The Skinny 

A WOMAN'S PREROGATIVE: Although City Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar is downplaying her interest in taking on Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson this November, don't count her out yet.

One of our spies got a phone call from a polling firm comparing Democrat Bronson against two potential Republican opponents: Dunbar and Barney Brenner, who narrowly lost to Bronson in 2000 and who has already begun the work for a rematch.

So will Dunbar run? Maybe it depends on what the poll reveals ...

BOOM AND BUST: Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda was the latest official to appear before Mayor Bob Walkup and the Tucson City Council with his hand out.

Miranda told the council that TPD is down to 930 cops on the street, even though his budget allows him up to 996. And he needs 1,272 to bring the number of officers up to the national average. The price tag: as much as $56 million.

As a result, Miranda explained, TPD is letting a lot of crimes--such as burglaries, auto thefts and fraud--slip through the cracks of justice.

The dire situation leaves us wondering about TPD's priorities. Why on earth, for example, did they use dozens of officers to surround the eastside El Charro one night last October to card every single patron in hopes of busting underage drinkers? That operation netted two underage kids with fake IDs out of about 300 people--not terribly efficient police work, and questionable on the whole civil liberties side of things.

Hey, we can understand the effort to shut down parties when neighbors can't sleep. But can TPD really afford a continuing war on underage drinking? It seems like there are more serious crimes that might require attention--even if it takes more detective work than pulling over a busload of sorority girls.

KIDDIE POOL: Last year, it was the Draconian Legislature that proposed cutting back--if not outright flushing--virtually every social service program in the state.

This year, it's a more childish game being played. Call it the Romper Room Legislature.

Speaker of the House Jake Flake (R-The Bounty) made headlines last week over the mutiny of two members of his Republican caucus, Reps. Pete Hershberger of Tucson and Tom O'Halleran of Sedona. Flake has killed all their legislation this year and refused to assign any bills to the two committees that they were chairing at the start of the session.

Rather than filing their nails for the rest of the session, Hershberger and O'Halleran went public with their complaints about being declared non-persons by the party leadership. Flake responded by swiftly stripping them of their committee chairmanships. Now there's a lesson for anyone who might want to cross the boss.

"It's a victory for politics and a loss for the serious deliberative process of doing the state's work," Hershberger says.

Hershberger told The Skinny that going to the media was the last resort.

"We tried to work that within the caucus, but after four weeks, we had to say something," says Hershberger. "We couldn't just continue to sit on our hands, because it was wrong."

The bad blood dates back to last fall's special session, during which Hershberger and O'Halleran broke ranks during the negotiations for CPS funding, undermining the stingy deal that conservative House members were trying to cut.

Hershberger and O'Halleran have expertly played to those of us in the liberal media elite, which is always happy to have some fresh conservative meat to chew up. The press has blessed the duo with a stack of headlines portraying them as the heroic Republicans who stood up against the cave-dweller wing of the GOP.

"I will not let 20 Maricopa County Republicans tell me how to represent my district," says Hershberger.

That kind of talk has got to strengthen Hershberger in his district.

On the other hand, the flap isn't going to hurt Flake all that much, either; getting beat up in the press only strengthens him back in his rural Arizona district.

The real loser is the Republican Party itself, as the electorate's moderate middle looks at a polarized Legislature and wonders what the hell is wrong with these freaks of nature.

ON THE BANDWAGON: Arizona Democrats proudly led the nation in following the example of New Hampshire and Iowa voters last week, choosing a man who had barely set foot in the state since the campaign began.

Howard Dean ran a well-organized grassroots campaign. Wesley Clark ran his most aggressive air war since Kosovo, blanketing the state's airwaves with TV ads for the last several months. And Kerry made a token appearance in the last week yet took the state for one reason: He seemed electable after winning in the early primaries.

If nothing else, Kerry's win should shut up all those doofuses who were spouting nonsense about how Arizonans were now center stage in national politics, blah blah blah. Did we hear enough of that predictable political mumbo-jumbo in the lead-up to the primary?

The delusions of grandeur hit the height of absurdity the day before the primary, when Gov. Janet Napolitano wrote an op-ed in The New York Times to tell Democratic candidates what they needed to do win Arizona.

"To earn votes here, candidates should stick to the issues over which voters have expressed concern," Napolitano lectured. "Instead of Bush-bashing, tell us what you would do as president. Talk to us about your vision for an America that is changing almost as rapidly as Arizona is."

Not only is it lame advice, it's coming a little late. Did Napolitano really expect the presidential hopefuls to swoop in with new TV spots and speeches aimed at the issues she raised in the 24 hours before polls opened?

That aside, Napolitano came out as one of the primary's biggest winners. She conducted herself well in several high-profile media spots that gave her a few minutes in the national spotlight and made some connections that could prove handy if she, as rumored, decides to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl in '06.

The other big winner had to be local television stations, which pulled in plenty of bling-bling from TV ads. And what's really sad is that the 30-second spots proved more informative than the retarded coverage from TV reporters, who seemed capable of asking just one question: How important is Arizona to your campaign?

Just once, we'd like to see a candidate say he couldn't give a fuck about Arizona. But then the FCC would probably swoop in with indecency charges--even though the real obscenity is the merger mania that's leaving more and more of our airwaves in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

CLEANING UP: A huge round of applause for a federal jury, the Arizona Center for Disability Law, and Tucson lawyer Don Awerkamp for getting Frank Fiolek some justice after TUSD and its Wright Elementary School administrators discriminated against and retaliated against the janitor because he was HIV-positive. TUSD said Fiolek was a slacker. The jury thought otherwise and Monday awarded him more than $50,000 for back wages and emotional distress.

It was the first trial for Rose Daly-Rooney of the Center for Disability Law. Awerkamp, an old hand at exposing TUSD treachery, provided a valuable assist.

Fiolek is working for another, better-run school district as a janitor and instructional aide.

The sad thing, once again, is that TUSD squandered tens of thousands of dollars on the indefensible defense, this time by paying exorbitant fees to Snell & Wilmer.


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