Tucson Local Media: Home of The Explorer, Marana News, Foothills News, Desert Times, and Inside Tucson Business

  • Town of Oro Valley eyes future possibility of a downtown center

    The concept of a downtown Oro Valley is one step closer to reality, though the actualization of any such development is still some years down the road. Marking the culmination of more than a year of public outreach, research and development, Oro Valley’s Main Streets Project appeared before the town council in the form of a concept plan during the March 5 regular session. Unanimously adopted, the 16-page document sets the foundation from which town staff will spend more than a year developing detailed blueprints, funding mechanisms and design schemes.Much of the development will be influenced by resident input, said Oro Valley Long Range Principal Planner Elisa Hamblin, who presented the concept to the council. Hamblin has been involved with the project since its inception, and said Main Streets was developed under the direction of numerous town plans that reflect the “community desire for a town center.”Hamblin said the creation of a central gathering place would serve the community, though she also emphasized the importance of such development in regard to the future of the town’s economic viability.“To generate employment growth the town needs to be an attractive place for businesses and their work force, which in turn supports our economic vitality,” she said. “Currently, Oro Valley has very few opportunities for development remaining. Most large parcels of land within the town limits have either been built out or have development plans in place. As Oro Valley does approach build-out there will be pressure for infill. This may be a few years away, but planning for redevelopment and infill now ensures that the desired community vision is in place when the redevelopment becomes a reality.”The concept plan represents a big picture vision for the future, though two locations have been identified by the town as potential locations for a central gathering place: the intersections of North La Cañada Drive and West Lambert Lane and North Oracle Road at North First Avenue. Both sites are situated near an abundance of residents and maintain strong business environments. Additionally, each location is near to civic, park and other recreation destinations.

  • Biosphere 2 celebrates Earth Day with panels, food trucks and a sunset concert by Calexico

    UA Vice President for Innovation and College of Science Dean Joaquin Ruiz is also the director of Biosphere 2, the environmental science lab north of Oro Valley. On Saturday, April 22, Biosphere 2 will celebrate Earth Day with science talks, ladybug and hermit crab releases, local food offerings and a sunset concert by Calexico. The fun starts at 9 a.m. at Biosphere 2, at the intersection of Oracle Road and Biosphere 2 Road. This Q&A is edited and condensed from an interview originally broadcast on “Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel.”Tell us a little bit about what we can expect at Biosphere 2 for Earth Day.Earth Day corresponds with the 10 years that the University of Arizona has had Biosphere 2. So there’s going to be a mixure of things that include Biosphere 2’s history and future. It’s going to be a festival environment all day long. In addition to food trucks and various people showing their wares, we will have a tent with speakers talking about things that are important to Tucson and important to the Biosphere. So in the morning, we’re going to highlighting Tucson as an UNESCO city of gastronomy and restaurateur Janos Wilder will be giving a presentation. Gary Nabham will be giving a presentation. Starting at about noon, there will be panels that deal more specifically with what the Biosphere is and what it’s going to be in the next 10 years. So there’s going to be a panel on food, a panel on energy, a panel on water and a panel on the environment. That will go on until about 4, so people can come and listen to any of these panels or they can go and get ice cream or whatever else is going on out there. And at 4, there’s something I’m really proud of: A part of the Biosphere has been rented out to a company called Civic Farms, which is doing what’s called vertical farming. When they get going with production of food at the Biosphere, the food will then be sold at Whole Foods, both in Phoenix and Tucson. We’ll have a groundbreaking for that and then we’ll go and listen to Calexico, so what a day.You’ve been managing Biosphere 2 for about a decade now. Talk a little bit about what you’ve been able to do out there.The largest experiment that we’ve created out there is a thing called the Landscape Evolution Observatory, which created by a combination of atmospheric scientists, hydrologists, ecologists and geologists. And that experiment is really to inform us of the fate of water in semi-arid environments as global climate change progresses—how much evaporates and how much goes into groundwater, how much is in run-off. It’s absolutely critical if we are going to understand what is going to be happening to a particular place, and in particular, our place, Tucson, as the pattern of rain changes in the future because of global climate change.

  • Oro Valley Town Council to discuss more fields at Naranja Park

    At tonight’s Regular Council Meeting (April 5) the Oro Valley Town Council will discuss community requests and a proposed plan to build and finance additional sport fields and related amenities at Naranja Park. The proposed plan, which was developed in response to requests from residents and park user groups, is a partial build-out of the Council-approved 2015 Naranja Park Master Plan, and aligns with the voter-approved 2016 Your Voice, Our Future General Plan.Since this project represents a significant long-term investment in town park infrastructure, staff has suggested general obligation bond funding to finance these improvements. Ultimately, any decision to issue bonds would be up to Oro Valley voters. Before the voters can decide, town council must consider the proposal and decide if it will be referred to the ballot.The Town of Oro Valley has been taking a phased approach to developing Naranja Park in recent years. This slower development timeline has been based on fund availability.At the Feb. 15 council meeting members of the community—including youth sport parents, athletes and Oro Valley user groups—asked council to take action to construct additional sport fields at Naranja Park. Council then directed staff to return at a future meeting with a proposal that meets the community’s request and a plan to finance the proposal.While citizens are prohibited from running a referendum on bonds due to state statutes and the Arizona State Constitution (Article 4, Pt. 1, Sec 1) the law still allows citizens an opportunity to make their requests known to town council. Council must then decide whether or not to put a bond up for a public election. Since a general obligation bond is repaid with a dedicated secondary property tax, any potential question on the ballot to issue bonds and implement a property tax as payment would have to be referred by Council.In the coming weeks, town council will be carefully considering the proposal and public input to determine if it should be placed on the November 2017 ballot for voters to decide.

Local News

  • State of the Town speech honors the past, while eyeing the future

    With the Town of Marana celebrating its 40th Anniversary, it was only fitting that the State of the Town speech celebrated the town’s rich history. Mayor Ed Honea reminded attendees at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain on Friday, April 14, that he has lived in the area before it became a town and was part of the effort to get signatures to incorporate back in 1977.“It seems,like just yesterday, when a group of community members walked through the neighborhoods, in North Marana to obtain signatures for incorporation,” Honea said. “To get these signatures, we walked from house to house … talking to residents about providing services and protecting our own community. I am happy to report, 40 years later, we have never stopped talking about providing services and protecting this community.”Although Honea has been actively involved with the town for most of those 40 years, serving on the town council and as mayor, he shared the stage with four other town employees who each touched on the past and future of the town. Marana may be best known for its agrarian roots, of late the town has tried to be at the forefront of development and providing innovative ways to attract and retain businesses and residents. Marana’s Director of Human Resources Curry Hale has only been a town employee since 2015, but it did not tale long for the town’s “culture of excellence” to make an impact. “Providing outstanding service is our core mission here at the town,” Hale said. “Everything we do must directly serve our larger community. Our vision ensures that even though we may not always agree, everyone always pushes in the same direction. In Marana, we believe you don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree.”

  • Tucson man celebrates 102nd birthday with pizza, cake and a few laughs

    When Joe Lambert was born Woodrow Wilson was president, the RMS Lusitania still sailed between Liverpool and New York City and the modern marvel of color television was still some three decades from introduction. Before he turned 30, Lambert was a member of the United States Air Force flying supplies into China over The Hump in World War II, and last Tuesday, April 11, he celebrated his 102nd birthday surrounded by family, friends and fellow residents at the Mountain View Retirement Village.While some centenarians credit a daily cup of wine, whiskey in their morning coffee or regular exercise for their longevity, Lambert’s granddaughter, Megan Hulce, believes her effervescent grandfather’s secret is much less tangible – though just as important.“He is the life of the party,” she explained. “When everyone tries to calculate what you should do to live to be 100; my grandpa smoked during the war, he definitely went to his share of parties, he’s had loads of friends, he has always loved fruit and I would say he laughs a lot.”Though this year’s celebration was rather traditional, Lambert rang in his 100th birthday flying in an era warplane, and enjoyed last year’s festivities surrounded by his family and friends at Hooter’s. Regardless of the activity or locale, the popularity of the Altona, Illinois native was felt throughout the celebration; more than a dozen friends and family members stopped by to congratulate Lambert, hand him a birthday card and share in a few laughs. “My grandpa is my hero,” Hulce said. “He is the only person that I would accord that status.”

  • Marana Police serving up pride for a cause at Tip-A-Cop

    The Marana Police Department prides themselves on service, even if that service extends to delivering a steak or topping off a drink. The Marana Police Department hosted its annual Tip-A-Cop event at Texas Roadhouse. Volunteers from nearly every portion of the MPD came out to serve the packed house at Texas Roadhouse. They collected over $5,000 in tips and every dime will go to benefit the Arizona Special Olympics.“It was an awesome event,” said Marana Police Officer Jose De La Torre, who organized the event. The MPD has been involved with Special Olympics for over a decade and has raised over $100,000 for Southern Arizona Special Olympians. They had 32 volunteers on hand from the MPD including lieutenants, captains and Chief  Terry Rozema. They had volunteers from the bomb squad, K9 and motor patrol, as well as the youth Explorers program and the volunteer VIP’s.“Everyone in the department was here,” De La Torre said. 


  • Marana District Play & Learn Center Family Fun Day

    The Marana Unified School District Play and Learn (PAL) Center invites parents and prospective parents to a Family Fun Day. The event is FREE and will be held on Saturday, April 22, 2017 from 10 am-2 pm at Estes Elementary School, 11280 W. Grier Rd., Marana AZ 85653.This fun-filled event includes food, raffles, and activities for the whole family. Activities include Special Olympics Young Athletes Fitness & Fun Activities; Mr. Nature's Music Garden Experience - song, dance, interactive instrument petting zoo; Northwest Fire District personnel and firetrucks; resources and informational displays.The Play and Learn (PAL) Center is an integrated licensed preschool, located at Estes Elementary School, providing the highest quality education during the school year to children with identified learning challenges and their non-disabled peers ages. Open to students city-wide, ages three until kindergarten. At 10:15am, as part of the PAL Family Fun Day, a special ceremony will be held to rename the preschool program to, The Dr. Marianne Valdez Play and Learn Preschool, in memoriam of Dr. Valdez’s tireless commitment, passion, and service to the students, families, staff of the Marana district 1984-2015.Before her passing, Dr. Marianne Valdez was the cornerstone of the Marana Unified School District special education department. She was originally hired as a special education teacher in 1984 by Marjorie Estes. Dr. Valdez later moved to Thornydale Elementary to teach special education students in the early 1990s. She began the first cluster program and brought technology into the special education classrooms. Dr. Valdez wrote grants and developed partnerships, including a project where students designed and created a beautiful butterfly habitat on the Thornydale campus.Dr. Valdez began her leadership roles as an Inclusion Facilitator in 2001 and then became the Director of Educational Services in 2004. As the Director, Dr. Valdez championed many special education initiatives, but the closest to her heart was co-teaching. As a result of her vision and heart, the Marana district became known for exceptional services and support for students with special needs.

  • “Gifted” adds up to a splendid movie experience

    We’ve been awed by brilliant movie minds before, each attempting to cope with the deep personal pain their special brain powers often creates. Russell Crowe shocked us in “A Beautiful Mind” as a Nobel Laureate in Economics. A young Stephen Hawking at Cambridge was superbly personified by Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything”. And nobody can forget Matt Damon’s 20-year-old character with the skyrocket IQ, sparring in verbal jujitsu opposite Robin Williams in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting.” But lacking from the annals of cinema history is the female child genius whose mind-blowing talents jolt theater audiences. Until now.“Gifted” introduces us to fast-thinking second-grader Mary Adler, a mathematics prodigy with a sharp mind and tongue. Being raised by a single guy named Frank (portrayed admirably by Marvel’s own Captain America Chris Evans), young Mary is quickly pulled in many directions by people espousing to know what’s best for her education and future.In this year’s best young performance to date, McKenna Grace as Mary completely sells this inspiring story. The actress’ authentic mathematical vibe and convincing childish wit carries this movie from beginning to end. Equally impressive is the subdued, down-to-Earth marine boat mechanic role of Frank—which Evans pulls off with ease. The common denominator tying the film’s other characters all together, Evans effortlessly interchanges between guardian, neighbor, son, lover, greasy nailed mechanic, and owner of a scene-stealing, one-eyed cat named Fred.Some might incorrectly characterize “Gifted” as a child-custody story, where Frank must defend his decisions regarding Mary’s education in court to ward off the girl’s opportunistic grandmother. But this plotline is much deeper than that when one looks for a common thread throughout. “Gifted” is really about Mary’s mother and her childhood upbringing as she earned comparisons to physicists Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.“Gifted” is an electrifying journey that ponders how a remarkable, one-in-a-billion young mind should be raised. Does each child deserve to be a kid? Or does one’s potential to change the world demand that she leapfrogs age-appropriate education, or participation in kids’ sports, Girl Scouts and other childhood experiences?Sensational casting and a script that keeps the dialogue believable easily overcomes shaky camera work at times during the film. Director Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) masterfully incorporates the slow reveal, concealing several scenes’ importance until the final shots surprise viewers. Get out and see one of 2017’s best acting performances from a girl who could wipe the chalkboard with Damon’s persona in “Good Will Hunting”. 

  • Marana Bluegrass Festival promises three days of musical fun

    The Marana Bluegrass Festival has always been a family friendly event, but this year’s fifth edition of the multi-day concert at Ora Mae Harn Park is really trying to introduce children to the art form. “We are encouraging families to come,” said Joe Wilke of the Desert Bluegrass Association. There are several changes to the festival to appeal just to children, including a hands-on instrument area dubbed the “petting zoo.” In addition to getting to listen to bluegrass musicians, children will be able to pick up, handle and play instruments. Phoenix’s Jam Pak will be on hand. The band is actually a program that helps introduce children, many from low income backgrounds, to bluegrass, gospel and other traditional old time music.The first night of the concert will be different this year than in years past. Friday night, April 28, will feature all local talent, specifically local singer/songwriters. With a goal of sharing new talent with as many people as possible, Friday night is free, which the organizers feel is their way of “giving back to the community of Marana, and also to introduce artists you might not normally see, but who play out and about Tucson.”Opening the weekend will be Marilyn Ryan and Bob Nible, then banjo player Rudy Cortese. Like Cortese, he plays banjo, as well as being a talented singer. Closing out that first night is veteran Tucson musician Peter McLaughlin. 


  • Busy Signing Day for students at three area schools

    The spring signing period for high school athletes to sign letters of intent to play sports in college began last week and on Wednesday, April 12, a number of Northwest athletes inked those documents to continue their athletic careers. Three area schools, Ironwood Ridge, CDO and Mountain View held ceremonies to honor those athletes. Ironwood Ridge held their ceremony early in the morning, setting the tone for the day. Three Nighthawk football players signed. Tommy Baden will play for Ohio Wesleyan in an NCAA Division III school in Delaware, Ohio. Baden had 48 tackles and two interceptions for the Nighthawks as a senior, and took one of the picks to the house. He also had seven catches for 80 yards and three scores last season. Niko Madlangbayan became one of the first players to commit to play football for the brand new NAIA program at Ottawa University in Surprise, Arizona. As a senior Madlangbayan had 35 tackles, one interception and a fumble recovery. Running back Soma Ikaika Helu will play for the California College of the Redwoods, a junior college in Eureka, California. Helu rushed for 904 yards and 13 scores in just eight games last season. Helu injured his knee during that eighth game and missed the final four games of the season. Over the course of his three-year varsity career, Helu rushed for 1,383 yards and 18 scores. Two volleyball players made their choices. Jaclyn Inclan will stay in town and play both indoor and beach volleyball for the University of Arizona. She is currently starring for the Nighthawks’ beach volleyball team, which has qualified for the postseaon in the state’s newest sport. 

  • Rest in Peace Samaniego

    I was on Facebook when I saw the announcement of the passing of Golder Ranch Fire Fighter Jose Samaniego. I instantly recognized his face but it took me a second to realize where I knew him. Maybe it was the shock of learning that a 33-year old father was gone, but after a moment I realized, he was one of “my guys.”I coached high school football at Cholla High School in the early 2000s, and Jose was one of my players. Of course, we did not call him Jose, he was simply “Samaniego” though by the time I got “Saman…” out of my mouth he had his helmet on and was by my side. While I was hardly a taskmaster, the guys knew I had little patience and that they better be ready to go when I called their name. Samaniego was one of those guys. He got it. He worked hard. I was in my mid-20’s and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. After getting laid off from a marketing job, I decided to go back to school and become a teacher and football coach. The first step in my journey was volunteering at Cholla in the midst of a losing streak. While I was 27, I looked younger and I remember one of the coaches playing a joke on me, and the team, and introduced me as the new fullback the first day of practice. I still laugh because, while most of the team figured out it was a rib in a few minutes, it took two players about a week to realize I was really a coach and not a player. What makes it funnier is that I was coaching freshman football. As one of the youngest coaches, I bonded with many of my players. I tried to be a sort of ‘big brother” to many. They became “my guys” or the “fellas.” Many did not have a strong male role model at home and I tried to fill that role. Before and after practice there were a lot of high fives and ball busting, but once that whistle blew we were all business. Things were not always smooth, we lost way more than we won, but my last freshman team advanced to the state semi-finals as seniors. I was no longer coaching then, but I was on the sideline reporting on the games. I don’t know if I made a huge impact on these kids, but they did on me. I still tell stories about my guys. I have run into a few since leaving coaching. One is the head coach at Rincon High School, two more worked at UPS when I was a seasonal driver there several years ago after the old magazine I worked at went under. One of my former players nearly accosted me at the mall. He was excited to tell me he was joining the Border Patrol and was moving to New Mexico the next month. Another installed my Direct TV and was part owner of a business. I know several joined the military and I know a few did not make it out of high school and got in trouble with the law. 

  • Marana Softball making moves

    Despite a slow start to the season the Marana softball team is in the thick of things in their section, and could find themselves in the postseason. The Tigers lost their first five regular season games and were 2-6 at one point but have won four of their next five games and are now 6-7 and ranked 13th in the state. Maybe more importantly, they are just a half game out of first place in the 5A Sonoran Region. Their lone loss came to first place Poston Butte, but they have a chance to even the score next week and put themselves in the driver’s seat. Ironwood Ridge is in a strange spot. The Nighthawks are ranked No. 4 in the state, but are third in their section. Both Cienega and Sahuaro are ahead of Ironwood Ridge in the standings, and the Bobcats and Cougars are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state. Mountain View is just 6-7 and are fourth in the section, but the Mountain Lions find themselves ranked No. 10 in the state and barring a complete collapse, they will compete in the playoffs. CDO is 11-2 overall and ranked No. 2 in the state. While they are currently sitting atop the 4A Kino standings, they lead a very talented Salpointe team, but just half a game and the two squads still have a game against each.Pusch Ridge is 8-3 overall and are ranked 14th, but find themselves in fourth place in the 3A South section. Sabino, Sahuarita and Empire are also two-loss teams, but currently hold tiebreakers over the Lions.

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