CASA GRANDE — Watching as the lush greens of the golf course near his home deteriorated over the years was difficult for Mission Royale resident Rob Dalrymple.
“The course was so neglected. I was angry and embarrassed,” he said. “I had purchased a home on the golf course but I couldn’t invite friends or family over to golf on that course.”
After years of mismanagement, by the end of 2020, the once beautiful golf course in the Mission Royale subdivision had turned yellow. In December, the Montana-based group that owned the golf course and leased it out closed the doors. Residents feared it would become another in a series of community golf courses nationwide that had closed, turning once-busy green spaces into acres of dust.
But the residents of Mission Royale didn’t want their golf course to suffer the same fate as other shuttered facilities. They banded together and raised the money to purchase the course, restore it and reopen it to the public.
In April, after months of work, the first 10 restored holes of the course were opened to the public. On July 1, the remaining eight holes were opened.
With new sod and various repairs to the course and its irrigation system and equipment, Dalrymple said Mission Royale Golf Course is looking better than ever.
“I’m proud of this golf course again,” he said.
The golf course is owned by a resident-run nonprofit organization developed earlier this year to buy the course without impacting the homeowners association fees paid by Mission Royale residents.
A board of directors controls the business aspect of the facility. Earlier this year, the board hired Elite Golf Management to manage all aspects of the golf course, including making the necessary repairs and upgrades, managing personnel and running the restaurant.
There were plenty of challenges in restoring the golf course, Dalrymple said.
Much of the green spaces had died. New sod was needed along with new sprinkler heads. Equipment to care for the course had been mostly sold and what was left wasn’t working. And the well from which the course is irrigated was not functioning properly.
Dalrymple said making repairs to the facility was much like building a new golf course from the ground up.
“Golf courses are like people,” he said. “As they age they require a little more attention. This course was 20 years old and hadn’t been maintained.”
Work was completed in a few months, then the first 10 holes were opened while work continued on the final eight.
Now that all 18 holes are open, the course is averaging between 10 and 28 rounds of golf played every day, even in the heat.
The hope, Dalrymple said, is that once cooler temperatures return, along with seasonal visitors in the fall, the number of rounds played at the course will increase.
In the fall, the restaurant and grill is also expected to reopen for business.
“Most of our residents and seasonal visitors are gone for the summer,” Dalrymple said. “The goal is to fully reopen and get the golf course in the best shape before October and hopefully open the restaurant then.”
Elite Golf Management will run the restaurant as well as the golf course.
“They are the experts at running a golf course,” Dalrymple said. “Mission Royale is the 13th golf course they’re currently managing. They will host tournaments, run promotions and provide staffing.”
Now that the course has reopened, feedback has been good, he said.
“No one on the board or any of the residents have any regrets over buying the course,” he said. “For us, it was a labor of love. The alternative would have altered our life styles. What we did was the right thing to do for the community and to preserve our home values.”
The course is open to the public, although in October, it will close temporarily so that winter over-seeding can be done.
“We’re working hard to develop a tremendous golf product for everyone in the area,” Dalrymple said.
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed legislation banning state or local governments from requiring training in “critical race theory” and a bill creating a new small business income tax category that will allow small business owners to avoid paying any of the 3.5% income tax surcharge voters approved in November.
The new small business tax is expected to cut $292 million from the original $836 million schools would have received under Proposition 208, according to the Legislature's budget analysts. Backers of the initiative have vowed to block the new law by referring it to the ballot.
He also signed a measure that tightens the state's sex education law and requires parents to give permission for instruction that includes sexual issues in non-sex ed classes.
Ducey vetoed an earlier version of the sex education bill, citing concerns that it was overly broad and vague and that its ban on classes before fifth grade could put children at risk by limiting sexual abuse prevention education
The new version specifically allows such “good-touch, bad-touch” teaching and stripped out a double opt-in for discussion touching on sexual orientation or gender issues. But it still requires notice and parental pre-approval for any discussion of sex-related material outside of sex ed classes.
The broad requirement would block discussions of historic events that have a sexual component, like the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, considered the genesis of the modern gay rights movement, or even the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage, without parental pre-approval.
“Parents should have the right to know what their children are learning in school,” Ducey said in a statement. “This is a no-brainer piece of legislation that protects our children from learning materials that aren’t suited for them. Every family has their own priorities for their children’s education, and parents should get to weigh in."
Republican backers of the bill say it is needed to boost parental rights, while detractors say those rights are already in Arizona law and say the bill is an assault on LGBTQ students.
The Republican governor acted on 24 bills from the legislative session that ended last week and faces a Monday deadline to sign or veto 11 remaining measures. He issued one veto, of a bill expanding the State Emergency Council.
Ducey also signed legislation that bans city or county governments from requiring employees to take orientation, training or therapy that suggest an employee is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. The state budget he signed last week contains similar language banning schools from teaching critical race theory.
Critical race theory is an academic framework that examines history through the lens of racism. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.
“I am not going to waste public dollars on lessons that imply the superiority of any race and hinder free speech," Ducey said in a statement.
Ducey's signature on the Proposition 208 workaround bill by Chandler GOP Sen. J.D. Mesnard means small businesses are no longer subject to the 3.5% surcharge on income above $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for couples in the initiative.
“This tax cut will keep Arizona competitive for small businesses already operating here and new businesses flocking here every day,” Ducey said in a statement. “After a year as tough as the last, we should not be raising taxes on our small businesses — we should be cutting their taxes."
Ducey did not mention that the new tax category cuts a large part of the money voters wanted schools to get by imposing Proposition 208, called the Invest in Education Act. It was an outgrowth of a 2018 statewide teachers strike that won 20% pay raises but still left teachers among the lowest paid in the nation.
Backers of the measure say the governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature are thumbing their nose at voters who wanted the wealthy to pay more to fund education.
“What people need to understand is that’s $150 million that was meant for teacher salaries, that’s what the governor just erased,” said Joe Thomas, president of the state teachers union, the Arizona Education Association.
“It is entirely disappointing. I don’t know another way to say it,” Thomas said. “Teachers worked hard, educators worked hard to get Invest in Ed on the ballot, during a pandemic, voters came out to sign those petitions, during a pandemic, to get it on the ballot, and we passed it.”
Half of the new tax on the wealthy will be used for raises for credentialed teachers, 25% to boosting wages for cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other support staff, and the rest for teacher training, vocational education and other initiatives.
Small business income is now taxed at the individual level and is subject to the surcharge. Mesnard said proponents of the tax said it would not affect small businesses and that some voters who backed the measure did not like how it might affect businesses but wanted the new revenue to fund education.
He also said in an interview that he's not worried about the voter referral.
“I’m not concerned about it because I think it’ll be a landslide election,” Mesnard said earlier this week. “And then it will be voter protected, which I don’t typically think is good public policy as a matter of rule, but if it’s voter protecting helping small businesses I could probably make an exception.”
The Arizona Constitution allows voters to block any law passed by the Legislature from taking effect by collecting signatures from 5% of the people who voted in the last general election, which this year would be nearly 120,000. Voters then have the final say in the next general election and can either approve or repeal the bill.
A massive tax cut included in the already-signed budget package reduces income taxes by about $1.9 billion and shields the wealthy from the new surcharge by keeping their top rate at the current 4.5%. The general fund would use hundreds of millions of dollars a year to directly fund the new education spending in Proposition 208, siphoning off money that could be spent on other priorities.
Backers of Proposition 208 are collecting signatures to refer the tax cuts to the ballot and plan to do the same with Mesnard's bill now that it had been signed into law.
Thomas said he believes Ducey and the Republican-controlled Legislature will face a backlash from the tax cuts and other steps they've taken this year in response to Democratic wins in the November election. The Legislature stripped power from the elected Democratic secretary of state and education chief and is auditing the results of the election.
"It's unbelievable how they’re trying to overturn the will of the voters in every instance they can," Thomas said. “And I believe there’s going to be a reckoning.”
CASA GRANDE — At least one long-gestating project within Pinal County was included in a spending bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act amounts to $715 billion for water and transportation infrastructure.
According to U.S. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, $5 million has been earmarked for widening Peters Road in Casa Grande from two to four lanes. The project, which has been proposed since the 2017 Pinal Regional Transportation Plan, would take place along a one-mile stretch between Thornton Road and Burris Road, in a key area for economic development where the Lucid Motors manufacturing plant is located.
Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland praised O’Halleran’s success with Peters Road, saying the project would directly benefit Lucid’s activities producing electric vehicles. “This will be a big boost for our local economy and for environmental sustainability through the nation,” McFarland said.
Overall, Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, which O’Halleran represents, received funding for four projects. The bill also included two amendments for Indian territory within the district that would allocate $8 million to the tribal transportation safety program and $2.6 billion for new sanitation projects within Indian Country.
In a statement on the bill, O’Halleran stressed the importance of repairing old roads, some of which are located on difficult or dangerous terrain within the district.
“Driving to rural and remote First District communities myself, I’ve seen the infrastructure needs of communities across rural Arizona left on the back burner since before the Great Recession,” O’Halleran said. “I am pleased to see so many of my initiatives included in this bill and am hopeful that all can make it across the finish line.”
The three other infrastructure projects that were approved include: $4.75 million for a new roundabout in the city of Page, $8 million for improvements to the Lone Tree Corridor in Flagstaff and $1.45 million for EV charging stations within the bus routes of the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority.
O’Halleran also said Tucson communities would benefit from the $5 billion grant program designed to treat PFA-polluted water systems.
Several projects within Pinal County were submitted by O’Halleran for Community Project Funding but were not in the recently passed bill. These included just over $900,000 for traffic sign replacements within the Gila River Indian Community, $650,000 for drainage and roadway improvements along Christensen Road near Coolidge, $250,000 for a new Emergency Operations Center in Florence and $2 million for a new Innovation Center in Superior.
The INVEST in America Act passed along party lines last week and is now headed to the Senate.