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

  • Oro Valley looking for public input on future development at Naranja Park

    The future of Naranja Park may rest in the hands of Oro Valley’s voting population later this year after town council expressed an interest in hearing resident input regarding potential construction plans and funding mechanisms before deciding whether or not the $17 million dollar plan should be placed on the November ballot. The unanimously decided course of action during the April 5 regular session, the community will have a chance to weigh in next Wednesday, April 19 at the council’s next meeting. Up for discussion is the possibility of issuing general obligation bonds to be paid off over a 20-year period through a secondary property tax. The public will have the final say in the matter, though placing the item on the ballot is left to the council.The 213-acre site, located at 810 W. Naranja Drive, was first acquired by the town in 2000, and the idea behind the purchase to build a park site “consisting of a wide range of amenities to appeal to all ages and user groups,” according to town documents. After a master planning process Oro Valley residents voted against a $48.6 million bonding plan in 2008. The town has since developed the site on a pay-as-you-go basis as funds become available. The park currently hosts a fixed and walking archery range, walking trails, two dog parks, a pair of lit sports fields, restrooms and associated infrastructure. Separate from the potential bond package, two more multi-sport fields are planned for completion at the end of the year. Within the newly proposed deal, the town would develop three additional fields, a baseball/softball complex, batting cages, additional restrooms, expanded parking and more.Considered a significant long-term investment, Oro Valley Finance Director Stacey Lemos said the town’s pay-as-you-go style of development would not be feasible, and that the creation of a secondary property tax as a dedicated revenue source would provide improved economic stability in case of potential financial downturn. Lemos added that the tax would sunset at the end of repayment, and any reinstatement would require additional public approval. The estimated annual principal and interest payments are approximately $1.4 million per year, at a rate of $0.22 for every $100 of assessed value.If the project were to be completed, parks and recreation director Kristy Diaz-Trahan told council that operations estimates have been developed. The acquisition of $230,000 in equipment would originate from the General Fund, as would an estimated $200,000 operating deficit. 

  • Local urgent care to close, new emergency facility to open

    Northwest Healthcare, while planning to move out of one facility in the Marana area, plan to have a larger presence in early 2018 when they open a freestanding emergency department (FSED) adjacent to the Tucson Premium Outlets at Twin Peaks and I-10.The new Northwest Emergency Center (NEC) Marana will be their second FSED. They opened their first in Vail in 2015. The new location will be open 24 hours a day, seven-days-a-week to serve patients who experience medical emergencies. Northwest Healthcare will break ground this spring to open in the first quarter of 2018. The town has worked with Northwest Healthcare to expedite the process to insure the new facility is built in a timely manner. lease ends at the end of the year. Those needing urgent care can use the QuickMed Urgent Care on Tangerine and Thornydale or Northwest Urgent Care at Orange Grove, the second of which is open seven-days-a-week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.The family medicine physicians currently located in the Continental Reserve Urgent Care building will move to new offices at Silverbell and Cortaro and as Marana grows Northwest Healthcare will continue to explore other options in the area. With their departure from the continental Reserve Urgent Care building it gives the town something it had been lacking, a pre-built spot suited for a corporate headquarters or another larger facility. Marana Economic Development Manager Curt Woody said one issue the town has had luring corporations is a lack of existing facilities. While having Northwest Healthcare leave an “empty storefront,” it does give the town options.  

  • Wheeling in smiles, one bike at a time

    Several weeks ago Tucson resident Rosanna Velasco returned to her temporary home at the Gospel Rescue Mission to find her three-year-old son, Zack, astride a bright green bicycle, wearing a blue helmet emblazoned with flames and a smile spreading from ear to ear. Quite surprised to find her son on a new bike, Velasco said she was even more surprised to hear the bike now belonged to her son, thanks to the efforts of a group of volunteers from Oro Valley.Founded 10 years ago by Sun City Oro Valley resident Dick Swaim, WFKcollects donations of new and used bicycles and refurbishes (or tunes up) the equipment for use by underprivileged children and their families, refugees, and others within the greater Tucson community. An all-volunteer staff, WFK partners with community and service organizations to locate those in-need of a memorable gift. “The tagline exemplifies how I feel about it, and how we all still feel about it,” Swaim said. “Everyone remembers their first bike.”Swaim said the group got its start as a spinoff of two other organizations within the Sun City community, Seniors For Kids, which comprises of men and women making toys and crafts and collecting supplies for families in-need, and the local cycling club. As a member of both organizations, Swaim said he one day realized the potential of his two hobbies, and began talking with his fellow cyclists. After 10 individuals volunteered, the organization got off the ground by using the philanthropic connections of its fore groups.It didn’t take long to get the ball—or in this case the tire—rolling. Wheels For Kids has grown since 2007, now staffed by a team of roughly 40 volunteers, and recently celebrated a significant milestone when it donated its 2,000th bike to Zack.“He loves bikes,” Velasco said of her son. “He was just really happy; he was showing it off, had his picture taken because he is very proud of it, and he loves his helmet as well.”

Local News

  • More stops and less tickets working in Marana

    Those breaking traffic laws in Marana are more likely to get pulled over than they were five years ago, but are also less likely to get a ticket. It is part of the Marana Police Department’s goal to educate drivers instead of punishing them. So far the tactic has worked; the number of traffic accidents has dropped slightly the past five years. In 2011, over 12,000 citations were given out and there were over 830 collisions. Since then, the number of traffic stops has tripled; the number of citations has dwindled and the number of collisions has dropped. Three of the past four years have seen 800 or less collisions. “Prior to my time here at the town, the approach to keeping our streets safe for driving was to enforce traffic laws via citations, and since officers are very good at following orders, they did just that,” said Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema.Rozema felt that by handing out so many citations, an average of nearly four per traffic stop, that it was creating a negative feeling towards those interactions. The goal was to improve the public perception of the police and, hopefully, have them listen to what they were being told during those traffic stops. Rozema has long felt that the goal of the police is to help people, so he wanted to find the best way to help people be safer drivers. “Sometimes writing a ticket helps, but in many cases it may not,” Rozema said. “And as our philosophy of policing began to take root in the hearts and minds of our officers, a fascinating thing happened. Armed with the mission and freedom to go forth and simply help people, officers began to go out and make more traffic stops than ever before, however, at the same time they began to write fewer and fewer citations.”

  • Congressman Tom O’Halleran talks Obamacare, internet privacy and immigration

    Congressman Tom O’Halleran is in his first term representing Congressional District 1, which includes Oro Valley and Marana, as well as Flagstaff and much of eastern rural Arizona. He recently appeared for a one-on-one interview on the televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel. This Q&A is an edited excerpt from that conversation. So that whole repeal and replace thing with Obamacare—what happened there?I guess they couldn’t get together after saying for six years that the the Republican Party had an answer on how to cure the healthcare issues of America and as they got into it, more they started trading off issues to gain votes. And when you get into that, you better start reevaluating what you really need to do because that is not trying to get us forward on health care in America  So what’s next? We heard the bill was dead and they were moving on; we’ve heard that the bill is coming back; we heard it was not coming back. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to work only with Republicans; President Trump wants to bring in Democrats. Do you have a sense of where this thing is going?

  • Amphi Public Schools welcomes new superintendent Todd Jaeger back into the fold

    The Amphi Public Schools governing board unanimously approved the selection of Todd Jaeger as the district’s next superintendent last Tuesday, April 18.Jaeger, who received his appointment to rounds of applause at the board meeting, will start at his new post on July 1. Jaeger will replace retiring superintendent Patrick Nelson, who announced the end of his four-year stint in January. Currently the general counsel for the Tucson Unified School District, Jaeger previously spent 20 years as a member of the Amphi team, including roles as general counsel and associate to the superintendent.“I am so grateful to once again be working with this board and to share our dedication for a high quality education for all students,” Jaeger said. “I have great respect for what each of you does in service to our community, and am humbled that you have invited me to join you again in your efforts.”The district currently maintains 21 different campuses, and roughly 14,000 students of all ages.Jaeger’s appointment to the district’s leading role was supported by all five members of the governing board, who gave congratulations of “welcome home” after casting their votes.

Entertainment

  • Laughter on the high seas at The Gaslight Theatre

    Sailing the Spanish Main in search of a treasure chest of cursed gold, saving the woman you love and foiling the aspirations of a pirate crew is an endeavor full of adventure, danger and a bit of romance. Add the cast and crew of The Gaslight Theatre to the mix, and the resultant performance is a night of guaranteed fun.Dropping anchor once again at the theatre is “The Curse of the Pirate’s Gold.” Written and directed by Peter Can Slyke, “Curse” fits fully within the theatre’s long established, tongue-in-cheek brand of melodrama, and is one of the most memorable performances within the Gaslight repertoire.The hero this time around is Dr. Bartholomew Steele, a right-good fellow held captive aboard the Regale Eagle on charges for which he is quite innocent. Uncaring to Steele’s declaration of innocence is the evil Capt. Reginald Spaulding, who will soon take control of the Caribbean colonies as the new British Governor. The struggle between Steele and Spaulding to find the bounty of Capt. Blackheart’s cursed treasure, played to perfection by Gaslight regular Todd Thompson and perennial good-guy Jake Chapman, is only intensified by their mutual desire for the beautiful Prudence Fairchild (Janée Page).Mostly bearded, armed and full of pirate refrains, the cast is completed by outstanding performances from true Gaslight veteran Armen Dirtadian (who joined the cast in 1983) as Captain Scuttle; one-liner maestro Jacob Brown as Gibbet; fan-favorite Mike Yarema as Dryrot; the always hilarious Jake Coffin as Scrum; the energetic and exciting Erin Thompson as the newly initiated pirate Molly and rounded off with vocal excellence by Heather Stricker as the conspiring Consuela.The story plays out rather expectedly in its course through the high seas, though the mist of changing allegiances among the principal trio and a cast of hilarious pirates and locals is enough to keep the final outcome just out of sight.  The adventure also drops sail at several musical locales along the way, and the cast, Gaslight Band and musical director Linda Ackerman take every opportunity to shine. As is tradition with any performance at the long-standing Tucson institution, the show is filled with one-liners, puns and off-handed jokes (both scripted and improvised) which make it quite clear the cast enjoys the show as much as the audience.

  • Historic value carries romantic drama “The Promise”

    “The Promise” premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival billed as a dual-threat romance and war story. After an enthusiastic reception from festival goers, this early 1900s true Armenian Holocaust account was quickly picked up by a distribution studio and given last weekend as its release date, exactly 102 years after Ottoman Empire authorities rounded up and either deported or killed 1.5 million ethnic Armenians. With an impressive cast led by Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Christian Bale (“The Dark Knight”), “The Promise” takes us back to the later years of Ottoman Empire (1453-1923) and the succeeding Turkish government’s eradication of a people long before the evil Adolph Hitler and Germany came onto the world’s atrocities stage. Isaac portrays a young Armenian from a small village who travels to the capital city of Constantinople seeking to attend medical school before his life, and the entire region, gets turned upside down.Although the film bites off a bit more than it can chew in two hours and 14 minutes, “The Promise” nicely builds up the romantic love triangle between Isaac’s charming Mikael character, a young socialite named Ana (convincingly played by Charlotte Le Bon), and an American journalist (Bale). A strong case can be made that the entire movie, minus the savageness of war, could’ve focused solely on this trio of personal relationships. That, however, would have skipped the film’s more important features and history lesson.“The Promise” is a historic achievement that spotlights a lesser-known genocide committed during and after a lesser-known war (World War I). The sudden destabilization of a region and the ethnic cleansing that soon follows is both dramatic and heart-wrenching to watch unfold. Despite not being able to invest in any of the main characters fully due to the film’s vast war narrative to tell, “The Promise” keenly bounces between the three love interests and the horrors surrounding each interwoven life. An exceptional cast abounds in “The Promise,” perhaps no performance better than Le Bon’s as the lusted for Ana. The budding relationships all feel authentic and raise the stakes in this survival story. Fans of the galactic X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron in “Star Wars” will find the Guatemalan-American actor and musician Isaac in his best role since 2014’s crime-fest “A Most Violent Year.”Don’t expect this film to garner much notice, though, getting left behind in the dust of “The Fate of the Furious” and about to get overshadowed by Star-Lord Peter Quill & Co. But for those interested in a history lesson that doesn’t get nearly the attention in schoolbooks as it deserves, “The Promise” offers the grim details with a romantic angle.

  • 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.

Sports

  • NW teams advance on the diamond

    All four Northwest teams advanced in their respective baseball and softball regional playoff games on Wednesday.The wins give them a berth in their respective 16-team playoff brackets.The No. 16 Ironwood Ridge baseball team jumped out to a 7-0 lead and beat No. 17 Sahuaro 9-3. Thanks to an upset in the bracket, the Nighthawks will now likely receive the No. 15 seed and play the No. 2 ranked team in 5A on the road on Saturday.In 5-A Softball both Mountain View and Marana won their games. No. 9 Mountain View jumped out to an 8-0 lead and cruised to a 14-1 win over Phoenix’s Fairfax. Marana had a tougher go of it, edging No. 21 Williams Field 6-5. Both teams have a 50-50 shot of playing their next game in the Tucson area. Four of the top eight seeded teams are local.Ironwood Ridge is already in the playoffs and will host a first round game, despite losing three of their last four games.In 3A, No. 13 Pusch Ridge beat No. 20 Holbrook 9-3.

  • Softball and baseball playoffs taking shape

    Marana fell 12-10 to Desert View on Friday and it cost them the 5A Sonoran Regional championship and an automatic berth in the postseason. The Jaguars jumped out to a 10-2 lead, but Marana rallied for six runs in the fifth inning to close the gap. Down 12-8 they plated a pair of runs in the seventh but could not complete the comeback. Despite the loss the Tigers enter the week with ranked 12th in the state in 5A and are certain to make the postseason, likely hosting a play-in game on April 26.Although Ironwood Ridge and Mountain View are third and fourth in the 5A South Region, the two schools are also playoff bound. The Nighthawks have lost three of their last four, but are still ranked sixth in the state and seem likely to avoid a play-in game and host a first round playoff game. Mountain View is 8-10 overall, but thanks to a strong schedule the Mountain Lions are also likely to host a play-in game this week. Teams seeded 9-24 have to play in regional play-in games with teams seeded 9-16 getting home games. Canyon Del Oro will have no such drama at the 4-A level. They have already wrapped up the 4A Kino Region and are expected to enter the state playoffs as the top seeded team in the state. 

  • Northwest squads fare well at state

    Three individuals and three area teams are still alive in their respective state tennis tournaments after advancing to the quarterfinals.  Division IIINo. 4 seed Sofia Fetsis of Pusch Ridge cruised through her early matches at the Division III championship tournament. After receiving a first-round by she cruised through her first two matches, winning 6-2, 6-0 and 6-1, 6-1. She may have caught a bit of a break heading into the quarter finals. She will face Miami’s Alexis Followill, who came into the tournament unranked. The No. 5 seeded player, Northland Prep’s Brianna Briddle, was upset in her first match. The other top-8 seeds all advanced to the quarters. The Lions’ doubles team of Kate Maxfield and Emma Reilly were ranked No. 2 in the state but were upset in the third round by Courtney Sauder and Kate Lawrence of Scottsdale Christian. It was a tough, three-set match that saw each team win a set 6-3. The third set went to a tie breaker but it was Sauder and Lawrence who prevailed 7-5.

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