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ON A CLEAR DAY, YOU CAN SEE JOHN MUNGER

Cowardly Democrats controlling the Board of Supervisors looked the other way--again--and handed uber GOP-insider John Munger another $250,000 contract to represent Pima County at the Legislature.

We can almost stomach the county's reasoning that because Republicans control the Legislature, it is best to have a Republican big-shot handling the backslapping and backroom dealin'. We also can tolerate the more-sophisticated explanation that it is Michael Racy--a principled, brilliant and personable man--who actually does the lobbying for Pima County under Munger's banner. Racy is a plenty-good Republican. So why don't they dump Munger and his mordida and just hire Racy?

Munger, chairman of the county GOP, is a conflicted chap--his conflicts of interest abound. His firm's big fish--whale, actually--is the litigious media and billboard giant Clear Channel Communications. It was downright funny watching and listening to Munger pound away at city lawyers and the state Supreme Court on Nov. 3 as the justices considered the city's appeal on its ability, or lack thereof, to force Clear Channel to tear down a few of its ugly signs. Munger lectured the justices about the law and legislative history. He should know: It was the billboard barons who lied about the end-run legislation they cooked up with friendly, er, roll-over, lawmakers to gut the city's position.

The county also is in court against Clear Channel and Munger over a mess of illegal billboards outside the city. County Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry, seen by some as taking a more pragmatic and less-costly tact, is advocating a settlement.

Either way, Munger wins. He bills for negotiations, and he gets Clear Channel green for the lawsuit.

This isn't the first time Munger has represented the enemy. At the height of the county's landfill wars--when a Republican majority wanted to build a huge dump on the southside on property owned by big campaign donors to members of that GOP troika--Munger came trotting into a 1993 meeting when supes were talking about privatizing the dreamy landfill. Privatization would have opened the dump to imported waste from Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. Munger's client then was one of the private garbage companies that wanted to be a player in that action.

Munger got on the county gravy train back in 1989, when Republican Greg Lunn and Democrat Raúl Grijalva joined Eckstrom,Democrat/Republican/ Independent Ed Moore and Republican Reg Morrison. It took only that legislative session for--get this--Lunn, a quick-thinking moderate, and the grandfatherly Morrison to march into county administration and announce: "Dump Munger."

But he sneaked his way back in three years later, when Moore hijacked the board and wreaked havoc with massive firings that cost taxpayers $5 million in lawsuit damages and costs.

And today, only Republican Supervisor Ray Carroll has the cajones to question whether it is appropriate to have John Munger pulling down up to a quarter of a million dollars for two years of work that Michael Racy mostly performs while Munger represents a clear enemy--Clear Channel.

"If we did have billboard legislation that we were going to fight in the future or support in the future or recommend in the future, how will we deal with one of our lobbyists who represents Clear Channel on that legislation?" Sugar Ray asked, as supes prepared to rubber-stamp Munger's contract Nov. 9.

What Carroll got was long-winded bureaucratic answers about how Munger will have to disclose his clients and how the supes can simply can him.

But the Democrats--Sharon Bronson, Richard Elias and Ramon Valadez--paid no heed and quickly supported an ultimately unanimous vote to show Munger more money.


NUKES ACROSS THE BORDER

As reported in the Weekly ("Other Than Mexicans," Sept. 2), the feds and others are becoming increasingly concerned about what and who may be coming across the Arizona-Mexico border illegally, beyond migrants looking for a better life.

Well, bump up those concerns a level or two, as Time magazine is reporting this week that new intelligence indicates al-Qaeda has its collective eye on the border.

According to a piece by Adam Zagorin, a key al-Qaeda member captured recently in Pakistan "offered an alarming account of the group's potential plans to target the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction."

Sharif al-Masri, an Egyptian, reportedly told U.S. officials that al-Qaeda had considered plans to "smuggle nuclear materials to Mexico, then operatives would carry material into the U.S.," Time reported.

The magazine article went on to say: "... U.S. and Mexican intelligence conferred about reports from several al-Qaeda detainees indicating the potential use of Mexico as a staging area "to acquire end-stage chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material. U.S. officials have begun to keep a closer eye on heavy-truck traffic across the border. The Mexicans will also focus on flight schools and aviation facilities on their side of the frontier."

So, is it time to panic yet? No, but this is certainly worth watching.


BULLET PROOFING

All this daily media puff about how the aforementioned Board of Supervisors is so great that members sparked zero or only token third-party opposition is as laughable as it is stupid. Supes, despite scandal and tragedy in most departments, got their free rides because of clever gerrymandering three years ago that tailored each of their districts just for them.


HOLLAND TUNNEL

Brad Holland, the lawyer/musician who has spent a big part of several years telling City Hall how to operate, has joined the government across the plaza. Holland joined the County Attorney's Office Oct. 18 for an annual salary of $49,100.

Holland provided the city council with his knowledge of neighborhoods, transportation and the city charter.


THE SHINGLES

Another bit of at-the-bar chat: Former Chief Deputy County Attorney Mary Judge Ryan has teamed up with Merle Turchik, a former assistant city attorney and a real patron of the arts, for a law practice based in the Steinfeld Mansion.

Ryan split with her former patron, Democratic County Attorney Barbara LaWall, earlier this year. Most were shocked that LaWall chose Ryan after her first election victory in 1996 despite Ryan's obvious addiction to politics. (That ultimately manifested with her no-hope run two years ago against Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe. ) Ryan was a crummy lawyer for the county attorney, handling and losing personnel and public information cases.

The timing of her departure was interesting, occurring after the promises by Ryan and the county attorney's office to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to James Stuehringer for his representation of disbarred former prosecutor Ken Peasley.


LIFE AFTER SAPOINTE FOR LANCERS

Three graduates of Salpointe Catholic High School and of the Lancer football program get props for outstanding performances playing for little Adams State College of Colorado, second-place finishers in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Chris Lundin, a sophomore center, was named to the first team RMAC team, while free safety Tony Gibalski was named to the second team and Gene Mejia, a wide receiver, received honorable mention.

It's worth noting that Pima Community College and now (thankfully) outgoing coach Jeff Scurran paid these athletes little attention.

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