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County economic development director dies
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FLORENCE – Tim Kanavel, who was instrumental in luring new industry and jobs to Pinal County as economic development director for the past 12 years, died Tuesday night. He had been hospitalized with COVID-19, family members said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, announced Kanavel’s passing at the beginning of Wednesday’s board meeting. He commented later through the county’s spokesman, "I met Tim when he first came to Pinal County in 2009. Tim came from the working world, having begun his career in the oilfields, and as a result, knew how important jobs are and what they mean to everyday lives.

“There was nobody more dedicated to his job and to Pinal County than Tim,” Miller continued. “He was a person that was always trying to advance Pinal County and what was best for our constituents. This is devastating news and a tough loss for Pinal County."

Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, added, "He's going to be greatly missed, there's no way you can replace a Tim Kanavel. What he's done for this county and our communities is truly beyond measurement, we're going to see the impact of Tim's work for decades. What's going to be challenging is to continue that legacy. Our thoughts are with Tim's family, friends, and loved ones. I always felt Tim was a good friend of mine."

"I had the privilege of working with Tim for the past decade,” Interim County Manager Leo Lew, who joined the County in 2009, the same year as Kanavel, said. “The growth and development in the county over the past 10 years is in large part because of him. It was easy to see that Tim lived the life he loved and he lived it to the fullest. He will be dearly missed as a colleague and friend. Our condolences go out to Tim's family and loved ones."

Kanavel had been working to create synergy among the county’s newest economic development prospects and attract more of them in a “tech corridor” between Arizona State University and University of Arizona.

“Very sad news. Tim was an amazing talented man,” Anthony Smith, former Pinal County supervisor from Maricopa, tweeted Wednesday. “Always such a positive attitude and economic development champion. He will be very much missed.”

State Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, tweeted, “Just horrible news and a terrible gut punch to hear this. Tim has been so instrumental to the growth in Pinal County and will be missed.”

Kanavel formerly worked as a driller in the oilfields of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science degree in regional development in 1997, he became a research analyst for the Greater Tucson Economic Council (now Sun Corridor Inc.).

He also worked for the Arizona Department of Commerce (now the Arizona Commerce Authority) as a project manager; at the Tucson Airport as the human resources director; and for Wickenburg Regional Economic Development Partnership as president, before coming to Pinal County.

In April 2004, he was presented with the Arizona Association for Economic Development’s “Economic Developer of the Year Award – Large Community” while working for the Arizona Department of Commerce. In April 2017, he received the “Economic Developer of the Year Award – Medium Community,” which made him the first person in the state to receive the award twice. In 2018, Pinal County’s Economic Development Department was awarded “Economic Organization of the Year Award - Medium Community.”

Pinal County hired Kanavel in 2009 to coordinate and stimulate economic activities. In addition to business recruitment, marketing, retention and assisting the various towns, cities and other economic development entities in the county, his focus was on the planning, development and implementation of economic policies, programs and relationships to establish all of Pinal County as a major economic player in the Sun Corridor, according to his biography on the county website.

In the late 1980s and all thru the 1990s, Kanavel received various Boy and Cub scouting leadership awards. In 2006 he was inducted into the American Youth Football Coaches Hall of Fame and also the American Youth Football Donor Wall of Fame.

He was the proud father of three sons and four grandchildren.

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In Biden's early days, signs of Trump-era problems at border
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HOUSTON — The day after she gave birth in a Texas border hospital, Nailet and her newborn son were taken by federal agents to a holding facility that immigrants often refer to as the “icebox.”

Inside, large cells were packed with women and their young children. Nailet and her son were housed with 15 other women and given a mat to sleep on, with little space to distance despite the coronavirus pandemic, she said. The lights stayed on round the clock. Children constantly sneezed and coughed.

Nailet, who kept her newborn warm with a quilt she got at the hospital, told The Associated Press that Border Patrol agents wouldn’t tell her when they would be released. She and her son were detained for six days in a Border Patrol station. That’s twice as long as federal rules generally allow.

“I had to constantly insist that they bring me wipes and diapers,” said Nailet, who left Cuba last year and asked that her last name be withheld for fear of retribution if she’s forced to return.

Larger numbers of immigrant families have been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in the first weeks of President Joe Biden’s administration. Warning signs are emerging of the border crises that marked former President Donald Trump’s term: Hundreds of newly released immigrants are getting dropped off with nonprofit groups, sometimes unexpectedly, and accounts like Nailet’s of prolonged detention in short-term facilities are growing.

Measures to control the virus have sharply cut space in holding facilities that got overwhelmed during a surge of arrivals in 2018 and 2019, when reports emerged of families packed into cells and unaccompanied children having to care for each other.

Most of the Border Patrol’s stations aren’t designed to serve children and families or hold people long term. To deal with the new influx, the agency on Tuesday reopened a large tent facility in South Texas to house immigrant families and children.

In a statement last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said some of its facilities had reached “maximum safe holding capacity” and cited several challenges: COVID-19 protocols, changes in Mexican law and limited space to hold immigrants.

“We will continue to use all current authorities to avoid keeping individuals in a congregate setting for any length of time,” said the agency, which declined an interview request.

Meanwhile, long-term holding facilities for children who cross the border alone — some sent by parents forced to wait in Mexico — are 80% full. U.S. Health and Human Services, which runs those centers, will reopen a surge facility at a former camp for oil field workers in Carrizo Springs, Texas, as early as Monday. It can accommodate about 700 teenagers. Surge facilities have an estimated cost of $775 per child per day, and Democrats sharply criticized them during the Trump years.

There’s no clear driving factor for the increase in families and children crossing. Some experts and advocates believe more are trying to cross illegally now that Biden is president, believing his administration will be more permissive than Trump’s.

Many have waited for a year or longer under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program that forces asylum-seekers to stay south of the border while a judge considers their case. The White House isn’t adding people to the program but hasn’t said how it will resolve pending cases. It’s also declined to expel unaccompanied children under a pandemic-related public health order issued by Trump.

Others cite the fallout of natural disasters in Central America and turmoil in countries like Haiti.

The U.S. also has stopped sending back some immigrant families to parts of Mexico, particularly areas of Tamaulipas state across from South Texas. The change in practice appears to be uneven, with immigrants being expelled in other places and no clear explanation for the differences.

A law has taken effect in Mexico that prohibits holding children in migrant detention centers. But Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement that agreements with the U.S. during the pandemic remain “on the same terms.” The statement noted “it is normal that there be adjustments at the local level, but that does not mean that the practice has changed or stopped.”

Some pregnant mothers, like Nailet, who have been refused entry to the U.S. cross again while in labor. Their children become U.S. citizens by birthright. The Border Patrol generally releases those families into the country, though reports have emerged of immigrant parents and U.S.-born children being expelled.

In Nailet’s case, CBP said an unforeseen spike in the number of families crossing the border near Del Rio, about 150 miles west of San Antonio, led to her prolonged detention.

Advocates say officials should have released Nailet quickly, as well as other families with young children, and should speed up processing to avoid delays. Authorities have long resisted what they refer to as “catch and release,” which they say inspires more immigrants to try to enter the country illegally, often through smugglers linked to transnational gangs.

Still in pain from giving birth, Nailet nursed her newborn in the cold cell. When she told border agents that the hospital said to return on Feb. 1, she says they refused to take her.

CBP says Nailet and her son passed a health check Wednesday evening.

She was released Thursday and taken to a hotel with help from a nonprofit group, the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, which is one of several organizations receiving larger numbers of immigrant families after they leave government custody.

Dr. Amy Cohen, a child psychiatrist and executive director of immigration advocacy group Every Last One, described how border detention can traumatize a newborn: the cold, the constant light, the stress emanating from their nursing mother.

“That is a tremendously vulnerable time,” she said. “He is consuming the stress that she is experiencing. This is his first exposure to the world outside the womb. This is extraordinarily cruel and dangerous.”

A previous rise in illegal border crossings combined with delays in processing families led to horrendous conditions in several border stations in 2019, with shortages of food and water and children in many cases fending for themselves.

The year before, when the Trump administration separated thousands of immigrant families under its “zero tolerance” policy, many people were detained at a converted warehouse in South Texas. Thousands of children taken from their parents went into government custody, including surge facilities in Tornillo, Texas, and Homestead, Florida.


Associated Press journalists Christopher Sherman and María Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.

Bill will give voters a say in limiting governor's emergency powers
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PHOENIX — Republican senators voted Wednesday to curb the emergency powers of the governor, but do it in a way he can’t veto.

SCR 1003, approved on a party-line 16-14 vote, would terminate any emergency declared by the governor in 30 days unless both the House and Senate agreed to an extension. And any extension could be for no more than 30 days, though there could be continued reauthorization.

The proposal now goes to the House.

Nothing in the measure would affect the current emergency that Gov. Doug Ducey declared in March.

That’s because the legislation requires voter approval. Sending it to the ballot skirts the normal requirement for gubernatorial approval.

But lawmakers may yet get a chance to pull the plug on the current emergency. SCR 1001, which would do just that, already has cleared two Senate committees and awaits floor debate.

Wednesday’s vote comes following months of complaints by many GOP lawmakers that the Republican governor has used his emergency powers to infringe on individual rights. That has included the closure of businesses he has declared to be “non-essential,’’ a moratorium on evictions, and what amounted to a stay-at-home order for people who do not need to be out.

Most of those are gone. But his orders still keep bars closed unless they operate like restaurants, with sit-down food service and no dancing. And restaurants can operate with only limited seating capacity.

“My constituents were banging down my door wanting me to do something and take action,’’ said Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who crafted the plan.

Existing law does allow the legislature to terminate an emergency order with a simple majority vote.

Only thing is, with the legislature not in session, there was no way for lawmakers to do that. And with Ducey unwilling to call them into a special session to override his order, that left only the option for lawmakers to call themselves in. That, however, takes a two-thirds vote, which the Republicans did not have.

Petersen said this measure, if approved by voters, ensures that the governor has to work with lawmakers if he wants his emergency powers extended.

Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, was blunter in her belief that there needs to be legislative oversight and input, even in the case of a deadly disease.

“I hope we never again see something so fearsome that we give all power and control to one person and his bureaucrats who cannot be held accountable by the public,’’ she said. “There are severe consequences when we place that much power in the hands of one person indefinitely.’’

Senate Democrats, who generally believe the governor has done too little with his emergency powers to curb the spread of the pandemic and its effects, found themselves in the curious position of defending the current law and speaking against efforts to allow curbs.

“The whole purpose is an attempt to remove politics from action during an emergency so that we can act swiftly to save lives,’’ said Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe. And he suggested Republicans were making far too much out of the gubernatorial powers.

“This isn’t Star Wars,’’ he said. “The Senate didn’t turn Ducey into an emperor.’’

Mendez said that now that legislators are back in session, there are things they should be doing, like dealing with housing and child-care issues of those who have been affected, whether physically or financially, by the virus, “instead of taking advantage of lathered-up constituents and their fears.’’

If approved by the House, the measure will be on the 2022 general election ballot.

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CG planning panel will consider Dollar General, new housing developments
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CASA GRANDE — A Dollar General and new housing are on the table for February’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Thursday.

According to the agenda, there will be a public hearing and consideration for Cypress Civil and DCM Development LLC for a major site plan for a 9,023-square-foot Dollar General and a comprehensive sign plan.

The store would be located at the northwest corner of Kortsen and Peart roads. According to the staff report, the site is designed to include 33 parking spaces with access onto Kortsen Road.

During the meeting, the commission will also have a public hearing for Lennar Corporation to allow a housing product comprising six single-story home plans ranging from 1,400 square feet to 2,264 square feet for 115 vacant lots located within Emery Dodd Parcels 3 and 4.

The commission will also have a public hearing for Marcus Romero on a conditional use permit to allow a residential dwelling unit for the business owner on the second floor at 417 N. Florence St.

According to the agenda, this would be one of the first, if not the first live-work spaces located in the downtown area. Staff believes this is a great opportunity to incorporate a mixed-use project in the area as it has been emphasized in the current 2020 General Plan and the proposed 2030 General Plan.

During the meeting, there will also be a public hearing and consideration of a request by Hilgart-Wilson for a zone change from Garden and Light Industrial to Single-Family Residential.

According to the agenda, this would allow for the development of 112 single-family residential lots. The proposed development has a Certificate of Assured Water from the state.

“This is a good opportunity to provide workforce housing near the downtown and the manufacturing and industrial area of the City,” says the agenda.

A feature of the plan includes an opportunity for the city to place a round-about intersection at Florence and Ash streets as an entry to the downtown, south of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

Hilgart-Wilson will also have another public hearing for a zone change from Garden and Light Industrial to a Planned Area Development for single-family rental homes.

According to the agenda, LKY Development Company Inc. plans to develop a 10.6-acre property as a single-family build-to-rent project.

The site is located generally west of the northwest corner of Florence Street and Ash Avenue, south of the downtown area. According to the agenda, this is the first request of this type of product for the city.

The Planning and Zoning meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and will be streamed on the city’s Channel 11.