The two centers, at Tucson Medical Center and University Medical Center, have been running a combined deficit of about $5 million. They've gone hat-in-hand to federal, local and state government, only to be told the money isn't available. Guess it's all being spent on alt-fuel cars.
So TMC decided it would just shut down its trauma center at the end of the year. That shifted the entire burden over to UMC, which has budget problems of its own (and given a projected $1.6 billion state deficit over the next 18 months, those problems are likely to worsen). UMC officials, fearing that losses will pile up as they are forced to handle all trauma cases, are now saying they'll close their unit at the end of the year, which will leave our major metro area with zero trauma centers.
Hey, we hate wasting tax dollars as much as--if not more than--the next guy. But finding $5 million between the city, county and state shouldn't be that tough, given the stakes. Our elected officials need to quit passing the buck back and forth and do something about this. Is it possible to expand the Rio Nuevo tax district to include UMC? It's a tough choice, but we'd rather see a competent ER staff than a Sonoran Sea Aquarium.
Don't think it's worth the expense to keep at least one trauma center running round-the-clock? Think about this: You're a whole lot more likely to end up in a massive car accident than be killed by a terrorist (this week, anyway). If some dumb-ass teenager plows into your family, don't you want a competent team waiting in the ER?
POLICE REVIEW: Earlier this week, the Arizona Daily Star ran a news story headlined "Miranda gets high marks for tough year." Reporter M. Scot Skinner's assessment of the chief is one of the more pathetic examples of how low journalistic standards have slipped at the Star.
Ignoring the opinions of many who consider Tucson Police Department Chief Richard Miranda a hopeless bozo way over his head in a cop shop running amok under its own power, Skinner focused primarily on talking to Miranda himself, along with one quote from Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp and another from one other Miranda booster. Those familiar with the OVPD (as Skinner should be by now) know it has been simply a branch office of the TPD, where Sharp served for years as a colleague of Miranda, hardly making him an objective observer.
This is nothing but a lazy puff piece. A real newspaper would have found someone else to interview besides the subject and even a few folks out of the many who think Chief Miranda is less than adequate.
Skinner, to put it mildly, harbors no great love for either puff pieces or TPD. So where does the journalistic ineptitude lie? Most likely on the city desk, which allowed this shallow piece of brown-nosing to appear.
MDA THREAT-ATHON: Jerry Lewis and his pals are at it again. This time, they're threatening to flee the foothills and abandon Tucson a short 11 years after a craven Pima County Board of Supervisors pledged $1.4 million in taxpayers' money to lure the Muscular Dystrophy Association headquarters.
This story, deliberately leaked to cause panic and spur more MDA welfare, comes about two years after MDA boss Robert Ross and Jerry himself lost a battle to put up a traffic light where they damn well pleased in front of the MDA palace. It was one time that Mike "Flakey Waffleman" Boyd didn't flop in his two terms as a Republican supervisor for the Catalina Foothills.
Boyd's predecessor, Republican Greg Lunn, professed his support for the $1.4 million giveaway in the summer of 1990, but wisely missed the meeting to visit his ailing father in Georgia. Two supervisors remain from that board: Democrats Dan Eckstrom and Raúl Grijalva. They joined Republican Reg Morrison and then-Democrat Ed Moore for a 4-0 slam dunk.
Ron Caviglia, the political operative shared by Grijalva and Moore, made a tidy profit, serving as a broker of sorts on the deal that essentially diverted gas taxes to pay for the long unpaid debt rung up by La Paloma developer David Mehl for the Sunrise Drive improvement. Caviglia was then serving on an influential county committee that advised supervisors on how to spend bond money, which became important because supervisors voted to cover the missing gas tax money with interest earned on bonds voters approved in 1986 for transportation improvements. Sound familiar?
So hastily was this scheme hatched that supervisors were meeting illegally in the lounge-cloakroom behind their dais well after the public session was to begin. A reporter from the Daily Star, back when the Star cared about illegal meetings, broke it up when he simply walked into the back room. Eckstrom flew out one door, Grijalva dived into a bathroom and Moore went out a back door, leaving the gentle-soul Morrison to sit and ask: "What do you want?"
And to our friend Bill Greenberg, who once chewed us out for a Weekly account of that sleazy deal, let us remind you that Lunn may have voiced support. He also said he supported another Caviglia-brokered deal for the county bailout of the Lawyers Title building--now the county-city Public Works mausoleum--for $21 million. But he grew so antsy from the questions that Eckstrom raised that he flipped, voted no and left Grijalva to save Caviglia's bacon on a slim 3-2 vote.
For all the county's trouble, now MDA pouts and says it will look to Los Angeles and other cities. On one point they are right: Air service in and out of Tucson stinks. It always has and it always will until that clique on the Tucson Airport Authority board that runs it is overhauled.
We suggest MDA try Las Vegas. That's where Caviglia went to celebrate immediately after winning on the sure bet that supervisors would throw $1.4 million at MDA in June 1990.
ORO UH-OH: Watching Oro Valley politics is kind of like trying to play the old shell game after dropping acid and drinking a case of wine. We readily admit we can't follow all the twists and turns the latest fight over Honey Bee Canyon and the nearby open space has taken, but we can tell you this much: The Oro Valley Town Council is once again in bed with Vistoso Partners.
Near as we can figure, the council recently started to lay the groundwork for a deal that would allow Vistoso to build about 90 luxury homes in a 60-acre area now set aside as open space. Supposedly, in return, the town would be able to acquire some sensitive property near Honey Bee Canyon.
Oro Valley's cacti crowd gathered enough signatures to take the proposed deal to the voters, leading the town council to vote to reconsider the whole shebang. Oro Valley Town Attorney Dan Dudley said that meant the initiative was kaput, but the political committee Citizens for Open Government took legal action that left the situation on hold.
Now the town council is scheduled to take up the issue once again at its next meeting, on Wednesday, October 17. Expect plenty of fireworks at that get-together.
The Honey Bee Canyon crowd won't be the only ones there to chew the council's ass. The residents of tony La Reserve are also pissed off over a proposed plan to rezone some property to allow dense commercial development along Oracle Road, including a five-story Holiday Inn. The developers keep trying to convince the citizens that it all fits in the idea of "new urbanism." We think it's more like "same old crap."
If you want to help out Citizens for Open Government, consider buying a stylish Save Honey Bee Canyon T-shirt, available in multiple sizes for only $15. (Two for $25!) Proceeds will go to defray the group's mounting legal bills. To make a contribution or order a T-shirt, write to Citizens for Open Government at P.O. Box 36372, Tucson, AZ 85740.
SEE HOW THEY RUN: One of the biggest indicators that two or three Pima County supervisors are not long for the board flashed last week on a 4-1 vote to change the procurement code to allow five-year contracts. It was an odd vote, given that legal advisers to the board from County Attorney Barbara LaWall's office have previously and consistently said state law forbids current boards from binding future boards with contracts. Terms, not staggered, are four years.
Only Republican Ray Carroll objected. He was ridiculed for asking questions and seeking a separate vote on this matter, which was neatly buried under the rubble of the board's weekly consent agenda.
More remarkable was counsel Katharina Richter, trained by S.L. Schorr, who told Sugar Ray to forget about getting written responses to his questions. They'd be no different, said Frau Richter, from the answers she gave at the dais.
The vote tells us that Democratic Chairman Raúl Grijalva may be getting closer to leaving office to run for Congress. It also signals that Democrat Dan Eckstrom really is tired after 14 years. Who's next? Is Democrat Sharon Bronson considering resignation?
This is a way for them to lock in long-term contracts for their favorite lawyers, engineers, road builders, lobbyists and consultants.
MEN BITE DOG: And choke it. And beat it on the head. It's hard to buy the lame excuses from the Pima County Sheriff's Department for why two severely dimwitted deputies tried to inhumanely kill a dog that was injured after getting struck by a car. Only the citizens who gathered saved this pooch.
Deputies called a supervisor for advice and were told to kill the dog. They hit it on the head then tried asphyxiation. The dog persevered. Sheriff's brass, which is protecting these dopey deputies by concealing the names of the guilty, then tried to say they couldn't reach county Animal Control. Could be. That's a goofy outfit, which is why the sheriff needs to use the many available animal rescue agencies and individuals throughout Pima County.
The final insult: The department's cynical spin, posing its own media hound dog Kathleen Brennan, who got two splashes in the dailies in a single week, as adopting the dog her colleagues tried to kill.
SECRETARIAL POOL: As the GOP gubernatorial race becomes overcrowded--let's see, the potential field includes former congressman Matt Salmon, state Treasurer Carol Springer, Arizona Secretary of State Betsey Bayless, state Sen. Randall Gnant and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio--some Republicans are now looking at running for secretary of state.
The secretary of state job isn't as high-profile--basically, the office tracks state records--but it's an excellent way to be a heartbeat away from the governor's seat. We hear the GOP candidates include Sharon Collins, Gov. Jane Dee Hull's bright aide in Southern Arizona; state Sen. Brenda Burns, who was deposed from her position as Senate President in a bloodless coup last year when a handful of moderate Republicans made book with Democrats in an evenly split Senate; former lawmaker and current Maricopa County Supervisor Jan Brewer; and maybe even state Sen. Scott Bungaard, a young weasel with big political ambitions. Bungaard distinguished himself last year with a steady stream of criticism of Sen. John McCain's presidential run. We're sure McCain will be delighted to find a way to pay him back if he makes a statewide run.
A VISIONARY MAN: Condolences to family, friends and patients of the wonderful Frank Weiss, the downtown optometrist who fitted thousands of Tucsonans with the right glasses--even the very tricky ones--for a half century. Dr. Weiss died last week at 81. He was a navigator for the Army Air Corps during World War II, was humble and an artist and craftsman. A real mensch, he will be greatly missed.