The presence of political signs is a surefire indication that the political season is in full-swing. Dotting the sides of right-of-ways and private property are signs from political candidates, political action committees and private citizens expressing support or distaste for the candidates running for office.But with the signs come a variety of minor controversies swirling around disclosure, theft and improper placement of signs. Last year Oro Valley was rocked by allegations of sign vandalism during the contentious recall election. This year, question have emerged about the identity of the citizen who last week erected “pointer signs” next to the signs of the candidates who trying to unseat the incumbents.Aimed at the signs either owned by the independent political committee “Triple E” PAC or by the challenging candidates Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman or Steve Solomon, the various signs display the messages “Paid for by $pecial interests,” “BAD for OV” and more.Oro Valley resident Rick Hines said that he was one of several individuals who were making use of signs saved from previous elections.“They’re just old signs that happen to apply and we’re reusing so we don’t have to put our name on them, but they can see us putting them up and if anyone wants to ask…I’ll tell them, ‘Yup, I’m one of them, I help them put signs up,” Hines said. “I think any citizen has the right to exercise their free speech, and that’s all that is. There’s probably six of us eventually that will go out and oppose these new candidates for council, so that’s all they’re doing.” Political signs generally must contain information regarding who paid for the campaign effort under state disclosure laws.
An 18-year-old Tucson man who was charged with terrorism for allegedly plotting to attack buildings in Tucson and Phoenix apparently had plans to attack the Tucson Jewish Community Center, according to information which came to light last week during a bail-hearing held for the suspect.Mahin Khan was arrested July 1 after a joint investigation including the Federal Bureau of Investigation Joint Terrorism Task Force. Khan has pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, including inciting or inducing terrorism, financing or managing terrorism and manufacturing, possessing or selling a prohibited weapon. Since being booked into jail in Maricopa County, Khan has been assaulted in jail by other inmates. Khan’s lawyers say he suffered minor injuries and was evaluated at a hospital, and is in segregated housing at the Lower Buckeye Jail. Special Agent Benjamin Trentlage with the joint terrorism task force testified during last week’s hearings that that the JCC was a target in which Khan was interested. As previously reported, Khan also had plans to attack a Motor Vehicle Department office in Maricopa County, as well as an Air Force recruitment center in Tucson. Trentlage said Khan revealed his desire to attack the JCC during a 2015 discussion with an undercover FBI employee involved in the case. “He requested information about building explosives and said that he wanted to join ISIS and he would do whatever was needed,” Trentlage said.
Buckle in and slap on that helmet. Tucson now has its very own indoor, high-speed go-kart racetrack.The go-karts started roaring around downtown’s Autobahn Indoor Speedway at 300 S. Toole Ave. earlier this month after much anticipation from gear-heads and motoring enthusiasts throughout the region. The cavernous 63,000-square-foot space features two tracks, each one-eighth of a mile.Tucson’s Autobahn is the national company’s first steps in the Western United States. General manager Joel Lipp said the next-closest location is in Birmingham, Ala., making Tucson the ideal place to begin expanding.“We were looking for a location out west with a good college demographic,” Lipp said. “Our target demographic is the 18 to 40 working professionals. We have the UA, we have Raytheon, we have Davis-Monthan, so we have a lot of those pieces in Tucson that are a good fit in for us. … This was a good place for us to get a hold on the western market, and then branch out from there.”Opening earlier in July, Lipp said the response within the community has been extremely supportive and positive, with more than 600 racers showing up on Saturdays. Autobahn Indoor Speedway has 44 full-sized adult cars which are easy to operate and can achieve speeds up to 50 miles-per-hour with a limited-slip differential and four YELLOWTOP® Optima batteries under the hood. Add in the chain-driven drive train, and the track sounds more like an Indianapolis 500 race than go-karting.
The three challengers who hope to unseat the incumbents in this year’s Oro Valley Town Council races have each begun to work with political consulting firm Saguaro Strategies.Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon, who are facing council members Brendan Burns, Mike Zinkin and Bill Garner, have turned to the Phoenix-based firm.Saguaro Strategies is a Democratic-leaning political consulting firm looking to create a “future of progressive politics in the West.” Last year, it worked on behalf of the campaigns of Mayor Satish Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lou Waters and Councilmembers Mary Snider and Joe Hornat when they prevailed in a recall election. Adam Kinsey, who founded the company with his partner Andy Barr, said that the firm can handle every aspect of a political campaign, from designing direct mail to organizing entire campaigns. Though the firm is based in Phoenix, Kinsey said that Saguaro Strategies is concerned with bettering the political environment of the entire state, including Pima County. Kinsey himself is a former executive director of the Pima County Democratic Party and has worked for Strategic Issues Management Group, which does political consulting in Southern Arizona and elsewhere.Saguaro Strategies is also working on Dan Post’s campaign for Marana mayor this year.Having been involved in the Oro Valley political scene before, Kinsey said he believes the town has a bright future, though he said that from his perspective the town council doesn’t always seem to be “the most productive” of bodies.
On Dec. 17, 2014, the Oro Valley town council voted 4-3 in favor of purchasing the former El Conquistador Country Club and associated amenities to create the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center. Mayor Satish Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lou Water and Councilmembers Mary Snider and Joe Hornat voted in favor, while current incumbent Councilmembers Brendan Burns, Bill Garner and Mike Zinkin—who are all up for reelection—voted in opposition. For $1 million paid over three years, the town acquired the former El Conquistador Country Club and amenities and began operation May 1, 2015. To fund the operation, the council also approved—by the same voting spread—to institute a half-cent sales tax increase without sunset to dedicate to the community and recreation center fund, with projected yearly revenue of $2 million.The purchase of the course and country club led to political turmoil in Oro Valley, with opponents first trying to force referendum on the decision that was tossed out on technical grounds. That was followed by unsuccessful 2015 recall of the four members of council who voted in favor of the deal.Since the town took over the property, the golf courses operations—managed by Troon Golf—have regularly underperformed in terms of revenues generated, and Zinkin, Garner and Burns have remained vocal critics at every opportunity. Each has presented several of what they deem “alternative” proposals for the property—selling courses, rezoning for a possible future sale, installing solar panels, changing management companies—all without gaining traction. While the town can sell and alter some of the courses, part of the purchase contract requires that as part of the consideration for the sale, the town must maintain “the Resort Course and the La Canada Course in its current configuration… plus the pro shop, cart barn, driving range and other golf facilities utilized by the La Canada Course” and used for golf recreation or resort open space purposes.The associated golf courses include The Canada Course, the Conquistador course and the newer, rebranded nine-hole Pusch X-9.
While there is a trend for golf courses and other amenities to bear the name of the municipality in which it is built, the story of the Oro Valley Country Club and the town of Oro Valley is quite the opposite. A part of the community since first opening in 1959, the country club included a planned 200-home sites which would be one of the foundations on which the town was built.Nearly 60 year later, the Oro Valley Country Club, a vision of Lou Landon and the architectural hand of Robert Bruce Harris, is still providing high-end country club experience and golf play beneath the same breathtaking peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains which originally drew its founders. Originally an oasis within the great expanse of the Sonoran Desert, the country club new finds itself within the center of a bustling and every expanding Oro Valley.While the names and faces may have changed over the years, the business which Landon envisioned still remains. How did the country club make it through nearly six decades? According to membership director Jack Talmage, the longevity can be traced back to loyal members.“People wanted to be a member of a private club, and they have been willing to put money into the club to keep is sustained,” Talmage said. “I don’t look at it as being in the food and beverage or the golf business—we’re in the membership business. You want to join a club because there are people just like you that want to get to know others, make friends, interact with them and have it centered and focused on something that they love, and that’s golf.”From February 1961 until December 2014, the country club was under the ownership of its members before being sold to Dallas-based ClubCorp for nearly $3 million. According to Talmage, the decision to sell the country club came about after the financial crisis.
The six candidates for Oro Valley Town Council are bucking the trend of big money in political campaigns.As they gear up for the Aug. 30 primary, the most any of the candidates have raised is $3,060, according to reports filed at the end of June.The council seats up for grabs this year belong to the three incumbent candidates, councilmembers Brendan Burns, Bill Garner and Mike Zinkin. Hoping to claim a spot on the town’s ruling body are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. Generally speaking, the challengers were more active than their incumbent counterparts, as incumbents Burns, Garner and Zinkin have all openly stated their opposition to being beholden to what they call “special interests.” Both Burns and Garner filed statements saying they had done no fundraising activity.Pina has raised the most money, pulling in $3,060 in contributions. Major contributors to her campaign include CAID Industries President William Assenmacher ($1,000), Pina’s husband Raul ($600), former Pima County supervisor Dan Eckstrom ($300) and Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry ($200).Behind Pina is Rodman, whose major campaign contributions come in the form of funds he loaned himself, totaling $2,050 over three installments. Rodman’s total fundraising came in at $2,100.
In the coming weeks, countless students will be making a return to the halls of their elementary, middle or high school for the first time since leaving behind the books and the study sessions back in May. While the hustle and bustle of the back to school season is felt by everyone from students and families to teachers and staff, Elizabeth Thies and Eileen Finnerty-Rae at BASIS Oro Valley will be looking to make a good first impression on their students as the new heads of school for the 6-12 and K-5 schools, respectively. Taking over for former head of school Michelle Mason, who moved on within the BASIS family to develop programs at a more regional level, Thies and Finnerty-Rae both expressed an overwhelming sense of excitement at the opportunity to play leading roles in one of the most highly successful programs not only within the state, but the entire country. Most recently, BASIS Oro Valley was named “America’s Most Challenging High School” by The Washington Post, out of nearly 2,300 other institutions. BASIS Oro Valley also placed third in the state and sixth in the country according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report “Best High School” rankings.Though the two women have spent the summer getting settled and planning out their futures in Oro Valley, both are veterans of the BASIS program and proud parents of BASIS students of their own.Prior to taking over at the upper school, Thies was the dean of students, athletic director and a physical education teacher at BASIS Tucson North. She holds a BS in sociology and is currently beginning work on her masters in educational psychology from Northern Arizona University, Before her time as an educator, Thies was a member of the Tucson Police Department as a patrol officer on the city’s south side of town. She also served the country as a signal corps specialist in the United States Army. Despite serving in the world of criminal justice, Thies said she became interested in education after volunteering the classroom of her oldest daughter.
After first meeting in executive session, the Oro Valley town council unanimously decided during the June 6 regular session to hire California-based executive recruitment firm, CPS-HR Consulting, to find candidates for the new town manager after the departure of former town manager Greg Caton earlier this year. Caton filed his 90-day resignation on April 7 and worked until June 2. He is temporarily replaced by the now-interim town manager Daniel Sharp, who has been Oro Valley Police Department’s longtime police chief. Filling in for Sharp is interim police chief Larry Stevens.The process of finding a recruitment firm for the job initially began in May when council made a request for proposals for eight firms under contract with the City of Tucson and the City of Peoria with a proposal submission deadline of June 1. Of the eight, six firms responded with proposals: Mercer Group, Slavin Management Consultants, Ralph Andersen & Associates, Bob Murray & Associates, CPS Human Resources Consulting and the Novak Consulting Group.By unanimous decision, council decided to go with CPS, with a backup option with Ralph Andersen & Associates if a compromise is not found with the town’s first choice.Due to the timing of the adoption of the town budget by council, funding for the executive recruitment process was not included in the budget year that started July 1. To pay for the cost of a recruitment firm, the authorized the use of general fund contingency reserves with a cap of $30,000.Councilmember Mike Zinkin expressed dissatisfaction with paying for the cost out of general fund contingencies, saying that there is space within the town’s adopted budget to pay the cost.
According to a press release dated this morning from the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, 18-year-old terrorist suspect and Tucson resident Mahin Khan has been indicted on three separate charges: terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and conspiracy to commit misconduct involving weapons. Khan was arrested in here in Tucson on July 1 by agents from the FBI and agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force after a joint investigation by the Phoenix Field Office of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force with agents from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office Special Investigations Section.As previously reported, between mid-last year and continuing until earlier this month, Khan “solicited, incited or induced others to promote or further an act of terrorism to wit: at a Motor Vehicle Division office located in Maricopa County, Arizona,” according to his indictment paperwork. He is being held, without bond, in the Maricopa County Jail pending a trial outcome. The case is being prosecuted by assistant Arizona attorneys general Blaine Gadow and Scott Blake.Though the investigation into Khan’s action is ongoing, authorities have stated there is not believed to be a further threat from him or his activities.A heavily redacted two-and-a-half page court document with information on Kahn’s alleged correspondence efforts with several individuals believed by Khan to have ties to terror organizations was released yesterday. Within the document, it is stated that Kahn allegedly said Mission Bay, Calif. would be “a pretty good target right there. There’s(sic) a lot of people there.” Within the same conversation, Kahn also allegedly requested two assault rifles, a pistol and made mention of an Air Force recruitment center as a possible target here in Tucson.While speaking with an individual named as “Abid Manoor,” whom the former believed to be a member of the organization Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, and requested various weapons and plans to make an improvised explosive device. Kahn allegedly told Manoor that he was a supporter of ISIL (ISIS), the TTP and was planning to “take out marines and jews.”According to the Maricopa County Superior Court records, Kahn will have a status conference this Friday, July 8, and a preliminary hearing set for July 12.
It’s the old English teacher’s maxim: “Write what you know.”Oro Valley author Mark Rusin took the saying to heart when he wrote his book, “Justice for Dallas.”Based in 1985 and set in various locations throughout the western United States, “Justice for Dallas” primarily follows the investigative efforts of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent Marko Novak as he hunts down a gang of murderous bikers and their leader, Butch Crowley for the murder of a family—and the brutal slaying of 5-year-old Dallas.Set in a series of short, episodic chapters, Rusin (with the assistance of fellow author Priscilla Barton) tells a heartbreaking tale of violent crime and old-school sleuthing which sets and maintains a rapid pace throughout the book’s 200-plus pages. Whether digging through crime scene evidence or chasing outlaw bikers down the highway, “Justice for Dallas” delivers a wide variety of literary thrills and twists right up until the closing scene.As for Marko, the book’s primary protagonist, there are a lot of similarities within his character to those of Rusin himself.Born in and raised on the south side of Chicago, Rusin recalls a happy childhood. At age 14, much like Marko, he was lucky enough to become a batboy for the Chicago White Sox. As he grew older, Rusin enjoyed and excelled in a variety of sports, including hockey, baseball and soccer, and earned ten varsity letters while in high school—something he and his character also share.
Two members of Tucson’s local media scene have found themselves in a deeply troubling situation after taking their 4-month-old daughter to a local hospital, where cocaine was found the child’s system.On Sunday, May 15 around 11 a.m., Somchai P. Lisaius, former crime reporter for KOLD News 13, and his wife, former KGUN 9 reporter and local journalist Krystin R. Lisaius, took their child to the Oro Valley Hospital, after observing that the child was “wabbly,” “became limp,” was “unable to wake up” and that her “eyes were rolling” into the back of her head. Krystin Lisaius described the child as “ragdoll-like,” according to the police report from the Oro Valley Police Department.While at the Oro Valley Hospital, the Lisaiuses refused to allow hospital staff to perform a blood draw on their child. Sometime later, the parents left with the child against medical advice, but agreed to have her transferred to Banner University Medical Center for further evaluation. The child was transported to Diamond Children’s Hospital via a Golder Ranch Fire District ambulance around 1 p.m.While at Banner, the parents were once again uncooperative and did not allow a toxicology screen on the child.After previously denying the use of cocaine, Krystin Lisaius admitted to using the drug by “snorting it” through her nose with Somchai Lisaius and a friend named "Thomas" on Saturday, May 14 while at their family home after hosting a barbecue earlier in the day. She also told a UMC social worker she had been breastfeeding the child. She stated that she didn’t think the baby would be affected after 12 hours had passed. She also refused all lab tests on the child except a heel blood stick, body scans and physical exams.In the presence of representatives of the Office of Child Welfare Investigations and Department of Child Safety, Banner UMC staff conducted a urinalysis as well as a toxicology screen that showed the presence of cocaine in the child’s system. An OVPD officer performed a blood draw analysis on Krystin Lisaius after obtaining a search warrant.
Just having finished his fifth-grade-year at BASIS Oro Valley is Sai Konkimalla. While most fifth graders are concerned with the latest Call of Duty releases or the premier of a new action-packed movie, Konkimalla has continued to impress both members of the BASIS community as well as the Oro Valley town council.During the June 15 regular session, Mayor Satish Hiremath and Vice Mayor Lou Waters filled in for the out-of-town Councilmember Mary Snider to present Konkimalla with Oro Valley’s “Spotlight on Youth” award for his constant dedication to academic success.As previously reported by The Explorer, Konkimalla is a highly-qualified spelling-bee competitor, having traveled travelled to the state capital in March to compete in the 2016 Arizona Educational Foundation Arizona Spelling Bee against 26 other students between fourth and eighth grade. Before traveling to state, Konkimalla won similar competitions at his school and the BASIS district, and coming in second place in Pima County.Though he was unable to attain a title at the state level, he can say that he was the highest-ranked speller in his grade throughout Arizona and the ninth-best in the state.More than just a literary mind, Konkimalla also competed in the Southern Arizona Math Championship for students in fourth through sixth grade. While at the competition, he earned first place in his grade level, and the highest overall score of all grade levels. He then went on to represent BASIS at the state level test in May, where he was the winner for the entire state of Arizona.“If this young man isn’t already representing this community at the fifth grade level,” Hiremath said, “I can’t wait to see what he can do when he actually grows up.”
Six members of the Oro Valley community have decided to face the public as candidates in the upcoming primary election to fill the ending terms of three councilmembers; Mike Zinkin, Brendan Burns and Bill Garner, all of which have submitted their names into the election as incumbents. Running to gain a seat on the council are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. To give the Oro Valley community some idea as to whom each candidate is, The Explorer is starting its 2016 election coverage with one simple question: Why are you running for Oro Valley Town Council?Here are the candidate responses (order randomized and edited only for format/readability): Candidate Steve Solomon“I am running for Town Council to bring Civility, Professionalism, Collaboration and Positive Forward Momentum back to our community and Town Government. I am concerned, as both a citizen and former Council Member (2010-2012), that our current Town Council has become a very divisive environment, negatively affecting the Town and my fellow citizens of Oro Valley.
To the tune of a four-to-three vote, the Oro Valley town council approved the final budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins this July. Set at just over $125.6 million, the lengthy document details every aspect of town activity and is the culmination of an extensive, multi-month process through which every member of the town staff, council and various residents are consulted and needs considered.Previously presented to the town council as a tentative budget during the May 19 regular session, the document had undergone some more alterations before reaching a finalized state. The original amount, just over $117 million, had marked a small decrease from the previous year, though the finalized budget reflects an increase of just over $6 million.That increase is the product of several council-approved changes. During the May 19th Council meeting, the council allocated funding for new swings at Riverfront Park for $21,480, a new fund called the Energy Efficiency Project Fund was created to account for the renovations and solar project to take place at the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center with a budget of $3 million and another new fund, the Capital Project Bond Fund was created to provide budget capacity for possible bonds in the coming year with a budget of $5 million for multi-use fields at Naranja Park.Though the budget passed, the voting fell along lines quite familiar to the council. While Mayor Satish Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lou Waters and Councilmembers Mary Snider and Joe Hornat approved, Councilmembers Bill Garner, Brendan Burns and Mike Zinkin were opposed.Zinkin in particular took exception to the spending plan, saying that it was long past time that “government bites the bullet … so I don’t know that the town is working as efficiently as it can be working.”He said that the residents of the town “have bitten the bullet for the last four years,” citing increases in water rates, increases in their storm water rates, utility tax, sales tax, and government employee merit increases.