Around Arizona: Southern Exposure

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Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel brings us up date on the latest issues from the Tucson area in our regular series “Southern Exposure.”

Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Time again for southern exposure, our monthly look at issues from the Tucson area and other points south. Joining us is Tucson Weekly senior writer, Jim Nintzel. Good to have you here. Waiting for this legislative session to end. As far as the session this go-around -- let's start with this. A quick hit. Tucson in the crosshairs much?

Jim Nintzel: Quite a few bills focusing on Tucson. I think one of the more recent ones was a gun bill. Tucson has a requirement that if you lease our convention center to have a gun show, you have to have background checks on the guns that you are selling. Whole background check loophole issue and the legislature does not like that. They were proposing legislation that would allow outside groups to come in and sue the city if they had any kind of gun regulations whatsoever. Elected officials would be personally responsible, could be fined, or removed from office, and I think the whole idea was to scare local officials away from any kind of firearm regulation whatsoever.

Ted Simons: Did that work?

Jim Nintzel: Well, you know, we're in the closing days. It hadn't passed as of when I pulled into the parking lot.

Ted Simons: As far as scaring local officials, still enthusiast -- enthusiasm for these things in Tucson?

Jim Nintzel: We already have it on the books. There's another measure that allows actually the police to check your blood alcohol level if you accidentally discharge a firearm, and both of things the state legislature was not happy about, they are certainly trying to get Tucson to reverse itself on those.

Ted Simons: Last question on this as the legislature says goodbye for now. The image of the state legislature, in Tucson, in general, I know it is a generalization, but what are the thoughts down there?

Jim Nintzel: I don't think they're very excited about the state legislature. I know a lot of people are unhappy with the cuts to education, the cuts to higher education, the university and the Pima College and Maricopa Community College cuts and cuts to social safety net have a lot of people concerned. They shifted a lot of costs down to Pima County and Pima County is going to have to either raise their taxes or cut their services. Not a lot of joy. You know, we send mostly democrats up to the state legislature. We have one republican in southern Arizona in the house at this point. So, we definitely find ourselves on the losing end of most votes.

Ted Simons: And yet the Speaker of the House from southern Arizona.

Jim Nintzel: David Gowan, a little further down in southern Arizona, Cochise County, yeah.

Ted Simons: Speaking of what gets people excited down there, U of A basketball is huge, and was supposed to be huge this year and was kind of huge. Didn't make the final four. Reaction down there in Tucson.

Jim Nintzel: Tragic, tragic, another tragic year of losing in the elite eight to Wisconsin, repeat of last year. Very troubling. It hurts even more than losing to ASU up here earlier in the season, and I think we were all very sad on Saturday afternoon when that -- we lost it there in the first half, first part of the second half and we allowed ourselves to fall behind and weren't able to make up the difference.

Ted Simons: How big a deal is the U of A basketball in Tucson?

Jim Nintzel: When it comes to sports, it is the biggest deal we have in southern Arizona. The -- we've had a lot of other efforts to have spring training baseball for many years, and minor league baseball and of course you guys took all of our spring training teams away, and they're all up here in the valley now, and our -- even our minor league teams have moved away to Reno, and El Paso, and we haven't had much luck in retaining those in recent years. It is -- we're sports -- it is very scarce, our sports opportunities down there, and so U of A basketball is where all of the focus is.

Ted Simons: As far as U of A basketball, Shawn Miller, head coach, seemed a little testy with fans, a little questioning of him. Is Tucson ready for when Shawn Miller decides he may want to --

Jim Nintzel: We'd hate to see him go. I think his exact comment was go root for ASU.

Ted Simons: That was one of the comment. I think he was tired of people getting mad at him for not taking U of A to the Final Four, U of A fans in particular.

Jim Nintzel: We are a demanding bunch down there in Tucson and we certainly want to see it go further. We haven't got that much further except for a few times. Nice thing was no riot this year.

Ted Simons: That's true.

Jim Nintzel: Previous years, elite eight, police shooting the rubber bullets and knocking over people and tear gas and it was a mess. We got out of it without that this year.

Ted Simons: You mentioned how many things had left, everything from the PGA, bowl games, spring training, and these sorts of things. There is talk of a bowl game coming back to Tucson.

Jim Nintzel: There is. We made an application before the first of the month and apparently we're aiming, apparently, 40 bowl games just aren't enough and we need to have a 41st. We have to get the top 84, 82, 84 teams out in -- in post-season play and so Tucson is going for it. We had a bowl game once upon a time, the Copper Bowl. bowl --

Ted Simons: I think it is something else. Big ticket or something like that.

Jim Nintzel: You guys took it away from us. It is up here in Phoenix now. We're hoping that this one will come through, but we shall see.

Ted Simons: Does -- do all of these sporting events, are they leaving because of a lack of interest, lack of participation? Bigger money elsewhere? Tucson is a big enough city. Has a sports history, what is going on?

Jim Nintzel: I think it is a lack of fan support in many cases. Not enough people going out to the games. Spring training. We really never recovered from when the team moved from our mid-town field at High Corbett to the edge of the freeway, new sports stadium, a beautiful stadium, but people didn't respond to going to games at the new stadium. It was very unfortunate. I used to love going to the minor league games. A lot of fun. Bill Durham kind of stuff going on there. It's disappointing to see them all go. It is fan support that's just not there. People are willing to pay a lot of money to get these teams in their community.

Ted Simons: Mark Kelly's brother off for a year in space -- longest flight ever for NASA?

Jim Nintzel: Full year up in space, it is really an experiment, took off last week. Mark saw him off from Russia. He went and traveled there and said goodbye to him. There's a very interesting study going on, while Scott is up in space, mark, his twin brother here on earth and NASA will study both of them because you undergo changes when you are up in zero gravity, bone density changes, you get a little taller, muscle mass decreases, a lot of different things. Radiation that can affect your DNA. So they have a full test on both of them before Scott left and now they're going ahead and running these tests on both of them over the course of the next year. You know, I can't -- can you imagine a year in space?

Ted Simons: No, no.

Jim Nintzel: That's a long time.

Ted Simons: I can't imagine a year doing much of anything over and over and over again. I think that's interesting. He is in space. Getting tests X, Y, Z, twin brothers on earth getting tests X, Y, and Z. That's a fantastic opportunity.

Jim Nintzel: That is a rare thing. It is, rarely find twins in the space program. Mark and Scott are breaking some ground there.

Ted Simons: Big deal in Tucson, people watching this?

Jim Nintzel: Yeah, people pay attention a lot to Mark and Gabby whatever they are up to, they like to find out what they are doing.

Ted Simons: Martha McSally, how are folks taking to her --

Jim Nintzel: Very early on, Martha is proving herself to be a fairly moderate lawmaker, voted against the republican budget that came out of the U.S. house of representatives recently. She's been out and about during her trips back here from Washington, D.C. And she has a new piece of legislation involving trying to create new penalties for these so-called spotters. This is a situation down on the border where the cartels are moving drugs across the border, border patrol is down there looking for them. The cartels actually hire spotters to sit up on the hills and watch where the border patrol is and they can get on the phone to the folks moving the drugs and say, hey, stop, don't go any further. Wait for the border patrol to go by. It is a problem for sure, because the technology allows them to outwit the border patrol in a lot of ways. There are some conspiracy charges you can bring against guys, but you have to establish that they were helping the drug smugglers than just having a gun and a telephone isn't enough to establish that. Congresswoman McSally is trying to find a way to create new penalties so that prosecutions can be more successful. I don't know if it will work or not but that is what she is trying to do.

Ted Simons: Very interesting. We will keep in touch.

Jim Nintzel: A beautiful time of the year. Always happy to come up here.

Ted Simons: All right. Good to see you.

Jim Nintzel:Senior Writer, Tucson Weekly;

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