Tucson Mayor Regina Romero is being considered for a position in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva said Friday that she could join the Biden administration, confirming a rumor that’s been circulating for months. Romero, elected mayor in 2019 in a landslide with no Republican opponent after serving on the City Council since the 2007 election, has refused to publicly discuss the rumors — widespread in political circles since November — that she could be tapped for as a deputy director of HUD by President Joe Biden.
The Democratic city leader hasn’t confirmed that she’s a candidate for a federal post. But Grijalva — a close political ally who employs Romero’s husband as a top advisor — put the possibility on the record during an interview on Bill Buckmaster’s radio show on Friday.
“I think she’s being seriously considered; it’s an important position,” the congressman said.
“It’s a position of national importance,” said Grijalva, who said Romero faces a list of challenges of “significant importance here,” such as dealing with COVID-19 and economic recovery following the pandemic, that she may wish to continue to tackle as mayor. Romero holds “an important and prominent position in this community” as mayor, and has accomplished “many firsts” here, he said.
Romero’s office has consistently declined to comment directly on whether a federal job is in the works for the 47-year-old Democrat, saying only that it would be “an honor to be considered” if it were the case. Friday, her spokesman reiterated that “it would be an honor to even be considered for such an important position. However, Mayor Romero is focused on the job she was elected by Tucsonans to perform, and is concentrating all of her efforts on navigating Tucson through the pandemic,” said Nate Sigal.
“It’s a tough call; it’s her call,” Grijalva said, noting there are “arguments to be made on both sides of it, including retaining the position that she has right now.”
If Romero accepts the post, her seat would be filled by a new mayor appointed by the City Council to serve out the remainder of her term.
Biden’s nominee for HUD secretary, Marcia Fudge, was confirmed this Wednesday by the Senate, with the U.S. representative from Ohio receiving a 66-34 vote. That move clears lower-level nominations in the national agency to be submitted and moved through the Senate.
Romero just survived an abortive recall attempt, with organizers — who cited her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other issues — unable to file enough properly filled-out petitions with signatures for officials to even undertake a review of whether the signatures themselves were valid. Romero has repeatedly challenged Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on coronavirus issues. A year ago, she declared a stay-at-home order in Tucson, shutting down bars early on St. Patrick’s Day, as the first cases of COVID-19 were reported to be spreading in the state. She and Ducey have reportedly not spoken since last spring.
Before being elected mayor, Romero represented Ward 1 on the City Council, and was the Latino outreach director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Romero, a University of Arizona graduate, earned a certificate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and is the first female and first Latina mayor of Tucson.
Tuscon’s relatively flat topography, downtown, helps the city make the most of the mid-band CBRS spectrum. (JMA Wireless)
Tucson CIO Collin Boyce realized about a year ago that his city was not ready for the online shift that was coming with COVID.
“32% of Tucsonans did not have high-speed internet connectivity,” Boyce said. “I approached the assistant city manager, and we had this conversation about doing wireless.”
Boyce wanted to invest in wireless because he knew the city couldn’t afford to connect everyone with fiber.
But Wi-Fi also seemed too costly.
Boyce figured he would need 7,000 access points for the 20-square-mile area he needed to cover. A friend encouraged him to look at LTE, and Boyce started researching providers online. One of the companies he emailed was JMA Wireless.
“It was a two-sentence email from our website,” remembers JMA VP Melissa Ashurst, who focuses on the healthcare and education markets. Ashurst was already investigating ways to use CBRS for remote learning after seeing students in her own family end the school year prematurely due to a lack of community connectivity. Ashurst and Boyce were on the same page from the beginning, and it wasn’t long until JMA was planning a CBRS proof-of-concept for Tucson.
Today, JMA radios and software are part of a CBRS network that is expected to serve 1,000 active users by the end of March, and eventually scale to serve 5,000 households. Paid for with CARES Act funding, the network is owned by the city and has already attracted the attention of companies that want to test and deploy IoT technologies.
The CBRS network, which uses General Authorized Access spectrum, consists of
- 40 radio nodes connected to off-the-shelf servers
- The servers run JMA’s XRAN baseband software.
A typical node has one JMA 5-watt [input into antenna] CellHub radio, connected by jumpers to one or more antennas.
Fiber connects the radios to the server locations.
“Many of these are run back via the city’s fiber to a central server location,” said Ashurst. “Some server locations are standalone because of fiber availability.”
Fiber also connects the baseband servers to the core network, supplied by Geoverse. The core connects to Google’s Spectrum Access System, which negotiates the availability of the shared CBRS spectrum.
Radios are mounted on towers that the city was already using for public safety applications, as well as on city-owned rooftops. In addition, 13 poles were installed specifically for the CBRS radios. Tilson is handling site construction and deployment, and the entire network rollout is overseen by integrator Insight Enterprises.
Tucson uses software to determine which residents are eligible to receive gateways and CBRS SIM cards to enable them to access the network. City residents can log in to a website to see if they qualify. Insight provides support to qualified users who have problems connecting, bringing in Tilson and Geoverse to help as needed. According to Boyce, the network is delivering 50 Mbps downstream at his house, which isn’t even in the prescribed coverage area, and people who live closer to the towers are getting faster speeds. Boyce added that network policies block Netflix, Hulu, and content that is not considered appropriate for minors.
RELATED: 25 Utah schools to deploy private LTE using CBRS
Now that the network is taking shape, JMA has started conversations with one of Tucson’s priority access license (PALs) holders for CBRS spectrum. Ashurst said a licensee could eventually connect its core to JMA’s baseband servers. “We could broadcast those PAL licenses over the same network infrastructure,” she said. “Because JMA is able to broadcast all 150 megahertz we can support … multiple cores.”
Smart City Initiatives
Tucson’s CBRS network was built to help bridge the digital divide, but Boyce wants to also leverage it for smart city initiatives. Two possible projects are
- connected traffic signals and
- onboard Wi-Fi for city buses.
Boyce said he has been approached by Intel and by the utility that handles Tucson’s water service. Ashurst said the CBRS network has catapulted Tucson from a digital laggard to a smart city leader.
“For a city like Tucson to go from one of the worst connectivity cities in the country to the best, and be leading as a smart city, is amazing,” she said. “It’s an incredible story and I want to believe that over the next two to five years you’re going to see economic development that comes from these cities making these investments.”
Ashurst thinks that JMA’s software-defined radios are one reason companies are considering the CBRS network as a way to showcase their technologies. The network will be able to transition to 5G through software upgrades, she said, so companies looking at 5G-dependent IoT see a clear path forward in Tucson.
By Joanna Guzman| February 25, 2021 at 10:12 PM MST – Updated February 25 at 10:12 PM
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – A controversial battle surrounding 5G cell towers popping up in and across Tucson neighborhoods is causing concerns among residents and city leaders.
Telecom companies like Verizon and AT&T have been installing 5G cell towers in residential areas. Some end up close to homes. A big concern for resident Carol Knowles.
“I had no notice. I didn’t know what they were doing, no one told me anything… so I went out and spoke to the man in the truck and he said ‘Oh, we’re going to install a 5G cell pole,’ and I didn’t even know what that was,” Knowles said.
Knowles is concerned that the proximity of the cell towers to her living space will cause health issues in the long run.
“Various people say there are microwave emissions that might cause physical problems. But it also, I think, lowers the value of my house,” she added.
According to the FDA, there is no consistent or credible evidence of health problems caused by the exposure to radio frequency energy emitted by cell phones or towers.
On behalf of residents, we reached out to Verizon, one of the main providers installing the cell poles.
In a statement the company said, ‘‘all equipment used for 5G must comply with federal safety standards. Those standards have wide safety margins and are designed to protect everyone, including children.”
Meanwhile Ward 6 City Council Steve Kozachik said, just like residents, the city has no say as to where these towers are installed.
“State law gives Verizon the right to simply walk in point to a place in the ground and say, ‘I want my pole there.’ So if the city says, ‘Yeah, we’ll issue a permit,’ it’s because we can’t say no according to state law.”
An Arizona law, requires the City of Tucson to approve small cell pole installations anywhere.
Kozachik said the city is trying to work with residents, TEP and telecom providers to develop a better plan to install the towers.
In a letter to state representatives, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero is requesting the restoration of authority to local governments in the decision making and process approval for these towers.
TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — “It’s making Tucson ugly,” Meg Johnson a resident of Tucson said.
New 35-foot 5G towers are popping up all around the city, in an effort to bring 5G internet speeds to Tucson. However, some of these towers are ending up right in front of homes.
“I said why are you putting it right in front of my house,” Carol Knowles recounted from when she first saw construction beginning of a tower in front of her house.
She had no warning that a tower was going to be built in front of her house. Now, she is worried that it is going to impact the amount of money she can sell her house for.
“When I pay my property taxes next time I am going to ask for a reduction,” Knowles said. “I think this big thing in front of my house is not favorable.”
Lucas Gebremariam, who lives in the Blenman-Elm neighborhood, said he wished it would fit the neighborhood better.
“In a nice neighborhood like this, you know do something to at least not make it so ugly.”
City council members are now discussing the possibility for new 5G towers to be built on existing infrastructure like TEP power lines. If not there, then built in easements and alleys.