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

  • La Cañada road construction delays

    The delayed North La Cañada Drive widening project is now costing its contractor $2,500 a day.Pima County Department of Transportation deputy director Ana Olivares confirmed that the county is levying the assessment against Select Development, which passed its July 1 contract end date without completing the 2.7-mile project, by garnishing its payments to the company.As of Monday, Select had racked up 13 additional work days, equaling $32,500 in liquidated damages.The $18.75 million La Cañada project, which will expand the stretch between West River and Ina roads to a four-lane, median-separated arterial, has been under construction since May 2012. It was supposed to be completed this April, then June. Now the substantial completion date is Aug. 11, Olivares said.The discovery of utility lines has contributed to the delays. The county had previously granted 49 days’ worth of time extensions.In other northwest-side road projects:

  • Sippin' Social: Sushi Garden offers generous happy hour menu

    In this month’s Sippin’ Social, members of the public accompanied staff of Tucson Local Media for happy hour and conversation at Sushi Garden, located at 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd.With two locations in town, Sushi Garden features an extensive front and back stand-alone happy hour menu with dozens of discounted food and drink items. Sushi Garden’s happy hour spans from 4-7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. A decent-sized crowd filled the bar and outer tables upon arrival, but our group was nonetheless seated and ordering within minutes.Sushi Garden features a well-lit, casual atmosphere that makes creative use of Japanese-style décor throughout the facility. To kick the afternoon off, I began with a locally brewed 32-ounce Barrio IPA draft ($5.75), which, due to its volume, comes with a glass and pitcher. Yes, I was thirsty.  The draft was perfectly chilled, making its hoppy, clean flavor that much more refreshing considering the day’s heat. 

  • Protests held in Oracle, Congress debating immigration funding

    The controversy surrounding where to place tens of thousands of children crossing the U.S. border, mostly in Texas, continued in Oracle last week as organized protests were held to protest and support up to 50 children being placed at a boys’ school.In a July 14 release, Carl Shipman of the Sycamore Canyon Academy boys school, said they were not taking sides in the controversial issue, but only providing temporary shelter for the immigrant children.With reports that the children could be bussed to the school on July 15, residents assembled along Oracle Road last week. Many protested the children being placed in local facilities, while others held signs in support of the children.“Sycamore Canyon Academy is not taking a position on the immigration debate in any way,” said Shipman. “We believe it is for others to decide. Our mission is to improve the lives of youth, and we will continue to fulfill our mission by focusing on our work with children.”About 50 people made up each of the parties, which were separated by a short distance. Politically, they were much further apart.

  • PCC reaches milestone, submits key document to accreditor

    Pima Community College today reached a milestone as it requests continued accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, sending its accreditor a document detailing the efforts the College has made to comply with HLC standards since being placed on probation in April 2013.The Self-Study Report, submitted to the HLC, documents a comprehensive, evidence-based examination of all facets of the College including processes, policies and goals conducted over the past 15 months by more than 300 PCC employees, students and community members.The Self-Study Report is available online on the College’s website.In a message accompanying the report, Chancellor Lee D. Lambert said the report provides “strong evidence” that the College has resolved the HLC’s concerns regarding areas of non-compliance and meets all HLC standards, and includes a plan to ensure PCC meets all federal and state legal requirements related to higher education.“The Self-Study Report documents the progress we are making toward our goal of making PCC one of the United States’ premier community colleges,” Chancellor Lambert said in an email to employees announcing the submittal of the report. “We recognize that our mission, to develop our community through learning, requires a commitment to student success, consistent engagement and diversity.”Highlights of improvements referenced in the report:

  • Streetcar wins award

    The Arizona Branch of the American Public Works Association (APWA) named the Tucson streetcar the public works project of the year at its annual conference today in Tucson.The $196 million project, co-managed by the City of Tucson and the Regional Transportation Authority, launched service on July 25 with more than 60,000 people riding the streetcar during the three-day weekend of free rides.The project was recognized for the same honor in April by the Southern Arizona APWA Branch.The streetcar project is considered to be Tucson’s largest and most complex transportation construction project in city history. The streetcar system operates on a 3.9-mile route between the downtown area and the University of Arizona campus. The project received $75 million in RTA funding toward capital costs, including eight streetcars, and will receive another $12 million in RTA funding toward streetcar operations. Federal dollars, including a $63 million Transportation InvestmentGenerating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, the largest of its kind awarded to a single project at the time, and local dollars cover the remaining project costs. The streetcar project is part of the $2.1 billion RTA plan, which was approved by Pima County voters in May 2006.Key successes of the streetcar project included a high level of cooperation among all partners, the creation of more than 500 construction-related jobs, economic impact of more than $800 million invested along the route, installation of $19 million in needed infrastructure improvements, extensive outreach to the public as well as businesses along the route, emphasis on Made in America jobs and materials for the project, and collaboration among various populations and neighborhoods along the streetcar route.

  • Early ballots mail for the Primary Election

    Early voters, get your pens ready. Early ballots for the Primary Election begin mailing for voters affiliated with a recognized political party July 31, 2014. More than 1 million early ballots will mail statewide. Recognized political parties include Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or American’s Elect.“Independent voters make up the largest group of voters in Arizona; and it is important for them to know they can vote in the Primary Election,” said Secretary of State Ken Bennett. “Both independent and partisan voters have the choice of voting by mail or at the poll on Election Day, August 26.”To vote by mail, whether a partisan or independent voter, contact the County Recorder for the county of legal residence and request an early partisan ballot. If voting at an early voting location, an independent voter may make his or her party ballot selection at the poll. For early voting locations and availability, contact the County Recorder’s office.The last day to request an early ballot for the Primary Election is August 15, 2014. Vote, sign, seal, and send the primary ballot no later than August 22, 2014. If you vote by mail, do not vote again in person. Also, for security reasons, only give your ballot to your postal worker. Should you miss the mailing deadline, you may drop your ballot at an early voting location or with your County Recorder. For locations and availability, contact the County Recorder’s office.“If you wouldn’t trust a person with your money,” said Secretary Bennett, “I recommend not trusting him or her with your ballot.”For those voters voting on Election Day, August 26, make sure you know your correct polling location, as voting locations may change from election to election. To know before you go, go online to, and click on the Voter View icon or call 1-877-THE VOTE. The Voter View portion of the website is compatible with smartphones and tablets.

  • (July 30) Today's Top Headlines - House to take look at $17 billion VA overhaul

    MSN News:With a new Veterans Affairs secretary in place and an August recess looming, Congress is likely to move quickly to approve a compromise bill to refurbish the VA and improve veterans' health care.The House could vote on the $17 billion bill as early as Wednesday, with a Senate vote expected soon after as lawmakers rush to complete their work before leaving town this weekend for a five-week recess.The measure, unveiled Monday by the chairmen of the House and Senate veterans affairs committees, is intended help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them, and make it easier to fire senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department.For the full story, visit:

  • (July 30) Today's Top Headlines - The top 10 stories of the day

    1. Humanitarian crisis worsens in GazaIsrael continued its intensified bombing and shelling of Gaza on Wednesday, killing an estimated 40 people overnight and pushing the Gaza death toll to 1,270. The humanitarian crisis deepened after Israel knocked out Gaza's only power plant, leaving the Palestinian enclave without power or sewer services. Israel says the campaign will continue until it stops rocket fire and destroys the tunnels Hamas militants are using to attack Israelis. [The Washington Post]………………………………………………………………………………2. Obama unveils new sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisisPresident Obama announced tough new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday over artillery strikes fired from Russia into Ukraine, and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 earlier this month in a part of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The measures targeted banks, the energy sector, a large defense firm, and other key contributors to Russia's economy. The European Union imposed even tougher sanctions. [The New York Times]………………………………………………………………………………

  • (July 30) Today's Top Headlines - Two dead, two injured in Vegas crime spree men were killed and two women were seriously injured Tuesday in a wild Las Vegas crime spree that included a carjacking, two home invasions, a stabbing, a fake hostage situation and a deadly police shooting.Officers killed a male suspect, and a female suspect was arrested, Las Vegas police said. Their names were not immediately released.Police said the crimes began about 6:45 a.m., when a man and a woman carjacked a freeway service vehicle that had stopped to help them on the side of the highway. Authorities said the driver of the roadside assistance vehicle saw the two trying to get into a Nissan Altima and thought they needed help getting into their car.For the full story, visit:

  • “Ghostblasters” a blast at Gaslight Theatre

    Who you gonna call when you want to see a hilarious spoof of the 1984 film “Ghostbusters”? The Gaslight Theatre, of course. In its latest production, “Ghostblasters,” the Gaslight Theatre manifests another comedic work of art under writer/director Peter Van Slyke, starring Mike Yarema and Jake Chapman as ghost-hunting protagonists tasked with saving the city from a flurry of trouble-making spirits. As is the usual with Gaslight shows, this one starts out high-energy and doesn’t let up for the duration, in the process seamlessly revisiting some of the most memorable scenes from the “Ghostbusters” series, the third and latest film of which is rumored to be going into production next year. But “Ghostblasters” doesn’t share in that speculation. With a running date of June 12 through Aug. 31, this one is already made, and made well.Initially set in New York City’s Metro University Science Lab, we are introduced to scientist/ghostblaster Zack Freeman (Yarema), and parapsychologist/ghostblaster Wally Beaker (Chapman), who are in the process of creating a hi-tech device that will allow them to visualize ghostly spirits. 

  • Prime Time Review: Two upcoming shows hip-hop heads should not miss

    The summer has fully engulfed our city, bringing with it sweltering heat and burning winds. As the days get hotter and hotter, many are looking for a way to have fun without melting outdoors.  Whether it is going to a movie at the theatre, a local trampoline—world, or finding some nighttime entertainment, the cool route is always the better route.  For those with an inclination for hip-hop music and a good concert, there are two events coming up in the next few months that you won’t want to miss.On Aug. 31st Atmosphere is coming to The Rialto Theatre with guests Prof, Dem Atlas, and DJ Fundo. While not everyone may be familiar with the prolific Atmosphere, they are a group well worth knowing about.Formed in 1989, Atmosphere has been called the group that has, “…transformed the city [Minneapolis] into something else entirely: a nexus from which underground rap spiraled-out to the masses.” The group was originally composed primarily of rapper Sean Daley, better known as Slug, and Anthony “Ant” Davis, as well as other artists who toured with the group and worked on their early albums. The duo, joined with other local Minnesota artists and formed the record label Rhymesayers Entertainment.  Now more of a family than a simple record label, Rhymesayers is composed primarily of local Minnesota artists but has also expanded to representing nationally recognized hip-hop and rap artists.Atmosphere sits at the head of what many consider to be the most well-composed collection of artists in the underground hip-hop industry.  The label hosts its own Soundset Festival, a multi-day concert that draws well over 20,000 attendees. And now, the group, currently composed of Slug, Ant, Nate Collis playing guitar, and Erick Anderson on the keyboard, is bringing their perfected sound to the Old Pueblo.  Only one month after Atmosphere comes to town, Club Congress will be hosting another Rhymesayers artist, Brother Ali.  The blind, Islamic emcee has earned a reputation that goes well beyond such simple classifications.  Ali could be called more of a musical activist than a simple artist.  “In an age of hip-hop where the paradigm of swag over substance reigns supreme, few emcees are willing to use their platform to tackle the hot-button topics and pressing social maladies of our time - but it’s apparent that Minneapolis-based hip-hop artist Brother Ali is one of those few.”Ali released his fourth full-length album under the guidance of platinum selling producer, Jake One. Jake One has worked with big name rap artists the likes of 50 Cent, T.I., and Wiz Khalifa. Ali’s newest album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, “presents a scathing yet honest critique of America and its many flaws while simultaneously presenting a hopeful outlook of its possibilities.” Brother Ali’s music taps deep into the beating heart of hip-hop and attempts to shine the light on the real problems in the world, not just the fancy clothes and big parties found in many different artists’ repertoire.  Ali’s show will be at Congress on Oct. 8.

  • Excitement eludes ‘A Most Wanted Man’

    The late, four-time Oscar nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman provides us with another gripping keystone performance in “A Most Wanted Man” —the last film appearance for Hoffman before his accidental death earlier this year from drug intoxication.  Unfortunately, Hoffman’s role as the leader a German spy agency was the only remarkable screen presence.  This yawner from director Anton Corbijn leaves viewers more informed on the underground funding for terrorist cells but fails to captivate and draw in audiences due to its shallow support characters and weak storyline.  Hoffman’s character, Gunter Bachmann, heads a small group of German spies tasked with counterterrorism intelligence gathering inside the city of Hamburg—the epicenter from where terrorists plotted and planned the attacks on the U.S. during 9/11. Hoffman’s Bachmann must balance chasing and catching smaller terrorist targets with restraint and gaining additional intelligence in the hopes of netting even bigger al Qaeda fish.  Director Corbijn nimbly highlights the challenges of enticing ordinary people to assist government agencies in getting the upper hand against terrorist organizations.  The problem is that this film doesn’t give Rachel McAdams’ lawyer, or Willem Dafoe’s banking exec character, the space or time to fully develop into the plot and solidify the storyline.  Another incomplete theme transpires when Corbijn attempts to depict how well different spy agencies play together and share information in today’s covert world.  Hoffman’s professional courtesy with a CIA operative (played by Robin Wright) could have been further developed but was fragmented and largely untapped.Without stronger backup support on screen, Hoffman is left dragging on cigarette after cigarette in almost every scene.  When the super spook isn’t smoking he’s slowly contemplating terrorist money trails—perhaps too cautiously, voiding any chance for excitement on the big screen until the movie’s final scene.   With bourbon in his hand and little screen action to raise audiences’ pulse rates, the film battles boredom before finally dissipating into what feels like a nightcap for viewers.  The pace slows to the point that every scene with Hoffman turns into a constant reminder of the gigantic acting talent we lost in real life—and wasted in this film.Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last film role is persuading and powerful to watch—but the movie ultimately falls victim to an incomplete story with weak supporting characters.  Catching terrorists is supposed to be dramatic and suspenseful on film, not a dull chase following bank accounts and paper money.  “A Most Wanted Man” squandered the perfect chance to showcase a phenomenal cast led by Academy Award winner Hoffman ... a missed opportunity that we won’t ever again see with Hoffman’s shocking death.  It’s appropriate that Hoffman’s last word on film is an expletive shouted in a fit of emotion, a result of the film’s only excitement and drama.  Perhaps Hoffman knew that his edgy finale still wasn’t enough to bring merit to this movie.Grade: C

  • Snap Fitness intern makes most of opportunity

    Little did Jon Marshall know, but when he agreed to take on an intern from the Chapel Haven West program he was going to get a lot more. Marshall not only got a hard worker, but he got someone to mentor. Marshall is a 24-time national champion power lifter who runs a Snap Fitness Club on the Northwest side. Always looking to help a good cause, Marshall allowed Brandon Kane to intern at the gym. Kane has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. He was part of the program at Chapel Haven West, a residential transition program that teaches life skills and helps support adults with mild developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum learn the skills to live on their own. Part of the program requires an internship and when Kane expressed an interest in fitness they approached Marshall. Marshall calls Kane one of the hardest workers he has ever had. The work ethic also found its way into his workouts. After completing a hard day of work around the club, Kane was given the opportunity to work out and he always took it. Marshall noticed how strong Kane was and asked him if he might be interested in competing in a power lifting competition. Kane jumped at the chance. “He has a lot of potential,” Marshall said. “I’d watch him and he had natural strength.”Kane had been a devotee of working out since he was 13, but had never had a routine. 

  • CDO Little League 10-11 All-Stars win state championship

    The CDO Little League 10-11 Baseball All-Stars won the state championship last week, beating Ahwatukee 16-11. CDO jumped out to a 4-0 lead, thanks in part to a Dominic Felix two-run home run in the second inning, but was up just 4-2 heading into the pivotal third inning. After plating two in the first, host CDO added two more in the second. Konnor Hopton drew a lead-off walk and after back-to-back strike outs Felix hit a towering shot to right field that just got over the fielder’s glove and the fence. Ahwatukee came back in the bottom of the second with a Dylan McKee leadoff home run and an RBI double by T.J. Oster that plated Dean Bittner.CDO stormed back and used a seven-run third inning to push the lead to nine. The long ball was again a factor. Dante Schindler led off the inning with a rocket to left field and two batters later Mac Kochanski added a two-run shot. 

  • Ironwood Ridge wrestler wins national titles

    Ironwood Ridge wrestler Danny Vega had a stellar summer, winning three big time national tournaments, including two last weeks.Vega won the 106-pound championship at the USAW Junior Men’s Freestyle championships over the weekend in Fargo, North Dakota. Vega went 6-0 at the event and had little trouble in the event, getting five wins via technical falls, by a combined score of 63-10. He won his first round match against Brendan Coughlin via pinfall in just 30 seconds.Four days earlier he won the USAW Greco Nationals. It wasn’t quite as easy, but most of his wins were lopsided. He opened the tournament with a bye, then beat Izaak Grubbs via an 11-0 technical fall. He pinned his next two opponents, both in 2:44 or less.The semi-finals saw him earn an 8-4 decision, then in the championship he beat Todd Small of Georgia 7-2.For Vega it was the triple crown of titles. Back in April he won the Folkstyle Nationals in Iowa. Again, he was dominant. He won all three of his matches by either technical fall or major decision and outscored his opponents 44-1.His run this year has been quite remarkable. Since December he was wrestled in nine tournaments, including the Arizona state high school championships and won eight of the nine tournaments. All told he is 57-5 on the year. 

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OV Mayor Candidates Debate

The Oro Valley Mayor Candidates Dr. Satish I. Hiremath, and Pat Straney debated on July 30 at ...

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