Status and Stasis

A review of stories from 2008 reveals that the status quo often--but not always--reigns supreme

While some things changed in Tucson in 2008, the community mostly saw a lot of things stay the same: Regarding many of the stories covered during the last 12 months, what didn't happen was more noteworthy than what did.

A cover story on infant mortality in Pima County ("Lost Angels," June 5) revealed not only that this tragic event was more frequent here than in most of the rest of the United States; it also happened considerably more often here than in Maricopa County. The figures cited included those for 2006, the latest available when the story was written. Numbers for 2007, which have since been released, show Pima County's rate has shamefully stayed the same--remaining at 7.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

The status quo also remained concerning the question of why a southside man tested positive for the toxic substance beryllium. Even though an article ("Airborne Worries," April 3) indicated the Pima County Board of Health would consider appealing a decision by the federal government not to look into the case, the board never did: Dennis Douglas from the county says county officials were told the affected man might have had prior occupational exposure to beryllium. Based on that information, no appeal was filed.

Also not moving forward, at least by the end of 2008, was a proposal to build two new dormitories on the UA campus ("High-Price Housing," April 24). Construction was originally slated to start in November, but that date is now up in the air.

"We're in a delay mode," reports Robert Smith of the UA, "because the projects haven't been reviewed yet by the Legislature's Joint Committee on Capital Review. We're ready to start as soon as that hopefully happens." However, the incoming Legislature will be dominated even more than the last by fiscally conservative Republicans, and with Pima County having little political clout at the state Capitol, the dorms' future may just be in doubt.

Another project which has had its start date pushed back indefinitely is a high-rise condominium project near the UA campus ("Breaking a Lease?" Sept. 18). Initially scheduled to be under construction by early 2010, the condo project's plans have been shelved by the economic downtown, the city of Tucson's dismal budget situation and the need to find a new location for the DIRECT Center for Independence.

"We're looking at a potential relocation plan and doing research," says Wendy Dewey, head of DIRECT. "We're in a position of strength, because we don't have to do anything. But if we can gain a state-of-the-art facility (by moving), we won't walk away from that, but it may not happen for years."

It will be months, not years, until the Tucson Toros take the field in May to begin play as an independent-league ball club. Replacing the Triple-A Sidewinders, the new team will compete at Hi Corbett Field, not Tucson Electric Park.

Whether Dale Lopez ("Bottom of the Ninth," Aug. 28) will be the public-address announcer for the club has yet to be determined. According to a spokesman, that decision won't be made until April.

The building projects slated for Tucson High School are on firmer footing. Those plans include a parking garage, renovation of the existing gymnasium and the addition of a practice gym ("Badger Bickering," June 19).

Construction work is scheduled to start in May, with anticipated completion by August 2010. For the 2009-2010 school year, Tucson High will be without a gym. Thus, their physical education classes, along with the basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams, will have to be relocated.

Where the teams will play and the PE classes will be held hasn't been decided. School officials hope a decision can be made by the end of January.

The summer of 2010 is the target date to begin construction on a grade-separated interchange at 22nd Street and Kino Parkway ("Traffic Troubles," May 15). Although some members of the project's citizens' advisory committee believe the selected design has "substantial shortcomings," the City Council unanimously adopted it in November.

Later this year, the city will start further testing for the presence of pharmaceuticals in Tucson Water wells. Up to five wells located north of the Ina Road sewage treatment plant and at the Avra Valley recharge facility will be involved.

Small amounts of some drugs were previously detected in one well ("Drink This," Aug. 14, and "What's That in the Water?" The Skinny, Aug. 21), so the number of wells to be tested has been increased.

What hasn't increased is the amount of money the city of Tucson has spent to preserve downtown's historic--and now vacant--Steinfeld Warehouse. Since it acquired management responsibility for the century-old building in 2007, that figure has consistently been zero.

It was nothing when "Funky Places" appeared in the Weekly on Sept. 4, and City Hall "hasn't spent a dime" on its maintenance since then, confirms a spokesperson.

On the other hand, city officials have continued discussions with representatives of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). These talks are focused at transferring the ownership of more than a dozen old warehouses, including the Steinfeld building, from ADOT to the city.

City Hall has identified three parcels of vacant property it would trade to ADOT for the buildings, and appraisals have been prepared. The next meeting in the negotiations is scheduled in a few weeks.

While that ownership situation might eventually change, the status of a billboard near the intersection of Interstate 19 and Interstate 10 remains mostly the same ("The Advertising Culture," July 24). The giant sign is still there, even though, because of adjacent sound walls, the only people who can see it are nearby residents.

What did change on the Clear Channel Outdoor billboard was the copy on one side. It went from a "Nurses Wanted" ad to a sign which read: "Ex-gays prove change is possible."

After people complained, the sign was altered again a few days later to a Dr. Pepper promotion.

Who says things in Tucson never change?

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