Monday, August 29, 2011

138th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Reason Rides a BMX Bike

In hindsight, everything that happened in the BMX tête à tête was simply a matter of intelligence. Not all of the information relating to the BMX park was know by everyone at the same time.

For instance, when the Miles Neighborhood meeting flyer was distributed on Sunday, August 14th it was not mentioned that the agenda for the next Pima County Flood Control meeting scheduled for Thursday, August 25th was going to be solely about the BMX bike course. Several key players knew this fact but did not think it important to share this information with others.

In the meantime, BMX supporters, who were in the majority, sensed that they should insist on making their position known in a motion. That motion was reluctantly adopted.

A few minutes after the Pima County Flood Control meeting opened Thursday evening, everything became clear. If the Miles Neighborhood Association had not acted on the motion and just settled for more questions, this Flood Control meeting would have been a complete bust.

Both Barrio San Antonio and the BMXers who built the BMX course wanted it to stay exactly as it is now constructed. No changes. No additions. No improvements.

Andrew, the Miles Neighborhood Co-chair took the floor and supported their position. He then defined “just like it is,” based on the recently approved motion There will be no lights, no spectator stands, no parking lot, no BMX events and if the construction crews level the course, the BMX bikers who built it in the first place will rebuild.

Everyone at the meeting agreed and smiles appeared throughout in the room. Then the Flood Control moderator closed by saying that the final call will be made by the City’s Risk Management office. If they approve then the project can move forward. If not… well, there will be no BMX park. Still, the smiling continued.

In a month or so, the two neighborhoods are planning a potluck something or other to get to know each other better. Then when the next project on the Arroyo Chico agenda, park benches and things, is up for discussion, they will do the intelligent thing. Ask questions about the process first and then ask what are the options, if any.

“Great Need for Cereal, Peanut Butter and Canned Fruit”
That’s how Jacob Coldsmith, Logistics Manager at the Community Food Bank put it in his email to me last Wednesday. Until January 2012, these kid related food products are in short supply and Jacob is reaching out to One Can A Week for help.

On the right is the flyer we passed out to our neighbors this past Sunday. As the fates would have it, we’re off to a great start. (See weekly donations below.)

If these items fit into your donation plan, that’s wonderful. But remember, any food donation you make is truly appreciated.
It Must Have Been in the Air
Even before the Urgent Need flyer hit the streets, people were already preparing to donate cereal, peanut butter and some canned fruit.

Barbara Farragut on 12th Street collects food in her sister-in-law's small, Cul-de-Sac neighborhood every three months.. This Sunday the collection was nothing but cereal, Mac & Cheese and some peanut butter. It got us off to a good start to help hungry kids, but Barbara is still shaking her head. “How did they know?” she asked.

We collected a total of 180 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $133.00, two checks for $125.00 and $8.00 in cash.

Aida, the sister of Lenny Cota-Robles, one of our 12th Street volunteers, donated a one hundred dollar check. Surprises like that are just so … surprising.

See you Sunday,


Monday, August 22, 2011

137th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

That Wasn’t Pretty…
But There Was One Beautiful Resolve

A week before the Miles Neighborhood Association meeting, Bill Richards, Co-chair of the Association sent out a notice encouraging everyone to attend the season opener. He also made it abundantly clear that he did not approve of the BMX park, a hot issue on the agenda.

Generally, six to eight neighbors attend Miles Neighborhood Association meetings and the most interesting thing on the agenda is the snack tray Josie from 13th Street provides.

This month was different, really different. Five minutes after the meeting opened all of the seats were filled and folks were still streaming in. There were more than 30 people sitting in or scattered around the circle of chairs.

Instead of starting with a discussion of the BMX park, Bill selected less controversial subjects on the agenda. Renaming the new footbridge in the Arroya Chico Park in honor of Luis Gutierrez, our neighbor and long-time Tucson city manager, for example That motion passed unanimously.

About then, Richard Fimbres, our neighbor and Ward 5 City Councilman entered the gym with his wife Mary. He stopped to shake my hand as he passed along the wall on the way to take up a position behind the circle of chairs. In a few minutes he and Mary sat down.

Bill continued with the agenda. Do the neighbors want turf or natural landscaping in a section of land buttressing 12th Street? This conversation dragged on and on because Bill wanted to make sure everyone understood that although it was a Pima County Flood Control project, the Parks Department would maintain the plot of land.

Half way through the stimulating dirt or grass discussion, I surmised that Bill did not intend to recognize Mr. Fimbres from the floor. I walked up to Andrew, the other Co-chair who stood ten feet away from where Bill was and told him he should interrupt Bill and introduce our Councilmen. He did not know Mr. Fimbres by sight but said he would.

I went back to my wall post and waited. Again no action except Andrew stepped a few feet closer to Bill. My impatience grew more impatient. I raised my hand and interrupted the proceeding.

“I have two items, Bill. Can we move the proceeding along and make a motion on the grass. Also, I would like to introduce our Ward 5 Councilmen Richard Fimbres. He is accompanied by his wife Mary. Mr. Fimbres does a lot of wonderful things for our community and I thought all of you should meet him.”

On Thursday I talked to Bill about his lack of decorum and mentioned that I have a real problem with people disrespecting people, especially leaders in the community. I asked that in the future, since he knows what is right, he must do what is right. Bill apologized.

Nearly an hour into the meeting Bill turned to the BMX park. He began by explaining that Barrio San Antonio, our neighbor to the east, had expressed to Pima County Flood Control that they like the BMX park. Then he went on to say he has heard that there are some who want to open the BMX park to the whole city. He is against that. And then there is the parking issue, the drugs, the fact that the BXM park is not in the Pima County Flood Control plans.

That stimulated the audience a bit since the BMX park has been in existence for 5 years, hand built and maintained by BMXers, adults and kids. And not a speck of trouble reported to anyone. The drug issue was brought up a number of times by the same few. I thought that comment was really funny. Myself, I would love to see druggies on BMX bikes. They would sober up one second before they took their first jump or perhaps end up wrapped around a tree somewhere, never to bother us again.

An articulate 14-year-old girl named Willa who lives with her mother Shannon on Cherry Street countered the parking question.

“I have lots of friends who use the BMX park and their parents just drop them off on Saturday so there is no parking.”

The focus of the discussion narrowed when Greg who lives on Cherry Street made a motion. Based on his knowledge of Barrio San Antonio’s sentiment toward the BMX park, Greg’s motion stated that dirt trails were okay, but no concrete, no fencing and no lights is acceptable to our neighborhood. In other words, we like it as it is. That’s all he wanted to get into the record.

In the next 45 minutes, Bill stated his opposition in varying ways that included, “Who knows what will happen?” The Pima County Flood Control is in charge. They have no plan for the BMX park. And so on.

Greg moved around a bit in back of the circle of chairs slightly softening his motion each time two or three neighbors gave him support. I thought moving was a great strategy because it appeared several people were making the same motion. Later Greg told me he moved because he was frustrated. I’m going to give him credit anyway for a neat idea.

As it became more apparent that most of the neighbors in the meeting liked Greg’s motion and that Bill did not intend to represent the majority’s opinion to Pima County Flood Control, Andrew stepped in as Co-chair and offered a compromise. Actually he said the same thing as Greg but coming from him it went to a vote. That vote, 22 Yes, 6 No and 9 Abstain, highlighted the bewilderment of the neighbors. After the meeting the conversation turned to: “What was that all about? What’s the big deal?

The next day I spoke to Bill and Jamie at their home but listened first. Jamie said he had “witnesses” that one or two non-neighbors entered two Yes votes. That was our fault I said. It is apparent we don’t know our neighbors on sight.

Bill maintained that the Pima County Flood Control was in charge and they will have the final ruling on the BMX park. That’s all well and good, I told him, but it is his job as Co-chair to represent all of the neighbors, not his own special interest. We get enough of this kind of behavior out of the Congress in Washington. And we can’t do much about that, But in the Miles Neighborhood, my neighborhood, we’re not going to let that happen here. Kids are first, and they will get their parks and they will get their playgrounds.

On Sunday many neighbors talked to Kym, Barbara, Lenny and me as we made our One Can A Week rounds. They were surprised and concerned about the tension in the neighborhood meeting but many said they are going to attend more neighborhood meetings and will engage more to make sure we all remain civil. Now that is a beautiful thing.

More Thinking About the Kids
This Sunday it was apparent folks were considering kids when deciding on what to donate. We got lots of cereal and three toothbrushes. (Follow the red arrows.) One was a princess that runs on batteries. Some little person is going to really like that one.

We collected a total of 160 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $47.10, a $25.00 check and $22.10 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, August 15, 2011

136th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
BMX Athletes Want to Ride, Not Write

In the past week lots of Miles neighbors talked to each other about the proposed BMX dirt jumps in our new Arroyo Chico park. This is a good thing even though most of them didn’t know that BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross, a very popular bone breaking and nose bending sport millions of young men and women athletes just love. But who cares if they knew, they are getting involved in the community.

Barbara Farragut on 12th Street, which is near the BMX course, talked to her neighbors a week ago Sunday and the consensus was that if there were adequate parking for the BMXers and insurance coverage in case of injury, they were all for it. Of course, they also want the jumps closed by 10 pm. (This happens anyway because there are no lights.)

A BMXer’s World View – Whoa! This is not a sport for an acrophobic. Not only are there numerous heights to navigate, you fly through the air a lot, too. This photo was taken standing on the first mound above a sizeable pit.

The BMXers who built this site spent a lot of time, thought and energy making these mounts. The area is clean and no trash is visible except in the provided receptacles.

To check the course out for yourself, go south on Park from Broadway and then turn left at Miles Street. Drive to the end of the short block and turn left into the BMX grounds. (If you like, you can stop off at any one of those wonderful Mexican furniture store along the way.)

Parking Not an Issue – This is a long shot of the photo above—mounds in the background —which also displays about one third of the parking area available. There are other, less challenging mounts to the right.
Another neighbor, Greg Clark on Cherry Street, wrote a very informative letter he handed out and then posted in the Axis Food Mart.

“Current plans for the Arroyo Chico Detention Basin Park would remove the BMX area and replace it with a wide landscaped basin to catch flood waters, but Pima County is considering a proposal to keep a portion of the bike-riding area at its current street-level, and allow it to continue to be used as a dirt area for bike riding. There is no proposal to make the BMX area any larger or more elaborate than it is now, but only to make space at the westernmost end of the Arroyo Chico park to have a dirt course with dirt jumps amidst desert trees where biker are allowed to ride.

“Many members of the Miles Neighborhood believe that a BMX course is an excellent thing. It provides a fun local activity right here in the neighborhood. It promotes healthy athletic lifestyles, creates a recreational site shared by children, youth and adults—a place where people of varying ages and backgrounds gather and build friendships around a common interest. The area boosts the character and diversity of our neighborhood and generally makes it better, more interesting and fun place to live.”

A comment I heard was about tagging. My thinking is serious BMX athletes who use the course will probably only tag themselves—if there is any writing to be done at all—following in the tradition of the pros. Have you seen those champion bike riders on TV? Some major body art going on there.

You still have time to jump in on the BMX conversation and add your ‘two cents” before Pima Count Flood Control makes the final decision. Come to the Miles Neighborhood Association meeting this Wednesday, the 17th in the Miles Exploratory School gymnasium at 6:30 pm. Of course, you may drive, walk or ride your BMX bike to the meeting.

A Look at the Agenda
In addition to a conversation about the BMX course, there will be a discussion on introducing possible turf (grassy) areas in the Basin park, planning for a neighborhood clean up and the renaming of the new Cushing Street bridge in honor of Luis Gutierrez, our neighbor and long-time Tucson city manager.

Join us at the Miles Exploratory School Gym (pictured here) at 6:30 pm, Wednesday, August 17th.

Things Are Good Again
Any time I collect 168 lbs. of food on Sunday—our average donation over the past two and one half years—I’m delighted. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks I lamented that we were experiencing a decline. Today, I’m happy to report, “We’re Back!”

We collected a total of 178 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $35.50, a $25.00 check and $10.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, August 8, 2011

135th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

Now It’s Time for You To Help Us
Build Our Neighborhood Park

With the completion of the Arroyo Chico Detention Basin off Highland Avenue, we can now turn our attention to creating a new Miles Neighborhood Park.

Bill Richards, the Co-chair of the Miles Neighborhood Association wrote in his letter distributed this past weekend that “Pima County Flood Control, the developers and designers of this entire detention basin project, has asked for neighborhood input for the design and use of this space.” That’s really nice of them, don’t you think?

One consideration is a BMX course for racing bicycles on a track with obstacles. This sport is very popular with “riders from teen years into the 20s and 30s,” Bill stated.

“Having this course at the Park will be attractive to BMXers from around the entire city,” he added, but “…the influx of people and traffic…” needs to be examined thoroughly.

Other ideas or suggestions include park benches, BBQ grills, walking paths, community garden and so on.

The question is, what do you think should be done to develop this space? Your opinion counts so here are a couple of options you can use to express your ideas. Just call Bill at 629-9373 or email him at

Better yet, you can attend our first neighborhood meeting of the season at the Miles Exploratory School Gym on Wednesday, August 17th at 6:30 pm and talk about it then.

No matter what you decide to do, please know that your participation is very important.

Thinning Donations
With the economy being what it is and no solution in the hopper yet, we have to redouble our efforts to help those in need.

My plan is to call on some new neighbors this weekend and chat more with folks I already visit each Sunday. You may want to add a can or two to your donation or maybe talk your neighbor into participating.

I see it getting worse as we struggle to make it better. We have to keep in mind that we are feeding kids. I think about them all of the time and that’s what drives me forward.

We collected a total of 136 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $31.50, a $25.00 check and $6.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,


Monday, August 1, 2011

134th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,
Rosemary Makes One Fine Root Beer Float

When 11 o’clock rolled around Saturday morning at the Sunflower
Market on Speedway and Swan, Rosemary Chacon, the
Events/Marketing manager, was ready to dish out the ice cream
and pour the root beer. A few minutes later her first thirsty
customer arrived.
Last Wednesday I received an email from Rosemary.

“On July 30th, I’m doing a “Root beer Float” event from 11-1pm, for a $1 or a can of food. All the donations are going to One Can A Week.”

Those two sentences were the catalyst for a series of events, some inspirational, some definitely calling for a warning label.

Rincon Market First
Saturday started extra early for me because I had to be at the Sunflower Market by 11 am. So by 8:30 I was set up at the Rincon Market counting mounds of change. As I was leaving the Rincon Market at 10:30 am with my shopping cart filled with food, Don, a Rincon regular who had just parked his car a bit askew in the front of the store said he had some food for me. He returned to his car and grabbed a bulging plastic bag. When he handed me the bag I could see individual diapers rubber banded together. “None of these are used?” I asked.

He laughed and said "No, of course not."

Then I remembered Natasha, his wife asked me last week if I could take diapers. I expected a box, not something that looks like the end product of a changing table episode, all bundled up with ends poking out.

(I say yes to everything even non-food items folks decide to donate. I always want to be a resource for people feeling generous. Even if I just drop items off at the Salvation Army for them, I want my donors to know they can turn to me to help others.)

Serving Up Ice Cream and Soda
The second or third customer at our Root Beer Float table was an elderly, toothless woman on a scooter. When she learned the price of our Ice Cream Soda was $1.00 she fished through her bag, found an envelope and extracted one bill. I handed her the drink and she moved her scooter forward maybe eighteen inches. She was now directly in front of me and in position to drop her empty cup in the waste paper basked when she was finished. For the next few minutes I got to see, in profile, mind you, a formless jaw move an incredible distance up and down to devour a tasty treat.

I forced my gaze on other things, the front door, the melon bin but like that young girl in the America’s Funniest Home Video clip who stood next to the kid with the runny nose, I just had to check out the gumming of an ice cream soda. What is that fascination we humans have with disgusting?

Several Miles neighbors came by as did a mom and her two sons who heard the announcement on Bobby Rich’s Morning Mix and brought three cans to donate. She and her youngest son opted for the regular ice cream and soda. Her rather large teenager ordered diet everything. I have no idea why. He was a big kid for sure, but football big. He wasn’t overweight just ready for his school’s defensive line. Maybe his coach will straighten him out.

Soon Corina stopped by, a Southside Rotary Club friend who helped me in the very early days of One Can A Week. As we caught up on these not-so-good times, I prepared a root beer float for another woman. The moment the woman tasted the float she let out a low, joyful moan. And every succeeding spoonful of ice cream and root beer elicited the same response. My eyes darted back and forth from Corina to what sounded like Meg Ryan in the deli scene from the film“When Harry Met Sally.” Good thing the cup only held two ounces of ice cream and soda. I couldn’t have taken much more of her delight.

Going to the Markets
The food I collected at the Rincon Market Saturday totaled 100 lbs. This is a near record amount for a week’s donation and turned out to be a bit of an omen for the Sunflower Market which garnered 108 lbs. of food by the end of the Root Beer Float event. That is 4 more pounds than the amazing One Can A Week checkout counter stickers produced.

In talking with my friend and confidant, Ed Altamirano on Miles Street Sunday I told him about my wish to pursue more food markets with brightly colored Thank You Kid boxes and events. Unfortunately, the costs involved for printing and decorating the Community Food Bank boxes is a bit prohibitive, not to mention my time. I probably will have to find some grant money some place.

I was just thinking aloud but Ed immediately made a suggestion. He will contact a friend of his who is very much involved in grant writing.

This is a great idea. I just need information and some explanation of the grant process. I can write my own grant once I know which direction to follow.

It’s apparent I find discovering more ways to gather more food exciting. But I need to find a little help first.

Nice of You to Call
An hour or so after I finished my Sunday rounds I got a call from a neighbor on Miles. He was out when I visited his home earlier and he forgot to leave his donation. He assured me he would have something next week … even extra.

It’s only one can of food but it is as important to my neighbors as it is to me. That sure makes me very happy.

We collected a total of 158 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $37.50, a $25.00 check and $12.50 in cash.

See you Sunday,