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NOT SO SMART: We've been big boosters of Project Votesmart since its inception a decade ago. The non-profit, non-partisan organization, born right here in Tucson, is a clearinghouse of information about elected officials and their challengers. In addition to gathering ratings from various special-interest groups, compiling campaign finance info and biographical data, the group has also developed an in-depth political awareness test that thoroughly examines the positions of the candidates.

And it's all available to you the voter, via a free phone call.

Unfortunately, politicos are increasingly refusing to participate in the process, because they complain that the political awareness tests are so thorough that it's become one-stop shopping for opposition-research teams.

It's a pretty lame excuse, as Project Votesmart President Richard Kimball points out: If the candidates are hiding their positions from the opposition, they're hiding them from voters as well--which kinda makes it impossible to make an intelligent choice on election day.

Come to think of it, that explains a lot about the state of American politics today.

In the Arizona governor's race, Democrat Janet Napolitano, Republican Matt Salmon and Independent Dick Mahoney have refused to participate. Congressional candidate Raúl Grijalva blew it off as well. All told, about two-thirds of congressional candidates and one-third of the legislative candidates bothered to fill out the survey.

If you're looking to do some last-minute election cramming, you can call 'em toll-free at 1-888-VOTESMART or visit 'em online at www.vote-smart.org.


TAX LADY SINGS: It figures that Brenda Even would be on the Pima Community College board (appointed to fill the term of Ted "Miracle Mile" Koff) and running to retain the seat on November 5 while PCC is seeking permission to jack up property taxes.

While Even helped pilot the Tucson Unified School District into the ground, from 1991 through 1998, she boosted TUSD property taxes by 51 percent. As previously reported, she has a history of raising taxes while fighting to cut the taxes she owes on her investment property.

Even has a better propaganda machine handling this tax override. PCC took a lesson from City Manager James Keene, who squandered at least $1 million on the flop Let's Go Tucson campaign, to send out pretty, color four-page election brochures that would do Pravda proud. In it, PCC's absentee lame-duck Chancellor Bob Jensen extols the virtues of the sprawling junior colleges with multiple misstatements. Some are wild apples and oranges, like suggesting PCC has the lowest tax levy per student. Jensen does not know the difference between tax levies and tax rates. There is no way it can stack up to the Maricopa County Community Colleges.

The same note Jensen was left to sign makes reference to PCC's grand 30-year history. We'd like to remind Jensen that the big-shot founder of PCC promised way back than that the college would function without a property tax. Ha.

Pima does fine things. It needed the building and campus upgrades authorized by voters and taxpayers in 1995. Now PCC is spreading bull about the expense and impact this override will have, first claiming that the portion of the tax necessary to repay bonds will not exceed 42-cents per $100 or $42 a year on a home valued for tax purposes at $100,000. It's 38 cents now. Sure, we'll all dummies who don't know that assured increases in property values will jack up the real bottom lines for taxpayers.

By the way, in total primary and secondary property taxes for PCC, the owner of the same home pays $154 a year.

We have to second what the Arizona Tax Research Association is pointing out to PCC: the real bite even under this low-ball estimate will approach 50 percent more in taxes over the life of the override.

Businesses will be hit harder.

Brenda Even and PCC can't have it both ways. Either vote against the override and Even or, if you must tax yourselves more, at least toss Even, who showed no restraint for taxing and spending while at TUSD.


A PILLAR OF SUPPORT: Mayor Bob Walkup was doing another celebrity interview on Bert Lee's radio show, talking about the shortcomings of the GOP statewide slate. Walkup told Bert-with-an-E that, as a good Republican, he had endorsed the entire ticket. Bert made sure by restating the question. Walkup had the same answer.

When Bert then asked him if he personally planned to vote for the entire ticket, Walkup said no.

Huh? Gee, Bob, if you don't plan to vote for some of them, why did you endorse them? If they ain't good enough for your vote, why do you encourage others to support them? Is there anything else about other stuff you aren't telling us until you're pressed?

And we used to call Mike Boyd the Flaky Waffle Man.


KINO KOP KAPER: Pima County fails to properly hire doctors and nurses for Kino Community Hospital and then manages to screw them with delayed contracts and even slower pay. It chases away top docs, then hires replacements who are under such serious review by the Board of Medical Examiners that even the county's HMO refuses to refer patients to them. But Kino bosses have no trouble filling the halls of the 25-year-old hospital with cops.

Police, uniformed and plain clothes, have been given the green light to patrol the hospital, including the intensive care unit. They are (patient rights? confidentiality?) prowling and snooping, supposedly to ferret out theft and fraud. What a bizarre joke.

Message to Pima County Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry: No matter how you reshape Kino, as a psychiatric facility or used car lot, it will lose money as long as the Board of Supervisors remain in charge of the hospital.

Huckelberry should know better. He was around in 1992 when colleague Bruce Postil had hospital managers Schaller Anderson running Kino in fine shape and with just a minor subsidy that riled no one.

Part of Schaller Anderson's job, with fast and effective work from Postil, was to set up Kino's spinoff as a semi-public non-profit akin to University Medical Center. They were close. But on their first day in office in 1993, Republican Supervisors Ed Moore, Mike Boyd and Paul Marsh canned Postil, Schaller Anderson and County Manager Enrique Serna and fired or demoted 11 other top county officials. The ultimate irony? That less-government GOP majority kept Kino. They, too, knew how to stuff Kino with political pork. Huckelberry's recent bright move was to bring Postil back.


FAREWELL, DIONYSUS: We mourn the passing of Tucson's God of Wine, Harry Lambajian (Best of Tucson 2001), an erudite, pleasant and dedicated purveyor of fine Greek and Italian wines, hummus, tabuleh and other Mediterranean and Mideast delicacies at International Cuisine on the westside. Lambajian grew up in Beirut and was a smart computer guy with IBM before Big Blue chopped its Tucson forces. He and his late wife Pearl supplied many restaurants, grocery stores and liquor stores. He was a fixture, including last month, at the annual Greek Festival at St. Demetrios, where he handled (what else?) bar duties with style and grace.

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