The Explorer: The Voice of Marana, Oro Valley and Northwest Tucson

Top Stories

  • Oro Valley to capture additional 500 acre-feet of CAP water

    The Town of Oro Valley will add 500 acre-feet of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water to its potable water system after the completion of a blending facility at Calle Buena Vista, near Hardy Road. 
  • Pima County to do away with precinct scanners

    Pima County will no longer make use of precinct scanners at polling locations after the Pima County Board of Supervisors rejected a measure to spend $1.8 million to replace them. The board’s decision came despite a recommendation by Pima County Election Integrity Commission (PCEIC) to keep the scanners in place since they allow for an electronic count at polling locations, serving as a way to double check ballots when they are tallied in the central count system. Bill Beard, District 1 PCEIC representative called the board’s decision frustrating, particularly since he says Pima County has a poor track record with handling elections in the past.“If the board is truly concerned about the matter, perhaps actually listening to the advisers they appointed to advise them on thing elections-related might be a good place to start,” he said, also noting that District 1’s Ally Miller was the only supervisor to vote in favor of the PCEIC’s recommendation to keep scanners in place.In a recent op-ed, Beard said the elimination of scanners eliminates a much-needed check in the election process, and could create unbalanced power.“Each and every step of the process is to be watched by those outside the system, keeping those inside the machinery from having sway over outcomes… by subdividing the counting into smaller parts it becomes easier to detect errors and potential fraud,” Beard wrote. “When you can compare the final numbers on Election Day with the central machine counts and the sum from all the smaller precinct sections, it makes it a lot harder to cheat.”

  • Legal questions surround Pima County plans to not hire smokers

    Pima County could soon implement a policy that would require current county employees and those seeking employment to submit to a nicotine test. Backed by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, the proposal – intended as a cost-saving measure that would create a nicotine-free workplace – is still in the initial phase of development and must first be reviewed by the County Merit Commission, the Health Benefits Wellness Advisory Committee, and the Board of Supervisors before approval.If put into action, the measure would mean higher health premiums for those who refuse to test or who test positive for nicotine.According to Huckelberry, the proposal would include a 30-percent surcharge for nicotine users in the first year, effective July 1, 2015. That would increase to 40 percent in 2015-16, and 50 percent for 2016-17.It is estimated that 32 percent of county employees currently use nicotine.For those applying to work in the county, a refusal to test or a positive test would mean the applicant would not be hired, and would have to wait a year to reapply.

  • Neighborhood Whole Foods store reopens on northwest side

    After a year and a half, northwest-siders will have their neighborhood Whole Foods back.The upscale grocer, which closed its location at 7133 N. Oracle Road in January 2013 for a complete rebuild, will reopen on Aug. 27. The new store is twice as large as its predecessor, covering about 31,000 square feet in the Casa Adobes Plaza and employing about 180 people, more than half of them full time.About a week and a half before the grand opening, the aisles were already stocked with dry goods and frozen foods as construction workers put finishing touches in the departments. Along with the standard grocery offerings, Whole Foods will have a juice bar, an olive bar, a non-GMO wine selection, a taqueria, a pizzeria, a charcuterie case and an attached corner pub, among other specialties. As Whole Foods likes to do in its stores, this location will also stock local and regional products, such as fresh herbs from a Willcox farm.Store team lead Scott Holmes said the goal is to make the store a neighborhood hub with its own character. With the fencing down, passersby are wandering into the not-quite-finished lobby already, he said.Richard Shenkarow, co-owner of the 1940s-era Casas Adobes Plaza, said the old space was antiquated and not designed for Whole Foods, having previously been a Wild Oats and a Reay’s Ranch Market. The ground-up rebuild, which keeps the architectural integrity of the distinctive, Spanish Colonial-style complex, is “fantastic” and completes the repositioning Shenkarow set out to do when he bought the plaza 18 years ago, he said.

  • Planning Commission has opening

    The Town is seeking a qualified resident for its Planning Commission.The Marana Planning Commission is a Council-appointed, seven-member advisory body that makes recommendations to the Town Council on matters related to zoning and land development, including the Marana General Plan (Marana’s  vision for development) and applications for approval of rezoning cases, subdivision plats, development plans, and conditional uses. Applicants must be Marana residents.The Planning Commission meets at the Marana Municipal Complex at 6:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of each month. Agendas are available at the Marana Development Services office on the Monday before the meeting.All applications will remain active for one year from the date of receipt. Applications are available at and can be submitted online. Call 382-1960 or 382-2655 for more information.

  • Arizona leads states for rate of deferred-deportation applications

    Arizona has the highest rate of deferred deportation applications in the nation, with two-thirds of the estimated 34,000 eligible immigrants in the state signing up, a new report says.The Migration Policy Institute report cited a “mixed picture” for the two-year-old federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, noting that while many have applied there are still hundreds of thousands who have not come forward.DACA, unveiled in summer 2012 by President Barack Obama, lets undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children stay for renewable two-year terms without fear of being deported, under certain conditions.The institute report said that 643,000 people had applied as of March 31, out of an estimated 1.2 million people who are eligible, an application rate of 52 percent.In Arizona, 23,000 people have applied, or about 66 percent of the total eligible. The next-highest state was Texas, with an application rate estimated at 64 percent.“Even though we have the highest rate … I don’t think it’s high enough,” said Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.

  • Grass-roots group pushes Congress on abandoned uranium mine cleanup

    The people behind Clean Up the Mines understand that others have been trying for years to clean up abandoned uranium mines and have mostly met with limited success.But they say that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep trying.The grass-roots advocacy group of environmental, Native American and other organizations launched in April with the goal of getting Congress to mandate cleanup of the more than 10,000 abandoned mines in the country, at least 500 of which are on the Navajo Nation.“This needs to be a federal standard,” said Klee Benally, a Navajo who is a member of Clean Up the Mines. “It needs to be the highest that we can possibly have to address these toxic abandoned uranium mines.”Key to that effort is a proposed piece of legislation, the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act, that would require a complete inventory of the thousands of abandoned mines in the U.S. It would be the first bill specifically addressing uranium mining, said Charmaine White Face, who drafted the proposal and is coordinator for Defenders of the Black Hills.She said Clean Up the Mines formed after several native communities in South Dakota shared concerns that abandoned mines had contaminated their water supply.

  • (Aug. 21) Today's Top Headlines - Bald Eagle now harder to protect

    MSN/ReutersThe bald eagle may no longer be at risk of extinction, but the U.S. effort to protect the national bird became harder on Wednesday.A federal appeals court revived a religion-based challenge to a U.S. regulation that allows only members of Indian tribes recognized by the government to possess the birds' feathers, so long as they first obtain permits.The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Department of the Interior did not show the regulation was the "least restrictive means" to advance the compelling government interest in protecting the bald eagle because of its status as a national symbol.Wednesday's decision reversed a lower court ruling, and revived claims by Texas-based groups and individuals, including the McAllen Grace Brethren Church, that the regulation violated their rights under the First Amendment's free exercise clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.For the full story, visit:

  • (Aug. 21) Today's Top Headlines - Ukraine's Poroshenko says he may dissolve parliament

    MSN News:Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday he might announce the dissolution of parliament as early as Sunday - a move that will set up a parliamentary election in Ukraine in late October."The decision will be made when there is a constitutional basis for it and that moment, as everyone knows, is on Independence Day (Aug. 24)," Poroshenko was quoted as saying by Interfax Ukraine news agency.The governing coalition in Ukraine, which ousted its Moscow-backed president in street protests in February precipitating major separatist rebellions in its eastern regions in which more 2,000 people have been killed, collapsed on July 24.For the full story, visit:

  • (Aug. 21) Today's Top Headlines - The top 10 stories of the day

    1. Obama vows justice for James FoleyPresident Obama on Wednesday called the beheading of freelance journalist James Foley by an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist "an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world" and vowed "to see that justice is done." The White House confirmed the authenticity of an online video clip showing the murder. The Pentagon said U.S. commandos had tried this summer to rescue Foley and other journalists kidnapped in Syria. [Los Angeles Times, ABC News]………………………………………………………………………………2. Holder arrives in Ferguson promising a fair investigation of Brown shootingAttorney General Eric Holder arrived Wednesday in Ferguson, Mo., and promised a fair investigation of the killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a white police officer. The shooting set off 12 days of racially charged protests, both peaceful and violent. A St. Louis County grand jury began hearing evidence in the case on Wednesday. Demonstrators outside the county justice building called for the appointment of a special prosecutor. [The Christian Science Monitor]………………………………………………………………………………

  • ‘The Giver’ takes a look at humanity in petri dish

    Certain movies and directors challenge viewers’ intellect, daring to take the path less traveled on the cinematic screen in order to make audiences actually have to think.  Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” (2010) about hijacking dreams and 2012’s survival challenges in “The Hunger Games” are two thought-provoking success stories.  We can now add “The Giver” to the list of films requiring moviegoers to think outside the box and ponder the role of individuals in society. Based upon Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel by the same name, “The Giver” depicts a utopian world without individual freedoms or personal choice.  A society of sameness, minus any differences amongst the populous, is required because we’re told “When people have freedom to choose, they choose wrong”.  Absent in the community are the memories of its past and roots of disorder; times marked by anger, death, happiness and love.  The community elders’ concerted effort to keep a lid on individualism and defiance results in only one person, The Giver (Jeff Bridges), having complete knowledge of history.  When the elders need guidance, it’s The Giver who must provide them with the wisdom, using the memories of the past to sidestep current problems.Meryl Streep effortlessly plays the shrewd, calculating Chief Elder—a portrayal the record-nominated (18 times) Academy Award winner (won 3) has mastered over her 37-year film career.  However, it’s Jeff Bridges’ performance that stands heads and shoulders above all others in this movie.  The Oscar winning best actor (2009’s “Crazy Heart”) steals every scene he’s in and single-handedly takes “The Giver” from an interesting look at humans in a petri dish to a hugely successful movie on humanity’s individual liberties.At only one hour, 40 minutes in duration, “The Giver” missed a golden opportunity to showcase competing emotions in the characters after it had gained momentum from the film’s flawless start.  The hasty end voided any chance to sharply delineate the colorless world from the colorful, or to glimpse reactions to newfound freedoms—the ultimate gift from The Giver.  Australian director Phillip Noyce, though, deserves credit for sparking discussions on humanity’s role in balancing basic freedoms and individuality with society’s need for conformity and rule following. “The Giver” is not only about the way things look in society, but the way things are. Both themes are very different and give audiences plenty of food for thought.  Jeff Bridges’ performance shines bright and carries the message and film throughout.  He guides and teaches a young apprentice (Brenton Thwaites) and moviegoers on how our past impacts our future.  “The Giver” makes the case that harmony comes with a very steep price—the loss of individual choice and emotion replaced by sameness and blandness.  It’s the delicate balance between the rule of law and individual freedoms that Noyce captures brilliantly in the film—and that’s the greatest gift from “The Giver”.    Grade: B+

  • Prime Time Review: Waves of “Blackfish” documentary start to hit SeaWorld

    The cinematic climate is changing in countless ways, but one in particular is affecting the world on a much broader scale. Viral marketing and distribution through avenues such as Netflix has fused with a public hunger for knowledge that is satiated through a surge in documentary filmmaking. The impact of this readily distributed knowledge and information is perhaps more powerful than ever. One company in particular has learned this lesson the hard way. After the release of the popular 2013 documentary “Blackfish”, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. has begun to feel the sting of public opinion.“Blackfish” criticizes SeaWorld’s methods and treatment of orca whales. The film highlights Tilikum, a captured whale who has been living and performing inside the SeaWorld Orlando amusement park since 1992. As explained in the documentary, Tilikum has been responsible for three deaths, a raging violence that is attributed to frustrations with captivity. The film goes on to explain that the quality of life for captivated whales such as Tilikum is damaged, and also suggests that their lifespan is shortened.    Though SeaWorld insisted that the film’s release would have little to no impact on their attendance, it appears that is no longer a valid argument. “Blackfish” drew an enormous following from Netflix, was viewed by 21 million people during a CNN airing, and earned millions in the domestic box office. The film’s crusade spread rapidly, leading to public protests, celebrity chastisement, and concert cancelations by musical acts such as Heart and Willie Nelson. Southwest Airlines ended a long time partnership with the theme park company. One California politician proposed the “Orca Welfare Safety Act” after viewing the film. The piece of legislation would ban the use of orcas in public performances at theme parks all together. Even Pixar executives joined in the fray, meeting with “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite to alter the ending to “Finding Dory”, the sequel to “Finding Nemo”. “Finding Dory” originally had an ending that placed some characters in a SeaWorld-like theme park, but given the new light shed on animal conditions, executives felt it would no longer be appropriate. The end result of the fallout has been an undeniable dip of profits in the second quarter. Shares in SeaWorld dropped to 43 cents per share, falling short of the originally projected 60 cents per share. On the whole, stock in the company is down and alarming 31 percent this year.It seems that SeaWorld is feeling the pressure of the ever-advancing reach of informative cinema. Viral distribution from online providers, television, and social media has primed the cinematic climate to spark changes that are not confined to the entertainment industry, but also reach into business an politics. Movies, it would seem, are becoming a tool that keeps our society in check, informs the public, and brings about positive change in a capacity that has not yet reached its limit. 

  • Cinema La Placita Outdoor Film Series

    Cinema La Placita is an summertime outdoor movie series that screens classic domestic and international movies in the La Placita Village courtyard in beautiful downtown Tucson on Thursday evenings, May 15-August 28. Pull up a chair or spread a blanket and settle down with some fresh popcorn and enjoy a classic movie under the stars.  The theme for August is "Comedy Teams" and features Hepburn/Tracy, Pryor/Wilder, Murray/Ramis and Marx/Marx/Marx/Marx.August 21 Stripes (1981) THIS FILM IS RATED R Starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and John Candy. Directed by Ivan Reitman. August 28 Duck Soup (1933) NR Starring Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx and Zeppo Marx. Directed by Leo McCarey.Check website or dial (520) 326-5282 for schedules and (sometimes) news about monsoon rainstorm delays. 

  • Mountain View seeks consistency in new season

    After a few years of instability, Mountain View football seems to be in a good place. After three coaches in three years, Bam McRae has come to the school and put his own stamp on the program. McRae now enters year three and the team is looking for their third straight playoff appearance. The team lost a number of players, but have built up the overall depth in the program. “I think ultimately in our step of going into year three of building our program we are getting better quality of athletes and kids who really want to play the game of football,” explained McRae. The program must replace 30 seniors, but has created great depth by building up the overall numbers in the program. Area players who might have looked at going to CDO or Ironwood Ridge, now seem more likely to stay in the area. “We are getting the commitment from the kids, the parents and the community that we need,” said Offensive Coordinator Robert Summerset. “Mountain View has always been a great program, so it hasn’t been hard to turn things around. The kids believe they feel we are on the right track, so it wont be long at all.”This will be a very young team. They lose 30 seniors off of last year’s team, most of whom stuck through the tough times during the transition from coach to coach. 

  • Strong inside presence to be Nighthawks’ key to success

    They have a solid program and the talent this year to be a playoff team. The question then comes down to whether the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks can get the job done and bring home a state title this year.The Nighthawks took home the state title in 2012 after handily defeating Centennial 27-3. The team felt the loss of seniors Tyler Williams and Anthony Braunreiter this last year as they finished the 2013 season with a 6-5 record. The Nighthawks ended up making it to the playoffs but got knocked out in the first round by Marcos De Niza (7-5).Having lost a handful of seniors last year, head coach Matt Johnson says one of the biggest challenges is seeing who will step up and replace them this year. Some of that leadership may be easily disposed to some of his top players – seniors Austin Goddard, Dominic Campas and Matthew Solverson.“Austin is a great leader, very physical and one I can trust on and off the field,” said Johnson. “Dominic’s selflessness will be a key success for our success this year and Matt does everything right and is just a great kid.”The strength and glue of the team is the depth of the interior line positions where Goddard and Solverson, both college recruits, will be playing. According to Johnson, this years players are very physical, which will help the Nighthawks handle other teams better in the interior. “The players are physical and the practices are more physical, because more guys are competing for playing time,” said Johnson. “This year we need to control the running game – that’s always key for the win.”

  • AIA looking into Mountain View allegations

    Whenever a high school sports program gets an influx of transfers it raises red flags. That appears to be the case with the Mountain View football program. The school is being investigated for a potential recruiting violation and the Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board will be briefed during their meeting on Monday.“The board will get a brief summary of progress to date in Executive Session,” said Chuck Schmidt, the AIA associate executive director. The briefing will be in the executive session due to privacy issues because student or students’ names “will be discussed.”The investigation has been ongoing for about a month and both Marana Unified School District and Tucson Unified School District have been contacted by AIA.“I have been very impressed with the cooperation between all involved,” Schmidt noted. AIA rules state that “No school administrator, athletic coach or employee of a high school district shall engage in recruitment either by direct contact with a student or indirectly through parents, legal guardians, common school employees, directors of summer athletic programs or other persons who are in a position to influence the student’s choice of a school.”Recruitment is defined by the AIA as “the act of influencing a student to enroll in a school or to transfer from one school to another in order that the student may participate in interscholastic athletics.”

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