Compiled from stories published in 2005
The end of every calendar year always prompts the American media to take a quick glance over its shoulder at the year that was - just in case any readers or viewers forgot - and set the stage for the year to be.
The EXPLORER is no exception.
The fifth year of the new millennium had its bright spots, like the ever-expanding housing market enriching the asset portfolios of nearly all homeowners across the nation and keeping the economy robust.
But mostly 2005 was a bummer nationally and worldwide, albeit with many shining lights amid all the gloom.
Mother Nature was responsible for most of the bad news, killing hundreds of thousands along the Indian Ocean and making millions more homeless as a result of the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami. She struck repeatedly in the United States, Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, as more than two dozen hurricanes flooded homes, killed thousands and made hundreds of thousands more homeless.
In Central Asia, she killed tens of thousands in Pakistan in a devastating earthquake, and she made more than a quarter million homeless in China and India through some of the worst flooding those nations have seen in decades.
But Americans showed once again why they are among the most generous people on the planet, donating billions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of relief supplies to those stricken by the natural disasters.
An Oro Valley woman, Lisa Hopper, was among the leaders of the relief effort through World Care, a relief agency she founded in 1994.
She is an example of how small the world is these days. Despite Indonesia being on the other side of the globe, a generous and energetic woman from little 'ol Oro Valley was able to help bring aid and comfort to the thousands of injured and homeless in that far away land.
So, though events may seem distant and disconnected from us, the problems of the world are also ours.
But this retrospective will be a bit more provincial in its scope. The following is recap of the major events of the Northwest and Foothills, as covered by the EXPLORER.
- The Oro Valley Police Department added three lieutenants to its ranks, the first additions of command ranks in the department in 13 years.
The department promoted two sergeants, Jason Larter and Aaron Lesuer, to lieutenant, and hired a third lieutenant from the Tucson Police Department. The promotions, plus a retirement, created three open sergeant positions, which were also filled at a promotion ceremony Dec. 30, 2004. The new sergeants are Andrew Lopez, Kathy Ingulli and Curt Hicks.
- Northwest Medical Center Oro Valley opens to great fanfare, the first new full service hospital built in Pima County since the original Northwest Medical Center was opened in 1983. The 96-bed facility at Tangerine Road and Innovation Park Drive is a stunning, state-of-the-art, high tech facility built to expand and meet the growing needs of Oro Valley, Catalina and the South Pinal County area.
- A woman's fight to make the roads around Mountain View High School safer after student Talin Rogers was hit by a car while crossing the street Oct. 1, 2004, came to fruition Jan. 13. Pima County installed a HAWK signal across Linda Vista Boulevard and lowered the speed limits around the school during school hours, plus made a number of other minor traffic flow adjustments to make the streets safer for the more than 2,000 students attending the school. Sue Koepke, a friend of the Rogers family, spearheaded the effort to get the county to make the changes.
- The principal of Ironwood Ridge High School pulled the plug on a satirical school musical about cannibalism in the 1800s. The play, "Cannibal! The Musical," which was already in rehearsals, was deemed inappropriate for a high school audience after selected scenes were reviewed by a small group of school officials and employees. Zachary Singer, the student who brought the musical to the school's drama teacher and adapted it for the school production, announced later in the month that the musical had found a patron and would still go on, off campus, with the proceeds benefiting AIDS victims in Africa.
- Three new Marana Unified School District Governing Board Members were sworn in Jan. 11, ending a year of controversy for the district's board.
Patricia Teager, Maribel Lopez and Albert Siquieros were elected in November, ousting two incumbents, Jan Mitich and Debbie Schmich. The third seat was opened after board member Sandi Nelson resigned in August. Longtime Board Member Dan Post was reelected to a sixth four-year term on the board. The three new board members were supported by the group Take Back Our School District, which formed in June after the forced resignation of popular Superintendent Rick Lesko.
- Oro Valley settled a lawsuit brought by Beztak, the developer of an embattled commercial property near La Cañada Drive and Lambert Lane. The suit was the result of the town council denying in June an extension of the developer's development plan because it hadn't completed landscaping of the site, as the plan required. The company sued seeking monetary damages and the right to resume the project, which includes apartments and small retail strips. The settlement allowed the project to resume without the town or council members having to pay damages to the company.
- The Federal Emergency Manage-ment Association announced that it would be lifting more than 700 acres in Marana out of the Santa Cruz River floodplain, thanks to map revisions spearheaded by the town. The revisions relieve hundreds of Marana homeowners from having to pay federally mandated flood insurance premiums and opens up the area for more development.
- Ironwood Ridge High School was rocked Feb. 3 after two students committed suicide together. The students, Jake Hrasok and Matt Ramsey, died of carbon monoxide poisoning and were found in a family car parked in the desert off Overton Road.
- A state appeals court overturned a lower court's decision and ruled Feb. 11 that Oro Valley should have accepted referendum petitions from a group of citizens in 2004. The citizens were seeking to refer to a vote a tax incentive granted to Vestar, a Phoenix-based developer that wants to build an 800,000 square foot shopping plaza at Tangerine and Oracle roads. The town had rejected the petitions in June, saying the town council's action granting the incentive was an administrative action and not referable to a vote under the state's referendum law. A Pima County Superior Court judge came to the same conclusion in December, but the appeals court reversed that decision.
- The Catalina Foothills High School girls soccer team won its second state title in three years, dismantling Flagstaff 8-1 Feb. 15. The championship further solidified the school's reputation for having one of the best girls athletics programs in the state.
- The Marana Unified School District reviewed the hiring records of all of its 1,759 employees after a hall monitor at Mountain View High School, Daniel Mena, was arrested in January for contributing to the delinquency of a minor after allegedly touching and kissing a 17-year-old student off school grounds. Mena had a past conviction for aggravated assault the district was unaware of. The review came at the same time as an EXPLORER review of the district's hiring of Mena. The EXPLORER's review showed the district overlooked several red flags in Mena's past and that Mena may have told the district he had a past felony conviction but the district's human resource's department missed it. The district's spokesperson had said after Mena's arrest that the district conducts "intensive" background checks on all employees, but that turned out not to be true in Mena's hiring, according to the records reviewed by the EXPLORER. That revelation prompted the district to review all of the district's employees. The review showed no other district employees slipped through the cracks of the district's hiring process.
- The Northwest Interfaith Center celebrated its 20th Anniversary and changed its name to Interfaith Community Services to reflect its expanding scope. The center provides aid and other human services to thousands of Pima County residents, many of who live in the Northwest. The center is the combined effort of more than two dozen Northwest area churches.
- The Pusch Ridge Christian Academy girls basketball team won its first state title, beating St. Johns 43-27 in the 2A final.
- Oro Valley hired Melinda Garrahan as its new town attorney. She replaces Mark Langlitz, who resigned in 2004 to a take a job with Pima County. Garrahan had previously been the town attorney for Flagstaff.
- The Marana Chamber of Commerce named Robert Condit as its Man of the Year and Debbie Schmich as its Woman of the Year. Condit was recognized for his service to Marana. He was instrumental in securing the area's water resources and in founding the town. He has served on town boards and commissions since it became a town in 1977 and was manager of the Cortaro Water Users Association from 1984 to 2003, until illness caused him to step down. Schmich was recognized for her service to the Marana Unified School District, serving as a volunteer for 12 years and as a governing board member for eight.
- The Marana Unified School District hired Denny Dearden as its new superintendent. Dearden replaces interim superintendent Jane Pryne, who was hired in July 2004 to replace Rick Lesko, who was forced to resign in June 2004. Dearden was hired from a large Virginia school district.
- Jeff Comer, chief of Northwest Medical Center, announced his retirement at the end of 2005. Comer oversaw a huge expansion of parent company Triad Hospitals' holdings in the Northwest. Besides expanding Northwest Medical Center at La Cholla by adding beds, a women's center and other facilities, NMC also built a second hospital in the Northwest in Oro Valley, several urgent care centers and an outpatient center in Rancho Vistoso. A new outpatient center in Marana will open to urgent care patients in October 2005 and all patients in January 2006.
- Big grocers funded an Oro Valley's citizen group's efforts to challenge a tax incentive ordinance, according to town campaign finance records.
The group Stop Oro Valley Outrageous Giveaways received more than $70,000 from two national grocery chains, Fry's and Safeway, and one state chain, Bashas.' The money was used to underwrite attorney costs and other expenses in the group's effort to put a tax incentive granted to a developer before voters. The group sued the town after its petitions were rejected and lost in Superior Court, but a state appeals court reversed that decision and said the town should have accepted the petitions.
- Canyon del Oro High School student Elizabeth Roberts won the Dupont Challenge essay contest March 24, receiving a $1,500 prize and trip to the NASA space center in Houston. Her essay about Joao Maqueijo, a Portuguese physicist, beat out hundreds of other essayists from around the country in the annual science essay competition.
- A federal grand jury indicted Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr. and a business associate, Rick Westfall, April 22, claiming the two men conspired to extort money and contracts from a waste-hauling firm. The two men denied any wrongdoing.
The indictments culminated a more than two-year investigation into Sutton and Westfall, an investigation first revealed in 2004 by the EXPLORER. The Marana community reacted by offering its support to Sutton and the Marana Town Council voted to pay Sutton's legal expenses if he's acquitted.
- New trees brought in from Texas for Marana's new municipal complex came with unwanted guests - red imported fire ants. The trees were quarantined until the ants were killed. The ants plague Southern states and their bites are extremely painful and can sometimes kill. They are especially damaging to livestock and pets.
- Pima County agreed to drop felony charges against the principal of DeGrazia Elementary School and the school's counselor if both educators complete a diversion program. Charges against two other district employees were dropped in March after they agreed to receive more training on reporting child abuse. All four employees were charged in 2004 for failing to report to police claims of sexual abuse made by a kindergarten student. The MUSD governing board removed the principal, Julia Barwell, as principal at a March 29 board meeting, and reassigned her to unspecified duties in the district's administration. The removal prompted an outcry at the meeting from DeGrazia parents, who defended Barwell, saying she was a good principal being unfairly treated.
- The little community of Rillito gathered April 13 for a candlelight vigil to remember Pat and Carl Gremmler, beloved community leaders who were killed by their own grandson the previous day. Pat Gremmler, who was 72, had lived in Rillito since 1936 and had served her community in numerous ways, as a country store clerk, as a friend, and as a volunteer. Though her grandson, Christopher Lambeth, suffered from mental illness and had been occasionally violent, she still allowed him to stay at the couple's house. For reasons unknown, that stay turned violent April 12. Lambeth was found in the house with his slain grandparents and arrested by Pima County sheriff's deputies.
- Denied the opportunity to perform in front of their fellow students, the intrepid cast of "Cannibal! The Musical" resurrected their musical from the ashes and performed the controversial satire at a theater near the University of Arizona. The play had been in rehearsal at Ironwood Ridge High School in January when school officials pulled the plug, deeming its content inappropriate. A benefactor, one of the cast's parents, agreed to fund the production at an off-school theater if the proceeds from the musical were donated to AIDS victims in Africa. In the end, several hundred fans were able to watch the musical, including a performance of the more risqué, unedited version.
- Mountain View High School mourned the loss of 2004 graduate Sam Huff, who was killed in Iraq April 17. Huff was a military police officer assigned to a MP battalion in Fort Lewis, Washington. She had been in Iraq just 10 weeks when her armored vehicle struck a roadside bomb, killing her.
- Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr. resigned April 30 less than a week after saying he wouldn't. Sutton was indicted April 22 on charges of extortion and conspiracy for allegedly trying to force waste hauler Waste Management Inc. to give friend Rick Westfall lucrative hauling contracts. Westfall was also indicted. Sutton said he needed to focus on his defense and his full-time job as Dex Media salesman. He said he is innocent of the charges and was planning a vigorous defense. Vice Mayor Herb Kai assumed the duties of mayor until a new mayor was appointed by the council. Sutton was the town's first directly elected mayor and was serving the first year of his second term.
- Marana unveiled its new town hall complex May 3 with a mostly ceremonial town council meeting, fireworks and a big cake. The more than $30 million complex will anchor Marana's vision for its future. The town complex will serve as the hub of a main street development featuring shops and homes and will serve as the standard for the town's new housing design standards. Several hundred people attended the unveiling. Town staffers had moved into the new building in February and March. The council meeting was the first in the new council chamber.
- The Canyon del Oro High School softball team won the 5A state title in May. The Dorados beat St. Mary's 2-0. It is the last 5A title the school will earn for a while. In August, the school will drop down to the 4A Division I level as a result of lower enrollment figures brought about by the opening of Ironwood Ridge High School in 2001. Also that same week, the Catalina Foothills High School girls track team won the 4A state title, earning 78 points in the state meet, 33 more than second place Cactus. The girls won the title despite not having any individual state champions. The teams 3,200-meter and 1,600-meter relay teams won state titles, however.
- The Marana Town Council appointed Councilman Ed Honea as its new mayor, replacing Bobby Sutton Jr. who resigned in April. Honea is in middle of third consecutive term on the council and fifth overall. The native Maranan had previously served on the council from 1977 to 1979 and 1981 to 1982.
- A proposed Fascinations adult store near Oracle and Roller Coaster roads is causing concern among some community members and nearby businesses, especially the owner of dance studio. Several meetings have been held and opposition to the store's conditional use permit request before Pima County's Board of Supervisors is planned.
- Catalina Foothills High School teacher Mitch Dorson resigned in May, accusing district and school administrators of failing to support him after he objected to a student's application for a prestigious Flinn scholarship. Dorson claims the student had been caught cheating earlier in his career at Catalina Foothills and he wanted it included as part of the student's application. Dorson said the district refused and then threatened to discipline him if he spoke about it, saying he'd be violating the student's right to privacy as provided by federal law.
- For the second year in a row and the third time in four years, Catalina Foothills High School's baseball team finished runner up in the 4A division, losing in the state title game to Scottsdale Chaparral 10-0. The runner-up title has been frustrating for the Falcons, clearly one of the dominant baseball programs in Arizona.
- Oro Valley took the final steps in approving the annexation of the La Cholla Airpark, which is west of Rancho Vistoso and north of Moore Road. The 1,000-acre private airpark is made up of mostly large, stately homes, many with their own hangars and airplanes. Airpark residents began approaching the town in 2003 and 2004 seeking annexation. The town has agreed to make a handful of amendments to the town code to preserve flight paths and other regulations crucial to the continued viability and safety of the airpark.
- Amphi voters approved a $7 million budget override; defeating conventional wisdom that Oro Valley's numerous retirees wouldn't support a property tax increase for schools. Two previous override requests had been defeated, the last in 1994. Amphi will use the extra money to reduce class sizes and increase vocational education, among other things.
- The Marana school district and the family of a girl who was inappropriately touched by a district bus driver reached a $275,000 settlement agreement in April. The girl reported being touched and tickled by her bus driver in May 2003. The district at the time attempted to look into the girls' claims itself, interviewing the girl, the driver and other students who may have been witnesses to the touching. Because of that, a Pima County Sheriff deputy admonished the district for not immediately reporting the accusations to law enforcement and said in a written report that it would be hard to prove a crime because of the district's interviews. The Pima County Attorney's office did not file charges and a second investigation by a Department of Public Safety officer also did not result in charges. The family was seeking $1.2 million from the district.
- Northwest Fire District opened a new fire station near Marana's new town hall complex. The station is the first of several new stations the district needs to keep up with growth of the Marana area.
- Oro Valley for the second time rejected the petitions of a citizens group seeking to refer a tax incentive ordinance to a public vote, this time because they were not in the proper form. Oro Valley had rejected the petitions last year and was subsequently sued by Stop Oro Valley Outrageous Giveaways. A superior court judge agreed with the town, saying its action granting the tax incentive to Vestar, the developer of a shopping plaza at Tangerine and Oracle roads, was administrative not legislative and therefore not referable to the public. But in February, a state appellate court overturned that ruling. The group had to wait until May when the time allowed for an appeal to the state Supreme Court expired. It turned the petitions in May 20 but the petitions did not have a copy of the ordinance to be referred attached, as state law requires. Rather than reject the petitions, the town sought guidance from a Pima County Superior Judge, who refused to clarify the appeals court's order.
SOVOG subsequently filed an action in superior court seeking an order to compel the town to accept the petitions.
- Gerald Barkan took over as headmaster of Green Fields Country Day School, an elite private school on Camina de la Tierra south of Orange Grove Road. Barkan replaced Rick Belding, who has been headmaster since 1997. Barkan is coming to Green Fields from a private school in California, though he has deep roots in Tucson having graduated from Rincon High School and teaching in the Tucson Unified School district for more than 10 years.
- The Oro Valley Town Council voted in June to up its bed tax to 6 percent, which is double the current rate. The tax, though, does not go into effect until February. The revenue from the tax will be divided among several town departments and pay for membership in a regional tourism bureau and a regional economic development agency.
- Oro Valley reached an accommodation with Pima County, the Tohono O'odham Nation and a developer for the acquisition of an ancient Hohokam village in Rancho Vistoso. The 13-acre core of the 78-acre site will be preserved and dedicated as public land and protected for archeological preservation. Acquisition of the site will be paid for with funds approved in the 2004 county bond election.
- The Regional Transportation Authority unveiled its proposed traffic improvement plan that will overhaul and expand the county's metropolitan roadway system. The plan mostly widens existing roads and provides for expanded bus routes but also includes new innovations like a downtown-to-UA electric tram. The RTA will seek public input for nearly two months then make changes to the plan and return it to the public for a second review before passing a final plan to go to voters in May. A half-cent increase in the county's sales tax is proposed to close funding gaps in the plan.
- The Oro Valley Town Council voted 4-1 to remove Richie Feinberg from the town's Development Review Board. The outspoken Feinberg had been critical in public and in letters to the editor in the EXPLORER about the Oro Valley Marketplace; a controversial large shopping plaza planned for Tangerine and Oracle roads. Council members said Feinberg should not speak about projects that could come before the DRB and when he was asked to refrain, he refused, prompting the dismissal. He is the first advisory board or commission member removed by a vote of the council.
- The Marana Town Council appointed Bob Allen to the council, picking him from a pool of 16 applicants seeking to become the town's newest council member. The council vacancy was created in May when Bobby Sutton Jr. resigned as mayor. The council appointed Councilman Ed Honea mayor, opening his council seat. Allen will serve the rest of Honea's term, which runs through 2007. Allen, a retired Tucson police officer, had served on the town's planning and zoning commission since 2002.
- A group of Oro Valley citizens have formed a nonprofit foundation to preserve the town's history. The Oro Valley Historical Society advocates for the preservation of the town historical sites and buildings as well as solicits money to accomplish that goal. The group is headed by a man who is part of the town's history himself, Jim Kriegh, who was one of the town's founders. The first meeting in which incorporating Oro Valley was discussed occurred in Kriegh's living room in 1968.
- Amphitheater Public Schools announced in July that its would be begin fueling its fleet of buses with biodiesel, a fuel that is part regular diesel and part reclaimed vegetable oil. The combination fuel reduces greenhouse emissions and other harmful substances from diesel engines.
- Oro Valley began preliminary annexation proceedings of Westward Look Resort 245 E. Ina Road. The 244-room resort is seeking to expand and Oro Valley is seeking bed tax revenue, officials for both entities said. Oro Valley's last annexation occurred in 2003 when it acquired the intersection of Magee and Oracle roads. The town's boundary extends about a half-mile east of Oracle from that intersection and would serve as the jumping off point for the annexation south to Ina to take in the resort.
- The Mesa-based Cardon group purchased a 205-acre farm near Marana Road and Interstate-10 for $16 million. The University of Arizona owned the farm for agriculture research, but the pace of development in Marana made the farm better suited for other uses, university officials said. Cardon representative were tight-lipped about potential uses for the site.
- In a watershed day for Oro Valley, the town completed the first phase of its reclaimed water system and began watering golf courses, parks and other large turf areas with effluent from one of Pima County's sewer plants. It is the first time in the town's history all of its golf courses and parks were not watered with ground water, which is mostly used as drinking water. The $12 million project is being paid for through increased water rates. Phase one includes all of the golf courses and parks north of Tangerine Road. Phase two, which should begin construction in 2006, will include all of the golf courses and parks south of Tangerine except for Oro Valley Country Club, which has a grandfathered well, and the Hilton El Conquistador resort course east of Oracle Road.
- The Marana Town Council appointed two new members to the town's Planning and Zoning Commission and reappointed one member. However, the reappointed member was not Dave Parker, the commission's chairman. Parker has been an occasional critic of the town council in his seven years on the P&Z Commission. While some council members said they appreciated Parker's service to the town, they didn't think Parker "fit the philosophy of the town council."
- Oro Valley town staff, led by Town Manger Chuck Sweet, submitted a funding plan for the Naranja Town Site, a 200-acre swath of reclaimed desert and abandoned gravel mine in the middle of town where Oro Valley plans to build a regional park. A citizens' committee in 2003 came up with a master plan for the park but the town has been divided over how to pay for building and maintaining it. The staff report includes several funding options but recommends two property taxes to pay for it. The first tax would be a secondary tax used to pay for bond funds to construct the park, and the second tax would be a primary property tax that would pay for annual maintenance. No action was taken by the council on the report.
- A two-part EXPLORER series examined a racketeering lawsuit filed by employees of Dex Media, publisher of the yellow pages phone book, alleging unethical employee sales practices and examined the relationship between former Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr.'s job as a Dex salesman and his garage door service company. The series showed that Dex salespeople could manipulate their client accounts to enrich themselves by tricking the massive company's complicated ad tracking system while Dex managers look the other way. Numerous sources inside Dex, most of who would only talk under condition of anonymity, alleged that Sutton manipulated his accounts. One of Sutton's best customers is his own company, A&A Garage Door Service Co.
- Oro Valley was again ordered by a state judge to accept petitions seeking to refer to a public vote an ordinance granting sales tax rebates to a developer of a large shopping plaza planned near Tangerine and Oracle roads. The Pima County Superior Court judge ruled that Oro Valley had an order from the Arizona Court of Appeals to accept Stop Oro Valley Outrageous Giveaways referendum petitions and that it was wrong to reject them in May because they lacked an attached copy of the referendum, as state law requires. After the order, Oro Valley forwarded samples of the signatures, as allowed by state law, to the county, which verified there were enough qualifying signatures on the petitions to refer the 2004 ordinance to a vote. The Oro Valley Town Clerk subsequently set the vote for March 14.
- The Oro Valley Town Council rejected a proposed four percent tax on utilities after facing fierce opposition from citizens. The town was seeking the tax on water, power and gas to augment its general fund. The town the last few years has had trouble balancing its budget as construction-related fees and taxes dry up and demands on town services increase.
- Northwest Medical Center opened its latest facility, a Marana urgent care center at 8333 N. Silverbell Road. The urgent care precedes the opening of the larger facility in early 2006, which will include doctors' offices, imaging and other outpatient services.
- Vestar, the developer of Oro Valley Marketplace at Tangerine and Oracle Roads, is suing Pima County in an attempt to invalidate petitions that would refer to a vote an ordinance granting Vestar a rebate of sales taxes collected at the shopping plaza.
- The Catalina Foothills High School boys and girls swimming teams once again won the state's 4A team swimming championship, the sixth year in a row each has done so. The dominant swimming program was paced by its deep relay teams. The second place teams in both boys and girls finished more than 80 points behind.
- A new and an old retail plaza at Oracle and Magee roads will host major national retailers. The old Entrada del Oro plaza will soon have a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and the new development just to the south, Oracle Crossing, will have a Kohl's department store. The new stores were announced during an Oro Valley Town Council meeting.
- For the second time in as many years, Oro Valley Town Manager Chuck Sweet's job was on the line at a town council meeting. And for the second time, his contract was renewed, but this time it was by a split 4-3 vote. Despite the show of no confidence by council members Helen Dankwerth, Conny Culver and Barry Gillaspie, none of them would say why they wanted a new town manager, citing privacy concerns. Numerous town business leaders and town staff turned out for the meeting to show their support for the town manager.
- The second time was the charm for the Oro Valley General Plan, as voters passed it by a large margin, 77 percent yes to 23 percent no. Voters had rejected the plan, which two years to draft, in 2003. A new council elected in 2004 sent the plan back to the drawing board and a revised plan was presented in November.
- An audit of MUSD's human resources department revealed numerous problems. Public Sector Personnel Consultants was hired to conduct the audit. The results have lead the district to overhaul the department, refine policies and conduct more training. An EXPLORER examination in March of the district's hiring of an employee with a felony arrest record revealed problems with how employee background checks were conducted and employee personnel paperwork was processed. The district did not say when the HR audit was ordered or what prompted the audit.
- The Regional Transportation Authority gave final approval to the massive roadway plan. All that's left is voter approval in May of the plan and the half-cent sales tax increase needed to pay for the funding shortfall. The plan widens numerous arterial roads through the metropolitan area and includes new and expanded public transportation.
- A Pima County Superior Court Judge rejected the attempt by a developer to throw out petitions seeking to put to an Oro Valley ordinance to a public vote. The developer, Vestar, wants to build a large shopping plaza at Oracle and Tangerine Roads. In 2004 Oro Valley granted the developer a sales tax rebate as part of an economic development deal to get the plaza construction started. Citizens opposed to the incentive passed petitions to put the ordinance before voters for ratification or rejection. Oro Valley refused to accept the petitions and the citizens group sued. A superior court judge upheld Oro Valley's decision but a state appeals court overturned the ruling and ordered Oro Valley to accept the petitions. The petitions were given to the town in May, but lacked the ordinance attached to each sheet, as state law requires. Oro Valley again rejected the petitions and the citizens group sued again. A judge ordered the town to accept them, which it did, and set the vote for March. The Vestar suit was attempting to challenge the validity of the petitions through Pima County, which verified the signatures on the petitions were registered voters. However, in perhaps the last ruling in this long saga, the Vestar effort was rejected. Oro Valley plans to hold the election as planned.