July 23, 2014
Host: Ted Simons
Around Arizona: Southern Exposure
- Join us for another edition of “Southern Exposure,” Arizona Horizon’s look at issues from the southern end of our state with Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel.
- Jim Nintzel - Senior Writer, Tucson Weekly
| Keywords: environment
Ted Simons: It's time for this month's edition of "Southern Exposure." Our look at issues from the South side of the state. Here to help us navigate what's happening in Tucson and other areas to the South is Jim Nintzel, senior writer for the "Tucson Weekly." How you been?
Jim Nintzel: Great, a little warmer here than Tucson.
Ted Simons: I'll bet. We just talked about transportation options and a new study showing people are driving less and taking mass transit more. They will really be doing that down in Tucson. You've got a new railcar coming in, huh?
Jim Nintzel: This is streetcar week in Tucson, we're very excited, a modern streetcar opening up downtown Friday for riders. It's been a long construction process, I'm sure you in Phoenix are familiar with the trials and tribulations that come from the construction of one of these things. It's been about $200 million sunk into the tracks and cars and everything set up. It's set to start Friday morning a lot of excitement.
Ted Simons: And we're looking at the cars and it has a similar look to what we have here. How many miles are we talking about here?
Jim Nintzel: It's about a four-mile run, University of Arizona Medical Center, path downtown to the west side of the interstate where we have empty land that they are hoping to get developed as a result of having a streetcar running down there.
Ted Simons: And a map here, again, from the west looks like it jogs a little north and a little east.
Jim Nintzel: Right through the heart of downtown. It's running right down Congress Street and Broadway past a lot of restaurants. It's really generated a lot of activity in the downtown area. We've got a new student housing complex going up there with the anticipation that kids will ride this back and forth to campus. A lot of new restaurants and other developments going on down there. So I think from an economic development standpoint, the money is already been very successful in generating other projects. But there is concern that the operations cost of the streetcar will eat into the city's general fund and its transit budget. We already subsidize the buses down there to a very large degree. Some concern down among some members of the City Council that this is going to be tough to find the financing for over time. But also a lot of hope that it will actually prove to be a success in transporting people back and forth.
Ted Simons: Are there spots along light rail where development can happen? Are there dead spots, open areas? Is it just a question of improving what already exists?
Jim Nintzel: Improving what already exists along most of it. On the west end past the Convention Center in downtown Tucson, it goes underneath the interstate and over a brand-new bridge, then to an area that's very undeveloped. The original what was called Rio Nuevo area. Basically it's a base of a mountain over there, if you're familiar with the downtown Tucson area. It's west of that area and very much open for development.
Ted Simons: How much of a fight was there against this project?
Jim Nintzel: There wasn't that much of a fight against this project. It was originally included as part of a larger transportation project a sales tax that mostly funded roads but set aside about $75 million for this project. Then the city was lucky enough to land a big grant during the stimulus that provided most of the rest of the funding for it, a big boon that came to the city that I think was unexpected by a lot of people. That's where most of the money came from. There have been skeptics who said this was not a very good idea.
We've had those along the light rail here even though we’ve seen a lot of development in certain areas, some folks still say it’s not worth it. I'm sure that conversation will continue in Tucson, as well.
Jim Nintzel: For some time.
Ted Simons: Yeah. You mentioned restaurants. Of course Bianco opening a new spot right there in downtown Tucson, huh?
Jim Nintzel: He's scheduled to be opened this week right on the streetcar route. That's another thing of great excitement to those of us in Tucson. You have enjoyed his pizza here for a long time. Many communities have tried to persuade him to open a new pizza place. This is the second pizza place, he's opened other restaurants in partnership with other people around the world, but this is Tucson's, the second pizza shop and I;m certainly excited to go down there and see if I can get a slice of that this week.
Ted Simons: At the Tucson restaurant scene, how's it shaping up?
Jim Nintzel: It's really booming, especially in the downtown area. We've had some big Flagstaff eateries come down, Diablo Burger, and a place called Proper Tucson, and they’re opening up a butcher shop close to the restaurant. It's all farm to table stuff, very similar to the ethos that I think Chris Bianco uses in preparing his pizza, trying to find that nearby menu around fresh produce and that kind of thing. A whole lot of other stuff going on in downtown Tucson, partially driven I think by the arrival of the streetcar.
Ted Simons: Indeed Medical marijuana researcher. Who is she, why does she no longer have a job?
Jim Nintzel: That's a very good question why she doesn't have a job anymore. She was a researcher at the University. She was dismissed by the University, who was looking into whether or not medical marijuana would help veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome. The problem is they apparently decided that they didn't want her to continue with this project, the University dismissed her recently. The University is not commenting on why this happened. She's saying there was political pressure put on the University by the legislature, some Republican lawmakers not happy with her advocacy on behalf of medical marijuana and her push to try to get state funding for this project. She's gotten some federal funds from a California nonprofit organization. I believe she has appealed to try to get her job back. I think she's planning on fighting this as much as possible. But the University does not seem to be reversing course.
Ted Simons: Some critics are saying, even those who want to see new research on medical marijuana, she was such an advocate for this there's concern the research might suffer and she was biased in some way. Does that make sense now? That is what you're hearing?
Jim Nintzel: Some people are saying that was part of what was going on here and that was why the University was concerned. Of course she has her version of events, as well. I'm not sure we'll get to the bottom of it unless there's a law that forces people to testify under oath.
Ted Simons: And you mentioned like Andy Biggs was very much front and center. He was threatening cutting funding to the University if they didn't get rid of her. We hear so many stories about this.
Jim Nintzel: A lot of legislation moving around to prevent funding for the medical marijuana funds from going to this research. And certainly it was very politically controversial. She was very critical of Kimberly Yi, a state senator sponsoring legislation to block any kind funding for this project. And of course veterans are upset with the controversy over this whole thing. It’s been a very messy fight.
Ted Simons: And she is appealing.
Jim Nintzel: We'll see where that process goes. The organization that is funding some of this research have said they are going to pull the funding if she is not there.
Ted Simons: And there is an irony in the sense that PTSD has now been okay for medical marihuana by the state health director. As all this is happening, that now becomes qualifying for medical marijuana here in Arizona.
Jim Nintzel: It did. That was after a lawsuit, as well. Initially the state said they would not allow that. And eventually it went before a judge and the judge says no, you have to. They agreed to do it but there's conditions.
Ted Simons: We've only got a couple minutes left here. We've talked about this quite a bit but I think you've described this as a bus-capade, in Oracle with Sheriff Babeau, with Adam Kwasman running for congressional district 1. What's been the fallout from all this, this idea of they thought kids were being bused up there, unauthorized kids? They weren't, a crowd gathers, --- what in the world is going on down there?
Jim Nintzel: Normally we can count on the folks in Phoenix to give them a black eye nationally, but now Southern Arizona is playing its role in that part to get us on Comedy Central. It seems as though Sheriff Babeau down in Pinal County really raised a stink about the idea that some kids would be housed in a reform school in the Oracle area, some of them, the unaccompanied minors from Central America. Some showed up to do a big protest and others showed up to do a counter-protest and welcome the kids, a mariachi band showed up to play "America the Beautiful." A politician raced from Phoenix to here and raised fears, but it was a bus of YMCA campers and Adamson looked foolish. He ended up on the Colbert Report when all was said and done.
Ted Simons: How are people taking this in Tucson?
Jim Nintzel: I think there's a shelter set up for people who are not boycotting or protesting. I think there's a lot of competition for these kids who have showed up here.
Ted Simons: Jim, good to see you again.
Jim Nintzel: Always a pleasure.
AZ Giving and Leading: Harp Foundation
- Patients across the Phoenix metro area experience the healing power of music, thanks to this non-profit. Harpists bring comfort to patients, families and healthcare workers. We’ll introduce you to a woman who was so moved by music that she quit her job to become a full-time harpist and play at hospitals across the Valley.
| Keywords: giving
, harp foundation
Ted Simons: Music can move people in a variety of ways, including it seems the power to heal. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Juan Magana show us how the Harp Foundation is helping local hospital patients.
There's just something about harp music that's ethereal. I think people instantly relate to it.
Christina Estes: Even the tiny patients inside Saint Joseph's neonatal intensive care unit.
The sound of air being pushed through her nose is just a reminder that she needs to breathe.
Christina Estes: It may look like Jocelyn Obermeyer is just playing music for Baby Mary.
She likes this one right here.
Christina Estes: But she's also tuning in medically.
Jocelyn Obermeyer: I tailor the music to what I hear coming out of them. And the first thing I listen for is can I hear their pitch? It's very subtle and that's part of the training. It's how to hear the sounds that are coming out of people.
Christina Estes:: First learned of the harp's power six years ago when she was a school principal based with a parent volunteer losing her fight against cancer.
Jocelyn Obermeyer: She went on and on and on about how relaxing it was, how it calmed her down, how she was able to breathe better and how it healed her inner soul knowing she was going to pass. Hearing this beautiful music, it kept knocking at my harp to do it. It just kept knocking, play the harp, play the harp. And so I would get harp music and listen to it and felt so called to that work that I learned to play the harp, stopped being a principal and literally jumped right into it.
Christina Estes: Today Jocelyn is among musicians with the Harp Foundation. They play in lobbies and rooms across five Valley hospitals.
Lew Young: What we've found through evidence-based research that is if we bring therapeutic music into a situation where there's a lot of pain, it immediately relaxes the situation. And patients can heal faster. Their medications work faster and better, and they are able to leave the hospital earlier.
Christina Estes: Patients aren't the only ones touched by the strings.
Sister Margaret McBride: The demands of watching patients, the demands of the technology, you see alarms and beeps and everything going on. What we've found is the harp music actually, even for just a few minutes to calm them down and relax them, as if they taken a 30 minute break for staff members.
Patty Peterson: I've been a nurse here for 10 years.
Christina Estes: Patty Peterson has witnessed the transformation on staff, patients and her own family. As her daughter struggled during childbirth, something caught Patty’s ear.
Patty Peterson: I'd go to the door and right outside her room there's a woman sitting there playing the harp. I got very emotional because my mother played the harp. I thanked her and said, I really appreciate this, it means a lot for us to do this. I went back inside and said to my daughter, Eden, Grandma's here, and she can't stay very long. I want you to get that baby out right now. So within a few minutes she delivered a beautiful healthy baby girl, my first grandchild.
The more that she rests and is comfortable, the more energy she'll store up. And it gives her that amount to be able to eat and interact.
Juliann Kernagis knew the melodies helped her newborn.
Juliann Kernagis: She had her eyes closed and she was moving her mouth. I could tell she had heard her playing. When she stopped she opened her eyes and noticed that she had stopped. So I think that she really enjoyed that.
It helps calm you, puts things into perspective, and to realize that this is what we're here for.
Ted Simons: For more on the Harp Foundation, how to get involved or learn where the harpers play, check out the website at harpfoundation.org.
- A new survey shows Arizonans are driving less and taking other forms of transportation more often. It was released by the Arizona Public Interest Research Groups Organization and St. Luke’s Health Initiatives. Jon Ford, communications director for St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, will discuss the survey.
- Jon Ford - Communications Director, St. Luke’s Health Initiatives
| Keywords: environment
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. The new survey shows that Arizonans are driving less and taking other forms of transportation more often. The study was released by Arizona Public Interest Research Group and Saint Luke's Health Initiatives. Jon Ford is communications director for Saint Luke's Health Initiatives. Nice to have you here.
Jon Ford: Good to be here.
Ted Simons: What exactly does the study looking at?
Ted Simons: What it looked at is what people are doing in terms of how they are getting around. We had seen a national study that said that there was a decline in miles traveled by car and we said to ourselves, gee, a lot of people are going to think that Arizona's different. So we said, well let’s check it out, let’s take a look, and well we found that it’s not. Over a seven-year period from 2005 to 2012 we're looking at a 10%, 10.5% decline in vehicle miles traveled, while at the same time you have nearly a 30% increase in public transit miles traveled.
Ted Simons: Interesting, and the conclusion seemed to be along the lines that the driving boom is over? Was there still a driving boom as late as 2005 and 2006?
Jon Ford: There was still an increase in vehicle miles traveled as late as 2005, correct.
Ted Simons: And it’s over, you think, huh?
Jon Ford: Well no, the trend is linear, things go up and down. But the trend line is pointing downwards, yes.
Ted Simons: 11% decline in annual vehicle miles per capita, what's going on out there?
Jon Ford: It's a combination of things. For one, we've got a very large generation moving in called the milliennials, and they are choosing a different lifestyle. They really don't want to be in their cars. If I may use a term we've heard before, they are voting with their feet. They are jumping on bicycles and walking and preferring mass transit. Over half of milliennials choose their place of living based on whether or not there is high-quality public transit. And 66%, two thirds are saying their reasons for leaving a given city is because there's a lack of high quality public transit.
Ted Simons: That's the thought process as milliennials become adults and such. Do we know if that's going to change as they get older and start families, move to the suburbs. What do we know about that?
Jon Ford: My crystal ball, I can't tell you. Maybe it's shaped a little by the recession, as well but those are a lifetime and reinforcing so when something happens as a young adult it tends to stay with you. You choose a lifestyle. I was talking about this report the other day and mentioned that milliennials have really cool bikes they ride around. They are taking great pride in the distinctiveness of their bicycles. There is a different movement going on around here.
Ted Simons: Indeed, but the idea that the same group is going to dominate future transportation trends, that can't be ignored.
Jon Ford: And another huge generation on the other end of the spectrum, our senior population is aging in place. They need transportation options other than a car because, quite frankly, they are not able to use a car. They are becoming large users of public transit, as well.
Ted Simons: How much of this could be a reflection of the recession?
Jon Ford: Probably not much at all, given the trend started in 2005 well before the recession kicked in. As we're coming out into recovery the numbers are still going on a little bit.
Ted Simons: As far as commuting, not as many people employed? Those employed might have part-time jobs, not the kind of thing where you commute? The study doesn't suggest that's not too much of a factor?
Jon Ford: There are absolutely other factors. There is the factor of technology. It's changing how people move from place to place and whether they do it or not. People are working from home more than they used to. There are less miles being traveled from and to work as well. There are a multitude of factors, definitely some leading factors that say this is something that's going to continue.
Ted Simons: With this in mind, you've got the numbers now, the study in hand. How does it factor into future transportation policy?
Jon Ford: This is the big question. A lot of people have seen this report and say they are thankful for it. There are debates going on right now about where money should be spent. Build more highways and roads, or perhaps take a small percentage of those budgets previously put into highways and do things like improving quality in terms of public transit. Do things in terms of making complete streets that welcome users of all types. Those are the big questions that need to be asked and answered. They should be answered in the idea of moving more toward mass transit.
Ted Simons: Fix what you've got, improving what you've got, as opposed to building something new? That seems to make sense by way of this report?
Jon Ford: There are people in the country now saying cities are our new suburbs. People are choosing to live and work in the cities and they need to be made more liveable. High quality public transit, more walkable and liveable communities and those things are funded by taking care of those streets that connect people. We are not moving cars, we’re connecting people with streets.
Ted Simons: And you talk about kids and their bicycles. Old folks and our bicycles, as well. Everyone seems to be riding a bike and taking public transit, these sorts of things. That has to factor into transportation policy, as well. Just increasing options makes those options better.
Jon Ford: And to be clear, nobody's saying cars are going away.
Ted Simons: Right.
Jon Ford: We're saying we've built a city and a lot of urban areas, especially in Arizona, focused on moving cars quickly. Now it's time to take a look at a more balanced approach.
Ted Simons: As far as these surveys, often have they been done? How often are they going to be done again to see if driving trends are sticking?
Jon Ford: Because of what we've seen so far, and because there will be some more policy discussion, I could see these surveys being done more often. Arizona is dedicated to keeping the research current, maybe every couple, three years.
Ted Simons: You also mentioned that smartphones could be used for ride sharing, bike sharing, car sharing, fill-in-the-blank sharing. Brave New World out there.
Jon Ford: This is where technology comes in. A lot of us, growing up thought, it sucks to wait for the bus, right? Well now they don’t, they look at their app and it says the bus is going to be there at 5:38 so they stay in their house until it's time to walk out for the bus.
Ted Simons: What kind of reaction have you had from this so far? Are people saying, yeah, I thought so? Are they surprised by this? What are you hearing?
Jon Ford: For those with whom SLHI has done a lot of work, we're all saying, I knew it, I knew it. I think there is going to be a number of people who haven't been engaged in the discussions who might be surprised.
Ted Simons: As far as Arizona is concerned it's different, tough on a day like today to be out there waiting for anything, whether it's a bus or light rail, pedaling your bike is a bit of a chore on a day like today. How does that factor into all of this?
Jon Ford: I would say that I would challenge that just slightly. I know I have been on city blocks here and downtown Phoenix at high noon, and I've seen dozens of cyclists go by. It surprised me, too. When you build an infrastructure, when you create an environment that becomes more amenable and people want to do them, they will do them.
Ted Simons: What is Arizona perg? Talk about Saint Luke's and perg and how you got together.
Jon Ford: Sure. Arizona perg is very interested in increasing the ride options for people who want a more liveable community. They are interested in transportation issues. As far as Saint Luke's health initiatives are concerned we are a health foundation. What we know is particularly active transportation has a huge impact on health. Charlotte, North Carolina, did a light-rail study before and after the opening of their light-rail. In an 18 month period People who rode light-rail lost an average of 6.4. pounds in just 18 months.
Ted Simons: And they were just riding the rail?
Jon Ford: They’re just not in their cars anymore. Just not sitting still anymore. They are walking to the rail, riding the rail, and walking to work.
Ted Simons: Last question. I'm a lawmaker, what do you want me to take from that study?
Jon Ford: I would like to see lawmakers have a discussion about what we do with the money we have to build transportation infrastructure, and talk about how to create a little more balance towards active transportation.
Ted Simons: Very good. Good to have you you here, thank you for joining us.
Jon Ford: Good to be here, thank you.