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Grand Ambition

Environmental groups are urging President Barack Obama to expand Grand Canyon protections

With a leading climate-change denier coming in to head up the Environmental Protection Agency and many congressional Republicans pushing the idea of turning federal lands over to state control, environmentalists are looking at pretty rough days ahead.

So there's a new sense of urgency to the proposal to expand environmental protections around the Grand Canyon.

Congressman Raul Grijalva introduced the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act last year, but—like just about everything except for the frequent votes to repeal Obamacare—it didn't go anywhere in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The legislation would have expanded protection to 1.7 million acres around the Grand Canyon and prevented the filing of new uranium mining claims, which are currently on hold thanks to a 20-year ban enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Given that the legislative route stalled, Grijalva is now among those urging Obama to use the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish a new national monument around the canyon to permanently ban future uranium mining claims and provide other protections while still allowing hunting, fishing and other recreation in the area.

Grijalva told The Skinny that "uranium mining shouldn't occur around the rim. A monument designation would make that ban permanent and provide protection for the Grand Canyon for time immemorial. There's huge public support—close to 700,000 online petitions in support."

But Grijalva is concerned that the Obama administration is moving too slowly on making the designation.

"I'm a little worried because Interior Secretary (Sally) Jewel has not moved to set a date for a hearing up in the Flagstaff area that has to happen as part of the protocol," Grijalva said. "We continue to push her to do that. I worry that the clock will get run out on us. We need that hearing. It cannot wait any longer. It needs to happen in early December."

Learn more about the monument plan at greatergrandcanyon.org.

Run, Someone, Run!

Who wants to be on the Tucson City Council?

An open seat on the Tucson City Council will often draw a number of candidates, but so far, Democrat Karin Uhlich's decision to retire from the north-central Ward 3 seat hasn't drawn a big crowd in next year's election.

There's still plenty of time for would-be council members to come forward, but only three candidates have indicated official interest in taking over Uhlich's job: Democrats Morgan Abraham and Felicia Chew and Libertarian Julian Mazza.

Abraham, who was expected to file his paperwork this week, ran the opposition campaign to Prop 123 earlier this year. The proposition, which resolved a long-running education-funding lawsuit by school districts against the state over digging into the state land trust, barely passed last May despite having support from Gov. Doug Ducey, the business community and education leaders across the state.

"I own a business in this ward," said Abraham, 25. "I'm in real estate and I deal with the people of the ward every day. Our ward is the poorest one in Tucson and we kind of got hit hardest by the recession and we still haven't bounced back. On a daily basis, I see people that are struggling to get by and want better. I know what we need to do to get us out of this funk and move Tucson forward."

Chew is a teacher at Mansfeld Magnet Middle School and a former member of the Citizens Police Advisory Review Board.

Former Ward 3 staffer Matt Kopec, who lost his August primary race for election to the Arizona House of Representatives after being appointed to a District 9 seat earlier this year, told The Skinny he won't be running for the City Council this year.

Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik and Ward 5 Councilman Richard Fimbres are also up for reelection next year. Neither has drawn an opponent as of yet, according to the list at the Tucson City Clerk's Office.

Kozachik, as you can see from his op-ed on Page 9, is vowing to run his campaign on less than $1,000 in an effort to demonstrate that it's possible to run a campaign that doesn't rely on campaign contributions. Of course, that's a whole lot easier with two terms of incumbency under your belt.

Foreign Exchange

Learn a little bit about what's happening in Israel

If you're interested in learning more about what's happening in Israel, the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies is hosting the second annual Modern Israel Conference next week.

The conference, titled "Balancing Unity & Diversity: Israel's Changing Society & Politics," will feature more than a half-dozen talks from experts on Israel's past and future.

The conference will be at the UA Memorial Student Union on Sunday, Dec. 4 and Monday, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a final talk and dinner at 7 p.m. at the Tucson Marriott University Park. Anita Shapira, an author and senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and the founder of the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israeli Studies at Tel Aviv University, will discuss "Israel 2016: Vision and Reality."

Registration for the conference is $100 per person, $150 for two admissions and $30 for students. The conference dinner is $50 per person. For registration and more information, please go to judaic.arizona.edu/IsraelConference2016 or contact John Winchester at 626-5759.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM. You can also hear the show at zonapolitics.com.

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