We're talking about the Christmas Eve issue, where the lead story on Page One was about a local automobile dealer (guess who?) offering to give $25,000, a relative pittance, to a local charity if others in town would match it. We'd guess it was a really slow news day except for that bit about North Korea's threat to restart a dormant nuclear reactor, played down the page from the auto dealer puff piece.
There's nothing like sucking up to a multimillion dollar ad account on Page One. How do Star editors sleep at night?
BACK ON THE RADAR: Ramon "Radar" Valadez will be the next Pima County supervisor from southside District 2--whenever 15-year incumbent Dan Eckstrom decides it's time.
Eckstrom wants out. But the boss of the powerful Lena political family (it still bears the name of the late, great Sam Lena, Eckstrom's predecessor) cannot leave until all is fixed for a proper replacement. Vic Soltero, who followed Eckstrom as mayor of South Tucson, before he got upped (by Eckstrom) to the state Senate would be suitable. He's going to get upped again, from the House of Representatives back to the Senate. He's happy and, frankly, good at the job, when he can stay awake.
The Arizona Constitution has delayed a handoff. It prohibits a state legislator from taking a county or city job or office during his or her legislative term.
Much like the grand musical chairs that enabled Lena to move from the state Senate to the Board of Supervisors in 1975, Valadez can take Eckstrom's seat although he was just re-elected with no opposition. It works this way: Lena was re-elected to the state Senate in 1974, but did not take his seat. Similarly Valadez will not take the oath for his new Senate term. His out? He has "accepted" a put-up job with Democratic Gov.-elect Janet Napolitano. Under this cover, Valadez will be paid $96,000 a year to serve as "special assistant for economic development and southern region issues."
Ha. Valadez really knows nothing about economic development other than his own. His résumé is as devoid of real work as it is of legislative accomplishment. Besides his three terms in the Legislature, he has worked for Eckstrom, as a local fart sniffer for U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, a Phoenix Democrat, and as a local water boy for Sen. Dennis DeConcini during the Tucson Democrat's final term.
Valadez will hang with the Guv for a little while. Eckstrom will choose someone to fill Soltero's spot in the House of Representatives--perhaps former legislator Herschella Horton. Outgoing Representative Marion Pickens also has sent word that she'd like to take Valadez's Senate seat. Hey Marion, go be a substitute teacher 'cause that appointment ain't gonna happen.
The Board of Supervisors will rubberstamp the selection. Eckstrom will leave the supes, but not before he anoints Valadez either for 1) immediate succession or 2) for the taking in the subsequent special election. If it's the latter, Eckstrom will have the Board of Supervisors appoint a benchwarming caretaker who will defer to Valadez. Radar has already changed his voter registration to an address in District 2.
LOW-GEAR POWER: Richard Fimbres and Mary Leonardi Fimbres might be Tucson's latest power couple, but you'd hardly recognize that. They are low-key and down to earth. After a steady career with the Pima County sheriff, helping to bring education to the jail, Richard will become the director of highway safety for incoming Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat.
He'll keep his seat on the Pima Community College board. Fimbres, now the chairman, was appointed to the PCC board in 1997 and retained the non-salary post in subsequent freebie elections.
Mary is a longtime aide to City Councilman Steve Leal, the Democrat from southside Ward 5. Both have put in hundreds of hours of volunteer work, covering a wide range that includes Tucson High School academics and athletics, southside recreation and neighborhoods, the Knights of Columbus among others.
It is their energetic efforts for the League of United Latin American Citizens that has been best to observe. Both have headed the Arizona LULAC and both are responsible for turning around a once moribund organization.
PLEASE PEASLEY: The devastatingly frank report on top Pima County prosecutor Ken Peasley by the Disciplinary Commission of the state Supreme Court has been given short shrift in the dailies that instead seek out predictable whining from County Attorney Barbara LaWall.
Once again, Santa Barbara is way off the mark in her rationalizing. More alarming is any recognition that there is a problem with the County Attorney Office's win-at-all cost culture.
The chain-smoking, hard-bitten, workaholic Peasley was the top gun for LaWall and her longtime predecessor and Democratic mentor, Stephen D. Neely. Peasley, the Disciplinary Commission wrote, "lost sight" of his duties "attempting to obtain a conviction and the sentence of death through any means, including perjured testimony."
Peasley elicited false testimony, more than once, from Tucson Police Det. Joe Godoy in the prosecution of those accused of the brutal, triple murders at El Grande Market.
The commission noted Peasley's long career that began in 1975, noting "given this experience, it is unconscionable that, when confronted with Det. Godoy's false testimony, which he intentionally elicited, Peasley wrongfully argued that Det. Godoy answered the crucial questions in order to protect an informant. Peasley further argued to the court and jury that it is a sick system that puts police officers in a position where they had to testify as Godoy had."
With the defendants sent to Death Row, Peasley's reasoning, the commission noted, was "flawed." Peasley "wanted to win at any cost."
It must be said that Peasley worked hard to put away plenty of bad guys. But in this case, it is especially disturbing because there was plenty of evidence to get a conviction. Peasley didn't need to have Godoy lie.
Peasley was put out to pasture during this protracted disciplinary process by serving in the County Attorney's civil division. That might be punishment enough for this frequently disheveled tough guy who was amazingly fast at getting to murder scenes. He cited health problems--vertigo, vision problems and pain on his left side--for the monumental errors of Godoy's perjured testimony.
"In a criminal justice system that allows the prosecution to seek the ultimate sanction for first degree murder, the integrity of the system and those who participate within it must be beyond reproach," the commission noted.
"The commission is convinced that the public will not be protected by anything less than disbarment."
One day after the commission's stinging report, Peasley announced that he would resign from his $102,000 job. He'll draw more than $56,000 a year in retirement.
CLOUDY DAY: Pima County Supervisor Ann Day, a first-term Republican, goofed again in a Sunday op-ed piece in our favorite local morning daily. She opened her observations on how Kino Community Hospital can keep its doors open by claiming "Kino was opened in 1981." Wrong. Kino opened in 1977. It was financed with bonds approved by voters in 1974 and 1977. Call us anytime, Ann.