Following Up

It's time to update some 2006 news stories

Will steps taken in 2006 lead to different courses of action next year? Or, to paraphrase the French, will it turn out that the more things change, the more they stay the same?

A look back at some stories from the last 12 months reveals the potential for a little bit of both.

Not much has happened with the city of Tucson's efforts to attract more users for its garbage-fee assistance program ("Trash Cash," July 27). Despite efforts to publicize the program, Assistant City Manager Karen Masbruch says its usage is still low, and she is open to ideas for promoting it further.

On the other hand, progress may be made regarding possible wasted energy at Roskruge Middle School ("Conservation Quandary," April 20). Nearby neighbor Chris Nichols reports that he has met with Tucson Unified School District representatives, and they agreed to work toward a solution while also looking at the issue district-wide. "There's some spirit of cooperation," Nichols says.

Tina Cook, TUSD's interim energy program manager, adds: "We've implemented a $15,000 energy-management system at Roskruge, and it has helped." As far as energy usage at other TUSD buildings, she says her office is still evaluating those systems.

The district still hasn't heard about its revised 2006 federal E-Rate grant application, which is seeking $1.5 million for telecommunication expenses. After a Weekly cover story ("Communication Breakdown," June 8) and three follow-up articles about the program, an acquaintance of Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer labeled them "slanted, yellow journalism."

Mark Miller, a consultant for TUSD, chimed in with his own criticism, claiming in an e-mail that the Weekly's articles have been "hostile to the district's E-Rate efforts".

The facts in this case are obvious: For four years, TUSD hasn't been able to obtain any E-Rate funds, while other school districts in Tucson have been continually successful. Notable among them is Amphitheater, which has already been awarded $138,500 for 2006.

Also still pending at TUSD is resolution of the dispute between Dodge Middle School parents over the future of its traditional curriculum ("Drama at Dodge," Aug. 10). Robyn Gaub is one of those trying to ensure the original intent of the program is maintained, and says a mediation process is under way to try to resolve the conflict.

Gaub says that on Sept. 19, the TUSD board adopted a proclamation in support of traditional education; she also says that some parents hate her for calling for school principal Cathy Comstock to be reassigned. "I'd rather have a root canal" than participate in the mediation process, Gaub says.

Dialysis patient Natalie Kellogg has had to jump through some painful hoops to get affordable medications, thanks to the federal government's Plan D prescription-drug plan. Earlier this year ("Debt for Drugs," July 20), Kellogg thought she'd have to go into the hospital, because she couldn't afford to enter the Plan D doughnut hole, where people have to pay 100 percent of the cost of their prescriptions.

Because Kellogg's physician was sympathetic, she obtained free samples of the most expensive drug and was able to stay out of the hospital. At one point, she says, the samples ran out, so she had to use an alternative, which made her ill.

"I hope Congress takes away the doughnut hole," Kellogg proclaims, pointing out that 70 percent of dialysis patients fall into it.

Plan D also adversely impacted many of Arizona's poor, requiring them for several months to come up with co-pays for their prescription drugs ("Co-Pay Problems," May 11). But the state of Arizona finally stepped up in October and assumed those costs--and apparently did it with very few problems. Rainey Holloway, chief public information officer for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, says that out of almost 100,000 affected people, only 170 called with comments about the transition.

Conversely, complaints have been made for years about the idea of building a storm-water retention basin along Arroyo Chico south of Broadway Boulevard and west of Kino Parkway. Despite that, rainwater may soon be running into the basins ("Red Tape Run Amok," July 13). Pima County's Suzanne Shields reports bids to construct the long-delayed project were to be opened recently, and construction on the $18 million project could begin in May.

A month or two later, the city of Tucson hopes to start work on demolishing the historic Fourth Avenue Underpass, replacing it with a new, more modern version ("Endangered Roadway," May 4). The cost of the new underpass is still unknown, but project manager Brooks Keenan anticipates having an estimate from Sundt Construction Company shortly.

While the 1916 Fourth Avenue underpass is Tucson's oldest, both the Sixth Avenue subway from 1930 and the 1935 Stone Avenue underpass also have important significance. Both underpasses were slated for destruction as part of the downtown mile of the Barraza-Aviation Parkway, but prospects have been recently reversed, and current plans call for them to be saved.

Not so lucky was a huge mesquite tree found along the Rillito River Park near Campbell Avenue ("Paving Paradise," March 2). The tree was removed to make way for a new office development, and its destruction left hundreds of birds homeless, their plaintive pleas still filling the air a week after the tree was cut down.

Nine months later, the birds are all gone, and the site is under construction. Only silence now fills the once natural lot--but that is the type of change Tucson is known for, in this or any other year.

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