Tucson is a city with magnificent mountain views, a mild climate, lots of sunshine, and active, friendly people. We have a world-renowned university, a thriving culinary arts scene, acres of stunning landscape for hiking + biking, and a robust downtown. We have much to be grateful for.
Even so, there are certainly areas for growth and improvement. Residents, political figures, businesses, non-profits, and churches need to partner together to make Tucson a safer, wealthier, and cleaner city for future generations.
Following are several of our top wishes for 2014 and beyond.
Better Schools - As a state, Arizona continues to fall behind in education. While Tucson is fortunate to have many schools that rank among the best in the nation, we'd like to see Tucson pull ahead further in 2014. Let this be the year where our children soar. If you are a parent, commit to be present in your child's education. Be choosy about the school your child attends. Interview teachers, sit in on a class, talk to parents, request data. After you select a school, be involved and be positive. Read aloud to your children at night. Eat dinner around the table. Show interest and listen well. Stronger families = stronger schools.
Continued Success for Downtown - The revitalization of downtown Tucson is a true testament to what can happen when people collaborate for the greater good of a city. What used to be a wallflower has turned into the life of the party. Date Night? Girls' Night Out? Family photo shoot? Head downtown, where you'll find outstanding restaurants, decadent ice cream treats, public art, and - very soon a modern streetcar.
Downtown Park - One missing link in the downtown area is a clean, welcoming, and beautiful public park. Almost all of the best cities in the USA have one. New York has Central Park, Austin has Zilker, Atlanta has Centennial, St. Louis has Citygarden, etc. Tucson should follow suit and make it a priority to create a public space where people can relax, musicians can play, children can run, and food vendors can sell their wares. We're envisioning a carousel, a fountain, and a walking path lined with literature-themed sculptures...that takes you right to the steps of the Main Library.
New & Renovated Libraries - Speaking of libraries, the more we have of them the better. Libraries are places of equality and freedom, where people young + old can travel around the world and learn new skills...regardless of income or social status. How can we better support libraries? Start by getting a library card for everyone in your family. Visit your neighborhood library at least once a week. Volunteer at a library. Tucson already has the fourth largest book festival in the United States. Let us be known as a literate city - that celebrates reading and promotes education + innovation.
More Beautiful "Entry Points" into Tucson - Tucson Metro Chamber and AAA Landscape seem to be on the right track with the First Impressions project, which "will transform the six-tenths of a mile on Tucson Blvd. between Tucson International Airport and Valencia Blvd. into a positive landscape, art and cultural experience for visitors leaving TIA." We'd like to see similar plans for the east and west entry points from I-10. Large and aesthetic "Welcome to Tucson" signs and pretty landscaping would be a good start. Add in a clean and spacious Visitor's Center with a gift shop and playground and Tucson will quickly become a favorite road trip destination.
Spruced up Parks - Cities that have plentiful and well-maintained parks tend to have lower crime rates and happier residents. Tucson actually does have some "gems" in this category, but many of our long-standing favorites (Reid, Himmel, Ft. Lowell, Udall, etc.) could use a little pride and care. Splash pads and shaded playgrounds are especially needed, due to the warm summer climate and year-round sun rays. New parks are also needed, especially in the quickly expanding suburbs. Perhaps the city could implement stricter regulations for housing developers - requiring placement of parks and common areas intermixed with the rows of houses. The more walkable and livable our city is, the better it will be for our economy.
Support for Start-ups - The business buzz in Southern Arizona is promising. Start-up Tucson and TREO are doing their part to create an entrepreneur-friendly city. The University of Arizona's presence also helps further our status as a premiere place for young people to launch their products, services, and inventions. In other good news, Desert Angels was recently ranked as one of the top 5 most active investment angel groups in the USA.
Positive PR - All in all, Tucson is a pretty awesome place. Let's let the secret out in 2014. We need to send out a united message to the world that our city is top-notch - as a place to live, work, and vacation. Start by sharing this video with your friends. Hashtag it #ILoveTucson. It's about time our little spot of sunshine made its mark on the map.
What are your wishes for Tucson as we enter 2014?
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments or send a tweet to @TucsonTopia.