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A variety of news articles, columns and blogs

A variety of news articles, columns and blogs


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  • 1. News article -- Gilbert Republic, June 17, 2008 Leadership winner 'the best ambassador' Jim Fickess, The Arizona Republic People who assume all academics sequester themselves in ivy towers have never met Dr. Maria Hesse. If there is a meeting of Gilbert community leaders, Hesse, president of Chandler-Gilbert Community College, is there. She is the recipient of the 2008 Gilbert Leadership Award, sponsored by the town's Chamber of Commerce. The chamber's annual awards will be presented at a luncheon today. quot;A community college has an obligation to serve the community,quot; Hesse said. quot;You can only do that well if you are out there and know the community. quot;We ask everyone to be out there in the community,quot; Hesse said. quot;I feel humbled getting awards like this. It isn't me who should get it on the behalf of the college when everyone is out there.quot; Hesse, 53, took over for founding CGCC President Arnette Ward in 2002. The community responsibilities have grown with CGCC and the surrounding area. Hesse joined the community college in 1987, just after its campus opened on Pecos Road near the Gilbert-Chandler border. Now, Chandler-Gilbert Community Colleges has three locations, 14,000 students seeking academic credits, 4,000 non-credit students and 600 full or part-time employees. As the name implies, the college serves more than one community. quot;There's been Chandler and Gilbert and now Queen Creek, also,quot; said Hesse, a Gilbert resident whose daughter recently graduated from Mesquite High and is headed to Northern Arizona University. quot;We are charged with serving these three Southeast Valley communities.quot; Part of that is providing leadership, which Hesse defines as quot;the ability to move a group of people to a common or shared goal.quot; At CGCC, the main goal is providing the capacity to serve a growing student population. quot;There are more students who want to come and take certain courses and subjects than what we can offer,quot; she said. quot;We are looking at solutions, such as offering more online courses.quot; Hesse follows another educator, former Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent and current Northern Arizona University professor Wally Delecki, whom she describes as a friend and mentor, in winning the chamber's leadership award. And, it would be hard to find a bigger fan of Hesse than Delecki.
  • 2. quot;Maria is simply the best ambassador for Chandler-Gilbert and the entire Gilbert community,quot; Delecki said. quot;She reflects the true mission of leadership, which is service to people. quot;When you look to volunteering in the community, please let me know a group or committee that Maria isn't on, helping out on her personal time. She is bright, efficient and organized, but her best quality is kindness. Never underestimate the power of kindness.quot; News article -- Gilbert Republic, Aug. 23, 2008 Home auction points to stark contrast Behind the well-maintained models being sold are empty dirt lots of failed development Jim Fickess, The Arizona Republic The auction signs pointing to a Gilbert neighborhood also lead drivers to a stark real estate contrast. The seven model homes at the Marque at Cooley Station border a well-maintained green belt with three homes a stone's throw from the community pool. They are part of the quot;published minimum bidquot; auction being conducted Sept. 14 by Beverly Hills- based Kennedy Wilson Auction Group. But look beyond those houses in the Trend Homes development south of Warner Road between Higley and Recker roads and you'll see signs of the collapsed real estate market. A patch of vacant lots sits north of model-home row. Drive a block to the west and scaffolding still surrounds multifamily structures where work stopped weeks ago. Najafi Cos. LLC purchased Trend Homes Inc. in June for $86.5 million, following the Gilbert home builder's emergence from bankruptcy proceedings. Those market realities lead to events such as the Sept. 14 auction. Kennedy Wilson will be selling 30 model homes in four Valley developments, including two in Gilbert - the Lakes of Annecy, northeast of Val Vista Drive and Pecos Road, and the Marque at Cooley Station. The minimum offers, which the sellers must accept if no one bids them up, range from $90,000 to $375,000 for houses that were previously priced at $184,950 to $759,950. The minimum bids for the seven Marquee model homes run from $115,000 to $245,000. They range from 1,750 to 2,450 square feet with five three-bedrooms and two two-bedrooms.
  • 3. As one walks through the well-appointed, never-lived-in models, it's not hard to imagine them commanding more than twice that amount during the boom times of a couple years ago. Most have custom flooring, upgraded appliances and custom window treatments. Like many builders, Trend had sold the houses and leased them back to use as models, said Ginger Hoggarth, a Kennedy Wilson property manager. Now, that private owner wants to sell them, Hoggarth said, and is taking the auction route. Auction buyers are usually a mix of people purchasing a home and investors, Hoggarth said. quot;Usually the investors are interested in houses that hold around the minimum bid,quot; she said. quot;They are thinking about how much money they can lease it for. People looking for a home are more interested in the upgrades and amenities so tend to bid higher.quot; Information about Sept. 14 auction: www.kennedywilson.com News article - Gilbert Republic, Oct. 10, 2008 Baseball player hits 1 out of park for kids, animals Jim Fickess, The Arizona Republic Shea Hillenbrand greets you with the kind of handshake that's strengthened from a life of working the farm or swinging a baseball bat. The bat gig didn't work out for the Mesa native this major-league season, allowing him a chance to pursue a dream of running an animal rescue ranch. Hillenbrand and his wife, Jessica, daughter of a veterinarian, have owned Marley Farms in far south Gilbert for 1 1/2 years. The 25-acre spread, named for the Hillenbrands' 12-year-old miniature schnauzer who died right before they bought the property, is seeking groups of children to visit its petting zoo. quot;We are looking primarily for three types of kids -- inner city, disabled and those in child crisis centers,quot; Hillenbrand said Tuesday morning while leading a tour of about 20 children from Mesa's Sunshine Acres. quot;I have been blessed to be able to live my dream and Jessica and I have been blessed to be in a position to help.quot; Hillenbrand, who played at Mesa Community College before turning pro, is no gentleman farmer. He says he and Jessica tend to the approximately 100 petting zoo residents, 80 percent of which are rescue animals.
  • 4. Besides the petting zoo, the ranch has boarding and training facilities that include 135 stalls, four arenas and four trainers. It also has a feed store. There is another 13 acres that can be developed, including the possibility of building a house there. The Hillenbrand family, which includes adopted children Austin, 3 1/2; Dakota, 2; and Noah, almost 2, lives about two miles from Marley Farms in Gilbert's Greenfield Estates. quot;I was born a farmer but grew up in the city,quot; said Hillenbrand, who said he bought his first horse after his rookie major-league season in 2001, with the Boston Red Sox. The 33-year-old wants to get back into The Show. A career .284 hitter over seven seasons, including 2003-04 with the Diamondbacks, the infielder was a free agent this season but there weren't any takers in a slow market. While Hillenbrand looks like he could step right back into the batter's box in front of tens of thousands of fans, he's making a big difference in a much smaller arena. quot;This place gives kids a chance to get away from their lives for a couple of hours,quot; he said while guiding the Sunshine Acres crew through the petting zoo. It was hard to tell who was enjoying themselves more Tuesday morning -- Hillenbrand or the kids. For more information about Marley Farms and its petting zoo tours for disadvantaged children: 480-273-7299 or marleyfarms.com
  • 5. Column, Gilbert Republic, Aug. 29, 2008 Keeping theater Hale and Healthy Jim Fickess Like other business owners, David and Corrin Dietleinare having to work harder and smarter to keep their operation, the Hale Centre Theatre, healthy. Changes in the way business is being done at the downtown Gilbert venue include: -- A remodeled Web site (www.haletheatrearizona.com) that makes it easy to buy tickets online. -- The addition of Thursday night shows this year, bringing to four the total per week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday matinee and evening). -- A new performance genre. The Hale, in its fifth year of productions, will be presenting its first thriller, Wait Until Dark, starting Sept. 4. That play, based on the 1968 movie starring Audrey Hepburn, offers Hale-goers a 180-degree change from its summer fare, The Music Man, which David Dietlein says has been popular. It's typical of the classic musicals the Dietleins have staged in their five years in Gilbert. -- A lot more work for the Dietleins. “We've always worked 80-hour weeks but have had to work extremely hard; days and nights of reducing costs everywhere we can,” David said. “Rather than having outside people come in to help, Corinn and I have had to do more things ourselves.” While the Hale is feeling the economy, it hasn't been hurt as hard as some other Valley live venues. Dietlein said that since live productions throughout the Valley depend on winter seasonal visitors, it's hard to tell if summer or the economy is affecting the gate. “Audiences have continued to come in but it's not always a sellout,” he said. Dietlein attributes his theater's relative success to its affordability. Ticket prices in the intimate setting (330-370 seats depending on production) range from $17-$24. “That's about half or less than other theaters in town,” he said. “You don't have to buy a dinner to see a show. If you are cutting back, you can eat at home and then come. “By the time you go to a movie and buy concessions, you could have seen live (theater) at the Hale.” The Hale doesn't plan on trying to increase revenue by raising prices. “We believe theater should be affordable for anybody,” Dietlein said. Heck, the $17 you'd spend for a ticket at Hale would barely cover the service charge for an overpriced Broadway series ticket in the ASU Gammage's nose-bleed third balcony. Column, Gilbert Republic, Aug. 22, 2008
  • 6. Entrepreneurial energy flowing Jim Fickess It's no secret that the birth of the Gilbert Small Business Alliance this summer was sparked by discontent with the town's Chamber of Commerce. While the jury is still out on the need for – and the effectiveness of – the upstart alliance, one couldn't help but be impressed with the entrepreneurial energy heating up an already warm Gilbert Historical Museum meeting room at Thursday night's alliance meeting. There was more productive networking and business being done there than almost any chamber meeting I've attended. That's not a knock against the chamber and its leadership. Longtime Gilbert chamber president/CEO Kathy Langdon is one of the most knowledgeable, professional chamber execs I've known. She is the opposite of the quot;sun's-always-shining-because-I-am-a-good-boyquot; mentality that has given that profession a bad reputation. If you're going to get something out of such organizations, you need to put something in. And, a lot of the chamber attendees are corporate types whose job description includes attendance at such meetings. They are a different breed than the small-business owner. But both must succeed in tough economic times. There was some talk at Thursday night's alliance meeting about the chamber having a role in the rash of business closings. Such finger-pointing ignores the economic reality that the real estate slowdown has had an inevitable effect on Gilbert business. Earlier Thursday, I was touring model homes that will be auctioned off next month. A couple of years ago, people were on waiting lists to buy those houses, whose prices were soaring. That market reversal greatly affects commerce in a Valley economy where one in three dollars generated comes from real estate and related businesses. While competition is great, sometimes cooperation is better. If some of the alliance start-up enthusiasm could be combined with the chamber's expertise and experience, the whole Gilbert business community could benefit. Column -- Gilbert Republic, Aug. 12, 2006
  • 7. Heated exchange of ideas can be civil Jim Fickess, The Arizona Republic Cynthia Dunham, a Plugged In Southeast Valley blogger, and I came away from two different political forums at Chandler-Gilbert Community College this summer with the same word stuck in our minds: Civility. Dunham, the executive director of the Leadership Centre at CGCC and former Gilbert mayor, wrote in an Aug. 3 blog (seblogs.azcentral.com) how she was impressed that students were asking questions about civility to District 21 legislative candidates in an event she had moderated the night before. CGCC President Maria Hesse outlined the school's Statement on Civility before a Gilbert Chamber of Commerce District 22 forum I attended on July 19. (District 22 covers most of Gilbert, southeast Mesa and parts of Pinal County while 21 includes most of Chandler, Sun Lakes, Queen Creek and parts of Gilbert and Mesa.) It's a good idea to stress civil behavior before any civic or political gathering. It's a better idea that CGCC, which will be welcoming more the 9,000 students when classes start Monday, makes it part of the curriculum. The Statement of Civility was developed a couple of years ago as part of a CGCC initiative on citizen engagement, Hesse explained. quot;We want students to take a more-active stance in the community,quot; she said. quot;In some of the first forums, students would come almost angry with pre-conceived notions,quot; Hesse recalled. A committee drafted the civility statement, which is incorporated in introductions of those events. quot;We wanted to get students to realize that even if you've made up your mind, there is value in understanding the other side,quot; Hesse said. Noel Morelos, a CGCC political science professor who has played a key role in drafting and implementing the civility statement, says encouraging civil behavior is part of being objective. quot;It allows students and college constituents to see both sides, focus on the topic and decide for themselves,quot; said the Gilbert resident, who points out that during a healthy exchange of ideas questions can both be heated and civil. Morelos said one of his first duties this fall will be to put the Statement of Civility on the CGCC Web site. CGCC isn't the only Southeast Valley institution of higher education where civility is being discussed. Doug Anderson, the dean of Penn State University's college of communication, stressed its importance in his convocation address last fall to Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. quot;Be cerebral,quot; the former Cronkite school director told the students. quot;But be civil and sincere.quot; Good words for all of us to follow.
  • 8. Column -- Gilbert Republic, July 19, 2007 Going (for the) green Gilbert's Riparian Preserve, long hailed for its ecological contributions, is increasingly being touted as an economic driver. Migratory and wintering birds aren't the only creatures flocking to the water recharge ponds near Greenfield and Guadalupe roads. The preserve has drawn a half-million visitors since it opened in 2000, was designated the Valley's only Important Birding Area by the Audubon Society earlier this year and faces the prospect of being joined by a similar facility in south Gilbert in about three years. It's even drawing summer events, such as Saturday morning's Maricopa Audubon Society Dragonfly and Damselfly Walk. The walk will start at 7 a.m. Saturday at the Riparian Preserve, 2757 E. Guadalupe Road. A $5 donation is requested. Information: www.riparianinstitute.org One of the organizers of Saturday's walk praises Gilbert's foresight in turning a water recharge area into a preserve and urges the town to capitalize on the tourist potential. “Gilbert is a smart city,” said Bob Witzeman, who's been active in the county Audubon society since moving to Phoenix in 1958. “People come out here as winter visitors and many want to go bird watching. “Places like the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo each have their own merit but the Riparian Preserve offers something unique.” A similar facility near Ocotillo and Higley roads in south Gilbert will be completed in about three years. “The second place will draw the same kind of birds,” Witzeman said. “It will suck them in like a magnet.” Gilbert is realizing that potential, says Scott Anderson, director of the town-funded Riparian Institute since its inception. “The real thought is to try to increase the value of these for tourism,” Anderson said. At least one Town Council member has been floating the idea of increasing the preserves' tourism and educational potentials by adding galleries, classrooms and a small auditorium to attract lectures and performances to the southern site. It makes a lot of sense. The current corporate jungle has businesses of all sizes and shapes throwing elbows to prove who's the most Earth-friendly to suddenly environment-obsessed consumers. Why shouldn't Gilbert, which has been seeking a marketing identity, capitalize on the town leaders' forward ecological thinking and go for the green, as in tourist dollars?
  • 9. Online blog – gilibert.azcentral.com, Oct. 22, 2008 A Whiter shade of pale They could have piped Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale into Tuesday night's joint meeting among Gilbert's Town Council, Design Review Board and Planning and Redevelopment commissions. The makeup of the meeting in Room 300 of the municipal center was about as White as its walls. Of the approximate 20 members from the four public decision-making bodies, there was only one person who was clearly non-Anglo, a Latina. And, town professional staff in attendance appeared to be all Anglo. This isn't the first time I've railed about the lack of diversity in Gilbert leadership. A combined meeting of the Gilbert Town Council and Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board that I wrote about in April was almost equally as White. As I pointed out at the time of that meeting, maybe there were other diverse groups represented as the only criterion being used was visual. Diversity is a lot more than race – it includes such factors as religion, age, economics and sexual orientation. This is not a knock against the credentials of anyone involved in Tuesday night's meeting. I would be the last person to be critical of the predominant demographic of the group – White males middle- aged and older. I've participated in meetings where most everyone looked similar to me and others where there was a broader spectrum of appearances and backgrounds. The meetings that have variety of members almost always come up with more visionary and universally appealing ideas than those comprised of boring White guys. It's hard to imagine a more mundane topic than the one discussed Tuesday – updating the town's general plan. But that plan will be key in determining what kind of community Gilbert will be when it grows up. One message was clear from Tuesday night's meeting – Gilbert's decision makers want as much input as possible from the town's residents. A more wide-ranging, diverse chorus of voices will serve the town's future well. Online blog – gilbert.azcentral.com, Sept. 17, 2008 Role reversal: Higley employee interned here Roles were reversed at this morning's Higley Unified School District's Community &
  • 10. Business Partner Breakfast. One of the main purposes of the quarterly meeting is to have officials of the southeast Gilbert district and community members discuss how the schools can better prepare students for the business world. But today, one of the featured school district employees got some of his training in the private sector -- namely The Republic. Carlos Espinosa, whose photographs of Higley district activities provided an introduction to the meeting, also runs the district's Web site. Before he went to work for Higley, Carlos interned as a graphics artist in our Mesa information center through a program with Mesa Community College. Online blog – gilbert.azcentral.com, Jan. 23, 2008 Girl fight at Gilbert High The story coming out of Tuesday night's Gilbert Public Schools governing board meeting makes me glad my children are through with the high school years. A mother asked board members to rethink the district's policy for students who hit back in self- defense. She said her daughter received the same 10-day suspension as the instigator of a fight at Gilbert High. On one hand, I can understand the mother's frustration -- in some situations you need to physically stand up for yourself. On the other hand, schools need a no-retaliation policy or we'd need to staff our junior highs and high schools with hockey linesmen to break up the fights. Parents of junior and senior high students – how do you advise your children to behave if they find themselves in such a situation? Should they fight back? If they are bystanders, should they be doing more than recording the fight on their cell phones? How would you address this situation if you were a GPS board member or administrator? Please share your thoughts.