2021: A year of activism, action in South Tempe

The Tempe Union High School District Governing Board, like those in the Kyrene and Tempe Elementary districts, attempted to deal with a range of hot-button issues in the face of growing angst from the public during 2021.  –TUHSD photo

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Wrangler News and wranglernews.com take a look back on a volatile year as South Tempe attempted to shake the crippling effects of the year before brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

1–School Board members caught in middle of angry parents, students on both sides of many issues

Among the tasks of the Kyrene Elementary School District Governing Board was selecting a new superintendent.  –Wrangler News file photo

There always will be disagreement on key issues but it became particularly salty in 2021, when being a school board member in districts that serve South Tempe was not for the weak. Ask those on the boards of Tempe Union High, Kyrene and Tempe Elementary school districts.

COVID-19: Classes on campus, or off? There were both, and each time a change was made, someone howled, claiming their rights were violated.

Masks mandatory, or optional? Emotions were strong both ways. TUHSD requires them, Kyrene makes them optional.

School resource officers on campus, or not? TUHSD did a big backpedal for more discussion in the wake of strong public outcry after initially voting to get rid of them. All six district principals want the and five former TUHSD School Board members wrote a blistering editorial in support of them. In December, two Kyrene board members asked for a study of SROs, which are at all district middle-schools.


2–Neighbors raise din over noise on widened Loop 101

The noise level in Stacey Sell’s Circle G Ranches backyard near Loop 101 is well above the federal maximum of 67 decibels. –Photo courtesy of Stacey Sells

Perhaps the only thing louder than the roar of traffic along recently widened Loop 101/Price Freeway through South Tempe was the uproar from residents living within a half mile of the din. A disconnect between Arizona Department of Transportation noise readings and what hundreds of angry neighbors were saying about noise from an experimental diamond-grinding finish was the hot-button local-news topic of early 2021.

Tempe Mayor Corey Woods took it to the Maricopa Association of Governments Transportation Policy Committee, of which he is a member, on Feb. 17. The committee and ADOT in late February agreed to have an independent third party take noise readings and conduct an independent assessment. One resident within a half-mile of the freeway backyard-reading in the mid-70-decibel range during morning rush hour. ADOT claimed it took numerous readings well within the maximum 67 decibels in federal noise-abatement guidelines.


3—Property owner gets oil-change shop; neighbors get a bistro at McClintock-Warner

Work is under way at Take 5 Oil Change, 8805 S. McClintock Drive at Warner Road, which neighbors fought against unsuccessfully. –Wrangler News photo by Lee Shappell

Residents near McClintock Drive and Warner Road wanted a bistro, not an oil-change shop, on a vacant parcel at the intersection. There will be both.

Initially slapped down by the city for an oil-change shop, land owner Walt Brown filed a notice of claim for $2.1 million followed by a Superior Court lawsuit. When push came to legal shove, the Council backed down and deferred to Brown’s property rights. Work began on the oil shop June 28.

Then, in October, Freely Taproom & Kitchen opened 2,500-square-foot bar and kitchen, and large, east-facing, pet-friendly patio on the opposite side of the intersection. Owner Paul Gillingwater plans to add a bottle shop where bottled and canned beer and wine that can be purchased for takeout. Everybody wins.


4—City Council reverses course, takes action that could bring down wall in equestrian-trail flap

Angry South Tempe equestrian lovers tell Tempe City Council that a homeowner’s block wall encroaches on one of their favorite bridle paths.  –Wrangkler News file photo

Disgruntled neighbors in South Tempe’s Buena Vista Ranchos, Calle de Caballos and Sunburst Farms horse-property communities finally were heard: City Council on Oct. 14 unanimously approved action in a two-year controversy that could bring down a 328-foot-long block wall built by a Shady Lane Estates homeowner that extends 10 feet into an equestrian-path easement near Carver Lane.

Tempe in 2020 had said it is a private-property issue, and therefore the city has no jurisdiction. Those for whom the bridle path defines a way of life they expected when they purchased their homes, persisted and got another audience with the Council.


5—S. Tempe cements reputation as rugby player-development hub, placing 2 on U.S. Olympic team

Marcos de Niza High grad Brett Thompson made the U.S. Olympic team and played in the Games in Tokyo.  –USA Rugby photo

Marcos de Niza High graduate Brett Thompson, 31, who’d been trying for nine years to make the U.S. Olympic rugby team, finally did, as did former Corona del Sol athlete Maceo Brown, 25. Both went to Tokyo in August. South Tempe resident Wilbert “Salty” Thompson, noted rugby coach and 2021 Rugby Hall of Fame inductee, coached them both.


6–Corona del Sol High’s film and TV program takes home 2 regional Emmys

[cdstv] broadcast team won two Rocky Mountain Emmys: Best High School Magazine Program and student Chandler Carlisle for Best High School Multimedia Journalist.  –Wrangler News file photo
Might the next Steven Spielberg be in Corona del Sol High’s film and TV program? On Nov. 6, its [cdstv] broadcast team won two Rocky Mountain Emmys: Best High School Magazine Program and student Chandler Carlisle for Best High School Multimedia Journalist. [cdstv], taught by Benjamin Forbes, also brought home 14 Arizona Interscholastic Press Association awards, including the top honor, General Excellence for Broadcasting.


7—Changing face of City Council could impact South Tempe representation

Tempe City Council members Lauren Kuby and Robin Arredondo-Savage announced that they will not run for re-election.  –Tempe photo

South Tempe resident Jennifer Adams, whose City Council term is up in 2022, announced that she’ll seek re-election. Lauren Kuby and Robin Arredondo-Savage, whose terms also expire, said they will not. Adams is among seven who met the Nov. 8 filing deadline for three seats in the March 8 election, along with Arlene Chin, Casey Clowes, Berdetta Hodge, Gina Kash, Harper Lines and John Skelton.


8–House of Tricks owners say it’s time for dessert – to go

House of Tricks in downtown Tempe is closing in June.  –House of Tricks photo

For 34 years, Bob and Robin Trick made their beloved downtown restaurant, House of Tricks, an award-winning favorite among South Tempe diners. Robin, looking for more time for art, and Bob, eager for more fly fishing near their Payson retirement home, announced in December they’ve sold the building and will close the iconic restaurant in June.


9– Pollack Tempe Cinemas reopen after million-dollar makeover during 20-month COVID hiatus

Michael Pollack reopened his discount movie theaters in South Tempe after a 20-month break during COVID-19, during which he put $1 million into upgrades. –Wrangler News photo by Andrew Lwowski

After 20 months in shutdown due to COVID-19, Michael Pollack’s Tempe Cinemas returned Dec. 10, still charging $3.50 for every show. A million-dollar renovation during the hiatus included upgrades to the snack bar, lobby and all six theaters, where customers get larger reclining, leather-like seats.


10–After slow start, Corona football defends league title but misses playoffs; coach retires

Corona del Sol football coach Jon Becktold, talking to quarterback Connor Acklerley, announced that he will step down after a successful defense of the Aztecs’ league title. –Wrangler News photo by Andrew Lwowski

Expectations never were higher for a Corona del Sol football season with varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams coming off undefeated 2020 seasons. Then the Aztecs lost their first four games, but won five of their final six, repeating as region champs. Coach Jon Becktold stepped down on Dec. 17.



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