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.

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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.

 

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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

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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.
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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Don’t Be a Knucklehead: Root for the Home Team!

Logic has no place in sports. Well, except when it comes to rooting for your hometown team. Now that makes total sense.

I don’t get these random Cowboys, Raiders and Yankees fans living in Tucson. One of my buddies is a Yankees fan. Let’s just call him Knucklehead to protect his identity. He has no connection to New York. The guy is from Tucson. Born and raised. So, obviously, Knucklehead is going to hell.

Now, I’m ok with someone adopting an out-of-town or even out-of-state team if they have a rational explanation for it. For example, I am a Sacramento Kings fan. Why? Because I will never – and I mean never! – root for a team with “Phoenix” in it’s name. So, that leaves the Suns out. The next best “home team” for me are the Sacramento Kings since I was born in a small town in Northern California. I have to either root for a hometown team or for a team with some kind of hometown connection.

Now, if/when the Phoenix Suns become the Arizona Suns I will jump on that bandwagon immediately. I did exactly that when the Phoenix Cardinals became the Arizona Cardinals. And that was when they were still horrible!

Knucklehead has no legitimate reasons for adopting the Yankees as his favorite baseball team. Did his great grandfather help build the Empire State Building? No. Did his late uncle write “New York, New York”? No. Did he act on Broadway as a young guy or go to college there? No.

Basically, he is a native Tucsonan rooting for the Yankees while having no connection to the Big Apple at all. Not logical.

Luckily, we don’t have many knuckleheads in Tucson. Most of us are big Wildcat fans. I love it when I am in a local bar watching a UA game and I have no idea what anyone’s political party affiliation is or what their religious beliefs are. We are all just Wildcat fans in a sea of red and blue rooting for our home team.

I still remember watching the Wildcats win the national championship at Bianchi’s in 1997. I was on a hot date with my future wife. Well, my sister was there too. Come to think of it, the three of us also watched the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series.

Game 7 was sweet. So sweet.

I bet even Knucklehead wished he was a home team fan for that one.

Miguel Ortega is an independent business development consultant. His radio program, “Locally Owned with Miguel Ortega”, airs on KVOI 1030AM every Saturday at 11 a.m. You can also listen to his radio columns on KXCI 91.3FM and follow his blog at LocallyOwnedAZ.com.

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Radio Afterthoughts: Neto Nails it On SB1062

We were supposed to have a pleasant chat about El Rio Sonora, local journalism and anything else on Ernesto “Neto” Portillo Jr.’s mind during the Locally Owned show a week ago (Podcast here, click on 2/22/14). But by the time Neto walked into the KVOI studio for our interview, this little homophobic bill (SB1062) was officially making it’s way to Governor Brewer’s desk.

So, how could we not talk about it? Oh, and Neto certainly had plenty to say.

In fact, he brought up a couple of points about the bill that had been troubling me for a while: it was great to see so many politicos and leaders of agencies and organizations stepping out early against this horrible bill, but it was also troubling to see how silent or luke warm they were on SB1070.

This is important to keep in mind going forward. We all have to work together against all immoral bills that promote intolerance and that also happen to be very, very bad for business.

I will have a lot more to say about SB1062 and how the “Business Community” has been impacted – and will be further impacted with similar bills on their way to the Governor’s desk.  But, it will require a more lengthy blog post or a future column. And, actually, what I really want to write about right now is how folks define the “Business Community”. Business owners – big and small, corporate and locally owned – tend to be lumped together and they (mostly the mom and pops) are often pimpled by Republicans and ignored by Democrats. 

More on that later.

For now, listen to the show and hear what Neto has to say. Towards the end of the show, we give politics a break and talk about his recent trip to El Rio Sonora in Northern Mexico. That area is where several generations of my family members are from and, in fact, still live. The next day, Neto’s column on his trip was published in the Sunday Arizona Daily Star (as part of his regular column, “Neto’s Tucson”). Check it out. It’s a good read.

By the way, has anybody noticed how gracefully Ernesto Portillo Jr. is aging? It’s like the older he gets, the more hair he has on his head, peppered with just the right amount of distinguishing gray. I said this to him live during our interview before discussing #SB1062. Two Chicanos talking talking about SB1062 and how great the other looks. So now I think we may both be deported. To Phoenix. I think that would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

We will have Ernesto back on soon and, if he is game, often. “Neto’s Tucson” is required reading for all serious localists. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him and we should all feel very blessed to know that every day he is staying busy writing about our beloved Tucson. Adelante, Neto!

In the meantime, go localize something! It will be good for you, me and our hometown!

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Radio Afterthought: Is Jay Leno Having Car Museum Planning Meetings at Crave Coffee Bar?

Did we just share some huge, breaking news about Jay Leno coming to Tucson on the Locally Owned Show this morning (2/8/14 podcast)?!

Maybe.

So, check this out. This guy named Bruce called in to the show and said that he had some “inside baseball” info on the possibility of the retiring Jay Leno opening up a car museum in Tucson.

I mean… right?!!

Imagine Jay building this car museum in the Old Pueblo and hanging out at local cafes like Crave Coffee Bar? (By the way, Crave provided the warm lattes and dessert for the show this morning. Thanks, guys!)

Listen, I am a big David Letterman and Coco fan. But, if this is true, I am jumping on the Jay Leno bandwagon immediately!

And Bruce sounded legit to me, guys. He said he was a friend of Jay’s. Yes, I know. He may just be a nut. I did’t catch his last name so I have no idea who he is. But, hey, I will participate in spreading that rumor. Why not?

Sure, I made up the part about Jay having planning meetings at Crave. So sue me. Even if the whole thing is not true, it still serves as localism propaganda for Crave Coffee Bar so we all win, right?

Call me crazy, but, again, the caller sounded legit. I want to believe!

Mary Davis and Chicks N Chaps 

Now, on to my special interview with Mary Davis. She came in to chat about Chicks N Chaps which is a fundraiser benefiting breast cancer research. The idea is to introduce women to rodeo sports in a fun way while raising money for a good cause. The ladies participating will be introduced to the principles of roping and riding while also being pampered with a champaign brunch, gift bags, and all that good stuff.

Who isn’t for happy cowgirls supporting a good cause?

I’ve known Mary for about 9 years so I couldn’t possibly allow her to leave the studio and not have her comment on other matters regarding tourism, localism and on a few current issues.

So I kinda blocked the studio door so we could talk some more.

It turned out to be a nice chat and we even had time to touch on the Mayor’s effort to share a tourism office in Mexico City.

Keep up the good work, Mary!

Now, back to that rumor about Jay Leno hanging at Crave Coffee Bar with his staff to discuss the building of a car museum in Tucson. Spread that puppy around, man!

We may just will that rumor into reality!

 

 

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Dang, Locally Owned Radio Is Booked!

Pssst… got lot’s of great guests lined up for the next several episodes of Locally Owned with Miguel Ortega. (airs every Saturday at 11am on KVOI 1030AM with podcasts available here)

February 8: Mary DavisTucson Chicks in Chaps Rodeo Clinic - Women’s Rodeo Clinic benefiting breast cancer research

February 15: Mark B. EvansInside Tucson Business

February 22: Ernesto Portillo, Jr.Arizona Daily Star (Neto’s Tucson) and La Estrella de Tucson 

March 1: Mari HerrerasTucson Weekly

March 8: Kimber LanningLocal First Arizona

March 15: Mark B. EvansInside Tucson Business

March 22: TBD

March 29: Chellie KrajnackCreative Juice