astute residents.
Who should make decisions for Barrio Hollywood?
In spite of these victories, the underlying problem remains:  due to the bylaws that were established in 1989, any non-resident property or business owner in the neighborhood can not only vote, but bring other family members, spouses, and even employees to our elections and demand the right to vote and make important decisions – decisions that most of us believe should be left to those who live here.  And that, in a nutshell, is what the fight is about.
This is why we need every resident of Hollywood who cares about our barrio, and who support the improvements on Grande and wants to see the continuation of Fiesta Grande to come to the El Rio meeting and vote for the bylaw change to insure that ONLY residents of Hollywood vote.  There is no doubt that some of the non-residential property owners will also show up and fight against empowering the residents.  We need to out-number them on this vote, or our association will become a captive for outside interests that do not care about the needs of the residents.
What does the other side say?
They claim that by only allowing residents to vote we are not being “inclusive.”  They are right – we do NOT want residents from other areas of Tucson to have the same right to vote on our neighborhood issues.  We wouldn’t even dream of going to another neighborhood association where we don’t live and voting in their elections, why should they do so in ours?  “Inclusive”should not include non-residents “fixing” elections against the will of the residents.
The other side says we are being “anti-business.”  This accusation is absurd, considering all the work and effort our people have made in promoting the businesses through Fiesta Grande and the Grande Avenue improvements for the benefit of our local businesses.  The fact is that many of the small business owners in Grande have been very supportive of our efforts, and we are supportive of their businesses as well.  These fine businesses wouldn’t even think of trying to effect our neighborhood elections, but continue to develop a mutually respective relationship with the residents.  There are only a few bad apples in the bunch who are ruining it for the rest, and they have shown no qualms about what is in essence “stuffing the ballots” and even trying to intimidate some of our residents.
 
It is time for us to take back our neighborhood.
We will be introducing a specific bylaw change that will require that only residents should get to vote for our representatives for BHNA. 
I hope you will stand with us and your fellow residents by attending our neighborhood meeting this Thursday, July 2nd at 6pmat the El Rio Community Center and help insure that our neighborhood is representative — first and foremost — of, by, and for the residents who live here.
Thank you for your attention,
Sincerely,
Scott Egan
Niagara Street, Barrio Hollywood
(Hollywood resident for 35 years)

Summertime poverty and middle-class sunburns

Here is where we are at right about now.

Someone is looking forward to summer in Tucson, Arizona.

Someone else dreads it. Because poverty is a bitch when it’s 105 outside. Even the middle class can’t afford sun screen with extra economic protection.

Somewhere a bureaucrat is about to hit “send” even though she knows she shouldn’t. But the best time to get four votes is, well, right about this time; when it’s about to get too hot to even think; when you don’t want to be bothered on vacation with your family because you still don’t know how you are going to pay for it when you get back home. You just know you can’t afford not to go: They can take away your house, but they can’t take away walking to the beach with your kid from the Motel 6..

The big joke back when I was in college was that you should never break up or start a new relationship during summer break. It’s just too hot to do either.  Perfect time for bureaucrats to do their thing because even older voters live and suffer under the same Sonoran sun.

Right about now someone is thinking that maybe a mom and pop shouldn’t open up a mom and pop in June when even experienced mom and pops aren’t sure they can make it through summer themselves. But does mom and pop really have a choice? Mom and pop are sweating big, round, wet, stressful mom and pop bullets.

Somewhere, someone is looking in the mirror. Getting ready for a graduation ceremony. He wonders if people will know just by looking at him. How is he going to pay for this? How did this happen to him? To his family?  Nobody needs to know. Nobody will know. And for a few hours, while he celebrates the one he loves more than anything, hoping she will be better than him in her own life, some broke, zero population jerk-off will celebrate Sonoran cuisine in fashionable 3rd world attire.

Somewhere a mom is already thinking about September. Let’s just make it to September. One, two, three… just three months. ‘We can do this!’.

Somewhere a local politician knows better. But it’s too hot. It’s just too damn hot.

Right about now a local journalist wonders if he should just take that job. Listen, everyone is doing it! He is not an idealistic college student anymore- he has a family and bills to pay. And doing the work of 3 is just bullshit. You want an investigative journalist? Bite me! It’s too hot. It’s just too hot.

Along some steep hill, in a barrio on the west side, a campaign worker is about to collapse from a heat stroke. ‘Que viva la causa my ass’, she thinks, ‘I’m going to skip those next 4 houses. They will never know.’

And somewhere in a nice living room under ice cold, state of the art air conditioning, a little, frightened family watches city streets being torched on CNN. Leading questions roll off of reporter tongues with thinly veiled fears of their own. Their TV is right next to a majestic window with a perfect view of the city. It’s so hot out there. So hot and scary.

And that is where are at. We all knew that cool May was a lie. June has it out for us – everything will burn like it’s personal.

20150505_173446

White guys at top of local media

It seriously shouldn’t be me writing about how white, middle-aged men have dominated the local media in Tucson over the past several decades. It should be a local journalist writing about this, not a blogger: A professional writer with an actual copy editor and some kind of research support would do a much better job.

But, really, who is going to talk about this sad truth? Local media? That would be awkward.

Right about now I am supposed to say something about how great the Tucson Weekly, KXCI, Access Tucson, Zocalo and the rest are and how this isn’t personal. And that is easy because they truly are awesome. I know and love ‘em all.

But let’s get real.

Some of the lingering nostalgia being expressed on social media on the heals of various 30th anniversaries celebrations for local outlets have gotten a little Disneylandish.

Only recently did KXCI and Access Tucson break the white-guy-at-the-top tradition. And the Tucson Weekly finally went even further with a woman of color at the top of that rag.

Progress? Absolutely.

Problem solved? Not even close.

Access Tucson is about to lose all funding from the City. And there is no certainty that the new owners of the Tucson Weekly will keep their current staff leadership in place. And it doesn’t help when a founding-white-alternative-media-father takes shots at her because, you know, nothing can be as cool as white journalism from the 90′s. Not foodie enough?

Whatever.

The media in this town is run almost exclusively by white men and it’s a big problem.

We are not as cool as we think we are.

 

11074448_10203903730458239_580979941195377532_n

While you were away on spring break we said, “Crowd control this!”

Hey, I didn’t want to reactivate this blog with my recent letter to the Tucson Mayor and Council. I was thinking of something happier and maybe a little more clever.

But that is just how it all worked out.

While you were away enjoying your spring break, your local politicians were busy attacking your First Amendment rights. Yep, right during a time in Arizona when we really need to get out and protest against our new Gov’s draconian budget cuts to education and his love affair with prison industry, the Mayor and Council thought we should consider ways to make it harder for you to assemble.

Don’t worry, we slowed them down.

Below is that letter I hastily – and, yes, angrily – sent on behalf my democracy-loving families away in Disneyland (funny how our local bureaucrats and politicians like to talk about crazy ideas while you are out of town). Actually,  you should thank the good people at locally owned Revolutionary Grounds Cafe for steeping up and leading the successful push back. And, by saying “thank the good people” at Raging Sage, I mean go buy a book or a cup of coffee from them. We need to support the mom and pops that support us.

So, yes, here is that letter I sent out last week. As you read it, visualize that vein above my eye popping out in anger as I wrote it.

…………

Tucson Mayor & Council Members:

I’m stunned. How did these two items even get this far? Are you not paying attention to what is going on nationwide regarding community and police relations? How can you be that politically tone-deaf?

Both of these ordinances (and/or amendments) should have been stopped as soon as staff proposed them. Why did you allow them to get this far?

Twenty years ago, I and several other organizers camped out in front of the Mexican Consulate to protest the passage of NAFTA and the Mexican government treatment of the people of Chiapas during their uprising.

We slept on the sidewalk overnight. We knew that, at the very least, our City leaders in 1994 recognized our right to do so and did not interfere with our 1st Amendment rights.

At that time, free speech organizations such as KXCI, the Tucson Weekly and Access Tucson were about 10 years old. That Mayor & City Council celebrated free speech and embraced these organizations as their own and as Tucson born guardians of local voices and local democracy.

What happened?

What happened to our leadership?

As a taxpayer, homeowner, father, husband and brother, I value the Tucson Police Department and their role in keeping my family safe. I got to know many during my time as chief of staff at the Ward 3 Council Office for 5 years. The TPD is made up of many fantastic, hard working police officers.

But, does that mean I can’t question the TPD when I disagree with them on some of their choices or tactics? Would that make me disloyal to them somehow? Aren’t they supposed to be loyal to me and my family? Does my questioning mean that I hate cops?

That is ridiculous.

Yet Council Member Steve Kozachik continues to be the only member on the council to point out areas – be they budgetary or operational – where TPD needs to make improvements.

Is Steve the only one who can advocate for us on matters regarding our local police? Is he the only one watching this nationwide conversation taking place regarding the police and our community on CNN every night? Are you absent as a new civil rights movement unfolds across our country? Really?

Just because a Tucson citizen may have some differences with the local police does not mean that this citizen is being unprofessional or unreasonable or does not support our police and their important role in our community.

By continuing to be a one-dimensional group of TPD cheerleaders without a breath of criticism for them, you are exposing yourself as the odd “man” out as communities nationwide shatter the old “with us or against us” narrative.

Please catch up to the rest of the nation!

Consider that the handling of these two items are on the heels of your secretive city manager search and after two separate judges scolded you for withholding public records asked for by community members: one regarding GCU and the other for completely misunderstanding a ruling on how to handle a downtown homeless protest.

Incredibly, the City staff response to these recent fumbles is to push for more power with less transparency. And you let them go far down this path and only slowed things down because of the immediate community outcry.

As a Tucson resident for the past 30 years and as an eye witness during my 5 years working within City Hall, I have seen our local democracy erode under your leadership. Our City government has become less transparent and more closed under your leadership.

You may be succeeding as politicians but you are failing as leaders.

Sincerely,

Miguel Ortega

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 2.06.10 PM

The U of A joins the Mayor & Council on the road to silencing Tucson

The best way to initiate unpopular ideas is to do it under the cover of our summer slumber. It’s kind of a political tradition here in Tucson. Of those that remain in town, few of us express too much outrage over anything. Because outrage requires energy. And everyone knows you gotta pick and choose how you expend energy right about now.
It’s too hot. We are too distracted with….stuff.  Summer stuff.
Apparently, the U of A leadership knows this: they have become the second among the biggest bureaucracies in town to announce the diminishing of their community media programming this summer (actually, the Mayor & Council just skip the “diminishing” part and just go for completely zeroing out).

So when I say local democracy has been eroding in Tucson over the past decade – and especially taking a hit this year – I meant it. This is not conspiracy talk. It’s real.

And we should all be worried.
What is most disturbing is that, like the Mayor & Council, U of A leaders are also complaining about content. Ironically – or should I say sadly – the Mayor & Council have often mentioned KUAT as the ideal TV station Access Tucson should be more like.
Let that sink in for a bit.
With less and less investigative journalism in town, less opportunities for everyday citizens to produce their own programming, and as the cleansing of “content” continues, we are fast becoming a very different kind of community.
Take a moment and count the ways 2014 has been the year of silencing Tucson voices.
Now ask yourself who is making these decisions about your town.
Pic cafe 2014 cup of coffee

How to Be A Good Cafeista

Listen, we are all in this together. I’m talking to you, fellow Cafeistas. Fellow cafe professionals. Talking to y’all who are known by baristas by your first name even if they don’t remember it every time you come in.

Or they know you by the drink you order.

“Hey, check it out.” says Barista X to Barista Y at your favorite Caffe Z.

“Here comes Double Espresso. Let’s see how long he camps out today.”

You walk in.

“Hi. Having your usual?”

Listen, we need to get our act together or they are going to kick us out of the best cafes in Tucson. Ok, I’m being dramatic. But, really, baristas are sacred.  They caffeinate us. They chat with us every day even when they don’t feel like it. They take care of us. So we need to take care of them.

I see baristas as members of The Junior Sainthood Society (totally made that up so don’t bother googleing it): not quite saints, but one step away from sainthood. Even baristas that may not be very “saintly” should be considered Junior Saints in my book.

They are kinda like a young Mother Theresa after something heavy fell on her toe.

If you see a group of baristas walking down the sidewalk, you should move over and give them about two feet of space for them to pass by. And you should not look at them directly in the eye. Out of respect. And out of a little bit of fear.

If it appears that a barista accidentally wore her shirt on backwards you should write her a note letting her know but pass it to her all casual like. Then don’t do anything. If she meant to wear it that way because she is just that kind of barista she will just ignore you but probably appreciate your gesture. Or she will be annoyed by you. Whatever. You did your part. Move on.

Don’t look at her anymore!

I got more of these. But you get my point.

I’ve said this before: locally owned cafes define cities and Tucson has among the very best cafes in the world. I spend a lot of time at them getting work done. In fact, I wrote this at two of my favorite cafes, Raging Sage and Caffe Luce.

Recently, the good guys at Connect Coworking produced this youtube piece promoting their service called Coffee Shop vs Connect Coworking. It really pissed me off. Basically, they were saying that professionals and entrepreneurs shouldn’t spend their money at locally owned cafes and, instead, spend it with them in a more quite, professional setting.

Well, they weren’t really saying that exactly. And they really do offer a great alternative for folks who don’t have the money to lease an all out office but need quite space with resources.

I just get a little sensitive about anyone even coming close to withdrawing their support of locally owned cafes. And it’s actually a really good deal to adopt cafes as alternative office space to get work done. If it is done right, it can be a very affordable, pleasant and mutually beneficial experience for both you and the cafe owner and employees.

So long as you don’t abuse the privilege and you are a good cafeista.

Which brings us back to the topic at hand: Don’t be a punk, be a good cafeista. Here is how:

If you camp out for more than a couple of hours, drop your CCT (Cafe Camping Tip) in the jar before leaving.

Yes, I made this concept up. But I do drop CCTs all the time. Ask around. The idea is simple: Tip twice if you are camping out, dude. Drop a buck into the tip jar before you leave. Let the barista know that you stayed a while and you appreciate their service. You’ll get a smile and you will feel good about supporting your local Junior Saint barista.

Make room and share your table with others.

Listen, you don’t own the place. Don’t spread out all your stuff and hog the table. Make some room. Make eye contact with the person that just walked in and is scanning the place for somewhere to sit down. Invite them to your table. Some cafes only offer internet service after 12p because many of us hog our space discouraging new customers. It’s a business thing for cafes. So, if you are like me and enjoy a variety of cafes and appreciate their amenities like free, unlimited wi-fi, work with them so they can make a buck.

Promote the cafe you just enjoyed.

This is a no-brainer. You are sitting there already online. Give the cafe a “like” on their Facebook page. Let others know how much you love and appreciate the locally owned cafe  you are currently enjoying. Remember, this ain’t Starbucks with millions of marketing dollars. Do your part and promote localism!

Take your phone call outside.

This is a simple one: People at cafes that step outside to take a cell phone call are cool. People at cafes that take a cell phone call inside and just blather away are not cool.

Move your meetings to local cafes. 

How about bringing that cafe you love so much more business? Instead of having your meeting at your stuffy conference room or library, bring your group to a local cafe. Learn more about how to do this by going to Move Your Meetings. This is especially helpful during the summer when many local cafes and restaurants struggle for customers.

I’m sure there is more.

Now, go hug a barista or something. Unless that barista doesn’t like hugs. In that case, don’t look at him in the eye and move along.

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 5.43.53 PM

OK, Pima County Sups, Here is Some Advice

So, I recently wrote this thing for the Inside Tucson Business (miss them already) about eroding transparency in local government. I was mostly pointing out what is going wrong with Tucson City government regarding this subject. And I did a by-the-way mention of Pima County government at the end of my column.

Apparently, I struck a nerve.

And so, bam, there was a quick response. Not by City Manager Richard Miranda. Not by the Mayor or any Council Members. It was from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. Again, I only mentioned the County guys a little at the end.

But, it was enough to motivate Mr. Huckelberry to defend his peeps.

I’m thinking we should just turns this thing into a positive. I don’t want to know why there was such a quick and defensive reaction from the guys I barely mentioned. I leave that to an investigative journalist – if you can find one in town that has not lost his/her job these days – to dig into it and find out.

So, Pima County Sups, here is your advice:

  • First, move your meetings to a weekend night. Have your “call to the audience” at a time a poor slob can attend. Like 5:30pm, when most people can come by after work. Even if you have to start a little earlier in the afternoon, you can at least do a cousin of the City’s study session early on but offer “call to the audience” at a decent time when everyone can attend. This early morning, weekday meeting stuff has to go.
  • Make this meeting on any day but Tuesday. You see, this is when TUSD and the City of Tucson meet. We can’t be everywhere at once. And you don’t want people to think you are doing this on purpose: that is, ensuring you will only have a portion of the public attend your meetings due to all the other meetings happening at the same time. We don’t want that, right?
  • Stop getting rid of Board of Supervisor meetings DVDs after one year and have a copy at all libraries available, not just at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library . And, by the way, do you really not have enough space to store these DVDs? If you want to, I can give up a corner of my garage for storage of some off these razor thin disks.
  • Make your “Transparency” link, well, more transparent. I know it sounds cool to just say you are transparent and leave it at that, but most people won’t assume they can just click on that link and watch a recording of a Board of Supervisors meeting. Right now, once you click on that link, you have to go down a list of lot’s of stuff - yes important stuff, but, still, lot’s of stuff – to get to the meetings part. And even then, once you scroll to the bottom, and you finely find “Viewers may have access to current video and auto recording of recent Board meetings for a 90 day period”, you then have to click on “access” to get these videos. Come on. Can we just have a button on your home page that says “View Board Meetings Here“. How hard is that?
  • Finally, revisit Supervisor Ally Miller’s proposal to make all Board Meetings available online and on demand beyond one year. Again, how hard is that? The City of Tucson does it. They have their problems but at least they have this part down. So should you.

Seriously, though, open government should not be a spectator sport. You shouldn’t just do what is the bare minimum, what is just legal. Good parenting, for example, doesn’t mean you should just provide three hot meals, a shower and a bed. That just makes you a parent. Not a good parent.

Take the opportunity to make Pima County Board meetings more open, more transparent, more available for us  to participate, that way you can be considered good at being transparent and open.

Give us the mic. It belongs to us.