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THE HIGH-SPEED SCENE

We're just weeks away from the debut of those photo-radar cameras that are going to pop lead-foots who run red lights and break the speed limits.

Lt. Mike Pryor of the Tucson Police Department says he hopes to have the system up and running by mid-August.

American Traffic Systems of Scottsdale won the contract for the one-year pilot project, which will put cameras at eight "approaches" to intersections. The cameras will be programmed to bust people who run red lights and/or speed through the intersections.

The precise details about which intersections will be monitored are still being nailed down by TPD and the company, according to Pryor, but the nine in the running include Broadway Boulevard/Wilmot Road; Oracle/River roads; Midvale Park/Valencia roads; and Grant/Kolb/Tanque Verde roads.

The deal also includes one mobile van that will move around town to bust speeders.

The cameras will initially be set to ticket drivers who are going 11 mph or more above the speed limit, except in and around school zones, where they will be set to nail anyone going more than 5 mph over the limit.

What's the cost to city taxpayers? Not a dime. Instead, the violators themselves will be paying for it, with ATS getting a piece of the action: $33.50 for each paid citation generated by the mobile van, and $35 for each citation generated by the fixed cameras at intersections.

While we were snooping around the contract, we noticed an interesting clause: ATS officials pointed out that the company needed to generate $774,000 annually "to provide the service that (Tucson Police) seek."

By the company's calculations, that requires a minimum of 22 violations daily from each of the eight fixed cameras, and 240 tickets daily from the mobile van.

Sounds like RoboCop is gonna be busy. Stay out of trouble.


WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENTS

Back when he was pushing his employer-sanctions bill at the Legislature, state Rep. Russell Pearce told Gov. Janet Napolitano that a legislative proposal would be better than an initiative, because an initiative is voter-protected. That means it can only be changed with the support of three-fourths of the Legislature, and the changes must further the aims of the initiative.

"Notwithstanding all our efforts, we understand that no bill is perfect, and changes may be needed as the bill is implemented," Pearce wrote in a letter to Napolitano. "For that reason, we believe that dealing with this issue through the legislative process is preferable to the initiative process."

But even though Napolitano signed the employer-sanctions bill, Pearce is continuing to lead the initiative effort for an even tougher bill. He complains Napolitano and his fellow lawmakers are too likely to make changes to the new law.

Um ... isn't that what he said made it preferable to an initiative?

Pearce is now weighing a run against Congressman Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican who co-sponsored legislation in the House earlier this year to create a guest-worker program and allow illegal immigrants now in the country to gain legal status if they pass a background check and pay a fine. Russell's trial balloon is a great example of how illegal immigration continues to split the Republican Party.

We're sure Democrats will want to field a candidate in that race on the off chance that Pearce should knock off Flake in the GOP primary.

Speaking of splitting the GOP: With the passage of the employer-sanctions bill, big business appears to have finally had enough of Pearce and his crowd. The Arizona Contractors Association and Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform are suing to overturn the employer-sanctions law, saying that it violates due-process rights and that the federal government is supposed to be enforcing immigration violations, not the states.

With big-time GOP fundraisers such as Jim Click complaining about the new law, we're wondering how the state party expects to raise money in the year ahead.


MILLION-DOLLAR BABY

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords showed us the money in more ways than one this week.

Giffords filed her second-quarter fundraising results, which showed that she had already raised more than a million dollars for her re-election campaign. That staggering figure puts her in the top five of congressional freshmen.

Giffords had $941,489 left in the bank as of June 30. Michael McNulty, the chair of Giffords' campaign, says that since the end of the quarter, new contributions have pushed the account above the million-dollar mark.

That's an unprecedented fundraising effort by the Southern Arizona freshman, but it's not likely to scare off a challenge from Republicans.

Most of the local GOP is still behind state Sen. Tim Bee, who can't declare his plans to run for Congress before January because of Arizona's resign-to-run law, although he can create an exploratory committee.

But we hear that some Republicans, unhappy with Bee's willingness to work with Democrats during the last legislative session, are looking at Wayne Peate, a local doctor who considered a congressional run in 2006, as a potential challenger in a GOP primary.

In other Giffords news: Shamed by the editorial page of the morning daily, Giffords also unveiled her list of requested earmarks on her Web page. The big-ticket item: $187 million for the Army's Javelin missile.

If you feel like crawling over the whole list, you can find it online.


BALLOT BUST

This year's city elections got a little more boring last week when Wal-Mart announced it would not challenge the city's decision to reject its initiative petition to overturn a portion of the city's big-box ordinance. Wal-Mart wanted to be able to dedicate more than 10 percent of its retail space to selling groceries so they could get busy driving supermarkets that pay decent wages out of business. City Attorney Mike Rankin torpedoed the effort with his legal argument that the big-box ordinance was a zoning regulation, which isn't subject to the initiative process. Why Wal-Mart spent all that money and then took a dive mystifies us, but it was nice of the company to provide seasonal work for all those signature gatherers.


GREEN GRADING

The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters released their annual report card last week.

The good news: It wasn't all that bad of a year for the environment. Arizona lawmakers passed a clean-air bill that will cut back on pollution. The San Pedro River got some protection. And those jerks running homeowner associations can't block the installation of solar panels.

The bad news: It wasn't all that good of a year for the environment, with lawmakers still failing to attend to questions about how to deal with Arizona's rapid growth and limited water supply.

The League of Conservation Voters gave Senate President Tim Bee its Statesman of the Year award "in recognition of the strong example he set by his cooperative, bipartisan leadership this session." But Bee earned a D on the report card for his environmental votes.

Earning an A or an A+: Sen. Paula Aboud; Rep. Steve Farley; Rep. Phil Lopes; Rep. Tom Prezelski; Rep. Linda Lopez; Rep. David Bradley; Rep. Olivia Cajero-Bedford; Rep. Pete Hershberger; Rep. Lena Saradnik.

Earning a B: Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia; Sen. Victor Soltero; Sen. Charlene Pesquiera; Rep. Manny Alvarez.

Earning a C: Sen. Marsha Arzberger.

Earning a D: Rep. Jennifer Burns; Rep. Marian McClure; Rep. Jonathan Paton.

Gov. Janet Napolitano got a B.

For a full list of environmental bills and other info, see the state chapter's Web site.

More by Jim Nintzel

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