Dan Twelker is best known as the host of KXCI FM 91.3's Locals Only, but by day, he's an optometrist and teacher in the UA Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science; he just returned from a one-week trip to Honduras to promote vision health. Twelker is also chair of the Iron Horse Neighborhood Association; the downtown neighborhood (16 blocks, primarily north of Broadway Boulevard and west of Euclid Avenue) is getting ready to celebrate the Fourth of July with its party at Iron Horse Park—including a good view of the fireworks and music from the Modeens. For more info, visit ihnatucson.tumblr.com.
Have you always had a neighborhood party for July Fourth?
For at least the past 10 years, maybe longer. I think we revamped it a little bit when I came on six years ago; we made it a little bigger and brought in live music, since one of my interests is local music. What we do isn't meant to be a community-wide celebration. It's a small park, so we usually get about 150 to 200 people, mostly neighbors who get together for the holiday.
The neighborhood has some great projects going on. What's the latest?
Twice a year, we do the Fourth Avenue Street Fair; we have a beer booth there. Through the generosity of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, we're given that booth. We probably bring in anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000; that's twice a year, and we tend not to spend all that. So we built up a small bit of cash in the bank account, and we wanted to give that back to the community, so we decided to do grants for maintenance and home-improvement projects.
This was the first year?
The first time we've done it. We actually got five applications that came out to about $2,300, so we just went ahead and approved all of them. We had to go back and approve everything (more than) $100—we have to vote as a community.
What do you like about living in a historic neighborhood in Tucson?
I like that I can walk to places or ride my bike easily. I support the (Food Conspiracy Co-op). I know things there (cost) a little bit more ... but first of all, I can walk there, and second of all, I know everything there is grown ... in a relatively small region close to Tucson, if not in Tucson. I just like being able to walk to cafés, listen to music at a bar, and walk home afterward. ... Living in an urban neighborhood allows me to interact with my community.
What are the challenges in the neighborhood?
We have a homeless population that lives in and around the wash, and it used to be more of a problem. In fact, there used to be a very large camp that was one of the largest in Arizona. Through a Back to Basics grant, we put a fence around the wash. Another issue we've had is that, I guess you'd call it public drunkenness—people passed out on the street, on the sidewalk. ... We've been instructed from the police to just call 911, and have someone come and do a wellness check. Noise is an issue from the local bars on any given Friday and Saturday night. ... In my opinion, if you move into Iron Horse, you pretty much know what you're getting into.
How is the neighborhood going to be affected by the Barraza-Aviation Parkway expansion?
We've had our concerns, especially traffic noise, but ... we see it as an opportunity to work with the city to get improvements. In fact, we hope to expand Iron Horse Park. ... We try to work with the city to make it better, and make the community better for everyone essentially.
That's a different way of looking at change.
It has worked for us. They haven't proposed anything so far that we've found completely objectionable. ... We understand that change is inevitable, and we're just trying to make it work for our community. For instance, we appreciate the bike-path project and the expansion of the bike paths. It all works together with our idea of a sustainable community-oriented neighborhood.
Are you concerned or excited about changes downtown?
I'm very excited about the streetcar project, and I'm disappointed that it is being delayed a year or two. As it stands now, that historic trolley unfortunately is more of a novelty. I don't want to concentrate on the negative, but the positive. With the modern streetcar, you'll actually be able to use it to get somewhere you want to go.