A new study by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC) shows that overall, high school students in Pima County are using fewer drugs than they were in 2012, the last year data was collected.The report – which sampled grades eight, 10 and 12, and also considered elements like bullying – questioned students on drugs they’ve used in their lifetime as well as any drug usage within the 30 days prior to the survey being issued. The commission surveys nearly 50,000 students from each county in Arizona.Lifetime UseOf the 16 drug-types included in the survey, 12th graders showed declines in 11 categories. Spikes came in the usage of alcohol (71.9 percent versus 70.8 percent in 2012), marijuana (47.9/45.4), inhalants (7.2/7.1), steroids (2.6/1.2), and over-the-counter drugs (11.4/11.1).Declined usage was reported for such drugs as cigarettes, prescription drugs, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Open enrollment for health plans under the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, began Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15. Dozens of plans at various cost and benefit levels are being offered by many companies, and enrollment can be confusing.Don Valdez, a “Navigator” for the Pima Community Access Program, PCAP, told the Nov. 18 Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting that help is available without charge. PCAP is a non profit that has been around for 14 years helping people to enroll in AHCCCS, and now in the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace. They are not brokers or insurance salespeople.PCAP navigators can also help with ACA’s tax credit information and application to offset plan costs for eligible families and individuals. Enrolling with a Navigator can save time and confusion through a process one person called “really tricky.” PCAP wants people to make informed decisions so, Valdez said, “you know what you are choosing.” Basic benefits include: ambulatory patient services, emergency services, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse, prescription drugs, laboratory and rehabilitation services, preventive care, chronic disease management, and pediatric services including oral and vision care. Annual checkups are included at no charge. PCAP Navigators help people understand the differences between PPO, HMO, HSA, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, as well as the difference between Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of coverage and their costs.To enroll you must live in the service area, be a U.S. citizen or a lawful non-citizen, and not be incarcerated. Penalties for not enrolling can go up to $325 or two percent of yearly income, whichever is higher, for an adult in 2015, and more the following year. A Navigator can also discuss hardship cases and exemptions with enrollees.
A Credit For Caring donation to one or more of our local schools can reduce your state tax bill dollar for dollar. School donations must be made before Dec. 31 and the Credit for Caring tax form 322 filled out when you do your Arizona income taxes. The schools will provide the appropriate receipt to file with your taxes. If you estimate your 2014 state tax liability, making an equivalent donation to our schools (up to $200 for an individual, $400 if married) means your money will go directly to our schools for field trips and other programs, and not to Phoenix. C4C forms are available at schools now.
American Legion Tucson Mountains Post 102 regular meetings are the first Tuesday of each month – September through May at the Tucson Estates Recreation Hall. Our next Post 102 meeting is Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. We encourage all eligible veterans to join us, get acquainted and help to serve the veterans in our area. Dec. 7 is Pearl Harbor Day, the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and we will especially remember all the veterans of World War II. The Legion and Auxiliary Christmas party will be Saturday, Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. The Legion will provide a meat and cheese tray and members bring salads or deserts. Instead of a gift exchange, please bring an unwrapped gift for a small child. These will be given to the Drexel Heights Fire Department for distribution. Let’s all help make this a happy Christmas for a child. The Tucson Mountains American Legion Post 102 offers a number of local programs and activities to strengthen its commitment to our nation’s grass roots and the people we serve. The American Legion is the nation’s largest veterans service organization. The activities of American Legion continue year round, providing service to the Veteran’s Hospital and to other veterans in the area. For information, contact Bill Boals at 981-5459.
Here is your chance to win a variety of prizes in the name of helping those less fortunate during the holiday season. All you have to do is get into the giving spirit, as The Explorer and Tucson Local Media have teamed up with Interfaith Community Services (ICS) for a second year.The Explorer is currently collecting donations of new unwrapped toys, new clothes, food donations or cash. Every time you bring in a donation to The Explorer office, you will receive a raffle ticket, and automatically be entered into a drawing for an iPad Mini and other prizes. Participants will receive one ticket per trip.Donations will be accepted at the office located at 7225 N. Mona Lisa Road, Suite 125.
Picture Rocks Fire District has kicked off its annual Toys for Kids drive. To donate to this program, please drop off new and unwrapped toys to the PRFD fire station or Administration Building between now and Dec. 5, between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.Each year Picture Rocks Fire District attempts to help as many families as possible to have a happy holiday season. District residents in need of donations can sign up during normal business hours at PRFD Administration Building, located at 12121 W. Picture Rocks Road. Participants will need to show proof of District residency and sign up by 5 p.m. on Dec. 5.
Cookies and cocoa with Santa, a free event for all ages, Dec. 20, 10 a.m. to noon. Craft, cookies, cocoa, and Santa. 5615 N. Sanders Road.
When singers finish their performances on “American Idol,” viewers can vote for their favorite contestant over the next 24 hours via text message, Facebook, mobile apps, the Internet and by telephone. Votes are tallied and the winner is announced the next day. Pretty easy.Some Arizonans have cited American Idol’s vote tallying when complaining about the slow pace of ballot counting in the past few elections. Comparing the casting of a ballot in a free and fair election with a television program is unfortunate.Voting for an American Idol contestant wouldn’t be so quick and easy if all of the people casting a ballot had to prove their identity and that they hadn’t already voted and that they voted in the correct location. On “American Idol,” fans can vote up to 50 times. That’s a little different than one person, one vote.Pima County has numerous safeguards and security built into our voting system. We ensure everyone who is eligible to vote and who wants to can do so and that his or her vote is counted and secure.In times past, general elections were held on the first Tuesday in November and voters turned out that day to a polling place in or near their neighborhood to cast ballots. The ballots were counted and winners announced that night.Times have changed. The vast majority of voters now prefer to vote an early ballot (75 percent in Pima County in last month’s elections) – receiving their ballot in the mail about a month before Election Day, filling it out at their leisure, and mailing it back before Election Day.
Picture Rocks Fire District will not hold CPR/First Aid classes December and January. They will start up again in February. In 2015, there will be a $15 fee to take the class for district residents, and $25 for non-district residents. For information, call 682-7878.
In December, the post will be having a Christmas party on Saturday, Dec. 20. Bring an appetizer and a white elephant gift. On Wednesday, Dec. 31, there will be a New Year’s Eve party starting at 5 p.m. A band will start at 8 p.m.The AMVETS Post and Clubroom are open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. or earlier/later (bartender’s discretion) Monday thru Saturday. On Sundays when breakfast is served the Post and Clubroom open at 9 a.m. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. There is no Happy Hour on weekends or federal holidays. Be sure to check the bulletin board on the front of the Post for the weekly menu and activities. Then come on in and join us for food, fun, and your favorite beverage.The AMVETS Post meets the first Sunday of each month at 10 a.m. The next meeting will be Sunday, Dec. 7. The Ladies Auxiliary meets the second Sunday of each month at 9:30 a.m. The next meeting will be Dec. 14. The Sons’ Of AMVETS meets at 6 p.m. The Monday following the Post’s monthly meeting. Their December meeting is on Dec. 8.Official days to fly the flag in December are: Sunday, Dec. 7 – 73rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day – flag at half-staff; and Thursday, Dec. 25 - Christmas Day.December dates of interest: Tuesday, Dec. 16 – 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge; Thursday, Dec. 25 – 238th anniversary of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River.
Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain District (west) will offer a three-day Wilderness Camp for young people 10 to 14 years old. The dates for the camp are Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Dec. 27-29.For more information, contact Ranger Chip Littlefield at 733-5157, or email email@example.com. The camp fee of $40 per child covers all three days. Space is limited and reservations are required. Scholarships may be available. Camp fees and registration paperwork must be received by Wednesday, Dec. 17. Don’t wait, spaces are going fast.Participants will develop a personal relationship with the desert by exploring the wilds of the park and experience the wonders of nature as they are guided by experienced and enthusiastic staff. We will wander through the hidden washes while searching for animals and their signs, learn how to pitch a tent or string up a tarp for shelter, use lightweight stoves to cook up hot chocolate and soup, and understand how to explore the outdoors safely. Camp hours are 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, ending with a night hike, campfire, and the end of camp celebration. While waiting for your child to hike out from our base camp, please join us at the parent campfire where hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows will be served.
This time of year is holy to many religions, celebrating as it does the turning of the world from short dark days to longer ones filled with light. As many of us turn our thoughts to events that occurred long ago and half a world away, I thought I might address a topic that has long fascinated me: plants of the Holy Land that can be grown here in Tucson.You could start you collection at this time of year with a living Jerusalem pine. Locally it is commonly called Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), and often sold as a living Christmas tree. (Aleppo was the site of some heavy duty Crusader battles.) The pine grows to around 40 feet tall, with a loose open top. Pinus halepensis was used in the floors of Solomon’s palace and is found in the flooring and cross beams of ancient Mediterranean ship decks. The Jerusalem pine is found throughout the Judean Mountains, including around and in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. If you don’t appreciate pines, perhaps you could plant another common Holy Land evergreen tree, the carob. Cerotonia siliqua is in the same family as the mesquite tree, only it never sheds its leaves, and it provides a deep dense shade, plus deliciously chocolate-like edible fruit. With a mature size of 30 feet tall by 30 feet wide, carob is not the tree for a narrow patio. To see a few beautiful specimens of this plant, take a stroll around the U of A campus. For exact location, use arboretum.arizona.edu and click on “find trees.” Cyclamens, the beautiful flowers with heart-shaped leaves offered alongside poinsettias this year, are also a Holy Land plant. They are actually bulbs that spend most of their life underground, hiding from the hot desert sun. In their native lands they hide on rocky hillsides and come out for a few glorious weeks in March and April after the winter rains. You can try planting your bulbs after the flowers fade, but they have been forced to bloom early for the industry, and may not survive.Incidentally, the Holy Land, as I am using it here, includes Israel and parts of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Basically it’s the lands at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Biogeographers call it an Eastern Mediterranean Climate. This type of climate is divided into the rainy season, from November to March, and the dry season, from May to September, with two transition months. The extended summer dry season is fairly tough on plants. But that makes them ideal for our area.More on Holy Land plants next year. I will close with best wishes to you and yours for holidays and a new year filled with peace and joy.
Citizens for Picture Rocks and Picture Rocks Community Center will again host an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve Pot Luck. Musicians will provide music. Open to all; admission is free, just bring a dish for the dinner.
The town is seeking members for its Marana Citizens’ Forum. The group brings together residents, business owners and community partners to study and address issues facing the town. Recommendations are then presented to Town Council.The forum holds as many as three sessions each year. Each session consists of five 1½ hour meetings, held on Thursdays at the Marana Municipal Complex beginning at 5:30 p.m. The next session begins in January or February 2015.Applications are available at http://www.marana.com/forms.aspx?FID=93 (at marana.com under Community/Citizen Engagement). All applications remain active for a year from receipt.Call 382-1960 for additional information.
Move for Hunger is working with Allstate Insurance to host an office food drive. In Southern Arizona, over 200,000 people are at risk for hunger because they live on low incomes.The food drive will take place at 1660 E. River Road Suite 150, from Nov. 7 to Dec. 15. Allstate Insurance is hosting this food drive just in time for the holiday season. Once the food drive ends, Daniel’s Moving and Storage will pick up the nonperishable food items and deliver them to the Community Food Bank of Tucson. This process saves the food bank the expensive resources necessary to transport the food.“The influx of food drives during the holiday season is really heartwarming, “ said Executive Director of Move For Hunger, Adam Lowy. “It’s great to see an increase in hunger awareness and people giving back. Every food drive makes a big impact.”Suggested items to donate will be soups, rice, peanut butter, canned beans, canned vegetables, canned fruits, baby food, fruit juice, condiments, and pasta.About Move For Hunger:
The 8th annual “Senior Citizen Fire Academy” will include specialized safety training plus a closer look at the local fire department and the services it provides. Program participants will receive not only important information they will also receive free safety resources for their home.Statistically, senior citizens 55 and older are at risk for home fires and falls. The Senior Citizen Fire Academy will provide education and free resources related to home fire safety and fall prevention to combat these issues. The District is very excited to offer such an engaging program for the senior residents of the community. Each academy session consists of a series of four classes. During the academy, participants will meet fire officials, learn about the history of the organization and receive a tour of one of the fire stations. A fire safety class covers topics such as smoke alarms, kitchen safety, heating your home, and fire extinguishers. Participants will get to use a real home fire extinguisher. Another class is on fall prevention and will be taught by a member of the Pima Council On Aging. This fall proofing class will educate participants on how to improve their balance systems and how to prevent falls at home. The final class is about how to get connected to the community and will include a panel of presenters who will speak to programs that seniors can benefit from or volunteer to help with.The classes are conducted one 2.5-hour session each week for a total of four weeks. All of the classes will be located in the training facility next to DHFD Fire Station #401, at 5030 S. Camino Verde (Ajo and Camino Verde). There is no fee for the Senior Citizen Fire Academy but a completed registration form is required to hold a participants spot in the academy. Registration forms can be picked up at Drexel Heights Fire District’s Administration Center (5030 S. Camino Verde) or a form can be printed out from the fire department’s website at www.drexelfire.net For information, call Drexel Heights Fire District at 883-4341. Upcoming academy dates are as follows:
Sue Steadman’s 90th birthday was celebrated at the Nov. 13 at the Picture Rocks Community Center with dozens of voices singing out their celebration of a life well lived. Sue, formerly a professional musician, still plays stand-up bass and guitar and sings and yodels every Thursday. She was joined by her far-flung family, but said that everyone there was her family. Hummin’ & Strummin’ gathers every Thursday at 6:30 p.m., 5615 N. Sanders Road. Free, and everyone welcome.
The Foothills Artists’ Group will be holding its annual Art Show and Sale at the Foothills Clubhouse off Tucson Estates Parkway on Sunday, Dec. 7, from 1 to 4 p.m. The art group began in 2005, with the artists meeting weekly from October through April. Each artist brings a different perspective to these classes. Members’ skills range from beginning to professional. They bring a diverse collection of fine art.Instructors teach a variety of art forms including drawing, watercolor, acrylic and oil painting, pastels, colored pencils and many other techniques. The Art Show reflects many unique affordable offerings of fine art including all types of mediums and styles ranging from traditional, modern, contemporary and abstract. Admission to the show is free, open to the public and refreshments will be served.
In November, Picture Rocks Hiking Club explorers visited Box Canyon, following a wash from Picture Rocks Road at the bottom of Contzen Pass through the Tucson Mountains to the Redemptorist Renewal Center. The Redemptorist Center petroglyphs, or glyphs, are a thousand years and more old. There are geometric designs, dancers, stick figures, game animals, and more – as at thousands of Tucson-area sites, especially around the Avra Valley. This site is what gives Picture Rocks its name.Some glyphs may, like Tohono O’odham memory sticks, be markers for events, history as well as rock art. Some may be prayers, or territory and clan markers, or maps. We may never know for sure, but it is certain that glyphs are not the graffiti some archaeologists once thought they were. Not at an inch an hour pecking images rock on rock. Many archaeologists are dropping the words “prehistoric” and “primitive” from their professional vocabularies. The ancients had history, passed along in oral tradition and in rock art and memory sticks. As far as “primitive” goes, over 4,000 years ago the Huhugam created complex canal irrigation systems around Tucson and Phoenix that opened up the harsh desert to agriculture and village life. A canal from the Santa Cruz River to the Marana Mound archeological site is nine miles long.Whether building large-scale farming enterprises or creating intricately decorated ceramic pots and delicate jewelry made from seashells, intelligence and skill and planning were required, and the First Peoples of the Southwest had all of that, and more.The next hike will be at Cactus Wren Trail to Signal Hill and an ancient “flower power” ceremonial site: Thursday, Dec. 18; meet at PRCC at 8:30 a.m. with water and a light lunch. Wear a hat and sturdy shoes, and a walking stick is useful.
It was fun and games for Picture Rocks Intermediate and Desert Winds Elementary School students and parents on Nov. 21 at the PRI site. Organized by the Parent-Teacher Organization, the Annual Fall Carnival is a way for parents to give back to the schools and community, and the kids love it. The Marana High School Band was on hand to set a happy tone.
Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain District (west) will offer a three-day Wilderness Camp for young people 10 to 14 years old. The dates for the camp are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday December 27-29, 2014.Participants will develop a personal relationship with the desert by exploring the wilds of the park and experience the wonders of nature as they are guided by experienced and enthusiastic staff. We will wander through the hidden washes while searching for animals and their signs, learn how to pitch a tent or string up a tarp for shelter, use lightweight stoves to cook up hot chocolate and soup, and understand how to explore the outdoors safely. The signature events are watching twilight fall across the landscape, exploring the desert after dark, and listening to the sounds of the night while sitting around the campfire, Check out our excitingly fabulous, three-day Wilderness Camp at Saguaro National Park West.Camp hours are 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, ending with a night hike, campfire, and the end of camp celebration. While waiting for your child to hike out from our basecamp, please join us at the parent campfire where hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows will be served.For more information or questions, please contact Ranger Chip Littlefield at 733-5157, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The camp fee of $40.00 per child covers all three days. Space is limited and reservations are required. Scholarships may be available. Camp fees and registration paperwork must be received by Wednesday, December 17. Don’t wait, spaces are going fast!Where: Tucson Mountain District (Saguaro West)Environmental Education Center