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Molly McKasson entered the civic arena in 1989, and has since served two terms in the Ward 6 City Council office. She's a freelance journalist and an active member on the local theatre scene, most recently giving a stellar performance in Damesrocket Theatre's Top Girls. (See Best Dinner Scene in a Play, page 36.) An eloquent and energetic spokesperson for our neighborhoods, the environment, and the arts, she's brought a pioneering spirit to public life in the Old Pueblo.
TW: WHAT GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES HAVE IMPRESSED YOU THIS YEAR?
I'm so happy we've had this coalition for the Sonoran Desert Protection Plan, and I think it's grown out of that open-space bond (from 1996). People did such a good job on that. They really cut a path, and now we're getting some terrific people working together, crossing all the lines and connecting ecology to every group of life. So that's a really good one.
On a more local level, and more specifically, I'm really impressed with people fighting to preserve their washes in general, which I feel strongly about. One that's a real challenge is the Arroyo Chico, where it's really hard to balance the flood protection with the preservation. I'm so proud to be working with these folks who, like myself, love that Arroyo. They really love every spade-foot toad, every cactus wren. They know all the trees. It's more than just an inner-city open space to them. It's a living, organic part of the neighborhood.
I'm moved by the things people do in their neighborhoods. That sounds like a politician speaking, but I have been. Somebody said once about Tucson, "There's this astonishing reciprocity of good will." It really is there, among people who otherwise may not have much in common.
TW: DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PARK?
Himmel: I know it's so predictable, but Himmel's just the coolest. Ever since I was a kid, I've had my birthdays there. I've had my children's birthdays there. We've had so many family events there.
TW: DO YOU CONSIDER THE PARK'S IMPROVEMENTS ONE OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE CITY COUNCIL OFFICE?
I prefer to say that it meant a lot to me. It's such a beautiful park. I love walking between the palms, and between the olive trees. The swale--that indentation that was cut in the park--I also love that. That's new, but it's wonderful. The kids love it. It's better than a playground because they ride their bikes down it, and they play in it when it rains. I love the hill. The hill's been there a long time. I love the drumming; I love the dancing. The Society for Creative Anachronism practices there. It's fascinating. On different days of the week, I'll hear different types of music coming from the hill. It's a great park, and it draws all of us in this community.
TW: WHAT WOULD YOU CALL THE YEAR'S BEST CREATIVE CONTRIBUTION?
I'm a big fan of groups that are trying to solve issues, but in a small, one-on-one way. The Youth Store Front is a wonderful example. I wouldn't even want to call it a program. It's more like an idea whose time came.
High-school kids from Project M.O.R.E. work with business owners and entrepreneurs downtown, learning about the nuts and bolts of business. They took over the Dateline Downtown newspaper, for example. It's a fantastic mentorship situation. There's a gal who opened up a second-hand store on Congress Street, and she was from the Youth Store Front. She's so cool; and now she's running her own store.
And there's another kind of secret--there are so many, by the way. There's so many good things going on, in spite of the difficulties in town. I'm really impressed with two other things: Pueblo Gardens School, where the school administration and the teachers work in tandem with the community on everything from environmental issues, to gardening, to social issues, to arts. (Pueblo Gardens is on 33rd Street, between Kino and Tucson boulevards.)
And everything I'm saying could also be applied to Wright Elementary School: All this neighborhood help came in and they built a park. I worked with them in getting money from city and county, but mostly the neighbors did it. They have this beautiful little environmental garden, a butterfly garden. And the kids are just loving it. It's an entirely different set-up. It took work. It took breaking down some barriers by doing good things. But it's very much going in the direction that people have always said is a good idea: to have the school be a flexible, integral part of the community. Both of those schools are in TUSD.
TW: WHAT ANNUAL FESTIVAL DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO?
I have so many. But the one that is maybe lesser-known, that's very moving and wonderful, is the San Juan Day Festival at the Tucson Botanical Gardens (2150 N. Alvernon Way). They've been doing that for a long time, a joint celebration with Native Seed/SEARCH and TBG. It starts at 5:30 a.m., and is a wonderful O'odham ceremony. There's a rain dance. The kids from San Xavier have come in and danced. Then they turn the hose on and spray us all--as a blessing. It's really great.
TW: WHAT'S THE BEST ANNUAL FESTIVAL FOR KIDS?
This is very small and very particular, but at Halloween, the Parent Connection has had this party that's just precious. They've only done it for a couple of years, but I think it's going to be an annual event. It's so kid-oriented; it spills out into the backyard area. The kids were just completely engaged, and all decked out. They had somebody face-painting, too.
In addition to all these regular things, there's a sense of real wonder about the season of Halloween: They sang spooky songs, and songs about the desert. There was a Day of the Dead installation--like a children's playhouse. The artist (one of the teachers, I think) put together the most beautiful installation of art, spirit, and magic for these kids. They could just go around and enjoy everything on their own. There's something wonderful about that alone.
TW: DO YOU HAVE ANY BAD HABITS?
I love coffee--strong coffee. The house blend at Cuppuccinos (3400 E. Speedway Blvd.) is some of the best coffee in town. It's great coffee to go. And it tastes even better to know that it comes from a local roaster (Wilde Rose). It's extremely good coffee--probably the best.
And then, I like the feel of the Epic (Café--745 N. Fourth Ave.). It's so comfortable. I can sit there and finish working on something while I have my coffee. I see friends there, and I really enjoy their food and coffee.
...And I'd also like to plug the Grill (on Congress Street). It keeps me young, and I love to go there with my kids.