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STRIP TEASE: We weren't really surprised to see Jim Click's smiling face at the bottom of Page 1 of the Arizona Daily Star on Thursday. He paid to be there to launch the paper's first front-page advertisement.

We suppose Pulitzer and its local plantation overseer, Jane "Toot" Amari, admired what a swell job that Gannett, owner of USA Today and the Tucson Citizen, has done in swilling revenue from placing ads in what formerly were sacred news holes.

Of course, with what passes for news on Page 1 of the morning rag these days, we guess ads make sense. It's all entertainment and hype anyway--enough to make an old newshound weep. From what we hear, there's plenty of 'em crying over at Park and Irvington, despite what Star apologist Debbie Kornmiller wrote in Sunday's paper.

Kornmiller, quoting her boss Amari's memo to staff, wrote that "as newspapers across the country have begun doing this, advertisers have come to expect and demand these ads. Our ability to do good journalism depends on our success as a business."

Well, yes. We get the part about successful businesses and thank our lucky stars that our employer--Wick Communications, which by the way encourages its daily and weekly papers to print ads on their front pages--does a good enough business to keep our paychecks coming.

But if advertisers have come to "expect and demand" front-page ads, then what else do they "expect and demand?" Editorials and front-page stories promoting ill-considered transportation plans, for example?

When the expectations and demands of your advertisers encroach upon your reason for being--the news, as in newspaper--then you've really got no reason for being. You're just another tout in a world full of touts.

The strip on our cover this week reads "This space is not for sale" for a reason. We doubt we have to explain it to you, but somebody oughta let the Star and Citizen know what it is. They've forgotten.


EARLY SHIFT: The battle for hearts and minds of voters in the May 21 sales-tax proposition is heating up. Just as the city shuts down portions of its propaganda machine following Superior Court Judge Ted Borek's ruling that the ads were illegal, the Let's Go Tucson gang is launching its air war. Expect to see a couple hundred grand thrown at radio and TV stations in the next two weeks as the Growth Lobby does a hard sell to convince Tucsonans to increase the sales tax by a half-cent to raise an estimated $40 million a year for transportation spending.

We're eagerly awaiting the release of the funding reports for the Let's Go Tucson campaign, which won't be out until after our deadline this week. Be sure to pick up our next edition, when we'll go over them in exacting detail.

Meanwhile, early voting continues. City officials say that some 7,132 early ballots had been requested as of Friday, May 3. Of those, about 2,000 had actually been cast. Whether voters are deliberating or just tossing the ballots into the trash remains to be seen.

To request an early ballot by mail, call 791-5784. If you want to vote in person, polling places are open through May 17 at the Wilmot Library, 530 N. Wilmot Road; City Hall, 255 E. Alameda St.; and the City Clerk Support Services office, 800 E. 12th St. Call 791-4627 for hours of operation.


DOUBLE TROUBLE: You know how our elected officials keep telling us that both Prop 100--which establishes the half-cent sales tax--and Prop 400--which lays out the city's cockamamie transportation plan--have to pass on May 21 for the sales tax to take effect?

Well, the small-biz owners who are opposing the prop because of the wacky grade-separated intersections recently pointed out that there's no language in Prop 100 saying the city won't collect the tax if Prop 100 passes and Prop 400 fails. We think that outcome is about as likely as Joe Sweeney winning Jim Kolbe's seat, but if it did come to pass, the city could conceivably start collecting the tax later this year. Transportation officials wouldn't be able to spend it until the voters approved some kind of transportation plan, but they could bank it until they sell some kind of proposal to the voters.

That's why we recommend you vote no on both props.


TUBE BOOBS: Let's see if we have this straight. First, Congress deregulates cable companies when they promise to bring competition into their markets. Then the cable outlets consolidate and jack their rates by, oh, 30 percent or so. They blame it on all the outstanding programming they bring us, like, the Discovery Honeybee Channel and the History Channel's Tank Network ("All Tanks! All the Time!"). Competing cable companies just never manage to get around to offering services.

Then, once real competition does enter the picture, in the form of mini-dish satellite service, the cable companies go scurrying to the state Legislature, whining that they just can't compete--even though they have a commanding share of the market--because they have such a heavy tax burden and satellite service is untaxed.

So then Sen. Ruth Solomon, from midtown Tucson, jumps to the defense of those poor old cable companies and comes up with legislation establishing a new tax on satellite service. To avoid the requirement that new state taxes be approved by a two-thirds majority, she comes up with a wacky loophole that cities and counties will get the tax rather than the state.

We think the House committees considering this stupid bill should tell the cable companies they'll be hearing testimony between 8 a.m. and noon or between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. next Tuesday--and then not show up.


TRANSGENDERED AT THE STAR: Surgeons at the Star/Citizen (you tell them apart) struck again. Star editorial writers remade Shira A. Scheindlin, the federal judge who last week ruled John Ashcroft's Justice Department illegally seized a Jordanian student after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Scheindlin, on the bench in New York and all over the news, will likely be surprised to learn from the Star that she is a man.


AUSTIN CITY LIMITS: Sharon Bronson, the Democratic chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, knows everything. That includes everything about land conservation here and in Texas.

Austin, Bronson said in a recent supe session, "has been lauded by a number of members of the business community here and as I reviewed and I asked staff to prepare for us a comparison of impact analysis, economic analysis that had been done by other communities. I just want to read into the record uh the uh Austin economic analysis. It's three sentences and this is for Travis County, Texas--

"Under the no-action alternative, Travis County may face adverse impacts in employment and property valuations tax revenues because of ESA requirements. In contrast, both alternatives 2 and 3 would lead to increased employment and property tax valuations and revenues. Both alternatives 2 and 3 avoid the adverse consequences of the no-action alternative by creating a sizeable preserve system, which serves as mitigation under a permit that authorizes development without restrictions in the respective permit areas."

What little Ms. Know it All announced confidently as "the extent of the (Austin) analysis," was actually an excerpt from one report synopsis.

Bronson's misstatement made its way to Alan Glen, an Austin lawyer who served as vice chairman for the steering committee for the Balcones Plan, the Travis County conservation plan.

"With all due respect, your remarks were inaccurate," Glen said in an April 16 letter to Bronson.

Even the Morrison Institute, Glen noted, "recently pointed out in one of its reports, a detailed economic analysis regarding the Balcones Plan was prepared by Professor George Gau of the University of Texas at Austin. In addition, the two main government participants in the plan, the City of Austin and Travis County, conducted extensive financial and economic analyses concerning both the financing and the impacts of the Balcones Plan."

Bronson's gross mischaracterization is akin to Legendary Land Speculator Donald R. Diamond denouncing the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan as "dip shit" after reading just three sentences on one paper in the vast library already produced by Sonoran Plan executrix Maeveen Behan.


EL REY DEL FEATHERBED: First he was going to replace his boss when Raúl Grijalva jumped from the sinking ship that is Pima County. Then he was going to leave the comfort of county employment to get Grijalva elected to Congress. But Ruben Reyes is still at the county and pulling down $47,060 a year in some amorphous job in the bureaucratic playhouse known as community reinvestment. And you thought the county was broke.

Grijalva's stunning lack of campaign cash kept Reyes on the taxpayer dole. Ana Ma, a brilliant strategist who prepped with Grijalva and the county before D.C. training, is top dog in the campaign. Glenn Miller, Grijalva's longtime enabler, also is at campaign headquarters.

Reyes, a chatterbox former host of local television's En Vivo, is applying his video skills, according to the County Administrator's office, supposedly doing a documentary on Las Artes, the art-based and county-financed school in South Tucson. He's got no camera, no phone and has missed the last two weeks of county work while somehow managing to fulfill his obligations to get Grijalva elected. He's got plenty of experience for one of his campaign jobs--that of Grijalva driver.


IF A CANDIDATE DROPS OUT OF A RACE AND NO ONE NOTICES, WAS IT EVER A CAMPAIGN? Senate President Randall Gnant announced last week that he was no longer in the governor's race.

Given that he had pissed off a lot of Republican Party faithful by making book with the Democratic caucus to get himself elected senate president last year, Gnant's chances of winning the GOP primary rested mostly on the hope that the other three candidates--former congressman Matt Salmon, Secretary of State Betsey Bayless and State Treasurer Carol Springer--would all be abducted by space aliens during a debate in Kingman.

Gnant's reality check breathes a little new life into Bayless' effort, but she'll still need to find a whole lot of $5 contributions to qualify for the money she'll need to pose a serious challenge to the Salmon campaign.

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