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HERR HEIN

Hope the locked-in-the-1950s bureaucrats and lawyers at City Hall are getting the message: Mike Hein as city manager beginning next month means, refreshingly, business won't be done as usual.

To the secret-keepin' city attorneys and the dolts on City Council that they lead around, here's the first clue: Hein found it clumsy, stupid and utterly unwarranted to keep some details of his contract from the public.

The City Council emerged from closed session last week and gave the green light to the Hein contract that was on the table. But then, the council told the press and public to go to hell --on the advice of its lawyers, of course--when it came time to say what the public would be paying for Hein's services.

Hein promptly told reporters and others who asked that he had settled for $185,000 a year, plus $8,000 in deferred compensation, a city-provided ride and $10,000 a year toward a retirement fund. This is a bargain: James Keene, Hein's divisive, arrogant and have-gun-will-travel predecessor, was pulling down $192,000 plus, plus. Keene also had a sweeter protection clause in case of termination.

The city legal beagles, headed by City Attorney Mike Rankin, told council members to shut up about any of the details, under the faulty reasoning that the matter was discussed in executive session. We've been through this before. The council and other governing boards are permitted by state law to meet behind closed doors on personnel matters, litigation and property transactions. Those discussions and advice from the lawyers don't preclude the council members for owning up to the public. In fact, all votes and action must be done in public session with disclosure.

The council has been duped by its lawyers into believing that it can't disclose or discuss anything that was the subject of an executive session. Republican Fred Ronstadt told Inside Track (1330 AM KJLL) hosts Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy on Saturday that he and his colleagues could be in big trouble if they get into trouble because they didn't act according to the advice dispensed by their lawyers.

It is disturbing that Frodo believes that bullshit after two terms on the council. It is disturbing that Frodo and his colleagues don't understand that they appoint the city attorney, and that the city attorney works for them. Finally, it is disturbing that Frodo and his colleagues fail to grasp that they--not their off-base legal team--get into trouble for concealing from the public what they are doing. They can start by looking at previous Pima County Boards of Supervisors and the corrupt Scottsdale School Board of the 1990s.


TRASOFF TAKES OFF

Calling herself "a pushy broad," Democrat Nina Trasoff was the latest candidate to launch a City Council campaign with a stirring speech earlier this week in front of the Democrats of Greater Tucson, who were contentedly grazing on the buffet offerings at the Rose Garden Chinese restaurant.

Trasoff is facing artist/light-rail conductor Steve Farley in the September Democratic primary to earn the chance to unseat Republican Ward 6 City Councilman Fred Ronstadt.

Earlier in the day, to ensure the TV cameras would have good visuals, Trasoff delivered a speech at Broadway and Rosemont boulevards to complain about plans for a new "mini" WalMart--mini, in this case, being 40,000 square feet. Wally-Mart was certainly an excellent choice for the first villain of the campaign, Nina!

Trasoff also set herself apart from Farley by calling for an outright repeal of the city's newly enacted $14-a-month trash fee. The last time we asked Farley about repealing the fee, he said many Tucsonans could afford the fee, but he wanted to see a better subsidy for low-income Tucsonans.

Trasoff admitted she wasn't sure how she'd replace the $20 million or so raised by the fee, but suggested the council needed to find a "creative" solution.

Learn more at Trasoff's Web site, www.trasofffortucson.com.

Farley, meanwhile, is bloggin' away at www.friendsofarley.com , where he's a launched a new feature, Fred Watch, which mocks Ronstadt for taking credit for bringing home $75 million to fund a transit project linking the university with Rio Nuevo. Farley says it was all his idea.

So far, Farley's blog is pretty quiet, with the only comments--two, as of press time--appearing in response to Farley's Rodeo Parade commentary.

Speaking of City Council candidates: Democrat Karin Uhlich officially kicks off her campaign--although we thought she did that weeks ago at a DGT luncheon--with a fiesta from 1 to 3 p.m. this Saturday, March 19, at Pima County Democratic Headquarters, 4639 E. First St. Uhlich's campaign wisely adjusted the time to avoid a conflict the Wildcats' March Madness appearance, assuming they don't pull an East Tennessee State in the first round.


TAX APPEALS BY NAIFEH; STOCK TIPS BY MARTHA STEWART

The forgive-and-forget Arizona Daily Star had a nifty free ad masquerading as a brief under the March 10 Industry News & Notes for Tom Naifeh's property tax appeals.

Naifeh, a smug, nerdy whiz kid, was the deputy assessor under the abbreviated term of Democrat Alan Lang in 1993, but he bailed out before Lang was recalled the following year. Lang grabbed most of the headlines: mistreating female employees so that taxpayers were forced to make cash settlements, toting guns into the barricaded office to intimidate those who didn't kowtow, ditching work for Vegas getaways, and sparring with his live-in girlfriend so much that cops were called more than once. Meanwhile, Naifeh wreaked havoc on the tax rolls and violated public-records laws. Naifeh had come from the tax-appeal industry, and he and his brother speculated in both appeals and real estate acquisition. Lang and Naifeh had a huge metal door installed for extra security for the assessor's executive office and had it manned by a sheriff's deputy.

Then, Naifeh was so bent on keeping public records away from the press that he once barred reporters from getting what was and is widely public--the assessed and full cash values of properties. It is information available at the assessor's counter and for years on the assessor's Web site. It got so ludicrous that he attempted to have minions deny Joe Burchell of the Arizona Daily Star the records to his own house. That was the final straw. Burchell and a fat, dumber colleague who now scribbles here drew out timid deputy county attorneys that very minute and dragged them over to the assessor's office to explain what their client, the defiant deputy assessor, was up to. Even those hand-wringing lawyers were forced to tell the petulant Naifeh where to stick his public information policy.

No doubt Naifeh should be able to talk about tax appeals. He is a habitual appellant who attempts to pay less than his share. Records (ain't that sunshine nice?) show that although Naifeh paid $251,000 for his Catalina Foothills home in 2002, he claimed the house was worth only $205,800. Naifeh wanted to chop 30 percent off the value of $293,633 that the assessor placed on his home in order to save $912 from his tax bill of $3,041. His appeal had some weight. The next year, the assessor lowered the value of the Naifeh castle to $245,633. For next year, the value has bounced back to $294,760, according to the records that Naifeh said 12 years ago were not public.

Naifeh has frantically appealed the value of another family property, a house in the 5700 block of East Ninth Street. A house valued at $137,256 last year was worth, according to Naifeh's appeal, only $80,000. Naifeh believed he should pay just 60 percent of that tax bill.

And on an eastside Sherwood Village Terrace house, Naifeh has received a tax bargain. He and his wife and his tax-consultant business bought the property in 2001 for $101,500. We agree with Naifeh that the assessor's office needs to shape up and get proper values assigned to homes. It is too low at only $95,537 for the 2006 tax year.

We're ready for the next seminar to be plugged by the Star: Alan Lang's human touch--how to manage your people.

More by Jim Nintzel

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