Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Pima Pinal

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  • United Healthcare is jeopardizing its members’ access to local healthcare services of Northwest Healthcare

    Local residents with United Healthcare health insurance should be concerned. Your access to high-quality healthcare services at Northwest Healthcare is at risk.Why?Because over the course of several months United issued a notice of termination on our contract, demanded a 25 percent cut in its payments, and refuses to engage in good-faith negotiations with our health system. If United doesn’t place any urgency on our discussions to renew our contract, our existing agreement will expire on May 1, 2017. That means thousands of United members will no longer have in-network access to our facilities, urgent care locations or physicians.It’s not unusual for health insurance companies and healthcare providers to negotiate and renew contracts. However, what’s not part of normal business process is to terminate your contract in the middle of open enrollment and not alert members. This is a major disruption in patient care, especially the relationship patients have with their physicians. United issued a notice of termination to our contract in November of last year, and for the last five months, Northwest Healthcare has committed the time and resources to reaching an agreement. Despite our health system offering significant compromise, United has refused to negotiate in good-faith on anything less than a 25 percent cut in what they pay us for the care we provide to its members. United knows very well that we – nor most other healthcare providers – cannot possibly endure such a deep cut. The same would be true if your boss cut your pay by 25percent to do the same job. For us, this kind of demand threatens our ability to provide the same level of services and resources our patients have come to expect from Northwest Healthcare.  Northwest Healthcare is committed to Tucson, Oro Valley and the surrounding areas. Over the last year, we’ve recruited 18 new physicians in a variety of specialties including family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, podiatry and neurology. Two new QuickMed locations and the new Northwest Heart & Vascular practice opened, and we added new equipment for robotic and gastrointestinal surgery. In 2016, our hospitals provided more than $61 million in charity and uncompensated care to the area’s most in-need residents. Finally, our organization leaves a sizable footprint of more than $18 million in property and business taxes, which in turn fund civic resources and services.

  • “Gifted” adds up to a splendid movie experience

    We’ve been awed by brilliant movie minds before, each attempting to cope with the deep personal pain their special brain powers often creates. Russell Crowe shocked us in “A Beautiful Mind” as a Nobel Laureate in Economics. A young Stephen Hawking at Cambridge was superbly personified by Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything”. And nobody can forget Matt Damon’s 20-year-old character with the skyrocket IQ, sparring in verbal jujitsu opposite Robin Williams in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting.” But lacking from the annals of cinema history is the female child genius whose mind-blowing talents jolt theater audiences. Until now.“Gifted” introduces us to fast-thinking second-grader Mary Adler, a mathematics prodigy with a sharp mind and tongue. Being raised by a single guy named Frank (portrayed admirably by Marvel’s own Captain America Chris Evans), young Mary is quickly pulled in many directions by people espousing to know what’s best for her education and future.In this year’s best young performance to date, McKenna Grace as Mary completely sells this inspiring story. The actress’ authentic mathematical vibe and convincing childish wit carries this movie from beginning to end. Equally impressive is the subdued, down-to-Earth marine boat mechanic role of Frank—which Evans pulls off with ease. The common denominator tying the film’s other characters all together, Evans effortlessly interchanges between guardian, neighbor, son, lover, greasy nailed mechanic, and owner of a scene-stealing, one-eyed cat named Fred.Some might incorrectly characterize “Gifted” as a child-custody story, where Frank must defend his decisions regarding Mary’s education in court to ward off the girl’s opportunistic grandmother. But this plotline is much deeper than that when one looks for a common thread throughout. “Gifted” is really about Mary’s mother and her childhood upbringing as she earned comparisons to physicists Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.“Gifted” is an electrifying journey that ponders how a remarkable, one-in-a-billion young mind should be raised. Does each child deserve to be a kid? Or does one’s potential to change the world demand that she leapfrogs age-appropriate education, or participation in kids’ sports, Girl Scouts and other childhood experiences?Sensational casting and a script that keeps the dialogue believable easily overcomes shaky camera work at times during the film. Director Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) masterfully incorporates the slow reveal, concealing several scenes’ importance until the final shots surprise viewers. Get out and see one of 2017’s best acting performances from a girl who could wipe the chalkboard with Damon’s persona in “Good Will Hunting”. 

  • Busy Signing Day for students at three area schools

    The spring signing period for high school athletes to sign letters of intent to play sports in college began last week and on Wednesday, April 12, a number of Northwest athletes inked those documents to continue their athletic careers. Three area schools, Ironwood Ridge, CDO and Mountain View held ceremonies to honor those athletes. Ironwood Ridge held their ceremony early in the morning, setting the tone for the day. Three Nighthawk football players signed. Tommy Baden will play for Ohio Wesleyan in an NCAA Division III school in Delaware, Ohio. Baden had 48 tackles and two interceptions for the Nighthawks as a senior, and took one of the picks to the house. He also had seven catches for 80 yards and three scores last season. Niko Madlangbayan became one of the first players to commit to play football for the brand new NAIA program at Ottawa University in Surprise, Arizona. As a senior Madlangbayan had 35 tackles, one interception and a fumble recovery. Running back Soma Ikaika Helu will play for the California College of the Redwoods, a junior college in Eureka, California. Helu rushed for 904 yards and 13 scores in just eight games last season. Helu injured his knee during that eighth game and missed the final four games of the season. Over the course of his three-year varsity career, Helu rushed for 1,383 yards and 18 scores. Two volleyball players made their choices. Jaclyn Inclan will stay in town and play both indoor and beach volleyball for the University of Arizona. She is currently starring for the Nighthawks’ beach volleyball team, which has qualified for the postseaon in the state’s newest sport. 

  • Rest in Peace Samaniego

    I was on Facebook when I saw the announcement of the passing of Golder Ranch Fire Fighter Jose Samaniego. I instantly recognized his face but it took me a second to realize where I knew him. Maybe it was the shock of learning that a 33-year old father was gone, but after a moment I realized, he was one of “my guys.”I coached high school football at Cholla High School in the early 2000s, and Jose was one of my players. Of course, we did not call him Jose, he was simply “Samaniego” though by the time I got “Saman…” out of my mouth he had his helmet on and was by my side. While I was hardly a taskmaster, the guys knew I had little patience and that they better be ready to go when I called their name. Samaniego was one of those guys. He got it. He worked hard. I was in my mid-20’s and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. After getting laid off from a marketing job, I decided to go back to school and become a teacher and football coach. The first step in my journey was volunteering at Cholla in the midst of a losing streak. While I was 27, I looked younger and I remember one of the coaches playing a joke on me, and the team, and introduced me as the new fullback the first day of practice. I still laugh because, while most of the team figured out it was a rib in a few minutes, it took two players about a week to realize I was really a coach and not a player. What makes it funnier is that I was coaching freshman football. As one of the youngest coaches, I bonded with many of my players. I tried to be a sort of ‘big brother” to many. They became “my guys” or the “fellas.” Many did not have a strong male role model at home and I tried to fill that role. Before and after practice there were a lot of high fives and ball busting, but once that whistle blew we were all business. Things were not always smooth, we lost way more than we won, but my last freshman team advanced to the state semi-finals as seniors. I was no longer coaching then, but I was on the sideline reporting on the games. I don’t know if I made a huge impact on these kids, but they did on me. I still tell stories about my guys. I have run into a few since leaving coaching. One is the head coach at Rincon High School, two more worked at UPS when I was a seasonal driver there several years ago after the old magazine I worked at went under. One of my former players nearly accosted me at the mall. He was excited to tell me he was joining the Border Patrol and was moving to New Mexico the next month. Another installed my Direct TV and was part owner of a business. I know several joined the military and I know a few did not make it out of high school and got in trouble with the law. 

  • Four teachers honored with crystal apples and kind words

    Ironwood Ridge High School sophomore Connor Taylor says he has great respect for his teacher A.J. Lepore, the school’s director of choral activities, though he admitted he has a sarcastic way of showing it.“Some heroes use capes,” Taylor said. “This one uses shampoo specially made for bald men.”The joke caught Lepore off-guard, though upon first opportunity, he took a chance to return the compliment.“I feel like after those kind words I should say some nice things about Connor, but that would throw off our relationship dynamic,” he said. “I shall refrain.”The interaction drew a fair bit of laughter from the dozens in attendance at the Tucson North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2017 Crystal Apple Teacher Recognition Awards, and friendly educator-student relationships were just one of several factors behind the stake’s decision to recognize four area teachers for their service to the community. 

  • Amphi improving its district internet capabilities with dark fiber connection

    Editor's note: The original print edition of this article inaccurately stated that Amphi Public Schools maintains 24 sites.Educators, staff and students throughout Amphi Public Schools will soon access the internet at drastically increased speeds. The installation of more than 8,000 linear feet of three-quarter-inch-thick fiber optic cable along North La Cañada Drive leading to Canyon del Oro High School began this month by Conterra Limitless Communications, and will connect schools in the district’s northern region to Amphi’s dark fiber network. The system is slated for launch after summer break and will provide schools with a one gigabit connection, and opportunity for future improvements.Internet service via fiber optic cable will meet Amphi’s current internet needs, and better prepare for what the future holds, said chief financial officer Scott Little, The network will have multiple lines of optical fiber running to each school, though only one will be utilized at the onset, leaving the other line “dark.” As technology develops and schools needed faster connection speeds, the unused lines will be activated, or “lit.” “We’re creating a network that meets our needs now, but it will also grow with us,” he said. The jump to fiber optic is a bounding leap into the 21st Century for Amphi, though the district has spent the past decade preparing for the improvement. The road to fiber optic started in 2007, when district voters approved the issuance of a $180 million bond package. One of the first investments to come from the bond funding was an overhaul of wiring and infrastructure throughout the district to develop a what Little calls the “fiber backbone.” 

  • Service for retired Oro Valley Police Chief Wolff Thursday

    The funeral services for retired Oro Valley Police Chief Werner S. Wolff, who passed away April 15, have been scheduled for this Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 10:30 am.  Services will be held at Marana Mortuary and Cemetery located at 12146 W. Barnett Road, Marana, AZ.    Chief Wolff has a lasting positive effect on the Oro Valley Police Department.  He was hired as the Oro Valley Chief of Police January 1, 1983 and served for 17 years.  Many of the community policing strategies he implemented are still in practice today.  Chief Wolff created a family atmosphere resulting in an environment where officers and staff call Oro Valley their home.  It has been 17 years since his retirement and 25 percent of the police officers still on the force were hired by Chief Wolff, which includes 60 percent of today’s leadership within the organization.  Following his retirement, Oro Valley residents elected Chief Wolff to the town council where he continued to honorably serve the Oro Valley community.  After his time of public service, he remained an active community member residing in Oro Valley with his wife Jeanne.   The family is encouraging donations be sent to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona at 3003 S Country Club Rd, Tucson, AZ 85713 or The Oasis Sanctuary at PO Box 2166 Scottsdale, AZ 85252 in memory of Werner S. Wolff.  Cards and flowers can be sent to the Marana Mortuary and Cemetery. www.maranamortuarycemetery.com

  • Do Taxpayers Want to Continue Support Failing Golf Course?

    The town of Oro Valley has a very important decision to make.  Do the taxpayers of Oro Valley wish to continue to pay for a failing golf course and restaurant or do they wish to fund further development of Naranja Park?We cannot afford both budget items.A secondary property tax to fund the Naranja Park expansion is a bad idea.  Pima County property taxes are the highest in Arizona.  Oro Valley does not get a fair return on our taxes from the county.Do we want to increase Oro Valley property taxes after the town government has demonstrated such poor financial oversight regarding the Golf Course?We have to decide which project provides the most benefit for the citizens of the town. I recommend the Oro Valley taxpayer consider any tax increase with a very critical eye.

  • Marana Bluegrass Festival promises three days of musical fun

    The Marana Bluegrass Festival has always been a family friendly event, but this year’s fifth edition of the multi-day concert at Ora Mae Harn Park is really trying to introduce children to the art form. “We are encouraging families to come,” said Joe Wilke of the Desert Bluegrass Association. There are several changes to the festival to appeal just to children, including a hands-on instrument area dubbed the “petting zoo.” In addition to getting to listen to bluegrass musicians, children will be able to pick up, handle and play instruments. Phoenix’s Jam Pak will be on hand. The band is actually a program that helps introduce children, many from low income backgrounds, to bluegrass, gospel and other traditional old time music.The first night of the concert will be different this year than in years past. Friday night, April 28, will feature all local talent, specifically local singer/songwriters. With a goal of sharing new talent with as many people as possible, Friday night is free, which the organizers feel is their way of “giving back to the community of Marana, and also to introduce artists you might not normally see, but who play out and about Tucson.”Opening the weekend will be Marilyn Ryan and Bob Nible, then banjo player Rudy Cortese. Like Cortese, he plays banjo, as well as being a talented singer. Closing out that first night is veteran Tucson musician Peter McLaughlin. 

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

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

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

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

  • Wheeling in smiles, one bike at a time

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

  • Vintage WWII aircraft return to Marana

    Aviation history was on display in Marana over the weekend as a number of vintage World War II aircraft came to the Marana Regional Airport as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour.The Collings Foundation and the Southern Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors Club brought the four vintage, restored aircraft to Marana to honor WWII veterans as well as educate younger generations through living history. On display were a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell and North American P-51 Mustang. “Touring through and flying in these amazing WWII bombers and fighter aircraft is a memorable living-history experience,” said Hunter Chaney of the Collings Foundation. “Even more so when you have the chance to talk with a local WWII veteran in such a unique setting.”The Wings of Freedom Tour was designed as a flying tribute to the flight crews and ground crews who aided the Allied war effort, as well as the workers who built the planes; the soldiers, sailors and airmen they helped protect; and the citizens and families that share the freedom that they helped preserve.The Arizona Ground Crew made the trip down from Phoenix to put on their World War II ground crew display.The event fits perfectly in what the Southern Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors Club tries to accomplish. 

  • Reaching beer glory at Baja Beer Festival

    When the deadliest gunfight in Arizona history inspires the name of a beer that will compete for craft glory later this month, suffice it to say that the brewers are in it to win it.The beer is called Power’s Pale, one of the special-edition brews competing at the Baja Beer Festival on April 22 at Rillito Park that will showcase suds from 15 collaborative teams of Arizona brewers and firefighters. But who was Mr. Power? Was he an innocent bystander at that scene near the OK Corral in 1881? A friend of Earp or Holliday perhaps?While history books suggest that the famous Tombstone melee was the state’s deadliest, it was actually 37 years later at a cabin in the Galiuro Mountains when gold miner Jeff Power and his two sons exchanged fire with a sheriff’s posse that left four men dead. The Power’s Pale is the result of weeks of brainstorming between representatives of Tucson’s Copper Mine Brewing Company and the Three Points Fire District. They teamed up to produce a commemorative beer for this year’s pro-am and believe it has what it takes for the win.“I love mining history and the Power gunfight is such a fascinating underdog story,” said Will Barber, firefighter and paramedic for the Three Points Fire District who has been a homebrewer for three years. “We knew that the name of our collaborative beer had to be consistent with a mining theme and it just made sense.”

  • Best of the Northwest-Retail and Services

    Retail & ServicesBest Appliance/Hardware StoreAce Hardware10560 N. La Cañada Drive (multiple locations)624-4059

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