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NOT QUITE ENOUGH

John Kromko had a successful 14-year career as an anomaly in the state Legislature, admirably tilting at every windmill and scoring important victories outside the legislative process--banning the sales tax on prescription medicine and grocery food and opposing other sales-tax schemes perpetrated by Pima County for roads and later jails. But then he thought he could carpetbag, using an unsuspecting nurse's home address, into northwest and rural District 3 to unseat controversial Supervisor Ed Moore, a Republican/Democrat/Republican/independent, in 1992.

That campaign exposed Kromko as much more than the cult persona he developed as an irreverent but effective pol. He was petty, devious, hypocritical and a monumental whiner. Moore benefited that year from an independent campaign committee that produced the memorable television ads that morphed Kromko into a clown.

It stuck. Kromko has recorded loss after loss with petitions and disastrous personal political campaigns. He's not the great political troublemaker anymore. He's a trickster and pain-in-the-ass failure. And don't let Kromko take credit for one of the best pieces of initiative law--the Neighborhood Protection Amendment. That was successful--so much so that it carried over to the easy defeat of the 1986 half-cent sales tax for roads--because Wanda Shattuck, doyenne of the neighborhood movement, grabbed the checkbook and instituted rules for Kromko to follow.

Kromko failed with Total Recall, an attempt to recall Moore and his idiotic Republican mates, Paul Marsh and Mike Boyd, from the Board of Supervisors in 1993. Total? He quickly gave Boyd a free pass and still failed to collect enough signatures to properly file against Moore and Marsh. Kromko then failed with two runs for justice of the peace, including one campaign where he snubbed campaign-finance reporting laws so badly that he was barred from seeking paid political office for five years, as well a failed bid for the state Senate. And last year, he failed with another half-assed effort to recall Fred Ronstadt, Kathleen Dunbar and Carol West, the Tucson City Council members whose votes established the $14-a-month trash fee.

Kromko's latest failure came last week, when he fell a couple hundred signatures short of the 11,615 necessary to force a referendum on that garbage fee. It was a perfect campaign issue, one that would boost Democratic candidates challenging Republicans Ronstadt in central Ward 6 and Dunbar in northside Ward 3. It was natural to think that Democrats would help the supposedly redeemed Kromko with the effort to get signatures to force a vote in the general election. But Democrats stayed away. As county Democratic Boss Paul Eckerstrom told radioman John C. Scott last week, Democrats balked because of a tax cap Kromko incongruously inserted.

The poison pill? The requirement in the garbage-fee initiative forcing the city to reduce its sales tax, now at two cents per dollar, if another sales tax is passed regionally. Gee, a new transportation tax, a half-cent to pay for $1.9 billion in regional transportation improvements, will be on a countywide ballot in May 2006.

"If any other entity takes an action that would increase the rate so as to make the combined rate more than 7.6 percent, the city of Tucson's rate shall hereby be reduced by a corresponding amount so as to keep the combined rate at 7.6 percent," Kromko's Enough garbage-fee repeal petition stated.

That was enough to keep Democrats--who continue to complain about the trash fee without offering any serious alternative to balancing the city budget--away from the effort.


CHOICE CUTS

Think U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has it rough with conservatives who are already torpedoing a possible nomination to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court? Check out what Shane Wikfors, director of Arizona Right to Life, has to say about former state senator John Greene, one of the few Republicans who have actually stepped up to challenge Gov. Janet Napolitano next year.

"John Greene is NO friend of the family or the unborn," Wikfors recently wrote. "He is adamantly supportive of abortion and gay rights."

Greene has been on the wrong side of social conservatives since his days as Arizona Senate president, when he unilaterally blocked anti-abortion legislation. Wikfors, who sees this as a chance for payback, issued a fatwa in his condemnation of Greene.

"Allow me to be crystal clear," Wikfors proclaimed. "Any Republican candidate with a pro-life/pro-family record who endorses Greene will NOT receive the endorsement or support of any pro-life political action committees I or my colleagues work with ... . John Greene is politically radioactive to conservatives and our efforts to protect life and the family in Arizona."

Wikfors also took issue with Greene's failure to comply with reporting requirements related to Arizona's Clean Elections law during his campaign for Arizona attorney general in 2002--a curious thing for him to get worked up about, given that the director of development for Arizona Right to Life is Constantin Querard, the Maricopa County right-wing political strategist whose questionable management of several Clean Elections campaigns has been the subject of investigation during the last year.

While space doesn't permit us to go into the details of Querard's various schemes, we can mention that one of Querard's clients, David Burnell Smith, has the dubious honor of being the first elected official ordered to forfeit his office because of overspending in the 2004 GOP primary. Smith has vowed to fight for his seat all the way to the Supreme Court.


BOOSTED

The City Council, burned by millions in giveaways for Slim-Fast, eagerly became generous last week with $3.5 million in property tax breaks from Swiss-based pharmaceutical and nutritional product giant Novartis.

The council voted 6-1 to approve a deal that would take the Slim-Fast facility, 8755 S. Rita Road, off the tax roll after Novartis buys it for a reported $50 million. Only José Ibarra, the westside Ward 1 Democrat, dissented. He voted against the council's superfluous closed-door session and then stayed out, instead entertaining reporters and aides with jokes and a mocking miniature-golf swing. Technically, Ibarra said he opposed the deal because of the secrecy and the 350,000 gallons of water Novartis would use to produce its Boost nutritional drinks.

City Hall's economic development geniuses, Assistant City Manager Karen Thoreson and Econ Development Director Kendall Bert, have been attempting to seduce Novartis since February and have kept council members and, more important, taxpayers in the dark. Joe Burchell of the Arizona Daily Star once again showed his worth as being the only reporter to out Novartis on July 8, the day the council was set to vote on millions in tax breaks for a company the city would not identify. It's no wonder. Their giveaway plan is fuzzy and wildly optimistic. It's still unclear how Novartis will pay more in property taxes when the city is cooking a deal that will abate taxes on the property and the building (the company will pay taxes on the equipment for 15 years). Republican Mayor Bob Walkup cheered the plan, just like he did for the Slim-Fast giveaways. And just like Slim-Fast, there is no guarantee from Novartis.

In fact, there was no guarantee to the council from company rep Carolyn Smith, flown in hastily (is that possible?) from Minnesota for the council's emergency Friday session. She said high distribution costs were a difficult and fixed liability that the company, which may build a plant elsewhere, would have to consider. No decision was expected before a July 12 Novartis board meeting at headquarters in Basel. The company, Smith said, has until July 28 to close on the Slim-Fast plant.

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