Responses from Candidates for City Council, Ward 1

In 2013, Living Streets Alliance rolled out our first ever Candidate Questionnaire on active transportation issues. Since then, LSA has led the charge in advocating for a thriving Tucson by creating great streets for everyone, cultivating, educating and championing leaders and decision-makers in the process.

Big changes are on the horizon for Tucson City Council and City Hall with the Fall 2019 elections. Tucsonans will be voting on three Ward seats and a new Mayor. Below are the responses to LSA’s five-question survey from the Democratic candidates for Ward 1. There are no formal candidates from other parties. Sam Nagy is a write-in candidate for Ward 1. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name. Spanish translation provided by a professional Spanish translator.

Para leer las respuestas en español, hacer clic aquí. 


#1. What is your transportation and mobility vision for Tucson? If elected, what steps would you take to make that vision a reality, and how would you fund it? Please be specific.


Rob Elias, Democrat

Rob Elias

A safer, more pleasant experience for everyone – motorist, bicyclist, pedestrian, transit- user. Safety is more important than speed.

It’s no mystery what can accomplish with engineering, education, and enforcement. But there’s insufficient funding to tackle the problem all at once.

I support the mayor’s suggestion of using MIDs (Municipal Improvement Districts) to help accelerate the process of installing HAWKs. Any neighborhood that chooses to tax itself for safety improvements makes more General Fund money available for everyone else, and moves all the other neighborhoods behind it up on the priority list.

I’m interested to see to what extent the Prop. 407 funding can fund separated bike lanes, even if they’re flexible bollards. Creating separation, I think, is key to safer, lower stress bicycling.


Sami Hamed, Democrat

Sami Hamed

I want a city that is walkable, mobile via transit and bike usage.  I would make my vision a reality by working to update the Complete Streets Ordinance every five years.  I would work to fund it with either impact fees from new home building or from putting on a local user surcharge on ride sharing services.


Miguel Ortega, Democrat

Miguel Ortega

Tucsonans need a public transit system is safe, ​affordable and accessible for everyone. forces individuals to live in neighborhoods farther out from the city center where commuting to work by car becomes the only option. We must invest and make it a priority to provide more

It’s also worth noting that ​not all public transit is created equal. Reliable bus services, for example, tends to be more accessible for disadvantaged residents ower income residents than a street car, for example. Thus, available city resources should be spent on putting in more bus lines or even focus on developing a robust bus rapid transit system. This will help take more cars off our roadways.

We know that funding an overhaul of the must find a way to expand our general fund pie so that we have more options to fully fund expanding public transportation. One way that we can do this is to revisit how tax subsidies are being used to benefit developers at the expense of our working families and small businesses. Right now, there is no transparency in the process of how TIF tax incentives are being awarded and to whom. If some of these projects are amounting to nothing more than a waste of taxpayer resources, we need to know and we need to put a stop to them. Ending tax breaks to developers who are not delivering on their promises means more money comes back into city coffers.


Lane Santa Cruz, Democrat

Lane Santa Cruz

People’s lives are shaped by income inequality/economic exploitation, legal status’ based on arbitrary national borders, rising costs of housing and jobs that exist far from affordable housing. A vision for transportation and mobility needs to have those historical and material conditions at its center. Our City planning needs to undergo a culture shift that values the existing human infrastructure to lead the vision for the physical infrastructure that honors and supports the movement of our people as they travel from home to work, education centers, commerce centers, parks, places of worship, and other important places in their lives. In order to enact this vision, there also needs to be a transformation of the participants involved in the planning and implementation for transportation and mobility justice and equity. Tucson is around 45% Latino, 5% African-American, and 3% Native American (though I’m sure it’s much higher). It is time those histories, cultures, and voices become part of the process of transforming our streets and transportation culture. Working class families across Tucson but, especially in the barrios of Ward 1, are clamoring for improvements.

In Ward 1, we have the I-10 and I-19 that serve as a physical and mental barrier for adequate connections that are part of a broader network in the City and region. Our lower-income communities are most likely to use a bike, walk, or take public transportation to get to work or run errands. More of our neighbors would use these options if they felt safer and protected with protected bikeways, sidewalks, and transit shelters. This contributes to greater access to opportunity, jobs, recreation and health choices. High-stress areas are also areas that suffer from heat island effect and we need investment in shade trees and vegetation to cool and encourage the use of comfortable public transport. By improving crumbling neighborhood roads, sidewalks and bike infrastructure in underserved communities, the city sends its residents a message that it cares to elevate their lives.

As far as funding, a combination of current funding sources that includes HURF, CDBG, Future Prop 101, RTA, and also exploring sustainable, dedicated funding sources that can prioritize retrofitting our existing infrastructure. We need community voices to inform what that safety looks like and as a parent who travels daily on bike or on foot with my children, I am committed to safer and more peaceful roads.


#2. There are neighborhoods in Tucson where as many as 65%[1] of residents don’t have access to a car and rely on walking, biking and taking transit. People driving cars, walking and using bicycles to get around are dying on our streets in increasing numbers, and this disproportionately affects the elderly and young people, poor people and people of color. What actions can City Council take to make Tucson safe and accessible for residents who currently walk, bike and take transit as well as accelerate behavior change so that we dramatically reduce the number of single-occupant car trips made everyday?

[1] See Arizona Daily Star on 5/6/19: https://tucson.com/news/reinvention-underway-in-for-distressed-housing-burdened-neighborhoods/article_58a73f88-a155-5341-a78d-df778f68d435.html


Rob Elias, Democrat

Rob Elias

Some deaths involve alcohol, on the part of the driver or the pedestrian/bicyclist. If an intoxicated person has been served alcohol, and goes on to cause an accident, we could look at implications for the serving establishment’s liquor license.

I also plan to ask if TPD can use reserve officers with dash cams to report traffic violations for sworn officers to follow up on. A return of red light cameras would also be beneficial, if the voters approved that.

The Mobility Plan and the Complete Streets policy should also go a long way toward improving safety.


Sami Hamed, Democrat

Sami Hamed

Persons with disabilities are affected as well.  I would work to increase safety education and work with school districts and our police department to teach children how to cross streets safely.  Early education is early prevention in my opinion.

 


Miguel Ortega, Democrat

Miguel Ortega

Pedestrian safety has been a serious problem in Tucson, and the state, for too long. The Tucson Police Department was cited in a recent Daily Star article that pedestrian deaths over the last couple of years in Tucson are on the rise. Overall, Arizona was listed as the second in the nation for pedestrian deaths per capita last year. Although the most recent numbers for this year indicate the pedestrian deaths are finally decreasing, we need to continue pushing our mayor and council to prioritize pedestrian safety and road improvements over traffic flow in its transportation planning.

In Ward 1 and across the city, our neighborhoods need better street lighting, more paved sidewalks, more crosswalks, and decreased speed limits, to name a few. For example, Residents in Ward 1 have been advocating for years for the installation of more HAWK signals on key major roadways. Yes, HAWKs are expensive. And that’s why the city of Tucson has been exploring the creation of “Baby HAWKs” which would be designed to be run on solar, use minimal illumination – all at a cost a fraction of the cost for a regular HAWK. Again, we need to keep advocating for our city to keep pedestrian safety at the top of their priority list for transportation. Making our city streets safer for pedestrians and bikers is first and foremost key to making our city bike- and pedestrian-friendly.


Lane Santa Cruz, Democrat

Lane Santa Cruz

When Joana Sendino, a 17-year old student at Cholla High School and Ward 1 resident, was struck by a car in late February as she walked to catch the City bus on her way to school, it served as a gut-wrenching reminder of how vulnerable we all are when traveling outside a car. She died a block south from where I live, at an intersection I’ve traveled many times on my bike. Across from Joana’s memorial is a ghost bike for Larry Lacroix and a memorial for Saxen Hurst, a motorcyclist who was killed in this exact intersection.The people who use our City roads experience different risks and have different needs. We need to acknowledge the human experiences that exist on our public roads and use these community voices as data for better planning.

We need a clear, continuous, protected, and illuminated network for pedestrians, bikes, and bus connections for all physical abilities that is predictable to all road users. Everyone is responsible for knowing and following the rules of the road. But, in order for people biking and walking to do that, they need a place to be on the road. People do unpredictable things when they are put in unpredictable situations. Drivers have continuous lanes that guide their behaviors; people on bikes need the same. When everyone has a piece of the road, everyone can have peace on the road. This is how we learn to travel safely as a city. To address needs in a concrete way, it is imperative to build traffic calming road designs that helps lower speeds in the City because speed is the determinant factor in whether pedestrians/bicyclist survive a collision with a vehicle.

We need good bike infrastructure that won’t leave people biking or people walking to navigate incomplete connections that force everyone, motorists included, into unsafe and confusing situations. People driving, walking and biking can get where they are going with the greatest safety and the least amount of hassle because everyone’s traffic flow needs are met through careful planning and smart construction.


#3. When people move about Tucson they cross Wards and often other jurisdictions, without realizing it. How are you going to work across Wards and within the region to ensure that limited resources are distributed equitably, timely and where they will make the most impact? How will you advocate at a regional, state and national level for Tucson’s transportation priorities, especially if they might be different from other jurisdictions?


Rob Elias, Democrat

Rob Elias

We have to get away from the notion that projects have to be equal down to the penny between Wards. Ward 1 may have greater need than Ward 6 in one area, but Ward 6 may have greater need than Ward 1 in another area. The goal is fairness and balance.

Transportation has to be approached as a system, not as six “island” Wards. I will advocate to our county, state, regional, and federal elected officials to secure funding for transportation and transit, particularly for maintenance and safety, and I would point out our high traffic fatality statistics to underscore the urgency of our need.


Sami Hamed, Democrat

Sami Hamed

I will work with the other councilmembers and the mayor and Transportation staff to ensure that my ward has the sidewalks and streets that are connected and maintained to move persons throughout Tucson. I would work with the Pima County RTA, Arizona Department of Transportation and the state’s congressional delegation to bring more resources back to Tucson for our transit system, infrastructure improvements, and road repairs.


Miguel Ortega, Democrat

Miguel Ortega

I am concerned that Tucsonans are often not being well represented in municipal and regional transportation planning decisions. Also, I find it disturbing that TDOT tends to resist advocating for residents when they complain about projects outside of their jurisdiction. I believe TDOT should advocate for resident no matter if the project is a Pima County, TDOT or private project. Generally, we just need a more responsive and transparent local government to address dangerous areas and find the root cause. This will require a commitment by City staff and it is the job of the Mayor and Council to advocate for it.

With PAG and RTA decision (need to confirm this), Tucson only has one vote while a much smaller City with as much small population enjoys an equal vote. This is fundamentally unfair and undemocratic. As a Ward 1 Councilmember, I will work in cooperation with my fellow council members to improve transportation overall. However, I must advocate for Ward 1 as I see a larger need for transportation improvements here. That said, there are plenty areas where all elected officials must work together on a Ward by Ward and regional level to leverage as much funding for common transportation needs.


Lane Santa Cruz, Democrat

​Lane Santa Cruz

In my experience, the excuse of jurisdictional responsibility is really a problem of funding, not any entity having control. If the city came to the table with funding projects, the county, state, etc. would almost exclusively allow the city to implement its vision – because it’s paying for it.

We should also explore and create a sustainable funding stream that would let the city establish its own transportation future and priorities. ​The message I’ve heard time and time again doing mobility work in the Southside is that more people want to walk, bike, and ride the bus but they don’t because it seems reckless on their part. Folks are afraid of cars going too fast, a lack of street lights and shade trees, and being stopped by police. Having safe and protected pedestrian/bike/bus areas is a start to make the rules of the road more clear for people on bikes, walking, or behind the wheel. We also need to work with TPD to prioritize prevention, education, and intervention. The use of policies that prioritize enforcement disproportionately targets the poor, undocumented laborers, homeless folks, youth, and people of color. Let’s encourage a culture shift through all our city’s institutions.


#4. How do you plan to ensure that the Ward Office/Mayor’s Office engages directly with constituents in addressing transportation? What are your ideas for how to get community members involved in transportation decisions that affect their community?


Rob Elias, Democrat

Rob Elias

I plan to meet with TDOT Director Diana Alarcon regarding the Master Mobility Plan TDOT is working on, and to review progress on Complete Streets. With this information, I would meet with constituents regarding their specific concerns.

I think the city makes insufficient use of scientific polling, and instead relies on the peo- ple who contact the city with their concerns. This tends to result in the city hearing view- points primarily of an older, less racially diverse group than the population as a whole.

As far as encouraging more people to get involved, the MIDs may have that effect in neighborhoods that organize to accelerate traffic safety improvements.


Sami Hamed, Democrat

Sami Hamed

To engage the public, I would ensure that persons are appointed to the various committees dealing transit and transportation.  I would work to get persons involved via email newsletters, town halls on transportation issues, doing live social media broadcasts, and being visible on the transit system and at public events.


Miguel Ortega, Democrat

Miguel Ortega

My campaign is built on empowering residents and neighborhoods, and my track record in this regard is second to none. We should be doing everything possible to support and expand community engagement, and this is the model that I will implement, with regards to transportation and other City issues.

I’ve been very outspoken about the need to build a more responsive government, to ensure that our residents and neighborhoods are involved in every step of the City planning process. For example, I’m currently helping southside residents who are struggling with serious pedestrian and vehicle safety concerns due to the I-19 expansion project. In addition to this, I’m working with a number of neighborhoods and residents to improve our City parks.

From my conversations with scores of residents, it’s clear that many folks have lost trust in our local government, and they feel that it’s not as open and transparent as it should be. In fact, the Arizona Daily Star recently published a study that concluded this to be the case.

We should encourage and welcome public participation in City governance, and I will proactively ensure that residents and neighborhoods are involved with every step of the City planning process, from start to finish. I will push for regularly-scheduled Mayor and Council meetings, instead of sporadic meeting dates. We should meet at least 4 Tuesdays of every month, as we used to, in years past. In addition, we should add a Call-to-the-Audience opportunity to City study sessions. Finally, instead of creating bureaucratic task forces, we should work directly with residents who are already on the ground, working on community and neighborhood issues.


Lane Santa Cruz, Democrat

Lane Santa Cruz

I have been working with the national organization People for Bikes for over three years and I want to share their policy recommendations as a great place for us to start:

Let communities be experts on their community​ Local residents are experts on their community’s needs, interests and priorities. Trust that they know what’s best for them. The job of staff and consultants is to advise, educate and help focus that community knowledge, not supersede it.

Partner with local festivals, artists and community-service organizations to expand the types and opportunities for outreach.​ Schools and youth programs are good places to seek creative input from often-overlooked, but observant, members of our communities — children and young adults.

Create opportunities for genuine input​ Communities know when they are invited for the purpose of checking a box rather than providing meaningful input. Instead of bringing a finished product to a meeting, ask the community to create their own design concepts. Let them explore creative ways to give feedback in non-traditional formats, for example, through photos, asset mapping, or visual or performing arts. Then show how community feedback is informing the process at every step.

Be prepared to address concerns beyond bikes​ During public outreach on bike projects, staff often will hear about other issues that are important to the community. If people express concerns about garbage pickup, crumbling sidewalks or broken street lights, the city should be ready to address those challenges, too.

Set clear expectations for process, timeline and outcomes ​Projects often face stringent deadlines, funding constraints and political obstacles that can clash with the organic, time-consuming process of building community trust. You can mitigate the community’s fears by establishing standard written procedures that outline the key decision points, timelines and decision- makers for a project.

Make engagement easy and accessible ​Work with community leaders to design a process that consistently involves a wide range of people. Make sure that they can provide input at convenient times and places, and use materials they can understand. Meetings should offer food, drinks and childcare.


#5. As Tucson continues to develop, access to plentiful parking is a common concern. Yet, research shows parking induces people to drive and leads to congestion. What can City Council do to manage parking resources and policies so they achieve our Plan Tucson vision for a vibrant, thriving, walkable community?


Rob Elias, Democrat

Rob Elias

I would meet with Parkwise, SunTran, SunLink, neighborhoods, merchants, TDOT, TPD, and other stakeholders about parking situations in specific neighborhoods. I would also work with large employers, PAG, and SunTran/SunLink on encouraging employers to subsidize transit for their employees.


Sami Hamed, Democrat

Sami Hamed

We need to look at using land for more active uses such as green spaces and housing, which are at a premium.  In addition, to ease the construction cost for parking areas, I would look at other types of parking surfaces that are more economical and less stressful on the environment.  Instead of requiring a certain number of parking spaces, we can determine the type of parking we require by reforming the city land use policies.


Miguel Ortega, Democrat

Miguel Ortega

In a recent Daily Star news article, it was reported that the ​Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board voted to give an unnamed company 150 parking spaces for five years and further agreed to charge half-price for those same parking spaces over the same period of time. Tax incentives such as these that are used to incentivize developers
to come to Tucson and build are part of the problem. The City of Tucson can do a better job of aligning its economic development strategies with its transportation planning to make Tucson a place where residents can meet their daily needs on foot, bicycle, and public transit.


Lane Santa Cruz, Democrat

Lane Santa Cruz

Creating safe places to bike and walk, in combination with other transportation improvements, doesn’t always mean that other resources will be taken away. Though there may be some tradeoffs, in many cases there are ways to keep parking spaces and actually use parked cars as part of smart bike lane and pedestrians protection and design. Sometimes we might lose a lane for traffic, but that loss of a lane or parking is mitigated with the more positive effect of reducing traffic congestion, calming unsafe speeding in neighborhoods, making walking safer and encouraging people to bike/walk for short distances where they would otherwise take a car. We can’t move forward without change. The benefits of creating safe places to bike or walk are experienced by all who use the road, even when they drive.


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