Archive for September, 2008


Sunday, September 28th, 2008

     I picked up the Arizona Daily Star this morning and read the headline “Tucson May Charge Fee on New Home Sales”,  had a gut reaction, hastily poured my cup of coffee, then sat down to read the article so as not to prejudge.

    A 1% (One Per Cent) transfer fee on all new home sales is being proposed by  two city Council  members, Regina Romero and Karin Uhlich.   The purpose is that the city’s housing trust fund,  be “used to pay for such things as home repairs and down payment assistance for low-income residents”, according to Rob O’Dell, who wrote the front page article.  

                      ” The new fee, recommended for approval by a council subcommittee on Sept. 15, would apply to any house or condomium unit where a builder has entered into a development agreement with the city.”

according to O’Dell’s article.

    (I would like to provide a link to this story so you, the reader, can have the opportunity to read it verbatim.  The Star, however, now requires a person to register in order to read the article.  If you want to read the article, register at:  and then pull up the article).

       This would not apply, as I read it, to development in Pima County.  

       My reaction was/is visceral.  I haven’t had such a physical reaction in months to anything.  This is being proposed by our elected officials in Tucson. 

     The Arizona Association of Realtors is working to get Proposition 100 passed by the citizens of Arizona which will prohibit, by Constitutional Amendment, a real estate transfer tax at the state level.  To do this, voters must vote YES on the Proposition.  A  copy of the proposition is at Jan Brewer’s website, Arizona Secretary of State.     


        Arizona, like many states, is in a budget crisis, as is the City of Tucson. Were Arizona to pass a 2% transfer tax on the sale of real property, and the City of Tucson were to pass the 1% tax, and the average price of a home in August was $238,504, the total transfer tax would amount to an additional $7155.  I think that is a lot of money!   There is nothing to prohibit the city from passing a transfer tax even if the state has a transfer tax.  

       (My cynical question is, do we mark up the price of the house by that amount so that the 3% fees can then apply to the more than $7,000 added,   and then house then becomes priced at $245,659 – and the tax is an additional $200.+.!   Does this make housing more affordable for the Average Joe?  Granted this is worse case scenario but I remember when Social Security was paid on the first $32,000 of a person’s income!)

     I understand this is not called a tax, it is called a “fee” – but it is not voluntary and therefore it is a tax!  

    Two other issues galled me when I read the proposal by Romero and Ulrich.  The huge bailout, okayed at midnight by Congressional leaders for which taxpayers are now on the hook, was partially necessitated by the lax standards and no money down mentality which had it’s origins in Lyndon Johnson’s New Society.   The guidelines of the Community Reinvestment Act, over the years, became looser and looser. Congress embraced the idea that the American Dream of homeownership should  apply to all Americans, regardless of ability to pay.   Both sides of the aisle are equally responsible.  Where else could you purchase something for $300,000 with zero down?

    The second source of irritation is the amount of money which was approved by Congress in the much touted Housing Bill which was supposed to help people in distress to prevent foreclosures.  That bill gave millions of dollars to towns and cities for the expressed purpose of low income housing, to buy up abandoned or foreclosed houses, or to build new low income housing for people within the low income, extremely low income, and very low income brackets.   I have read the nearly 700 pages of the Federal Housing Bill and have written extensively about it in this blog.  I suggest both Council people wade through that document and ask the federal government for what is Tucson’s just due.

     Affordable housing is an issue, to be sure.  Adding fees onto those people who are struggling to save ten percent to purchase a home in order to provide down payment assistance to low income residents just doesn’t resonate.  A family of four earning $60,000 and purchasing a property at the average price of a home in Tucson in August, with a 3% transfer fee -(assuming both city and state) would then fall into the low income category after than transfer fee is paid.   Other sources of revenue are proposed and listed below and I have provided resources below regarding low income housing and the income points.


Tucson Housing Fund:

 From the Report of the Tucson Housing Fund Trust – January 2008

Revenue Recommendations:

The current sources of funding are not sufficient to support an ongoing meaningful effort to address housing issues in Tucson. The CAC has prepared some preliminary recommendations to the subcommittee for future funding sources to support the THTF. We are prepared to work with the Mayor and Council to obtain other community input toward successful adoption of these or other sources of revenue the Mayor and Council wish to consider more closely.

1. Increase the Bed Tax by $1.00 per night. Dedicate this new revenue, estimated at $2 million a year, to the Trust Fund. There is a compelling argument in using revenues from visitors to support housing for Tucsonans. The employees of the hospitality industry are among many families that would benefit from the availability of more affordable housing options.

2. Pursue a change to the Model Cities Tax Code that would allow the City to implement a Residential Rental Tax on units that rent for $1,000 or more to support the THTF.

3. Request a voluntary contribution to the Trust Fund from all housing disciplines (Builders, Realtors, Lenders, Title Companies, etc.) at the closing of every home sold within the City.

4. Support state legislation that would dedicate interest earned on rental Security Deposits and earned interest on Escrow Funds from home sales within city limits to the City of Tucson Housing Trust Fund.


Program Criteria and Evaluation Considerations:

— Housing must be within the City limits
— THTF is limited to households that earn under 100% of the area income (see chart)
— Housing can be in the form of ownership or rental
— Proximity of proposed housing to employment or mass transit
— Leverage ratio of THTF funding to that of the employer’s
— Recapture policy
— Homebuyer Education/Counseling component

Household Size

Income limit



























Weekend Wanderings…More Bang for Your Buck!

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

    We all want to save money, and especially when traveling, saving money is an added bonus!   The Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau has just issued the new PASSPORT,  a mock Passport with two for one savings to various venues within Tucson.

    For anyone coming to Tucson, a stop at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau on Church Street in the downtown area,  is a must.   The volunteers are extremely knowledgable and the racks are filled with all types of brochures for jeep tours, restaurants, places to stay, dude ranches, theaters, you name it!  Some have coupons attached.

   But by far, the best deal is the Tucson PASSPORT.  There is not a better deal for $15.00.  The Passport contains two for one coupons for the Arts including the Tucson Museum of Art, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the Fox Theater, the Arizona Opera, the Arizona Theater Company and more. 

    Old Tucson Studios, where John Wayne made many a movie has a “twofer” in the Family Fun and Shopping Sections.  Tucson Children’s Museum is a delightful and educational place to take children.  Many of the shopping centers have coupons which encourage shoppers to receive a bonus book of coupons for that particular mall, or other types of incentives.

    The rich history of Tucson is also “on sale” with “twofers” to Arizona State Museum, the History Museum, the Mining Museums, and historical places in Tombstone and Bisbee.  And for nature lovers, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum cannot be missed, nor the Sabino Canyon Recreational area.  T’ohono Chul Park and the Tucson Botanical Gardens are interesting and educational because Tucson gardening is so different than other areas of the country.   People who enjoy gardening should star these stops.

    The Sciences are also represented with tickets to Kitt Peak National Observatory (see Weekend Wanderings September 15), Flandrau Science Center and Planatarium, the Pima Air and Space Museum, a favorite especially for people who like flying, and the Titan Missle Museum.

    Team up the Tucson Passport with the Tucson Entertainment Book which contains coupons for restaurants, rental cars, dry cleaning, and even airline tickets, and you’ll have a winning combination to save money on your fabulous trip to Tucson!   Making your money go twice as far allows you to do twice as many things!

    Information about the Tucson Passport is listed below as is information on how to obtain an Entertainment Book.

Tucson Passport:

Tucson Entertainment Book:

Tucson Medical Scene…Tucson Heart Hospital

Friday, September 19th, 2008

    Tucson Heart Hospital, located at 4888 North Stone Avenue, near the intersection of Stone and River Road, is also a part of the Carondelet Network of Hospitals.  Tucson Heart is a specialized facility,  concentrating on disease management, prevention and information about heart and vascular disease.  Public outreach programs are given in nutrition, exercise and stress management.

   The 58 bed facility has private rooms which are specifically designed for every stage of “heart” care.  The staff is cross trained and a team follows the patient throughtout the stay.  The hospital performs both   diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in the state of the art catheterization laboratory including:    

Cardiac Output
Carotid Angiogram
Coronary Angiogram
Electrophysiological Studies
Left Heart Catheterization
Myocardial Biopsy
Oximetry Recordings
Peripheral Angiogram
Pulmonary Angiogram
Renal Angiogram
Right Heart Catheterization

Atherectomy (Rotational)
Balloon Angioplasty (Arterial/Venous)
Balloon Angioplasty-Peripheral

Ablation (Atria/Ventricular)
ICD Insertion
IntroAortic Balloon Pump
Percutaneous Vena Cava Filter
Permanent Pacemaker Insertion
Temporary Pacemaker Insertion

according to the website.

    Tucson Heart Hospital also offers the Heartsaver CT to the general public which is a non-invasive, easy procedure that can be done within an hour at the hospital for a cost of $99.00.  This procedure images calcium buildup around the heart which can be a precursor to severe heart disease.  People often have the procedure as a preventative measure as a “heart healthy” measure.

    The hospital employs about 365 full time staff.  Employment information can be found at the Carondelet career page listed below.   The hospital serves all of Southern Arizona and is dedicated to heart patients.

Tucson Heart Hospital Web Page:

Career Information:

Other Resources: 




Tucson Medical Scene…Carondelet Hospitals – St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

      Carondelet has three hospitals within Tucson and one in Nogales, Arizona;  St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s, and Tucson Heart Hospital and in Nogales, Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital.

      St. Mary’s Hospital is located on the west side of town, west of I-10 at 1601 St. Mary’s Road.  The 402 bed hospital is at the intersection of Silverbell and St. Mary’s Road.  It’s origins were as a tuberculosis hospital established in 1880, but now the hospital  focuses on heart and vascular care, orthopedics and rehabilitation and general surgery.  It is a non profit hospital as is all of the Carondelet facilities, and employs in excess of 1500 people.

      The newly renovated emergency room has been expanded to care for more patients. St. Mary’s  is a certified Diabetes Care Center, provides Dialysis, Hemodialysis, and Lithotripsy.  St.  Mary’s is also part of the LIfeline Emergency Response Helicopter Program and patients are flown in from all of Southern Arizona.

     St. Mary’s works with the University of Arizona Nursing School and the accelerated BSN Program.  The hospital has been the recipient of several awards including:

  • “2007 Gold Medal “Sustained Performance Award” for excellence in the delivery of cardiovascular care to our patients awarded by the American Heart Association
  • 2005 Top Performer for care of stroke patients by American Heart Association
  • Named by Solucient Institute as one of 100 Top Hospitals in the nation (2003, 2004)
  • Recognized as “Well Workplace” by the Wellness Council of Arizona
  • Diabetes Center accredited by the American Diabetes Association
  • Fabulous 50 Nurses of Tucson (approximately 40-50% of the 50 are Carondelet Nurses)
  • Hospice – leader in national Compassionate Care of Dying consortium “

according to the website which is cited below.


       Across town on the East Side is St. Joseph’s Hospital, located at 350 North Wilmot, between Broadway and Speedway.  This 374 bed hospital has a new Neurological Center which is state of the art.  It includes a brain and spine tumor center, facilities for seizure disorder, and an aphasia program.  Rooms are available for family members and the Center is drawing national attention.

    St. Joseph’s, founded in 1961,  also has an extensive neonatal unit as well as a Women’s Pavilion.  The hospital is also recognized for it’s Regional  Eye Center.  Like it’s sister hospital, St. Joseph’s has also been the recipient of many awards including:

         ‘Named by Solucient as one of 100 Top Hospitals in the nation (2002, 2003)

  • Recognized and honored as “Well Workplace” by the Wellness Council of Arizona
  • Diabetes Center accredited by the American Diabetes Association
  • Sole accredited Cardiac/Pulmonary Rehab Program in Arizona
  • Fabulous 50 Nurses of Tucson (approximately 40-50% of the 50 are CHN Nurses)
  • 2005 Arizona Nurses Association Employer Excellence Award
  • 2005 Corporate “Champion of Heart” Award from American Heart Association ‘

according to the website.


       Both hospitals are continuouly seeking qualified candidates for career opportunities.   A link to application forms for all of Carondelet facilities is listed in the resources below.

St. Mary’s Hosptial Website:

St. Mary’s Hospital Job Opportunities:

St. Joseph’s Hospital Website:

St. Joseph’s Hospital Job Opportunities:

St. Joseph’s Neurological Unit:

Weekend Wanderings…Look to the Skies—Kitt Peak

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

   The clear air of Tucson, the dark night skies, and lack of light pollution are contributing factors for placing Kitt Peak Observatory on the Tohono O’Odham Nation, just 52 miles southwest of Tucson.      

       Traveling from Tucson center westerly along Ajo Highway- Route 86- (which is also the road one takes to Pueto Penasco aka Rocky Point in Mexico), one leaves behind the newer pointy Tucson Mountains.  The road is flat and fairly straight.  One passes Ryan Airfield, an adjunct facility of the Tucson International Airport and home to several private planes; small communities of homes and mobile homes; and uninteresting level land where one can see occassional bores from the rain runoff during the monsoon season.   Dust devils rise from this sandy land like minature tornados whirling in the wind.

    Onward to Three Points, also known as Robles Junction, past Diamond Bell Ranch which some day will be developed and emerge as a  thriving community much like communities now within the borders of Tucson which fifteen years ago, people believed were “in the boonies”.   The Comobari Mountains loom in the foreground and as we travel, we can see some of the 25 telescopes atop Kitt Peak in the Quinlan Mountains.   We pass a huge pumpkin field, and a few farms, and more homes which seem to sit in the middle of noplace.

     Not too far after entering the Tohono O’Odham Nation is a turnoff to the south and we begin our winding ascent to Kitt Peak.  Up, up, up we travel until the telescopes are in full view.  The vegetation changes.   We have magnificient views of all that lies below us.   We are at an elevation of 6,875 feet above sea level, not quite as high as the Catalina Mountains (9,157 feet above sea level)  which also house telescopes.

       Kitt Peak is home to 25 optical telescopes including two radio telescopes,  and is part of the  National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).   By day there is study of the sun at the Solar Observatory. 

      The September cooler temperatures in Tucson provide an excellent time to visit Kitt Peak either during the daylight guided tours, or the Night Sky tours at night.   The temperature differential on top of Kitt Peak may be uncomfortable if you go in January or February, especially to the night presentation.  Bring a sweater and maybe a hat to keep the warmth within your body, or a heavy jacket if you are going at night during the winter months.  The temperature differential can be 20 degrees or more.

     The personnel at Kitt Peak are eager to answer questions and the tours are thorough and interesting in explanation. Both novice and professionals alike will have something to take away from one of these tours.  And if you hail from an area which has severe light pollution, you will marvel at the numbers of stars in the sky.  Kitt Peak is a very definite stop for people visiting Tucson … and those in Tucson who have never visited.

     Additional information is provided in the Resources including a virtual tour of Kitt Peak.  Enjoy!


Kitt Peak:   


Visitors Center:

Virtual Tour:

Solar Observatory:    NASA Link:



August Real Estate Sales Numbers…More Good News…

Friday, September 12th, 2008

      Although August 2008 brought only $215,369,442 in sales as compared with July which showed $240,837,426 in sales, more than a 35 million decline, the numbers this month indicate that the Tucson market is reacting to the numbers of foreclosures and short sales, but is continuing to stabilize.

    The average sales price declined another 6.42% month over month, and is now $238,504.   The average sales price in July was $254,854.   At the peak in March 2006, the average sales price was $281,819.

     Likewise the median salesprice also declined 7.45% from $199,900 in July to $185,000 in August.  For  people thinking about entering the market as a buyer, this may be an excellent time.   The high median sales price of $226,465 occurred in November 2005.

      The number of active listings in multiple listing declined 1.43% from 7,876  units in July to 7,763 units in August.  This is a level seen last in March 2006 when 7,577 properties were on the market.  At the high point of inventory there were more than 10,300 properties on the market.

     Pending contracts declined 8.54% from 960 in July to 878 in August.  This goes back to levels of January 2001 and may reflect heistancy on the part of buyers who may have been waiting for intervention of the federal government and the interpretation of the Housing Bill.  Interest rates have once again declined with the government take over of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

      There was a rise in new listings from 1679 in July to 1,952 in Agust, an increase of 16.26%.  Still this number reaches back to January 2005 levels when 1947 new listings came on the market.  With the exception of December when new listings dramatically fall, from that point in 2005, the numbers of new listings continued to soar to nearly 3500 at the peak in January 2007. 

        The number of properties sold declined 4.44% month over month with 903 sold in August and 945 sold in July.   Sellers appear to be pricing their properties to the market since only 545 properties expired; the listing  period endeed and the property did not sell.  This is down from 813 in January. 

       Properties are staying on the market an average of 77 days, down one day from July at 78.  Days on the market in July-August 2005 were a low of 25 days.  Properties at the higher price end though are staying on the market longer periods of time.

       The following chart shows the numbers of active properties for sale in each zip code within the Tucson Multiple Listing Service, the number of properties sold within each zip code during August, and the percentage of properties sold during the month.

Zip Active Sold   % of Active Properties Sold
85601 10 0   0.00%  
85614 352 23   6.53%  
65619 11 0   0.00%  
85629 227 21   9.25%  
85641 354 38   10.73%  
85653 255 26   10.20%  
85658 135 5   3.70%  
85701 48 3   6.25%  
85704 225 29   12.89%  
85705 198 27   13.64%  
85706 386 59   15.28%  
85710 301 42   13.95%  
85711 196 29   14.80%  
85712 205 15   7.32%  
85713 316 24   7.59%  
85714 54 7   12.96%  
85715 164 14   8.54%  
85716 170 28   16.47%  
85718 408 30   7.35%  
85719 199 37   18.59%  
85730 207 30   14.49%  
85735 92 10   10.87%  
85736 63 4   6.35%  
85737 277 34   12.27%  
85739 219 21   9.59%  
85741 176 33   18.75%  
85742 270 35   12.96%  
85743 361 50   13.85%  
85745 321 36   11.21%  
85746 280 40   14.29%  
85747 206 40   19.42%  
85748 131 16   12.21%  
85749 221 18   8.14%  
85750 314 30   9.55%  
85755 275 28   10.18%  
85757 138 21   15.22%  

    Readers can further parse and analyze the MLS numbers by clicking on the resource link.



The Tucson Arizona Medical Scene…

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008


    Some of the discovery of Tucson by people from throughout the United States is tied to Tucson’s medical history.  With it’s clean air and dry climate which bodes wells for “outdoor” living, Tucson was an ideal location for tuberculosis recovery facilities.  

    In the early 1900’s, people came to Tucson to experience the fresh air which aided in healing respiratory illnesses, especially tuberculosis.  These facilities, some of which were the foundation of today’s hospitals, at the time were situated on the outskirts of town.  Today they are in the center of the hub-bub of activity.  

    As a retirement destination, medical facilities are an important consideration for people thinking about relocating.  And for people working within the medical profession, job opportunities abound.  The Tucson area has ten acute care hospitals and plans are on the books for several more facilities:   one in Rita Ranch, one at Passages of Tucson,  and one in Sahuarita. 

   Tucson is  home to the University of Arizona’s School of Medicine which has extensive research facilities including world class cancer research.  U of A also boasts one of the best Schools of Nursing in the United States as well as a School of Pharmacology.   Because of the medical facilities, Tucson is the choice for many biomedical start up firms.

     Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine is situated in Tucson.  “The mission of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine is to lead the transformation of healthcare by creating, educating & actively supporting a community of professionals who embody the philosophy & practice of Integrative Medicine,” according to the website.  Spurred by Dr. Andrew Weil, the Center combines the best of western medicine with eastern medicine and concentrates on healing rather than treating disease.

   Over the next few days, I will highlight the various medical facilities which include the Carondolet network of hospitals:  St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s, and Tucson Heart Hospital;  University Medical Center; Northwest Hospital Oro Valley and  Northwest Hospital Tucson; Tucson Medical Center;  Southern Arizona VA Health Care System; and University Physicians Healthcare at Kino.    There will be links to job opportunities also for readers in the medical field considering relocation to Tucson.

Resources:  History 

University of Arizona School of Nursing, School of Medicine, and School of Pharmacology

Unversity of Arizona School of Integrative Medicine