Tucson Local Media: Marana

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  • Cooking up Creole, Cajun traditions in Old Pueblo

    It’s more than just a few letters that distinguish the Cajuns from the Creoles in the Pelican State.While the terms are often used synonymously, the gulf between these two regional Louisiana styles of cooking is as wide as Lake Pontchartrain. So in preparation for Fat Tuesday, the one day of the year when that gulf is bridged, I caught up with two local chefs for a better understanding of these tasty traditions. Robert Iaccarino was born and raised in New Orleans and spent nearly 20 years in Europe as a self-described “journeyman chef.” He then worked in several New Orleans restaurants, including stints in the kitchen with legendary Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme, an Iaccarino family friend, before his passing.Iaccarino tells me that creole cuisine is drawn from European influences, from what he calls the “top of the aristocracy.”“These were the people that had the means, the education and the money to purchase a lot of fresh foods, produce, meats, sausages and the like,” said Iaccarino, executive chef at Sazerac Creole Kitchen and Cocktails, 4340 N. Campbell Avenue, “and that’s what our food is based on at Sazerac; 19th century style cuisine with modern appliances.”In addition to classic creole dishes such as crawfish etoufee and jambalaya, Iaccarino’s menu also features some original selections, like the bronzed salmon filet with meuniere, a sauce made from a veal demi-glace that Iaccarino defines as “rich, decadent and complex.”

  • Marana development on the rise in 2017 with new projects and new businesses

    Marana will be a busy place in 2017 from a development standpoint. There are a number of big projects in every section of the town. Some are town projects, while many others are being undertaken by the private sector, including a number of new businesses coming to the region. “There is an endless amount of development activity from one end of Marana to the others,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson. The town is involved in a number of different projects, including road improvements, construction and long term planning. “A lot of dirt will be turning just from town projects,” Davidson said. No project will have a bigger impact than the Ina Road/I-10 Interchange project that will move into a new phase this week. The on and off ramps are scheduled to close on Feb. 15 and that will cause a lot of traffic to be diverted and can be a scary time for local businesses. The town is working hard to help the businesses in the area and have adopted the phrase “Ina road is open for business” as their mantra during this time. 

  • Wide variety of free concerts at the mall

    The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance will continue a weekly series of performances at the Tucson Premium Outlets mall in February.On Saturday, Feb. 11, “nu-country” band Blue Monsoon takes the stage. This will be Blue Monsoon’s third performance of rock-influenced country back in Marana this year. Although the music is country, their influences are all over the musical map, with a mashup of traditional country artists such George Strait, Alan Jackson, Marty Robbins and Garth Brooks and hard rockers such as Ronnie James Dio, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden. The band also plays plenty of modern country hits with their own spin.On Feb. 18, Vinyl Tap take the stage on Feb. 18. The classic rock band bills themselves as a six-piece band that have “mastered five-part harmonies.” The band’s performance is a recreation of the golden years of the vinyl record, with covers of songs by Steppenwolf, Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones and Bad Company. On Feb. 25, jazz-rock and blues band Giant Blue, featuring vocal powerhouse Anna Warr on vocals and a monster horn section, will do its thing.The following month will start with a repeat performance from Heart & Soul on March 4. The Heart & Soul Duo of Gary Roberts and EJ Loveres perform a wide range of music, including current/top-40 music, funky soulful contemporary music, blues and rock. According to Heart & Soul’s bio, “they play songs that are timeless and that many of you know by Heart and Soul.”Loveres plays acoustic guitar and has a voice that has been compared to Bruno Mars and Michael Jackson. Gary Roberts plays either electric bass or electric guitar and lays down the rhythm, nailing the groove to the ground, and adds his own lead vocals and harmonies as well.

  • Miss Arizona uses difficult past to inspire

    Mountain View’s cheerleading squad got an interesting opportunity last week as Miss Arizona USA 2017 Tommy Lynn Calhoun attended their practice to talk to the team. While her message focused on being a good role model, the real heart of the message was much deeper.Calhoun does not shy away from the fact that she had a rough childhood and the core of her talk was about never giving up and believing in yourself. She admitted that she was abused as a child and suffered from low self esteem. She actually began competing in pageants because her brothers told her she couldn’t.She attempted to better her situation and left her mother’s home, bouncing around from place to place for some time. “Have you ever seen ‘The Blind Side’?” Calhoun asked the team, referring to the 2009 movie about the life of a homeless teen who eventually finds a home. “I was ‘Big’ Mike.”She was eventually adopted as a teen to a stable family who had no children of their own and made her the centerpiece of their family, but admits she had her share of trouble and issues when she was younger. She was a country kid living in near poverty and a bit of a tomboy, hardly the vision one has for a beauty pageant winner with the nice dresses and shiny tiara. “If you would have told my 15-year-old self I would be here talking to you I would not believe it,” Calhoun said. 

  • MUSD names Employees of the Year

    The Marana Unified School District named a trio of employees their 2017 MUSD Employees of the Year with surprise announcements at each winner’s work sites throughout the month of January. MUSD Superintendent Doug Wilson and district leadership team members awarded their Teacher of the Year, Support Staff of the Year and Administrator of the Year awards separately. The three will formally be recognized at the Marana School’s 2340 Foundation during the Marana Schools’ 2340 Foundation Celebration of Excellence luncheon in March as well as at a May MUSD Governing Board Meeting. Teacher of the YearBeth Gapp was the district’s Teacher of the Year. The Quail Run Elementary School speech and language pathologist has built a reputation as being an advocate for students and is committed to supporting “each individual in making continued academic and social progress.”The 24-year veteran of MUSD was recognized in 2016 by ArSHA as their Speech and Language Pathologist of the year due to her “ongoing commitment to educational excellence.”

  • Marana hosting its own portion of gem show

    Although the downtown Tucson portion of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show gets a lion’s share of the attention, a number of satellite shows around the area have grown in popularity. Marana will again host the Miners Co-Op Rock Show in the Mike Jacobs Sports Park Parking Lot, which was the location of the show in 2016. Laura Cortelyou, the tourism and marketing manager for the Town of Marana, said a number of shows have moved away from the downtown area and the town is happy to play a part in the event that brings so many people, and their money, to southern Arizona.“We expect Marana hotels to fill up for the Gem and Mineral Show,” Cortelyou said. “We’re very happy that Miners Co-Op Rock Show chooses to hold its exhibition in Marana, where it is easy to find along the I-10 and also close to restaurants and other places to visit in Marana.”Cortelyou said that traffic issues and the overall crowded nature downtown has led to people looking for other venues.The Marana show will feature over 40 vendors and look for sellers who possess “old timer knowledge.”

  • Ironwood Elementary 6th grader wins MUSD spelling bee

    Ironwood Elementary 6th grader Arianna Wood is the Marana Unified School District’s spelling bee champion. She won her title in the 14th round, emerging victorious from a spell off.After Wood’s opponent misspelled the word “geisha,” the door was open for Wood to claim her crown. After successfully spelling “geisha” she spelled “Argentine” correctly for the win. Wood leads the top four spellers to the Pima County Spelling Bee on Saturday. Feb. 18, at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind. She will be joined by runner-up Emily Duty, a 5th grader from Twin Peaks Elementary School, 3rd place finisher Christina Larsen of Marana Middle School and 4th place finisher Brady Mau, a 4th grader from Ironwood Elementary. Butterfield Elementary 5th grader Mackenzie Shay will serve as the district’s alternate. The final five emerged from a group of 5,500 students from the 12 elementary school and two middle schools. The process began two months ago as each individual classroom held spelling bees, with the top performers advancing to school-wide bees. The top 30 competed in the district spelling bee held at Marana High School on Jan. 25

  • Marana High and Police Department work together to investigate alleged threat

    Marana Police Department and the Marana Unified School District responded to a report of a possible threat against a Tucson-area school but found no signs of problems on campus or evidence of a credible threat made against the school. On Jan. 23 Marana High School Principal David Mandel sent a letter home to parents and guardians explaining the situation. A student reported that there was a post on the social media website Twitter, indicating there was going to be a school shooting at a Tucson school. Despite the vague nature of the report, school administrators took no chances and contacted MPD. Officers were dispatched to the school. MPD officers conducted a comprehensive investigation at the school and consulted with other agencies around the area and determined that there was no valid threat against Marana High School and could not even determine if a real threat was ever made on social media. Despite police officers on campus, Marana High School followed their regular school schedule. It became a chance to remind students of the power of social media. “I want to take this opportunity to encourage parents to remind students to never utilize social media platforms to share safety concerns; but to instead always bring concerns to the attention of an adult, local law enforcement, and/or school official,” Mandel wrote in the letter. 

  • Budget audit confirms town’s budget findings

    Although halfway through the 2016-17 fiscal year, the Marana Town Council recently heard a report that put a bow on the budget for the 2015-16 year. Town Finance Manager Erik Montague presented the final results from the independent auditor’s report of the town’s general fund and certain other funds.Montague had previously presented preliminary results and final results in the fall and the annual audit showed the same numbers that were previously presented. The audit covered the general fund, the Highway User Revenue Fund, the half-cent tax fund to pay for the new public safety facility, the transportation fund and the enterprise funds. Those results can be found on the town website and have been submitted to the Government Finance Officer’s Association of America for recognition. “That is the highest form of recognition that a municipality can achieve,” Montague said.The town finished the fiscal year with a little more than $39 million in general-fund revenues, which was 106 percent of the budget projection. According to Montague that was attributed to “slightly stronger sales tax revenues and some development-related revenues.”Although the town did tap into their reserve funds, the balance is $22.8 million, which is well above their 25 percent targeted balance. 

  • Late concessions lead to development’s approval

    The Marana Town Council voted to approve a controversial rezoning for a 674-home development plan after the homebuilder negotiated with neighboring homeowners to make additional concessions. The Tapestry developer met with residents as late as the day of the council meeting and submitted an additional 20 revisions to the plan on the afternoon of the Jan. 17 meeting. Among the concessions were buffers between developments, limits on heights of homes adjacent to other developments and the amount of open space in the development.Area residents came out to multiple council meetings to use the call to the public to voice their initial displeasure to the project, but after a number of meetings with neighboring developments and residents that led to a number of concessions, just one of the seven speakers objected to the new proposal, though a few said they still had reservations about the project.“It is better to know what is going to happen rather than what could happen,” said Randy Shepherd, a resident of the Bluffs, the community to the west of the Tapestry development.  He asked that council “cautiously” approve this item but asked them to consider a slightly larger buffer between the Bluffs and Tapestry. One issue is that some of the homes in the Bluffs come right up to the property line, with no buffer of their own. While Tapestry’s plan for 10 foot buffers and 20-30 foot setbacks, going any further would greatly reduced the number of units that could be built in that portion of the property.The development team met with area residents as well as local environmental groups as late as the afternoon of the January 17 meeting and submitted an additional 20 amendments and concessions to the plan, which seemed to go a long way towards the council approving the deal. 

  • Monsanto opponents address the MUSD Governing Board

    The controversy over the Monsanto greenhouse coming to the Marana area made its way to the Marana Unified School District Governing Board. Opponents of Monsanto utilized the call to the public portion of the Jan. 12 meeting to voice their displeasure over the project and the district’s potential role in it. In an effort to secure a Foreign Trade Zone designation, and the property tax break that goes with it, Monsanto offered MUSD’s 2340 Foundation $500,000 in lieu of lost tax revenue. In many ways the payment is a good faith gesture and has no bearing on whether or not the company builds the proposed seven-acre greenhouse in the area. Although Marana would provide a letter of no objection, they do not actually have to endorse the project. According to district spokesperson Tamara Crawley, a similar payment was made to the Joint Technical Educational District (JTED), while records show the Pima College refused a proposal from the corporation. Governing Board President Dan Post cautioned those in attendance that they have nothing to do with the approving or disapproving Monsanto, but allowed them to have their say. Many realized that Monsanto was coming to the area, but seemed unhappy that the district was accepting money from them. Janay Young asked that the money be put into escrow to help pay for any medical issues suffered by students or staff due to Marana High School’s proximity to the project. The school is about 1.5 miles away from the land purchased by Monsanto for the greenhouse. Others wanted some of the money to be used for education, teaching the virtues of “biological farming over chemical farming.”

  • Fact check: Monsanto’s planned greenhouse

    The topic of Monsanto building a greenhouse in Pima County near Marana has caused quite a stir. Both opponents and proponents of the project have been quite vocal, but there has also been a lot of misinformation about the project.Monsanto has already purchased 155 acres in the Avra Valley near Twin Peaks and Sanders roads for a proposed 7-acre greenhouse to develop new varieties of corn seed. According to Pima County Economic Development Deputy Director Patrick Cavanaugh as long as Monsanto follows federal and state regulations, they are free to build and operate the facility. There is nothing the Pima County Board of Supervisors can do to either approve or prevent Monsanto from coming. “Pima County is not deciding if the facility is built,” Cavanaugh said. “I think that is one of the biggest misconceptions out there. Pima County has absolutely no authority to prevent Monsanto from building or operating the facility on the property they purchased.”While Monsanto is trying to receive tax breaks for the facility, those tax breaks do not come from the county and the county is not offering any type of incentive package to Monsanto. The company is applying with the federal government for inclusion in the regional federally-approved Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). Under state and federal laws, inclusion in the Foreign Trade Zone would provide Monsanto with a reduced property tax assessment ratio, among other benefits. Per state law, agricultural property already receives a lowered assessment ratio of 15 percent. If FTZ designation is approved, per federal and state law, the property would be subject to a 5-percent assessment ratio.The county does not grant the FTZ designation and are not considering any other tax breaks or incentives. What the county is considering is a providing Monsanto a letter of support from the county to the FTZ board. 

  • Geasa-Marana Library to close at month’s end

    Be sure to check out your books at the Geasa-Marana Library before the end of the month.The library is closing Jan. 27, with the Marana Unified School District taking over the building for its information technology department.The building was originally designed to be used as a sheriff department substation and even after remodel and expansion, much of the space cannot be used for library purposes other than storage. According to a Pima County press release, a recent assessment conducted by Pima County Facilities Management concluded that it could cost up to $700,000 to make the upgrades needed to “address limitations of the current design and layout.” The current market value of the property is only $470,800.Without major renovations, the building is better equipped for use by MUSD. The school district intends to use the building for office space to support a commitment to offer computer-based and technological programs for the 17 schools in the district.“While we’re sad to be closing the doors of the Geasa-Marana Library, we’re glad to know that it will be used by the school district to support the use of technology to maximize student learning and achievement,” said Amber Mathewson, interim library director.

  • Oro Valley hosts first public Monsanto meeting

    The first of five community meetings scheduled by Pima County to provide information and receive comments on the proposed Monsanto greenhouse facility near Marana was held last week at the Oro Valley Library.All 80 seats were filled and an additional 20 to 30 people stood around the library conference room. Most in attendance were against the project, and many brandished signs throughout the meeting.Some observers were frustrated with the format of the meetings and several who spoke said they were under the impression they would be speaking directly to one or more members of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, but instead were told their comments were being recorded and would be given to the supervisors. District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller was on hand for the beginning of the meeting, but did not stay for the entire session.The first part of the meeting was an opportunity for Pima County Economic Development Deputy Director Patrick Cavanaugh, who presided over the entire meeting, to brief the public on Pima County’s role in a pair of pending agreements with Monsanto, what those deals include and to dispel any rumors about the agreement. The public were able to ask questions specific to the county’s role. The second portion of the meeting was a chance for Monsanto to make a presentation, first a rough overview of the company and then more details on the exact nature of the greenhouse project. Like the session before, the public was allowed to ask questions, this time specifically about Monsanto.Monsanto Product Strategy Lead Amanda McClerren gave the presentation and stressed that the science behind Monsanto is “still strong.” She gave a number of specifics about the Pima County greenhouse project, including a short video focusing on a lot of the practices being used in the greenhouse.

  • MUSD Governing Board hears flag controversy

    The debate over the Confederate flag at Marana High School moved from the school and private land across the school, to a recent Marana Unified School District governing board meeting. People on both sides of the issue spoke during the call to the public at the meeting, representing both sides of the debate.Three people spoke in favor of the flag and were critical of the decision to ban the displaying and wearing of the flag for any purpose other than educational use in the classroom.Patricia and Benjamin Rumbo have students at the school directly affected by the decision and at the center of the controversy. Patricia Rumbo claimed students displaying the Confederate flag have been singled out and that students are allowed to display other flags, including the Mexican and Japanese Flags.“To our family, and many families in our district, the Confederate flag does not represent hate, but pride in our culture and heritage,” Patricia said. “Hate is making students feel ashamed, ashamed of their upbringing, family values. Hate is being threatened by students and teachers.”Benjamin Rumbo said that when he attended high school he wore and displayed the Confederate flag with no issues and said he and his family have no biases towards any race, religion or ethnicity.  

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