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August 30, 2017

Executive Director’s Report

The Director’s report at the August meeting was a time to reflect on individuals who had made a difference for this region and the State of Arizona. Becky Kimbrough, the MAG Fiscal Services Manager, lost her year-long fight with cancer. She loved her job at MAG and devoted herself to making a difference for MAG and other councils of governments in Arizona. Also, the founder of MAG, Jack DeBolske, who had suffered for years with Parkinson’s disease, lost his struggle. Jack mentored many in Arizona, and the way he set up the organizational structure of MAG continues to be the foundation of MAG’s success.

Becky worked at MAG for 16 years and brought a degree of professionalism to MAG that lasts to this day. MAG is one of the few councils of governments that achieves the Government Finance Officers Award every year. Jack always put the elected officials first and worked tirelessly to promote the tenets of local control by the MAG member agencies. He understood that elected officials took the political risk and the staff’s job was to provide them the best information.

Elected official leadership is the cornerstone of the MAG organization. At the August meeting, we welcomed our new Chair, Mayor Jackie Meck from the City of Buckeye. We also welcomed a new team of officers. The MAG model that was developed by Jack DeBolske works, and I am confident that our new leadership team will continue in the MAG tradition of success and help our region flourish.
For more information, please contact Dennis Smith, MAG Executive Director, (602) 254-6300.

Meeting Report for Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Action Items

Transportation Policy Committee Business Seats
Members of the Regional Council approved the forwarding of five names for two vacant regionwide business seats on the Transportation Policy Committee. Those nominations now go to the President of the Arizona Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives for consideration.

The position held by Mr. Garrett Newland, appointed by the President of the Senate, is now open, with a term expiring on December 31, 2022. The other vacant position was held by Ms. Karrin Kunasek Taylor, appointed by the Speaker of the House, with a term expiring on December 31, 2018.

The Regional Council received letters from Mayor John Giles of Mesa nominating Mr. Roc Arnett, from Mayor Georgia Lord nominating Mr. Bob Bambauer, from Mayor Mark Mitchell nominating Mr. Kevin Olson, and from Ms. Karrin Taylor Robson (formerly Kunasek Taylor) nominating Mr. Brad Chelton and Ms. Cheryl Lombard.
For more information, please contact Dennis Smith, MAG Executive Director, (602) 254-6300.

Information Items

Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic violence calls are among the most frequent, dangerous and costly calls law enforcement responds to around the region. There were 100 domestic violence related deaths in Arizona last year. The MAG Regional Domestic Violence Council, through the Regional Plan to End Domestic Violence, has coordinated a regional response to domestic violence through the criminal justice system since 1999.

MAG staff briefed the Regional Council on the latest activity, the annual MAG Domestic Violence Training event, held at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)Training Center on August 29, 2017. Approximately 160 criminal justice professionals attended the day-long event, which featured speakers that included Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck, who serves as Regional Council Chair; Apache Junction Councilmember Robin Barker, who serves as Chair of the MAG Regional Domestic Violence Council; Phoenix Councilmember Thelda Williams, who serves as Vice Chair of the Domestic Violence Council; and Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone.
For more information, please contact Amy Rebenar, MAG Human Services Planner, (602) 254-6300.

Solid Waste Best Practices in the MAG Region
Members of the Regional Council heard the Solid Waste Best Practices in the MAG Region 2017 Update, which highlights the effective and efficient programs being implemented by MAG member agencies to address solid waste and promote recycling. This update follows a 2012 report showcasing solid waste best practices in the region and covers innovative programs ranging from household hazardous waste to recycling to education and outreach.

MAG staff reported that since 2012, eighteen MAG member agencies have implemented at least one of the best practices, with the most popular being curbside recycling collection and solid waste and recycling education and outreach. Staff noted the best practice with the biggest increase in implementation is same day trash and recycling, with eight communities coming on board in the last five years. In addition, six new best practices were identified, which include a mail-in electronics recycling program in Fountain Hills and a mattress diversion program in Phoenix, to help reduce the number of those items going to the landfill.
For more information, please contact Julie Hoffman, MAG Environmental Planning Program Manager, (602) 254-6300.

MAG Freight Transportation Plan Update
Staff provided the Regional Council with an update on the MAG Freight Transportation Plan, the federally-supported freight network to help businesses and communities and improve efficiencies for the Phoenix Metropolitan area. The project team and regional stakeholders are tasked with identifying and ranking the critical urban freight corridor for the MAG region and submitting the top 60 lane miles for federal approval.

MAG staff informed Regional Council members that the project team is evaluating the movement of goods through the region and is identifying an arterial network that supports the critical connections from existing industry clusters to the region’s interstates and highways. The focus is improving those arterial streets to keep things moving efficiently while keeping the community safe, which may involve improving crosswalks, moving bike lanes, and adjusting lanes impacted by commuter traffic. The Draft Freight Network is due back to the Regional Council next month for approval and submission to the Federal Highway Administration.
For more information, please contact Tim Strow, MAG Senior Transportation Program Manager, (602) 254-6300.

Legislative Update

Staff reported on three federal legislative items of interest. The first involves the use of Clearview font, which gives street signs an additional 80 feet of visibility, particularly at night. In January 2016, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) deauthorized the use of Clearview font for what appear to be licensing issues. MAG research dating back to 2000 supports the use of Clearview font for the region’s road signs, proving that Clearview provides a 16 percent improvement over the previous font. In April 2017, Congressman Sam Johnson from Texas introduced H.R. 2029, the SIGN Act, which would require the FHWA to issue a final rule approving the use of Clearview font, effectively reinstating the use of the font. Staff noted that Congressman Johnson’s staff has reached out to MAG looking for support on this issue, and in July 2017, Regional Council Chair Jackie Meck signed a letter of support for this legislation. Through Representative Johnson’s office, MAG has been working with the Texas Department of Transportation to discuss data and why the use of Clearview font makes sense. MAG member agencies are encouraged to support this issue as readability of street signs is an important safety issue in the region.

Staff also noted progress on efforts to extend the Border Crossing Card zone from its current 75-mile limit to the entire state of Arizona. MAG launched the effort to extend the zone to increase tourism revenue across the entire state. Border Crossing Card holders are frequent, low-risk travelers to the U.S. who have undergone rigorous security checks. A study done by the University of Arizona found that extending the limit to the entire state would result in a $181 million increase in revenues in the first year. Senator John McCain and Representative Martha McSally are in support and both offices are in talks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Draft legislation on what is now being proposed as a five-year pilot project is under review. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, also is supportive. MAG’s liaison on this issue, Capitol Strategies, is working on vehicles for legislation both in the House and the Senate.

The third legislative issue involves an amendment to the Clean Air Act to allow early implementation of air quality contingency measures. Late last year, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that contingency measures for air quality cannot be implemented early. If this ruling stands, it could result in potential disapproval of the contingency measures in MAG air quality plans. Disapproval of the contingency measures would trigger federal sanctions and create significant negative impacts to economic development. If not fixed within 18 months, there could be tighter controls on business and industry; if not fixed with 24 months, it could mean the withholding of federal highway funds.

Of note, the region served by the Ninth Circuit Court is the only region in the country which is not allowed to implement air quality contingency measures early. Capitol Strategies is working on a legislative fix to this air quality issue. Senator Jeff Flake has presented legislative language to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Representative Andy Biggs chairs the House Science subcommittee, which has influence on the EPA. A bill vehicle is being identified.
For more information, please contact Nathan Pryor, MAG Government Relations Manager, (602) 254-6300.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the MAG Regional Council will be held on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at 11:30 a.m. at the MAG offices, 302 N. 1st Avenue, Phoenix, second floor, Saguaro Room. Agenda items are expected to include the Maricopa County Trip Reduction Program, approval of the Draft Freight Network, and a Census Data update. Additional agenda items are pending.