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INDEPENDENTS DAY: There's something stirring out there in the darkness of the city elections. Two new independent campaign committees have filed organizational papers down at City Hall.

First up is Democrats for Walkup, chaired by Michael Crawford. You might remember Crawford as the guy who was appointed to the Ward 3 council seat back in 1995, only to be knocked out of office by Jerry Anderson in 1997. Crawford pretty much despises former colleagues Steve Leal and JosÉ Ibarra, so it's no surprise to see him popping up to back Walkup.

Then there's Independent People Like You, chaired by Bruce Ash, who lists himself as a property manager.

We're not sure what these committees are up to, but we're guessing they'll be doing the same kind of work as the independent campaigns that have sprung up in past city elections.

The city's public financing program is supposed to create a level financial playing field by providing matching funds to candidates who agree to limit their campaign spending. Independent campaign committees have taken advantage of the system by spending big bucks on attack ads against Democratic candidates.

In 1999, an independent campaign committee, Tucsonans for Responsible Leadership, spent more than $50,000 for a series of ads that portrayed Democratic candidate Molly McKasson as a dimwitted blonde who would unleash Armageddon if she were elected. In 2001, Citizens for a Better Tomorrow (backed by the development community) spent a combined $84,000, mostly on a campaign portraying Democrat Paula Aboud as a heartless slumlord.

Meanwhile, another group, Committee for Real Regional Transportation, has formed to oppose the light rail proposition on the November ballot. We expect the Growth Lobby will be throwing a lot of money into the effort to defeat the transportation plan, mostly because part of its funding comes from a construction tax that doesn't sit well with builders.


LESS GOVERNMENT, MORE SWIMMING: The Libertarian Party is making a last-ditch effort to get into this year's mayoral sweepstakes. Kimberly Swanson is seeking at least 42 write-in votes in the Sept. 9 primary so she can land a spot on the general election ballot.

You may recall Swanson from last year's District 28 Senate race, in which she appeared clad in a red-white-and-blue bikini atop A Mountain in campaign ads. She picked up about one-fourth of the vote against Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, which may have had more to do with the fact that no Republican was the on the ballot than the appeal of her platform, which had something to do with medical marijuana and less government.

Why did Swanson get into the mayor's race?

"Nobody else would," she says. "I did the best of all the Libertarians in last year's election. It's just to hold the banner and let the Libertarian ideals be alive and let people know there is a real viable third party."

Guess that depends on how you define "viable."

Swanson says she won't participate in the city's matching-fund program that provides public dollars for campaigns. She did participate in the state's Clean Elections program last year, spending more than $49,000 on her campaign, "just because I could do it and was able to use the money to help the whole Libertarian Party. But the Libertarian Party as a whole is against public funding for politicians."

Unless they're the ones getting the money, at least.

Swanson says one major issue for her is the council's decision to increase fees for park and rec programs.

"I'm real big on city parks and rec, bringing down the prices and having it be more accessible to all people," Swanson says. "I'd love to see 24-hour pools like they have at the Tucson Racquet Club. Free enterprise can do, and they're making money, so there's no reason why the city can't make the same offer to its people with its city pools."

Doesn't subsidizing pottery classes and swimming pools with tax dollars fly in the face of the standard Libertarian philosophy that calls for limited government?

"I know all that can be done through free enterprise, but y'know, it's in existence now, and Libertarian government isn't about a killing of everything that people know," says Swanson. "It's just about a gradual switch-over so people get out of the idea that they have hand over their money to the government, and the government is the only person who can create a program, and then you get it back."

Swanson says Libertarians support "essential services, and I see swimming as essential. It's 110 on a routine basis here. The least the city can do is offer water to the people who live here."

Eventually, she'd like to turn the pools over to a private company, of course.

Libertarians and Independents who want more swimming and less government can write Swanson's name in on their ballots.


NO COMPRENDO: TUSD Superintendent Stan Paz has blinked in the showdown with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne over the issue of bilingual ed waivers.

Fearing loss of state education dollars, Paz is tossing some 900 kids who barely understand English into mainstream classes, where most will fall behind and require even more attention from overstressed teachers who barely have time to handle the kids who do understand what they're saying.

Here's the really insane thing about bilingual ed waivers: Under the law, kids can only get a waiver to remain in bilingual ed for more than a year if they show they can pass an English proficiency test. So the only ones who can stay in the program are those who don't need to.

ÁQue loco!


THE WORD AT KINO: This is what you need to know about Kino Community Hospital, which the Board of Supervisors is converting to a purely psychiatric facility run by a three-headed monster that includes Pima County, Spinnaker Health and University Physicians Inc.: "The manner of death" on July 15 of 32-year-old psychiatric patient Wendy Gazda "is homicide. A death at the hands of another person or persons, regardless of circumstances (or) intent is classified as a homicide."

The July 18 autopsy of Gazda revealed that she died of "restraint asphyxia," according to the report released by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce O. Parks on Aug. 28.

Gazda, committed to Kino after lapses in previous case management and previous post-hospital care, was restrained by five Kino employees. Three were security guards. One, according to federal, state and police investigative reports, kneeled with pressure on Gazda's back to keep her pinned. A pillow was placed between her face and the floor. Gazda, 5-foot-6 and 291 pounds, could not breathe. One guard, apparently to show her who was boss, shouted to the sadly sick and tormented woman that he was "God." And when she stopped moving, one confidently barked that Gazda was "faking it."

Right.

Democratic Supervisor Richard Elias has been justifiably indignant about Gazda's death, which he says arose from the "chaos at Kino" created by the board's and administration's careless race to meet an "artificial deadline, the start of the fiscal year on July 1."

Doctors had been canned, leaving Kino woefully unprepared. Training, even after Gazda's death, has been abysmal.

Elias has eluded his share of responsibility. The dailies have allowed it. But the votes to convert Kino were unanimous. Elias did not dissent. And neither he nor any of his colleagues did anything when county administration and Kino's piss-poor administration was handing out pink slips to docs and other staff.

"It was a terrible decision," Elias says of the rush to convert the hospital by July 1.

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