Things That Matter

Regina Romero Is Tucson, Arizona’s First-Ever Latina Mayor And Supporters Are Celebrating

Voters in Tucson made their voices heard on Tuesday night by electing Regina Romero, the city’s first female and first Latina mayor. The three-term former Tucson City Council member ran on a campaign platform centered around combating climate change, improving the city’s infrastructure and education system, as well as expanding opportunities for immigrant communities. 

Romero, 33,  who is Mexican-American, captured the historic victory by claiming nearly 56 percent of the vote, according to Tucson.com. She beat out opponents Ed Ackerley, an independent who received 40 percent of the vote, and Green Party candidate Mike Cease, who got 4 percent. Romero beat out two other Democrats in the party’s primary back in August.

“At a time when our national politics have been sown with division, Tucsonans remain united by our shared desire to promote a safe, just and sustainable city that provides economic opportunity for our families and future generations. This movement is open to everyone — whatever your background, whatever your party, whoever you voted for — let’s work together! We will always be one Tucson — somos uno,” Romero said at her campaign victory rally.

Romero’s victory is significant not only because of her background but because of political impact in the state of Arizona.

Credit: @LatinoVictoryUS / Twitter

The mayoral victory for Romero is a landmark moment for the typically left-leaning city of Tucson. While its population is near 44 percent Latino, the city has never elected a Latino mayor since Arizona became a U.S. state. Only once before 1854 had a Latino ever held the office.

Mayra Macías, the executive director at Latino Victory, a political action group aimed at increasing Latino voting power, said that the victory is a historic moment for all, especially women. 

“Councilwoman Regina Romero shattered one glass ceiling when she became the first Latina elected to the Tucson City Council, and now she’s broken yet another one by becoming Tucson’s first woman and first Latina mayor,” Macías said in a press release. “Her groundbreaking election is a testament of who she is as a leader and all the incredible things she’ll accomplish for the people of Tucson as their new mayor.”

There is a number of key issues that Romero will be taking on as mayor including climate change and immigration. 

One of the first issues that Romero will take on as mayor is focusing on plans that the city can implement to respond to climate change.

If we want to move our economy to a progressive place, if we want to continue investing in our infrastructure, if we want to continue creating high wage, long term jobs we have to tackle climate resiliency in our city,” Romero told Tucson.com. “We are the second city that is heating up the most right after Phoenix and so we’ve got to work immediately on it.”

She will also be taking on a more controversial issue at hand in immigration. Voters in Tucson voted against a proposed sanctuary city initiative that Romero opposed as well. Instead, she plans to work on repeal the controversial state law of SB 1070 that allows police to determine the immigration status of any individual that they stop or arrest. Romero has long advocated for immigrant rights and says that the real issue at hand isn’t the title of sanctuary city but the bill. 

“The root of the problem is SB 1070, and we’ve got to demand in a unified front with a unified voice that Governor [Doug] Ducey and the state Legislature repeal SB 1070,” Romero said.

Democratic presidential candidates chimed in on the victory throughout the day relaying the message of the importance of representation. 

Credit: @JulianCastro / Twitter

Democratic presidential hopefuls Julián Casto, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders took to Twitter to congratulate the historic victory. Romero joins a wave of Latino firsts that have come in the last year when it comes to taking office.

“We need more Latinas to run, and win!” Castro, the lone Latino Democratic candidate, wrote on Twitter.

“Congratulations to @TucsonRomero, the first Latina mayor of Tucson, on her historic win last night—and to @LUCHA_AZ and the other grassroots community activists that fought hard for this progressive victory.” Sanders wrote. 

The mother of two children, who was born in Somerton, Arizona and graduated from the nearby University of Arizona, will now be the only Latina mayor in the country’s 50 most populous cities.

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An Arizona Medical Marijuana Farm Turned The Sky Purple And People Were Left Wondering What Was Going On

Things That Matter

An Arizona Medical Marijuana Farm Turned The Sky Purple And People Were Left Wondering What Was Going On

Navajo County / Facebook

A Navajo County medical marijuana farm in Snowflake, Arizona filled the sky with a strange purple haze that illuminated the horizon. Local residents took photos of the electric violet fog that enveloped them on an early Friday morning last week. 

Copperstate Farms is the largest medical marijuana wholesaler in Arizona, according to CNN. The farm has 40 acres of greenhouses (totaling the size of 30 football fields). The greenhouses use red and blue lights at night to boost the plants’ growth. Anyone who paid attention during the color theory section of art class knows red and blue make purple, but the lights don’t look like this every day in Navajo County. 

So why was the sky filled with a purple haze?

❄ The snow wasn't the only gift the skies had in store for us this morning. ????This photo taken from Snowflake, AZ early…

Posted by Navajo County on Friday, January 10, 2020

“The purple lights are always there but don’t usually light up the sky like this,” Cara Smith, who took the viral photo at 6:30 AM on her way to work, told CNN. “It had snowed that morning and was still very foggy and cloudy.”

While the lights can sometimes look a little purple from afar, the weather conditions magnified the violet hue. According to KTLA, water droplets from a particularly low fog reflected the growth lights which made the purple color spread across the dark sky. 

“The snow wasn’t the only gift the skies had in store for us this morning. This photo taken from Snowflake, AZ early this morning showcased purple glow for miles! Huge shout out to resident Cara Smith for sharing her photo.
The purple glow is a result of LED grow lights from nearby medical marijuana farm Copperstate Farms and the snow clouds overhead,” the official Navajo County Facebook page wrote. 

Copperstate Farms has been growing crops for three years with 70 cannabis strains in production and another 40 in development. 

With more states legalizing marijuana, a purple haze could be coming to you.

While Arizona legalized medical use in 2010, it has struggled to legalize it for recreational use. In fact, in 2016 a ballot initiative to legalize it recreationally failed with 48.7 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, in just four short years the state has a new initiative on the ballot that is facing little opposition. 

“With over $1.6 million in funding, the political action committee formed to push the ballot initiative is the best-funded PAC in the state, according to campaign finance filings. What is surprising is the seeming lack of any opposition in a state that, just four years ago, narrowly struck down a similar bill,” according to the Phoenix New Times.

In 2016, Arizona may have suffered from a 6.4 million anti-cannabis movement but there is little resistance this time. There have been changing attitudes around marijuana use with 33 states making it medically legal and 11 making it recreationally legal. 

Here are the states we can expect expanded access to marijuana use from in 2020.

According to Newsweek, over a dozen states are posturing towards ballot initiatives for recreational cannabis use in 2020. States like these include Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Dakota, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, and North Dakota and Rhode Island. 

States in the beginning process are working to garner local and public support, while others, further along, are figuring out implementation processes. For example, Minnesota Democrats are trying to establish the best practices before drafting the bill. 

“It just is manifestly unfair to say ‘Okay, well, now that we think [marijuana] is good and we’re going to make money, let’s make it a corporate, whites-dominated industry,'” Minnesota state house majority leader Ryan Winkler told Newsweek. “We may not be able to stop that, but we’re going to try.”

Marijuana legalization has largely become a criminal justice issue with Black and Brown people incarcerated at much higher rates for usage despite racial groups using cannabis at the same rates. 

Illinois may be the model to follow, after passing a bill to legalize recreational use, the state plans to expunge criminal records for related low-level offenses. It has allocated $30 million in special low-interest loans so that communities, largely of color, affected the most by the so-called War on Drugs can lead the way as cannabis entrepreneurs. 

The City Of Phoenix Is Moving Forward With Plans To Open A Latino Cultural Center

Culture

The City Of Phoenix Is Moving Forward With Plans To Open A Latino Cultural Center

Unsplash

After 17 years of hitting roadblocks and issues with location, Phoenix, Arizona looks like it will finally have its own Latino cultural center. This month, the Phoenix City Council took action on the issue and voted in favor of moving forward with the project that was originally approved for $1.4 million in bond funding by Phoenix voters in 2001. The location of the cultural center is tentatively planned to be at the North Building at Margaret T. Hance Park, near downtown Phoenix. 

While the city is moving forward with plans, there is still disagreement with some about the location of the cultural center and fulfilling the rest of the funding needs. According to the Phoenix New Times, “Organizers would need to raise sufficient funds for North Building renovations by the end of 2023. Current estimates put renovation costs at about $12 million.”

While there is a growing need for a space that represents and shows the visibility of Latinos in Phoenix, the city still has questions about whether this location will fit those needs. 

Phoenix has one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the country and is expected to surpass 50 percent of the Arizona population by 2020. With a growing demographic, the Latino Cultural Center hopes to be a space that Latino artists can showcase the diversity and impact the population has had in America’s Southwest region. When it comes to programming,  the center would also have an “annual cultural festival” and a “community kitchen,” among other projects. But to accomplish this goal, the city has to fully support and agree on a location that meets these needs. 

As part of a study that was commissioned by the city of Phoenix, it recommends that the Latino Cultural Center be a “visible” presence in downtown Phoenix as well as being “on par and in company” with other nearby art and culture centers. 

City Councilman Carlos Garcia says that the location of this project is a huge roadblock to overcome since the currently proposed location lacks significance when it comes to the Latino community. 

“The Hance location kind of doesn’t allow us to grow from there. And it also doesn’t hold cultural significance, specifically to the Latino/Chicano from Phoenix,” Garcia said at the recent meeting concerning the center. “I had an artist call me about it and say, ‘Our communities were redlined and were not allowed north of whatever-Van Buren or the tracks-and so how can we set something up like where our communities weren’t even allowed.”

Despite some disagreements, Phoenix is ready to move forward with the project that it hopes it can get started on in the next few years. 

While there are still some questions about the location of the center, Councilwoman Thelda Williams said that this month’s vote was the most progress the project has made in becoming a reality. She said that only stalling the project even longer might hurt its long term viability. 

“For 17 years, we’ve been pursuing this,” Williams told AZ Central. “I know not everyone is happy with this building, but as you stated, doing this review and analysis of the building is truly going to be suitable. I wanted us to keep moving forward.”

As of now, there is $997,902 in available bond funding towards the center which means that the city would have to start a capital funding campaign to meet the financial needs for the project. This is where the city would need more people on board with the project if it is to keep moving forward, most importantly the support of the local Latino community which has voiced it has felt left out of the planning process. 

“It’s been in the works for so long that now everyone is disenfranchised,” Latina choreographer Liliana Gomez told Phoenix New Times. “People are feeling a little bit voiceless. If the center happens, I’ll be supportive. In the meantime, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

While the Hance Park location isn’t definitive, the city council has left it’s options open if another location or large sum donation is given to build the center somewhere else. Nonetheless, Phoenix is making progress on a project that has been years long overdue and is something that Latinos rightfully deserve. Councilmember Laura Pastor voiced this message at the city meeting and echoed the sentiment many have felt about the cultural center finally moving forward. 

“The city of Phoenix’s Latino arts and culture community is rich, vibrant and ever-evolving. This center will be a home for more than just art. It will encompass storytelling, cultural foods, music, programs, and festivals. Today’s vote is a vital step in the 18-year process to provide our City with the long-overdue Latino Cultural Center it deserves.”

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