Review and Recap

Uncertainty continues to rule the day as we look back at some of the year's stories

Unknown outcomes were a common theme to many stories covered in the past year. Will 2008 bring happy endings or sad farewells? That remains uncertain.

Starting with a cover story on March 1 ("Cost Versus Culture"): The fate of the artists in the Steinfeld Warehouse, along with the future of the building itself, were given extensive coverage. Now, months after the 100-year-old structure on Sixth Street was evacuated and acquired by the city of Tucson, the warehouse's prospects sound dim.

"As of this time, there is no funding identified for the Steinfeld building," said city Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Graham in late December. Since it will require millions of dollars in structural upgrades, that isn't good news for the flagship of downtown's Warehouse District.

One source of funds for the warehouse may sit right across the street. A few weeks ago, the Tucson City Council approved zoning for a condominium/hotel/retail project ("Progress Delayed," May 24) that Town West Design Development Inc. proposes to build on the city-owned site.

According to Greg Shelko, the city's Rio Nuevo director, the company has 21 months to get the new building under construction. "If it goes forward," Shelko said, "there can be up to $1.6 million for the Steinfeld building, which would be paid back to the developers out of the sales-tax receipts from their project."

Another much-anticipated downtown condominium proposal is The Post on Congress Street. Months ago ("Slack Demand," April 5), the developer made predictions that it would be under construction by June.

That didn't happen, but Oscar Turner of Bourn Partners remains optimistic. "We've gone back out to bid," Turner said recently, "because the first time, we didn't get good prices. We intend to be in the ground before spring."

While action is still pending on those residential projects, aggressive steps have been taken regarding foreclosures. A June 21 article ("Home Loss") revealed that for the first five months of the year, trustee sales in Pima County had risen 55 percent above 2006 figures.

That pace later skyrocketed, going up to 76 percent for the period from June 1 to Dec. 17, with November's 540 filings possibly setting a one-month record. Since many adjustable-rate mortgages are due to increase substantially over the next two years, the pain appears to be far from over.

Also facing possible eviction--from his family home on Sixth Street--is William Kennedy. A Nov. 1 story ("In the Way of Progress") outlined his fight with the UA, and since then, Kennedy has heard nothing substantially different from the university.

Still hearing from a lot of people is the Information and Referral Service. Earlier this year, executive director Leslie Ann Williams believed the agency would have to shut down if it didn't receive funding from both the city and county ("Advice in Jeopardy," March 29).

The money wasn't approved, but the assistance the agency provides continues.

"We shortened our hours from 24-7 to 7 (a.m.) to 7 (p.m.) on weekdays, and 9 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.) on the weekend," Williams said, "which is based on solid private funding. The future looks very good."

Also looking good are sales of my friend Bill Kalt's book, Tucson Was a Railroad Town. As stated in "Train Town" on March 15, the book includes hundreds of historic photos along with text describing the importance the railroad played in Tucson's history. It can be purchased at Kalt said he has heard from scores of people since his book came out last month.

A Feb. 1 article ("Begin the Deluge") pointed out how voters were swamped in 2006 by unwanted political phone calls. The article stated that if the telephone-number request were eliminated from the voter-registration form, or if people registering didn't provide their phone numbers, those annoying intrusions could be reduced.

The former step certainly hasn't been implemented. Thus, folks rushing to meet the Jan. 7 registration deadline to vote in the Feb. 5 election will be opening themselves up for electronic harassment if they unnecessarily provide their phone number.

On Sept. 20, our cover story ("On the Hook") discussed local towing companies. A few readers complained that the article lacked an important explanation. "When a vehicle (is) towed at the request of a third party (not law enforcement)," one reader wrote, "the owner has to pay nothing to get their vehicle back from the company. The law is that the person or entity requesting the tow is responsible for the cost of the tow and storage."

Certainly, Chapter 11 of Arizona Revised Statutes, especially sections 28-4836 and 37, bears checking out in this regard.

Also being borne out is a longtime wish of Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry ("Money Grab," Feb. 15). Last week, the Tucson City Council approved changes in the way already-completed water- and sewer-line relocation projects, required by road widenings, will be paid for by the local governments.

Instead of paying 50 percent of construction costs and nothing for design, both the city and county will now pay 100 and 22 percent, respectively, for these past projects. If this same arrangement is extended to future road widenings, higher water and sewer rates can be expected in the name of more street work. That, in the opinion of some taxpayers, wouldn't be a happy ending.

Finally, speaking of unhappy endings: Last week, we reported the story of Linda Bugbee and William Plocar ("Home Sweet Horror"), who have been unable to get help--from their landlord or local authorities--regarding their unsafe southside mobile home.

After the story ran, and just days before Christmas, they got an unpleasant gift from their landlord: an eviction notice.

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