The Skinny 

RAILROADED: Looks like we might not have a light-rail proposition on the November ballot after all. Tucson City Clerk Kathy Detrick is finding all sorts of irregularities in the petitions that Citizens for a Sensible Transportation Solution turned in earlier this month.

The group needed 12,777 valid signatures from city voters to put the transit proposition in front of voters. In a nutshell, the plan would put light-rail lines down Broadway Boulevard and South Sixth Avenue, improve the bus system, repair the potholes on residential streets and pay for additional traffic enforcement to make streets safer. The money would come from hiking the sales tax by three-tenths of a cent and implementing a construction sales tax.

After the City Clerk's Office got done reviewing the petitions last week, it determined the group needed another 2,100 signatures to make the ballot. Why are petitions getting tossed out? There are a whole host of technicalities. In some cases, the person who notarized the petition stamped her signature instead of signing it by hand, or didn't use a legible stamp. In other instances, blank lines on incomplete petitions were crossed out but not initialed by the person passing the sheet, so all the signatures are invalid.

And on it goes. Is it any wonder than successful initiative efforts are now run by professionals instead of citizen activists?

Here's the bottom line: Backers of the initiative have been given until noon on Monday, July 28, to get more signatures. And given how picky the clerk's office has been, they probably need about 3,000 more.

If you're a registered voter in Tucson who's interested in seeing the light-rail initiative on the ballot, stop by Casa Video between 8 and 10 p.m. to sign the petition. Visit the group's Web site, www.savetucson.org, for updates and other info about how you can help.

SEE YOU IN COURT: The troglodyte wing of the Republican Party has sued Gov. Janet Napolitano to overturn the budget maneuvers that allowed her to increase funding for social, arts and environmental programs.

The Napster pulled a trick none of the bozos in the legislative leadership were expecting: She took $75 million they set aside to pay off a class-action suit against the state and used it to restore cuts to Child Protective Services, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Heritage Fund.

Napolitano's response to the lawsuit: "Let's get it on." She knows the arena well, having represented Democrats in the Arizona Senate when they tried to sue after Republican Gov. J. Fife Symington III did the same thing back in the '90s. Napolitano lost that case.

The case will be heard sometime in September by the Arizona Supreme Court--the same crew that got in a fight with GOP legislative leaders over cuts in the criminal justice system. We're sure they'll be a sympathetic audience.

BY THE NUMBERS: Democratic mayoral candidate Tom Volgy got his campaign off to a sputtering start two weeks ago with a speech that hammered Republican Mayor Bob Walkup's job-creation record. He said the community had lost jobs during Walkup's administration.

The only problem: Volgy's team misread the economic data. During Walkup's first year, the community added about 14,000 jobs. Since then, the news hasn't been so good; in Walkup's second and third years, the community lost about 3,700 jobs.

After further study of the numbers, Volgy had to write a letter of apology to Walkup for misstating his record.

The gaffe will likely be forgotten by voters come November, but it left Volgy open to attack by Duff Hearon, past president of the Greater Tucson Economic Council, who told a recent gathering of business types that "the professor should do his homework."

Volgy, a professor of political science at the University of Arizona, is usually sharp with job and economic figures. Hell, he co-authored an acclaimed book on the working poor.

Hearon is a nice enough guy who has made money in business, including appealing property values. But when it comes to politics, his batting average ain't too good. He was a key figure in getting Paul "Dim Bulb" Marsh elected as a Republican to the Board of Supervisors in 1992. Hearon was pals with the GOP majority that Marsh created with Big Ed Moore and Mike "The Flakey Waffleman" Boyd. That trio has gone down for achieving an astonishing low-water mark: the worst leadership in Pima County history.

According to our favorite local morning daily, Hearon also accused Volgy of holding the business community "in disdain" while mayor from 1987-1991.

The reality is that Volgy was a pro-business mayor who inherited bleak city budgets and a battered economy. He took office just two months after the October 1987 market crash. Roughly midway through his first year, IBM announced a wholesale reduction in its Tucson workforce. Volgy responded by drawing the disparate and often-feuding economic development agencies together. The product was GTEC. If Volgy isn't the father of GTEC, he sure the hell is the father of the effort that created it.

And now GTEC, which Walkup led with pedestrian style and results, sucks down big money from local taxpayers. Pima County and the city are the chief benefactors to the agency that somehow couldn't weed out a scam artist from the Bay Area who promised top-dollar jobs but wrote bad checks to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Talk about doing homework.

KINO TRAGEDY: Wendy Gazda was an unfortunate soul, tormented by some demons who had her thinking that her boyfriend was siphoning off her blood. At 32, she was far too heavy and, after arriving from Portland in February, was trying to get by in Tucson's underbelly living in some Benson Highway hot box.

She did not deserve to die. She certainly did not deserve to die the way she did, in a struggle with assorted staff on psych ward of Kino Community Hospital, shot full of some drug, last week.

Gazda was in a section of the hospital not used for patients in her condition. After just two weeks in charge of behavioral health services at Pima County's hospital, Spinnaker Health Care got rocked with a patient death. The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to hand over that portion of the hospital to Spinnaker, part of a company that also provides medical care at the jail.

Supervisors, on an extended summer hiatus, evaded comment and responsibility.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, long the most powerful and influential county official, suddenly went from unavoidable for comment to "no comment."

Mitch Gluck, Kino's director of behavioral health services, did not help matters when he told the daily media that the findings from the hospital's investigation would not be made public.

It's not Gluck's call. He owes Gazda's family and the public an explanation on how this terrible event occurred. Moreover, the decision to release reports will be made by someone else on the Kino campus: Dr. Bruce O. Parks, the chief medical examiner, as well as Tucson police and the state Department of Health Services.

BRUCE ALMIGHTY: We were just as surprised as the rest of you to read in the electronic edition of the Arizona Daily Star last week that Bruce Babbitt served as Arizona's "governor from 1978 to 1988." The Star used an Associated Press story to tell readers how Gov. Janet Napolitano's use of vetoes was not unlike that of Babbitt, a fellow Democrat.

So it musta been Babbitt who was impeached in February 1988 and then convicted and driven from office in April of that year, right?

As we remember it, Babbitt actually left office at the end of 1986 to set the foundation for his failed presidential run. Arizona voters picked the legendary Evan Mecham, archangel of Arizona's ultra-right, as their new governor in a goofy three-way. This is the guy who thought it was fine to call young African-American girls pickaninnies. He did enough in office--including some funny-money transfers to his once-thriving Pontiac dealership--to rile The Establishment and was driven from office by the Senate. Rose Mofford, a Globe Democrat, moved her trademark beehive from the secretary of state's office to the governor's perch.

Up next on StarNet: How Carl Hayden will win re-election next year to the U.S. Senate, where he began serving after the 1912 election.

IF YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING NICE: Not all is backwards at the Star. David Sanders has excelled again with photographic coverage of the Aspen Fire. Sanders is energetic, smart, athletic, extremely agile and blessed with a great eye. He is eager and undaunted even after a long career at the Star. Plus he's a nice guy whose ego never gets in the way.

On the reporting side, L. Anne Newell stumbled around on some general assignment and schools beats, but has done remarkably well at the cop shop. She has been dealt a host of tragedies that she has written about in tight, insightful fashion. She has led the way with a number of stories, topping reporters who have covered crime much longer. She can cover the big stories, but it is the more personal stories where Newell has performed best. She also has cranked out a number of enterprising stories, including one on pedestrian fatalities for which no one is held accountable.

SOME DISSEMBLY REQUIRED: Are people really all that surprised to learn that George W. Bush lied to us about Iraq's efforts to acquire uranium in the State of the Union speech? Wasn't that the same speech in which he promised we'd soon be driving hydrogen-powered cars, cure AIDS in Africa and balance the budget? Geez, we assumed from the moment we heard it that nobody was supposed to take it seriously.


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