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Friday, April 19, 2019

Results-Based Funding: Watch This Budget Item

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 3:51 PM

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It's coming up on state budget time, which means it's time to start looking at budget numbers while they're still in flux. For me, that means looking at education numbers. Right now, what we have is Ducey's budget proposal, so that's the place to begin.

I'm starting with Ducey's Results-Based Funding proposal. That's the extra money a select number of schools will get because they have shown "results." During its first two years, the program, gave out just under $40 million a year. Ducey wants to more than double the funding this time around. He's proposing $98.3 million, a $58 million increase.

The overall education budget is starved for cash, as it has been for years and will continue to be so long as Republicans run the government. Ducey's proposed Results-Based Funding increases the pain for most of the state's schools by taking $98.3 million out of their budget, money which should be divvied up among all district and charter schools, and hands it to a select group of schools.

If a school wants a piece of the RBF pie, the best thing it can do is serve a wealthy community. That's because schools with an "A" state grade are assured of making the list, and "A" schools are disproportionately in high rent areas. The proposed budget's extra cash will enlarge the pool of schools. That means even more schools in wealthy communities will make the cut.

Ducey has added a new wrinkle this year. His proposal would give some of the funding to "B" schools which serve low income populations.

By adding the "B" schools, Ducey hopes to leave the impression that he needs the $58 million increase for the added low income schools. It's not a lie exactly. That's where more than half of the new money will go, but plenty of it will go to expand the number of schools in high rent areas as well.

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Rialto Hotel Deal Dead

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 10:17 AM


The Rialto Theatre
  • The Rialto Theatre
A proposed $88 million hotel project that would have incorporated the downtown’s historic Rialto Theatre is dead.

Developer Scott Stiteler, who announced the plans last October, told the Weekly that he couldn’t find a way to make the project work, saying that urban development involves many challenges.

“It's very different than buying a piece of land and developing something on the periphery of a community, because you're dealing with usually very small sites and a lot of neighbors and viewpoints,” Stiteler said. “To get everything you want in a building that's gonna last for a long time and make an impact for the surrounding area, it's not easy."

The proposal would have put two Marriott hotel brands, Moxy and Element, on the parcel of land behind and to the west of the Rialto Theatre. It would have injected millions of dollars into a makeover of the Rialto’s interior as well.

“We put our heart, soul, and pocketbook into it,” said Stiteler. “We spent $750,000 on the plans for this, which we will lose. Maybe not entirely, Jim, because we learned a lot. We know more about the 22,000-square-foot parcel and the theater and the structure of the theater. So maybe all is not lost, because probably no one understands the development potential of that site, strengths and weaknesses, better than we do. I love that block, so I'm not going anywhere, and we have big investments across the street on the other two blocks. We will do something great there one day.”

Rialto Theatre Foundation Executive Director Curtis McCrary said he was disappointed that the plans fell through, but the show would go on.

“Everyone was hopeful that the dream as outlined could be realized and it would have made for huge improvements to the theater and that would have been a really great thing,” McCrary said. “While it's disappointing, it's not really going to affect anything in terms of what we do or are doing or will continue to do.”

McCrary said the nonprofit Rialto Theatre Foundation, which recently wrapped up a major capital campaign that has allowed the theatre to revamp its bathrooms and make improvement to the heating and cooling systems, will now decide how to best use its remaining resources on less-ambitious improvements than the makeover promised by the hotel project.

“Now we can instead take the actions that we were otherwise planning to take to bolster the structural needs of the theater,” McCrary said. “And then we have significant funds left and might be some opportunity to raise a bit more funding, because it's a 100-year-old theater. The million dollars is going to be able to help us accomplish certain things but there are lots of needs.”

A rendering of the proposed 16-story hotel property project that has now been canceled. - COURTESY ILLUSTRATION
  • Courtesy illustration
  • A rendering of the proposed 16-story hotel property project that has now been canceled.
Since the project isn’t moving forward, the Rialto won’t be relocating its operations to the Corbett Warehouse on Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street for two years during the hotel construction process.

The Corbett Warehouse is owned by Stiteler, who says he’ll be turning his focus to that parcel next while reconsider what can be done with the property surrounding the parcel.

Stiteler and his various partners have developed a number of downtown projects, including the AC Marriott at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, as well as the Rialto Building that is now home to the Connect co-working space, Diablo Burger and other restaurants; the neighboring block that houses Hub and Playground; and the One North Fifth apartment building. He says he will continue his downtown development efforts despite this setback.

“I won't rest until I complete the four blocks that I have the opportunity to develop, with a vision that I think is good for what we're doing, for the community, the neighborhood,” Stiteler said. “They're four really important blocks, and two of them are in a great place. … We better get it right. And sometimes getting it right means you have to walk away from something and revisit it later.”

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Ducey Signs Revised Anti-Boycott Law

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 4:27 PM

A protestor holds a sign in support of the Boycott Divest Sanction movement against the Israeli government. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • A protestor holds a sign in support of the Boycott Divest Sanction movement against the Israeli government.
On Tuesday Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1167 into law. It's an amendment of a previous law that required all government contractors to certify they are not participating in the boycott, divest and sanction movement (BDS) against Israel or Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

That law, passed in 2016, was quickly challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union in court. They argued it violated First Amendment rights to free speech and protest.

U.S. District Court Judge Diane J. Humetewa agreed and blocked the measure, writing:
"The Court also finds that the balance of equities tips in favor of Plaintiffs [contractors]. Defendants [the state] will experience little to no hardship by enjoining the enforcement of a law that does nothing to further any economic state interest and infringes on First Amendment protections. Although generally barring discrimination on the basis of national origin is a legitimate state interest, the State clearly has less intrusive and more viewpoint-neutral means to combat such discrimination. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, have shown a likelihood of irreparable harm if the Certification Requirement is not enjoined. Moreover, public interest favors an injunction as the public has little interest in enforcement of unconstitutional laws."

The state appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court, which scheduled oral arguments for the appeal on June 6. However, Arizona lawmakers successfully passed SB 1167, which avoids another loss in court.

The new law, introduced by Republican Senator Paul Boyer, "limits the anti-boycott certification to for-profit companies with more than 10 employees and government contracts worth more than $100,000," according to the ACLU. This means that many individuals and businesses who contract with the government are no longer subject to the certification.

BDS "works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law," according to the Palestinian BDS National Committee's website.

This new move is expected to make the anti-BDS law less problematic by decreasing the amount of contractors affected, but could still see further pushback from the courts.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Yarmulkes, Money and Labels: Trump's Antisemitism and Racism

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 4:46 PM

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Is Trump our Racist/Antisemite-in-chief, or does he just play at it on TV and Twitter?

The nicest thing you can say about Trump's racist and antisemitic comments and tweets is what Andrew Gillum said about Ron DeSantis when the two of them were running for Florida governor: "I’m not calling Mr. Desantis a racist," Gillum said. "I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist."

I'm not running for office so I don't have to be as careful as Gillum. I'll say it without equivocation: Trump is an antisemite. Trump is a racist. Full stop.

Except that, some will counter, we know Trump will say or do anything to win the news cycle, pander to his base and vilify his enemies. Can we separate the actual prejudices festering inside his fevered brain from his slash-and-burn political tactics?

After the 2018 clashes between participants in the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and protestors, Trump said there were "fine people on both sides." Was that Trump's honest opinion or a way to assure the continued allegiance of people like neo-Nazi leader Richard B. Spencer whose post-election speech praising Trump's victory included Nazi salutes and the triumphant call, “Hail Trump. Hail our people. Hail victory!”

Me, I'd say anyone who can find a way to defend people chanting "Jews will not replace us" is an antisemite. But we're talking about Trump who lies whenever it suits his needs, so the point is open to debate.

Trump has joined other Republicans in turning Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is black, Muslim and has a foreign accent (she was born in Somalia) — she's a bigot's trifecta — into the Democratic villain du jour. Is he just looking toward 2020, or does he despise Omar as much as he says?

It's hard to tell the difference in Trump's most public statements, but we can get at the genuine bigotry inside that twisted head of his by looking at less publicized moments.

Let's start with his antisemitism. Yes, I know Jared, Trump's son-in-law, is Jewish and Ivanka converted, making her children, his grandchildren, Jewish. He dotes on his daughter and, to the extent he's capable of affection, it's possible he may actually love his grandchildren, but as anyone who has taken a close look at bigotry knows, that doesn't stop him from accepting stereotypes and harboring ill feelings toward Jews.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Give the Gift of Food and Lower Your Library Fines

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 4:03 PM

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Give the gift of food and lower your library fines! From April 15 to April 30, library customers can pay overdue fines and help support the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. During Food for Fines, one dollar in overdue fines will be waived for each non-perishable food item donated at any library.

What fines can be waived?

  • Only overdue fines will be waived. No lost material, damaged fees, collection agency fees, or other fees will be waived during this event.
What can I donate?
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  • Nonperishable items such as canned vegetables, peanut butter, cans of tuna and cereal are all welcome.
What is not accepted:
  • Perishable food
  • Expired food
  • Opened, dented, or damaged food
  • Homemade food
  • Food in glass containers
What happens with my donation?
  • All donations are sent to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, so your donation goes directly to your community.
What if I don't have any fines on my account?
  • You can still participate!!! Your donations will be sent along with the rest of the food.

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Oro Valley Murder Suspect Out of Jail on Reduced Bond

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 11:50 AM

Thirty seven-year-old Trevor Draegeth was arrested and charged with first-degree-murder after his wife, Laurie, was found dead in their Oro Valley home the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 12. - COURTESY OVPD
  • Courtesy OVPD
  • Thirty seven-year-old Trevor Draegeth was arrested and charged with first-degree-murder after his wife, Laurie, was found dead in their Oro Valley home the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Trevor Draegeth, an Oro Valley man accused of killing his wife, was released from Pima County jail Wednesday night after he paid a bond of $250,000.

He is charged with first degree murder and will plead not guilty.

On the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 12 Trevor called the Oro Valley police who came to his home at 203 E. Brearly Drive. His wife, Laurie Draegeth, 40, was found face up in their bed with a gunshot wound to her left eye. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to a report by Eric D. Peters, MD from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, Laurie was killed by a “perforating gunshot wound to the head.” The death was ruled a homicide.

Court documents show Trevor told officers he and his wife had been arguing about finances the night before her death. Upon entering their bedroom, Trevor said his wife “brandished a handgun and shot at him twice.”

Trevor said Laurie then shot herself while he embraced her “in a side hug,” next to their bed.

An officer noted in an interim complaint that Laurie planned to leave Trevor and was “kicked out” of the house days before the incident. Investigators did not discover any signs of a suicide, and noted in the statement of probable cause that she was “excited” about an upcoming trip with her two daughters.

Trevor, 37, was born in Phoenix, Arizona and has resided within the state his entire life. He purchased his home in Oro Valley in October 2007.

The bond was initially set at $10,000,000 cash, but Trevor’s defense lawyer, Sean Chapman, submitted a motion to the court on April 2 to have it reduced due to medical reasons.

The motion states Trevor was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2014. He is now largely confined a wheelchair, although he can walk short distances. He is almost blind in one eye and has palsy in his arms and hands as a result of the disease.

Chapman argued the jail is “ill-equipped to address his health concerns,” since he currently sees multiple physicians and takes several medications.

Trevor and Laurie had two daughters together, ages 9 and 7. The girls are currently in custody of Trevor’s parents, Marilyn Stark and Kevin Barnett, who also live in the Tucson area.

In addition to his health, Chapman argued for a lower bond because law enforcement officers have acknowledged Trevor is not a threat to the community and he has no criminal history.

As a condition of his release, Trevor may only speak to his children with approval of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

In his motion, Chapman said Trevor is a member of the Arizona State Bar and has informed them “of his current situation and sought its assistance in temporarily maintaining his practice during his incarceration.”

Draegeth Law is listed in the Town of Oro Valley’s Business Navigator as a home business owned by Trevor S. Draegeth, Esq. The firm focuses on wills and estates.

Chapman was unavailable for comment on whether Trevor is currently practicing law while a suspect in a homicide case.

His next court appearance is a Case Management Conference set for May 28.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ina Road Interchange Reopening Next Week

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 12:06 PM

Illustration of the finished product. - COURTESY ADOT
  • Courtesy ADOT
  • Illustration of the finished product.
Two years after work began, relief is on the horizon for commuters in northwest Tucson. Interstate-10 at West Ina Road will re-open next week.

The $128 million-dollar project includes a four-lane overpass spanning the Union Pacific tracks, the interstate and a separate bridge over the Santa Cruz River. Barring unforeseen weather conditions, the exit and entrance lanes connecting the interstate to the overpass will be fully operational in time for Tuesday morning rush hour, according to ADOT Public Information Officer Tom Herrmann.

The final step in the project is a one-lane expansion each way on Ina Road, from the interstate to the Santa Cruz River, which Herrmann expects to be completed in two months’ time.

Herrmann called the reopening of the exits and on-ramps along Ina and I-10 a seminal moment for Southern Arizonans.

“This is a tremendously exciting time, not just for ADOT, but for the community around Ina Road,” Herrmann said via email. “It represents the third interchange along I-10 we have completed in recent years—following Prince and Twin Peaks. In every case we have improved traffic flow and safety by reconstructing the interchanges to have the surface street go over both I-10 and the railroad tracks. This also should provide a strong economic boost for Marana and the surrounding area.”

Hermann added that construction is scheduled to start this fall on a similar project at Ruthrauff Road.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Court Documents: Grandmother Admits to Shooting Twin Boys

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2019 at 12:34 PM

First responders were called out to a home in the Flowing Wells area Thursday, April 4 after multiple gunshot victims were reported. Two children were found dead at the residence, and a 55-year-old woman was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. - TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA
  • Tucson Local Media
  • First responders were called out to a home in the Flowing Wells area Thursday, April 4 after multiple gunshot victims were reported. Two children were found dead at the residence, and a 55-year-old woman was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

On Friday, April 5, police arrested Dorothy Flood, 55, on two counts of first degree murder after two boys were found dead in a home on the 2400 block of West Kessler Place in Flowing Wells.

According to court documents recently obtained by Tucson Local Media, Flood admitted to shooting both of her grandchildren twice each, in their heads and torsos, and then attempted to kill herself by taking an unknown quantity of prescription medication. Flood told the police, "she alone was responsible for her grandchildren's deaths."

According to the Pima County Sheriff, Northwest Fire District personnel responded to a medical call near North La Cholla Boulevard and Ruthrauff Road at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 4. Upon arrival, "they discovered an unresponsive adult female inside the residence. While providing medical care, they also discovered two children with obvious signs of trauma and determined they were dead. The female had symptoms of an apparent overdose and was transported to a local hospital."

The victims were identified as 8-year-old twins, Jaden and Jorden Webb. Flood was the grandmother and guardian of the boys, as their mother is deceased. Both boys were autistic.

Flood is currently being held in the Pima County Adult Detention Center on a $250,000 cash only bond. According to court documents, it’s believed that if released, Flood could make another attempt on her life.

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Staff Pick

UA Dance: Spring Collection

Spring Collection is the season’s “wrap up party,” and as always we offer you something special. This… More

@ UA Stevie Eller Dance Theatre Fri., April 19, 7:30-9 p.m., Sat., April 20, 7:30-9 p.m., Sun., April 21, 1:30-3 p.m., Thu., April 25, 7:30-9 p.m., Fri., April 26, 7:30-9 p.m., Sat., April 27, 7:30-9 p.m. and Sun., April 28, 1:30-3 p.m. 1737 E. University Blvd.

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