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MO' MONEY

One week after County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry released his proposed budget, City Manager Mike Hein showed us his spending plan.

Hein wants to spend $1.25 billion, which is about $152.6 million more than the city is spending this year.

Most of the increase--about $104.3 million--is in money from grants, bonds and other so-called restricted funds that the council has little control over.

The general fund--the portion of the budget that the City Council can play with, which covers expenses like police, fire, transportation and parks--is increasing by about $32 million, thanks to increased revenues and the use of some money the city had stashed away.

It sounds like quite a windfall, but Hein has plans for that money; he wants to fix streets, hire more cops and firefighters, and hand out raises to city employees.

One thing you shouldn't expect is for any of the Democrats to push to use all that extra money to reduce the garbage fee that they hated so much a couple of years ago.

That's fine with us; we'd just as soon pay to have our garbage picked up if it meant there was more money to fix our streets--and we suspect the majority of Tucsonans would agree.

But we do want to remind you that we told you the trash fee wasn't going away back when Nina Trasoff, Karin Uhlich, José Ibarra, Steve Leal and Shirley Scott were complaining about how unfair it was, while cooking up all kinds of half-baked ideas about how the city could simultaneously take in less money and increase spending on social programs.

Voters may yet have the final say if political gadfly John Kromko manages to get an initiative on this year's city ballot asking voters to do away with the fee forever.


HITTIN' THE BOOKS

One of the biggest winners in the proposed county budget is the library system. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has proposed increasing the library budget by $2 million next year. Total spending for the library would be $36.6 million, up from just $24 million in the '05-'06 budget year.

That means that the county will be hiking property taxes for the library by 3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation--on top of the increase in money that the county would have gotten just from increased home values. That translates into $79.50 in library taxes for a $200,000 home next year.

Huckelberry says the increase is necessary because more libraries are opening, which means the county needs more books and more staff.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors didn't mind increasing the library spending last year--and none of the members are complaining about it this year.

We're not too upset about it, either. That's partially because we love librarians just as much as everyone else, but also because even if our property taxes that support the library district increase by about 50 percent--as they did this year--we can compensate by checking out a few more books and saving the money we would have spent at Borders or Antigone.

We do wish, however, that the county would quit saying they have to raise taxes because the city of Tucson is chipping in less money to support the libraries. While it's true that the city has been reducing its contribution to the library systems by about $2 million annually for the last couple of years, the county has done more than just compensate for those losses. It's used the transfer of the system to the county to significantly boost the library budget.


FADING IMAGE

Douglas R. Nickel is stepping down as the director of the Center for Creative Photography on July 1. On the job just less than four years, Nickel will become a full professor at Brown University.

Nickel said he wasn't looking to leave, but "when an Ivy League university calls, you take the call."

A scholarly guy with a penchant for electric guitars and a doctorate from Princeton in the history of photography, Nickel said he's delighted that a school of Brown's caliber is stepping into the field. Before coming to the UA, he was photography curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and he organized several shows during his short tenure at CCP. But he's giving up curating.

"I'll devote myself to teaching and research," he said. "And I'll have the summers off. It will be a little more relaxing."

Relaxing may be the operative word. Nickel had a dual role at the UA, serving both as the CCP director and as an art history professor. He arrived with a plan to bolster the UA's grad program in photographic history ("this is a superb teaching facility"), but foremost on his plate was restoring the reputation of an institution badly marred by infighting.

Carla Stoffle, dean of the libraries and the center, had ousted the previous director, Terence Pitts, in 2000, leaving the CCP leaderless for three long years. Then respected curator Trudy Wilner Stack quit, leaving the place without a curator for two years. The dispute centered partly on the chain of command, and partly on the nature of the exhibitions. Former UA President John Schaefer, a co-founder of the CCP, wanted the shows to come out of the museum's own collections, which include works by some of the 20th century's leading photographers. During the Pitts/Wilner Stack years, the exhibitions alternated between historical work drawn from the collections with contemporary, cutting-edge art from outside the CCP.

Nickel in short order hired a new curator, Britt Salvesen, and in a clever tactical move set up a small, permanent gallery to display selections from the collection at all times. Nickel and Salvesen shifted the balance in the exhibition program, with a majority of their shows concentrating on either photographs drawn from the permanent collection or images that had some connection to photographers in the archives. Nickel also extended the CCP's reach, setting up a photo gallery at the Phoenix Art Museum.

"The place is in good shape," he said. "It will be an excellent place for the next person. The shows have been planned for the next couple of years. Our projects are funded--we did well with gifts of archives and prints. Britt is staying."

As for the search for a new director, "I hope it goes more smoothly" than last time, he said.


STUMBLEWATCH '07: ALDERMANIA EDITION

Looks like Democrat Rodney Glassman may be facing a primary challenge from Robert Reus in his run to replace retiring Ward 2 Councilwoman Carol West.

Reus, who owns an Mexican art shop on Fourth Avenue, says his main issue is transforming the city's current weak-mayor system into an aldermanic form of government.

Yeah, we were scratching our heads over what that meant, too. Evidently, instead of having a city manager, we'd have a strong mayor to head up the bureaucracy.

"The city has no leadership right now," Reus complains. "You just can't govern a city with collective leadership, and that's what we have right now."

Rues, whose public-access TV show stresses the need for the aldermanic change and covers other city issues, says he's been working the issue for six years now with little progress, so he's going to make it a major part of his platform for the council office.

But he admits that Glassman has a lead on him in when it comes to gathering signatures, building organization and raising money.

"He's very likely to beat me just because of those three things we both agree he has," Reus says. "I'm running as an underdog and putting it in the hands of the voters and giving them a choice. If I lose this election, it's not going to be a big blow to me, because I realize there are powerful forces behind Rodney right now."

The winner of the eastside primary will face Republican Lori Oien in the citywide general.

More by Jim Nintzel

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