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Tonight the Maricopa High School Lady Rams basketball team will take the court away at Wickenburg for their first game of this season. Their home opener will be Dec. 8 against Valley Christian from Chandler.

“The team has been working very hard to put together a strong season. We have eight returning varsity players and a few new additions that round out the squad,” said Coach Jenn Miller.

This year’s returning players are juniors Jalissa Bell, Amanda Hamm, Brittany Parks and Dee Streety.

Returning seniors are Arielle Fife, Jasmine Melvin, Chrmalika Muhammad and Karla Torres.

Rounding out the team roster will be new additions Erin Litchfield, a senior, and freshmen Julia Dickerson and Paige Provost.

According to Miller, last Friday’s scrimmage against Santan Foothills proved how quick the team can be “when they play solid defense.” She added that the coaching staff was pleased with the girls’ performance.

“We know we still have a lot of work to do,” added Miller. “We have an amazing group of freshmen this season. I expect great things from the girls, and we are excited to play in the new gymnasium (scheduled to open sometime in January).”

Two weeks ago several of the Lady Rams were at the Maricopa City Council meeting asking for financial assistance. “School budgets just don’t have funds to cover much beyond the absolute essentials,” explained Miller. “Booster clubs have become a necessity for sports programs these days.”

In this instance the Maricopa Girls’ Basketball Booster Club is helping raise funds for team shoes, travel bags, shirts and sweatshirts. The booster club president, Natasha Payton, hopes to hear from businesses and residents who want to help out. Payton can be reached at (520) 280-6781.

If you go:

What: Maricopa Girls’ Basketball home opener vs. Valley Christian
When: Monday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.
Where: Maricopa High School gymnasium

File photo

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Pinal County Sheriff candidate Paul Babeu treated the Maricopa Republican Club to an impassioned speech at its monthly meeting Wednesday. Babeu received a treat himself when he was surprised mid-speech by a pre-arranged phone call from Arizona Senate President Timothy Bee.

In the middle of Babeu’s presentation to two dozen Republican Club members and guests at Native New Yorker, his campaign manager, former Representative Cheryl Chase, took a phone call from Bee.

Much to Babeu’s surprise, Chase presented an award to Babeu with Bee thanking him via speaker phone for his service. The proclamation, signed by Bee, stated “Arizona State Senate Proclamation presented to Major Paul Babeu in honor of his exceptional leadership in Operation Jump Start to secure borders in Arizona.”

As a major of the Arizona Army National Guard, Babeu commanded 700 soldiers during Operation Jump Start in support of the U.S. Border Patrol’s efforts to secure the Arizona-Mexico border.

Babeu, also a Chandler Police officer, said a decrease in response times would be among the improvements he’d make if elected sheriff.

“If given the opportunity, I will make the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office the most disciplined and professional agency (of the 15 Arizona county sheriff’s offices) in four years,” Babeu predicted.

Several other candidates were in attendance and spoke about their campaigns. Among them was Rayna Palmer, who is CEO of the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce and is vying to be the next Pinal County Treasurer.

“Things are running amuck in Pinal County,” Palmer said, preaching the need for accountability, transparency and full disclosure.

Dan Washburn, a lawyer hoping to be elected to judge for District 6, and Rick Fowlkes, a structural engineer running for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission, also addressed the crowd.

So did Casa Grande’s Bill Bridwell, a Republican state delegate and longtime political activist who is enjoying the increase in Republican voters and candidates in the traditionally Democratic Pinal County.

“To see a slate of candidate emerge of this unbelievable quality… is fantastic,” Bridwell said with a gleam.

Tom Hollenbach, a registered land surveyor and business owner from Casa Grande, is hoping to represent Maricopa’s District 3 on the Pinal County Board of Supervisors. Hollenbach described himself as loyal and dedicated and said, “I bring leadership to this position. I bring accountability to this position.”

Frank Pratt and John Fillmore are both running for seats in the Arizona House of Representatives. Like most of the candidates, they emphasized the importance of accountability.

“We need to renew our commitment to the hardworking Arizona taxpayer,” Pratt said.

Councilman Will Dunn, who is running for re-election, was present as was City Council candidate Marty Hermanson, the Maricopa Republican Club president.

“I’m so glad you guys are in Maricopa,” Dunn said. “For so long we didn’t count.”

The Maricopa Republican Club’s next meeting wil be Feb. 21 and will feature mayoral candidate Tony Smith as keynote speaker. For more information, email or call (520) 494-7390.

Photo by Scott Bartle

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In another apparent attempt to literally create controversy, Kathy Hall, the editor of the Maricopa Monitor, published in her Jan. 25 edition a photo of City Council candidate Marquisha Griffin with a headline of “Candidate found.” The caption states that Griffin “did not appear in a recent City Council candidate lineup done by a local publication.” (Don’t worry about going out and finding the paper, you can see the photo by clicking here.)

That “local publication” was the most recent issue of 85239 The Magazine, in which we published a Q&A segment with the candidates running for City Council (click here to read).

The “story” is that only seven of the eight candidates were featured, with Ms. Griffin “missing.” Here’s the skinny:

We provided the same questions and the same deadlines to each candidate. Ms. Griffin replied to our request and stated that she might not be able to respond in time. I strongly encouraged her to do so stating that it would benefit both the voting public and her campaign to have responses from all the candidates. Ultimately, she opted not to submit responses by the deadline as the other seven did.

What we should – and intended to – have done was to make that clear in the magazine. The following copy was supposed to have been printed at the end of the article: “Marquisha Griffin is also a city council candidate. She declined the opportunity to be included in this article.”

The omission of the above verbiage was unintentional, and I apologize to our readers for any confusion it caused.

And, Kathy, thanks for the additional opportunity to inform our readers of the background behind Ms. Griffin’s omission.

Have an opinion you’d like to share with Maricopa? Please email it and any applicable photos to for consideration. For more details, click here.

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Let’s Talk!

Last August, after announcing my candidacy for mayor, I set out on an effort to personally meet with as many Maricopans as schedules permitted. I have attended club meetings, park events, and youth sporting events; basically I met with anybody that would talk with me. This accomplished two things; I learned a lot about what things are important to the people of Maricopa. Second, I wanted to make a statement that I’m going to be a leader that wants to open communication lines, is approachable, and listens.

While continuing along these last few weeks with the same efforts, I am amazed at how often I hear a statement full of inaccurate information. Recently, I heard from a friend in Province that there is a report that I was personally responsible for stopping Wal-Mart from coming to town! The crazy thing is that while this wild report is circulating, site preparation for the shopping center that includes Wal-Mart and others at the corner of Porter and Casa Grande Highway is underway! Of course there was no bit of truth to the rumor and shame on the person who started it, but it illustrates my point that rumors and wild speculation can distract us from talking about the real issues. Whether the rumors are about me, another candidate, your children’s teacher, your neighbor, or any one of the multitudes of people you come into contact with daily. Maricopans, don’t be seduced by rumor, gossip, or speculation, let’s talk!

Much has been said by the candidates about “transparency.” Transparency in communication works both ways. If people have questions about where I stand on an issue or something I’ve done, please contact me. Talk with the rest of the candidates. Most of them have websites and an easy way to contact them. Please take advantage of the open door. Let’s talk!

In this day of emails, emoticons, blogs, text messaging, instant messaging, and who knows what next, solid two-way communication may be a rare commodity. Many have stumbled into the communication quagmire thinking that merely putting a message out there means you have communicated. Wrong! I have been known to participate in all of the above methods, but I have a significant personal preference and healthy respect for the power of face to face conversation. Take the advice of the famous poet and novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “Talk is by far the most accessible of pleasures. It costs nothing in money, it is all profit, it completes our education, founds and fosters our friendships, and can be enjoyed at any age and in almost any state of health.” Come on folks, take a risk, let’s talk!

If you would like to have coffee with me and invite your family and friends to talk, I’d be happy to join you. Just send me an email by going to my Web site at I’ll be there!

Photo by RuthAnn Hogue

All candidates and their endorsers are invited to submit guest editorials to RuthAnn Hogue at They will be published on a space-available, first-come, first-served basis.

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Arizona Copper Theft Committee Chairman and longtime Pinal County farmer Jim Bechtel, left, presented Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez with a plaque “In Recognition of your Outstanding Legislative Support, 2007” for Sheriff Vasquez’s ongoing efforts to thwart copper wire theft in Pinal County (See related guest editorial, “Sheriff Vásquez: Copper theft on the rise, requires stricter legislation“).

Submitted photo

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With about three minutes remaining in Maricopa High School’s Homecoming game against Globe (see Rams lose 29-21, finish season with 1-9 record), a dark cloud fell over the field. Literally.

According to Maricopa Fire Department’s Brad Pittassi, the fire department received an alarm indicating the sprinkler system in the recently renovated high school had activated at approximately 9:10 p.m. An all-engines warning was sent out to both Maricopa Fire Department and Gila River Fire Department.

When engines responded, firefighters found the fire suppression system active and were able to quickly put out the remainder of the fire. Pitassi said the fire was contained to one room, which was later identified as room 255, reportedly the room being used as an office by Assistant to the Superintendent Burnie Hibbard.

Maricopa Unified School District spokesman Tom Beckett said the classroom received “pretty extensive water damage” and it and the adjacent rooms will likely need new carpet and drywall. He said the loss of computer equipment will be limited to hardware and there would be little or no loss of information due to the fire. “Nearly all of our information is housed on district servers,” Beckett said, “so the chance of information being lost is slim.”

“Everything worked perfectly,” Pitassi said of the fire suppression system. “I can’t stress enough how fast a fire like this in a new structure can spread. They (the sprinklers) did a great job.”

Fire officials are investigating the cause and will release additional information when it becomes available.

Beckett said there will be no interruptions at the school and classes will resume as scheduled Monday. “We may have students being displaced from some classrooms, but that will be quickly resolved.”

Photo by Carrie Vargas

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Maricopa Chamber of Commerce vice president Mark Molus was elected president for 2008 by the chamber’s board of directors today. Fellow returning board member Jake Romero was tapped to be the vice president and newly-elected director Anthony Snider was named treasurer (see ‘Kirkman, Snider, Wasowicz elected to Chamber board‘). Veronica Reeves retained her role as secretary of the Chamber for another year.

Molus, who owns 1st Impressions Ink, promotional products company, is eager to build on the Chamber’s recent growth. “I think it’s important we refine our mission statement and stay focused,” Molus said. “Creating value and events for our members is real important.”

The new board will participate in a day-long retreat Feb. 9 to review the organization’s mission statement and bylaws and to define its strategic plan for 2008.

“There’s a lot to do,” Molus said, but “at the end of the year we’ll be very proud of what we did.”

Photo by Scott Bartle

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Maricopa County’s Small Business Enterprise Program on Monday hosted the Arizona International Growth Group’s monthly early morning meeting featuring Omar Sayed, founder and CEO of Succeed® Corporation, an Arizona-based e-commerce company that helps small businesses succeed online.

Succeed ranked No. 50 on the Inc. 500 list in September 2007. The list is an annual ranking of the fastest growing private companies in the United States. Succeed is also recognized as the No. 1 fastest growing software technology company on the list in Arizona.

The Arizona International Growth Group meets monthly to discuss international business. It shares knowledge, experience and ideas for the benefit of people and companies in Arizona. MCbiz provides support for procurement activity and helps the small business community progress in Maricopa County through workshops, outreach, and partnering with organizations such as the growth group.

Sayed said when he moved to Arizona from India in the 90s he “felt right at home.” An entrepreneur at heart , Sayed practices what he preaches, stating that “failure is not an option, attitude is significantly important to growth, and recognizing opportunities, peoples, and those things not visible in the obvious sense are each key” in moving forward with one’s business.

His entrepreneurial spirit motivated him to start an import/export business in Texas, then he came to Arizona, “looking for a more future-oriented state and the State of Arizona has delivered in the area of technology,” Sayed said. He suggested that Arizona is still positioned for growth in terms of the technology industry for the next 10 years and beyond.

Providing advice to the large crowd of diverse small and big business representatives attending the meeting Sayed indicated that there are challenges in diversifying to the international markets.

“However, the world is shrinking,” he said.

For example, Sayed said, students from the Ukraine once contacted him offering their expertise in software platform issues. He decided to present them with a real-world problem his firm was facing. The students solved the problem for $8 within four hours of giving solving it a whirl.

Sayed noted that the international and local talent base and the “favorable economics” have allowed his firm to stay privately funded, although he is keeping his options open.

“The Global Market, from a sourcing perspective, right now, presents a great opportunity to selling products outside of the United States,” he said, adding that his firm remains focused in the United States.

Succeed Corporation also powers partners with a private-labeled version of the iBuilder platform offered under the partner’s brand.

“Continuing to build long-term strategic licensing partnerships is a key part of our business model,” Sayed said.

Succeed Corporation provides small businesses with a suite of Internet-based tools necessary for businesses to succeed in the Internet age. Until recently, that manifested itself in the form of Web hosting, e-commerce, email, and basic online marketing. Now, it also includes online banking, financial services, collaboration, intricate integration with suppliers and customers, advanced customer service, advanced marketing, and much more.

For information contact MCbiz at

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Risk factors of drug abuse were the subject of my last article; now it’s time to discuss specific protective factors that can be implemented in order to combat drug abuse.

When early aggressive behavior is displayed in children or youth, this is a behavior that is controlled and executed by the individuals themselves. For aggressive behavior the protective factor is self-control. This is a tool that all individuals possess; it is just more prominent in some rather than others because it has been positively reinforced over time.

Poor social skills are a risk factor that exists in any individual. Social skills can be learned and are also imitated. Positive relationships are a protective factor that can be fostered in the home and will reduce drug and substance abuse. These positive relationships can be with a parent, family member or teacher.

Lack of parental supervision has the potential to help foster many different forms of abhorrent behavior. This risk factor exists within the family and can be easily reversed by implementing the protective factor of increased parental monitoring and support. Latch key children in our society are placed in a prime position to encourage drug and substance abuse.

Peer pressure will often play a large role in an adolescent taking their first steps toward becoming a substance abuser. These peer pressures can be offset by increased emphass on academic competence. When youth have peers who consider intelligence a positive personality trait, they will emulate these behaviors, just as they do with abhorrent behaviors.

When drugs are readily available in the school, this greatly increases the risk of drug use and abuse. In order to protect our youth, strong anti-drug use policies must be implemented and enforced. These policies must be on a municipal level, as well as within individual schools.

Finally, poverty within a community also increases the potential for substance use and abuse. If poverty exists, then strong neighborhood attachments can work against drug use. An old proverb states: “It take a village to raise a child.” There is great truth to this proverb, evidenced by the increase of drug use in poorer neighborhoods where no real relationships exist among members of the community. All of us need to have a greater awareness of those around us and be willing to assist and guide them in time of need.

What do all of these risk factors have in common? They are all preventable if we work together and implement the appropriate and necessary protective factors prior to an adolescent, or adult, heading down the path to substance use and abuse.

If you are interested in the prevention of substance use and abuse and want to play an active role in your community, then please join the M*A*S*H Coalition on Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. We meet at City Hall on the third Thursday of every month and look forward to seeing you there. For further information please contact Firouzeh Dittmar at or (602) 463-2650.

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Pinal County Juvenile Court is fortunate to have over 100 dedicated volunteers through the Community Advisory Board, Restorative Justice Panels, the Youth Justice Center and general office assistance.

According to Pinal County Presiding Juvenile Judge Gilberto V. Figueroa, “Volunteers give children in the Juvenile Court system their time, their commitment, serve as an example, mentor, and sometimes even a parent. But they always wind up giving the kids’ one thing the kids have little of and that is their hearts and love. The Court benefits from the fact that the volunteers often provide updates, reports and information from a perspective the Court probably would not see from anyone else. The volunteers in the Juvenile Court system are invaluable.”

There are many opportunities for volunteers at Juvenile Court Services:

Community Advisory Board: This group is appointed by the Presiding Court Judge and represents diverse professional, cultural, and community backgrounds from areas all over Pinal County. They assist the Judge and Juvenile Court by helping evaluate and enhance services as well as ensure that Juvenile Court practices continue to reflect the best interests of youth, families, victims and the community. The CAB meets every other month in Florence. There are several openings on the board. Areas that need representatives on the board include Apache Junction, Maricopa and Eloy.

Restorative Justice Panels: Located throughout the county, these panels are comprised of volunteers who meet with youthful offenders and their parents/guardians. Their purpose is to hold the offender personally responsible for their actions while actively working with the family to help the youthful offender repair the harm they have caused to their victims and community. There are panels that have openings in Casa Grande, Coolidge, Florence, Maricopa, Apache Junction and the Tri-Community area.

Youth Justice Center: Volunteers are always needed at the Youth Justice Center (previously known as the Detention Center) in Florence. Special programming is done in the areas of ministry, prevention, health and fitness, music, art and mentoring. Volunteers are needed in all areas of programming.

Whether you have an extra hour or a few days a week to give, there is a need for positive role models at Juvenile Court Services. To find out how you can get more involved, contact Donna McBride, Program Administrator, at (520) 866-7074 or via email.

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Gold Medal Swim School is providing free swim lessons this week and next in exchange for food that will be donated to charity.

Classes will be held Dec. 27, 28, 31 and Jan. 2 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. at Gold Medal’s Chandler school at 6909 W. Ray Road #27. Any child over six-months-old can take advantage of the complimentary 30-minute lesson. A donation of five non-perishable or canned food items is suggested.

The Chandler-based swim school hopes to provide 1,000 lessons and raise over 2,000 pounds of food for St. Mary’s Food Bank during its 12th Annual Holiday Free Swim Program.

To register, visit or call (480) 961-7946.

Photo courtesy of Gold Medal Swim School

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In the midst of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, I sat in the packed room at host Global Water, with a rare feeling when it comes to our city government: I was thrilled!

The room was jam-packed with people, impassioned county residents speaking their mind about annexation and, most notably, many engaged residents applying to serve our city in important volunteer positions. The Council appointed 10 people to serve on City Council, Planning & Zoning Commission and the Parks, Recreation & Libraries Advisory Committee and, for the first time I recall, there were choices – wonderful choices – to make with each group as there were many more candidates than positions.

This really made me proud because it showcased the commitment many residents have to Maricopa, and because the caliber of the candidates, by and large, was outstanding. We didn’t just have willing volunteers, we had experience to boot.

I have to admit, I also took pleasure knowing that our Council members would be forced to make a decision instead of just appointing whoever applied or whoever showed up to the meeting.

Eight candidates were seeking three available positions on the Planning & Zoning Commission. Many of them had incredible credentials specific to the job required. Many of them are residents who have not previously offered their talents to the city.

Check out the credentials of one, Henry Wade, as listed on his application:
• Broker and owner of 11-year-old homebuilding company
• President and chief appraiser of 14-year-old real estate appraisal company
• Past president of Arizona Association of Real Estate Brokers
• Member of Phoenix Association of Realtors Ethics Committee
• U.S. Air Force retiree

And Marvin Brown:
• Administrator assistant to Detroit’s chief of police
• Director of Mayor’s Committee for Human Development (Detroit)
• Director of urban affairs for Comac Company (company owned 21 banks and the Pittsburgh Penguins)
• Director of urban investment for the State of Michigan Financial Intuition Bureau
• Development director for the city of Highland Park (Michigan)
• Member of New Detroit Task Force of Transportation and Housing
• Member of Bank of Lansing (Michigan) board of directors
• Chairman of the United Metropolitan Methodist Church Board of Trustees
• Chairman of a professional unemployment association

Despite the impressive resumes, neither Wade nor Brown were appointed. In fact, their credentials did not even prompt the Council to discuss them as potential commissioners.

Tom Bradbury was nominated by Councilman Will Dunn and subsequently appointed. Bradbury listed his experience and education as “Currently a Real Estate Agent serving Maricopa.”

Councilman Edward Farrell nominated Courtny Tyler, who was also appointed to a three-year term on the Commission. Tyler’s experience, as noted on her application, is that she has been an insurance agent since 2005 and president of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

So in the seconds between the candidates’ introductions and the Council’s votes, all the excitement and pride I was feeling turned to disappointment and, quite frankly, embarrassment.

Despite having more qualified candidates than positions and despite the opportunity to cultivate the apparent insurgence of new people with new ideas and talents seeking to contribute to our city government, our Council took the easy way out.

It became little more than a race to nominate. Even when Vice-Mayor Brent Murphree’s motion to appoint Marvin Brown died for lack of a second and Councilman Estes’ motion to appoint Carl Shaver failed, no one said a word as to why.

It is my sincere hope that in the new year, all Maricopa public officials pledge to ask themselves “What is best for the city of Maricopa and its taxpayers?” before each decision they make; not “Who can do I a favor for?” or “Whose feelings do I not want to hurt?” or “Who is competing for my position?”

Have an opinion you’d like to share with Maricopa? Please email it and any applicable photos to for consideration. For more details, click here.

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Children with huge grins, each accompanied by a Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) employee, shopped eagerly through the Casa Grande Wal-Mart as the sun rose on Saturday.

The event was the second annual Sheriff’s Santa’s program. PCSO deputies identified 32 needy children from responding to calls or working as School Resource Officers. Each of the children, ages 8 to 13, received a $500 Wal-Mart gift card meant for the children to spend on themselves and their families.

PCSO Cpl. Kent Ogaard, who has been on the “Sheriff’s Santa’s” committee from the beginning, escorted many of the children, including 12-year-old Kachef, around the store. Kachef is one of four siblings relocated to Pinal County from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Ogaard explained.

“His family had to start all over again,” he said.

Like many of the other children in Sheriff’s Santa’s, Kachef selflessly spent most of his gift card choosing items for his family.

“You have to make the children spend money on themselves. Most want to buy for family members,” noted Ogaard, who said common items are high chairs, strollers, clothing, sheets and pillows. “In the true spirit of Christmas they want to give more than they receive.”

Most funds for Sheriff’s Santa’s were raised through a September golf tournament at Maricopa’s Royal Dunes Golf Club, which only donates the private course to this cause, noted Ogaard. Donations from large companies like Global Water and the Maricopa UPS Store help the program be successful, he said.

Maricopa UPS Store owner Taylor Werner founded Sheriff’s Santa’s with Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez. This year’s program served nearly double the children identified last year.

“Seeing the children’s faces light up and their goodness come forward as they check off their list for their families is priceless,” Sheriff Vasquez said. “It also helps the children to see our deputies and employees in a good light, as people who are here to help them.”

Grace Gomez, Zone 5 Lieutenant Governor of the Maricopa Optimist Club, and Renate Chamberlin of the Maricopa Optimist Club have helped with Sheriff’s Santa’s the past two years.

“The kids are our future. We need to show them so they understand that acts of kindness will come back to them,” Gomez said. “To give of yourself is the greatest gift you can give.”

The Optimist Club members helped with the tournament and then watched the children shop Dec. 15.

“We need to plant the seed of kindness as soon as we can,” Chamberlin added.

Additional funds from the Sheriff’s Santa’s program are being used to purchase new backpacks stuffed with school supplies and handed out to Pinal County students identified by PCSO School Resource Officers. According to Werner, at least 100 backpacks will be given to students at around 20 county schools.

Ogaard is pleased with Sheriff’s Santa’s and has his sights set high for its third year.

“It’s a really cool program,” he said. “Next year we hope to double it again.”

To donate to Sheriff’s Santa’s, call Ogaard at (520) 705-5582 or Werner at (520) 568-5712.

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Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez and Pinal County Attorney James P. Walsh announced Monday that they will be strictly enforcing the laws against driving under the influence during the holiday season in Pinal County under the tagline: Drunk Driving: Over the Limit. Under Arrest.

The intensified enforcement effort against drunk drivers underscores the severity of the problem both locally and across the nation.

“People who drive drunk show a deadly disregard for human life. Drunk driving leads to tragic injuries and loss of valued friends and family,” said County Attorney Walsh.

In 2006, 13,470 fatalities occurred in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle rider who had a .08 or above Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) compared with 13,582 in 2005. Sheriff Vasquez emphasized the critical role law enforcement plays in helping solve this national problem.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in December of 2006 1,076 people were killed in crashes involving a driver with a BAC level of .08 or higher above the legal limit in every state as well as the District of Columbia.
“The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is one of the deadliest and most dangerous times of the year due to an increase in impaired driving,” said Sheriff Vasquez.

“We and other agencies will be out in force making sure drunk drivers are off the road,” said Vasquez. “If we catch you driving impaired, we will arrest you. No exceptions. No excuses.”

Since 1981, every President of the United States has demonstrated the commitment to the prevention of impaired driving by proclaiming December as National Drunk & Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Month.

Vasquez and Walsh said that always designating a sober driver and not letting friends drive drunk are just two of several simple steps to help avoid a tragic crash or an arrest for impaired driving. Other important tips include:

Plan ahead. Whenever you plan on consuming alcohol, designate your sober driver before going out, and give that person your keys.

If you are impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit or call a sober friend or family member to come get you.

Promptly report drunk drivers you see on the roadways to law enforcement (9-1-1).

Wearing your seatbelt or using protective gear on your motorcycle is the best defense against an impaired driver.

And remember: Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

Drunk driving is simply not worth the risk. It is deadly serious and against the law.

“If you drive drunk, you will be arrested,” said Sheriff Vasquez.

County Attorney Walsh reminded, “Violators will be spending their money on bail, court, lawyers and towing fees instead of buying holiday presents for loved ones. That’s not a great way to end the year”

Don’t take the chance. Remember, if you are caught driving over the legal alcohol limit, you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted.

For more information, visit www:

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The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce will begin the new year with a new board of directors.

Keith Kirkman, president and CEO of Orbitel Communications, Wells Fargo Bank branch manager Anthony Snider and Long Realty Alliance agent Bill Wasowicz were elected by their fellow members to serve on the board.

They replace board President Courtny Tyler (State Farm Insurance) and Treasurer Janice Pratt (Central Arizona College), whose terms expired. Wasowicz is an appointed member of the current board serving the remainder of the term of Darrick Johnson (Mail & Copy Plus), who resigned earlier in the year.

Eighty-three of the chamber’s 250 members (33%) voted in the election. Wasowicz was the leading vote getter with 51 (61%) followed by Snider’s 38 votes (46%) and Kirkman’s 35 (42%).

The newly elected board members will serve three-year terms and join returning board members Mark Molus (1st Impressions Ink), Vicki Pettes (The Communicator), Veronica Reeves (Wells Fargo), Jake Romero (Chase) and ex-offico member Danielle Casey (City of Maricopa).

I think that we’ll have a strong cooperative board with a lot of strong business people on it, said Terri Kingery, the chamber’s executive director. This will be a good board to bring us in the next phase of our growth in 2008.”

The board will elect its officers and appoint an alternate at its first meeting scheduled for Jan. 9.

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Jason Baer is the founder of an award-winning interactive marketing agency, Mighty Interactive, and director of strategy, marketing and media for the marketing communications firm Off Madison Ave. He has worked with more than 700 companies around the country, and on Monday, he’ll be adding Maricopa businesses to that list.

Baer (click here for bio) is the keynote speaker at a Maricopa Chamber of Commerce-sponsored seminar Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Oasis Life Church, 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108. The rescheduled event was originally scheduled for Nov. 27.

Baer is going to discuss three ways to use the Internet: to create action, interest and awareness.

His presentation will include sections on using the Web to market to current customers, featuring tips for appropriate software and marketing programs, and provide real case studies of Mighty Interactive clients.

“We’ll also talk about what makes a Web site successful, easy ways that you can transform your Web site from a loser to a winner, and how to evaluate your site’s effectiveness,” according to Baer. “We’ll cover the huge field of search marketing and how to harness the awesome power of Google and Yahoo! to drive the right traffic to your site, and how to convert that traffic into customers.”

For more information or to register for the seminar, click here.

Editor’s note: Baer is quoted in the upcoming issue of Entrepreneur Magazine.
Click here to read his tips on utilizing Wikipedia.

Submitted photo

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Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez encourages Pinal County residents to contribute to Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Toy Drive. The deadline to donate is Dec. 21.

PCSO is accepting monetary and toy donations for children around the county.

According to PCSO Community Resource Unit Sgt. Stormee Wallace, who has headed the PCSO Toy Drive the past two years, in 2006 the office raised $59,000 that serviced all of Pinal County and a total of 1,674 children.

“This year we are hoping to service pretty close to the same amount of kids,” Sgt. Wallace said.

PCSO accepts monetary donations or new, unwrapped toys, clothes and shoes for its toy drive. Used toys are not accepted.

PCSO’s Victim Services Division works with families throughout the year and identifies families with children who are victims of crimes. This year the division has identified five families to benefit from the toy drive, explained PCSO Administrative Manager Marcia Romano.

Additionally, PCSO works closely with county school districts, which help determine candidates to benefit from the drive through their hot lunch program. School resource officers also help identify candidates.

Those wishing to apply for the toy drive can visit a local Salvation Army to complete an application. Maricopa’s Salvation Army voice mail is (520) 280-8984. Donation inquiries go to Sgt. Wallace at (520) 705-9545.

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    On Tuesday afternoon at approximately 1:30 p.m. the Maricopa Unified School District was notified about the possible sighting of a funnel cloud associated with the thunderstorms moving through the area.

    The District immediately enacted a lockdown procedure at all campuses. Instructions were given to stay away from windows and move to interior spaces and walls.

    After checking with the Maricopa Police and Fire Departments, the District was informed that the official news from the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association was that cold air funnel clouds associated with thunderstorms would be moving through the area for approximately one hour from the time of the announcement at 1:32 p.m. The funnel clouds were not expected to reach ground.

    The lockdown was then lifted at approximately 1:50 p.m. with students returning to normal activities. The District administration did remain vigilant during the remaining portion of the warning.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Director of Public Relations Tom Beckett at (520) 568-5142.

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    For the second consecutive year, Desert Sun Performing Arts is hosting a holiday toy drive for needy children. Half the toys collected will be given to Against Abuse, a shelter for battered women, and half will be given to the Maricopa Fire Department for distribution.

    Anyone bringing a new unwrapped toy to the dance studio at 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 114 will receive a free photo with Santa Claus courtesy of Amy Jamieson Photography.

    “Our first event last year was a wild success showcasing the holiday spirit and true giving nature of Maricopa residents and business owners,” said Ceylan Gentilella, owner of Desert Sun Performing Arts.

    Gentilella said they collected close to 100 new toys last year and hope to surpass that mark this year.

    “We’re just happy to be a part of making sure the holidays are happy for every family,” she said.

    The toy drive’s hours are Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (520) 483-8915.

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    “Over 2,000 dead as United States enters war” was a headline that appeared after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.

    This is a story told over and over again, but became a personal tale told to me by a Pearl Harbor survivor, Irving “Melvin” Skhal.

    “Mel,” as he was known to his shipmates and friends, was aboard the USS Downes #375 while in dry-docks next to the Cassin, another destroyer tied up along side, when it was struck by two bombs at 9:06 a.m. that fateful morning.

    He was going about his duty as a deck hand when the first wave of bombers and fighter planes began to unload their destructive force upon his ship and many others anchored in the bay, such as the California, a battleship, her sister ships the Maryland and Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Utah, USS Helena, a light cruiser, and the Navy’s flagship, The Argonne.

    It didn’t take Mel long to figure out they were under attack by enemy planes. He manned an on-board anti-aircraft machine and began firing. It was long after that when the order came down to abandon ship.

    As Mel scrambled to save his own life, he helped one of his shipmates to safety, who was struggling in the water burning from oil leaking from sinking ships.

    Looking back, Mel was fairly quiet about what took place that day. He lived to be 87 years of age, was a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12043 here in Maricopa. He recently passed away. He was given full military honors at the time of his burial.

    He, like many others experienced the tragedy of war, saw first hand what mankind has reaped upon each other. As a fellow veteran of foreign war, I extend my sincere thanks to all of the men and women who have courageously defended this country and continue to defend America so that we may enjoy our freedom. I salute you!

    Bud Ryan is a Korean War veteran and commander of Maricopa’s VFW Post 12043.

    Submitted and file photos

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    Bashas’ and CBS 5 have joined together to hold the Bashas’ & CBS 5 Holiday Food Drive, a month-long drive to help ease the strain of the holiday demands on food banks in Arizona. The drive and benefits members the Association of Arizona Food Banks and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

    The goals of the drive are first to inform Arizonans that nearly 860,000 people in this state live in poverty and are at risk of hunger and, second, to collect non-perishable food for these needy Arizona families. The Bashas’ & CBS 5 Holiday Food Drive kicks off today and collection containers will be in Bashas’ stores during the entire month of December.

    Food banks across Arizona are facing a potential crisis this holiday season as hundreds of thousands of Arizonans seek help feeding their families. The Association of Arizona Food Banks is projecting an immediate food shortage of 3 million pounds – the equivalent of 75 truckloads or 2.3 million meals – by the end of this year.

    The best way to assist is to make a financial donation to the Association of Arizona Food Banks. Your donation will help secure and distribute food that will benefit food banks and their agencies in need. Call (800) 445-1914 or visit to give a gift today.

    You can also donate peanut butter, canned vegetables, cereal, macaroni & cheese or canned tomatoes at any Bashas’ store statewide, or buy a “soup can” icon from any cashier at Bashas’ for a donation of $1 or more.

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    Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Snider will hold his monthly office hours in Maricopa on Tuesday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Supervisor Snider will be at the interim City Hall located at 45145 W. Madison Avenue.

    “I always look forward to spending time in Maricopa and having the chance to bring our county government to town,” Chairman Snider said. “We have taken a huge step in our Growth Planning Initiative with the adoption of the Pinal County Open Space and Trails Master Plan. While we have just adopted the document, I can assure residents this plan will get a workout immediately. I stand ready to discuss this issue or any other topic residents may have.”

    If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet with the Supervisor, please call his office at (520) 836-0003; otherwise it’s a first-come, first-served opportunity to meet with Supervisor Snider.

    “These monthly office hours would be impossible without the gracious help from the City of Maricopa and their dedicated staff. I very much appreciate their generous loan of office space every month,” Chairman Snider said.

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    Maricopa resident Betsy Rice and Dale Hartman, who grew up on the family’s farm in Maricopa, are among the newest Project CENTRL class members, continuing a long tradition of Maricopans’ participation in the state-wide rural leadership program.

    Rice has lived in Maricopa since 2003 and said she was honored to be selected to Project CENTRL’s (Center for Rural Leadership) Class XIX.

    “This rural leadership development program has an outstanding reputation and former classmates have left a strong legacy for our class to build upon,” Rice said. “I am looking forward to everything the next two years has in store.”

    Rice is the public information officer for the city of Casa Grande and Hartman manages Santa Cruz Farms.

    They commenced their two-year journey last month at an event at Grace Inn in Ahwatukee that also celebrated the graduation of Class XVIII and the organization’s 25th anniversary.

    “What started as an idea among a few visionary founders has evolved into today’s premier leadership program,” said Everett Rhodes, Project CENTRL’s executive director. “Approaching 500 Alumni, Project CENTRL has truly come of age in providing effective and responsive leadership to meet the growing needs and challenges facing rural Arizona.”

    Rice and Hartman continue a long-standing tradition of participation by Maricopans. Scott Bartle, publisher of, was among the Class XVIII graduates, and he was preceded by Councilman Kelly Haddad (Class XVII) and Councilman Edward Farrell (Class XVI). Mayor Kelly Anderson (Class III) and former superintendent of schools Alma Farrell (Class XV) are also alums.

    Project CENTRL was founded in 1983 and its mission is “to assist highly motivated leaders improve and expand their leadership skills to become more responsive and effective in meeting the needs of rural people in public affairs.”

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    Four years after becoming incorporated the city has not proven to the citizens of Maricopa that they are managing the city well, particularly when it comes to this notion of transparency. The majority of the citizen concerns are driven by the lack of transparency being demonstrated by our local government, which has caused confidence in our government to decline. Concerns regarding the open meeting laws have been brought forth and ignored on many occasions. Time after time information is being held hostage with no warranted reason, but the end result is speculation, suspicion and continued lack of trust in our government. Government business should never be done in a manner that deliberately prevents openness or creates a strong perception of one.

    This would be a good starting place for the city to restore trust between themselves and the citizens. A change in how the city views transparency would yield big rewards. By creating this cloud of secrecy the city is doing a disservice to the citizens of Maricopa and damaging the culture of the city. Instead of attacking the media and becoming angry with the citizens, the city could try beating speculation to the punch by pro-actively communicating where the city stands on issues. The media are not going away nor are the voice of the citizens so let’s look for ways to work together. A great leader once said, “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” It’s a simple statement, but one that can began to bring down barriers.

    As I have stated in the past, public confidence in City government will increase if we have a City government that is committed to informing and involving its people, which values and welcomes public input and volunteer involvement. Our greatest strength is our people. Informing and empowering the people to take action on critical decisions, problems, and opportunities facing our city and neighborhoods will prove more beneficial to both the citizens of Maricopa and to the city. So rather than holding our government hostage lets acknowledge that a change in what has become the norm needs to take place and that it is never too late to rebuild and restore. Further, let’s have a government that is truly open and transparent because this is the way government was designed to be.

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    A vision captures the “ideals and desires” of a community and serves as the foundation of any planning project.

    The draft Pinal County vision was compiled with the input from Pinal residents at 10 Road Show events in July and seven Visioning Workshop events in August. The Pinal County Comprehensive Plan is now taking the draft vision back to residents for their review and input.

    The Pinal County Comprehensive Plan Web site now has an input form residents can fill out which asks residents questions regarding the draft vision. Interested residents can provide feedback on the draft vision by visiting the Pinal County Plan Web site and:

    • Clicking the “Provide Your Feedback” link on the project home page, or
    • Visiting the online “Library” and finding the draft vision document and feedback form under “Project Documents.”

    The feedback form is designed to capture thoughts on the draft vision and will be used through the end of the year to help polish this important project document.

    Interested groups of residents can also request a “Meeting in a Box” which will also provide them an opportunity to review, comment and provide feedback
    on the draft vision.

    For more information on the Pinal County Comprehensive Plan and upcoming events, visit the project Web site or contact Peggy Fiandaca (PSA) Consulting Team Project Manager at (480) 816 -1811 or

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    The holiday gift-giving season is almost here. Santa and the Postal Service™ want you to remember that preparing strong, secure packages with complete, legible addresses will ensure your precious gifts arrive as quickly as possible and in good shape.

    Here are some packaging tips for your holiday gifts:

    Sturdy-n-Stable. Start with a strong carton large enough to hold your gift, with some cushioning material all around to protect it from impact and keep it from shifting around inside the box. To get your gift there safe and sound, make sure your package is sturdy and stable.

    There-n-There Again. Before you seal your parcel, put the delivery address on a sheet of paper inside the package. Then, if something happens to the outside address, Postal Service personnel will have a back-up copy of the address to identify the destination and get your parcel delivered.

    Strong-n-Secure. Give your gift a “seal of approval.” Use pressure-sensitive tape, filament tape or 60-pound paper tape to seal your package securely. Don’t use cellophane or masking tape — they aren’t strong enough.

    Clean-n-Simple. Remove or mark out any conflicting address information or markings already on the carton. Don’t wrap the box with paper, string or twine — paper can rip, and string can get tangled in mail processing equipment.

    Accurate-n-Complete. Put your return address in the upper left corner of the parcel, and make sure it is complete, including your ZIP Code™. Place the recipient’s name and address in the center of the largest surface area (unless the shape of the box or contents require a specific orientation for stability). Use a permanent pen or marker and make sure the recipient’s address is complete, including:
    • The recipient’s name
    • Complete street number or Post Office™ box number
    • Street name, suffix (AVE, ST, etc.) and directional (E, W, SW, etc.)
    • Apartment or suite number
    • Town or city and state
    • ZIP Code

    These five tips will help you wrap things up for the holidays. And for more information on how to protect your shipments, just go to and search for “Prepare Packages.”

    Editor’s note: To guarantee delivery of domestic mail by Christmas Day, mail letters, cards and Priority Mail no later than Dec. 20 and Express Mail by Dec. 22.

    File photo

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    A non-injury accident just before 8 a.m. this morning backed up southbound traffic on John Wayne Parkway.

    According to Maricopa Police Department spokesman Officer Steve Judd, a pick-up truck turning left onto Honeycutt Road turned in front of and collided with a small four-door passenger car, which was traveling southbound on John Wayne Parkway.

    The driver of the pick-up was cited for failure to yield while turning left.

    Photos by Scott Bartle

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    (Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Information Officer Mike Minter has spearheaded fundraising for the Pinal County Peace Officers Memorial for the past 10 years in what he describes as “a labor of love.” In order to raise the $250,000 needed for the project, he held golf tournaments and sold monogrammed bricks. However, more money is needed to cover additional costs, for the upkeep of the 10-foot diameter monument and to add more names although, hopefully, that will not be necessary.)

    They put their lives on the line every day – some paying the ultimate price – so that the places we live, work and play are safer for all. A monument paying tribute to law enforcement officers from agencies within Pinal County, who died in the line of duty, will be unveiled at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27, in front of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Florence.

    The Pinal County Peace Officers Memorial was born of a meeting between five law enforcement officials from several Pinal County agencies and has been more than 12 years in the making. It has finally reached fruition thanks to a multitude of individuals who assisted in this labor of love.

    The stone monument, carved by U.S. Stone Works of Surprise, Arizona, features five, life-sized images depicting federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement and corrections officers who represent Native American, African-American, Hispanic and Anglo male and female law enforcement officers. The unique portrayal of such a cross section of ethnicity, gender and position within the law enforcement arena has never been done before and gives this monument the distinction of being the only one of its kind in the nation.

    The names of the 31 officers in Pinal County who lost their lives in the line of duty will be on bronze plaques attached to stone walls surrounding the life-sized carved figures.

    After 12 years of fundraising, the monument fund is still short of its goal. Monument donations, which are tax deductible, will continue to be accepted, and fundraisers will continue to be held, including the monument brick sale. A four-inch by eight-inch brick engraved with three lines is available for a $100 donation. An eight-inch by eight-inch brick bearing five lines is $200. The bricks will create a pathway in front of the monument for all to see. Contributions of $5,000 or more will have the contributor’s name placed on one of the monuments benches where visitors can sit and reflect. Funds received above the actual cost of the monument will go towards maintaining the monument.

    Those who would like to honor these officers by making a donation to the Pinal County Peace Officer Memorial Monument fund should contact Mike Minter, PCSO Information Officer, at (520) 866-5148.

    Have an opinion you’d like to share with Maricopa? Please email it and any applicable photos to for consideration. For more details, click here.

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    Entrees Made Easy is encouraging Maricopans to start a new family tradition this Thanksgiving: don’t cook.

    The Maricopa company offers both assembly of pre-selected meals and pre-prepared meals. It is providing a three-course Thanksgiving dinner option to those who prefer to not spend the bulk of their holiday in the kitchen.

    “It’s designed to eliminate a lot of the stress of the holiday meal,” according to co-owner Brett Carlisle, who opened the franchise with his wife, Sue, in March. “We want to make it easier to enjoy time with your family, which is what Thanksgiving is all about.”

    The menu for the two meal packages, one feeding six people and the other 12, is:
    • Boneless turkey breast prepared with choice of spiced cranberry sauce, fresh herb rub or Cajun rub
    • Choice of traditional Yankee style or Southern style stuffing
    • Choice of three sides: mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potato casserole, cremini mushroom and green bean casserole, potato gratin, roasted corn casserole, roasted winter vegetables
    • Choice of desserts: pumpkin pie, Dutch apple pie, pumpkin bourbon cheesecake, ginger spice pumpkin surprises

    Orders must be placed online (click here) by Saturday or via email to by Sunday.

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    A plethora of local businesses closed up shop in Maricopa this year including Fashions by Cexi, Trax Cafe, Ramsey’s American Grill, Gifts, Games & Gadgets, Wireless Central, Maricopa Home Loans, Austin’s Gifts, Fidelity National Title, First American Title and two Century 21 offices. I think everyone agrees that such a fate is not only devastating for business owners, it’s also a bad omen for our city.

    Where there’s a difference of opinion is the cause.

    Are high rents a factor? Absolutely. Can the city do more to help businesses? You bet. Can residents spend more money locally instead of in the Valley? Of course.

    Retail and office lease rates of $26 per square foot triple net, which means the tenant also pays for utilities, maintenance, insurance and real estate taxes, are commonplace in Maricopa. These rates are ridiculously high for a small market like Maricopa.

    But they’re ridiculously high for a reason: It’s market value. While it’s easy to blame “greedy” developers and landlords, the fact of the matter is that they would not be charging such high rates if we weren’t paying them, keeping vacancies low. Economics 101 taught us that high demand plus low supply yields high prices, and until demand lessens or supply increases, landlords are going to continue to charge high rates and maximize their profits – and I don’t blame them.

    Maricopa has everything to gain – or lose – based on the small business community’s success – or failure. Of course, the direct financial benefit of increased sales tax revenue is easy to calculate. But the indirect impact of whether or not our city changes its reputation and becomes known as a business-friendly city – for big and small business alike – will help determine whether Maricopa thrives or merely survives.

    A couple big obstacles impede Maricopa’s growth, including additional roads to the Valley and railroad over/underpasses, neither of which will be resolved in the foreseeable future. The city can boost economic development by taking simple actions: limit the bureaucracy that prevents the timely issuing of permits, provide outstanding customer service and help businesses set up and prosper here.

    City Council’s passing a holiday reprieve on the sign ordinance (see related story) is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope a trend develops.

    There’s a mindset, however, that the string of failed businesses is the residents’ fault for shopping in the Valley instead of patronizing the local businesses. It’s not.

    I applaud every single entrepreneur who takes the risk of opening a business. It oftentimes amounts to seven-day work weeks and suffocating responsibility for a wage less than could be made working for someone else.

    But using your life savings to open the Widgets R Us store you always dreamed of does not automatically entitle you to a drove of loyal customers.

    Many ingredients go into a successful business, including:
    • A product (or service) people want
    • Something that differentiates the product – and company – from the competition
    • A means of distributing the product – it could be in $26 space along John Wayne Parkway or in cyberspace
    • Price points commensurate with the value provided the customer
    • Great customer service ensuring they buy again (and refer their friends)
    • Effective promotion so people know about the above things (yes, successful businesses advertise)

    By doing this, businesses will create demand for their products and their companies which will, in turn, attract customers.

    In an Aug. 26 opinion piece (click here to read), the owner of since-closed Fashions by Cexi wrote, “The small business owners are in desperate need of your patronage.” (And I agree with him.)

    In response, Forum member “CptPizza” wrote, “I will not buy a local product simply because it’s local. I, like many others in town, work very hard for the money I earn and will not waste it on an inferior product or service simply because it’s local.”

    “nancyj1922” echoed that sentiment: “I won’t just shop here to spend money; it has to be something I want and worth my dollars.”

    In a recent editorial, Terri Kingery, executive director of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, wrote, “How many of these early entrepreneurs will this community lose before we, the residents of Maricopa, get it? We have to, not need to, look local first!”

    I agree that we local residents should buy from local business owners whenever possible, but that’s Maricopa residents’ option, not obligation, to do so.

    Many factors contribute to a company’s success or failure, among them is the support they receive – or don’t – from the local community – the lifeblood of any Maricopa retail shop. However, I believe it is the obligation of us business owners to create awareness of our products that meet customer demand at a fair price – and earn the business of local residents.

    Have an opinion you’d like to share with Maricopa? Please email it and any applicable photos to for consideration. For more details, click here.