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Black History Month in Maricopa promises fun events for whole family
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — February is well under way, and with it comes a national tradition of celebrating the rich history of African Americans through Black History Month. All through the month of February, people around the nation will celebrate African American history, culture and identity through events and get-togethers.

Maricopans are naturally a part of this celebration, and to honor that, Mayor Christian Price and the city council have proclaimed the month of February 2020 as officially Black History Month. Though Price was not there in person to give the proclamation at Tuesday’s council meeting, Vice Mayor Nancy Smith did the honors with Marvin Brown accepting it and giving a moving speech.

“The history of black America is one that should be acknowledged and appreciated,” Brown said. “There were 12,500,000 men and women transported to this country as slaves, 10 million survived. … What happened when these men and women came, they were separated. Husbands from wives. The husband might be sent to Georgia, the wife to Alabama, never to see each other again. They were not allowed to read a book. If they tried to escape, they were caught and mutilated.”

Brown went on to tell the gathered crowd that over 5,000 recorded lynchings occurred, though it is likely that many more happened without consequence.

“Through all of that, blacks have endured in this nation,” Brown said. “We have become musicians, scientists, medical, law, finance, construction — we built the White House, many of you might not know that. Every phase, blacks have endured and succeeded. Government, we’ve even had a black president.”

Brown received a standing ovation for his speech, and he gave the mic over to Joanna Vanderpool of the Sepia Book Club. She explained that for the last few years, her club has donated children’s books centered around brown and black characters to diversify young children’s lives. They also donate adult books.

“The books that we donate are to enrich Maricopa and the reading about African American people,” Vanderpool stated. Her books were donated to the City of Maricopa Public Library for anyone who wants to read them.

This was just the very beginning of Black History Month in Maricopa, and fun events are scheduled throughout this month.

Hosted by Councilman Henry Wade Jr., the first event to kick off the month is a storytime with arts and crafts at the City of Maricopa Public Library. The event will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday for kids ages 5-12. It’s free and open to the public.

The next event on the calendar for is Movie on the Lawn featuring “Black Panther,” the Marvel blockbuster and Academy Award nominee. The movie will be shown at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 is at UltraStar Cinemas, and it’s BYOB (bring your own blanket). Attendees are encouraged to wear their best Black Panther gear.

Finally, from 1 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 23, a poetry, jazz and shop day will take over Honeycutt Coffee. The Touch of Class trio will be in attendance, performing the blues for all to hear, while patrons walk the vendor market and sip on caffeinated beverages.

Young Maricopa business leader scoops up award
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — At 24 years old, most young adults are leaving school, starting their chosen careers or moving out. For one young city of Maricopa employee, however, that was years ago.

Adam Shipley, economic development coordinator for the city, recently was named one of 20 young business leaders to look out for in 2020 by AZ Big Media for both his role in the city and his participation in the nonprofit Arizona Forward.

He was also the youngest to be selected; most other winners are in their 30s and 40s. Shipley said he was shocked by the win.

“I was really excited. I was really surprised. I didn’t know at that point that I was the youngest,” Shipley said.

Humbled by the award, Shipley still can’t quite believe he was given the honor. He was quick to give the city of Maricopa credit for helping him on his journey.

“I think the environment in the city of Maricopa is so supportive and everybody will listen to your idea, even if it’s not the idea that gets approved,” Shipley said with a smile. “Everybody just wants everybody to succeed. So I think, honestly, the place I work is the reason that I got it.”

Shipley was awarded the honor when he was still a planning and zoning analyst, but he has now been promoted to his new role as economic development coordinator as of Jan. 1. This is part of an effort by the city to unify departments and make it easier than ever to create a good climate for businesses.

“Our goal, in one line, is to be the best community in Arizona to do business,” Shipley said. “Just making the development process super simple, super easy … continuing to simplify the process. It’s nothing super fun or sexy to talk about, but (we’re) making it super easy to come in and not be intimidated by the whole development process.”

As part of his position, Shipley works closely with City Manager Rick Horst, with whom he has formed a great working relationship.

“We have a new city manager that has been in place for about a year and a half, and he runs 1,000 miles an hour and everybody’s just trying to keep up with him. A lot of long-term projects or things that we thought were going to be long-term, he’s gotten done a lot quicker than we thought,” Shipley said. “He’s great — and very busy.”

According to Shipley, Horst has helped him believe in his own ideas and pushes him to continue his work both in the city and with Arizona Forward, where he is an emerging sustainability leader.

Arizona Forward is an organization dedicated to creating more sustainable and environmentally friendly cities through urban planning such as transit options, water supply and open spaces. It has operated for over 50 years and created the emerging sustainability leaders program to help prepare a new generation for addressing climate issues.

He is one of 15 students participating in the competitive program. As part of that team, he participates in climate change conferences, attends meetings and tours facilities that impact the environment. The program is designed to operate within the regular school year, but it’s not restricted based on income — something that Shipley appreciates.

“I’m a part of some other groups similar to this and the content is not even close to what they (Arizona Forward) do. It’s really top notch, and it’s free,” Shipley said. “I think it’s really important that sustainability and other kinds of educational programs are not restricted based on financial access.”

Though it doesn’t directly correlate to his work in Maricopa, Shipley has found ways that the two intersect.

“One of my personal passions is sustainability and the environment,” Shipley said. “That’s not really my job at the city of Maricopa, but it’s cool because a lot of the things that we do work on strive toward that goal. … It’s just an extra benefit.”

He gave the example of his work to create a thriving business community in Maricopa, cutting down on commuters and, as a result, air pollution.

Shipley is originally from Baltimore, where he lived with his younger sister and extended family. While working as a barista for Starbucks, he was accepted into Arizona State University through a partnership program the company has. After his first year online, it was clear to Shipley this was what he wanted to do.

“I thought I should do it for real,” Shipley said. “I packed up my car and drove out here. I don’t have any roots here or anything. I moved out here about three years ago, to the Phoenix area.”

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in urban planning and was accepted last August into a master’s program at ASU. However, he deferred in order to focus his field of study more closely in line with his passions currently. He’ll start his latest educational endeavor as a sustainable urban planning major in August 2020.

The business leader award is coming just at the beginning of what Shipley hopes will be a long career in the field he is most passionate about.

In the future, he would like to continue working on city issues with sustainability in mind. With his understanding of the needs of urban planning and his passions as an environmentalist, he believes the two can be achieved simultaneously.

“Sustainability does not have to exist in a vacuum, it can be incorporated into nearly any project a city is working on,” Shipley said. “The environment of respect, hard work and innovation at City Hall is what has enabled me to be successful. What I’m working on in 2020 is developing small business services and tools to create a business climate that helps new and existing entrepreneurs achieve their full potential, so they have the same kind of environment that has empowered me.”

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Pumas ready to make the leap to playing sports in the AIA

MARICOPA — A long journey finally met its culmination in recent weeks as Sequoia Pathway Academy has been accepted into the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

The AIA is the main sanctioning body for high school sports in Arizona, consisting of the state’s district schools, as well as charter and private schools that desire to compete at the highest level and meet the organization’s standards. Sequoia Pathway currently competes in the charter-filled Canyon Athletic Association.

Beginning with the next school year, the Pumas will compete in AIA’s 2A conference, which includes many of AIA’s smaller schools, while not limiting sports like football to number restrictions like they do in the 1A conference. Junior high sports will continue to compete in CAA.

After years of testing the waters to see if they would get in, the school found out on Jan. 23 that they had been preliminarily approved. They still had to go on a ballot of AIA member schools, and that was finalized in the next few days.

“This is going to be a big change but it’s going to be an exciting change,” said Pathway Athletic Director Glen Hale. “It’s an exciting time for us to move up. I would say there’s always questions about how it’s going to be, but I think all around it’s good for our kids.”

Depending on the sport, there are more than 40 teams in 2A. In football, they are grouped with powerhouse Santa Cruz Valley out of Eloy, as well as Antelope Union, Catalina, Santa Rita and Tanque Verde. In all other sports, they are in the Valley section that includes Arete Prep, Chandler Prep, Gilbert Classical, Horizon Honors, Rancho Solano Prep and San Tan Charter.

The Pumas will be rolling out a full slate of teams when they make their AIA debut, competing in cross country, football, volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball, wrestling, golf, softball and spiritline.

Hale said some of the final hurdles the school needed to complete was to work with the city for the possibility of more traffic — he called the city a great partner in the process — while getting accreditation up to standard for AIA. He said all its facilities were deemed adequate for moving up, which including hosting football games at Pacana Park.

Now that they are in, how they will be able to compete remains a big questions. The Pumas have been dominating in some sports like football, girls basketball and softball, but it’s hard to compare that to AIA.

“I don’t think there’s any way to assess it,” Hale said. “I think we’re going in with the attitude of showing up to compete, whatever that looks like. The competition is going to be different than what we’re used to. It’s going to be a chance for us to grow.”

While the school across town is moving all the way up to 6A, which is the highest level of competition in 5A, Pathway simply being in AIA means they could potentially play an all-Maricopa matchup in the coming years. Hale said he’s very open to the idea, as a basketball game with Maricopa High would be an exciting opportunity, but that will all have to worked out in the coming months.

“It’s good four our city,” Hale said. “I think of ‘Friday Night Lights’ when their city shuts down. I see that possibility with basketball. So I’m welcoming and looking forward to that.”

With the higher stature of being an AIA school also comes the hope of being more attractive to kids who want to play sports and potentially getting scholarships, since they will get more exposure compared to CAA schools.

“It’s going to be an opportunity for our kids to showcase that they can compete at a higher level,” Hale said. “I wholeheartedly believe our kids can.”

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Roberts introduces bill to fund SR 347 overpass at Riggs Road

PHOENIX — Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, has introduced legislation that would appropriate funds to construct a highway overpass near the city of Maricopa, linking State Route 347 to Interstate 10.

HB 2802, if enacted, would appropriate $35 million from the state general fund in fiscal year 2021 to the Arizona Department of Transportation to construct an overpass over Riggs Road and SR 347, better linking the route to the I-10 corridor.

“The city of Maricopa has seen steady population increases each year and is projected to top 124,000 residents in the next 20 years — a 150% increase,” Roberts said in a statement. “With such high growth comes extreme congestion and safety concerns for commuters to the Phoenix valley who only have a single main route to access the I-10. Frequent accidents along Riggs Road and State Route 347 impact more than 40,000 daily commuters who are forced to backtrack through Casa Grande to access I-10, sometimes doubling their commute time.”

Roberts said there have been 11 serious injuries and nine fatalities taking place in this area over the past three years.

“It is imperative that we take action to ensure the safety of those using this route into the future,” he said. “These funds will be dedicated to the start of fixing the life thread to the city of Maricopa and the SR 347 widening project.”