/ Modified jul 24, 2020 3:57 p.m.

New police budget, Summerhaven closed, mask materials

Plus, understanding how the expiration of federal dollars for unemployment will impact Arizonans.

A new budget passed by Tucson’s City Council came after more than an hour of public comment over funding for the Tucson Police Department with many speakers calling for a decrease in spending in order to boost support for more social programs. The council ultimately voted 6-1 on a budget that includes $166 million for police.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Lane Santa Cruz was the only member to vote no. She told Arizona 360 that her decision was in solidarity with members of the community who have demonstrated against systemic racism and police brutality in the wakes of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the Tucson Police in-custody deaths of Carlos Ingram-Lopez and Damien Alvarado earlier this spring.

“It’s not a new conversation. Folks – especially in our Black community – have been talking about this since the 1960s, but really kind of brought it to the popular demand of community that we shift how we think about community policing. And in looking at that they’re looking at the budgets and the amount of funding that goes to police,” Santa Cruz said.

“I’m just saying we need to start with looking at the scope of work that we expect from police officers and get to the place where we have peace officers. That it’s not enough to just plan for just always having crime. That we need to plan for how do we prevent crime.”

Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, who voted to approve the budget, said spending less on Tucson Police would betray voters who passed Proposition 101 in 2017. The measure raised the city’s sales taxes for five years in part to support first responders.

“We take that funding away now and they’ll never trust us again,” Kozachik told fellow council members. He later told Arizona 360 what approach he’d like the city to take instead and where there’s room for improvement.

“The two things that I hear most commonly are no.1, improve your response times. And no.2, we the neighbors appreciate community policing. Community policing takes more officers, not fewer. And if we’re going to improve our response time, again, cutting funding and reducing staffing is not the way to achieve that,” Kozachik said.

“All total, Lorraine, we’ve put about over $2 million in this budget simply to give the police the social service support they’re going to need when they go out on calls,” Kozachik said. “We hear from the community that oftentimes law enforcement is not the right agency to be called, we get that, we understand that. But the difficulty is putting the burden on a 911 dispatcher to make that triage decision. Do I, the dispatcher, send a law enforcement agency out or do I send a social worker out?”

Arizonans receiving unemployment will see their benefits reduced to up to $240 per week with the expiration of federal funding that supplemented payments with an extra $600. The reduction in assistance comes as continuing unemployment claims in the state surpassed 3 million for the first time. Tens of thousands of residents have also applied for rental assistance, though only roughly 10% have actually received aid from the state. Arizona 360 got insight into the economic pressures facing Arizonans from KJZZ senior field correspondent Katherine Davis-Young who has covered the issue extensively.

The containment of the Bighorn Fire in the Coronado National Forest was welcome news this week as crews spent several weeks battling the lightning-caused wildfire. But relief has yet to reach the Mount Lemmon community of Summerhaven where business owners claim restricted access on Catalina Highway continues to harm their bottom line. Tony Paniagua spoke to Jennifer Zimmerman of the Mt. Lemmon Business Economic Association, which represents more than a dozen businesses, and Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy, whose district includes the area.

More Arizonans are masking up to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But some masks are more effective than others and they don’t completely shield you from exposure. A study from the University of Arizona looked into the most effective materials. We learned more about the findings from Amanda Wilson, a researcher with the UA Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“Some of the nontraditional mask materials we looked at include vacuum cleaner bags and tea towels. And those were the two top performers after those more traditional masks,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, vacuum cleaner bag masks reduced infection risks for 20-minute exposures by 58%. For 30-second exposures, it reduced infection risk by 83%. Infection risk reduction rates for masks made out of tea towels were 41% and 63% respectively.

“And we found that scarves in our model actually offered the lowest infection risk reduction of those different material types,” Wilson said. “They can offer some protection, but really you want to look for something that has a denser, knitted material or a higher thread count.”

She also explained that a mask’s ability to protect a wearer from exposure diminishes the longer that person remains in a potentially contaminated environment. A common scenario she described would be a trip to the grocery store where the length of time indoors can vary drastically.

“You’re there for 20 minutes, you’re getting a full load for an entire week as opposed to going in to get one thing and leaving,” Wilson said. “We did see that infection risk reductions were smaller for 20 minutes, meaning that your risks are greater. And for those shorter durations we saw that masks reduced infection risk by quite a lot.”

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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