You've no doubt heard of Fred Phelps and his roving band of crazies from Topeka, Kan. They're the "God Hates Fags" people, whose nasty, virulent speech against gays and lesbians has gotten them a lot of attention over the years.
If you haven't heard of them, here's a refresher: They're the ones who famously protested the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming student brutally murdered in 1998 (leading to the aforementioned play and movie, The Laramie Project), telling grieving family members and others how Shepard was supposedly going straight to hell for his evil, Sodomite lifestyle. On their Web site-- godhatesfags.com--and a flier announcing the protest, they gleefully say: "Matt Shepard has been in hell now six years--with eternity left to go on his sentence. All else about Matt is trivial and irrelevant."
As of the Weekly's press deadline, school administrators and members of the gay community were still figuring out how they intended to respond to the planned 7 a.m. picketing. Cathy Busha, of LGBT community center Wingspan, said a meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 5.
The key, she said, is to make sure that nobody responds violently to Phelps and his band of protesters. She says that they like to infuriate counter-protesters to the point of violence--and then press charges. (After all, the Westboro folks have a First Amendment right to say what they want, as horrible as it is.) This is especially a concern given that the site of the protest will be a high school.
"When you are dealing with students, who are vulnerable and potentially reactionary," Busha added, "they could easily get swept up."
According to godhatesfags.com, the Westboro folks also plan to picket some Tucson places of worship they deem "fag churches" on Sunday, Jan. 9.
Ronald Reagan Day would be celebrated Feb. 6, the Gipper's birthday. Assuming the right-heavy Legislature passes it, voters will vote on the resolution in November 2006.
Martin introduced a similar resolution last year attributing Reagan with such successes as the fall of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War victory (for prepping the military). It was co-sponsored by Sen. Jack Harper (who will put his name on just about anything Republican) and a dozen representatives. In the end, the bill served as a Republican-controlled slate for not one, but two strike-everything amendments.
Now that the Gipper's kicked the chimp, perhaps Martin has a better chance passing it. But looking at the utter blankness of the introduced version, it could just be another filler for late-breaking GOP agendas.
Meanwhile, a crew of Republicans has called for the establishment of a "Cold War Victory Day" to celebrate the end of the longest running un-declared war in U.S. history.
It's set for May 1, at the recommendation of Kansas-based Cold War Veterans Association. It's probably no coincidence that it coincides with May Day, the labor-friendly, socialist-embraced, Soviet Union-endorsed holiday celebrating the eight-hour workday victory by the American Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions in 1886.
That included a wild deal for Slim-Fast to sell the city its Tucson property and then lease it back for $1 a year, which helped Slim-Fast shed fat property taxes. Added into the mix were two grants totaling nearly $1 million for job training. All this for 150 employees, half of whom were laid off in September.
Republican Mayor Bob Walkup was so pleased with the Slim-Fast deal--hey, it wasn't another call center--that he touted it during his State of the City chat in 2002.
"Slim-Fast," Walkup beamed, "believes in Tucson."
Walkup and his fellow cheerleaders also bragged about Slim-Fast during his "I brought jobs to Tucson" campaign for re-election in 2003.
But when Slim-Fast bolted last week, Walkup was nowhere the morning paper could find him. City Hall's feeble defense was left to the increasingly out-of-touch economic development director, Kendall Bert.
First, Bert squirmed his way through, saying that the city really hasn't lost much; then Bert actually told the Arizona Daily Star that the job-training funds "came from a tax on businesses, not taxpayers."
The fact that Bert thinks those business owners and their clients aren't taxpayers would be funny, if it weren't so sad.
The city's short marriage with Slim-Fast was blessed by the City Council in December 2003. Democrats Steve Leal and José Ibarra cast the dissenting votes.
The heart of the matter is sadly and deadly serious. It revolves around the Oct. 5 murder of Dr. David Stidham. His former partner, Dr. David Schwartz, is in jail, accused of hiring the alleged hit man, Ronald Bigger. LaWall's staff had a lot of contact with Schwartz, and one of her former young prosecutors, Lourdes Lopez, was Schwartz's lover. Just how close Lopez remained with her former colleagues is at issue, as is whether any of them could have done something to prevent the murder.
The case before the Merit Commission, the county's civil service panel, will no doubt be titillating. But LaWall loses either way. The commission may overturn LaWall's actions, and even if her firing of Paul Skitzki and the discipline she's meted out to three others are upheld, there will be plenty to show that perhaps they should never have been hired. Moreover, there will ample discussion that LaWall has gone a little power mad as she starts her third term. LaWall should work more on training and ethics rather than clutter patrol and obsessive personal loyalty.
Finally, LaWall, with some help from friendly judges, has assured the public that her office hasn't missed a beat in prosecuting crimes. She is down six prosecutors, or 10 percent. Members of the Board of Supervisors, already weary of LaWall's incessant and petulant cries for more money for more staff, have taken note and are less likely to cave in to her demands as budgets are set this spring and summer.
Lugo is quick to give credit to all the donors who buy the bikes for kids who normally wouldn't have them, and to the volunteers who put them together in two frenetic shifts at El Casino. This holiday, 535 bikes were presented to kids from throughout Tucson.
Among the volunteers this holiday were students in the automotive classes and members of the varsity basketball team at Cholla High School, Lugo's alma mater.