FAMILIA: For all those squirming and scurrying to find out who appointed Pima County Supe Ramon "Radar" Valadez will place in his top administrative job, look no further than Valadez' boss and patron, Dan Eckstrom. Valadez has installed Eckstrom's daughter, Jennifer, in the $60,320-a-year job. That is much more than she made in her job at COPE Behavioral Health Services.
WALK UP AND SAY HOWDY: There is illumination value in having reporters who are both green and timid covering the city elections. In their inability to move off the puff-file style, we learn just how delusional our local pols are.
In its big Sunday spread, the Star allowed Republican Mayor Bob Walkup and his promoters to bullshit with abandon. There is a lot to walk through, so let's get started. First is the little man, Stanley P. Abrams, part developer, part front man for legendary land speculator Donald R. Diamond and full-time political playa.
Abrams is still irked--15 years later--that he was not named to the Board of Regents by then-Gov. Rose Mofford, that loveable Democrat. So when he's not scraping some desert with a bulldozer, he gets his kicks by scraping some political ass with his tongue. He promoted Democratic Mayor Tom Volgy's successor, left-wing Democrat George Miller, in 1991 and again in 1995. Then he jumped, as did a lot of other Democrats, to back Walkup against Molly McKasson Morgan.
For Abrams it is about power, or the appearance of it. He's happy to be known as the one who shares duties with the mayor's wife in telling Walkup what fatally flawed transportation plan to support, how to vote, when to vote, when to smile, how to smile, when to pee.
Abrams is thrilled that people, even those who read this, will believe they have to pay tribute to him to gain access to Walkup. And what does Abrams get? Friendly votes for his pals and a magistrate appointment for his underqualified kid, though Walkup had help on that with a perverse motion from Democratic Councilman Jose Ibarra. Most off all, Abrams likes being a big fish in this dry pond. We read in Sunday's Star how Walkup, as a big-shot CEO in the aerospace industry (with the help of Abrams, he inflated his résumé, particularly overstating his community relations tasks at Hughes, now WMD-making Raytheon), came to realize he's the CEO of the city and the citizens are the stockholders. Exactly. And exactly wrong. They are citizens, taxpayers, constituents. That might explain why a common citizen has had about as much luck getting to talk to Walkup as some lowly GE shareholder or employer would get to talk to Jack Welch. We especially loved the Walkup office practice of demanding that those who want to talk to the mayor first fax in a request. No mayor--not Volgy, not Miller, not even blowhard Republican Lew Murphy--attempted such arrogance.
When that and City Manager James Keene's autocratic nature began to wear too thin, Walkup, Keene and their supporters simply hired more expensive public relations people. They actually think that solves their communication problems.
The Star further told us that Walkup, "an engineer by training, was smitten by the advanced technology" of a Toyota Prius and thus compelled to order up the hybrid at $24,672 while many capable cars sat idle in the city fleet during a severe budget crunch.
This Prius was equipped, not stripped. It had the optional navigation system, a feature lost on the Star but not us. Walkup was forced by public outcry to give up the Prius. But the navigation system was important. This, as the Star has never told its readers, because Walkup also took advantage of some big-time City Hall civil service machinations to land a driver, Leroy Dyson, a great guy who sought to keep active with part-time work for the city clerk after he retired from Pima County facilities management. It didn't take long for Dyson, a Democratic foot soldier who is African American, to quit. He could no longer take the razzing he got from friends who would loudly ask: "How's driving Mr. Daisy?"
A driver? George Miller drove his old, then new truck--a stripped-down Chevy. Volgy drove an equally unpretentious Honda Accord.
The Abrams & Co. knock on Volgy centers now on an anti-egghead theme that attempts to belittle Volgy as Professor Volgy, someone who will be too busy teaching political science at the UA. Volgy is a worker, not a golfer or a traveler. He handled his teaching and writing duties without missing any real city business through his 10 years as the Ward 6 councilman and four as mayor.
The other slap is that Volgy ran twice for Congress, including during his final year as mayor when the giant Morris King Udall was forced by Parkinson's disease to retire. Volgy lost. Though most anticipated Udall's resignation, Volgy announced in December 1990 that he would not seek a second term as mayor--six months before Udall's retirement. Those who helped Ed Pastor defeat Volgy in his Congressional race are strongly backing him now.
The Star, under editor and publisher Jane Amari, has been eager to preach the Walkup line even though Amari (che brutta maschera rossa!) herself appeared in front of Walkup's City Council to lecture that the city was the worst government when it comes to releasing public information.
Here's one more thing to think about with Walkup. He can't be bothered, likely on Abrams' advice, to properly tell voters what he and his attention-starved wife are up to. For example, his wife is a founding shareholder of the Commerce Bank of Arizona and member of the bank's board of directors. Yet, the pages on Walkup's financial disclosure for that type of information are blank. Call to ask about it and you might get a return call several days later from his campaign boss, Valerie Greenhill, who will know nothing about the issue. Nor will she give a damn.
This small-potato comparison is illustrative. Volgy--that flaming moderate--was so meticulous that he not only disclosed his wife's job and financial interests when he was mayor but also disclosed his tiny unrelated consulting business and even his gentleman's low-stakes and defunct poker group.
Why is that relevant? Take a look at a key development, the mixed-use plan in Sam Hughes at East Sixth Street and North Campbell Avenue, that will need City Council approval. It is a project of Jim Horvath, who sits with Mayor Walkup's wife on the board of Commerce Bank of Arizona.
IT'S STILL HOMICIDE AT KINO: The Attorney General's Office announced the stunning finding last week that there will be no prosecution of the tough-guy guards and techs at Kino Community Hospital who held down poor Wendy Gazda, her face on a pillow and a knee in her back, until she died. Gotta be some political consideration by Democratic AG Terry Goddard's shop here for the Democrats who control the Pima County Board of Supervisors. But Goddard cannot change the autopsy report that lists the death as homicide. The Gazda family lawyer still will have a field day with Kino bosses who improperly issued orders to put Gazda on the wrong wing and in the hands of those not trained to treat or handle her.