Archive for May, 2009

29th May
2009
written by Land Lawyer

Arizona Illustrated did a piece on Rosemont mine and Davidson Canyon quarry HERE. All the stops are being pulled out on this one, including getting the Santa Cruz river registered as navigable.

Incidentally the other ‘navigable’ waterway being challenged is the cement river bed in LA used for the chase scenes in the Terminator series.  Terminator riverbed clip.

At what point does this insanity stop?

The comment in the AZ Illustrated piece from the Cal Portland representative says it all. Davidson Canyon has been an on and off active quarry for years. Rosemont has been a mine for over 70 years.

It reminds me of the story of the neighbor that called DM Air Force Base to complain about the loud jets flying over head.  The base representative reminded the neighbor that the base has been an active facility since the 1940’s and asked when the neighbor moved into the area. The complaining resident stated that he bought the house 3 years ago because he got a great deal on it.

How about a few high paying jobs guys? How about raw materials for cement production closer than New Mexico? Call me crazy.

28th May
2009
written by JHiggins

Join us tomorrow for an interview with Clay Frey, a local financial planner turned movie producer. Clay is talking about his B horror movie Dead On Site. We’re going to talk about the process, ups and downs and Tucson’s film industry.

At one time Tucson had vibrant film industry. It started during the popularity of the classic westerns and carried over to films into the 80’s, that I grew up with, like Can’t Buy Me Love. For a full listing HERE.

Southern Arizona had an entire industry of film trades people that  movie and television production crews could tap into for the next TV miniseries or feature film. Within an hour of Tucson a production could be in saguaro forests or tall pined mountain tops.  The scenic back drops are incredible.

With the arrival  of film production companies came a lot of money. They hire local actors and behind the scene support personnel. They stay in area hotels and eat at local restaurants.

Even with great scenic locations, close proximity to L.A. and the creative talent needed, the film industry migrated away. New Mexico is where most of the productions and talent is now. NM went on a major buying spree for all types industries. Their plan to attract business came at a price. We are seeing now how New Mexico may have overstepped things a bit, which eventually lead to improprieties and scandals big enough to keep Gov. Richardson out of the Obama cabinet. Whether or not New Mexico’s investment will pay off remains to be seen.

We did a complete story on our local film history HERE a few months back.

The biggest hurdle facing Arizona’s film industry revolves around the structure of tax credits given to production companies to entice them to choose Arizona.

Just like spring training baseball stadiums that used to cost $28m and have now escalated to $125m, the stakes in the film industry have risen dramatically. Like many other economic incentives the community that offers the most money gets the business. Arizona has tried to implement a tax credit program but New Mexico issued a better one. Last year only $8m out of the total possible of $50m was claimed. The issue has to do with the amounts and levels of payouts as compared to competing states.  It may not be the right year to sweeten the offering given our states financial mess but it’s going to take some work.

28th May
2009
written by JHiggins

CEO, Bill Harris of Science Foundation Arizona

Commentary from this weeks Arizona Illustrated – HERE

25th May
2009
written by Downtown Dudette

Rio Nuevo – Convention Center Hotel

Capital Plan 

I have reviewed the Capital Plan options as prepared by Garfield Traub (April 2009).  Here are the major points.

Four options are reviewed and 2 are immediately dismissed as not feasible at this point in time. 

It is important to note that Garfield Traub indicates that private investors are not interested at this point in time.

Here is a review of the 2 most likely financing options:

The hotel would be owned by a “Public Entity”; for all practical purposes the owner would be the City of Tucson.

The City would be required to contribute $17.7 million; $12.7 million cash would be needed during the design phase (June ‘09 – Dec ‘09 according to Development Schedule) with $5 million from sales tax, building permits and impact fees.

“Substantial City financial participation” would be required. This would include:

1)      Site specific transient rental tax (6%) + site specific city sales tax (2%) + a new convention center surcharge (2%)

2)      Additional pledged revenue: $1 to $4.5 million/year

3)      Credit support from City

 The City of Tucson would sell $189 million of Certificate of Participation (COP) bonds backed by the credit profile of the City.  Under different scenarios the City might need to make annual contributions to ensure there are sufficient funds to pay debt service: this could be zero or it could be $1 million or more if the projections end up being optimistic.

The financial projections are based on various assumptions that could turn out to be optimistic or pessimistic.  Also, please realize that the negative cash flows are quite large during the first few years.  It costs $200 million to build and loses money for several years before it breaks even.

Potential benefits to City:

City receives net profits when hotel begins to produce profits

City may realize residual value of hotel

Ancillary benefits of visitors on lodging, retail, entertainment…

My analysis:

I want to be optimistic where possible as the rebirth of downtown would enhance my family’s quality of life and indirectly enhance the business interest of my family.  However, the financial hurdles are many and high.  To build the hotel, the City needs to invest $12 million cash in the next few months, commit to fill any cash flow gap for several years, and sell almost $200 million of bonds in the next 7 months.

This is on top of many existing cash flow needs: balance the ‘structurally imbalanced budget’ (Standard and Poor’s); AND build the unreserved general fund balance by an additional $20 – $50 million ‘promptly’ or face a downgrade from Fitch and Moody’s.

The financial feasibility of the hotel is very sensitive to Tucson’s credit rating.  If the rating were to deteriorate, the annual cash contribution from the City increases.  In fact, the financial scenarios from Garfield Traub are based on Tucson’s credit rating before the recent downgrade from Standard and Poor’s (dated 5/18/2009).

The City’s ‘debt burden’ is already higher than other cities with the current credit rating (Moody’s).  Issuing another $200 million of new bonds would seem to aggravate this factor.

It is possible that the City could accomplish all this.  However, it would require rather significant spending cuts &/or revenue increases – significantly larger than currently being considered.

Please note that this is an analysis of the options presented by Garfield Traub.  There may be other options not discussed.  The figures presented by Garfield Traub are assumed to be accurate. 

Capital Plan begins on page 45:

http://www.tucsonaz.gov/rionuevo/docs/HotelReport_final_4.17.09.pdf

20th May
2009
written by Land Lawyer

Court orders Multnomah County to pay $1.15 million to Dorothy English estate

by Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian

Thursday April 16, 2009, 8:16 PM

Dorothy English on her property west of Portland, overlooking the Columbia River, in 2003.

Property rights advocates called it a bittersweet win. The Oregon Court of Appeals ordered Multnomah County to pay a $1.15 million judgment to the estate of Dorothy English, but the “poster girl” of the state’s land-use argument isn’t around to enjoy it.

English, who died in 2008 at age 95, fought the county in court for four years in an attempt to develop her property off Northwest Skyline Boulevard outside of Portland. She ultimately won a judgment for compensation, but the county maintained it had discretion whether to pay or not. A Circuit Court judge sided with the county, but the appeals court emphatically reversed that decision and ordered the county to pay.

Still to come is a separate decision on more than $440,000 in legal fees, which are not included in $1.15 million. The Court of Appeals is expected to rule soon.

“I’m very relieved, and yet like everybody else I’m saddened she wasn’t here to see this,” said English’s attorney, Joe Willis. “This is the result that should have happened. The next step is what the county will do. I suspect strongly they will petition the (appeals) court to rehear it or ask the Oregon Supreme Court to review it.”

Multnomah County Counsel Agnes Sowle said her office is reviewing the ruling. She declined to evaluate the legal reasoning applied by the appeals court.

Others weren’t so reticent.

“It’s a great ruling,” said Dave Hunnicutt, president of the property rights group Oregonians in Action. “The Court of Appeals was very clear. Final means final, is what they were saying.”

Oregonians in Action sponsored Measure 37 in 2004 and portrayed English as a victim of unfair land-use rules: an elderly widow and longtime property owner not allowed to develop her land.

Voters approved the measure, which gave property owners the right to develop their land in a way that was permitted when they bought it. English, alternately wry and profane, endorsed Measure 37 in campaign ads.

About 6,500 property owners filed development claims after Measure 37 passed, many with the stated intent to build large rural subdivisions. The prospect of such development was a major factor in voters passing Measure 49 in 2007. It rolled back development rights, and most of the claimants settled for a process that will allow them to build one to three homes.

But English was not among them. She wanted to split her 20 acres into eight homesites for her family. But that wasn’t permitted because the county had rezoned the property after English and her late husband bought it in 1953.

English filed a Measure 37 claim, and the county agreed to let her develop eight lots in lieu of paying compensation. But the county loaded its approval with conditions. English’s attorney responded that such standards and procedural rules didn’t exist when English bought the property.

That touched off a rolling legal fight that English and her attorney thought ended when she won a judgment in 2007. The county argued it didn’t have to pay, a position that confounded attorney Willis.

“If a case is fully litigated, you don’t get to go back and try something else,” he said. “It’s nonsense to argue a judgment doesn’t mean anything.”

— Eric Mortenson
; ericmortenson@news.oregonian.com

19th May
2009
written by admin

 

The Battle Over Old Tucson 

The county and two of its wealthiest residents keep fighting–with no end in sight.

by Chris Limberis

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry was among the select group invited to Don Diamond’s ritzy 75th birthday bash at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in early March.Huckelberry was in the most select group of this select group. He also had been at Diamond’s 70th, and Diamond had made it clear that those who didn’t make the cut for this year’s party–bankers and lawyers–were no longer needed by him. Apparently Huckelberry is needed, even though he and his host are gunning for one another in an ugly, costly battle over Old Tucson, the once-famous Western movie set ravaged by fire in 1995.

At the party, guests were treated as if they were on a cruise, where admission was gained through “boarding pass” invitations. Guests ate as they could nowhere else in Tucson while being entertained by a band flown in from New York. The party was so lavish that its cost easily could have covered the $124,410 that Old Tucson–run by a company controlled by Diamond and Donald Pitt, buddies from their days at the University of Arizona–owes in back rent and late charges.

After sending a default notice to Diamond and Pitt last summer, Huckelberry–with clearance from a Pima County Board of Supervisors that has historically catered to Diamond–saddled up two county lawyers to sue Old Tucson on March 13. The company’s answer to the complaint, assigned to Judge Carmine Cornelio of Pima County Superior Court, is due today (May 1), one day after Old Tucson’s first-quarter 2003 rent was due.

Diamond and Pitt–whose father operated a jewelry store downtown at Stone Avenue and Congress Street–have begged the showdown with repeated delays in payment, squabbles over details of rent credits, and the hope that their lease, renewed with favorable terms in 1996, can be rewritten to chop their minimum rent payment to the county from $300,000 a year to $50,000.

The two also have a hold card: They have lined up Lowell Rothschild, a top-flight bankruptcy lawyer whose firm has also done work for the county.

Pitt, a lawyer and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, joined with Diamond and another longtime friend, investor Richard Bloch, to buy the lease to Old Tucson in 1985 from a company headed by Robert Shelton. They paid $3.5 million to acquire the 100 buildings of the movie set and theme park that Shelton restored and built up when he, a country club consultant from Kansas City, took over the park in 1959. (Bloch, also a partner in the Diamond-Pitt landmark deal to acquire and sell off land in the Howard Hughes Trust–a package that made the three wildly rich–is no longer part of Old Tucson.

The Old Tucson debt is tiny for someone with Diamond’s wealth. It is a wealth exemplified by his ability to write an eight-figure check to get out of the tricky Banning-Lewis Ranch deal in Colorado before the collapse of one of the many crashing thrifts in the dawn of the Resolution Trust Corp. (It must be said that Pitt and Diamond also give, to medical research and other charities, more than many make in a lifetime.)

But this costly battle goes on–at a time of county budget cuts and at a time that Old Tucson itself is flailing.
OLD TUCSON’S HEYDAY was as a movie studio. Yet, Diamond, Pitt and others cling to the hope that it can have a successful future as a water park.

Yes, a water park.

Laugh as you might at the recommendations for an Old Tucson water park. It is what the consultants recommend, and they play a big role with Diamond and Pitt. Critics point out that consultants are the ones who guided them away from Old Tucson as a big movie set and to today’s amusement park with sharply dwindling attendance.

Rather than rebuild the soundstage, the famous and important Kansas Street shooting area, the old mission and other critical features used in movies for decades, Diamond and Pitt chose consultants’ designs, trading the movie-making history–Old Tucson was created by Columbia Pictures for the 1939 movie Arizona–for a $14.95-per-adult tourist trap.

The Western theme, one consultant assured, will be retained “with lifeguards wearing cowboy hats, etc. A Western-themed water park would be a lot of fun.”

“(The) target market would change radically,” said Will Koch, president of the Holiday World, a theme park in the southern Indiana village of Santa Claus. “The rides and water park would be the primary draw, with the western theme simply providing the ‘flavor’ of the park.”

Koch’s ideas were part of a fantasy presented to Old Tucson owners on Nov. 25 by Pete Mangelsdorf, chief executive officer at Old Tucson, and Tom Moulton, the county’s manager for the leased property. Moulton could speak like an insider because, until October 2000, he worked for Old Tucson Studios.

The November brainstorming came four months after Huckelberry finally decided to call out Diamond, when he had county Parks Director Rafael Payan serve Old Tucson with notice of default. Though friendly with Diamond, Huckelberry has watched the savvy speculator circle around him and county government for decades on huge land deals like the Rocking K Ranch, Pima Canyon and several big land swaps. The rivalry simmers most on Huckelberry’s legacy: the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Despite reports that he is trying to be more tolerant of the land preservation plan, Diamond, the son of a New York coffee broker, once belittled it as “dipshit.”

Still, this rivalry returns to Old Tucson’s dusty streets because of escalating, unpaid bill and the court action.
BACK IN THE DAY, Robert Shelton was Tucson’s movie man, a charismatic, energetic sort who befriended John Wayne (who became a partner in Old Tucson), Elizabeth Taylor and scores of other movie and television actors, producers and directors. He single-handedly lured movie after movie to Tucson.

He loves–without boasting–to tell the story about how he once had five production companies working at Old Tucson at one time. He had Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin simultaneously working on films. Shelton could configure five or six sets at Old Tucson, he says.

Shelton had a knack with movie folks. Eastwood built Old Tucson’s courthouse. Paul Newman built the boarding house for Hombre. Shelton got the Reno, the oldest operating locomotive, from MGM.

Shelton is friendly with Diamond, and says that when they were discussing the sale of the lease from Shelton’s control to Diamond/Pitt control, in 1985, he considered Diamond a close friend.

“We had been in business together with Alumni Publishing Co.,” he recalls. “I was kind of a boob. He is the most focused human being I know. He’s got to come out with it all.”

Old Tucson became a company for the investors’ kids–a toy, critics contend. But they apparently were not impressed enough with the movie business to keep it going like Shelton did.

Diamond’s daughter, Helaine Levy, was installed as the CEO and president. A succession of general managers came through the turnstiles. One, Dan Aylward, infuriated directors and producers by walking onto live sets.

Aylward had a much better time with the Board of Supervisors, making repeated requests for more lenient lease terms and for admission increases.

Under a 1973 lease with Shelton, the county collected $38,000 a year in minimum rent and allowed 25 percent of the rent to be applied to maintenance. In 1988, minimum rent was raised to $200,000, but generous rent credits were expanded and often not policed.

Indeed, Diamond and Pitt became so cozy with the county agency that administers the lease, Parks and Recreation, that then-Director Gene Laos and two of his friends operated in 1988 the Three Amigos restaurant–in space Old Tucson leased from the county. The conflict of interest netted Laos only a brief suspension.

In early 1995, records show, the problems of late rent payments and maintenance issues prompted county lawyers to persuade the Board of Supervisors to tell Old Tucson officials to shape up or face default. And on April 18, 1995, the Board of Supervisors hired former deputy county attorney Michael Callahan to help untangle the knots of the Old Tucson lease and to provide consultation for lease renewal.

Disaster intervened six days later. At about 6:30 p.m., fire raced through Old Tucson and devoured its mostly wood buildings, destroying half the movie set and theme park.
TERRY POLLOCK IS AN OLD friend of the Diamond and Pitt families. He became a familiar face and voice with the public through his advertising agency and his work to keep Central Arizona Project water from being pumped into Tucson homes.

He now is a voice for Old Tucson, as a $90,000-a-year vice president for strategic development. In radio appearances he frequently describes the fire catastrophe as a “perfect storm.”

High winds. A Drexel Heights fire crew out in Three Points for a training exercise. The lack of water on site because firefighters could not get to the source. That, he says, resulted in the major damage.

Records show more. Old Tucson officials chose to dissemble a pump that in fact needed maintenance work rather than allow for it to operate, even at lower capacity.

Old Tucson and Pima County officials also failed to get necessary fire inspection from the state fire marshal and failed to submit construction and renovation plans for review by the fire marshal. County officials didn’t require fire prevention devices like sprinklers and allowed the park to have less than a quarter–67,000 gallons–of the needed 300,000 gallons on hand. Water lines also were too small.

Pima County’s lax attitude culminated in 1987, when it stopped inspecting Old Tucson buildings altogether. Of the 100 buildings at the time of the fire, just three had sprinklers.

On that fateful April 1995 evening, fire swept so fast that crews had little chance of preventing the loss. Among the treasures cited by Shelton and other experts as lost were the soundstage, built in 1966, and the vast–and in some cases, historically significant–wardrobe.

Huckelberry, whose party for his temporary retirement from county administration was held at Old Tucson in the spring of 1993, was stunned the night of the fire and somewhat apologetic if realistic about its tinder-box condition. Old Tucson, he said, “grew up like an Old West town. Hodge podge.”

Shelton was home that evening when a television reporter called for an interview. He “could see the glow” from the foothills.

“There was nothing I could do but cry. The next day we went out to take a look. I was numb. It looked like burned-out Berlin.”

While arson was quickly suspected, there have been no arrests. The cause remains unknown.
SHELTON AND OTHERS IN the movie and commercial film business now lament the new Old Tucson. Following the course set out by consultants, Diamond and Pitt left out Kansas Street, the soundstage and other components that are critical for movie and television productions.

“They oversized the courthouse, oversized the saloon, there are no shooting streets and they undersized everything else,” Shelton said.

When Old Tucson reopened a visitors’ center and gift shop, it sold ashes from the fire.

Even today, it’s unclear exactly how much damage the fire did, in terms of finances. Insurance coverage, according to county records, was put at $5 million. The loss was first listed at $10 million, then $5 million. When Old Tucson reopened in 1997, then-General Manager Bob Kenniston boasted of a $13 million renovation. And in a recent editorial backing Old Tucson and condemning Huckelberry’s actions, the Arizona Daily Star boosted the renovation to $18.5 million.

Yet when Old Tucson’s longtime legal counsel, T. Patrick Griffin, approached the Board of Supervisors in 1996 to restyle the lease and to give its blessing to a Bank One loan, the figure cited was much less. Bank One was providing a $5.5 million construction loan, minutes from that Oct. 22, 1996 meeting show. Huckelberry, without correction from Griffin, said the “reconstruction budget, including design fees, is around $9.5 million. The insurance proceeds are $4 million and this is the balance.”

Ever since the fire, Old Tucson’s management and the county have been at odds over money. In 1996, supervisors approved a rent credit concession totaling $2.75 million. That infuriated Democrat Dan Eckstrom, who said at a July 16, 1996 meeting that the rent credit “is another form of corporate welfare.”

At a subsequent meeting, Eckstrom said: “The point is very simple: The $2.75 million is equivalent to a loan.” County audits earlier showed that Old Tucson “commingled” money that was supposed to go to building maintenance with other accounts.

Eckstrom, whose District 2 includes his native South Tucson and much of the southside, also bristled at the suggestion that Old Tucson’s offer to provide 1,000 admissions for underprivileged kids was generous.

“Considering Old Tucson is open for approximately 360 days, on a most generous day Old Tucson would allow a little under three kids per day entrance to Old Tucson,” Eckstrom said. “Is this something that shows social responsibility?”

But Eckstrom could pick up only a second, from then-Supervisor Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat. Republicans Ed Moore, Paul Marsh and Mike Boyd pushed through the changes Diamond and Pitt sought.

Eckstrom declined last week to say: “I told you so.”
EVEN WITH HUCKELBERRY LOADING up and preparing to lock out Diamond’s group, supervisors are skittish about ordering the two Dons to ride out. Their political influence is beguiling and overpowering.

Diamond’s boys, Mangelsdorf (the CEO), Pollock (the vice president), and Griffin (the counsel) have been busy seeking a reprieve from the county bill. Business, they say, has taken a hit from the drop in tourism after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the gloomy economy.

Five weeks before Old Tucson fell into default, Mangelsdorf–who did his MBA thesis on Old Tucson–said in a memo to Diamond that part of Old Tucson’s problem was that it was paying too much in base rent to the county. Further he wrote, while the accrued rent credit is $475,000, “Old Tucson Co. does not have the cash or the projects to spend $475,000.”

Mangelsdorf has taken time to complain about the short notice given for the inspections that the county now performs. The county hired Gale Bundrick, a respected former high level county parks administrator, to do them. Bundrick listed more than 100 areas requiring repair and improvement, according to county records. They ranged from permanent protection for the John Wayne Museum to multiple roof repairs.

And Old Tucson has proposed novel–and rejected–invoices for reimbursement under the rent credit provision. Mangelsdorf wanted taxpayers to provide a subsidy of more than $13,000 for the administrative costs of listing rent-credit projects, county records show. The item was rejected, as was $4,150 for Old Tucson’s acquisition of a 35-foot saguaro that experts say will not survive.

Rent to the county has dropped, since reopening, from $493,000 in 1997 to $335,000 last year. Gross sales have dropped from a pre-fire high of $8.46 million in 1994 to $6.1 million. Attendance–once enough to be second or third among Arizona attractions after the Grand Canyon and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum–is down to 300,000 a year compared to the half-million it once drew.

None of that has caused Huckelberry to ease off the trigger.

“The Pima Air and Space Museum has had the highest attendance and revenue summer since their inception, and attendance and revenue at the Desert Museum was up this summer as well,” Huckelberry told Griffin in a Sept. 25 letter.

Griffin pleaded for more county help. In a question that he split into 11 lines for emphasis, Griffin wrote: “Is there anything else Old Tucson can do that is: new, sensitive to the environment, Western themed, family oriented, makes you want to come back, reasonably priced, works in hot weather during the day, works in cold weather at nighttime, appeals to the locals, approved by the county?”

While Pollock makes appearances in which he alternately says Old Tucson is withholding rent because of slow business and to force the county to renegotiate or rebid the lease, Griffin in that Sept. 16 letter to the county lawyers said the Diamond-Pitt group “spent in the neighborhood of $10 million rebuilding Old Tucson and that was based on financial projection developed by theme park experts, scrutinized by the bank and reviewed by the county …”

The letter goes on. “Just since the second half of 1998, the Old Tucson owners have advanced $1,720,817 of their own money to Old Tucson, and borrowed another $1.55 million to put in Old Tucson that they had to personally guarantee. That is in addition to the $3.5 million in existing bank debt. The bank has also been paid several million dollars.”

But Pitt has acquired the Old Tucson loans originally made by Bank One. Now he is seeking ways to boost revenue.

According to a Sept. 30 memo that Pitt sent to Diamond, the attractions “still do not provide a draw during the May through September season, which in my opinion can only be satisfied with water elements and a water park utilization.”

Tom Burke and Wendy Peterson, the deputy county attorneys handling the matter, said in response that they had “repeatedly and unequivocally stated to Pat Griffin and Donald Pitt that the county will not accept water rides, elements or features.”

The matter is further complicated by statements from Huckelberry’s inside man, Tom Moulton, the former Old Tucson executive now on the county payroll for $96,862 a year.

Moulton had advanced proposals for a “flume” and “log rolling” at Old Tucson.

He also drew a scolding from the county lawyers for perpetuating the theory that the county and Old Tucson could be business partners and that county officials could sit on the Old Tucson board.

In one settlement discussion, the county would put base rent at $50,000 a year, to be paid monthly, plus 10 percent of anything over $5 million in gross sales, with five-year adjustments according to the Consumer Price Index. Old Tucson would be confined to 120 acres, leaving the county with the 240-acre balance. Most important, the controversial rent credit for buildings would be scrapped–and the sound stage rebuilt using past rent and past rent credits.

If it fails, Huckelberry will have no choice but to draw down on Diamond and his boys.

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My name is Gary Halsey, I was the stuntman at the time this article was published. I find this article to be very accurate, and it is of this actors opinion, that failure of the park is soley based on poor park management. The CEO is trying so hard to make things look good on paper, that he has let the park fail, and in this writers opinion, Mr. Mangelsdorf doesn’t know how to run a theme park. Bad decisions were made, when concerts were held, season ticket holders would get in for “free”, which failed, they should have paid like everybody else. Many times, it was suggested to give Old Tucson the same platform that Gas Light Theater was doing, and give new shows to the park every three months to draw more season ticket holders, I made that suggestion myself, that only fell on deaf ears. Mis-Management and bad decisions have made the park fail. I have ideas and with proper funding that could make Old Tucson Studios a preferred park of choice to bring movies back to Old Tucson, using Bob Shelton as an advisor for the park. It’s a shame to pass by OTS, and see that the employee parking lot is more full than the guest parking lot, that should tell the owners something. Until the county “reposses” the land and buildings, it will remain the same, and will be doomed for failure. Prove me wrong Mr. Mangelsdorf and Mr. Diamond, prove me wrong. If the county would give me the proper funding, and the opportunity, watch how quickly I could get the movie industry back at Old Tucson, with Mr. Sheltons help, and influence, and it would start with a sound stage that could be funded by Hollywood!! Prove me wrong Mr. Diamond. Prove me wrong.

Posted by Gary W. Halsey Sr. on April 26, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Report this comment

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    19th May
    2009
    written by JHiggins

    Tucson Values Teachers Announces Teacher Discount Program

    TUCSON, Ariz. (May 19, 2009) – Tucson Values Teachers, a regional initiative to help recruit, retain and reward K-12 teachers in Pima County, has formed a partnership with local businesses to provide significant educator discounts.

     

    More than 10,000 public, private and charter schoolteachers will receive a “Summer Breaks for Teachers” card in their school mailboxes. By presenting the card with a valid teacher ID or a recent pay stub at a participating business, they can immediately get discounts on goods and services such as cars, furniture, food, hotel services and gym memberships.

     

    A wide range of businesses has offered to reduce costs, including Jim Click Automotives, Maynards Market & Kitchen, Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and YMCA of Southern Arizona. Others such as Magpies Gourmet Pizza, Metro Restaurants and El Charro Café are offering free entrées and rounds of golf.

     

    Jacquelyn Jackson, executive director of Tucson Values Teachers, said the Summer Breaks card is her organization’s “thank-you” card for all teachers do in educating our region’s youth.

    “This has been a hard year on everybody involved in K-12 education with looming budget cuts and increases in class sizes.” Jackson said. “With teachers being asked to do more with less, Tucson Values Teachers and the participating businesses wanted to give each teacher a token of our gratitude.”

    At the Summer Breaks for Teachers unveiling ceremony held earlier today at Prince Elementary School in Tucson, Mayor Robert Walkup noted that the discounts program reveals the strength of the region when the community comes together.

    “Without the community’s help to ensure we are providing the best education for students and the best working and living environment for teachers, this effort will not be able to succeed.” Walkup said. “It will take everybody’s help to assure the growth of the Tucson Values Teachers campaign.”

     Jackson said at the conference that expanded industry internships, housing assistance partnerships and solutions to provide adequate school supplies and materials are all upcoming projects Tucson Values Teachers is working on and plans to announce by the end of 2009.

    “Tucson Values Teachers has solid successes, thanks to the community’s efforts,” Jackson said. “We hope to provide additional benefits to teachers to reflect the enormous benefits they provide to our community and its future.”

     For a full list of participating businesses and discount details, visit www.tucsonvaluesteachers.org.

     

    ABOUT TUCSON VALUES TEACHERS

    Tucson Values Teachers is a regional initiative determined to prove that we should not just talk about the importance of improving education, but must unify in action to retain, recruit and reward our K-12 teachers. The actions TVT takes recognize the critical role of teachers in our region and value the vital influence they have on Tucson’s future. For more information, visit www.tucsonvaluesteachers.org or call (520) 327-7619.

    18th May
    2009
    written by JHiggins

    I met Mark Harris on my journey of trying to make sense of how Tucson got to this dysfunctional place.  During the months of endless meetings I ran across Mark. I was immediately taken by his passion and vision for creating a better Tucson. We were on parallel paths working for the same goal. I invited him to events and value his input.  For Mark, getting our community back on track is a mission, both religious and personal.

    I relate to Mark’s business acumen (he’s the owner of two Intelligent Office locations in Pima County and Institute For Better Edcuation) I relate to Mark’s passion to make this community a better place and I relate to the uphill battle we are both facing. Meeting after meeting and group after group, Mark is there. He shows up, adds intelligent points and quietly leaves and keeps working in his own special way to call for change, point out where we’ve derailed and roll up his sleeves to do something about it.

    A CHURCH THAT IS TRULY BUILT ON EVANGELISM

    By Glenn Smith

    This article is a reprint from October 2003.        

    One of our early church plants was the Oasis Church in Tucson, led by pastor Mark Harris.  In December 1993 Mark, his wife Debbie, and their 3 children (the youngest just born) left Houston to plant in a fast growing, eclectic and extremely unchurched city.  Mark’s vision was not to be the “biggest” church in town but to be a “reproducing, sending” church, one that would multiply itself many times over!  He also had a vision to not only see individual transformation but to also see his city transformed.  Mark is the GlocalNet lead pastor for Tucson, Arizona.  This weekend I had the privilege to be with him at the Oasis Church – what I saw was incredible.

    The Oasis Church has 2 Sunday services meeting in an elementary school.  Before the first service I talked to numerous people and asked about their stories.  I was overwhelmed by what I heard!  Almost every person I spoke with shared how they had come to know Jesus through the ministry of this church – one this past year, some 3 years ago, some 5 years ago, and some from the very first year of the church!  I don’t recall speaking to a single person who was a “transfer” from another church.

    After a very worshipful experience in the 1st service I went out to talk to more people.  Again, it was just one story after another of not only conversions & transformation, but also unique ministry and service!  As I worshipped again in the 2nd service I was in awe of what God had done through this young church!  Practically every person was a relatively new Christian and was engaged in ministry!  Three of the businessmen that I met were preparing to plant new churches themselves!  In fact, in the past 9 years the Oasis Church has planted 17 churches and sent out over 200 “missionaries” from their congregation to other parts of the city!  Another man that I met was the chairman of the Old Pueblo Foundation, which Mark created to meet social needs and to help transform the city!  Their congregation was truly an eclectic, indigenous church!

    As I sit here on a plane flying back to Houston I can’t help but reflect on what I experienced today!  I have the priviege of being in some great churches on a regular basis.  But tears fill my eyes and emotion overwhelms me as I write this article (I hope no one on the plane sees me!)  The Oasis Church may never be one of the largest churches in America, but I can’t help but think that this church may be more like the New Testament church than any U.S. church I’ve ever seen!  I know God is smiling because their impact for the Kingdom is beyond measure!

    18th May
    2009
    written by JHiggins

    From Goldwater Institute.org – Phoenix–Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert H. Oberbillig gave Tom and Elizabeth Preston an opening round victory in their battle to open a tattoo studio in Tempe.

    The court ruled that the Tempe City Council unlawfully revoked their special use permit to open a studio called Body Accents in a vacant storefront in a strip mall at 1524 N. Scottsdale Rd. in Tempe. The permit was awarded by a city hearing examiner and upheld by the city’s Development Review Commission before the City Council voted on August 28, 2007 to revoke the permit due to what Mayor Hugh Hallman called a “perception” that the studio would contribute to neighborhood deterioration. In the meantime, the Prestons had signed a five-year lease and invested between $25,000-$30,000 preparing the studio to open in reliance on the permit.
     
    The court ruled, “Even the City’s own ordinances and rules reflect that this permit is valid,” and that the Council may revoke it only on a showing of “good cause or public necessity.”
     
    The Prestons own and operate a tattoo studio in Mesa called Virtual Reality, which has not received a single complaint in over 15 years of continuous operation.
     
    “The Council’s action was a travesty,” remarked Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, which represented the Prestons. “The Prestons followed the city’s rules and made a significant investment, only to be sent packing by the City Council on the basis of crude, outdated stereotypes.”
     
    The court sent the matter back to the City Council to reconsider in light of its ruling. Meanwhile, the storefront remains vacant, and the Prestons still would like to open a studio there.
     
    “This ruling is a victory for the rule of law,” declared Bolick. “If the City can lawfully treat the Prestons this way, then every small business owner in Arizona is at risk of arbitrary government action.”
     
    The Goldwater Institute is a nonprofit public policy research and litigation organization whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.

    15th May
    2009
    written by JHiggins

    Dear Editor, Your headlines seemed like a dream come true:  “Lower tax, few cuts in county budget” [Arizona Daily Star 4-28-09], declaring a “drop in property taxes” for a “total budget … down $6 million…”

    Not explained is that the $6 million dollar “reduction” is offset by an increase of almost $22 million in the total property tax levy amount, from $399 million in 2008-09 to $421 million in 2009-10.  A more accurate headline could have read “County to collect over $15 Million more from the taxpayers!” 

    This is because increase assessed values counters any real reduction in taxes.  This year’s current tax rate is based on $746 Million in increased primary property assessments for 2007 — figures derived before the recession hit.  Our property is being over-valued and over-taxed.  Last year, Supervisor Ann Day and I submitted an alternative budget to the Board majority.  In our introduction we explained:

    “[W]hile the Primary tax rate decreased from $4.072 to $3.602 between 2002 to 2007, the amount of revenue collected by the county increased by over $70 million dollars…”

    Your newspaper had clarified this in an article [10/22/08] with the headline: “Though tax rate dips, we’re all paying more.”  The article explained how, even with the drop in tax rates:” taxpayers are paying twice as much in property taxes as they did a decade ago.” 

    Equally ominous is the hidden long term and ever increasing debt. Our debt service has jumped this year by $10 million to a total of $110 million dollars, which currently makes up over 37% of our primary property taxes.  And Pima County’s debt is going up with non-voter approved debt through “Certificate’s of Participation.”  In fact, Pima County’s current outstanding principal debt is almost twice as large as all other Arizona counties debt combined ($757.6 million vs. $339.7 million).  Next year the county wants a $500 million dollar bond sale next year for our Wastewater Department.  Who do you think gets to pay these debts?

     

    And speaking of other debt obligations, University Physicians at Kino Hospital is now asking for an extra $30 Million dollar subsidy, with up to $39 Million in each of the next five years (even though the original agreement assured decreased payments and self-sufficiency).  But as the county reduces support for the cost of health screenings, the County Administration increases its budget by $2.7 million.  While we increase fees for our children to play in county parks, this same budget increases Economic Development subsidies by an extra $14 million.   

     

    This raises the question of “sustainability” – a term used often with regards to the environment, but which should apply to our taxpaying citizens. 

     

    Because as we continue to bleed our taxpayers dry by continuing to raise taxes and fees on everything without a mandatory cap, the number of homeowner’s facing foreclosure remains at record levels in Pima County.  We need to learn to live within our means rather than attempting to instill false impressions about “rate reductions.”  But to do so, we need to have an honest accounting of our revenues and expenses.

     

    There are three steps that could be taken immediately to help in the process:

     

    1.     We need the majority on the Board to stop refusing to appoint their representatives to the outside Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee.  Other people without a vested interest in the growth of government need to make an objective review of the Pima County budget.  Since 1997, the Board has never allowed this committee to have a quorum.

     

    2.     There needs to be at least three public meetings on the budget, preferably at night – not just one meeting, scheduled for Tuesday morning, May 19th, when most working people can’t attend, in which all departments are superficially reviewed and a tentative budget is quickly adopted. 

     

    3.     Finally, the county budget should be posted in both the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen for the general public to be able to review.  We paid TNI over $600,000 last year; we can afford to have their readers see our budget.

     

    There are no legitimate reasons why Pima County government can’t be more transparent with the use of taxpayer funds.  Perhaps, with a more informed public, deceitful declarations regarding property taxes will be subjected to a bit more scrutiny.  One can only hope.

     

     

    Ray Carroll

    Pima County Supervisor

     

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