Around Arizona: Southern Exposure

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Jim Nintzel, senior writer for the Tucson Weekly, brings us up to date on the latest issues from Southern Arizona.

Ted Simons: Once a month we present "Southern Exposure," a chance to get caught up on issues from south of the Gila River. Here to bring us up to date is Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel. Good to see you.

Jim Nintzel: Great to be here Ted.

Ted Simons: We've been talking about and hearing a lot about lately ethnic studies down in the Unified School District. Sounds like the new Superintendent Diane Douglas is taking a different tack. What's going on?

Jim Nintzel: We don't know yet, we haven't heard from Diane Douglas herself. This is the ethnic studies classes the state legislature passed a law to try to ban several years ago, and it dismantled an existing program in Tucson, a Mexican-American studies program that was fairly successful in helping kids get engaged in academics and go on to college. But it had some controversial elements that state lawmakers didn't like. They passed law saying you can't teach certain sorts of subjects to children. I think if you're trying to tell people that they aren't oppressed, don't pass a law saying they can't learn certain things. That aside, they have reconstituted some of these programs as part of a federal desegregation lawsuit that goes back decades. They still need to approve some of those programs into the curriculum. Apparently John Huppenthal was very unhappy about some lyrics.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Jim Nintzel: Apparently that's going to turn the kids to a criminal lifestyle or something.

Ted Simons: The district has until March to get rid of this stuff or they lose something like 10% of funding. Now that Diane Douglas is superintendent, we don't know if this is going to happen.

Jim Nintzel: Huppenthal did this on his last day out the door. Which is a heck of a thing to do before heading out the door. The classes are supported and he does not want to see them changed. He met with Diane Douglas this week and says he doesn't expect her to take the same tack as John Huppenthal, but it's a wait and see at this point.

Ted Simons: Are Tucson residents supportive of the program or do they have problems, as well?

Jim Nintzel: I think the vast majority are fairly indifferent to the program. The programs have their supporters and very fierce critics. But I would say the vast majority of people don't care much one way or the other, they are not that engaged in the debate.

Ted Simons: We should mention Martha McSally, now the Representative down there in Congress. She's on a subcommittee for Homeland Security. Sounds like they want to get her out there and exposed quickly.

Jim Nintzel: She was one of the top recruits for the Republicans this last election round. They definitey want her to achieve a national profile. You saw her on Fox News last Sunday morning talking with Chris Wallace and I think you'll see more of Martha on those types of programs.

Ted Simons: That is considered a vulnerable seat, A? And B, who would be a Democrat that could be competition for her?

Jim Nintzel: There's a lot of talk about what Democrats might run, there could be a crowded primary trying to find a candidate. We could have a dozen candidates. I don't think it'll be that large. But there are a lot of people who would like to do it. They have to raise a lot of money. One thing she was very good at was raising money. I think over $3 million she was able to raise. Whoever goes up against her will have to have the ability to raise that kind of money. We'll see what happens to the primary. A bruising primary among Democrats isn't going to help the candidate move on to defeat her.

Ted Simons: You mentioned Ron Barber, four years ago today the shootings down there in Tucson.

Jim Nintzel: A very terrible day in Tucson, the wounds still cut very deeply for a lot of people closely affected by that. We have a story in the Weekly today coming out, your folks can read it online. But it's by Ross Zimmerman whose son Gabe Zimmerman was one of the six people killed in that mass shooting. Gabe was an assistant to Gabby Giffords, he was one of the people killed. He was an avid outdoorsman, there is a trail named for him down in Tucson. His father Ross talks about losing his son but also how proud he is. Way that he's been honored. There's a big thing in Tucson this weekend called beyond. People are getting outdoors and exercising in honor of Gabe and the others we lost that day. That's a big deal, there's a big concert, Ron Barber has a group called the fund for civility, respect and understanding. It's to help with anti-bullying programs and also mental health programs. They are having a big fund-raising concert with Joey Burns and some others will be performing at Hotel Congress. And the Rialto Theater down there.

Ted Simons: Before we go, are there plans for a permanent memorial to the shooting?

Jim Nintzel: Yes, that's underway as well. Sounds like a pretty hefty price tag, $2 million for this revamp of one of our downtown Parks where the city hall is and the old Pima County Courthouse, the big pink dome in the downtown area. Design teams are supposed to be selected early next year.

Ted Simons: All right, good to see you.

Jim Nintzel: Always a pleasure.

Ted Simons: Friday on "Arizona Horizon" it is the "Journalists' Roundtable." We'll discuss Governor Ducey's inauguration speech and what to expect from the state of the state address and budget proposal set for next week. That's Friday on the "Journalists' Roundtable." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Jim Nintzel:Senior Writer, Tucson Weekly;

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