More than a year after its grand opening, the Comcast Center of Excellence at 4690 N. Oracle Road – former home to Grand Cinemas and American Home Furnishings – continues to make its economic footprint felt in the Tucson region and beyond.The decision to assume control of the lease for what was at the time a near-vacant multistory building didn’t come nonchalantly. It was a matter of finding the delicate balance that bridged quality customer service with employee morale, as the two so often go hand-in-hand. Nearby places to eat, convenience of transport and the ability to transform the workplace into a suitable and productive environment were just some of the baseline vitals to what Comcast envisioned as a productive and efficient operation.When all those ideals were weighed, Tucson was the choice.“It was really about location, location, location,” said Deneiva Knight, public relations and community investment manager. “We wanted to turn what was a vacant building into something positive, that would have a positive financial economic impact to Tucson.”But a third consideration also prompted Comcast to call the landmark building its new home. Nearby military bases like Davis-Monthan aligned with the company’s mission to hire 10,000 military personnel or military family members by the end of 2017. Of the 1,125 hired to run the new communications center, Comcast ensured 15 percent of those were either family members of or themselves veterans, reservists, or current military.The new center brings Comcast’s Tucson employee count to more than 1,200, with nearly $3 million in employee benefits to go along with, sparking life into what was only a moderately-used building for the past eight years following the 2008 closing of American Home Furnishings.
The Marana Chamber of Commerce celebrated another successful year with their annual membership appreciation luncheon. The luncheon, held at Heritage Highlands on Dove Mountain, cast a spotlight on the successful events of the past year and also gave a preview of what’s to come. The event used to be a business awards luncheon, but the chamber has transitioned it into the event it is today. Marana Chamber President/CEO Ed Stolmaker felt the event was better served by celebrating all the members as opposed to having winners and losers. “Today is about celebration for the Marana Chamber and the things we have accomplished over the last year,” Stolmaker said. After a catered lunch, Stolmaker took the stage to review a year that included a number of events, including the Big Green Event, the golf tournament, quarterly luncheons, monthly regional breakfast updates and plenty of grand openings and ribbon cuttings. They also previewed this year’s golf tournament and the Big Green Event in November. Attention was then turned to the past and the 123 members who have been a part of the chamber for over a decade, including eight that have been with the chamber since their first year.
The Marana Town Council had a relatively short agenda for their Aug. 16 meeting, but due to a large number of questions from council members, the meeting lasted over an hour. The bulk of the meeting was spent on the public hearing and subsequent questions over the possibility of the Gladden Farms Community Facilities District, of which the town council serves as board of directors, of the sale and issuance of general obligation and general obligation refunding bonds.In layman’s terms, the district would be refinancing funding, much the same way that a homeowner would refinance their mortgage. In this case the facilities district would take advantage of the current favorable market rate environment to save money for both the developer and the homeowners in the district. “Based on the current market environment, it is anticipated that some significant savings could be achieved,” said Marana Town Finance Manager Erik Montague. Marana does not have a town-wide property tax, but they do have community facilities districts which help with the cost of infrastructure in specific communities. In most cases the developer fronts the money to pay for infrastructure and other amenities and they are paid back through the sale of general obligation bonds. Residents of the community are then charged a small tax to make good on those bonds. In this case many of the bonds issued by the Gladden Farms District are paying out a rate of over 5 percent, which is high in the current market. The hope was that they would be able to call back the bonds with the higher rate, then
Coming to an end on June 30, the Town of Oro Valley finished the 2015/16 fiscal year with just over $10.5 million in its general fund, an increase of about $402,000.Though the overall picture may look positive, the town did experience greater than expected losses within the community and recreation center fund. Having undergone operational revisions halfway through the year, the town eventually planned operating the fund at a net loss of $1.4 million, in reality the net loss totaled just over $2.5 million. The shortfall was greater than expected, but the more just over $2 million in revenue generated by the dedicated half-cent sales tax helped to soften the blow. The fund began the year at just over $1 million with monies moved previously from the general fund contingency, and ended the year at $162,152 after the council voted to not pay the first $120,000 repayment of that initial cash reserve.Looking at the town’s general fund and the financials as a whole, Stacey Lemos, Oro Valley’s finance director, characterized the previous fiscal year as “strong,” giving credit to the diligent work done by the entire finance department for its work projecting such accurate figures. “When you take a look at our bottom line revenues, we are about $15,000 within a $32 million budget,” Lemos said. “I mean, we rock. …that is the diligence of projecting from month to month to month; looking at how our history has gone and looking at our trends. We’ve got ten years of sales tax revenue trends by-month so we use all of that data to make those projections.”The Town of Oro Valley has released its preliminary, unaudited end-of-year fiscal report, giving the council and community the opportunity to take a first look at how the town faired financially during the previous fiscal year. The entire auditing process won’t likely reach completion until sometime in near the end of the year, according to Lemos.
After two candidates’ forums within the Oro Valley town council primary election one thing can be stated for certain: There is a divide among the community and council strong enough at times to become a palpable force within a room. Having met earlier in the month before, residents and voters in Sun City, the six candidates heading into the Aug. 30 election once again took to the dais to voice their opinions and perspectives on the town’s current state of affairs and their visions for the future.All six candidates were present last Wednesday, Aug. 10 when the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted a second candidate forum at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort under the moderation of chamber president and CEO Dave Perry.Up for reelection are councilmembers Brendan Burns, Bill Garner and Mike Zinkin. Running as challengers are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon.As was the case in the first forum, a tone was set early on in the event. First to bat was incumbent candidate Brendan Burns, who instead of introducing himself during his introduction said that the friendly community that he loves is being lost due to the “hate-filled politics” of the three challengers through the use of “lies, character assassinations and divisive politics.” “They are trying to divide Oro Valley for their own personal gain and it is sickening,” Burns said. “They do this because they because they have nothing new to offer. …We have too many problems facing Oro Valley for the challengers to simply hide behind their special interest money and personal attacks. I believe that you deserve better, that we should have an election decided on the merits.”
Marana will be a busy place this fall. In addition to their two traditional signature events and regularly scheduled concerts and movies, the town will see two new events take place. The Marana Cotton Festival will be held on Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Marana Heritage River Park. The events are a celebration of the town’s agrarian roots and rodeo heritage. “We’re going even bigger than last year’s Cotton Festival, with more rodeo attractions and contests, and chances for the community to engage and have fun,” said the Town of Marana Communication Manager Vickie Hathaway. Those interested in signing up for events will see sign up forms soon on MaranaEvents.com.The Cotton Festival featured a number of family attractions including food vendors, bands, a petting zoo, rodeo events and, of course, cotton. Not only was the festival adjacent to a cotton field, but a massive pile of already picked cotton was on hand for children to get a tactile experience, which generally led to them playing in the piles.“It’s about people learning about farming,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson prior to last year’s event. “We will certainly showcase cotton and how the machinery is used to collect it. Not a lot of people probably know where all of our clothes are made from. How they come from the raw material.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA). The organization has been responsible for a number of transportation projects around Pima County, with many directly or indirectly benefitting the Northwest part of town. Although the Northwest has benefitted, so has most of the area, which was the design of the project. “Providing something for everyone was essential to the success of this plan,” said Marana Mayor and RTA Board Chair Ed Honea in a promotional video. “The RTA promised to deliver and to this date we have completed over 750 projects with many more to come.”No community has benefitted more than Marana. The RTA was vital in getting the Twin Peaks Interchange built, it was their first major project, and it has sparked a lot of development in the area. Without the interchange there is no way that the Tucson Premium Outlets would have chosen Marana and the likelihood is that a competing mall project would have been built outside of town limits in Pima County. The mall has been a boon to Marnaa, not only bring jobs and better shopping options but a sales tax spike occurred after opening and that trend continues. Additionally, the mall will spark development in the area. There are already plans for a hotel, additional stores and housing. Long term plans include at least one car dealership, a second hotel and a box store, most likely a hardware store like a Home Depot or Lowes.
Throughout the Oro Valley area, backpacks are being loaded, lunches are being made and homework is being done, which could only mean that the new school year has finally greeted students of all ages who spent the summer hiding away from their studies and enjoying the time off. For Amphitheater School District students, that day was last Thursday, Aug. 11.Returning to school after months of fun is often seen by many young students as a moment of ever-building anticipation building to a veritable crescendo the moment they step foot within the familiar hallways with hundreds of their educational compatriots at their side.While some of the students, and even some teachers, may view the first day back with more than a bit of nervousness, Painted Sky Elementary School Principal Wendy Biallas-Odell said she was overwhelmed with excitement at the opportunity to see the more than 500 Thunderbirds and their families return this year. “It really is a pleasure to be able to come that very first day and know people and know kids. Last year I spent a lot of time getting to know people and all of the kids and families, now I know them and I know them well so it’s nice to have them back and see those faces and see how kids have grown over the summer.”Having moved to Painted Sky
Though he may have not been on the dais during the second candidate forum, or even in the room, one member of the Oro Valley community had both his name and political action committee brought forth multiple times.Initially formed last year in opposition to the referendum effort involving the acquisition of the community and recreation center, Don Cox and his Triple E PAC have become entangled within the town’s current political struggle.Cox and his PAC were first brought up during councilmember Brendan Burns’ opening statement at the Aug. 10 candidate forum hosted by the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort. During his speech, Burns challenged candidates Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon to disavow Cox and the Triple E for “his hateful actions” for the rest of the campaign cycle.What Burns referenced is a four page, full color mailer sent by the PAC to town residents containing information on all six candidates in the election: incumbents Burns, Mike Zinkin and Bill Garner and challengers Pina, Solomon and Rodman.Clearly supportive of the challenging candidates, the mailer contains negative information on Zinkin, Garner and Burns, including negative statements allegedly made by Zinkin’s son, excerpts from a 2014 Explorer article regarding Burns’ legal troubles and a 2014 article from The Arizona Daily Star regarding comments Garner made about the Oro Valley Police Department.Cox, who said the flyer was made by just copying and pasting information from the internet and requested documents, said he was just looking to educate the voting public in Oro Valley. Instead of the “two or 3,000” people in the town that Cox said pay close attention to local politics, he said the mailer was aimed at those “less informed about what’s going on.”
On the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 9, Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson was rescued by the Tucson Fire Department after her county vehicle was swept into a flooded wash.At approximately 9:30 a.m., Bronson was traveling east on West Fort Lowell Road and turned south on North Balboa Avenue to avoid flooding that resulted from the remnants of Tropical Storm Javier. At that point her vehicle was swept by flood waters into the Cemetery Wash, ultimately coming to rest against the culvert beneath North Oracle Road.Bronson called 911 and the Tucson Fire and Police Departments arrived on scene and conducted a swift-water rescue as her vehicle was filling with water.“I want to express my appreciation to the Tucson Fire and Police Departments for their professionalism and heroism,” Bronson said. “This was an extraordinary storm and illustrates that when even driving on roads that are not barricaded, there is a potential risk.”According to Captain Barrett Baker with the Tucson Fire Department, an incident like that is just about “as scary as it gets.” “This occupant had to be pulled out of the car through the rear window after firefighters broke it out,” Baker said. “A simple mistake in misjudging the force of flowing water almost led to a horrific event. The car was swept down the wash about an eighth of a mile before being pinned against the bridge.”
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain is one of the many Ritz Carlton Hotel Company properties to offer electric car charging stations. In a press release the resort said this was part of their dedication “to superior service and fostering a sustainable future.” The idea was that electric car owners would now be able to experience all that The Ritz-Carlton has to offer, with extraordinary destinations and exceptional service.The idea behind the Ritz-Carlton network of charging stations was to make long distance travel convenient and easy. The installation of two charging stations at each property gives travelers the ability to charge up for the next 150 miles of driving in two and a half hours.“Our organization is committed to seek ways to inspire people to live differently,” said Ritz-Carlton Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Ed French in a release. “To adopt a lifestyle in which we can travel responsibly, comfortably and create memories that will last a lifetime. Commitment to the community and environment was part of our original 1983 mission statement. Globally, we focus our efforts in three areas, of which one is environmental responsibility. Our approach is to merge our global strategy with local perspective – allowing us to integrate sustainable initiatives across the broad range of geographic locations in both remote and urban communities where our company has operations.”This is the second way in which the resort has catered to those looking for eco friendly travel. In June guests were able to test drive Teslas, as well as meet Tesla experts. Electric charging station locations at Ritz-Carlton hotels include: Amelia Island, Bachelor Gulch, Bal Harbour, Boston, Charlotte, Cleveland, Coconut Grove, Dallas, Denver, Dove Mountain, Fort Lauderdale, Half Moon Bay, Lake Tahoe, Marina Del Rey, Montreal, Naples, Rancho Mirage, Reynolds Lake Oconee, San Francisco, Sarasota, South Beach, St. Louis, Toronto, Tyson’s Corner, Pentagon City in Washington, DC and Westchester across the United States in addition to, Hotel Arts, Barcelona, Beijing Financial Street, Chengdu, Hong Kong and Shenzhen in China with additional international locations to follow in the coming months.
The Town of Marana and the Marana Unified School District have been working together to find new and different ways to work together. One of the newer programs was the Marana 2.0 internship program that debuted last year. By all accounts the program was a success, but like any new programs, it had its share of growing pains and things both the town and the district hope to improve in year two. The program allowed students from Marana High School to get a hands on internship opportunity within the various departments within the town government. The goal for the program is to give students some insight into local government, to show them how it works, what services it provides to residents. “So much of what Marana does as a town impacts our students, and our interns have said they had no idea what the town does,” said Marana High School teacher and program advisor Alex Ruff. “This opportunity gives students a real understanding of how the police department, parks and recreation, special events, or the town manager’s office really impact their daily lives and improve our community.”The program evolved from the Marana Strategic Plan, specifically an initiative for citizen engagement, similar to the town’s citizens forum. Town staff had seen similar programs being done at the elementary level, but the idea was to create an immersive internship experience for the students. “The other main objective is to provide students with an internship opportunity which will provide them with some real world skills once they leave high school,” Ruff said. “Students work alongside mentors at the town and learn to network, improve their professionalism, and their public speaking.”At the conclusion of the program all of the students involved had to create a PowerPoint presentation on their experiences and present it at a special session of the Marana Town Council.
After suffering from a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery in 1994 and two months later another heart attack, I had problems with my memory, concentration and a dire feeling of hopelessness. At 58-years-old, I had to retire from my job. I visited countless doctors for advice. Some suggested pills. One heart surgeon recommended to relax and enjoy a juicy steak. Another famous doctor told me to come to his house for a month and go on a liquid diet. Another one said to eat lots of walnuts. I needed help. With all their professional advice I was going nuts.After searching for a year, I was blessed to discover the Heart Disease Reversal program. The program offered all the information I needed to change my lifestyle and save my heart. My name is Richard (Richy) Feinberg). Since I joined the program 22 years ago I have continued to been an enthusiastic supporter for the program. The program was created by Edna Silva R.N. and Charles Katzenberg M.D, a cardiologist and medical professor at Banner University Medical Center. The 12-week program had many challenges. One was to give up dairy, meat, fish and any animal that had a face. Over a period of time the participants were encouraged to eat heart-healthy food, which is key in reversing coronary artery disease. As the saying goes, “A long journey starts with the first step.” After accomplishing that goal I realized that if I put my mind to it, I was capable of taking on many other challenges in my life. The program taught me Tai Chi, yoga and how relaxation and meditation would refresh my body, mind and spirit and help me see the world in a more positive light. The three cardinal rules in the program are not to criticize, be judgmental and not to give advice that’s not asked for. (I still have a way to go in that area.) I learned to have an attitude of gratitude and that negative situations can be seen as positive ones, if one has the desire and capacity to see the possibilities. When I left Long Island I thought the heart attacks and the surgery was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. Years later I realized having the heart attacks and surgery was one of the best things that ever happened to me, because living in Arizona my wife and I are enjoying a happier, healthier lifestyle in one of the most beautiful places to live in America. Change doesn’t have to be frightening. When you accept change it can be challenging and fun. Take the first step by starting on a plant based diet. You may not be able to do it immediately, but as I said before, “A long journey starts with the first step.”
The Valley View Early Learning Center and its staff were prepared for the more than 200 pre-k students which came returning to the halls of the recently expanded school last week. Having undergone an expansive expansion process, the school now has a greatly expanded outdoor space, classrooms and more.As the communities youngest learners returned to Valley View last Thursday to begin another year of adventurous learning and play-based education, those who hadn’t seen the school over the summer – or new students – were in for quite a surprise.Having nearly doubled in size since the previous school year, Valley View is looking at the end of a year-long expansion process: having added eight new classrooms, a greatly expanded outdoor play space, a new kitchen, an occupational therapy room, a lounge for teachers and more.Breaking ground last August and hosting construction crews throughout the year, the school remained opened and fully operating while Concord Construction took to work. While many schools may look at a massive overhaul as a distraction and possibly even a detriment to the education process, Valley View embraced the construction with open arms, integrating the happenings of the worksite into the classroom. “It was an adventure and it was noisy,” said McKenzie Thomas, who teaches at Valley View. “It definitely took some getting used to; it was a lot of bodies that were added so a lot of in-and-out movement. … In my classroom in particular we got really involved with the construction and we actually created a relationship with the construction team, the engineers and the architects…That’s what they were noticing and seeing outside and they brought it in and made in an everyday part of their life.”
More than 200 Oro Valley residents and other interested parties were in attendance last Tuesday when the Sun City Government Affairs Committee hosted the first candidate forum of the Oro Valley town council primary race. Attended by five of the six candidates vying for three spots at stake on the town’s ruling body, the forum was the first opportunity for many in the community to meet face-to-face with their potential council representatives. Up for grabs are the seats of councilmembers Mike Zinkin, Brendan Burns and Bill Garner—all running as incumbents. Zinkin and Burns are finishing up their first terms, having both been elected in 2012. Garner, the longest active member of the town council, will be looking to retain his seat for a third consecutive term. Garner was unable to attend the forum as a professional obligation had sent him to Texas.Running in opposition are residents Rhonda Pina, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon. Both Rodman and Solomon are familiar names from within towns various commissions and council. Rodman was on the planning and zoning commission and Solomon was an appointed councilmember appointed in 2010 to finish two years of a vacated term.The night’s event, moderated by Sun City Oro Valley Democratic Club President Maureen Salz, was broken down into three sections: introduction, answers and closing statements. Each candidate was given two minutes to make opening remarks, one minute to answer each of the 12 questions and one minute to make a closing statement to the crowd.With an election in full-swing, each of the candidates immediately took to laying out their various life stories—education history, experiences working in the public sector and a host of other self-promoting achievements. While most of the candidates kept their introductions about themselves both Burns and Zinkin also used the introduction to take aim and voice their concern. “We already have a mayor and certain council members who believe that the general plan is too citizen-oriented and that the plan is just a guide that you don’t need to abide by,” Zinkin said. “They don’t need to feel to support the ideals that you set forth. I am a strong supporter of following your general plan as a guide to the town’s future.