2021 in Chandler: Hope, joy and tragedy - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

2021 in Chandler: Hope, joy and tragedy

January 2nd, 2022 development
2021 in Chandler: Hope, joy and tragedy

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Chandler saw both tragedy and reasons to celebrate in 2021. Here is a countdown of 12 top events in Chandler in 2021.

12. Field of Honor veterans memorial. Chandler officially opened its new memorial to military service members on Veterans Day. The large space at Veterans Oasis Park uses the U.S. flag as inspiration, with light boxes taking the place of stars and stripes.

Hundreds turned out for the opening and most were impressed. In addition to the light boxes, there are 13 stations that pay tribute to Chandler-area veterans and their stories. Also, the Korean War-era Sabre Dog plane that has been part of the city’s history since 1961 was moved to be an anchor at the park.

11. Voters approve bond, override requests. In November, voters again backed the city’s bond request and both Chandler Unified and Kyrene school districts’ requests for a budget override.

Committees of dozens of citizens recommended five bond proposals totaling about $272 million. Voters approved all five with 66 percent or more voting in favor. The five areas getting the money are parks and recreation, police, fire, transit and facilities.

It was the first time that city officials asked voters for money to maintain their existing buildings. One of the priorities for the fire department is rebuilding Station 2, which is the busiest in the city. The police plan to add a crime lab with their money.

CUSD has been given an override to exceed the state’s spending limit by 15 percent for three decades. This year’s authorization passed with 56 percent support. Kyrene’s override passed by more than 60 percent.

10. Council considers non-discrimination ordinance. Chandler is the largest city in Arizona without a non-discrimination ordinance that protects LGBTQ people. In an early vote, five council members appeared to be against adopting such an ordinance and only two in favor.

Chandler is resisting where other cities have already adopted one. Mesa approved one in March, Scottsdale in April, Glendale in May.

Council members OD Harris and Matt Orlando signaled they were ready to do the same, but their five colleagues opposed. Instead, they wanted to back a proclamation that could not be enforced. For now, the city has commissioned a study, postponing that fight until 2022.

9. Change at City Hall. City Manager Marsha Reed kicked off the new year by announcing she would step down only a week into 2021. By March, she was gone. She had been the top executive in Chandler since 2016 and had worked in public service for nearly four decades.

City Council concluded its five-month search for a replacement by naming Joshua Wright to the position in July. He was the assistant city manager and had been running the city in the interim after Reed’s resignation. He has worked in Chandler since 2017 and served previously as the town manager in Wickenburg for five years.

8. New leadership at CUSD. Camille Casteel had led Chandler Unified School District for so long she even had a high school named in her honor. She was the district’s superintendent for 25 of her 50 years working at CUSD.

The CUSD Governing Board announced this month it has selected Frank Narducci to replace her through at least the 2023-24 school year.

7. Chandler Airport good news, bad news. Tragedy struck when a new father and a young flight instructor were killed when their helicopter collided with a small plane mid-air at the airport. Around that same time, a retired Chandler Fire captain and a flight controller echoed earlier concerns by a pilot about safety issues, including the department’s ability to respond quickly to emergencies.

Fire Chief Tom Dwiggins said his department takes the concerns they’ve raised seriously, but contended that those concerns either do not match the facts or have been addressed.

Meanwhile, the city updated its master plan for the airport’s future development as officials intensified efforts to make it more of an economic engine in the region. The city also named a manager of the airport to help make that dream a reality.

6. CUSD confronts COVID-19. The Chandler Unified School District was one of the first to reopen classrooms, starting classes on Jan. 19. It was a controversial decision as most people were still not vaccinated and many teachers showed up to protest the decision. The Governing Board voted 3-2 to reopen schools. That was the same vote that opposed a mask mandate for CUSD schools when they reopened to start this school year.

Both decisions led to angry remarks at board’s meetings from both sides of the issue.

5. Housing market soars. Chandler’s housing market was in turmoil for buyers, who were frustrated by double-digit price increases while sellers stayed in the catbird seat with multiple offers on properties – many exceeding list price.

Adding to buyers’ frustration was a dearth of inventory of re-sale homes while homebuilders grappled with supply-chain disruptions that made it difficult to keep up with high demand.

4. Intel $20 billion expansion. Semiconductor giant Intel made good in September on its promise to spend $20 billion to expand its Ocotillo campus.

It began work to add two more factories, which they call fabs, to their existing four as one way of addressing the worldwide chip shortage. The expansion will bring thousands more high-paying jobs to the city.

It is the largest private investment in Arizona history. Officials said they would need to hire between 3,000 and 5,000 for construction. The company then plans to hire 3,000 more to join its workforce of 12,000 already working at the plant.

3. Gas explosion injures four. Brothers Andrew and Dillon Ryan were working at their Chandler business, Platinum Printing, at Ray and Kyrene roads with their friend Parker Milldebrandt the morning of Aug. 26 when a massive gas explosion injured them.

Glenn Jordan was working at his shop two stores down from Platinum Printing during the explosion. He was also injured in the blast.

The type of natural gas pipe used near the business was misidentified by Southwest Gas personnel, according to a spokesman for the utility. The misidentification exempted the pipe from remediation efforts made by the company to replace or abandon any pipe sections that were at risk.

To date, more than $250,000 has been raised through GoFundMe to help cover the medical costs for the four men.

2. Chandler officer fatally shoots teen. Soon after the new year began a Chandler police officer shot a 17-year-old boy who was trying to flee. The shooting came months after the summer of protests over police shootings.

Anthony Cano rode his bicycle across both lanes of traffic with no headlight on Jan. 2. Police officer Chase Bebak-Miller turned on his car’s lights to make a traffic stop. Cano fled on foot running toward Gazelle Meadows Park. While running, Cano is seen on body cam footage tossing a gun away from himself. Bebak-Miller fired two shots, the second one when the teen was face down on the ground.

The video footage does not show Cano turning and aiming the gun at the officer. The teen died three weeks after the shooting. The city agreed to pay Cano’s parents $1.1 million.

The shooting led to community protests and calls for Bebak-Miller’s termination and prosecution. The Maricopa County Attorney’s office has not made a determination if they will pursue charges against Bebak-Miller or not.

1. Chandler officer killed by fleeing suspect. Christopher Farrar, an 18-year veteran of the Chandler Police Department, was killed after a suspect chase on April 29. The 50-year-old was the first Chandler police officer killed in the line of duty in seven years.

The suspect, 25-year-old Jonathan Altland of Tolleson, led officers on a chase from Eloy to Gilbert before it ended at a car dealership. He is accused of using a vehicle to injure four officers, including Farrar.

Altland has been charged with murder and prosecutors have announced they intend to seek the death penalty.