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  • Factions emerge over bond package

    Pima County voters aren’t waiting until they hit the polls in November’s off-year election to voice whether or not they’ll support an $815 million bond package.The bond — moved to the ballot after a 4-1 board of supervisors vote in April — has been eight years in the making under the Bond Advisory Committee, and received overwhelming resident support at public meetings leading up to the board’s approval.But it’s seeing its fair share of opposition as well.District 1’s Ally Miller was the lone supervisor to vote against the package, arguing the county should trim its spending habits before imposing more debt and alleging taxpayers already have enough burden on their shoulders.“Taxpayers already have increasing water rates, wastewater rates look to be increasing, property taxes are going up — I’m not against bonding, it’s just the wrong time for the wrong reasons,” she said. Approval of the bond package would increase residents’ secondary property tax from 70 cents to 81.5 cents per $100 assessed value.

  • Golder Ranch’s Marquez lives a selfless life

    Golder Ranch firefighter Anthony Marquez, 34, was a bit surprised to learn he was nominated as a local hero.The firefighter and Air National Guardsman even went so far as to say he could think of 1,000 others who should have been nominated in his place.But to those who have gotten to know Marquez, it’s the selfless attitude, readiness to serve his community and country that merited a nomination. “Marquez is the type of individual who demonstrates service and leadership on and off duty,” said Golder Ranch Community Relations Manager Anne-Marie Braswell. “He donates his time off shift to help with toy drives, he volunteers his time with the military to serve his country and when he’s on duty with GRFD, he’s contributing to his crew and serving the community 100 percent. “We are so proud to have such a committed and selfless individual as a part of our Golder family.” The Illinois native and 10-year firefighter says while he was honored and humbled by the nomination, he doesn’t necessarily quantify himself as a hero.

  • Tuskegee Airman proud of service to his country

    Only a few can lay claim to the title of a Tuskegee Airman, but one of them happens to call Tucson home.Ralph Stewart, 90, is one of six original Tuskegee Airmen residing in Arizona, and like the other five, was recently given the Congressional Gold Medal from former Gov. Jan Brewer.In times of extreme racial tension during World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African-American pilots, bombardiers, ground crews, medical staff and aircraft maintenance personnel, who despite being viewed as inferior, are now revered for never losing a single bomber during escort missions.“They were just dedicated,” said Stewart, who worked aircraft maintenance. “I’ll tell you something — we had to be the best. We had to be better than the rest, otherwise we would have never gotten in.”While Stewart says he likes focusing on the positive that came from what has become known as the Tuskegee Experience, those times were difficult, and many hoped the airmen would fail.When Stewart initially signed up for aircraft maintenance in the Army Air Corps, he was sent to Shepard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas. Greeted with racial slurs, Stewart and the others were forced to use old World War I barracks to study aircraft maintenance, and their classes had to be taken at night. 

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  • Marana Utilities becomes Marana Water

    The Marana Utilities Department is reverting to its original name. The Marana Town Council approved the department changing its name back to Marana Water. “Transitioning to Marana Water better reflects the services we provide,” said Marana Water Director John Kmiec in a press release. “Marana Water is committed to ensuring a safe and reliable water supply for our growing community. This change will give the department a strong identity in the region, and concentrate on the water and water reclamation services we provide.”Kmiec and his staff noticed that there was plenty of confusion as to what services they provided and that residents had trouble finding answers for their water questions.“What we have found staff-wise is that the name Marana Utilites is not a very strong brand in the community,” Kmiec told the council. “Many people are confused with what our actual services are.”New residents to the area seemed to have the most issues with the name.“New people moving into the community often call us for gas service, electrical service and then when we explain to them that we are water and wastewater their usual response is ‘why aren’t you called Marana Water?’,” explained Kmiec.

  • Desert Museum receives grant for new exhibit

    The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has received a grant totaling $300,000 from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. This significant award from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will support the creation of “Hidden in the Midden,” a new conservation exhibition and education program at the Desert Museum.“Hidden in the Midden,” an artificial, human-sized packrat midden, is a project that will allow individuals and families with children a fun, hands-on, applied learning experience. This exhibit and learning space is a natural extension of the museum’s existing award- winning Desert Loop Trail and will deepen the interpretive learning experience in this core area of the Museum grounds. Packrats build middens, large messy “houses,” woven from sticks and cactus parts which are also home to geckos, snakes, kissing bugs, Gila monsters and many other inhabitants of the Sonoran Desert region. By studying their content, scientists can determine what plants and animals existed thousands of years ago. 

  • Top five exercises to help maintain your health

    As people age, staying active becomes more and more important. Maintaining fitness is important for overall health and longevity. Exercise improves a person’s chances of living longer and also means a better quality of life while spending those extra years on the planet. Some of the most basic exercises are also some of the most important. They keep vital muscles strong, helping maintain balance and stability. But knowing where to start is difficult if you haven’t kept up with an exercise regimen or don’t belong to a health club. So, how can someone get back to fitness? Which exercises are most important as we age, and why? Following are the top five exercises recommended by Todd Lutz, Get Fit coordinator at Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Tucson:  1. Squats — Squats are a great exercise for a number of reasons. Squats help preserve physical function and are good for strengthening the hips, thighs and buttocks, which are all important for walking, jogging and climbing stairs —basically maintaining mobility.


  • 'Max' Lacks Bite: Military dog story misses proper tribute to K-9s

    During my 24 years of Air Force service, I experienced my share of guarded checkpoints entering military bases and embassies around the world.  Over the course of my career, I noticed a distinct change in how entry points were manned and operated.  More security personnel and the rampant deployment of military working dogs were first used to check inside, around and beneath vehicles. At a certain Middle Eastern base, specific “search pits” were created for all cars and trucks to pull into and get searched thoroughly. Although significant strides in equipment and technology have taken place over the years to locate hidden explosives, I always felt better seeing a military working dog greeting everyone approaching a gate into a military base. For this dog lover, it was reassuring to see man’s best friend — wearing his own flak vest — doing a job as important, if not more, than mine.The film “Max” begins in Afghanistan, where this Belgian Malinois military working dog is leading a small patrol along with his U.S. Marine handler. My first up-close encounter with a Belgian Malinois, back in 2010, also took place in Afghanistan. I was running on a treadmill at a small fitness center named for a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in action nearly a decade earlier in that war-torn country. As my jog continued, I noticed the treadmill next to mine start up, followed by the sight of two paws and a blackened nose in my peripheral vision. I glanced over to my right and took a hard look; a Belgian Malinois ran for the next 25 minutes with his special operations handler using another treadmill on the other side of the dog. Yes, even military dogs need to stay in combat form in order to take the fight to the enemy. Needless to say, I was not surprised when the successful Osama bin Laden mission included a military working dog the following year.  In only a few — way too few — insightful minutes, viewers of “Max” are introduced to war dogs and how they’ve been a vital part of our military history since World War I. The importance of Max, either to our U.S. arsenal or to his military handler, is never fully appreciated by — or vetted for — the audience’s benefit. With several hundred thousand dollars in training and years of experience to learn a special set of skills, Max returns home from the combat zone having to prove himself, and his allegiance, all over once again to doubters.  Max, the single movie character with the broader knowledge and senses to take care of himself and everyone else, unfortunately only gets minimal camera exposure to exhibit his under-appreciated talent. A perfect chance to educate and showcase one of our most respected and feared game-changers on the military battlefield lost upon viewers. Conversely, the movie elects to spotlight one bad apple posing as a U.S. Marine rather than embrace the warrior ethos of man’s best friend and the most cherished relationship in a brother/son’s life.This movie, despite good intentions, is a missed opportunity in the end. Rather than focus squarely on a returning four-legged war hero and the hundreds of lives he saved, this movie shuns, ignores and places misguided blame at the paws of one of our nation’s most loyal and dedicated military working dogs. Probably unnoticed by the moviegoers is the growing rift between the public’s perception of military service and the sacrifices made by those downrange — including our military working dog force. Most will lap up this dog story feeling it pays tribute to the K-9 corps while failing to fully understand the force multiplier spectrum these wonderful breeds bring to the fight. Our fight.Grade: C+

  • American Idol comes to Tucson

    With a rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” Marana resident Dustin Arellano had the crowd applauding before he was even inside the Tucson Convention Center (TCC), hosting site of the latest round of American Idol auditions.Arellano, who arrived at the TCC at 4:50 a.m. — more than four hours before the competition was scheduled to start — was one of more than 2,000 hopefuls aiming to make the same favorable impression on the judge panel, which sadly for some fans of the show, was not made up of the same celebrity cast seen on television.But those in attendance had a bigger motive than meeting celebrities: They wanted to become one.“Everyone is here doing the same thing,” said Arellano, who has his own YouTube channel and sings locally at rest homes. “Some people look really confident, and some people haven’t said a word. It’s hard to know what to expect.”That uncertainty was merited as BWR Public Relation’s Katherine Taylor said it was unclear how many performers would advance to the next round, nor was their initial knowledge of how many contestants planned to audition.“In some cities they take 10, and in some cities they take 100,” she said. 

  • Kona Ice: A cool, successful business concept

    Triple digit temperatures have arrived, but there’s an increasingly popular way to enjoy an iced treat without the tablespoons of sugar that might leave you feeling cooler but guilty.You may have seen the Kona Ice truck around town — its bright lights, tiki hut top and music a familiar presence at local sporting events, businesses, schools and fundraisers.Married couple Chris and Karrie Reaney have been in the shaved ice business for about four years. Chris franchised out the first mobile ice truck, and later the couple added two more trucks to the tally.Their increasing popularity is twofold: They offer a unique product, and they’re constantly involved in giving back to the community. Unlike many iced treats, the Hawaiian shaved ice offered by Kona is of a much finer texture than say, a snow cone, and the sweetener Chris and Karrie use — Vitablend — uses Stevia and agave instead of refined sugar. “A lot of parents who we identify with might think something like this has too much sugar, but we didn’t want to go that route,” said Karrie. “We decided we wanted a healthier alternative.”


  • Summer success fuels Falcons into the fall

    The Catalina Foothills football team entered the summer with some high hopes but a lot of questions. Most of those questions will not be fully answered until they strap on the pads in August, but their play during the summer passing league season has the optimism high among the Falcons. “We were really happy with our summer,” said head coach Jeff Scurran. The Falcons are coming off a 7-4 season where they went to the playoffs, despite a sophomore laden roster. Those sophomores are now juniors, giving the Falcons a lot of youth, but also good varsity experience. They are not the biggest or even the most athletic team, but they should know the system and having smart teams that fully grasp his system has been a key to the success of Scurran’s teams. While having good players is important, having all 11 players on the same page has been a staple of his best teams at Sabino and Santa Rita. The summer got off to a great start when the Falcons advanced to the finals of the Pima College Passing League. They dropped a last-second heartbreaker to Mountain View, but the tournament showed they could play with some of the best programs in the city. They upended Salpointe early in the event and led the Mountain Lions, who have since gone on to win the NAU passing tournament, by two scores before losing in the final seconds.The Falcons were not done. They advanced to the semifinals of the University of Arizona passing league, finishing in the top four out of 48 teams and made a deep run at one of the Arizona State passing leagues. Both of these are among the deepest tournaments in terms of talented teams in the state, so it bodes well for the Falcons, at least in terms of their skill position players. 

  • Little League championship games

    The championships are set in all three remaining District 5 Little League All-Star tournaments. The double-elimination format means that some teams can clinch titles tonight, while others have to hope to extend their seasons for one more game.9-10 BaseballOro Valley is in the driver’s seat and will need to lose twice to be eliminated. A single win and the win the district title and will head to the state tournament in Kingman.Oro Valley will face Western Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. at Kriegh Park Field #1. Western advanced to the title game with a 9-3 win over Frontier.Oro Valley beat Western 10-9 in the first game of the championship bracket.10-11 Baseball

  • Baseball camp helps teach the fundamentals and more

    If you were at Kriegh Park during the morning in the month of June, chances are you saw kids attending baseball and softball camp. Tim Kennedy started the RBI Youth Baseball and Softball camps in conjunction with Oro Valley Parks & Recreation and if he has his way, camps and clinics may be coming to a park near you. Kennedy is a former college baseball player who ran camps and coached travel baseball in the Washington D.C. area. He did athletic program for kids for D.C. area parks and rec. He and his wife moved to Tucson a few years back and Kennedy decided to get back involved in youth baseball. He started talking to Oro Valley Parks & Rec and they felt there was a gap in basic skills camps for younger players, so he created camps to address that need.Kennedy has tried to make several aspects of the camp unique, some intentional and some have happened by happenstance. One aspect is that the camp has become more of a beginning skills camp. Although he has coached high-level travel teams, Kennedy found there was a great need for newer players to learn the basics.“It kind of morphed into a skills camp that is really geared toward the beginners,” explained Kennedy. “A heavy emphasis on the fundamentals, learning the game and having fun with the game.”The first session of the summer saw a number of players on a high-level travel team participate, but soon he discovered the real need was for players with little or no Little League experience. 

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