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CONFIDENCE MAN

Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup showed once again last week that nobody gives a State of the City speech like he does. Walkup's ebullient address to an audience of nearly 1,000 civic-minded networkers was positively upbeat--and a far cry from the dire outlook provided by the Citizen Finance and Service Review Committee last year, which said that "without immediate action, followed by fundamental change, we see Tucson headed toward a future as a second-rate city at best and almost certain financial collapse at worst."

But hey, that kind of doom and gloom has no place in a civic celebration, right?

Bob's big news was about plans for a residential and commercial development at Kino Boulevard and Interstate 10.

"A geographic triangle is formed that links the UA campus, Rio Nuevo and the Kino Interchange," said Walkup, who promises that the area would eventually be "the core of our city, buzzing with cutting-edge research, education, government, commerce, history, the arts, sports, entertainment and high-technology industry."

Plus, Walkup's Sunny Triangle neatly puts to rest all that criticism about the new ballpark not going downtown by simply extending downtown's boundaries!

Walkup ended his speech with a signal that he's ready to wade right back into Tucson's water wars, asking a series of questions about hydro-policy that must have had some members of the development community a little nervous, particularly over Bob's thoughts about changing state laws to make it harder for them to pump water themselves instead of being dependent on Tucson Water.

As he usually does, Walkup also promised to push forward with consolidation plans between the city and county, saying it would bring us more money from the state and lower our local taxes through efficiency.

Curiously, Bob said the city and county were close to consolidating the library system--which most of us thought was already an example of city-county consolidation. The city runs the libraries, while both jurisdictions split the cost.

But last year, city officials started pushing for the city to zero out its $10 million funding of libraries, with the expectation that the county would pick up the full cost. The county balked at the idea, although city and county officials are now in talks regarding the questions of who should fund and who should run the system.

If city officials have their way, the county would take over all of the funding through its library district, which is supported by property taxes. But if the city is no longer providing any dollars, then it seems to us that the county will be forced to double its library tax to continue the same level of service. (And, by the way, Walkup promised all sorts of library expansions--a curious thing, given his efforts to put an end to city funding.)

Is a doubling of the library district property tax the sort of savings we can expect through consolidation? Frankly, we're not sure we can afford that kind of tax relief.


FRODO GETS THE BOOT

City Councilman Fred Ronstadt will have a lot more time on his hands for city business--and his drive for a third term--now that Compass Bank has cut him loose. Ronstadt, a Republican who represents midtown Ward 6, also will have more time to call in to his favorite radio talk-show host, John C. Scott, when he makes his triumphant returns to the airwaves--this time at 1330 AM KJLL in the horrible slot of 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Ronstadt, who had been at Compass for several years, was officially a victim of company-wide downsizing at Compass, one of 60 who lost jobs in the region.

Ronstadt's bank jobs are much like those historically given by Republican bigwigs to council members who 1) can't make it on the council salary ($24,000 a year, plus car and all the gas you'll ever need) and 2) have trouble landing jobs on their own. It's sort of like the power brokers drawing straws when they get together. The loser has to hire some pol.

The same was true for multi-term Republican Roy Laos III, the southside Ward 5 councilman who was handed a job by the late, gracious Bill Clements at Golden Eagle, the Budweiser distributor. When Democrat Steve Leal punted Laos from office in 1989, Clements was able to shrink the featherbed portion of his payroll.


KETTLEWELL BACK ON JOB

Robert Hooker, the defense lawyer and former Pima County Superior Court judge, is headed for a new title as Pima County public defender. He will start when he can wrap up or dish off the cases he has pending from his private practice.

Hooker won by default. The other finalists in this beauty contest grew impatient at Pima Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry's immense patience.

Hooker will do just fine. He did, after all, stand up to the bullying tactics of then-Supervisor Ed Moore 12 years ago. And he just laughed when Moore, in one rage or another, announced that he would throw Hooker off--meaning through a window--the top floor of County Administration. Hooker was then representing one of Moore's many victims among county staff.

The big news at the public defender's office is that interim boss Don Klein flouted Huckelberry's goals and policies by hiring Susan Kettlewell, whose retirement created the vacancy Hooker will fill. We like Kettlewell, but Klein's move also was a bit presumptuous when the Board of Supervisors was awaiting a choice to ratify.

Kettlewell has been back in the public defender's office handling cases for about a month. She is paid $44.53 an hour and works 19 hours a week.


JUDY GETS BURNED

Long-suffering TUSD board member Judy Burns has four knives she would probably like pulled from her back. The biggest was plunged by colleague Joel T. Ireland, who had promised Burns her spin as president of the TUSD board. Ireland has repeatedly told Burns to patiently await her turn while he arrogated the chair over and over. She stupidly trusted him.

In the first meeting of the board, with rookie Alex Rodriguez taking his new seat, the fruits of Rev. Ireland's manipulations produced this: Rodriguez delivering the motion for Bruce Burke to ascend to president.

Burke, like Ireland, is a lawyer. Unlike Ireland, he is a smart and talented lawyer. And unlike Ireland, he is a nice guy who has not used his position to stuff his friends into TUSD jobs.

That kind of fix would require some work. And Burke, when it comes to TUSD, is a do-nothing. He is a model for those who have the irrational fear of an active board member.

Ireland engineered the transfer of power, and Rodriguez shamefully went along, as did Adelita Grijalva, who replaced Burns as board clerk. The president and the clerk, particularly, under Ireland's too-long tenure of 16 years, have inordinate power in determining the agenda.

This action is further troubling because it was not spontaneous. It was worked out in secret long before the directors of the mismanaged school district mounted the dais.

Little A-Rod is confirming fears that he'll be nothing but Ireland's puppet.


THE VAIL DIET

When our favorite morning daily summoned Vail Schools Superintendent Calvin Baker, a pleasant and accommodating fellow, to talk about the impact of Slim-Fast, he bemoaned the lack of tax revenue from the company.

Did he misspeak, or was he misquoted? Slim-Fast had a fat equipment tax--more than $1 million. And 45 percent of that went to the Vail schools, county records show. Readers of the Daily Star wouldn't know that because the Star reported that the $1 million--all of it--went to Pima County.

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