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Tucson Council's Karin Uhlich: Tucson is the heart of our region
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Tucson Opinion

Tucson Council's Karin Uhlich: Tucson is the heart of our region

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

There is much talk right now, and some disagreement, about how we, as valley residents, move into the future together. Two decisions loom large: the future of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and the rates charged throughout the Tucson Water Service Area.

The mayor and council of Tucson have proposed changes that would affect residents of Tucson and throughout our valley. That has sparked a tired and unhelpful debate about whether the city of Tucson is friend or foe to those outside the Tucson city limits. From my perspective it would be more accurate and helpful to view our valley as a body we share — yes, a human body — with over half a million Tucson residents at its heart. And the health of our heart should matter to us all.

Tucson, in the heart of the valley, is the historical and cultural center of the region. As the flagship for Southern Arizona arts, Tucson is also the base for our region’s economic innovation.

With regard to the RTA, Tucson’s mayor and City Council deserve a voice at the table weighted enough to make sure that our urban community’s transportation needs are adequately covered.

In the urban core of our valley, people need to be able to drive, walk, bike or ride transit to move. “Complete streets” that are well-maintained improve our safety, quality of life, economy, environment and connections to each other.

When we argue for that reality to be understood and fully represented at the RTA table, everyone in the valley should recognize that a healthier city — like a healthy heart — benefits our whole region.

Regarding water, Tucson’s mayor and council (which manages Tucson Water) has worked well with Pima County to create a Tucson/Pima Water and Wastewater plan and services map.

The whole purpose is to effectively treasure every drop of water here; to conserve water and reserve water for our shared future. The talk of charging differential water rates, higher rates for customers in unincorporated areas outside Tucson’s city limits, has been proposed to intensify our water stewardship.

To put it another way: For areas within the valley Water Service Map that show much higher water use (10 ccfs vs. the average 7 ccfs within the city), higher costs for water delivery, and less return of effluent water back into the Tucson Water System, there will be added charges. Turns out that description applies to unincorporated areas outside the city limits. If we don’t get water stewardship right, we will all suffer.

The mind — the decision maker — we share across our region is not just the Tucson mayor and council, of course. There are eight formal governmental entities weighing in and debating key valleywide decisions. Each represents a different part of the whole.

Unless there’s the desire to cut out the city at the heart of our region, it’s worth listening when Tucson sounds the alarm and offers its views. Sometimes, when the mind suffers from confusion and conflict, it is worth listening to cues from your heart.

Karin Uhlich represents Ward 3 on the Tucson City Council.

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