The year 2009 was a tough one. The economy went down the drain, foreclosures jumped, the city and state budgets required trimming with a chain saw and a bank robbery spree hit the area.
While the Legislature still struggles to deal with a massive $2 billion shortfall for this year, the Phoenix City Council began making cuts early in 2009 to keep the books balanced in an effort to keep the cuts small.
But caught in the municipal budget balancing act was the ALEX neighborhood circulator, which had its service cut by $360,000. At the same time, fees for the after-school program rose and people who use the Pecos Park Community Center were required to buy cards to use the recreation facilities.
Despite efforts to keep the city budget in balance, the council is now looking at a new round of cuts that could top out at $100 million.
Déjà vu all over again
Resigning in January, then Councilman Greg Stanton took a position with the Attorney General’s Office. Replacing Stanton was Sal DiCiccio, who 10 years ago resigned to run for Congress and who was replaced by Stanton.
DiCiccio beat out a large number of applicants to fill the City Council seat in January, partly because he was familiar with the district. But that familiarity didn’t help when in the September council election DiCiccio faced three challengers and failed to get 50 percent, plus one of the votes. In November he easily defeated the second top vote-getter, Dana Marie Kennedy, but the campaign battle left its mark on DiCiccio, especially allegations that land he has leased on the Gila River Indian Community could become valuable if the South Mountain Loop 202 goes through.
Huppenthal not guilty
In August Sen. John Huppenthal (R-Chandler) finally had his day in court, facing a judge in the San Marcos Justice Court over misdemeanor charges he pulled down a Democratic campaign sign last year on Election Day and yanked it from an elderly Democratic activist, who tried to stop him. Huppenthal said he did take the sign, but with permission, and a judge agreed, finding him innocent of the two charges. The verdict helped clear the way for Huppenthal, who plans to run to be Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Bank robbery spree
For some reason Ahwatukee Foothills banks looked particularly inviting for robbers who struck eight times between Jan. 1 and July 1. Once in January, at the Desert Schools Federal Credit Union at Ray Road and 50th Street, a shot was fired as a robber took a bag of money from a guard filling the ATM machine around noon. In that instance, and all the others, no one was injured, but the wave did make tellers nervous and caused bank patrons to take a second look at fellow customers. The increase in bank robberies mirrored a Valleywide jump, which prompted the FBI and law enforcement agencies to form a Bank Robbery Task Force ,which has made several arrests of serial robbers.
New chamber chief
After several years of less than stellar leadership, the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce hit a home run when the governing board selected Terri Kimble as the new president and chief executive officer. The chamber veteran from Michigan took over the reins in April at a critical time for local businesses feeling the pinch of the economic recession.
Courts were busy
The courts were full of Ahwatukee Foothills residents in 2009.
Toping the list were Grace Pianka and Joseph Woodard.
Pianka was found guilty of the second-degree murder of her husband, Adam Kostewicz, and sentenced to 13 years in prison in April. The story attracted NBC’s Dateline, which did a show on the murder, highlighting Kostewicz’s alleged infidelity – how the “other woman,” Virginia McIntyre, refused to testify for prosecutors and left town even though she found the body – and how the first trial ended in a hung jury.
Joseph Woodard, 21, was sentenced to life in prison in September for the first-degree murder of Bradley Eaton in 2006 during a botched home invasion in Chandler. Police found the murder weapon buried in a wash near his parent’s Ahwatukee Foothills home and Woodard spoke several times to a felon in jail who turned the information over to police, all of which helped convict him.
But that’s not the end of Woodard’s problems. While in jail awaiting trial he allegedly tried to have two potential witnesses murdered so the former Mountain Pointe High School student faces yet another trial.
Jeffrey Martinson’s case lingers on, the second oldest first-degree murder case in the Maricopa County Superior Court system. Martinson is charged with the first-degree murder of his infant son in 2004. His trial was days from beginning when his defense team insisted that they could not mount any type of defense since their work load had not allowed them to focus on the case. They were replaced by a new defense team, but the case isn’t expected to go to trial before July 2011.