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Under the Collar

Haunted by the disgraceful behavior of child-molesting priests and an enabling hierarchy, the Tucson Diocese of the Catholic Church declared bankruptcy last week.

The forgive-us-our-debts strategy was in response to continuing legal action against the church by abuse victims and their relentless attorney, Lynne Cadigan.

"The Church is not broke," Bishop Gerald Kicanas assured parishioners this week. "The mission of our Church continues."

The church is asking the court to approve a 90-day deadline for victims of abuse to step forward with any claims. Abusers, meanwhile, face an eternity in the flaming pits of hell, unless they sincerely repent before their deaths.

The bankruptcy process will reveal what's going on with all that collection-plate cheddar when the church's books are opened to public scrutiny for the first time. Still left to be determined: Are individual parishes fair game as Diocese assets?

Didja catch church spokesman Fred Allison doing a little dance of denial with Arizona Daily Star reporter Stephanie Innes, who has done a magnificent job of covering this story? Last week, when Innes asked Allison about Cadigan's prediction that bankruptcy proceedings were imminent, Allison told her that his "reaction is flabbergastation that Lynne is in the seer and soothsayer business." Hours after Star readers saw Allison's comments, church officials formally entered bankruptcy court, making Cadigan look like a regular ol' Ezekiel. Congrats to Fred for making the church look just a little more dishonest. (And may we confess that we're astonishterized by his use of the word "flabbergastation"?)


Road Show

The Range had doubts it could be done--but on Monday, Sept. 27, after years of debate and study, the Tucson City Council finally approved an impact fee, with just Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar voting against the plan.

Under the new proposal, set to begin next July with full implementation in January 2006, homebuilders will pay $2 per square foot for road improvements and 80 cents per square foot for parks, taking the fee on the median-sized house to more than $4,600.

The plan also reduces the preposterous 10-year phase-in for commercial and industrial impact fees that staff had proposed. Under the revised schedule, commercial and industrial developers will pay 50 percent of the fee beginning in 18 months and the full tab in three years.


West Wing Wrestling

GOP operatives mocked John Kerry's Arizona campaign after the Democrat's team announced they were pulling their advertising from Arizona, even as saucy spouse Teresa Heinz Kerry was speaking at the posh Phoenix Biltmore.

After the Phoenix Business Journal reported that Teresa's appearance netted a million bucks, state GOP chair Bob Fannin busted on the Arizona Democratic Party, saying it "has become little more than an ATM for the national Democrats. Democrats have realized that Napolitano's election and Jim Pederson's soft money are not enough to save the Kerry campaign in Arizona."

Teresa's Biltmore appearance also landed her on the Drudge Report after she told reporters she wouldn't be surprised if Osama was nabbed before the election. Frankly, neither would we.

Democrats responded to GOP's smackdown by hosting a disorganized string of open houses at campaign offices across the state. The Range got a last-minute invite but already had better plans.

Evidence Arizona is still in play: Pollster John Zogby added Arizona to list of battleground states he's monitoring. On his Web site, Zogby also recently laid out "plausible" scenarios that could leave the election tied, throwing it into the House of Representatives. And you thought hanging chads were wacky!

Evidence that Republicans have Arizona locked up: Bush is increasingly favored to win Arizona at tradesports.com, the online futures market that allows you to wager on the presidential race. In July, a Bush victory would have paid you $124 for every $100 invested in Bush; that number has dropped to $106. A Kerry victory in July would have returned $171 on every $100 invested; that's climbed to $189, as of Tuesday's exchange rate.

Final note: We'd like to thank reader Bob Kamman for turning us on to the electoral college map at www.electoral-vote.com/, which we monitor every single day.


Back in Black

The state's finances continue to exceed expectations. Arizona bean-counters reported last week that revenues were running almost $53 million ahead of the forecast in the first two months of the new fiscal year, with August revenues coming in more than $44 million more than the original estimate. GOP lawmakers reacted by planning new ways to give tax breaks to utilities, mines and developers.

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