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SCRAMBLEWATCH '07: NO GUTS, NO GLORY EDITION

City Councilman Steve Leal made it official last week: He's not giving up the southside Ward 5 seat he's held since 1989 to challenge Mayor Bob Walkup.

Leal said he would have done it, if only it weren't for that pesky resign-to-run law. After pondering his options for months, he realized that the council really, really needed him, what with Karin Uhlich and Nina Trasoff still new kids on the block, and two new council members coming later this year to replace Ward 1's José Ibarra and Ward 2's Carol West.

Well, sometimes sacrifices for the greater good need to be made.

Besides, what issues did Leal have to run on? After 17 years on the council, you can't exactly say, "It's time for a change."

If you've got such mad leadership skills, shouldn't you be showing them off now that Democrats are in charge? And if you are showing off your leadership skills, aren't you responsible for the direction of the city? It's quite the conundrum.

Last time out, the Democrats were able to nail Republicans Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar as sellouts to big business who were socking the little guy with a $14-a-month garbage fee. But now that Leal and his fellow Democrats have--shall we say--grown more comfortable with the fee, that's not much of an attack plan.

That whole trash-fee business illustrates what happens when you do show leadership and make a tough decision: You get taken out by Democrats who then enjoy spending the extra $20 million a year.

Leal has taken to speechifying about poverty and urban stress lately, and even had city staff spend months compiling a collection of statistics that he sent out last month, cross-referencing stress indicators or whatev. If you ask us, that sounds like a real downer on the campaign trail, especially against Sunny Bob, who's sure to talk about new roads, new jobs and new directions.

So with Leal backing out of the race, are political junkies condemned to a couple of council races to see who replaces Ibarra and West?

Wait and see. Ibarra has been telling reporters he may run for mayor. Please, please, please, José: Run! We're begging you. We're begging you!

Also now considering a mayoral bid: Daniel Patterson, who was appointed by Leal to the Tucson Planning Commission. The former staffer for the Center for Biological Diversity floated his name almost as soon as Leal said he wasn't running. If you want to know more about him, head over to dpatterson.blogspot.com.

We warn you: He has been known to post his own poetry. A hip-hop number from last June:

The rain comes down on our town,
watch the brown water flow, bro
And you go hard, grrrly grrl,
dusting off the desert world.
The growing big trees how they please,
as she's on her knees.
Oh please, oh please!
Feel and share the breeze.
Mmmm ... It's good, not sleeze.

Can't wait for the debates.

So far, the only other Democrats to show an interest in running for mayor are Michael Toney, who's best known for mumbling during call to the audience about his superior science-center proposal, and Joshua Garcia, a 27-year-old construction worker making his foray into politics because he doesn't "like the direction the city is going." The political rookie says he's worried about Tucson's rapid growth.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Two years ago, the Democrats had a ticket that demolished the GOP council members. Now they've got a guy who has an aversion to showers.

We almost forgot Bruce Gerowitz, who decided to run as an independent after getting mad as hell at City Hall for passing new regulations for outdoor food carts. Gerowitz has sold hot dogs outside TD's eastside strip club for 17 years.

In the face of these formidable challenges, Walkup announced his campaign chairs last week: Peter Likins, recently retired from the UA presidency; Manny Herrera, the former president of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association; and Christine Olson, the wife of his lordship Lute Olson and a big shot in Pennsylvania Republican politics.

Uh oh--that could cost Walkup the disgruntled UA fan vote.


MORE TRASH TALK

Speaking of City Hall: A big welcome to our new director of Environmental Services, Andrew Quigley, who is coming to us from the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Ill.

Quigley will be taking over from Tucson Water Director David Modeer, who has been running both the water utility and the trash department as part of the deal struck when the old Republican council agreed to institute the aforementioned trash fee.

The new Democratic council spun Environmental Services back into a separate department, which we guess is Councilwoman Nina Trasoff's way of fulfilling her campaign promise to cut fat in the bureaucracy.

Here's the challenge for Environmental Services: The department is still enjoying a subsidy from the general fund. If it's truly going to be an enterprise fund that's supported by fees rather than tax dollars, the department will need more revenue. Does that mean an increase in the monthly garbage fee?

Not necessarily--at least not yet. The city could raise tipping fees or commercial rates instead. But eventually, as the department needs more trucks or more employees or more space at the dump, the council will have to face the sticky question of raising fees.


TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

Guess what, business owners? The state stepped closer to socking you if you knowingly hire an illegal immigrant. Last week, the House passed House Bill 2779, the employer-sanctions package, on a 46-13 vote.

Because federal law prohibits the state from making it a crime to hire illegal immigrants, the law is a bit tricky. Here's how it'll work: If you own a business, you'll have to sign an affidavit by the end of the year saying you don't have illegal immigrants on the payroll. If it turns out you do knowingly employ undocumented workers, you're guilty of filing a false affidavit, and you're facing a felony charge, fines and maybe even a loss of your business license.

Keep it up, and it gets worse: On the third strike, you're flat out of business in this state--and you could be facing jail time.

Lawmakers have been kind enough to dole out $3 million to county and state prosecutors to get them on the case, so they'll be able to investigate any claims that anyone--scheming competitor, unhappy customer, disgruntled former employee--wants to make against you.

Here's the downside: The system they want you to use may or may not work, so good luck with that.

Why are business-friendly Republicans supporting a law opposed by the Chamber of Commerce? Why are small-government Republicans supporting a law that makes every single business fill out yet another form? Because they're scared that the far right is going to hammer them as soft on border security in the next election.

That same fear explains the votes of some Democrats who represent competitive districts. But other Dems are so tired of the demonizing of illegal immigrants at the Capitol that they don't care if the business community gets dragged into the fight.

Now the whole mess has been dropped into the Senate. If you're a business owner, you might consider calling your senator and letting him or her know how you feel about it.

More by Jim Nintzel

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