Elections, Cubs Park, new test standards among issues of note for Mesa in 2014 - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Elections, Cubs Park, new test standards among issues of note for Mesa in 2014

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Posted: Sunday, January 5, 2014 3:00 pm | Updated: 10:41 am, Mon Jan 6, 2014.

Although the proverbial book concerning 2013 is closed, officials in Mesa say the results of the previous 12 months and several before those will have a marked effect on the lives of city residents over the course of 2014.

One of the 2013 moves that will come into play in 2014 is Dina Higgins resignation from her position as District 5 councilmember. After Higgins’ resignation in July, the rest of the council tabbed David Luna to serve the remainder of her term in office, which is up for election this November. 

District 6 will receive a new councilmember after the November election, as the person who currently holds the seat, Scott Somers, will complete his second term in January 2015 and is unable to run again. A third seat belonging to District 4 Councilmember Chris Glover is also up for election this year.

Also up in the air is the status of Mayor Scott Smith, who has been mentioned as a candidate for the 2014 gubernatorial race. Smith said at a recent press conference he will make his official decision after the holiday season ends.

Well before the election is the opening of the new spring training home for the Chicago Cubs, as well as the kickoff of a brand new park in the neighborhood. Dubbed Cubs Park, the spring training facility features batting cages, a large fitness area, multiple fields for practice, and the stadium that can fit approximately 15,000 people and will host spring training games and even see some fall league action.

The funds to pay for the complex came from a bond passed by Mesa voters in 2010, with some of those funds going to renovate nearby Riverview Park that has a climbing tower, boulder wall and many other amenities.

The Cubs will play their first game at their new winter home at the end of February; before Cactus League play kicks off, people can check out the result of both projects during an official event from 2 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 25.

“This has been five years in the making; the Cubs first told me they were moving to Naples, Fla., five years ago,” said Mayor Smith.

City Manager Chris Brady also cited the Cubs project as a major project for 2014, and added the Riverview area is one of several other parks projects that will either be under design or under construction this year.

Another carryover from last year that should play a large role in Mesa’s fortunes in 2014 involves the steps taken to procure more businesses in the city. The big move came in November with Apple’s decision to build a plant in the city’s Gateway region, but Brady said the city has spent years putting attractions in place to get businesses to move into Mesa.

“While it’s been a good run, we think this is just the beginning, and we want to build on that,” Brady said.

Students enrolled at Mesa Public Schools can expect a few changes in the coming months as well, starting with the implementation of new testing standards to measure students on Common Core standards. Many schools have transitioned toward that direction in recent years, but district Superintendent Michael Cowan said 2014 is the year the state eliminates the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, or AIMS, test and replaces it with a measurement that focuses on Common Core.

According to the Arizona Department of Education website, the state will implement the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam, which is expected to be more difficult, particularly in mathematics, than AIMS. Cowan, however, doesn’t think the new test will pose a large problem for the Mesa students.

“Our students are performing well and will meet these standards,” he said.

Another issue students enrolled in the district can expect is the incorporation of funding from a voter-approved bond in 2012 to increase the technological presence in every classroom. Examples Cowan cited include providing wireless access into every school and all the classrooms.

“The purpose of that is to help our students prepare for a technological world,” he said.

Another carryover from 2013 and a couple of years before that are potential gains that could come from the housing market. Maracay Homes CEO Andy Warren said the improvement the market has made since the crash in the 2000s should continue into 2014 at a clip closer to normal than it was prior to the fall of the market.

“I think that we are now finally reemerging into an era of a natural, healthy housing market,” Warren said. “If you look over the last 10 years, it really hasn’t been a healthy market.”

For Mesa, Warren said it should mean continued gains in the Gateway region located near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, with a heavy emphasis on the Eastmark development that opened in mid-2013.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or emungenast@evtrib.com.

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