Mayor Regina Romero Discusses Her First Months as Mayor of Tucson

Mayor Regina Romero has had a lot on her governing plate since becoming the current leader of Tucson in December 2019.

Like most Arizona’s Mayors, she has taken a leading role in combatting the pandemic and maintaining public discourse and order in the aftermath of the police murder of George Floyd. She has also worked hard to fulfill her campaign promises to the citizens of Tucson. Mayor Romero graciously took the time to discuss her first months in office.

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The questions and her responses are below.

1)    Please describe your experiences as Mayor of Tucson since taking office.

“It has been an exciting and challenging time. So much has happened since taking office. From the COVID-19 pandemic to social unrest, we’ve been through a lot in the last six months. I’m grateful to live in a community as resilient as Tucson is.  I see this as an opportunity for the city, state, and the country to come together and rise from the ashes to become a better Tucson, a better Arizona, and a better U.S.”

2)    To what extent has your leadership-executive team/staff helped you make the adjustment to the Mayor’s office? Please explain.

“It’s a true honor to serve as Tucson’s Mayor after 12 years as a City Council Member. My work on the Council has made it easier to continue collaborations with various departments and colleagues as we move the City forward.”

“I am very fortunate to be surrounded by competent individuals who not only know their craft but are also in tune with the needs of our community. The team’s diverse background and experience give me the perspective I need to lead with an eye to equity.”

3)    Recognizing these have been trying times with COVID 19 and protests following the death of George Floyd, please describe the progress in accomplishing the goals you set forth in your campaign to help Tucson citizens and move the city forward.

“In public service, we have to adjust to new realities and to what our community needs of us.”

“Even though we have been able to focus on some of the platforms from my campaign, we’ve had to pivot and address the urgency of COVID 19. The public health emergency forced us to balance working on the Tucson we want to see with the Tucson we need right now.”

WATCH Tucson Mayor Regina Romero speaking at DGT Online, July 20

“We’ve been able to make some headway in the area of sustainability by partnering with the University of Arizona and Arizona State University to co-fund the role of a climate and sustainability advisor to tap into institutional research and work on climate change, and ultimately bridge it into policy. We also appropriated a quarter of a million dollars to develop a climate action plan for Tucson that will serve as our guiding document for how we take bold climate action to cut our city’s carbon footprint, a transition to a renewably-powered transit fleet, continue conservation of our precious water resources, and prioritize environmental justice for communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change. We have also kicked off the Million Trees campaign to promote urban forestry, combat the heat island effect, and beautify and cool neighborhoods throughout the city.”

“In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the issues of criminal justice and public safety were brought to the forefront nationally, including here in Tucson. In June, we learned about the tragic in-custody death of Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez, which prompted us to scrutinize our own policies and practices to help prevent similar events from occurring in the future. Mayor & Council took several steps to reimagine how we provide public safety in this year’s budget:”

  • “We are funding a comprehensive Equity Needs Assessment to address inequities within city government and the services we provide Tucsonans.
  • We are implementing a Community Safety Pilot Program to bring several city services together and work collaboratively to better address poverty, mental health, lack of housing, and other challenges that Tucsonans face.
  • We are hiring a Housing First Director to prioritize low-barrier, permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.
  • We are adding a team of social workers to focus on prevention strategies and empower vulnerable communities.”

“In addition, I have created a Racial Equity and Justice Advisory Council that will focus on intentionally confronting and overcoming barriers that communities of color face in Tucson, with the ultimate goal of making policy recommendations that address these inequities.”

4)    To what extent have you been able to establish strong relationships with the other leading stakeholders that help lead Tucson (City Council, City Staff and Agencies like Police and Fire, Public Advocacy and Civic Minded Groups for example)

“Before I was elected as Mayor, I served on the Tucson City Council for 12 years, so I came into office with institutional knowledge and did not face a steep learning curve. In addition to the relationships I’ve built with my colleagues on the City Council and city staff, I have had the opportunity to build strong relationships with other Mayors in our region as well as Pima County officials. At the outset of the pandemic, I organized daily calls with the Mayors of Sahuarita, Oro Valley, Marana, South Tucson, and Pima County officials to ensure open communication throughout the County. I have also worked with Mayors across Arizona in advocating for proactive steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state.”

Additionally, I have been able to utilize my relationships with our Congressional Delegation to bring federal investment and resources to Tucson, such as new electric buses for our transit fleet and the development of a potential bus rapid transit line. I continue to stay in close contact with a diversity of stakeholders in our community including non-profits, businesses, issue-based advocacy organizations, unions, and several other groups. I believe in the power of dialogue; those who know me know that I always keep an open mind and am willing to work with anyone who wants to advance our city in a positive direction.”

5)    In your opinion, to what extent is Tucson handling COVID 19 well? Please explain.

“We’ve listened to the advice of public health experts. We’ve followed CDC guidelines. We’ve worn face masks, washed our hands, and have practiced social distancing. The decision to mandate masks has made a difference. Both in the policies we’ve implemented from a local government standpoint, and the individual responsibility Tucsonans have displayed, I believe we have done what we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 locally. However, not everything is in our control, and we have lacked the statewide policy, direction, and in many cases, the local authority and freedom to effectively slow the spread of COVID-19. This is exemplified by the fact that positive cases skyrocketed after the Governor rushed the re-opening of our state. I have worked diligently with other mayors, including my sister mayors in Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Tolleson, to advocate for much more aggressive actions to slow the spread and save lives. Sadly, much of the decision-making at the statewide level has been reactive and politically motivated, which has had very real consequences for our communities.”

“We have also provided several resources to address the devastating economic blow the pandemic has caused, including allocating funds for rental and utility assistance, non-profit and small business grants, and establishing a moratorium on public housing evictions and utility shut-offs. We have a ways to go but we’ll get through this together.”

6)    Please describe, outside of the Coronavirus and the protests, at least one unexpected challenge of being Mayor. Please explain.

“Being the first at anything comes with unique challenges, especially when you represent a change to what has been in place for so many years. I am thankful for the continued support of Tucsonans as we face these uncharted times together and work hand-in-hand to recover as one community.”

“I think we are living under unique times when local elected officials, including mayors, have had to step up and rise to the occasion. Some may prefer that I conform to and assume a more traditional, stereo-typical role as mayor and focus on ribbon cuttings and the “feel good” issues. However, in the absence of leadership from higher levels of government, I believe that the vast majority of Tucsonans are seeking bold leadership and ideas from their local elected officials; from acting swiftly to address the immediate concerns surrounding COVID-19, to long-term policy goals such as making our city carbon-neutral and creating new economic opportunities.”

7)    Is there anything not covered in the first six questions that you would like the readers to know?

“Along with the safety of Tucsonans, our local economy has also been top of mind for our office. Focusing on how we move from a recovery phase to a stable economy, we created the We Are One | Somos Uno Resiliency Fund to provide financial assistance to local small businesses, nonprofits, workers, and families. By collaborating with local partners, we are able to distribute much-needed funds to those impacted by COVID-19.”

To follow the progress of Mayor Romero and the Tucson City Council please click on her Facebook Page and City Government website below.

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