Mayoral Candidate Stances: Food Policy Issues
We have reached out to all mayoral campaigns asking for answers to the questions below. We are waiting for responses and will continue to post as soon as we hear from the others.
Data from 2015 tells us that 1 in 5 Arizonans (15.8%) report food insecurity. The designation of Tucson as a City of Gastronomy has proven to be a big boost for tourism, how can we leverage this designation to address issues like hunger and food access?
Addressing the issue of food insecurity must begin with recognizing how serious of an issue this is. I believe that we need to double down on existing efforts that have proven to be effective as well as explore new, innovative ways to reduce food insecurity like implementing the Dairy Test Kits in conjunction with community partners.
I have supported the work that the City currently does in partnership with the Community Food Bank through our General Fund grants program, and will seek to expand this investment as Mayor. The City also works in collaboration with Las Milpitas and community gardens across Tucson, especially in food deserts and other stressed communities. I also helped develop Tucson Water’s Community Garden water rate and helped ensure that the city offers vacant city parcels for the purposes of growing food.
Just after Tucson’s UNESCO designation, I worked with the Southwest Folklife Alliance on a food ethnography project on the South 12th Avenue corridor called the Barrio Foodways project. Our community learned important lessons about our culinary heritage in addition to launching their own catering collective. This is a perfect example of how the City can collaborate with non-profits and organizations to leverage the UNESCO designation and work on creative projects to address food insecurity.
Our 2019/2020 policy platform includes water rates for urban agriculture within Tucson city limits. How will you lead and respond to climate change within the City and County? How does water conservation fit into your climate change policy?
Tucson Water’s residential water rates, which are designed to promote residential water conservation, are not compatible with urban agriculture. In 2017, I worked with community gardens and Tucson Water to develop Tucson’s new community garden rate which recognizes the Plan Tucson goal of promoting urban agriculture by waiving fixed monthly fees and using a non-tiered rate structure. As Mayor, I will work with the community to more widely promote the community garden rate. I will also work to develop an urban agriculture water rate as none of our current residential, commercial or industrial rates are appropriate for agriculture.
A Climate Action Plan is a central pillar of my campaign and it includes aggressive goals to combat global climate change and ensure that Tucson is a livable community for generations to come. My plan includes electrifying our transit system and vehicle fleet, planting 1 million trees to cool our City core and combat the urban heat island effect, and installing thousands of new solar panels on city facilities – all in an effort to make our city 100% carbon neutral. You can read more about my plans to address climate change at the local level here.
For the last 3 months, we have researched the feasibility of adopting the Good Food Purchasing Program in Tucson with the intention of finding ways to increase local foods at institutions in Tucson. How will you incentivize institutions, like the City of Tucson, to purchase local goods and services to benefit our local economy?
I am a true believer in local foods and supporting local business. I practice this ethic in both my personal consumption choices as well in policy making. I worked with LocalFirst and others to pass a city ordinance that gave preference to local institutions in the city’s procurement process. Unfortunately, this preference was later overturned at the state level. However, I remain committed to pursuing any and all avenues to achieve a similar result.
I am also proud to have the endorsements of House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez, as well as a majority of the House Democratic leadership. As Mayor, I will use my relationships at the State Capitol to fight back against efforts to micromanage cities across Arizona and ensure that our ability to self-govern is respected.
We also need to focus on food security by looking at which City regulations are inhibiting local food production and consider making significant alterations. For example, I supported the relaxation of codes concerning farmer’s markets. I would welcome the opportunity to work with the Pima County Food Alliance and other organizations to identify opportunities to not only remove barriers, but incentivize local food production.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, food constitutes 20 percent of the waste stream entering municipal landfills. As Mayor how will you improve city of Tucson’s capacity to rescue and repurpose surplus food (feeding people, feeding animals or the soil) to combat hunger and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from food “waste”?”
Part of the solution is consumer education. Over the last 40 years, Tucson Water has developed world renowned conservation and education programs as Tucson has become internationally known for our water conservation efforts. We need to apply what we have learned at Tucson Water to our Environmental Services Department to develop recycling and food waste reduction programs. The city currently charges environmental services customers $.45 cents per month to help defray the increased costs of paper and glass recycling. As Mayor, I will direct our Environmental Services Department to use those funds to start educating our residents – especially our youth – on reducing, re-using and recycling all kinds of products including food.
We also need a residential compost program to take the pressure off of our landfill and reduce greenhouse gases as well as to expand our commercial recycling program. We have willing partners in the community like the Compost Cats at the UA and the San Xavier District and need to take the next steps to reduce food waste and landfill deposits. Furthermore, I want to work with Pima County Health Department on creative ways to address health code challenges with repurposing food.