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BUMP IN THE ROAD TAX: Last month, when the Tucson City Council decided to ask voters to approve a half-cent transportation sales tax in May, the first thing Mayor Bob Walkup did was to plunge into the crowd at the meeting and seek out Steve Farley, the guru of Citizens for Sensible Transportation, a group pushing for light rail and better transit. "We need you," Walkup told Farley.

Walkup's outreach is no surprise. Given past local opposition to sales taxes, the last thing the City of Tucson wants is an organized campaign against the proposal, which will raise an estimated $40 million a year.

But that's exactly what they have now. Citizens for Sensible Transportation, a group pushing light rail and better transit, formally voted last week to form a political committee to oppose the tax. The organization is dismayed by the city's plan to spend big on three grade-separated intersections and roadwork on the city's perimeter while allotting barely enough to keep the anemic bus service at its current level. Farley says TST also hopes to gather enough signatures to put a different proposal weighted toward transit on the November 2002 ballot, which he hopes will rely on something besides the sales tax. (Of course, that assumes that once the group has turned in its signatures, the City Council will act to put it on the November ballot, instead of sitting on the initiative as it did back in the mid-'80s with the Neighborhood Protection Amendment.)

The group will have a hard time countering the big money that will be spent by both the City of Tucson, which will scatter plenty of tax dollars on a propaganda campaign to pass the measure, and the Growth Lobby, which can be counted on to spend six figures convincing Tucsonans that they need to tax themselves a little more--the proposal would bring the sales tax within the city limits to 8.1 percent--to accommodate the new cars that the miracle of growth continues to bring us.


LOUIE LOUIE, LOUIE LOU-WAH: Vengeance is spliced in three if Luis Gonzales, a former (long ago) state senator, truly saddles up for a run against Raúl Grijalva for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the new District 7.

Gonzales, like SWAT Doc Rich Carmona and former state Sen. Jaime Gutierrez, has scores to settle with Grijalva. Gonzales was pumped to challenge Grijalva 10 years ago when Grijalva was running for the second of his four terms on the Board of Supervisors. Gonzales, who has not won an election since 1984, had been thoroughly pummeled in 1988 by Grijalva colleague Dan Eckstrom in the neighboring supervisorial district.

Eckstrom at least threw down with Gonzales. Grijalva went to court to get an early bell. He had plenty of ammo. Gonzales' crew forged the signatures of voters on nominating petitions. At least one was that of a blind man. And a visiting judge from Cochise County, where judges still know about petitions because they must run for election there, promptly threw Gonzales off the ballot.

Now a big shot with an Indian gaming operation in California, one of the richest Indian gambling dens in the nation, Gonzales could well cut into Grijalva, albeit only in a narrow portion of the district--Pascua Yaqui territory.

The boys in Gonzales' bus, including failed City Council and legislative candidate Jesse Lugo, like Gonzales' chances.

Grijalva, who plans to bail from the Board of Supes before his 53rd birthday on February 19, also faces payback from Carmona, who was unceremoniously dumped from his job as CEO of Kino Community Hospital and the county health system in 1999. Days before the board voted to ax Carmona, Grijalva had assured him that he was with him and would support him through what he said was a temporary bit of turbulence. Ha.

Don't cry for Carmona, though Kino has suffered since his departure. He had millions and then got a nice payoff from the county.

Finally there is Gutierrez, who left the state Senate in 1992 to try to be a Justice of the Peace, a campaign that was aborted by--guess what?--faulty nominating petitions. Four years earlier, the Board of Supervisors seat that was his for the taking was instead seized by a swaggering Grijalva. Gutierrez and his wife, Linda, have not quite forgotten Grijalva's taunts.

Meanwhile, the speculation continues regarding Raúl's replacement on the Board of Supes. Definitely out is state Sen. Ramon Valadez, an Eckstrom student who lives in Grijalva's neighborhood, or any other member of the Legislature, thanks to a provision in the Arizona Constitution. Article 4, part 2, Section 5 of the state Constitution states: "No member of the Legislature, during the term for which he shall have been elected or appointed shall be eligible to hold any other office or be otherwise employed by the state of Arizona or any county or incorporated city or town thereof."

The provision exempts school board members and teachers.

So how did the late Sam Lena, Eckstrom's predecessor, maneuver his appointment to the Board of Supervisors in 1975? Lena was re-elected to the state Senate in 1974 but was never sworn in for his new term in the Senate and instead accepted appointment to the county post.


JOE SOMEBODY: The City Council and its secretive legal advisers made the mistake of trying to fool Joe Burchell of the Arizona Daily Star. Uncle Joe popped 'em for running a secret and, we'll add, illegal, $1 million settlement to Tranquilino Garcia-Coronado. Tucson cop Thomas Schenek, fired for excessive force in July, shot Garcia-Coronado in the stomach last year. A Mexican national, Garcia-Coronado reportedly didn't understand Schenek's English-language commands.

The settlement, the largest from the 15 years of the city's self-insurance fund, might be just and fair. But taxpayers, residents, voters will not know. The council followed an insidious model used by former City Attorney Tom Berning to keep the issue and the settlement secret. The council discussed it, as is its right, in closed session, but never voted on the final amount or final settlement. Instead the council did that chickenshit spin of approving a motion that only was: "Move as discussed in executive session."

It is an irritating and dishonest cloaking of the public's business that was perfected by David Yetman, a Democrat who sat on the Board of Supervisors for 12 years. The council, supes and other boards are allowed to discuss legal matters as well as personnel and property (sale or purchase) issues in closed session, but cannot vote behind closed doors. Final action must be public. The council never took final action publicly.

Yetman's practice was stopped by the Auditor General, which during an annual audit found a previous Board of Supervisors spending millions of dollars of public money with no public votes. The Attorney General has similarly cracked school boards--Scottsdale is one--and other governments for doing these secret deals. Supes now behave and approve disclosed settlements and deals.

There have been dozens of examples of city misbehavior, though, in the last few years. But the Auditor General does not look over the city's books. Private auditors do. And, as the Enron case shows, whoever is paying the auditor is the song that auditor will sing.


BYE, GEORGE: We have reported how Pima County gave a $35,000, no-bid contract to the New Jersey Republican political-consulting firm of Jamestown, Inc., to produce two television spots promoting the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. We also told you that Jamestown did TV and other work for the congressional campaign of Jim Kolbe and that the tracks to this fix would appear to lead to the office of GOP Supervisor Ann Day, whose administrative aide, George Goebel, is a former Kolbe staffer. And that you will probably never see those TV spots you paid for, as there is no plan by Pima County to ever air them.

Gets better--or worse. Goebel is leaving Day's office this month for his new job--with Jamestown. Bon voyage, George, and by the way: Could you make us a dub on your way out so we can find out what you got us to buy?

And the question all you Demos need to ask: Why did the Democrat majority on the board sit quietly while this scam went down?


TOHONO O'ODHAM WELSH: The 24,000 members of the tribe were stiffed in 2001 on the $2,000 pay-out they're supposed to get every other year. Tribal officials claim that a budget deficit, supposedly at $6 million, meant that the government could invoke a provision contained in the 1997 referendum that established the policy, so they couldn't make the payment, totaling $48 million, to the people. Annual revenue from the tribe's three casinos is reportedly $70 million.


INCOMING STORM: Recruiting for Pima Community College's second-year football team created a whole wave of PR puff from the Arizona Daily Star's Brian Pedersen. Football at PCC was sold as a great way to keep local kids playing here. We remember sitting with PCC Board member Richard Fimbres (the new Man of the Year) at Tucson High football games a couple years ago and hearing him preach that line.

But Pedersen's breathless account on December 23 put nearly half of the 13 recruits from outside Pima County, including one from Canada. The headline on that story, "Storm goes out of area, country for new recruits," forced Coach Jeff Scurran and his lieutenants to spin a better and "local" story in the Star on Christmas under the headline: "Storm receives 8 commitments within region."


FIRST CLASS: Perhaps Michigan Congressman John Dingell, who was forced to yank down his pants for an airport security screener last weekend at D.C.'s Reagan International after his artificial hip set off a metal detector, should consider flying Southwest Airlines in the future.

A few days after Christmas, when lines were long at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International, a spy for The Skinny noticed Rep. Ed Pastor among the huddled masses. But not for long. Sky Harbor lackeys approached the congressman and led him to the front of the line so he could catch his flight.

If that's indicative of the treatment members of Congress get, it's little wonder they're willing to enact all sorts of new security precautions with little regard for the impact of their implementation.

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