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CALL OF DUTY

State Rep. Jonathan Paton announced this week that he was soon shipping out to war. A lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve who graduated from the U.S. Army Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca last year, Paton has volunteered for a six-month hitch in in the CENTCOM area of operations in Iraq, where he'll be doing intelligence work that's too top secret for him to share with Skinny readers.

"I supported the war, and I think you have to put your money where your mouth is," says Paton, who hopes to be back early next year so he won't miss much of the legislative session, provided he wins re-election this fall.

Paton, who is now seeking his second term, will have to wrap up his campaign overseas. His District 30--which includes Tucson's eastside, Green Valley and parts of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca--is safely Republican, so he probably doesn't have to worry much about his Democratic opponent, Clarence Boykins, in the November general. Paton's biggest hurdle is getting past his challengers in the primary; he and fellow District 30 Rep. Marian McClure, who is seeking her fourth term in the House, are facing a challenge in the form of Frank Callegari and David Gowan.

The four candidates hashed out various issues last weekend at a Clean Elections debate in Green Valley. About two dozen people turned out for the event, but once you subtracted the Clean Elections staffers, members of the media, relatives of candidates, Democratic Party officials and District 30 state Sen. Tim Bee, you had probably two or three audience members who were actually there to figure out who to vote for. But we're sure that Clean Elections is still good for democracy, blah, blah, blah. And, hey, a videotape of the debate will be available for download on the Clean Elections site, which probably gets nearly as many hits as YouTube these days.

Anyhow, Paton and McClure were clearly superior to the other two knuckleheads, who are both running with Clean Elections dollars.

Callegari, a former state trooper, continues to moronically propose that the state save oodles of money by spending less on brick-and-mortar prisons and buying a bunch of tents instead. He served in Vietnam, you see, and tents were good enough for him and his fellow soldiers, so they'd be good enough for convicted criminals.

Of course, Callegari and his fellow soldiers didn't pose a security risk, as incarcerated criminals do. The reason Sheriff Joe Arpaio can put prisoners in tent cities in Maricopa County is that he's only sticking the low-risk DUI offenders and the like in them for 90 days. The really bad guys remain behind bars.

Expecting even a nonviolent offender to spend five to 10 in a tent while the hard-core guys enjoy an air-conditioned cell is so breathtakingly stupid that we find it impossible to take anything that Callegari proposes seriously--particularly when we consider that as a former cop, he ought to know better. Or maybe he does, and he's just pandering.

Still, at least Callegari has an idea, even if it's a bad one. Even worse is Gowan, the anti-government-spending conservative who is sucking at the Clean Elections tit for the second time. Guess welfare is OK if he's the one getting it. Or maybe his principles aren't as rock-solid as he'd have us believe.

Gowan, who strikes us as being as stupid as--if not more than--a sack of hammers, is a stooge for Maricopa County political consultant Constantine Querard, who has made a cottage industry of recruiting right-wing dimwits to run for office with Clean Elections dollars. In his last run, Gowan sent out a hit piece against McClure that landed a couple of days after the election. Nice shot, buddy!

Here's a clue for Gowan: When Paton's volunteering to serve in Iraq, you're not scoring any points by talking about your leadership skills heading up a Cub Scout troop.

Gowan, whose entire shtick is talking about his commitment to conservative principles and making people into "good citizens," has been taking aim at Paton and McClure, calling them "self-described moderates."

It's tough to buy that argument when it comes to Paton, who has been one of Southern Arizona's most effective lawmakers in his first term. Paton has co-sponsored legislation to extend gun rights, fought to restrict the power of counties when it comes to imposing impact fees, secured better protection of medical and cell-phone records, locked up coyotes who smuggle illegal immigrants into the country, gone after Dolores Huerta and the Tucson Unified School District on The O'Reilly Factor, voted for this year's tax breaks and even ran a bill exempting active-duty military from state income taxes.

Paton's record makes it clear that Gowan either doesn't know what he's talking about, or he doesn't care if he's lying to get into office. Expect a pile of bullshit attack ads between now and the primary. Presuming, of course, he can get them in the mail before Election Day.


PRICE POINTS

Pima County won't be preserving the 289 acres known as Painted Hills in the Tucson Mountains. The land was recently snatched up by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System at an astonishing $93,000 an acre, and a Las Vegas developer is planning on building luxury homes that will go for as much as $2 million.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says there's no way the county can compete with that kind of a price.

Is it a sign that soaring property values are going to put preservation out of the county's reach? Huck says there's still plenty of land, even in the urban area, that's still available at a reasonable price. Less than a mile from where the pension funds are spending $93K an acre, for example, the county is buying land for about $10,000 an acre. Of the 30,000 or so acres acquired as part of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, the average cost has been about $2,500 an acre, according to Huckelberry.

"I think it's manageable so far," Huckelberry says. "A lot of the values are speculative, and they'll probably moderate and come down in the future."

Anybody else think the pension fund paid way too much? If we were members of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension, we'd be taking a hard look at who's managing our money and why they're paying such outrageous amounts for land.


'STAR' BURST

John Humenik, who for seven months has been editor and publisher of the Arizona Daily Star, recently spoke at a luncheon about filling a void in the Southwest, by turning Tucson's dominant daily into a "great American newspaper."

Humenik told the Rotary Club of Tucson on Wednesday, July 26, that his plan for doing so involves community building--you know, getting involved with the community, engaging in dialogue, that sort of thing. And, of course, encouraging journalistic excellence.

He said news consumers, their crania exploding with information in the digital age, will turn to a handful of comfortable, credible sources: "Study after study has shown that the average consumer doesn't actually like to have too many choices, which is what the Internet provides."

We figure it's a lot like turning to a favorite old pair of slippers when your feet are cold, or a former boyfriend or girlfriend when you want to get laid.

However, some people seemed ready to jump ship after he answered a question about why newspapers can't cover more positive, life-affirming stories (fluffy kitties being born) and fewer negative ones (fluffy kitties being killed).

A discontented murmur went through a portion of the crowd when Humenik said that "someone's bad news is someone's good news."

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