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HOT AS HELL

Those edgy editors at the Tucson Citizen came up with a real summer sizzler for the paper's lame Calendar section. They devised a "Hot Issue" with the hottest of Tucson, including hot politicians (Mayor Bob Walkup's inclusion says it all), hot TV news personalities, hot UA athletes and hot regular folks whose spouses or significant others are so bereft of ways to make their ladies or men feel good that they were compelled to submit names, photos and hot talk.

Our attention was drawn for one reason only. Tenicia Waldron had this to say about her man, 32-year-old James Waldron, a roofer: "He is a great father and he busts his ass on a hot roof with hot tar every day and looks sexy as hell doing it."

The Arizona Department of Public Safety also has a picture of Waldron. Same cocky grill, same airplane-wing ears. The DPS line on Waldron is: White, 5-foot-11, hazel eyes, 150 pounds, brown hair. Oh yeah, DPS also says (online, so the crack Citizen staff could have run a quick background check) Waldron is a risk-two (intermediate) sex offender, convicted of sexual conduct with a minor in Pima County.

Next in the Citizen: Tucson's hottest sex offenders!


A SICK SYSTEM

Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services brings us the disgraceful news that nearly 10 percent of Wal-Mart employees are getting their health insurance from the state. Hey, it's easier to deliver those low, low prices when you don't provide decent wages or benefits.

Wal-Mart, of course, says they get people off the welfare rolls. Yes, and right into paycheck-to-paycheck poverty.

Wal-Mart was clearly the worst offender when it came to this particular form of corporate welfare, but the retailer is not alone; Fischer also found that Target had 5.4 percent of its workforce getting health insurance from the state, while 5.3 percent of workers at supermarket chains Kroger (aka Fry's) and Bashas' counted on AHCCCS.

The real question here isn't why taxpayers are subsidizing Wal-Mart's 8.9 billion in profits last year, although that's a good one to ask. The question is why we continue to believe it's good public policy to offer health-care benefits through employment.

With the way premiums are skyrocketing these days, it certainly isn't good for companies, which have to absorb the increases or pass 'em along to workers, making it harder to start or stay in business. It's not good for employees, who have to scramble if they lose their jobs or decide to take a break from the workforce. And it certainly doesn't make it easier for companies to compete in the global marketplace, which may be one reason we're seeing so much outsourcing (although the lower wages overseas certainly are attractive to bean counters as well).

Oh, right: A government health-insurance program would mean rationing of care. And we certainly don't have that now, with HMO clerks deciding what kind of treatment we can get.


OUTLANDER

Steve Auslander devoted 34 years to Tucson journalism at the Arizona Daily Star before retiring last month. He worked as a hyper-curious reporter, editorial page editor, editor and local publisher, and then again in a job for which he was perfectly suited--for anyone but current editorial page editor Dennis Joyce--as an editorial writer.

We often didn't agree with Auslander. But he was talented, quick, fair, frank, wonderfully unpretentious (he could cuss worse than some of us) and, thankfully, opinionated.

While some truly talented writers bolted when Auslander took command of the paper in 1985, he was far better than Auslander's successor, the imperious and laughably out-of-touch Jane Amari. Blessed readers no longer have to put up with her, but her key goon, Joyce, remains in charge of the editorial pages that are an error-prone, shallow, jumbled and formulaic mess.

It was all too juvenile for Auslander. Flowers and Thorns?!

If you like Fitz, you can thank Auslander, who brought the quick-witted and talented cartoonist to the Star about 20 years ago.

Auslander, 61, as people at the Star are learning, actually fought to keep bean counters away from affecting reporters and editors. He was a firewall that will never again be seen at either daily. He was a curious reporter who relished pestering judges and local officials every day about a pending settlement or order, just as much as he enjoyed high-profile work, such as Travels with Mo, covering the late, fabulous congressman, Morris K. Udall.

Auslander was brought along by a titan in Tucson journalism, Abraham Chanin, and when he became boss of the editorial page, like Chanin, he didn't hide in the ivory tower. He even ventured out, including in the spring of 1983, to study the First Amendment under Charles Ares, the brilliant former dean of the UA College of Law. In a room full of students who fought to see who could sound the most erudite, Auslander was splendidly down to earth. He didn't give tortured views on bad opinions and dissents, but would simply label them "stupid" or "irrational."

At the Star, Auslander gave writers plenty of room to explore and plenty of room to screw up. He jacked up pay for women. He elevated Susan Albright to editorial page editor when he got the big chair. He detested overblown titles, including "investigative reporter," and pushed for all reporters to investigate every part of each story they did. He encouraged all reporters, photographers and editors to learn Spanish, and he helped provide time and space for them to take those classes through Pima Community College. He ushered in the Internet age at the Star and allowed Bob Cauthorn to flourish.

Readers would have been well-served by Auslander as a columnist. The high-minded, overwrought hand-wringing by Gentleman Jim Kiser, a pleasant water boy for Tucson's Ruling Class, makes Auslander seem downright gritty.


SLIM CHANCE

Chandler, the former East Valley sheep town, gets a $3 billion Intel chip plant with 1,000 top-paying new jobs. Meanwhile, Tucson offers up $3 million in unnecessary bribes for the Novartis drink unit, Boost.

And while Republican Mayor Bob Walkup and his staff vowed the City Council would approve the tax-break deal for Boost on Aug. 2, City Manager Mike Hein wisely took a closer look at the no-guarantee-from-Novartis deal and held it up.

The giveaway was cooked up by Kendall Bert, city economic development boss, and Karen Thoreson, the highly overrated assistant city manager. Tellingly, both are looking for new gigs.


WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Now in the governor's race: Don Goldwater, nephew of the late Barry Goldwater, former U.S. senator and presidential hopeful.

We don't know much about Don's politics yet, but if his pals are any indication, expect him to tack right. His announcement bulletin was delivered by Steve Aiken, the conservative talk-show host who also serves as a strategist for Randy Graf, the former state lawmaker who is now making a career of futilely chasing after local Congressman Jim Kolbe.

The only other announced candidate is moderate Republican John Greene, a former state senator. Also weighing their chances: Current Senate President Ken Bennett and state Rep. Russell Pearce, who's currently king of the konservative Kool-Aid drinkers in the state House.

Sounds like four more years for Janet Napolitano!


SNAPP, CRACKLE, POP

The leaders of 10 neighborhood associations sent blistering notices July 26, pulling their membership from the Southside Neighborhood Presidential Partnership (SNAPP). The umbrella organization, which could have served to be an effective and powerful voice, has been hijacked, primarily by Yolanda Herrera (to shill for Brush Ceramic Products), legendary land speculator Don Diamond and defenders of billboard blight, among others.

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