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

Top Stories

  • Straney self funds campaign, Hiremath accepts developer contributions

    While there is clear the Oro Valley mayoral candidates have different management styles, another big difference in this election cycle is campaign finances.While challenger Pat Straney is sticking with a grass-roots campaign that has him using $1,800 of his own money to campaign, current Mayor Satish Hiermath has outgained his opponent through contributions from citizens and developers.According to public records, HSL Properties, which is building a new complex in town limits, has given Hiermath’s reelection efforts nearly $7,000 in recent years.HSL Properties is built the 288-unit Encantada Ranch at Steam Pump Village. The apartment complex was recently opened to the public.Hiremath has also received nearly $3,000 from local developer Diamond Ventures.

  • OV woman who killed her son sentenced to 10.5 years in prison

    On August 18, Donna Rose Smith accepted a plea agreement in the death of her son, Patrick Michael Smith.In February 2012, Patrick was found unresponsive at his Oro Valley residence and was pronounced deceased later that day at Oro Valley Hospital. The investigation revealed that Donna Smith gave Patrick a lethal dose of methadone. Donna Smith was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison for manslaughter and 7 years probation for fraud schemes.On February 5, 2012 at approximately 1845 hours, Oro Valley Police responded to the block of 13000 N Singh, where officers found 18-month-old, Patrick Michael Smith, unresponsive. They immediately began Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and the child was transported to Oro Valley Hospital where he was pronounced deceased. Due to the circumstances of the death, an investigation ensued by the Oro Valley Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Unit and Pima County’s Office of the Medical Examiner. Probable cause was developed to believe Donna Smith, the child’s mother, gave Patrick Smith a lethal dose of methadone. The Criminal Investigations Unit arrested Donna Rose Smith (D.O.B 08/03/90) for Felony Child Abuse and First Degree Murder at her residence on today’s date at approximately 0430 hours.

  • Arizona leads states for rate of deferred-deportation applications

    WASHINGTON – 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.

  • Once ill himself, med student hopes to heal others

    Tim Cheves has used his own medical issue to motivate him. Cheves, who battled chronic fatigue and immunodeficiency syndrome as well as other issues, is now hoping to help others as a doctor. It started in his youth. Cheves suffered severe panic attacks and anxiety that often times prevented him from having a normal childhood. As he got older those subsided, but he battled depression, but for most of the time he kept it hidden, trying to be the life of the party when the truth was 180 degrees different. Cheves graduated from Mountain View in 2007, then moved on to the University of Arizona. It was at the UofA where he started feeling bad and it quickly escalated. He got worse and worse over the course of six years. Soon he had tumors on his thyroid, his liver was failing and after 12 kidney stones he quit counting. “After every three words I would have to stop and take a breath,” Cheves admitted. “Horrible joint and muscle pain, but could not take pain medication due to my liver. I would sleep 14 hours a day and I would wake up feeling like I ran five marathons.”

  • 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.”

  • Marana Farm Co-op provides education, opportunities and good food

    The Marana Farm Co-op has a number of goals. The main objective is sustainable agriculture and healthy eating, but everything from saving money to education is also behind what the Co-op tries to do. Dan Arnold began the Co-op when he purchased about 26 acres of land on Postvale Road near I-10. His little farm grows a number of crops, is home to a wide variety of animals and also has the Co-op’s store. The store, which is open seven days a week, is housed in an old greenhouse and gives folks a chance to buy fresh produce, even if there is not a farmers market going on that day. On Saturdays the farm hosts a small farmers market, while some of the other 30 members of the Co-op take the goods to other farmers markets around Southern Arizona. “I used to go to farmers markets and see 10 other farmers from Marana,” explained Arnold. “That’s 10 tables and 10 rental fees. Now one person takes goods from a variety of farmers and we save money. Plus, it means more of us can stay on our farms. It is tough to be away from the farm for a whole day.”There are about 30 members of the co-op, and while no one is forced to grow any specific crops, everyone knows what the other farmers are growing and it cuts down on duplication and offers customers a wider choice.“The main objective is sustainable agriculture and healthy eating,” said Arnold. “We want to educate people about locally grown produce.”

  • (Aug. 19) Today's Top Headlines - Israeli leader recalls team from cease-fire talks

    MSN News:An Egyptian effort to broker an end to a monthlong war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip appeared to collapse Tuesday after Israel walked out on the talks in response to a barrage of Palestinian rocket fire.The Israeli walkout occurred just hours before a midnight deadline, leaving the fate of the negotiations in question and raising the possibility of a resumption of heavy fighting."The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. "When Hamas breaks the cease-fire, they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly, the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today's rocket fire."For the full story, visit

  • (Aug. 19) Today's Top Headlines - Treyvon Martin's mom pens letter to Brown family

    MSN News:The mother of Trayvon Martin has written an open letter to the family of Michael Brown, published in TIME on Monday.Sybrina Fulton, who dealt with a similar racially-charged case after the shooting death of her son in 2012 by George Zimmerman, begins the letter by expressing her condolences and touching on the issue of gun violence."I hate that you and your family must join this exclusive yet growing group of parents and relatives who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence," Fulton writes. "Our children are our future so whenever any of our children — black, white, brown, yellow, or red — are taken from us unnecessarily, it causes a never-ending pain that is unlike anything I could have imagined experiencing."Fulton then advises the Brown family on how to deal with the media spotlight — "While we fight injustice, we will also hold ourselves to an appropriate level of intelligent advocacy," she writes — and admits that such attention leads to infuriating reports on Michael Brown's life, but concludes with a call to lead communities "beyond the tragedies."For the full story, visit:

  • (Aug. 19) Today's Top Headlines - The top 10 stories of the day

    1. Obama sends Holder to FergusonProtesters and police clashed again Monday night in Ferguson, Mo., despite the arrival of National Guard troops. Police came under "heavy gunfire," said Capt. Ron Johnson, who blamed "a tiny minority of lawbreakers" for the violence. Two civilians were shot, though not by police, and 31 were arrested. President Obama announced Monday that he was sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson on Wednesday to talk with investigators about the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Holder also will speak with community leaders in a bid to restore peace after 10 days of unrest. [NBC News, The Washington Post]………………………………………………………………………………2. Civilians killed fleeing heavy fighting in eastern UkraineDozens of Ukrainian civilians were killed Monday when their convoy of buses was hit with rockets and mortar fire as they tried to escape heavy fighting around the besieged rebel stronghold of Luhansk. The Ukrainian government said some of the victims, who included children, were burned alive in the vehicles. The government blamed pro-Russian separatists. Rebels said soldiers fired the deadly barrage. [USA Today]………………………………………………………………………………

  • ‘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+

  • 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. 

  • Make Breakfast Special

    A little extra time – and a special recipe – is all you need to set the tone for a great day, especially on weekend mornings.It all begins with a tasty and fun breakfast. Pancakes are a food everyone will flip for, no matter how old! And it’s a versatile breakfast, too, when you can add-in tasty ingredients ranging from blueberries to bananas to buckwheat; just about anything goes when it comes to stirring up a piping hot stack. You can even use your favorite cereals to add a dash of deliciousness to pancakes.Try this creative recipe that infuses a fruity flavor into your batter by using new fruitier-tasting Trix cereal.   Shawn Syphus at the popular blog “I Wash…You Dry,” whipped up some fun when she created  Trix Pancakes:Ingredients• 3 cups buttermilk (not low fat if possible)• 1 cup Trix cereal

  • 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.”

  • Sawyer and McElmell to start fourth consecutive season

    Every now and then, someone comes along and breaks the mold. It’s a familiar pattern on the Canyon Del Oro football program history – the likes of which has produced University of Arizona standouts like Ka’Deem Carey and Jared Tevis, as well as a slew of others who have found football success beyond the high school level.But there are two players on the 2014-15 roster that have now accomplished something that even the NFL-bound Carey did not.Seniors Tommy Sawyer and Jared McElmell have been varsity starters since freshman year.“Their story is really special. I’ve never seen a kid do that in the 13 years I’ve been here,” said head coach Dustin Peace, adding, “Usually freshman are a little bit squirrelly.”Squirrelly wasn’t the case with Sawyer and McElmell who knew exactly what they wanted by the time the first football practice rolled around their freshman year, and they had the maturity and drive to see that they got it.

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