The Skinny 

WHEEL OF FORTUNE: The final campaign-finance reports from last month's city election were finally filed last week, with some not terribly surprising revelations--mainly, that car dealers and developers wrote a bunch of checks to derail the transit proposition and Democratic mayoral candidate Tom Volgy, who lost to incumbent Republican Bob Walkup by a couple of percentage points.

Independent People Like You, the independent campaign committee that ran ads pummeling Volgy and Ward 1 Councilman JosÉ Ibarra, spent just a bit more than $100,000. Meanwhile, Citizens for Real Regional Transportation, the merry band that helped torpedo the doomed light rail proposition, spent a total of $116,694.

A big chunk of both campaigns' receipts came in the final weeks of the campaign. After Oct. 16, Independent People Like You collected $34,920, while the Committee for Real Regional Transportation sucked up $41,164. The late contributions meant that the identities of the contributors--the usual suspects of deep-pocketed Growth Lobby powerbrokers--were hidden until after the election.

But surely the campaigns weren't trying to hide their financial backers until after the election by waiting until after the end of the previous reporting period to pour money into the campaigns. For example, we're sure it's just coincidence that the car dealers waited until precisely Oct. 16--the first day of the new reporting period--to give more than $18,000 to the campaign against light rail. (A couple of car dealers straggled in a few days later with another $3,000 or so.)

Given the lopsided numbers--the light rail prop, like every other transportation plan in the last decade, was rejected by at least 62 percent of voters--you gotta wonder why they were dumping so much money into the effort. You could have beat it with a lot less, guys.

Volgy and Walkup, who agreed to limit spending as part of the city's matching-funds program, both spent roughly $140,000. If the Growth Lobby continues to run independent campaigns--and there's not much reason to stop, since they seem to be working--then the matching funds program is pretty much screwed.

The reports also reveal that the Pima County Democratic Party spent $114,550 in the final weeks of the campaign on a variety of get-out-the-vote efforts, compared to the Republican Party's $80,993. Among the Democrats' big expenses were $2,176 for the production of television ads and $30,000 for TV time for ads that the Democratic Party pulled at the last minute after Republicans complained the spots were an illegal expenditure.

We wonder if they can get a refund. Hope they kept the receipt.

THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON: We're fans of high school sports around here (well, some of us more than others), so we thought we'd check out the Sunnyside High School football team as it left for the state championship game, which was to be held at ASU's Sun Devil Stadium last Saturday at noon. We called over to Sunnyside and were told that the charter bus was leaving at 9 a.m.

"Isn't that cutting it close for a noon game?" we asked. No, we were told, they were leaving at 9 a.m. Friday morning for a Saturday game. This, despite the fact that it was only a week before final exams; they could easily have left after school and made it to the hotel by dinnertime.

The Blue Devils won their second state title in three years, and with several top players back next year, they should be a power in Class 4A again. Congrats to the kids.

Of course, there is that small matter that Sunnyside shouldn't even be in Class 4A. As reported here last year, on Oct. 1, 2002 (the day that schools had to report their enrollments to the Arizona Interscholastic Association for classification purposes for the next two years), Sunnyside pulled a fast one. School officials dropped dozens of students from the rolls so the enrollment would dip under the Class 4A top limit. Sunnyside reported the artificially low count to the AIA, then re-enrolled those kids the next day, so as not to lose out on federal funds.

Word of Sunnyside's shenanigans got out, and the AIA was flooded with complaints from other schools. (This isn't a new phenomenon; for years, Class 2A Thatcher High was derisively referred to as "499 Thatcher" for the school's uncanny ability to come in one under the Class 3A cutoff every year.)

AIA chief Dr. Harold Slemmer has promised that no such shady dealings will be allowed next Oct. 1. The Skinny will be watching both Sunnyside, which should be ashamed of itself, and the AIA, which should grow a pair and insist on integrity from its member schools.

SMALL TALK: KTKT-AM 990 will repackage and reincarnate John C. Scott and Emil Franzi in weekend talk shows beginning Feb. 1.

Scott, aka John Scott Ulm, aka Ronald J. Ulm, also will host KTKT's exploratory re-entry into local news on weekday mornings from 6 to 10. Scott, who began his long Tucson radio and television career at KTKT nearly 40 years ago, will anchor news provided by Alan Kath's Metro Network crew. He'll weave in his commentary, as well as takes from such know-it-alls as Mark Kimble, editorial page editor of the Tucson Citizen; Jeff Smith, a once-a-week Citizen columnist; Jim Nintzel, senior writer for the Tucson Weekly; Steve Emerine, a former Citizen and Arizona Daily Star editor who also served as a Democratic Pima County assessor (and an observer who has difficulty understanding The Skinny); and Franzi, a political piranha who also is The Weekly's longtime automatic weapons editor.

Scott will put his own wrap on the week's events with a four-hour talk show on Saturdays that is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. He will follow Franzi, whose two-hour show will air from 8-10 Saturday and Sunday mornings.

A slot also is being considered for Bert Lee, who is convalescing after suffering a severe heart attack in late September.

All this reshuffling at KTKT--original plans were for Scott, Franzi and the rest of the gang to be scrapped entirely--is the handiwork of Steve Groesbeck, general manager of the Los Angeles-based Lotus Broadcasting's Tucson operations that include alternative KFMA, rock KLPX and Mexican KCMT. Groesbeck said he believed KTKT was simply not performing. The numbers were bad. Scheduling was a big reason for that.

But the flip side was that some vanity radio was working. Scott, Franzi, Lee and the group of other hosts, for shows ranging from food and dining to toilet cleaning, purchased their time from KTKT and sold their own advertising.

Reaction, even from those who don't like the KTKT's three main big mouths, was uniform. As goofy as the shows may be on any given day, they still manage to connect Tucsonans to local government and politics, business, books, movies, heroes, losers and others. The trio even got a plug from the editorial page of the Arizona Daily Star, which generally considers them to be lowbrow.

Although Groesbeck insisted that the decision to chop local talk was his, there has been some influence from Los Angeles, because Lotus owner Howard Kamelson is not ignorant about Tucson, and he has Tucson connections (including having the fabulous Arida brothers handle his books).

Rabbi Samuel Cohon, also from Los Angeles, will continue his Too Jewish show on Sundays. Diva Talk was also apparently spared D-day.

TUSD'S COOL CASH: TUSD's tax-and-tax-some-more bosses are preparing schemes to jack up sky-high property taxes, this time to supposedly cover operating costs for the air conditioning that is decades past due in many of the district's schools. In a story snapped up by the Arizona Daily Star, TUSD put the annual cost for AC at $2.3 million. Meanwhile, at TUSD headquarters, they are chuckling that homeowners--i.e., voters--won't see any increase in taxes.

That's because this TUSD hike, when combined with property taxes from Pima County and other jurisdictions, would tip property taxes above the limit set by state law. That limit is $1,000 a year for a $100,000 home on the portion of taxes that pay for daily operations, like AC.

Cooler, more comfortable classrooms are absolutely needed. But TUSD's screw-'em attitude is what should be cooked. TUSD is laughing, with the Star's help, that the increase in taxes to cover higher electric bills will be paid only by businesses, which don't enjoy the same limit that homeowners do.

While it's true that business owners will pay more when TUSD increases the tax rate, they're not the only ones. Taxpayers throughout the state are also on the hook. TUSD's excess property tax bill, for desegregation and other items, is paid by the state's general fund, so the increase is spread among all who pay sales and other taxes to the state. That's why the oldsters in Sun City are concerned with TUSD spending.

Expect more demagoguery from TUSD board President Joel T. Ireland, who scoffed that a TUSD tax increase two years ago was "fantasy," because homeowners would escape the boost. Ireland wailed that he would not let fear of such a tax increase force him to rip crayons from the hands of little school children. Now it'll be that he'll gladly make the "sacrifice" with higher taxes so the little kids will no longer pass out at Sam Hughes Elementary.

It is that attitude that understandably triggers the Maricopa County-dominated Legislature to react punitively.

LEHNER LEAVES: Robert Lehner, the thinking-man's cop, and second in command at TPD, is packing it up for a chief's position he's been waiting for, this one in Eugene, Ore. Lehner will be missed. He is bright, doesn't suffer from bunker mentality, has broad experience, and is professional and respectful.


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