The good, the bad and the ugly in Tucson these days:
• The good: A while back, I had to go downtown on a Saturday night to deliver an important message to my son, who didn't have his phone with him. It so happened that it was the second Saturday of June, and downtown Tucson was jumping.
The Second Saturday extravaganzas that are being put on by a forward-thinking coalition of folks are a huge success. From the Rialto and the Hotel Congress on the east, to the Fox Theatre on the west, thousands of people were on Congress Street, Broadway Boulevard and all of the connecting north-south streets in between. There were live bands and food booths, street performers and art shows, young couples and entire families.
My son had attended the Weird Al Yankovic concert at the Fox, and I waited for him out front. As I waited, I watched a steady stream of people walk by—young and old, hip and lame, those who were interestingly dressed, etc. When the Weird Al concert ended, the near-sellout crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk in front of the Fox. People initially began to disperse, but then several imperial stormtroopers emerged from the theater, accompanied by Lord Vader himself. I assumed they had been part of Weird Al's show, but one never really knows these days.
It reminded me of a story that comedian David Steinberg told a long time ago. He was going to appear on a show, and he was walking toward the studio. It was the early 1970s, and Steinberg had relatively long hair (not ponytail-length, but resting on his shoulders). Approaching his destination, he walked past a line of people waiting to get into a different studio for a taping of Let's Make a Deal. As he walked past the would-be contestants, his hair flapping in the breeze, he heard an angry voice shout, "Hey, you weirdo!"
Steinberg turned in the direction of the voice and saw that the man who was yelling at him was dressed as a pizza.
Anyway, people walking by didn't even do a double-take. They just walked up and started taking pictures with the stormtroopers and high-fiving Darth. It was way cool.
• The bad: I'm still getting e-mails praising Tucson City Councilmember Regina Romero for her part in keeping the evil mini-dorm developers out of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood. It's really easy to root against those developer guys, and it's human nature to want to protect one's property value. However, I find it somewhere between disingenuous and outright hypocritical for people whose aforementioned property values are higher simply due to the proximity to the university to turn around and rail against the university and its attendant student-housing shortage.
A few years back, the people in Sam Hughes—in a display of hubris that was both vile and magnificent at the same time—complained about the "light and noise pollution" caused by University of Arizona football games. They also didn't want the common rabble parking in or walking through their exclusive enclave. The Tucson City Council had to order ChapStick by the truckload after kissing the rear ends of those folks.
It's amazing: You've got houses that would be worth a couple hundred grand, max, if they were in any other part of town that are worth much more because they're right next to the university, and these people are going to complain about six football games per year. That's about 30 hours, total. How about the other 99.7 percent of the year, when you're basking in prestige and rolling in dough thanks to the name and location of Sam Hughes? Ingrates.
Likewise for the Jefferson Park people. The simple fact is that the university is growing at a staggering 5 percent per year, and student housing isn't coming close to keeping up. The day is coming when the financially strapped UA is going to go on an eminent-domain frenzy to grab land for dorms. They'll force all freshmen to live in dorms and make a sizable chunk of money. The days of the mini-dorm will appear quaint by comparison.
• The ugly: At its June 21 study session, the Tucson City Council learned that the takeover of the Pascua Neighborhood Center by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe would save the city of Tucson around $90,000, with the suggestion that the money saved could be used to open three of the 17 city-controlled public swimming pools that are closed.
But then some suit from the Parks Department spoke and said something like, "With the time it will take to get papers signed ... blah blah blah ... trouble the staff would have hiring people ... blah blah blah ... shortage of qualified lifeguards ... blah blah blah...second session of summer school ... blah blah blah ... let's just open those pools next summer."
NEXT SUMMER?!! They never should have been closed. You have pay raises and car allowances, but a majority of the city's public swimming pools are closed during a Tucson summer? That's inexplicable and indefensible.
I'm just wondering how many of the nine people at that table (the mayor, six council members, the city manager and the Parks Department suit) have access to a swimming pool when they go home.