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SWEENEY AND WEENIES

Perennial candidate Joe Sweeney has run for Congress 11 times from four different parties. Considered by most to be a harmless kook, he's generally been either ignored or treated like any other candidate. He's now locked onto the illegal immigrant issue as the root cause of all America's problems, from health care to dandruff.

If you listen closely, he's not exactly harmless.

Sweeney, to the Tucson Weekly and local talk radio, has conceded he's a racist, although he mumbles incoherently about exactly what that means. He's called Mexicans "monkeys" and "hyenas."

Unfortunately for the GOP, he just became their nominee in Congressional District 7 for the seat held by Raul Grijalva, winning a contested primary on the accumulated name recognition he gathered from all those previous tries and the failure of most of the local media to point out that he was much more than just another Proposition 200 supporter.

Some Republicans became outraged when they discovered just how twisted Sweeney's real views were, so last week, the Pima County GOP Central Committee met to discuss what to do with his candidacy.

After hearing threats from Sweeney to take them to court, and with some party conservatives who should know better actually supporting Sweeney, Pima County GOP leaders cravenly went into executive session and emerged with the following:

"RESOLVED: Under all circumstances it would be procedurally inappropriate for the Pima County Republican Central Committee to take a position on the candidacy of Joseph Sweeney for Congress. The voters have already spoken in their primary election. For all (sic) these reasons the Central Committee declines to either endorse or disavow any Republican candidacy in 2004."

Any Republican candidacy? Anybody told the Bush-Cheney or Kolbe campaigns that under the inspired leadership of Chairman John Munger, the local GOP no longer endorses its own candidates? Will they now instruct those who answer calls at GOP HQ to be noncommittal when asked how to vote? Will they remove the Bush stickers from their personal cars next?

They were so politically and morally bankrupt, they were unwilling to take a position on anything. They wouldn't face up to a political mutant like Sweeney and dodged their responsibility as the elected leaders of their party.

When faced with a similar, if higher-profile, problem, the Louisiana GOP (hardly a left-wing group) denounced the candidacy of former Klansman David Duke. What would it take to move this accumulation of political potted plants to do likewise?


TAXAHOLICS

The Pima County Board of Supervisors is now seeking a way to slap a new tax on booze. This is the supervisors' predictable response to a presumed social problem of our kids running around piss drunk.

Sure, the little sin-tax-funded "don't drink" campaign that the money supposedly will buy will have those rebellious youngsters just saying no. Riiiight.

Supes also plan to jack up the hotel tax to 3 percent. It was last increased from 1 percent to 2 percent to help pay for the Kino spring training complex used by the cellar-dwelling Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago White Sox.

The other 1 percent tax on hotel stays in unincorporated Pima County (at such tony locales as Loews Ventana Canyon, the Westin La Paloma, and Westword Look) goes to the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau. That's $1.36 million this year.

Jonathon Walker, the latest metrosexual glad-hander to serve as boss of the convention bureau, needs a lesson in the history of the bed tax. He whined to the Arizona Daily Star that the convention bureau didn't get any of the last increase, because the county kept it all.

Wrong, Johnny. It went to the baseball project, including improvements at Hi Corbett Field, the city-owned ballpark. Spring training brings in plenty of tourists from Colorado and Chicago, as well as a few from Phoenix and other parts of Arizona. That helped keep the hotels full after the Gem Show.

The county's stadium enterprise will get roughly the same as the convention bureau in bed-tax revenue. But the boost, combined with stadium rental, a 50-cent tax on nightly RV spaces and a $3.50 tax on car rentals, still won't bail out the county. The projected deficit at the ballpark this year is more than $3 million.


STORM BLOWS SCURRAN

Crybaby Jeff Scurran, the creator and coach of Pima Community College's football team, is taking his ball and going home. Peeved that PCC Chancellor Roy Flores is bringing some control over runaway, renegade athletic programs, Scurran is bailing. Good.

Scurran is going the way of Brian Peabody, another monumental ego who served as basketball coach with poor results last season after Salpointe Catholic ran him off.

Don't buy into the bullshit that Scurran and Peabody feed so successfully to the dailies and their local television cheerleaders: Flores is not downgrading sports. Athletics thrived at Pima long before Scurran and Peabody viewed themselves as the big men on campus.

Flores is getting his board and Pima to focus on local talent, bringing in players from Tucson and Southern Arizona high schools. Flores was onto the tricks and schemes going on in the football and basketball programs to lure out-of-state flunkies who miraculously nailed down, say, 32 units in a summer session to suddenly become eligible.

Who will replace Scurran? Richard Sanchez, the blockheaded former Pueblo High wrestling star who has ridden the wave of success at Sunnyside High School. His teams have won two 4A championships in the last three years. He's got the ego. And he shares Scurran's adherence to academics. How in the hell Sunnyside named Sanchez academic compliance officer, we'll never know.

The disturbing news from Flores, as noted by Inger Sandal of the morning daily, is that students will foot more of the bill for athletics. It is being sold as relief for taxpayers. The $60 fee for a full-time student will raise an estimated $1.5 million.

Don't believe PCC's board has property owners in mind when it levies taxes. Though Pima's taxes dipped slightly this year--by about $14, to $134 on a $100,000 home--the decrease was not a result of anything the board did. It came because of decreasing bond payments. Moreover, Pima still is raking in more dough--$3 million more--in operating budgets from taxpayers this year, even with the tax cut.


MUSINGS

Faxes have been flying over the fiscal straits of Muse, the community arts center on Sixth Street near Fourth Avenue. While the short-term pinch may have been resolved, we hear that bigger problems loom.

Founded several years ago in a one-time YMCA building, Muse was originally going to be a place for artists to live and work. The 40 or so current tenants rent a mix of artist studios and offices for nonprofit agencies.

They had good reason to worry a few weeks back, when Tucson Electric Power and Southwest Gas were fixin' to shut off the lights if the Muse management didn't come up with hefty deposits. When management went public with an appeal for donations, a former accountant stepped up to accuse the folks in charge of financial missteps that led to the trouble in the first place.

We don't have time right now to look into those allegations--hey, nothing's stopping you from getting to the bottom of it yourselves!--but the power hasn't been cut off. Yet, anyway.

But big changes could be in the wind. Our shadowy sources suggest that Muse isn't economically viable in its current state, but it could be quite the location for loft apartments, which are all the rage in the university/downtown 'hoods.

Can the plucky artists band together to buy the building and save it from an evil developer? Stay tuned!

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