The Skinny 

DOCTOR'S RECOMMENDATION: The Napolitano gubernatorial campaign announced this week that, despite earlier press reports to the contrary, Mike "Dr. Doofus" Newcomb, the 37-year-old physician who captured a staggering 6 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, would be endorsing Janet. We imagine she's sleeping easier now!

Likely to be a bigger relief are the matching funds Napolitano will receive through the state's Clean Election program as Republican Matt Salmon starts raising money for the general campaign. Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush is expected to drop into Phoenix for a fundraiser next month that could rake in a million bucks. Napolitano, who starts off with $614,930 for the general election, gets additional matching funds after Salmon crosses that threshold. She's eligible for up to $1,844,790, so the Bush fundraiser should pay off for her as well.

Independent Dick Mahoney is likewise eligible for the public funds. This week, he's been in Tucson, campaigning on the streets and in newsrooms. He's now making an issue of Salmon's lobbying for Qwest, linking the GOP candidate to one of the most hated companies in Arizona. Oddly enough, even as his radio ads called Matt a tool of special interests, Mahoney himself explained during a radio interview that he certainly didn't intend to impugn Salmon's integrity. Well, what were you doing, Dick? It's hard to see any other motive behind that spot.

SURE THING: The Tucson Chamber of Commerce, primping its political muscle, sent out an e-mail missive in the wake of this month's primary election, boasting that it went a perfect 10-for-10 in legislative races, with endorsed candidates getting the nod from voters.

The chamber's boast came even though county officials took several days to declare Steve Huffman and Pete Hershberger winners in a tight race against Carol Somers in the Republican primary for the two District 26 House seats. Chamber officials explained they could claim a win there because, in a particularly gutless decision, they had endorsed all three of the candidates. And taking credit in races where there was no opposition--such as Democratic candidate Gabrielle Giffords' victory in District 28--is really stretching things, guys.

PIMA PUMPKIN PATCH: Just in time for Halloween, the Pima County Board of Supervisors has plunked down $900,000 to buy 500 acres of the Buckelew Ranch near Three Points.

The ranch has long been home to a 40-acre pumpkin patch popularized by hayrides and free-pickin's at Halloween. The Buckelews are fine folks who wanted permission to change the Comprehensive Land Use Plan to build 846 homes, an 18-hole golf course and some commercial development. Supervisors, naturally, turned them down and now agreed to pay $1,800 per acre to preserve the ranch as open space.

For all those who are going to howl about erosion of the tax base, the 500 acres in question generated $120.72 in property taxes. With 846 homes valued at, say, $80,000 apiece, the property taxes to the county would have been around $372,240. But just think of the traffic when Three Points encroached on Sells.

Supes also spent more than $500,000 to preserve the square-mile Lord's Ranch within the Ironwood National Park.

Residents of Barrio Hollywood didn't fare as well. Their neighborhood has stunk since the weekend before the Sept. 10 primary election because of a huge break in a huge sewer line that carries crap from as far as Rita Ranch to the over-capacity county sewage plants at Roger and Ina roads.

Supes are putting up some families in motels and making attempts to mitigate losses to both homeowners and businesses. It's too little too late. Supervisor Richard Elias, the anointed Democrat who inherited the area from his mentor Raúl Grijalva, wisely noted that "we failed" Barrio Hollywood. We expect the incident will force Prince Richard to do more than simply chant the Grijalva "more infrastructure for existing, inner-city neighborhoods" mantra that was heard in Hollywood for 14 years.

With steady increases in customer and hook-up fees plus the $105 million in bonds voters approved for sewer system upgrades in 1997, the county has had more than enough money to fix aging lines like the one that snapped the first week of September.

A final flush: Elias managed to tie Democratic challenger Frank Felix 170-170 in the Barrio Hollywood precinct.

RUN DOWN: The editorial writers at our favorite morning daily must have missed a dose of the calming meds last weekend. Saturday's editorial page carried a ringing condemnation of "Sonora," the twisted mass of metal in front of the library. As the Star put it, "We have become accustomed to it as one becomes numbly resigned to a desecration."

We don't get too worked up over "Sonora," but we're familiar with the numb feeling; we get it whenever we browse a paper that has been gutted by out-of-town owners.

The same edition carried a blast at city staffers who included matching funds for transportation projects in the ill-conceived transportation sales tax proposal wisely rejected by two out of three voters. The Star sniffed that city planners had counted their chickens before they hatched.

The city had little choice in the matter. The transportation department has never had much hope of funding those projects without a new revenue source. Maybe that's something the Star scribes should have noted way back when they were supporting the '97 county transportation bond proposal.

Now city officials want the county to fork over bond dollars for those projects, even though the city doesn't have matching funds, suggesting that maybe the city will just do part of the projects, which include widening Grant Road and Broadway. Given that the overall cost of the projects in the bond package has roughly doubled from the original $350 million, it appears the county's share may not exist either. We sure don't see county officials cutting a check anytime soon.

DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE: The more vociferous apologists for the Board of Supervisors Democratic majority were rippin' and roarin' over a recent Weekly story about Pima County's sky-high property taxes and their impact on a fixed-income senior citizen in Barrio Centro.

Sharon Bronson, the Democratic chairman of the board, and her Democratic colleagues Dan Eckstrom, Richard Elias and (former supe and current Congressional candidate) Raúl Grijalva pummeled Aliva Gutierrez with a 54 percent increase in property taxes in the last six years.

Since 1988, the year Eckstrom and Grijalva first won election, county taxes on the Gutierrez home have rocketed 92 percent via high tax rates and steady increases in the assessed value of her property.

Those supes, their defenders snorted in the lobby of County Administration, pay taxes too!

You bet.

Bet, also, that they didn't share the pain. Here's why.

Grijalva, for example, saw the county taxes on his home in the 400 block of West Ohio Street rise 33 percent from 1988 to 2002, the period he served on the Board of Supervisors. Grijalva benefited from a completely justified program he pushed in 1992 and 1993 to lower the values of homes and other real estate in southside neighborhoods distressed by trichloroethylene contamination from Hughes Aircraft. Despite sizable increases in tax rates, Grijalva's tax bill in 1993 dropped 18 percent from the 1988 level.

County taxes on a second Grijalva house in the 3400 block of South Ninth Avenue rose 44 percent in the last 14 years--less than half the increase suffered by Gutierrez.

On his South Eighth Avenue home in South Tucson, Eckstrom's county property taxes rose a modest 21 percent since 1988.

The kicker? County taxpayers handed Grijalva and Eckstrom 50 percent more in salary, set by the state Legislature and now at $54,600, since 1988.

Bronson, who lives near Ajo Highway and Kinney Road, was elected in 1996 when her house and five acres were on the tax rolls for just $55,072. County taxes were just $281. They are $517 now, an increase of 84 percent. Shed no tears. Bronson's pay has increased 30 percent.

Like Bronson, Elias--first appointed and then elected to serve the remaining two-and-a-half years of Grijalva's term--should be able to recognize the effect of high taxes.

He and his wife paid $98,000 for their Blenman-Elm Neighborhood home on East Drachman Street in December 1999. The value for tax purposes has risen 32 percent from $74,750 in 1999 to $98,922 this year. His tax bill has increased 31 percent. Those are greater increases than the 21 percent and 19 percent increases Alvina Gutierrez has been hit with since 1999.

Republican supervisors Ray Carroll and Ann Day tried and failed to offer more substantial cuts in county taxes this year. Sugar Ray's county property taxes have risen more than 46 percent on the Tucson Country Club home he and his wife bought for $246,000 in 1996, the year before the former commercial real estate agent was appointed to the Board of Supervisors when Republican John Even died. That's still less than the 52 percent increase in county taxes Gutierrez has faced paid for the same period.

Day has seen the value--for tax purposes--of her foothills home drop since taking office last year. And her county tax bill has dropped 7.4 percent from $1,011 to $937.

And what about the maestro, Pima Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry? Since he took office in 1993, the taxable value of his Flowing Wells home has risen 41 percent to $99,811. But supervisors have lavished Huckelberry with a 56 percent pay increase--to $198,998--just in the last five years.


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