Mourners laud Don Diamond’s legacy, philanthropy

He was an influential leader, a charismatic entrepreneur and man who loved Tucson until his final days.

That’s how friends and family described the legacy of the late Donald R. Diamond, a prominent Tucson-based real estate developer and philanthropist, during a memorial held on Wednesday afternoon.

Diamond died on Monday, March 25. He was 91.

More than 300 people packed the Catalina Room at the Jewish Community Center Tucson. Although the required garb was dark the tone of the ceremony was playful and light-hearted, keeping in step with Diamond’s temperament.

“My father couldn’t afford a rabbi for the service, so I will be officiating this afternoon,” his eldest daughter Rabbi Jennifer Diamond told the piqued crowd.

She further said Donald Diamond would be pleased to know that he’ll finally recoup for paying for her the five years of rabbinic school.

Both comments sweetened the heavy mood of the day with warm laughter.

After leading a traditional service, Jennifer Diamond offered their personal guests a glimpse into her family’s life.

Read the entire Tucson Local Media story here. Originally published on March 28, 2019.


Arizona restaurateurs adapt as hourly workers see pay raise, benefits improvement

After 15 years of working in the food industry, Hub Restaurant and Ice Creamery General Manager Alex Zepeda knows just how hard the job can be. And she said that while restaurants across the state have had to adjust to the recent increases in Arizona’s minimum wage, the change was long overdue.

“It is something that I think needed to happen,” Zepeda said. “And I’m glad that we’re paying people what they should be paid—a livable wage.”

Zepeda, 29, said that while Tucson’s cost of living is comparatively affordable, local folks may be supporting a family on a 40-hour weekly salary, so they need to make a living, she said.

In November 2016, Arizona voters approved Proposition 206, which increases the statewide minimum wage during a four-year period. In January, Arizona’s minimum wage rose to $11 per hour; and in 2020 the statewide hourly rate of pay will reach $12 per hour.

The ballot initiative also guarantees that workers accrue paid sick time off. Arizona businesses with 15 or more employees must now offer 40 hours of paid sick time annually, while businesses with less than 15 workers must allow for 24 hours of paid sick leave.

Under Prop. 206, employees earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. If an employee doesn’t use their sick pay, those hours will roll over from year-to-year.

When voters OK’d the ballot measure, Arizona’s minimum wage was set at $8.05. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, which hasn’t budged in a decade.

Read the entire Tucson Local Media article here. Originally published on March 27, 2019.

Chamber leaders roll out new healthcare plan for small businesses

Many small businesses face a tough choice: Do you push to grow your company, or do you offer health benefits in order to retain your employees?

In an attempt to address the latter, the Southern Arizona Chamber of Commerce Association launched a new health insurance plan this month for self-employed workers and those operating modest proprietorships.

“For small businesses that don’t have access to healthcare right now, hopefully this will give them an option to acquire insurance and offer it to their employees,” said Robert Medler, vice president of public affairs at the Tucson Metro Chamber.

And if a qualifying company already provides benefits, the new association health plan could give employers a more cost-effective option, he added.

In June, the U.S. Department of Labor implemented new regulations that make it easier for small businesses to coalesce and purchase an association health plan.

The Southern Arizona Chamber Benefits plan, which is managed by UnitedHealthcare, is one of the many new AHPs to hit the market nationally.

Read the entire Tucson Local Media article here. Originally published on Feb. 20, 2019.

Fitness instructor learns better living from his students

Having a well-rounded approach is the key to helping someone recover from an injury or maintain an active lifestyle, said Todd Lutz, Get Fit program coordinator at Splendido at Rancho Vistoso.

After working almost a decade at Oro Valley’s premier retirement community, Lutz has remained committed to keeping his clients living at their highest potential.

“I want to help them enjoy the activities they appreciate as long as possible,” said Lutz. “And I think fitness is big first step in a lot of those things.”

Some Splendido residents moved into the community in order to take advantage of the fitness programs and facilities, and will often act as role models for their neighbors, Lutz said.

Conversely, some of Lutz’s clients are affected by a life event like a fall or heart attack.

No matter the circumstances, Lutz said staying fit can keep folks on the hiking trails, traveling or maintaining their independence.

There’s an unofficial requirement penciled into Splendido’s various fitness training classes: laughter. Lutz said he keeps the mood light whenever possible.

“I don’t want people to think fitness is a serious thing. We can have fun and still be fit,” he said.

Read the entire Tucson Local Media article here. Originally published Jan. 31, 2018.

GOP tax overhaul includes some big changes for business tax filers

If you haven’t met your maker by April 15, Uncle Sam will be expecting his annual tax settlement.

But small business owners throughout Arizona may appreciate some of the changes to the federal tax code, which was ratified by Congress in December 2017.

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act aimed to simplify individual filings, slash the federal corporate tax rate and offer temporary tax deductions for comparatively small proprietors.

By 2027, the federal tax overhaul will also add more than $1.4 trillion to the national deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

While local tax preparers are waiting to see if Arizona will conform to the new federal law, here’s what some professionals had to say about the changes.

Small businesses eligible for 20 percent deduction

Under the new federal tax law, pass-through entities—which include sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and S corporations—will be eligible for a 20 percent tax deduction on qualified income.

Even though owners of pass-through entities may get a significant savings from the new 199A deduction, it’s a more complex and time-consuming calculation, said Marshele Scherrer, marketing manager at R&A CPAs.

Read the entire Inside Tucson Business article here. Originally published Jan. 18, 2019.

ON THE STREET: SAV recruits support deputies, community

At the entrance of Sunrise Pointe Vistas, Larry Walsh hits the lights on his Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteer squad car.

Walsh and his partner for the day, Field Operations Division Director Linda Rundel, pull behind two cars stopped along South Abrego Drive in Green Valley.

The owner of a German Shepherd is trying to corral their pet, which is crisscrossing the street.

Rundel hops out of the truck, throws on a reflective vest and offers a hand.

Being on a leash for the first time spooked the year-old puppy, the dog owner tells Rundel. So she keeps the traffic at bay while the man grabs hold of his dog.

Then she jumps back in the squad car and they continue on their southern Green Valley beat.

Whether it’s checking on a home that’s vacant for a holiday or directing traffic while deputies work a car accident, one of the best parts of SAV work is being a “force multiplier” for sworn peace officers, Walsh says.

Not only can you increase a general sense of safety, you get to serve the people, he says.

“And if you don’t greet and meet people three or four times a day on your route, you’re not doing your job.”

Read the entire Green Valley News and Sun article here. Originally published Jan. 1, 2019.

A FINE MESS: He’s 96, alone and at the bottom of a ravine

Moments after Lyman “Jay” Gage left the GVR Canoa Hills Center for home Dec. 20, he found himself on the floorboard of his golf cart at the bottom of a ditch.

He’d passed out behind the wheel and the vehicle bounced 40 feet down a ravine just south of the social center parking lot.

Gage, who’s 96, says tacking on an extra round of Bocce ball had pushed him to his limit.

Calling for help wasn’t an option. He’d left his cell phone and urgent response clicker at his home about a quarter-mile away.

His cane was jolted from the vehicle from the impact, so walking up the 45-degree hill wasn’t going to happen. Instead, he hoisted himself out of the cart, flopped onto his left hip and spent an hour inching up the hill.

“I just made up my mind that I had to get out because nobody was going to find me,” he says. “And I was out of energy already, so the fact that I made it is a miracle.”

Read the entire Green Valley News and Sun article here. Originally published Dec. 29, 2018.

Sheriff Napier: This might be last chance at Stonegarden funds

If the Board of Supervisors turns down a federal Operation Stonegarden grant next year, the county may never get a shot at the money again, Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier said Thursday in Green Valley.

“I cannot buy us any more forbearance,” Napier said at a Green Valley Council Board of Representatives meeting. “All of that money, despite what the activists think, doesn’t go away. It goes to other people and the county should really be on the front lines.”

The federal grant promotes cooperation among Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol and local law enforcement agencies. It also finances overtime and mileage costs and equipment for joint operations among agencies tasked with securing international borders.

In September, the county board rejected the federal grant, 3-1. District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy, who represents Green Valley and part of Sahuarita, voted in favor of accepting the funding.

The amount of Stonegarden money will only increase in the future, Napier said. Last fiscal year, the grant offered $3.2 million to the county sheriff and its regional partners, including the Sahuarita Police Department. In FY 2018 that amount jumps to $3.8 million; and for FY 2019, the projection is $5 million.

“The federal government is all but begging me to take this money,” Napier said. He said it is essential for purchasing equipment and deploying deputies to rural, underserved areas in the county that are susceptible targets for trafficking and transnational crime.

Napier applied for almost $2 million in Stonegarden money for next fiscal year. He expects to get a response from the federal government in January or February.

Read the entire Green Valley News and Sun article here. Originally published Dec. 23, 2018.

HISTORY ON DISPLAY: Toy horses reach across 150 years to tell story

About 12 years ago, Cheri Raftery popped out of an eatery in Glenrock, Wyoming, and noticed a rickety toy horse outside a nearby thrift store.

Within minutes, she dropped about $80 on the mechanical horse, which dates back to the 1880s.

“It could have been hundreds for all I care, because it was unique and I’ve never seen another one like it,” she said.

Now, she has eight mechanical horses, commonly called toy horses, that span from pre-Civil War through the 1960s.

Rocking horse is a modern term for this type of toy, because in the 18th and 19th centuries most people owned real horses. With the advent of the motor vehicle, rocking horses became the catch-all phrase for the toy.

Every mechanical horse Raftery adds to her collection has a different motion. A gray horse from Connecticut and a mustang from Texas move like a real horse, she said. Both have a “fluidity” that mirrors a life-like feel, similar to the floating sensation of a horse-drawn buggy.

“That motion is something you’ll never forget,” she said. “And that’s why these old toys, all being of different mechanical motion, got me excited and got me into collecting them.”

Read the entire Green Valley News and Sun article here. Originally published Dec. 19, 2018.

She’s making sure Pueblo Estates puts on a great Christmas show

During the last few years, Marie Chavez noticed that enthusiasm for the annual light show at Pueblo Estates in Green Valley had dimmed.

Her mission to buck the trend this year has sparked a Christmas like no other.

“We’re kind of getting away from the community feel in this neighborhood that we used to have,” Chavez says. “And I really wanted to push that ‘help your neighbor’ mentality. If you know they’re not up to it, throw some lights on their cactus.”

Chavez and her “army of elves” decorated 36 homes at Pueblo Estates this year, and their work has sparked most everyone to deck the halls this season.

She also convinced a few curmudgeons to green-light her efforts — as long as Chavez would keep their enthusiasm under wraps.

“There’s been a couple that have said, ‘Don’t let anybody know that this was OK.’ Because it would ruin their reputation as being grumpy old men,” she says.

Read the entire Green Valley News and Sun article here. Originally published Dec. 21, 2018.