The bittersweet departure of Arizona’s winningest player of all time

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Zach Smith.

Via @DusanRistic14 on Instagram. Caption, “Thank you Arizona!” (March 4, 2018).

As an 18-year-old, Dušan Ristić was as on the brink of accepting a professional basketball contract to play for one of the best teams in Europe, Belgrade’s “Red Star”. Before he could accept the offer, University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller called him and asked him to play for the Wildcats.

Four years later, the 7-foot Serbian is graduating from the U of A as the winningest player in program history. When asked about his decision to accept Miller’s offer, Ristić said, “It was the best decision for me because I grew as a basketball player, and I also grew as a person.”

During his senior night game, Ristić wore a shirt that read “DUŠAN LOVES TUCSON” on the back and “THANK YOU ARIZONA” on the front. He said that it took three weeks to think of the correct way to thank the city and fans for their support over the past four years of his life.

“I’m still not aware that I’m done playing in Tucson, and I’m done with games and everything. I was just thinking about it, and I was kind of sad,” he said. “I feel like, ‘Oh there’s a next year, and I’m gonna come back and play games.’ It’s really weird. It’s a really weird feeling.”

When asked what he’ll miss the most about Tucson, Ristić mentioned two things – the people and the games in McKale Center. “It’s a special feeling. Those home games are my favorite memories,” he said.

Ristić developed relationships with almost everybody involved with the Arizona basketball program. Arizona’s Associate Director of Communication Services Matt Ensor said that his relationship with Dušan was the best out of any student-athlete he’s ever worked with.

During road trips, Ristić would hang out with staff members and explore places like Hawaii, Los Angeles and the Bahamas – but one of his favorite trips came in Albuquerque this year when the Wildcats played at the University of New Mexico.

Ristić is a huge fan of the hit Netflix series Breaking Bad, which was filmed in Albuquerque. During the trip, he and Ensor visited the “Walter White House” – which was the residence of the series’ main character, Walter White.

Ensor had previously worked for UNM, and he knew the area well. “When it came up that were going to Albuquerque to play, he was like, ‘Is there any way we can at least go by the Walter White house?’ And I was like yeah we can Uber, its cheap,” said Ensor.

Ristić in front of the “Walter White House” (Via Dušan Ristić)

Ristić was obviously passionate about the possibility of visiting. He said that American Netflix and HBO shows are huge in Serbia, and he and his friends would watch shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones before he came to the states.

“It was a cool place to visit. Its not some famous historical place, but it’s a really fun place from one of the best TV shows ever,” said Ristić.

He used Netflix to learn parts of the English language as well. He was already fluent when he came to the United States, but as a freshman he would turn the subtitles on while watching shows, in order to learn slang and expand his vocabulary.

Zack Alexander, a student manager for the Arizona basketball team, said that Ristić’s accent improved over the four years that they worked together. He considers Ristić to be a good friend of his.

“A lot of the players get a big head because of the position they’re in, but he’s always kept it real. He treated the managers really well, along with the coaches and other players, just anyone,” he said. “A lot of the players will treat people differently when they start getting big, so it was cool that he didn’t.”

Although he would go out of his way to explore during road trips, Ristić had plenty of his favorite spots in his “second home” as well. Every single time his friends visited, he would take them to Guadalajara Grill. He fell in love with Tucson’s Mexican food.

He also frequented areas of northern Tucson. “It’s a beautiful area and its not like a city with big buildings. Its more about nature. I liked that part of the city a lot, especially Sabino Canyon and the north side. There’s a lot of desert, a lot of wild animals. When you think about Tucson, or the desert, you think of that place,” he said.

His hometown of Novi Sad, Serbia is 6,255 miles from Tucson. Although his parents would do their best to visit, the distance was still a factor. “It was probably hard for them, but they supported me throughout all four years. I don’t think they missed more than one or two games. They watched all of the games online. They used to wake up around 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. just to watch my games,” he said.

Ticket from Arizona’s 2018 Senior Night Game featuring Ristić. (© Zach Smith 2018)

When asked about how Ristić will be remembered by the city of Tucson after his departure, Matt Ensor said he might be the most popular player ever in the history of the program. Ensor said that if Ristić ran for Mayor of Tucson right now he would, “Win in a landslide, with a record turnout.”

“But he’s a four-year guy, he’s been developed, he’s a guy who just fell in love with Tucson. He’s always talked highly of how he loved it here. To see him grow into the all-time-winningest player and to have some huge games at home, it all just kind of builds together,” he said. “He loves it here. Obviously where he goes next is up to his career, but he’ll always have a soft place in his heart for Tucson and the University of Arizona.”

As far as the future goes, Ristić said that his main goal is to play the game of basketball for as long as he can – he wants to play until he’s around 35 or 36 years old. He’s currently training in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at F2 Basketball – in lieu of the upcoming NBA Draft – and he recently competed in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.

If he doesn’t make it into the NBA, Ristić said that he’ll go back to Europe and play professionally overseas. Either way he’ll be happy. Ristić is graduating with a degree in psychology and a minor in sports management. He chose psychology because of its applicability to basketball.

“I think it’s really important to know how your brain works, and as a basketball player you go through a lot of ups and downs throughout the season,” he said. “And sports management because obviously my whole life was dedicated to basketball, so one day when everything is said and done I’ll probably still stay in this business.”

Ensor said that Ristić told him that he wants to eventually work in a program or academy that can help younger Serbian players get into the game of college basketball in the United States. He almost accepted a contract offer to play for Belgrade’s “Red Star” professional team when he was younger, and he didn’t know much about NCAA sports at the time.

Ask Ristić if he has any regrets, and he’ll assure you that he made the right decision, “I was a part of a new culture, I met a lot of friends in Tucson and in the states and I learned a new language. It was an amazing experience for me these past four years.”


Zach Smith is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at 

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Southern Arizona group merges cattle ranching, community and respect for the land

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Michaela Webb.

Saguaro Juniper’s land is located along the San Pedro River near Cascabel, Arizona. (Photo by: Michaela Webb/Arizona Sonora News Service)

Sustainability and cattle ranching aren’t typically thought of as going hand in hand, especially in desert regions. But a small group of friends has been practicing sustainable cattle ranching near Tucson, Arizona, since the late 1980s.

The group is called Saguaro Juniper Corporation– named for the unique combination of saguaro cactus and juniper trees they found in the San Pedro River valley, where the group now owns and leases hundreds of acres of land, according to Tom Orum, a founding member of Saguaro Juniper.

“Saguaro Juniper is really a tale of one thing leading to another,” Orum said. “It’s evolved over time.”

The group that eventually became Saguaro Juniper started out as a goat-milking cooperative in 1978 and was heavily involved with the sanctuary movement to protect Central American refugees fleeing genocides in their home countries.

One continuous thread through all these stories, and eventually into the establishment of Saguaro Juniper, was a Harvard-educated philosopher, writer and rancher from Casper, Wyoming named Jim Corbett. Corbett, who helped found the sanctuary movement, was a driving energy behind the “goat and garden group,” a goat-milking cooperative and early iteration of Saguaro Juniper, and a founding and philosophically influential member of the group, according to Orum.

Jim Corbett was a founding member of Saguaro Juniper. His ideas about community and the rights of people, animals and the land helped shape the group’s philosophy. (Photo courtesy of Saguaro Juniper)


Respect for land and conservation

Saguaro Juniper is unlike other cattle ranching operations because of the way its members understand their relationship with the land and its other occupants. They believe the land has rights, and sees their cattle operation as a way to interact respectfully with, and in some cases, improve the quality of the land.

“The central theme of Saguaro Juniper has been embodied in the covenant,” Orum said. “That’s caring for the land and having a human presence active on the land at the same time.”

The covenant he’s talking about is a document that governs Saguaro Juniper’s decision-making. It lays out a set of five principles:

“1. The land has a right to be free of human activity that accelerates erosion.
2. Native plants and animals on the land have a right to life with a minimum of human disturbance.
3. The land has the right to evolve its own character from its own elements without scarring from construction or the importation of foreign objects dominating the scene.
4. The land has a pre-eminent right to the preservation of its unique and or rare constituents and features.
5. The land, its waters, rock, and minerals, its plants and animals, and their fruits and harvest have a right never to be rented, sold, extracted, or exported as mere commodities.”

Saguaro Juniper is located along the San Pedro River, which is one of the last large undammed rivers in the Southwest and one of only two major rivers that flow north from Mexico into the United States. The San Pedro provides critical habitat for millions of migrating birds each year and is home to 84 species of mammals, 14 fish species and 41 reptile and amphibian species, according to the Nature Conservancy.

“That’s a major interest among members of SJ is the wildlife and the land,” Orum said. “Another theme is the interest in animals and what animals, particularly our cows, can teach us about the land.” 

Sustainable cattle ranching

“The idea is that we want the cattle to be on the range when they can be a positive aspect of that,” said Nancy Ferguson, a wildlife biologist and founding member of Saguaro Juniper. “Our current understanding is that we’ve got grasses that grow mainly in the summertime and produce seeds, so the idea is not to have the cows there when the grass is growing rapidly and producing seeds because that’s when you can wipe out grasses.”

For that reason, the group doesn’t allow their cattle to graze on the range during the summertime. Instead, they let the cows graze a plot of land with Bermuda grass through the summer months.

They also prevent the cows from grazing in sensitive riparian areas, which tend to be more adversely affected by grazing than other areas, Ferguson said.

They’ve used trend plots – plots of land that they monitor for vegetation over time – in order to see how their cattle operation has changed the land. Orum said that, in general, the land and natural vegetation has improved since they began monitoring in the late 1990s with the help of the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Saguaro Juniper sells beef in quarters or halves of cows. “I couldn’t; sell you a pound of hamburger,” Ferguson said. The animals are brought to a family packinghouse in Wilcox, where they’re slaughtered and trucked in a refrigerated vehicle to Tucson every two weeks.

Orum said that the group currently has three animals that they’re looking to sell in May.


When asked about the connections between the sanctuary movement and Saguaro Juniper, Orum said that Corbett’s philosophy of community permeated both.

“It’s not the acts of individuals but the acts of community that are important. That was very true in the Sanctuary movement,” Orum said. “What that means is that you get a mosaic of interests.”

Saguaro Juniper‘s land is held collectively by the shareholders and all decisions are made collectively.

“You get one person who might be most interested in the cows and another person interested mostly in the land and the creatures on it and so forth,” Orum said. “So that there’s a mosaic of approaches.”

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No longer a novelty, it’s an industry

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Liz O'Connell/Arizona Sonora News Service.

Domestic beer is not enough for Arizonans. The craftier the better.

This is especially true in Tucson.

“Southern Arizona, well particularly Tucson, has more breweries in the city of Tucson than the city of Phoenix,” Rob Fullmer, executive director of Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, said. “Tucsonans are able to walk or bike to a brewery these days.”

Flashback to 1991 when Barrio Brewing Company was created in a location where customers could walk and bike from the University of Arizona campus.

The company started brewing at a restaurant on University Boulevard, now known as Gentle Ben’s. By 2006, Barrio expanded and moved to a location near downtown Tucson.

Now, Barrio Brewing Company is the largest brewery in Southern Arizona, according to Fullmer.

A brewer for Barrio, Luke Edward, said just last year the company has sold over 11,200 barrels, or 22,500 kegs

The company expanded from only selling kegs. Barrio cans three of the beers it makes: Barrio Blonde, Barrio Rojo and Citrazona.

The market for Barrio in Phoenix continues to grow and now the company has expanded to Sierra Vista, Bisbee and Douglas, according to Edward.

Edward has been working with the company for the past four years. And since his time at Barrio, he said he has seen about 15 new breweries open in the Tucson area.

But it isn’t a competition for all the breweries in the area.

“With the other breweries in town, it’s not so much competition but feels more like family and seeing how everyone brews their stuff,” Edward said. “I think we really do support each other nicely… it’s tight knit.”

One way the breweries around town integrate is through beer festivals.

The Arizona Craft Brewers Guild held the third annual Baja Beer Festival on April 7. It brought in over 1,000 people and 23 breweries from the state of Arizona.

These festivals give community members a chance to learn about the different breweries, and it also gives the brewers an opportunity to interact with customers.

“Being in a brewery, we’re always handing out the beer to the distributors so when we get to really interact with customers, I find it really cool,” Edward said about the Baja Beer Festival.

Ten years ago, there were only 31 microbreweries in the state of Arizona. That number has risen to 110, according to the Annual Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.

But the rise of the craft beer industry does not stop in Arizona. It’s growing in every state.

A report released by the Brewer’s Association states that small and independent craft brewers saw a 5 percent rise of volume in beer in 2017. Over 990 new breweries opened in 2017.

There are eight new brewers in planning within the state of Arizona, according to the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild website.

“The beer industry in Arizona is going to continue to adapt,” Fullmer said. “We still have a lot of opportunities for small breweries that want to service their neighborhoods and want to bring people into their taprooms.”

Liz O’Connell and Ciara Encinas are reporters for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact them at or

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Tombstone merchants corral profits, ideas for tomorrow

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by David Del Grande.

Donnie Miller, no relation to the storefront namesake, enjoys greeting passers-by and local patrons of T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile and Hotel. When Miller moved to town, he learned a few greetings in German and French in order to make international visitors feel more at home. (Photo by: David J. Del Grande / Arizona Sonora News Service)

Statistics don’t tell the story of a community.

Reports can’t capture how a town’s aesthetic woos the bond between patron and merchant. Institutional determinations made from afar will always fail to paint the picture of what a city feels like, or how its streets sound under moonlight. 

The mileposts that say Tombstone is facing economic hardships are cropping up, but local merchants know differently.       

For the last seven years, the Old Tombstone Western Theme Park has turned a profit every week, said co-owner Lee McKechnie.

“We’ve had bad days of course, you have to, but we’ve never had a bad week,” said McKechnie. “And every year business has been growing.”

McKechnie’s western-style fantasyland, located at S. Fourth and Toughnut streets, features three daily gunfights on a replicated movie set, a cantina and restaurant, a toy shooting gallery geared for children, a gift shop and mini golf course with historical accounts of Tombstone at every hole. The Helldorado Stage, which is only open for special events, is also on site.

He’s planning to add more attractions by fall.

McKechnie started “The Tombstone Cowboys” acting troupe in 1997. They have been working on and off at the Helldorado Stage throughout the years. At the time, there was only one gunfight performance in town, he explained, and now there’s four.

He took over the property for his theme park in 2011, and he made a permanent home for his troupe. He also built the park’s active movie set where daily gunfights are held.

Lee McKechnie playing “Ringo” at the Old Tombstone Western Theme Park daily gunfight. (Photo by: David J. Del Grande / Arizona Sonora News Service)

McKechnie spent his career as an actor, stunt double and gun-handler and has worked on more than 30 movies, including: “Seven Mummies” (2006), “Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road” (2002) and the video game “The Last Bounty Hunter” (1994). In 1993, he played Val Kilmer’s stunt double in “Tombstone,” the blockbuster movie featuring Hollywood A-listers like Kurt Russell, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton and Kilmer.

McKechnie actively promotes the gunfight reenactment at the O.K. Corral Historic Complex, he said, and that should be the first stop for new visitors.

But in order to stand out, McKechnie’s troop offers a “hysterically correct” account of the Old West, which blends history and comedy throughout the routine.

“We know what people want, we play to the audience,” McKechnie said. “And we keep them interested in the history by throwing some comedy and laughter in there.”

When he starts the performance, McKechnie lays the ground rules for the audience. The “good guys” will be wearing a blue sash, and the “bad guys” wear an opposing red sash. And no matter what, the good guy always wins, he explains. If the crowd doesn’t seem lively, he fires off a round in order to rouse the spectators. 

He performs in the gunfights at least four days every week. On his off days, McKechnie works on marketing, promotions and making repairs to the various sets.

He also owns the Tombstone Trolley Tours, which offers 25-minute narrated tours of the city to Boothill Graveyard and back.

Plus McKechnie’s currently selecting new actors for the “Virginia City Outlaws,” a theatre troupe he started 18 years ago that performs in Virginia City, Nevada from May to October. The popularity of this group offsets the cost of running Old Tombstone during the slow season. 

“And I have a really good manager down here who will take care of things in the slow months while I’m gone,” he said.

However, there are many facets that measure the strength of an economy, said Robert Carreira, director and chief economist at Cochise College Center for Economic Research.

Since the town’s economy is largely driven by tourism, tracking how many people visit the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park can indicate its commercial vitality, Carreira said.  

Between 2007 and 2017, annual visits declined almost 10 percent from 51,866 to 46,770, Carreira said via email. Unfortunately, Carreira only had gross domestic product information at the county level, which is the most reliable way to determine how an economy is faring. 

Another good indicator is the unemployment rate, he said.

“And Tombstone’s unemployment rate has long been lower than the county, state and national rates,” Carreira said.

In 2017, Tombstone’s annual unemployment rate was 2.3 percent, compared to 5.4 percent for Cochise County, 4.9 percent for Arizona and 4.4 percent nationally.

Tombstone’s unemployment rate dropped almost 1 percent during the last decade, but that was largely due to a shrinking labor force and not from job growth, Carreira said.

The city’s labor force — which is comprised of people either employed, or actively seeking work — declined by nearly a third during the same timeframe. And Tombstone’s population also dropped about 7 percent, a statistic that paints a picture of economic struggle.

Local retail sales mushroomed more than 40 percent between 2007 and 2017, topping out at $14.5 million last year. But Carreira said the recent opening of the Family Dollar store most likely contributed to the spike.

The movie “Tombstone” certainly sparked the local economy, he said, and another successful Hollywood blockbuster would undoubtedly do the same.

“It seems the city’s efforts recently to recapitalize on the movie — including bringing Val Kilmer out this past summer, along with the upcoming 25th anniversary bringing out celebrities once again — will give a boost to the city’s tourism industry,” said Carreira.

This year, Tombstone made True West Magazine’s “Top 10 True Western Towns,” which is a big seller for the publication, said Executive Editor Bob Boze Bell via email.

“Our goal at True West magazine is to give credit to the western towns who are making an effort to promote themselves … and reward them for their efforts,” Bell said.

Contributing editors at True West are asked to nominate cities that they think are exemplary, Bell said. The initial candidates are culled down to a few dozen, then the final list and the specific order towns are placed is decided over a heated debate.

About a decade ago, the merchants of Tombstone seemed to being working against one another, he said. Recently, there’s been a sea change locally and the folks at True West applaud these efforts.

“Landing Val Kilmer as grand marshal, and this year Dennis Quaid is very cool. And our hats are off to everyone who is pulling together to make the town competitive and vital again,” Bell said, referring to the annual Doc Holli-Days parade commemorating the infamous Tombstone resident’s birthday.

T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile and Hotel opened its doors 18 years ago and overall the business is growing, said owner Tina Miller.

“Each year’s been better than the last year — I can’t complain,” Miller said. “Tombstone’s been really good to me and business has been good.”

Miller said the key to financial success in Tombstone is offering more than one product. Although she has changed some of her business practices throughout the years, staying progressive is a must for any merchant.

Her shop is stocked with unusual items ranging among costume jewelry, Arizona-themed puppets including jackrabbits as well as reenactment clothing, both new and used, because some folks want to buy western gear that looks dusty and worn, Miller said.  

When she moved the shop to its current location, she renovated the four hotel rooms on the second floor. After Miller revived what used to be the Silver Nugget Hotel, styling each room with its own unique theme, the only getaway suites that overlook Allen Street are booked year-round.

But Tombstone needs to reinvent itself, Miller said. Older generations were attracted to the city, because they were raised watching Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. One way businesses could entice millennials to visit, is by creating a presence on social media, she said. A handful of shops, including T. Miller’s, are making a concerted effort towards growing their audience online.

Tombstone will always have the 30-second gunfight, Miller said, so introducing the lost arts of western culture such as silversmithing and horseshoeing may be another way to draw young people into town.

If a business shutters on Allen Street, filling the space is obviously important, Miller explained. But bringing in a unique shop like “Mario’s Bakery Cafe,” which is coming soon to Allen Street, will be a welcomed change. 

“I look forward to seeing new merchants,” Miller said. “It would be nice to encourage other people, with new ideas, to come in — that would upgrade our town.”

David J. Del Grande is a reporter for the Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at

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Bisbee locals grapple with historic preservation

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Jamie Verwys.

A view from Laundry Hill of an area with Old Bisbee homes for sale. Jamie Verwys/Arizona Sonora News

More than two dozen unoccupied, potentially unsafe homes can be found along Old Bisbee’s historic main drag. An unofficial network of community members, contractors and residents are buying up the last of these homes to ensure the town preserves its aesthetic.

They want “funky Bisbee” to remain “funky Bisbee.”

Jon Sky, owner of The Parlor tattoo studio, is leading the charge on what he calls “restoring Bisbee.”

“My passion is concrete…building big decks, structures, additions, taking things that people say can’t be fixed and fixing them,” Sky said. “There’s nothing beyond repair.”

The majority of local residents and city officials believe historic preservation is a top priority. And there are very specific guidelines and processes for anyone hoping to renovate or demolish one of the houses that fall into the historic category.

Under the State Historic Property Tax program, those who purchase a home listed in the National Register of Historic Places individually or as part of a district are eligible for a property tax reduction of 35 to 45 percent.

Currently, there is a handful of abandoned homes, weathered by time and available for a relatively low purchasing price.

According to Sky, there is profit to be made, or a dream home to be built out of these homes, but it requires time and skill.

Sky purchased several homes in the area, including the one he lives in now with his wife and two teenage daughters. He and his friends added a deck in seven days, which almost doubled the house’s size. The renovation was designed to mimic the original house.

“My goal is to snatch up all these [properties] before someone else does and wants to tear them down,” he said.

He hopes to bring back the corner store from his childhood, create low-income housing and build some apartments to rent to visitors. Soon, Sky will be working on several construction projects in Flagstaff to help fund design gigs in Bisbee.

While he does his best to avoid a demolition of a home, the challenges of maintaining old buildings are high. He is often up against termite damage, old wood and the hill the homes are built into. Sometimes a building is beyond renovation.

“If you do have to tear down a structure, you can just take pictures of it and rebuild it how it was,” he said. “If you have to demolish a structure that’s what you do in a historic town; you don’t just tear it down and just build whatever.”

A row of brick buildings in Old Bisbee houses several local businesses. Striping the paint to reveal the historic brick was one of resident Jon Sky’s most recent restoration projects.

Resident Kathleen Dunley said she moved to Bisbee because she missed living in an historic house. Her original goal was to restore her home, which was erected in 1910, but the project was plagued with roadblocks.

“I’m trying to maintain the functionality and look as best I can, but it’s expensive work,” Dunley said. “I now understand more than ever the frustrations of someone thinking they can restore, but not being able to complete it.”

Becky McIntyre owns the Toland Adobe, a popular rental in town that belonged to one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, the first voluntary cavalry regiment formed during the Spanish-American War. McIntyre moved to Bisbee for the weather and the town’s rich history. She said she placed a bid on her home before even stepping foot in it.

Restoration work had already been done to her home, but she did add modern touches, such as new floors. When residents want to do an exterior renovation to a historic Bisbee home they must get a permit from the city’s Design Review Board, a process McIntyre finds effective.

“If you were going to do some major thing, knock the windows out or a major reconstruction, the city would be involved,” she explained. “But other [improvements], they just expect you to take care of it, which is why you have some pretty cool looking houses in Bisbee.”

McIntyre has no qualms with demolishing sites that have become a hazard, ushering in new homes.

“The properties that have been abandoned are just rats nests, havens for drug addicts and for wild animals, so that really does affect the ambiance of the town,” she said. “I’m on the side of let’s go ahead and take care of that and if we can’t get anyone to restore them to look halfway decent then take them down.”

Ken Budge, a design board member and former city councilman, has been a part of Bisbee’s historical preservation efforts for about 14 years.  He’s watched the city evolve, and said he’s no stranger to the “balancing act” of home preservation. His own home was a restoration project.

“It’s not that we aren’t trying to get things to come up in the 21st century,” Budge said. “But the main thing is we just want the character, the basic style, size and shape of the homes to remain and not get what I call ‘remuddled.’”

Budge said there only about 35 homes that are classified as demolished by neglect, or in a state of disrepair due to abandonment. While these homes may need to be torn down, the city doesn’t have the funds to do it.

“We don’t have the money to actually force much to happen with them,” he said. “We send out letters and say ‘you need to fix this,’ but if they don’t do anything all we can do is basically lean the property and it just sits there.”

While the number of tear down applications is low, Budge explained, it has increased lately, which sparks the community debate. Any time a major renovation plan comes to the board they notify neighbors who are within 300 square feet of the property; residents are encouraged to attend review board meetings and speak on the plans.

One of the recent properties the board considered, which sparked community backlash, is located at 29 E. Laundry Hill.

Bisbee resident Jon Sky stands outside one of his many home renovation projects.

Local neighbors, including Sky, protested a proposal to demolish the existing structure and build a large “octagon-shaped beach house style home.” The review board voted against the plan on March 7.

Richard Armstrong, owner of the contested property on Laundry Hill, said he wanted to build his dream home and enjoy Bisbee.

The house is rather unattractive and haphazard inside,” Armstrong said. “The property is also immediately adjacent to more than a dozen empty home sites on the Western slopes of Art Canyon, where unwanted older homes have been removed, leaving only moldering foundations, retaining walls and pipe.”

Armstrong explained that the house was considered non-contributing, meaning additions to the home have hidden its historic features.

“Because of the inharmonious and bizarre additions that do not contribute to the historical nature of the district, the house is not eligible for the property tax credit,” he said.

As Bisbee’s last rescue homes get bought up, the board will continue to review applications closely to ensure any plans for new constructions meet the historical aesthetic requirements.

Budge said that residents in Bisbee have a responsibility to upkeep the city’s look.

“By owning a house or something in Bisbee, you are owning part of the history and it’s your job to maintain that and help to promote that,” Budge said. “You come in and just want to tear a house down and put in something you might see somewhere else; it’s probably not going to happen.”

Sky said he will continue to soak in the Bisbee views over coffee and slug away on his various projects throughout town.

It’s giving back, and restoring old structures—it’s my passion,” Sky said. “I don’t work for money; I work to do what I love doing.”

Jamie Verwys is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at 

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The Last Legislative Roundup: Rules of debate, four-year terms, ticket surcharges

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX –This week was dominated by Thursday’s teacher walkout, the dismissal of a lawsuit over college tuition increases as well as the narrow special election for Congressional District Eight.

This will be the last Legislative Roundup for this session, as the Legislature has no definite end in sight and will likely run far past the University of Arizona’s Spring semester.

#RedforEd March on the Capitol

More than 50,000 people descended on the Capitol and Governmental Mall Thursday in support of the #RedforEd movement, blanketing the seat of state government with a sea of red shirts and creative posters. The demonstration takes place on the day of the planned teacher walkout organized last week.

Protesters filled Washington Street for the march to the Arizona State Capitol on April 26th, 2018. The protest was visible from the 7th floor of the Executive Tower. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Despite temperatures in the 90s, supporters of all ages gathered to chant and listen to speakers such as Arizona Education Association president Joe Thomas, who took to the stage to rally the troops.

“The governor thinks he can buy off some of you,” Thomas said.

Gov. Doug Ducey has pledged to raise teacher salaries by 19 percent through the year 2020, on top of the 1 percent raise teachers were already promised. His “20 by 20” plan has met stiff opposition from legislators, with many finding his sources of funding questionablet. Ducey claims that budgetary windfalls will pay for the salary increases without needing to secure additional funding through a tax increase — Ducey has campaigned for reelection under a pledge not to raise taxes.

A woman and two young girls walk across 17th Ave on April 26th, 2018. With teachers participating in the walkout, many schools closed across the state. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

The legislators are joined by teachers in general opposition to the governor’s plan, but for additional, different reasons. The walkout and subsequent demonstration have more to do than just salaries.

“They think Red for Ed is simply about a teacher raise,” Thomas said. “That’s just one piece of the puzzle.”

The group organizing the #RedforEd movement, Arizona Educators United, lists more than just teacher raises in its demands. Aside from what has already been promised, the group is asking for wage increases for support staff, a return in school funding to 2008 levels and a freeze on tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average.

It is unclear whether or the walkout will continue through next week, although schools and districts are anticipating being closed on Friday.

Click here for a gallery of other images from the rally.


Lawsuit Lacks Authority

A lawsuit filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich against the Arizona Board of Regents over tuition increases has been dismissed by the judge overseeing the case. Judge Connie Contes tossed out the suit on a motion filed by ABOR that claimed Brnovich lacked the grounds to sue. Without statutory authority or the permission of the governor, Brnovich’s suit was found to be impermissible.

The suit was centered on a vaguely-worded section of the Arizona Constitution that asserts education be offered “as free as possible.” Brnovich found the tuition hikes and numerous fees charged to Arizona college students violated that directive.

CD8 Stays Republican

The special election for Congressional District 8 ended this week with Republican Debbie Lesko beating out Democrat challenger Hiral Tipirneni by roughly fiver percentage points. This was a significant race for a couple of reasons — this seat has been a Republican stronghold for decades, and was vacated by Rep. Trent Franks last winter over allegations of sexual harassment.

Lesko, a former state senator, was no stranger to the area as she had represented much of CD8 at the state level. Tipirneni is a medical doctor and a political neophyte — despite mounting the closest race the district had seen in recent memory.

Lesko will finish out Franks’ term and will therefore be up for reelection in November. Both Lesko and Tipirneni have indicated that they will run again for the congressional seat, for a full two-year term.

Otherwise, here is what happened in the Legislature this week:

Layers of Appeals

The House met on Wednesday for what ostensibly was a short Second Reading of Bills, with just one on the calendar — however things quickly spiraled out of control when Rep. Reginald Bolding (D-Phoenix) stood for a floor speech. He referenced this session’s spate of Rule 19A violations, which have previously been cause for considerable consternation in the past.

The rule in question states that “No member shall be permitted to indulge in personalities, use language personally offensive, arraign motives of members, charge deliberate misrepresentation or use language tending to hold a member of the House or Senate up to contempt.”

Rep. Bolding was speaking about an op-ed penned by Rep. Maria Syms (R-Paradise Valley) which claimed that the #RedforEd campaign was not actually nonpartisan. Specifically, Syms described the leader of the moment as someone who had played rap music in his classroom that contained racial slurs, which she quoted in her opinion piece.

Bolding claimed that Syms had impugned an educator through her op-ed, for which he was called out according to the very same rule he had mentioned at the start of his speech.

“When the gavel is run, you stop,” Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge), the Speaker Pro-Tem, said. “You have violated rule 19A.”

Bolding appealed the decision, which called for a round of voting whether to retain the decision of the chair. After several off-mike conversations, legislators began voting and weighing in on the issue.

“Just because you’re offended by something doesn’t mean they are impugning someone,” Rep. Kelly Townshend (R-Mesa) said.

However, Rep. Gerae Peten (D-Phoenix) didn’t feel the same way. According to Peten, the Syms article was a subtle attack on all members of the African-American community.

“The article had a thematic thread that impugned the African-American people,”  Peten said.

Rep. John Allen (R-Lake Havasu City) was quick to invoke Rule 19A in enforcing decorum on the floor. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Peten then was called out by Rep. John Allen (R-Lake Havasu City) for Rule 19A, as he claimed that the content of Peten’s speech impugned Syms. Shope found her in violation of the rule, which led to an appeal requiring a roll call vote recorded on paper. The electronic system was in use on the previous vote which had not yet finished.

“I don’t know how we can get out of this circle of name calling, without taking what a person is trying to say and weighing it against the rules,” Allen said.

The vote on Peten’s appeal ended 21-34, meaning Shope’s decision was upheld. That meant that the Legislature went back to the electronic board and the vote on whether or not Bolding could continue with his own speech, which was at that point an hour past.

“As members of the House of Representatives we are held to a higher standard,” Bolding said. “The fact of the matter is this: it is never okay to use a racial slur toward any group in quotes or repeated at any point in time. The fact that we are having this debate, on whether or not a word was used in parentheses or not, is unbecoming of this House and is offensive.”

With just one more person voting, the House stood at 22-34 against allowing Bolding to continue. He was at that point instructed to sit down. With no further business, Allen called to adjourn, ending a day on the House floor at three that was in all likelihood set to finish five minutes after it started at 1:15 that afternoon.

“I think it’s a sad day on both sides of the aisle,” Rep. Ray Martinez (R-Phoenix) said.

Going for Four

A House Resolution to extend legislators’ term in office from two years to four has been resurrected and advanced one step closer to being printed on the November ballot. The Senate voted in favor of HCR 2006, which has so far had a fairly tumultuous time in the Legislature this session. The perennial debate over term limits died earlier this year, when the House voted 25-34 to fail the resolution — though Rep. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) moved to reconsider the resolution, which lead to it passing the House floor with a vote of 33-22.

“Last year we passed this same measure out of here successfully, but it failed in the House,” Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) said.

The resolution would extend the term of office for both the House and Senate from two years to four years, starting in 2021. The term limits — two consecutive terms in each chamber — will remain. However, legislators who started service in 2015 are permitted another term in 2021, while those who started in 2017 and 2019 are permitted one and two extra terms, respectively.

As a resolution, this piece of legislation will be decided by the voters, not elected officials. Come November, voters can expect to see the resolution on the ballot. If it passes there, legislators will begin serving their four-year terms in 2021.

Surcharges for Police Stuff

The Senate voted 16-13 on Tuesday to advance a bill that would increase the surcharge placed on traffic diversion programs as a means of funding peace office equipment procurement. House Bill 2527 was introduced by Rep. Todd Clodfelter (R-Tucson) originally to add a question to driver’s tests that would ensure future drivers would know to pull over to the right-hand side of the road when dealing with police.

However, that was changed with a “Strike Everything” amendment in the Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee that rendered the bill in its current form. If passed, the bill would amend the current traffic school fee surcharge from $5 to $9, with that increase going to a newly established Peace Officer Training Equipment Fund.

“A few years ago we passed a bill that would fund these virtual training machines,” Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) said on the Senate floor. “Well guess where the machine for my county is sitting? In a box.”

Allen voted against the bill, citing the need to shrink government, rather than grow it. According to her, the numerous small fees and surcharges add up to ballooning waste, even if they were added for well-meaning projects.

A floor amendment from Sen. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) further modified this bill, key points being the permitting of the courts to mitigate the new increase if deemed necessary as well as allowing someone to pull over at a location the driver believes is safe and in a populated, public area.

The bill will now go back to the House to be found in concurrence, due to the differences between the House and new Senate versions. If the House agrees with the Senate changes, the bill will go before the governor.

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at

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‘I’m your huckleberry’ turns 25

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Elise McClain and Katie Caldwell/Arizona Sonora News.

The Streets of Tombstone Theater re-enact the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. (Photo by: Katie Caldwell / Arizona Sonora News Service)

It’s been nearly 25 years since actor Val Kilmer uttered the infamous line, “I’m your huckleberry” as he walked the set of “Tombstone,” a film that rejuvenated this entire Southern Arizona community.

Ranked among the most profitable and influential Western-themed movies of all time,“Tombstone” also reintroduced the Western genre to 21st century audiences nationwide.

Now, decades after the film’s release, the town for which it gains its namesake, celebrates its impact on their community with a weekend of festivities set for June 30 and July 1.

Based on the infamous O.K. Corral shootout between Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), his brothers Virgil Earp (Sam Elliot) and Morgan Earp (Bill Paxton), Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) and a band of local outlaws, “Tombstone” captured one of the West’s most notorious gunfights.

“Were it not for that gunfight, and an aged Wyatt Earp wanting to tell a story to an author that attempted to create a hero character from the gang fight that took place on Oct. 26, 1881, the town of Tombstone would most likely not be a destination to see a living town, but more likely a destination to see as a ghost town,” said Janice Hendricks, of the Tombstone Times.

Following the release of the movie on Dec. 25, 1993, tourism rose dramatically. For Michael Taylor, an avid historian and three-year-resident of Tombstone, the film perfectly captured the essence of the West.

“It brought this town to life with tourism,” Taylor said. “That movie just made people want to come to Tombstone and see if the movie had it right and if that’s really what we’re all about.”

For many residents, the film was a catalyst for big, positive change in the community. Talk to just about any local and you’ll soon learn the value the film had on them both personally and professionally.

For Kevin and Sherry Rudd, owners of the Tombstone Mustachery and seven-year-residents of Tombstone, the movie is their bread and butter. The daily gunfight re-enactments and continual community effort have preserved the historical essence of Tombstone and kept the town from dying.

Without the movie, I don’t think Tombstone the town would be at the level of success that it’s at right now, because it increased tourism that much over the past 25 years to probably sustain the city,” Kevin Rudd said. “There’s just not enough other activities and things here to bring that excitement that the movie ‘Tombstone’ did for our community.”

And while Tombstone remains a travel destination for many, interest in the community has tapered off since the initial release of the film. According to Ron Moran, a five-year-resident, tourism in town usually ebbs and flows. Currently, he said, it’s in an ebb.

“We could use another movie,” Moran said. “Tourism is dropping.”

Though some locals regard the decrease in tourism as a cause for concern, others aren’t so sure. For Willam “Bronco Bill” Pakinkis, town historian and 16-year-resident of Tombstone, there will always be people who are drawn to mysticism of the Old West.

“People have always romanticized the West, and they always will,” Pakinkis said.

Though the film worked to attract visitors from across the globe, it also attracted people interested in prospecting the promise of Old West culture.

Since the 1993 release of “Tombstone,” the town has gradually grown in population. According to 1990 Census information, Tombstone had a population of approximately 1,000 people. In the decades that followed, the population grew by nearly 400 people.

“I’d say ‘Tombstone’ is in at least the top 10 best Western films of all time,” said P.J. Lawton, an Old Tucson Studios historian. “It’s got all the important ingredients of a good Western. It’s got conflict, identifiable personalities and, of course, a big gunfight at the end.”

For Lawton, and scores of other Western enthusiasts, “Tombstone” is a movie that transcends time.

“It’s earned its place in the Hall of Fame,” Lawton said.

Tombstone Mayor Dusty Escapule isn’t concerned with losing visibility because the film, with already more than two decades of air time, will continue to be accessible on the internet and remain part of Western culture, he said.

“When the movie first came out, it increased tourism by probably almost 100 percent,” Escapule said. “It was unbelievable. Over the years it has decreased; however, the movie is being aired constantly on cable networks. It’s not like it’s a big issue anymore. People still want to watch the movie ‘Tombstone.’ ”

For Gordon Anderson, a 40-year-resident of Tombstone and organizer of the upcoming 25th anniversary celebration, it was important to honor the the movie. From June 30 to July 1, locals and tourists alike will gather to remember the impact the movie had on this small southern Arizona community.

Anderson said several actors from the movie will attend, including Michael Biehn (Johnny Ringo), Buck Taylor (Turkey Creek Jack Johnson) and Peter Sherayko (Texas Jack Vermillion), in addition to set designer Catherine Hardwicke and former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Florida.

“We’ve put a lot into this celebration, and it’s going to be big,” Anderson said.

Anderson, in conjunction with the Tombstone Lions Club, the O.K. Corral and other organizations and individuals throughout the community, set out months ago to make the 25th anniversary celebration of Tombstone the movie memorable.

“People definitely still came here when I was a kid. They came for the history and events,” Anderson said. “But after the movie, the town gained much more recognition than it ever had before. The movie was very important for Tombstone.”

[See image gallery at]

Elise McClain and Katie Caldwell are reporters for Arizona Sonora News. Reach them at or


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Arizona sex education falls short

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Anna Frazier and Maritza Cruz/Arizona Sonoran News Service.

(Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 School Health Profile

Arizona ranks third worst in the nation when it comes to comprehensive sex education curriculum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 School Health Profile.

The state does not have a law that requires schools to teach sex education or sexually transmitted disease education, but it does mandate that any sex ed curriculum adopted must be age-appropriate and abstinence-based, which is a departure from abstinence-only.

Arizona’s law also states that the instruction cannot promote a “homosexual lifestyle” or portray “homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle.”

The CDC has 19 sex education topics they believe are critical to adolescent health. These topics include communication and negotiation skills, how to maintain a healthy relationship, how to obtain and correctly use a condom and HIV/Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) prevention.

Only 14.5 percent of secondary schools in Arizona taught the CDC’s 19 topics in grades nine through 12. The state with the highest percentage of schools teaching the topics is New Jersey with 84.4 percent.

In New Jersey, sex-ed curriculum is state-mandated. All students are required to participate in comprehensive health and physical education, which includes a sex education component. They must provide medically-accurate and inclusive information. They stress abstinence, but it is not an abstinence-only curriculum.

New Jersey also requires schools to discuss sexual orientation. They also teach dating violence, consent and contraception. Sex ed is an opt-out course in New Jersey meaning parents may provide a written request to opt their children out of the sex-education portion, unlike the laws in Arizona.

Currently, Arizona has an opt-in approach that can be chaotic because it can be difficult to get all parents to sign up, especially if they don’t know it is offered, so some students miss out on sex education that’s being offered.

According to the Office of Adolescent Health, New Jersey has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates. New Jersey ranked 47th in teen birth rates among females 15-19 years old with one representing the highest rate and 51 representing the lowest. In the same year, Arizona was ranked 15th in teen birth rates, higher than the national average.

Anna Keene, a senior at the University of Arizona, attended a study abroad program where she traveled throughout Europe learning about human sexuality.

“The Netherlands has comprehensive sex ed all throughout childhood and developing, and it’s age-appropriate,” she said. “So they start talking about consent in kindergarten.”

The Netherlands has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world with only four teen births per 1,000 women aged 15-19. The United States has one of the highest of westernized countries with 21 teen births per 1,000 women.

Information and statistics coming from the Netherlands and other European countries helped local non-profits and community leaders involved with the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition model their curriculum and workshops.

Dutch children begin receiving what they call “sexuality education” at age 4 and continue learning about self-image and gender stereotypes at 8. By 11, Dutch children learn about sexual orientation and contraception. This has led to young adults in the Netherlands choosing to have sex later than other European and American teens.

With the current state of Arizona’s sex-education curriculum and pregnancy statistics, some school districts are looking for innovative ways to teach sex ed to their students while getting parents and educators involved.

In 2015, Tucson Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition was awarded $4.3 million to enhance sex education programming in the Sunnyside Unified School District. The coalition is the mobilization of four local non-profits — Child & Family Resources, Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services, Planned Parenthood Arizona and the Sunnyside Unified School District.

The program focuses on skills for negotiating, prevention, self-respect and healthy relationships and boundaries for middle school and high school students, grades 7, 8 and 9.

According to the Child & Family Resources’ website, their goal is to implement “effective, evidence-based, medically accurate, responsible relationships and sexuality education to middle and high school students in the Sunnyside district.”

The teen pregnancy rate has dropped 16 percent statewide over the past seven years, but the Sunnyside district still has three times the national pregnancy rate.

“We’re trying to get girls who are pregnant or are parenting to finish high school,” says Eugenie Favela, assistant superintendent for the Sunnyside district. “We’re not rewarding them for being pregnant, we’re trying to intervene.”

(Created by: Maritza Cruz)

Many factors are responsible for higher teen pregnancy rates in South Tucson, says Maria Rodriguez, Planned Parenthood Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Coordinator.

“You get people who are honestly engaging in the exact same behaviors as any other subpopulation in the school district except the difference is access to information, healthcare and knowing what to do with that,” Rodriguez says.

The Community Action Board has been responsible for engaging the community and recruiting people for workshops that they hold to educate students, parents and educators in the community and school district.

Rodriguez helped facilitate the workshops and curriculum as part of the coalition.

“Parents should be teaching their kids about sexuality, but not all of them do,” Rodriguez says. “Planned Parenthood was able to provide a sex ed curriculum that works instead of starting from scratch. We’ve been tasked on focusing on the community and shifting the narrative in families and neighborhoods.”

Maria Perez is a mother of four daughters who attend school within the Sunnyside district. She attended workshops with her family, and applauds the coalition’s work.

“They helped us so much, and the bond of trust in our family has strengthened as a result,” Perez said at a February Sunnyside district board meeting. “What I liked is that they were not graphic or designed to scare parents. Instead, they covered basic but very important topics, giving us a chance to reflect and communicate as parents and daughters.

“They opened up my way of thinking completely as a mother. I actually shed my shame and embarrassment.”

Despite the positive feedback, the Trump Administration cut the funding for the program in October of 2017. Now the coalition must figure out how to move forward after they lose the final two years of funding at the end of June.

The grant was part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program developed by the Obama Administration. This cut will affect 81 sites nationwide.

The Sunnyside K-12 comprehensive sex education curriculum is modeled after the Netherlands curriculum.

“The program will continue the way we’ve been doing it until that K-12 is all the way established throughout all the grades,” Fordney says. “It’s to layer on top and it’s quite possible that after a while what we have been doing won’t be necessary anymore.”

Sunnyside’s K-12 Program aims to create uniformity among schools in the district, which is lacking in Arizona schools statewide.

Anna Frazier and Maritza Cruz are reporters for Arizona Sonoran News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact them at or

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Women entrepreneurs shortchanged in business funding

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Jessica Suriano.

Jo Schneider, who has worked in the business industry for over 30 years, owns La Cocina restaurant in Tucson’s El Presidio Historic District and is a co-founder of Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea. (Photo by: Jessica Suriano/ Arizona Sonora News)

Women entrepreneurs and small business owners only receive about 4 percent of all money lent to small businesses each year, yet account for 30 percent of all businesses in the U.S. and generate more than $1.7 trillion in revenue.

This means that $1 out of every $23 in small business loans is given to a woman-owned business, according to a U.S. Senate Committee report.

Arizona ranks as the 10th-highest state for the growth of women-owned businesses in the last 20 years, and since 2007, the number of Hispanic women entrepreneurs tripled here.

“From a female perspective, I think where the challenge lies is that women tend to start smaller businesses, microbusinesses, and most women and women of color tend to start their business with their own personal capital or borrowing from family or friends or even a personal credit card,” said Lea Marquez Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“So the question really isn’t about borrowing money, it’s about how you scale your business,” she added.

The disparity of funding for women-owned businesses exists outside of conventional small business loans, too. Women receive just 7 percent of all venture capital investment money.

Latinas and African-American women are the fastest-growing segments of business owners nationwide, yet funding disparities between men and women entrepreneurs only worsen for minority women, reports show. A study by First Round Capital concluded that minority women only receive 0.2 percent of venture capital funding.

The reason women-owned businesses are receiving less funding is not a lack of success. Between 1997 and 2017, women-owned businesses had a growth rate more than 2.5 times the national average compared to all businesses.

“I think historically, since the recession, things have improved in terms of business funding, but it’s still very much a challenge especially for women and especially the closer to the border you get,” Peterson said.


High credit scores are major factors in how eligible someone is for a loan, and on average, women entrepreneurs tend to have lower credit scores than men entrepreneurs by about 15 points, according to a Fundera report.

A report from Credit Sesame, a website that analyzes credit data, suggests that this difference in credit scores may stem from the gender wage gap.

The Credit Sesame report found that the average man owes about $4,000 more money in debt than the average woman, but the average credit score for men was still higher than the average score for women. One explanation for this could be that men have lower “debt-to-income ratios,” meaning while their debt is higher, so is their income, allowing their credit scores remain higher.

Another possible explanation is that business companies’ decision-making roles are still mostly filled by men, and “lots of times, organizations are willing to loan money to people who look a lot more like them,” according to Michelle Pitot, chief of staff for the YWCA’s Women’s Center for Economic Opportunity.

Ildefonso Poncho Chavez, director for the University of Arizona’s Eller College economic development program, said qualifying for loans boils down to “the five Cs”: capital, credit, character, collateral and capacity. Chavez said he doesn’t think there is gender-based discrimination at play when applying for loans – the five Cs make or break the deal no matter who’s applying.

A Harvard University research study found that investors prefer entrepreneurial pitches when men present them instead of women, even if the content of the pitch is exactly the same.

The Small Business Administration, or SBA, is a government agency that works with lenders to provide loans to small businesses. SBA does not lend money directly to business owners, but it tries to reduce risk for lenders and give business owners more access to capital.

“It doesn’t matter to the SBA whether you’re a woman or not,” said Stephen Hart, a public information officer for SBA. “It’s based upon your business plan, your credit history, your experience – all of those are questions that you will discuss and negotiate with the bank. The bank is the one that has the money and they will decide whether or not the small business owner is a good risk. That’s not a decision we make.”

While Pitot said she doesn’t think banks should be vilified, because many of them locally show interest in working with the YWCA’s Women’s Center, women still have a much harder time accessing capital for their small businesses, and the same is true for immigrants and other minority groups.

“You look at corporate America, it’s still very much geared toward meeting the needs of white middle- to upper-class folks— primarily 96 percent led by men,” she said.

Local Women Business Owners Share Their Stories

When Coralie Satta, owner of Ghini’s Cafe, started cooking with her grandmother while growing up in France, she knew she found her passion in life. She started working in Tucson’s restaurant industry when she was 14, but her experience at that time was far from a dream come true.

“I can tell you that I was sexually harassed all the way up,” she said. “These were my bosses offering me a raise if I were to do some sort of favors for them. I find that repulsive. I don’t think it happens on the flip side for men.”

At 22, Satta opened Ghini’s Cafe and said immediate challenges became hiring men twice her age and trying to get people twice her age to listen to her. In addition, she said the competitive nature of the restaurant industry – striving to be the quickest, friendliest, most affordable spot – makes it inherently tough every day.

Ghini’s French Cafe is known for its breakfast and lunch items with a French flair. (Photo by: Jessica Suriano/Arizona Sonora News)

“In order for me to do that, I have to make sure that I’m getting the best products delivered to my door,” she said. “That means that they have to respect me as a business owner and I have to make sure that I assert myself that way. I think yeah, as a female, it is a little bit tougher to get respect from the people that work with you.”

Jo Schneider, owner of La Cocina restaurant and co-founder of Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea, has been in business for over 30 years, yet she said she was told “no” when seeking funding up until two years ago.

While she can’t say for sure if being a woman has made people view her differently throughout her business processes or affected her access to funding, she said the city has not been a very generous lender in general.

“I know that is certainly is not easy being a woman,” she said. “I’m not a very good player – I don’t know how to play the game. So I’ve never really been offered much from the City of Tucson as far as financial backing. I tried; believe me, I’ve tried.”

Anna Perreira’s investors for Yellow Brick Coffee in Tucson are her family members, a trend not uncommon for many women small business owners. She said expanding the business was one challenge she ran into because early on, her capital limited how much of the shop she could grow at one time.

“I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a situation that I’ve encountered at Yellow Brick as not being available to me because I’m a woman,” she said.

Suzana Davila, owner of Café Poca Cosa, uses her roots from Sonora, Mexico, and her travels throughout the rest of Mexico as inspiration for her restaurant. When she first opened the restaurant’s doors, she only had about six tables, and downtown Tucson was not the hotspot it is today.

Suzana Davila’s roots from Sonora, Mexico influence everything in the restaurant — from the food to the music to the decor. (Photo by: Jessica Suriano/ Arizona Sonora News)

Davila said she started with the little bit of money she had already to slowly expand the restaurant and the menu, and never felt like being a woman made people treat her differently throughout her process.

“I’ve always been a very strong woman, and I come from a family that most women are very strong,” she said.

Despite the obstacles, all of these women agree that they wouldn’t want to be in any other professional field. Satta said one of her favorite parts of her job is when customers tell her they have great memories from her restaurant.

“Just don’t give up,” Schneider said. “If it’s what you want, don’t give up. I can’t tell you how many times I have had very little to no money in the last 30-something years since opening a business. Hard work does pay off – it just does.

“Believing in something and dreaming in something, and not giving up on that goal and that dream, I think really does make or break your life. At least my life.”

Jessica Suriano is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

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Living Low: the Black student experience at Arizona

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Justyn Thomas/Arizona Sonora News Service.


BLACK in an open discussion during a recent class. Instructor Zeina Cabrera-Peterson (left, light blue shirt) listens in. (Photograph by Kayla Belcher/Arizona Sonora News Service)

Black students at the University of Arizona were told of a last-minute housing change right before fall finals week.

The students living in the football stadium dormitory learned when they returned from winter break that it was just another promise broken.

They were told their items would be moved because of stadium construction, but when they returned nothing had happened. The first student didn’t move until Jan. 17, a week into the semester.

This is not the first time Black students at UA have felt like second-class citizens. Interviews with current and former students reveal a pattern of Blacks not feeling welcomed on the Tucson campus.

The stadium experience reignited this feeling among Black students today and from the past.

“It made me so upset because no freshmen should have to go through that experience,” said Zeina Cabrera-Peterson, a graduate assistant and instructor of BLACK, a university-sanctioned program to retain Black students.

BLACK, or Building Leaders and Creating Knowledge, met with UA President Robert Robbins shortly after returning to campus. Multiple students shared their displeasure. The university gifted them $1,500 to try to make amends.

“It’s annoying that they weren’t even thought about twice,” said Cabrera-Peterson.

Why have black students long felt this way?

UA never segregated like all public schools when Arizona became a state in 1912. The university opened in 1885, but its first African-American graduate did not come until 1933.

Two former well known black educators in Arizona attended UA in the 1930s. According to archived interviews, both Elgie Mike Batteau and Elmer Carrier felt discrimination here. During this time, black students were not allowed to attend social events, live on campus, use the pool or eat in the Student Union.

“Discrimination didn’t affect me as much while I was growing up as it did when I got older and came to Tucson,” said Carrier in a 1991 interview.

Carrier needed a life-saving certificate to graduate. Yet he could not use the pool, so he dropped out. Batteau became the first Black women allowed to use the UA pool and she became the university’s first Black graduate.

Both became educators at the Dunbar School, the only Black school in Tucson.

The Dunbar school is where former UA basketball star Ernie McCray got his K-8 education. Growing up in Tucson during the 1940s and 1950s, Jim Crow Laws were real for McCray. He could not swim in most pools. He could not eat in many restaurants.

“It was not like the Deep South,” he said. “You didn’t have to worry about anybody lynching you.”

He never felt inferior until he came to campus in the 1950s. McCray’s college-educated mother pushed him toward his education, frequently taking him to campus for the college experience.

When McCray got to campus, he quickly felt the heat of discrimination. McCray was shocked when he first met legendary UA coach Frank Sancet, who said to him he was surprised that he was not in a remedial English course.

“White people just did not know us. They figured we were just dumb,” said McCray.

Ernie McCray while still a student-athlete. (Photograph from University of Arizona)

McCray’s basketball prowess insulated him from discrimination other Black students felt. He stills hold the university record for most points in a game at 46.

Activism was a part of McCray’s daily routine. He joined Students for Equality, a group that approached the City Council to erase Jim Crow laws instituted.

McCray said he challenged professors to answer questions on black issues and usually was shot down.  He said he was never afraid to speak up toward professors or students who made stereotypical comments about Black people.

He said white students did not understand the civil rights movement.”They did not understand what this Martin Luther King was trying to do and if you mention Malcolm X they might just crap on themselves,” said McCray.

Jimmy Hart, now director of the African American Student Services for TUSD, experienced that second-class feeling in 1986. As a pre-architecture major, he and one other black student felt that teaching assistants in the program ignored them.

“We thought it was strange that they would not give us a lot of help,” Hart said.

Hart grew up in Tucson and what was happening on campus mirrored racial animus in the city. He remembers frequently fighting as a young student when whites instigated trouble.

“Kids would call us the ‘n’ word, jungle bunny and monkey,” Hart said.

He was a walk-on football player, and he felt a disconnect. Whites, according to Hart, stereotyped Black students as only being here for athletics, and they never made the attempt to understand African-American culture or appreciate the value that Blacks have.

“There was no discussion or reason, people did not promote us wanting to tap in our culture and background,” said Hart.

After his freshman year, he transferred to Langston University in Oklahoma, where he graduated in 1993. The change to an historically black university made for an welcoming environment.

“That is where I started to really appreciate my identity,” Hart said.

In 2004, Hart returned to Arizona to work as a principal at Howenstine High School. He returned to the UA to receive his Ed.S.

“Outside of the African American Student Affairs, there is not much of a difference,” Hart said.

Hart sees a shortage of Black professors and deans as a problem for UA. Only 2.3 percent of UA administration is Black, while only 1.6 percent of UA faculty is Black, according to the 2016-2017 UA fact book. With not many blacks in high-ranking positions Hart says it can lead to black students being overlooked.

“There is no one making decisions on the colleges, courses, and degree programs,” said Hart.

AASA Director K.C. Williams takes a selfie with Jimmy Hart and 100 middle school girls during a visit to the UA campus in February 2017. (Photograph by Vanessa Barchfield/Arizona Public Media)

Recently, Hart was a part of the African American Community Council at the UA. It focused on creating a better learning experience for black students. Some of the students Hart works with at TUSD have moved on to the UA and took advantage of the African American Student Affairs.

Hart is keen to getting his students connected to AASA before they come to campus. He does not just focus his students on attending the UA or Pima Community College. Each year he takes students from the TUSD on a tour of historically black colleges and universities.

“They can make a better choice based on what is in their best interest and the offerings at the different universities so you just don’t have one or two choices,” said Hart.

Today, Black students are following the paths of family members to UA. Cabrera-Peterson is the fifth person in her family to come to the UA.

“U of A has been my number one choice since I was 8,” Cabrera-Peterson said.

As soon as Cabrera-Peterson arrived on campus she made a presence at AASA, where she said she became more attuned to her Black identity.

“We danced, we cried, we protested, we advocated together,” Cabrera-Peterson said.

Around Cabrera-Peterson’s senior year in 2015, she and her peers began to demand more space for their cultural center and other upgrades. Not many changes were made to AASA since the opening in 1992. In fact, Blacks only represented 1.9 percent of the total employees at the UA in 1992, the same percentage it was for the 2016-2017 UA fact book.

“Alumni would come here and be like, ‘Oh, things haven’t changed a bit,’ ” Cabrera-Peterson said.

In 2017 AASA expansion and renovation took place. Before, AASA only had about a quarter of the MLK building while University Information Technology Services had the rest. Now, AASA and UITS each have its own half of the building.

Two university deans were contacted about the story and asked to give comment, but neither decided to comment.

Although Cabrera-Peterson graduated in journalism and is in her second year of its master program, she has come to love educating. With BLACK, Cabrera-Peterson wants to be a resource to her students. In class activities and topics change but the main focus is to push students to find themselves.

“Some days we talk about racism and police brutality, some days we will talk about academics and time management,” Cabrera-Peterson said.

Students in BLACK will even go on creative trips to the poetry center where they can find their literary voice or go to the library where the learn how to use research tools.

“Do not ever think the color of your skin is a hinderance,” said Cabrera-Peterson. “Embrace and celebrate it.”

Dean of Students  Kendal Washington White and Assistant Dean of Students, Equity and Student Engagement Sherard Robbins, were contacted to comment on this story. 

White said she would not have availability to meet, but would answer more specific questions through e-mail. She did not respond. Robbins did not respond to a request to speak with him in person.

Justyn Thomas is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at

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