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

  • Town creates Animal Services Division

    The Marana Town Council voted 5-2 last week to create a Marana animal-control department and sever ties with Pima County’s Pima Animal Care Center.Council Members Roxanne Ziegler and Herb Kai voted against the plan. Supporters of the change said rising costs and a lack of customer service for Marana residents led to the move. Over the past decade the town has seen costs from the country rise from $10,000 to over $230,000 annually as the county facility has moved toward finding homes from the animals in its care rather than euthanizing them.Marana town staffers as well as council members said that they field numerous calls from Marana residents who cannot get Pima County Animal Control Officers to respond to calls in the town. In response, the town will hire two full-time animal control officers, build a temporary kenneling facility and contract with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to provide sheltering services.“Our top priority is to be responsive to resident requests,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson. “By managing our own animal control officers, the town will be able to tailor animal care to the needs of our community. We will be able to respond promptly to all calls and meet the high expectations our residents have for their government.”Marana began exploring the option over the past year. That process included visiting other jurisdictions in the state who handle animal control needs in a variety of ways. Town officials pointed to Avondale and Casa Grande as examples of similarly sized towns who handle animal control services. Avondale provides animal control services themselves and has their sheltering and licensing services through Maricopa County. Maricopa County has this agreement with most municiplalites in the county. They provide free sheltering and in turn keep all proceeds from licensing. 

  • Oro Valley proclaims March 21 World Down Syndrome Day

    More than just a regular Tuesday, March 21 is also known as World Down Syndrome Day, the aim of which is to encourage citizens of every community to work together to promote the respect and inclusion of individuals with Down Syndrome as well as celebrate their own contributions to our world. In an effort to aid in the global mission of inclusion and understanding, Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath announced last Wednesday, March 15 that the town would participate in World Down Syndrome Day. Hiremath said Oro Valley always looked to recognize the struggles – and success – of all its residents. After the proclamation was made Hiremath, in partnership with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s office and the Southern Arizona Network for Down Syndrome, presented the document to Indrani Solomon. Solomon is a town resident whose nine-year-old son, Pranoy, has Down syndrome. In light of his condition, Pranoy has inspired the local community in the past; last year he was recognized as part of the town’s Spotlight on Youth program after he was highlighted in New York City’s Times Square as part of National Down syndrome Month by the National Down Syndrome Society.After thanking all involved in making the day a reality Solomon challenged the community to better understand the two worlds in which she said everyone lives. The first is the world we inherit, the other world within each person. Solomon said that when an individual explores the world within themselves the result is a greater sense of inclusiveness and understanding, kindness and generosity.“If Prinoy can do it, we can all do it,” she said. “It’s within us.”Steve Freeman, president of the Southern Arizona Network for Down Syndrome and parent to a daughter with Down syndrome, said that Solomon’s message of inclusion was vital to better understanding those with the condition – and helping them find success.“It is very important that our loved ones are represented in all facets of the community,” he said. “We’ve got individuals who are actors, business owners, professors, teachers – they do everything that they want to do, and put their minds to. It takes a lot of work, and it took a lot of work for my daughter to get through the U of A, but she did it and it as the best two years we’ve ever seen in her growth experience. I just urge you guys to keep doing what you’re doing, we really appreciate it.”

  • Oro Valley staff reviews Walk the Block results

    Last month, hundreds of Oro Valley residents gathered at the intersection of North La Cañada Drive and West Lambert Lane for the chance to cast a vote and voice their opinion on what they see as the best course of action for future development in the area. Entitled the Walk the Block event, the Saturday afternoon trip was the first major public event of the Main Streets Project: Oro Valley’s plan to develop a town center.Having begun the work early last year, Bayer Vella, Oro Valley planning manager and planning and zoning administrator, said all of the staff working behind the scenes on Main Streets was excited to see just how much interest the project had garnered—and that they were blown away by the turnout.“We expected roughly 200 folks, and were pretty wide-eyed about that possibility,” Vella said. “But to get 350-plus folks there in attendance really buffaloed us, in a very strong way. We couldn’t be more pleased.”Whether elderly residents, young families or high school students, Bayer said the turnout coupled with the wide demographic of attendees meant the project had grabbed the attention of those who would actually make use of a gathering place within the town. Those walking the block did more than converse with staff, however. Votes were cast on a variety of different aspects of potential development, including preferred means of transportation, crosswalk and sidewalk designs, public art, architecture and more.“From a big picture perspective, for people to be actively engaged in the idea and be able to go out on the street, talk about it and see things for themselves was a big plus for us,” said Oro Valley Long Range Principal Planner Elisa Hamblin, who was also involved in the recently completed and adopted Your Voice, Our Future General Plan. “I think that it’s something to see an idea on paper, but it’s something else entirely when you can see a physical representation.”

Local News

  • Tortolita students get a hands-on look at history

    History came alive for students at Tortolita Middle School when the school hosted its annual World War II day, with students interacting with experts on the subject, including a World War II army veteran.Six authentic military vehicles and several other displays were set up outside the school; while World War II Army veteran Art Ehramjian spoke to individual classrooms. Ehramjian discussed his experiences in the war, much of which was spent guarding shipments of supplies for the Russian Army through a base in the Middle East. Ehramjian’s regiment shipped five million tons of food and supplies to the Red Army.The displays outside allowed students to get up close and personal with vintage vehicles, including several jeeps and larger transport vehicles, as well as artifacts and other displays like camps and equipment. They also interacted with a variety of experts from historians to collectors of World War II equipment and uniforms. “I think this is great,” said Jay VanOrden of the Arizona Historical Society. “The students are very enthusiastic and engaged.”VanOrden had his 1941 Ford JEEP on display and was able to explain what it was used for and how the military vehicle differs from the Jeep brand vehicles on the road today. 

  • Manager Message- Marana to Create Animal Services Division

    On March 14, the Marana Town Council voted to begin the process of providing animal care and enforcement. As part of this new program, we will contract with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to provide sheltering service, while the town itself will hire two new animal control officers who will respond to resident calls. By adopting this new framework, we hope to ensure the highest quality of support for all Marana residents. The Town has decided to pursue this strategy after nearly a year of staff research, including site visits to nearby jurisdictions, interviews with support agencies like the Humane Society, and budget analyses of projected costs.This approach will allow us to provide a direct customer response to residents who request animal services. By adopting this model, the town will be better able to achieve our community-wide vision of excellence. In the long term, Marana’s enforcement efforts will result in more animals returned quickly to their homes, and fewer stray animals in need of rescue.Our top priority is to be responsive to resident requests. By managing our own animal control officers, the town will be able to tailor animal care to the needs of our community. We will be able to respond promptly to all calls and meet the high expectations our residents have for their government.In addition to hiring two animal control officers and providing shelter services through the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, the town also plans to partner with local veterinarians to provide emergency care for animals picked up by town officers. Lisa Shafer, Marana’s director of community development and neighborhood services, will oversee the implementation and operation of this new program.One thing we want to emphasize is that from the public perspective, the list of services which residents currently enjoy will not change. They will still be able to adopt pets, drop off strays, license their dogs and so forth. The only difference is that now the Town will be able to enhance those offerings for everyone involved.

  • Oro Valley unanimously removes storage prohibition for single property within Steam Pump Village

    After a lengthy discussion, both across the dais and from within the community, the Oro Valley town council unanimously gave the green light for a storage facility at Steam Pump Village on Wednesday, March 15.The council removed a prohibition against indoor mini-storage facilities at Steam Pump Village, following the lead of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Conceptual Design Review Board, and approved an architectural concept and parking standards for the proposed facility.The current PAD for the site was adopted in 1996, at which time self storage facilities were not permitted. According to town documents, the commercial center has undergone multiple amendments and changes over the years, though the most relevant to the ordinance discussed by council was in 2011, when mini-storage was specifically prohibited. Other developments within Steam Pump Village include a QuickTrip gas station and convenience store, Pima Federal Credit Union, The Children’s Museum Oro Valley, a Holiday Inn Express and the BASIS school complex. The town’s general plan designates the property as “Community/Regional Commercial.”The proposed 107,000 square foot, three-story building would include 80,000 square feet for a storage facility, as well as 3,800 square feet on the bottom floor designated for separate mixed retail and office use. Because of the different types of spaces, town planning manager and planning and zoning administrator Bayer Vella called the proposed building a “unique project” if approved by council.“When the applicant came in and asked if, on this site which is tucked behind the [QuickTrip] and not the best location for the original intended use, to see if self storage would be possible, our first reaction as staff was, ‘no, it’s prohibited use,’” Vella said. “We focused on the words. The intent of the (plan) was to make sure and reflect the common perception of self storage as being not fitting of a high quality development; the rollup doors, the long linear expansive spaces, big rectangles, very basic barebones architecture. So we challenged ourselves and we challenged the applicant: are there design solutions to make this work?”After more than a year of work between town staff, developer 1784 Capital Holdings and RKAA Architects, Inc., Vella said that the site—owned by Diamond Ventures in partnership with Evergreen Devco Inc.—has found a suitable design. That design includes architectural elements which create an appearance of an office building, Vella said, including colors and materials similar to those already in use within Steam Pump Village, metal awnings, lighting standards, faux windows and modified building articulation.

Entertainment

  • A Beast: “Beauty” breaks box office records

    The best opening weekend for the month of March ever, Disney’s live-action movie “Beauty and the Beast” hauled in a record-breaking $170 million in the U.S. alone. The wholesome love story also flexed its animation muscle globally, taking in a record $350 million worldwide—making it the biggest PG-rated film opening in North American history and the seventh best grossing weekend of all-time.Using the most impressive animation features I’ve ever seen on film, “Beauty and the Beast” seamlessly blends its charismatic Disney characters amongst some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Academy Award-winner Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters”) directs a talent-rich cast that includes Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.Although easily predictable, the lone letdown in the film is the performance by leading lady Watson. The “Harry Potter” veteran is the movie’s weakest link--both in her acting and singing. Watson’s tentative and lackluster showing as Belle gets magnified opposite a stellar job from Dan Stevens as the cursed prince and Beast. Likewise, a superb supporting castle crew invokes charm and laughter amidst a handful of dangerous, uncertain moments.“Beauty and the Beast” sells its heartwarming romance tale through sheer compassion and straightforward storytelling. Nicely sidestepping too graphic altercation scenes, the movie promotes goodness from within its varied animated souls. Racing against time, Belle and Co. are challenged to save others … beginning with her father. This invigorating love story gets stronger in its pointed message and comedic delivery as the film gallops forward. It lavishly ties the Disney spirit with the eye-raising brilliance of a Broadway production. Even Watson’s underwhelming song and act routines can’t dull a likable Beast and magical cast. In the second strongest, non-summer opening weekend ever, “Beauty and the Beast” shines bright. Very bright. Take the entire family and enjoy!Grade: A

  • “Kong: Skull Island” satisfies low expectations

    This gorilla movie offers up  an excellent story  As we enter the annual post-Oscars drought season of movies that are often deemed unworthy of awards consideration come December, theater expectations must be lowered accordingly. Lest viewers feel cheated on memorable acting performances and classic narratives destined to become part of our pop culture, films hitting the big-screen through summer pose as mere appetizers to bigger, more jarring movie experiences later in 2017. No cinema screening could usher or epitomize these waning months more than “Kong: Skull Island,” an over-hyped throwback with A-list actors caught in an average movie.Erase the weak and convoluted first 24 minutes of “Kong: Skull Island” and we’re left with a satisfying beginning to the mediocre movie stretch of 2017. This gorilla story reboot takes us back to the introduction of King Kong, joining the original stop-motion great ape film from 1933 and its remakes in 1976 and 2005. “Kong: Skull Island” dramatically captures the discovery and dangers of a new island through its camera lens. It’s an eye-pleasing experience of special effects but gets watered down with a nuanced cast of forgettable characters and names. Seeing such a deep, rich talent pool, including Academy Award-winner Brie Larson (“Room”), get hamstrung by a bland script lacking any emotional tie with the audience is unfortunate.Aside from the film’s spectacular cinematography and CGI realism, this film smartly brings two dozen expendable roles to keep the beast fed. I always tip my hat to storytellers who can sacrifice their lead performers mid-movie to impart shock upon the audience. If that character isn’t safe, no one is. In “Kong” we care little for any of the human hunters, but do wonder who will be left standing in the end?The island faceoff between gorilla and man exposes more than just fiery personalities. Poor decisions resulting in even worse outcomes gets repeated enough times to almost incite laughter aloud. Alpha males demonstrate inept skills to their followers, each of whom elects to continue along the bad karma cycle of rinse and repeat. Thankfully, enough surprises emerge on the island to keep us guessing as to who will die next and how?

  • Remembering Pastiche’s Pat Connors

    When I first interviewed Pat Connors more than a decade ago, I learned about the pairing of fried avocados and Irish whiskey.For those of us who were privileged to know Pat along his short 48-year journey, this was a “Purely Pat Moment.” Take two things that work beautifully on their own, and combine them for a next-level experience.While reflecting on Pat’s passing last week, and quietly celebrating every moment I had with this giant on the Tucson hospitality scene, I realized that Pat made our community a better place, just because he was here.Two things that work beautifully on their own, combined for a next-level experience—start with a wonderful community and just add Pat.His commitment to community was visible in everything he did. There was rarely a local charity event that he wasn’t a part of. His loyalty to the spirit of local was immeasurable, as manifest by his tireless advocacy for the local and independent eateries of the Tucson Originals.Fundraising dinners for the Primavera Foundation, Bald Beauty Project, Dine Out for Safety and others were always important for him to host at Pastiche, his midtown restaurant, and his chef and bartenders were regular fixtures at virtually every local food-related event in town.

Sports

  • Oro Valley snowbirds running, biking and swimming laps around the competition

    When Tim Cronk and Heather Webber retired from their careers as air traffic controllers, the exercise enthusiasts said they began looking for different outlets for their athletic inclinations. First the longtime couple turned to cycling, then skiing and snowboarding, though they would soon enjoy the thrills of rock climbing, base jumping and even develop a taste for skydiving. Though jumping from airplanes and leaping off cliffs contained a fair bit of thrills, they soon found themselves pursuing fitness goals of a different nature: triathlons. What began as recreational swims in a lake near their East Coast home was the beginning of an impressive endurance career for both athletes. As Cronk, now 54, tells the story, he and Webber, 53, were one day asked by a neighbor if they had ever considered participating in a triathlon. A new thought for both, before long the idea was reality. Shortly after the idea of becoming endurance athletes was brought to their attention the couple crafted their own event, the Cronkathon. Instead of a traditional triathlon—running, cycling and swimming—the Cronkathon substituted running for kayaking.“Considering that we were coming from rock climbing and base jumping, it was kind of like an aging, progressive thing,” Cronk said. “I became more interested in the triathlon from a health perspective, but as with anything I do, I had to take it to a higher level and be competitive. Competitors both, Webber and Cronk would soon becoming world-class marathon and Ironman participants for their age group. Marathons are running events spanning just over 26 miles, while the more demanding Ironman consists of a nearly two-and-a-half-mile swim and an 113-mile bicycle ride on top of a marathon run. While both Webber and Cronk have found great success in endurance sports, the latter has competed on the world stage at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii three times since his first half-Ironman in 2009, and said he is looking forward to a fourth trip later this year.“What drew me to [Ironman] is what initially drew me to skydiving,” Cronk said. “I had viewed skydiving as impossible and could never imagine leaving a plane on my own free will. It seemed impossible, but then after you do it, it becomes the possible when you break it down. An Ironman triathlon seemed absolutely impossible at one point in time—but if you break it all down, it becomes possible.”Shattering the concept of the impossible is an impressive feat in its own right, but the couple has also been vegans for almost a decade.

  • Lehman wins Conquistadors Classic on PGA Tour

    A late charge propelled Tom Lehman (-20) to the win at the Tucson Conquistadores Classic. Leman used a third round 66 to edge Steve Stricker by a single stroke at the event held at the Omni National. An eagle on the par-5 No. 2 jumpstarted the round for Lehman. He birdied 5 and 6 and then closed out the day with birdies on 16 and 17.Srricker, who led after the first two days, bogeyed 16 and 18, giving Lehman his 10th win on the PGA Champions Tour. Bernhard Langer was third at -15, while Fred Couples, Billy Andrade and Gene Sauers tied for fourth at -14.This marks the third year for the event in Tucson after it replaced the Accenture Match Play, which was held on Marana’s Dove Mountain, first at the Gallery and then at the Ritz-Carlton. After the event left Southern Arizona, the PGA Champions Tour event filled the void. Despite competition from the NCAA Tournament, the crowds were strong. Popular players like Couples and Stricker, who recently joined the tour after turning 50, drew big groups following them from hole to hole.

  • Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus celebrates new partnership with Oro Valley, launches Northwest Voices ensemble

    Starting next Friday, Oro Valley and the rest of the northwest region will benefit from an infusion of choral music and cowboy-style rope performance thanks to a new partnership between the town and the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus. To celebrate the occasion a cadre of choral performers showed off at the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center, and director Julian Ackerley formally announced the new ensemble for boys in the northwest region.“This group of young men that we hope to recruit to participate in what we are going to be calling  the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus Northwest Voices will be a part of an established 77-year tradition,” he said.Intended for boys between the ages of six and 12-years-old, the group will begin sessions at the town hall site every Friday afternoon from 4 until 5:15 p.m. for six weeks. The final practice will take place at Catalina Foothills High School (CFHS) one day before the ensemble’s debut performance at the chorus’ Pops Concert at CFHS May 6.Speaking on the partnership between the town and the boys chorus, Ackerley said the warm welcome shown at last Friday’s celebration only further solidified the faith he had in the Oro Valley community as a gathering place for the arts.“I know that there is pride in this community, and national recognition, in its support of the arts,” he said. “Your vision, and your innovations to support arts and culture is well known. The Tucson Arizona Boys chorus is happy to be a part of that vision.”

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