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

  • Mayor Honea delivers State of the Town address

    Marana continues to grow and stay strong, Mayor Ed Honea stressed during the annual State of the Town event on Friday.With more than 400 in attendance, Honea previewed developments coming to Marana, and touted the growth the town has enjoyed during the last year. The event was hosted at the Highland at Dove Mountain.Honea focused on the need for smart planning to be the community of excellence. In that strong planning, Honea stressed that continually updating the town’s strategic plan is the foundation to meeting needs.One of the pivotal aspects of community success is commerce. Honea said Marana continues to see strong economic progress during the last few years.In the coming year, Honea highlighted plans to build one of the largest retail centers in Southern Arizona, starting with a strip mall being constructed at Twin Peaks and Interstate 10. The project will come to be known as the Marana Center.The town is also working with Pinal County to do a master plan for the airpark.

  • Oro Valley Police switch to Victory motorcycles

    The Oro Valley Police Department is trading in its BMW motorcycles and switching brands to the Victory Commander, made by Tucson-based Victory Police Motorcycles.Lt. Chris Olson said the department expects to take delivery on eight Commanders, a 1,400-cc V-Twin engine motorcycle with a five-year extended warranty that drops repair and maintenance costs to near zero. Olson said seven motorcycles would be leased for a five-year period and the eighth would be purchased through a grant from the state’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS). Cost of the GOHS motorcycle was $31,849, while the annual payment for the seven leased Victories will be $45,453.18. Olson said the first annual payment for the GOHS bike and the $3,000-per-motorcycle warranties for all the bikes would not come out of the town’s general fund, but rather would be paid for through asset forfeiture funds. At the end of the lease period the department can purchase the motorcycles for $1 each, Olson noted. Delivery of the new Victories is expected by early March.Olson pointed out that the department’s BMW fleet had grown old, with the newest vehicle purchased in 2009.“We have nine BMWs assigned to the motor unit and the parts and service costs for this ageing fleet has increased significantly,” he said, adding that the department spent $11,100 on maintenance for the fleet during a four-month period last year. Parts and service costs since September 2009 have run approximately $28,700 annually, he noted. Out of service time for maintenance also had become an issue with the BMW fleet, Olson said, citing a clutch repair time of two days for the BMW, but only 45 minutes for the Victory Commander.

  • Davidson presents Marana budget for coming year

    During the April 15 council meeting, Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson and Finance Director Erik Montague gave a preliminary presentation on the recommended budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.The total revenue is projected to increase by 9 percent, or $2.8 million from the current fiscal year. The three main sources of revenue for Marana are through sales taxes, intergovernmental/state shared revenues and developmental revenues. Sales tax revenues are projected to increase by $1.5 million in the coming fiscal year, which officially begins July 1. Davidson said most of the sales tax revenues will come from residential construction projects. State shared revenue, which is the town’s second largest portion of revenue, is expected to also increase by about $500,000. As for developmental revenues, there is expected to be a 21-percent growth in residential and commercial development, with an estimated 600 permits issued for this next year. The Town of Marana expects to see a lot of residential and commercial growth in the next year. The projected total amount of revenue is $35.5 million.

  • BASIS north ranked 5th in top 10 ranked schools in U.S.

    A recent report from the U.S. News & World Report has released its annual ranking of the best high schools in the country and Arizona has three schools in the top ten, a feat accomplished by no other state.The report ranks these Arizona schools as follows:2nd – BASIS Scottsdale5th – BASIS North (Tucson)7th – University High School (Tucson)BASIS North in Tucson was also named third best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) school.

  • ICS seeks public assistance for food bank

    Summer is just around the corner, which means the need for food is about to become greater than at other times of the year. Children who eat free or reduced-price lunches at their schools are home during the summer months, and already-struggling families must find a way to feed them.Many look to the Interfaith Community Services (ICS) Food Bank to fill the void, and as always, ICS wants to be ready. That’s why this year for the first time, the nonprofit social services organization is participating in the Feinstein March/April $1 Million Challenge.The Rhode Island-based philanthropy is the brainchild of Alan Shawn Feinstein, who for the 17th consecutive year is divvying up $1 million among nonprofit hunger-fighting agencies nationwide.He has asked that agencies who wish to participate keep track of the donations they take in from advertising the challenge, including cash, checks, and food items – which are valued at $1 per pound. The million dollars that Feinstein has put aside for this year’s challenge will be divided proportionally among all participating agencies, with a minimum contribution of $250 and a maximum contribution of $35,000. That means the more food that comes in by the end of April, the higher the potential match from the Feinstein Foundation.Last year alone, the independently run ICS Food Bank distributed $1.6 million worth of food to 21,883 individuals in 6,682 households, and the numbers have continued to rise each month this year.

  • Hughes Federal Credit Union gives to local students

    Hughes Federal Credit Union, Southern Arizona’s premier locally-owned financial institution, on Saturday awarded four deserving high school members with $6,000 in scholarships as part of their  9th Annual Scholarship Program.“Hughes is a local institution and we are proud to be able to provide financial assistance to our local high school members,” said John Sansbury, chairman of the board. “This is our ninth year of awarding scholarships and we believe this program is helping our community’s youth prepare for their future.”The scholarships’ were awarded as follows:• First place – Brenden Bernal, Pusch Ridge High School, $2,500• Second place – Michael Volk, Ironwood Ridge High School, $2,000• Third place –  Mikayla Morrison, St. David High School, $1,000

  • (April 23) Today's Top Headlines - Man guilty of killing newlywed wife Escoto was married to 21-year-old Wendy Trapaga for only four days in October 2002 when he strangled and beat her, prosecutors said. Escoto initially tried to drug her during their Key West honeymoon and make her death look like an accidental drowning, but Trapaga complained her drink was too chalky.He tried to drown her again several days later in a Jacuzzi at Miami's Executive Airport Motel, but he couldn't get her to stay under water, prosecutors said. He finally beat her to death with a tire iron outside a warehouse later that night, prosecutors said."He took her life, boldly, brazenly, for money," prosecutor Gail Levine said during closing arguments.A Miami-Dade County jury found the 42-year-old guilty of first-degree murder and he faces a mandatory life sentence. His sentencing is scheduled for May 7.The lead witness against Escoto was his ex-girlfriend, Yolanda Cerrillo, The Miami Herald reported. With immunity from prosecution, Cerrillo told jurors she helped Escoto plan the murder, ground up the prescription painkillers to knock Trapaga out and even practiced with Escoto how to drown the young woman.

  • (April 23) Today's Top Headlines - Titanic subs may hunt for missing airline

    NBC News: The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet will likely soon deploy more powerful sonar equipment like the technology used to find the Titanic, an official said Wednesday.Australian Defense Minister David Johnston said authorities were consulting with Malaysia, China and the United States on the next phase of the search for the plane that went missing March 8, which is likely to be announced next week.Johnston said more powerful towed side-scan commercial sonar equipment would probably be deployed, similar to the remote-controlled subs that found RMS Titanic 12,500 feet under the Atlantic Ocean in 1985.Such equipment can delve deeper as the current search of the most likely crash site in the southern Indian Ocean has failed to yield any clues."The next phase, I think, is that we step up with potentially a more powerful, more capable side-scan sonar to do deeper water," Johnston told The Associated Press.

  • (April 23) Today's Top Headlines - The top 10 stories of the day

    1. Justices uphold Michigan's affirmative action ban in college admissionsThe Supreme Court, in a 6-2 ruling, upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment banning affirmative action policies in public university admissions. Michigan and other states, such as Florida and California, that have outlawed taking race into consideration in higher education have seen sharp drops in enrollment of black and Hispanic students, but the court's majority said voters, not courts, should decide what policies to use. [The New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………2. Obama sets out to reassure Pacific alliesPresident Obama arrived in Japan Wednesday for a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of a four-nation tour of Asia. Obama is trying to show allies that the U.S. is "rebalancing" in the Pacific, to reassure them in the face of security concerns raised by China's territorial battle with Japan over remote islands and by North Korea's nuclear program. Obama will also make stops in South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines. [Voice of America]………………………………………………………………………………

  • Great American Playhouse rocks Oro Valley with the ‘Quest of the Caveman’

    The Town of Oro Valley is home to much quiet beauty, powerful landscape, and a calm temperament. The last collective personality that Oro Valley could possibly draw attention for is as a rowdy and rambunctious enclave that knows how to sing and dance the night away. The Great American Playhouse (GAP), however, is trying to change that. The eight-month-old melodramatic theater prides itself on lively productions with audience interaction, a family friendly environment, and a loveable gang of whimsical stage performers. Now kicking off its third production, “Quest of the Caveman”, The GAP is beginning to show why it is the premier hotspot of fun in the growing Oro Valley community. “Quest of the Caveman” brings the audience back in time to an age when Man and Neanderthal shared the planet, the power of fire was absolute, and everyone ate 100 percent organic (yet still somehow only lived to be 30). The play begins with the theft of the Asher tribe’s fire at the hands of the Schmuck tribe. But things are not always as they seem. A larger plot begins to unfold, one that reveals an evil cave dweller, Ork (Michael Claridge), as a criminal mastermind who has hopes of burning Black Mountain, and gaining control of the entire tribe of Ashers. The play stars Jacinda Rose Swineheart as Nola - the tough and outspoken heroine, Nick Seivert as Rube - the tribe’s wise man, and Colleen Zandbergen as Bobo -  the primitive muscle of the Asher tribe. Amy DeHaven, Jodi Darling, Jesus Limon, Randy McDonald, and Sean MacArthur complete The GAP’s ultra-talented team of players that possess an endless supply of boisterous energy. Showing exponential growth and improvement in the last eight months, The GAP’s cast has truly become top notch. The play’s acting, singing, and dancing is infectious, pouring out into the aisles and over the crowd, beckoning both audience and staff participation. The liveliness of the spectacle that takes place within the walls of The GAP’s building can surely be heard from the parking lot, as hoops and hollers, sing-a-longs, and laughter ring happily throughout the theater. The atmosphere is perfect, exuding a sense of family, community, and a certain warmness that welcomes all ages.

  • ‘Bears’ - A spectacular view of the wild side

    Disneynature’s latest production takes moviegoers on a splendid Alaskan adventure tracking a grizzly bear single mother and her two newborn cubs.  The pair who brought us “African Cats” in 2011, Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, team up again to educate and mesmerize viewers.  “Bears” provides a fascinating inside look at survival along the Alaskan peninsula’s snow capped mountains and valleys. The spectacular up-close views and vivid film footage documents the lives of these three bears over the course of one-year, as they forage for food and attempt to avoid the dangers lurking along their journey to find salmon. Veteran actor and comedian John C. Reilly narrates the film, providing context and humor to the wildlife adventures being witnessed.  Reilly would not have been my first choice as storyteller, but his voice aptly ambles along at about the same, effective, pace as the bear cubs.  However, there’s no mistaking what this movie is about, nor who its stars are - the grizzlies.  Period.  Just as a protective sow’s only concern is her cub’s wellbeing, “Bears” the movie keeps the filmgoers’ focus clearly - and appropriately - on the grizzlies and their struggles to survive.  The only humans found in the movie are the camera operators and support staff who get a much-deserved moment of screen time near the film’s end; a fitting tribute to the team members who tempted fate and isolation to capture these remarkable, remote scenes for our viewing pleasure.This documentary’s biggest coup is the sheer magnitude of its stunning, majestic cinematography.  The ability of these filmmakers to gain access to and live among the grizzly bear population, is a testament to their courage and desire to give viewers the raw, real and unfiltered look at this enormous species.  The eye-popping camera work and accompanying music soundtrack even skillfully bridges the occasional slower moments of the story.Through the powerful lens of a camera, “Bears” is another example of Disney nature’s superb educational filmmaking.  This adventure of a grizzly bear mother, trying to raise her two cubs, offers a cinematography feat approaching the level of last year’s Oscar-winning “Gravity” masterpiece.  Between the dangers facing this trio of grizzlies in The Last Frontier and their desperate need for salmon to survive, is a riveting wildlife story.  Whatever lack of suspense and somewhat bland narration exists, is made up for by the film’s amazing camera shots and behind the scenes look into the grizzly lifestyle.  That, alone, is worth the price of admission to see “Bears”. Grade: B.

  • Lee Brice to headline Pima County Fair Saturday

    Not long after thousands of Tucsonans flocked to Florence for the country music festival known as Country Thunder, they’ll have a chance for another dose of country music when Lee Brice visits the Pima County Fairgrounds on April 26. Known as an “evocative, rough-edged singer” with a “range from rough and raspy to soft and sweet,” Brice was the recent recipient of the Academy of Country Music Awards’ Song of the Year for his chart-topping single, “I Drive Your Truck.”Brice was additionally nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year, Single Record of the Year, and Video of the Year.Also known for “A Woman Like You,” and “Hard to Love,” Brice recently released his latest single titled, “I Don’t Dance,” – one of a long list of hits that fans will no doubt get to hear when Brice takes the stage Saturday evening at 8 p.m.Brice’s arrival comes toward the latter end of the annual Pima County Fair, which runs from April 17-27, and has attracted Bret Michaels, Kid Ink, YG, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, and Tyler Farr.The Pima County Fair attracts about 250,000 visitors over its 11-day period, offering attractions, motorized events, carnival rides, concerts, entertainment, and animals. An assortment of food is also available on fair grounds.

  • Inaugural Oro Valley sprint triathlon event held

    For many years, triathletes in Tucson had one local race series, Tri Tucson, at which to hone their competition skills in all three disciplines.  Race Director Julie Stark, owner of On Your Left Fitness, recognized the demand for more quality triathlons in the Old Pueblo and on April 5, she launched the first Oro Valley Sprint Triathlon.The event was launched with the support of the Oro Valley Aquatics Center, Fleet Feet Multisport of Tucson, Trek Bicycles of Tucson, Summit Hut, and many other local sponsors. The morning of the inaugural event dawned clear and crisp at 49 degrees.  Triathletes clad in swim gear shivered on deck, but no one complained; they all knew it was better to suffer a little before the race in the name of a cooler bike and run. In order to get everyone cycled through the pool efficiently, Stark elected to implement a serpentine swim, in which swimmers enter the pool at one end and zigzag up and down each lane towards the other end.  Swimmers were seeded according to their predicted swim times, and volunteers from Tucson Tri Girls were on deck to make sure that traffic in the pool flowed as smoothly as possible.  As Stark explained, “It’s not everyone’s favorite, but a serpentine swim allows the athletes to get in the pool sooner, and ultimately finish the race in cooler temperatures.”  New triathletes who had been anxious about the swim later reported less congestion than anticipated, thanks to gaps between groups of swimmers with different abilities.  Spectators lined the deck and cheered on the swimmers as they made their way across the pool, and out the gate to the transition area, which was managed by local Boy Scout troops.

  • Falcons and Nighthawks sending several seeded players to state

    Ten Catalina Foothills and four Ironwood Ridge tennis players earned top-eight seeds in the Division II boys and girls singles and doubles state tournament. Kirtana Bhat was named the top girls seed, while the team of Nate Rasmussen and Quinn Gardner will be the top ranked boys doubles team. The Falcons’ girls doubles teams of Noelle Karp and Katie Watson and Angelica Anderson and Caroline Leidy will be seeded second and fifth respectively, while the boys’ team of Bogdan Racolta and John Miller were ranked No. 3. Mike Lee earned the No. 2 seed in boys singles. Ironwood Ridge had a pair of No. 3 seeds. Kelsey Brown and Allie Knox are the third-seeded boys doubles team, while Ryan Knox is the No. 3 seed in the boys singles tournament.  Stephanie Nickles is the No. 8 seeded girl. Canyon Del Oro 

  • Sports Perspective: Arizona’s Gordon and Johnson declare for draft

    The long anticipated dismantling of this season’s Arizona basketball team began last week when team leaders, Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, announced that they would be casting their fishing lines into the NBA Draft shark tank. Much criticism emerged among Arizona fans, as a public outcry circulated that highlighted a collective disapproval of the choice made by two of the Wildcats’ most exciting high flyers. The same Arizona basketball fans that had been touting these players all season began rhetoric of ridicule, making depreciating comments such as, “Aaron Gordon is too young”,  “Aaron Gordon can’t shoot free throws”, or “Nick Johnson settles for bad shots”, and “Nick Johnson isn’t strong enough”. But if there is anything that sporting history has taught young athletes trying to make professional dreams come true, it is that opportunity is an impatient creature, and NBA hopefuls would be wise to declare for the draft when their stock is at a highpoint. In the world of basketball, it is not always about whether or not a player is fully “ready” for the NBA, but rather, is all about when the decision to go pro makes most sense (and dollars). In the case of Gordon and Johnson, hanging up the Arizona jerseys was just the right thing to do. From the moment Aaron Gordon first placed an Arizona hat on his head and smiled wide the way any child about to enter the world of adulthood would, Wildcat fans could tell he was special. It was common knowledge that the then 17-year-old would be a shoe-in for the pros after his brief pit stop in Tucson. In fact, had it not been for the NBA’s recent requirement that high school basketball players spend at least one season in college, Gordon would likely have been playing on the world’s biggest stage this season. The athletic and ever improving forward is projected to be a top 10 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, guaranteeing a hefty income come payday. And though the young athlete would still benefit under the tutelage of a near perfect developmental coach such as Arizona’s Sean Miller, Gordon would be foolish to pass up such a promising prognostication from NBA scouts. His ceiling is immeasurable, but more optimistic annalists might compare the California native to a young Blake Griffin (who also dealt with free throw shooting woes in his early 20’s). Given this comparison and the fact that Gordon is as hard a worker as they come, the former Wildcat has much promise in claiming a place among the NBA’s most elite, and has made the correct decision to declare for the draft. Though Nick Johnson was the undisputed go-to-guy on Arizona’s roster this past season, the junior guard is predicted to be selected in the late first round at best in this coming draft. This mid to late level selection window has nothing to do with his skill set, however. Instead, Johnson’s projection has everything to do with concerns about his size. At 6 foot 3, the natural shooting guard is extremely undersized for the average NBA player at his position. Talent wise, however, Johnson has little left to learn at Arizona. The team’s leading scorer showed vast improvement in each of his three seasons in red and blue, which is something that NBA teams hold in high regard come selection day. In this light, Johnson’s NBA stock was at its highest this season, where as a fourth year at Arizona would have run great risks of decreased improvement, injury, an early exit from the tournament, or double team defenses that may have effected scoring productivity. The gamble of staying on for a senior season simply offered greater risk than reward for Johnson, and he also made the correct decision by declaring for the NBA draft.  As die hard Arizona fans, it is easy to let emotions get the best of us, making harsh comments and secretly hoping that our own student athletes fall short of their dreams as a sort of repercussion of leaving school more early than we would like. This way of thinking is wrong. Our Arizona alumni should, above all else, consider their own futures, and head toward the NBA whenever it makes most sense for their own livelihood. It is the job of the fans to respect and support the decision of our athletes. After all, what makes Arizona basketball so special is that it is a player’s program, one that symbiotically finds its lifeblood in the unfailing and unwavering support of a noble fan base that wishes nothing but the best for those athletes who have played their hearts out for us all season, and chosen to ride gracefully into the always breathtaking Arizona sunset.

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