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OPENING THE FLOODGATES

The heavy hitters, as expected, are launching their campaign against John Kromko's Tucson Water Users' Bill of Rights.

The "No on 200" committee, chaired by attorney Larry Hecker, was officially formed last week to knock down TWUBOR, which voters will decide on the November ballot.

The initiative is a big bundle of citizen revolt wrapped up in one proposition. It would repeal the city's $14-a-month garbage fee, ban the home delivery of treated effluent and prohibit Tucson Water from hooking up any new connections without voter approval once the city starts delivering 140,000 acre-feet of water annually.

The anti-200 campaign kicked off with a dismissal of TWUBOR as a badly written hodgepodge that flies in the face of regional cooperation.

While city officials want to hang on to the trash fee, it's the no-more-hookups provision that has the Growth Lobby sweating. You can expect them to pour plenty of stucco-dollars into the opposition campaign, so if you're a builder, car dealer, real estate broker, interior decorator or otherwise associated with development, you might as well get out the checkbook now. The city--and Zimmerman and Associates--needs you.

The opposition is sure to have more money than Kromko. The former state lawmaker is asking potential contributors to give him $14 once so they won't have to continue to pay $14 a month in the future. It's a catchy pitch, but unlikely to bring in enough for anything more than a low-budget campaign--which is pretty much Kromko's M.O., anyway.

By the way, we goofed when reporting the totals from Kromko's latest iteration of Enough!, the political committee backing the TWUBOR.

We said Kromko had spent $4,684 on the petition drive, but that amount only covered June 1 through Aug. 6. (We probably would have gotten it right had Kromko bothered to completely fill out the form's "campaign to date" info, but whatevs.)

Kromko had spent another $2,967 in the earlier report, bringing his total spending--we think--to $7,651, which is still chicken feed. He'd raised about $8,300, including the $2,000 contribution and a $2,000 loan he kicked in. Small contributions made up most of the remainder.


NEW, EXTRA-STRENGTH IMMIGRATION REFORM!

President George W. Bush rebranded his immigration-reform plan last week, promising to crack down on illegal immigrants in the work force with higher fines, tighter regulations and more raids for employers.

Why the fresh tough talk from an administration that had previously been pushing the idea of granting legal status to illegal immigrants and creating a guest-worker program to go along with fence-buildin' and border-securin'?

Well, that comprehensive product didn't sell so well, especially compared to the new stuff. The pulse-takers at Rasmussen Reports released a poll earlier this week that showed nearly four out of five Americans believe employers should be forced to fire. And nearly three out of four say people should have to prove their legal status just to rent an apartment.

The biggest impediment to so-called comprehensive reform--defined as granting legal status to illegal immigrants who are now in the United States, and creating a new guest-worker program--is the general skepticism on the part of the American people that Washington is serious about securing the border.

It's not that people are all that opposed to allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the United States, despite all the noise about amnesty coming from the deport-'em-now crowd. A Rasmussen poll back in May showed that about two-thirds of the voters were OK with giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, as long as they paid fines and could show they had been in the country for a few years without breaking any laws; a KAET-TV poll of Arizona voters found 68 percent supported a similar proposal.

But before the public can embrace that, they have to believe the feds are going to block new illegal immigrants from coming across the border. Rasmussen polling has shown that just 16 percent of voters believed the comprehensive plan that got squashed in the Senate earlier this year would have slowed illegal immigration; 41 percent thought it would actually increase the number of undocumented border-crossers.

So to win support for a comprehensive plan, the White House and Congress are going to push a stronger enforcement plan. We sure would hate to be in the hospitality, construction or farming biz these days.

Manuel Cunha, a citrus grower in California, told The Associated Press that a crackdown on illegal workers will wipe out farms at harvest time: "It'll just shut us down. It'll just be over if they start coming in here and busting employers. The food chain would fall apart."

Food, schmood--we're talking about re-establishing the rule of law!

Gov. Janet Napolitano, who has been spouting her share of tough talk on the border lately, complained that the new Homeland Security proposals were made without enough input from the states.

Napolitano already has plenty to worry about with Arizona's new employer-sanctions package, given that talk of a special session to tweak the law--which goes into effect next year--has pretty much amounted to nothing.

Arizona's law was supposed to defuse support for a state initiative, but the backers of that effort--Don Goldwater, state Rep. Russell Pearce and Chris Simcox of the Minuteman movement--haven't abandoned their efforts. They say the state law could be watered down, while a constitutional amendment would be tough to change.

That initiative effort is leading to yet another interesting GOP split. Now Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen, who has surfed the illegal-immigration wave to his current gig, has declared that the initiative goes too far. Too far on immigration? We never imagined we'd hear such words from Pullen. Has he just sold out to the establishment? What a RINO!


DOES IT HURT WHEN WE DO THIS?

The political committee Healthy Arizona is back in action. The group, which spearheaded the effort to expand AHCCCS coverage for low-wage citizens through a ballot initiative in 2000, wants to craft a new proposition for the 2008 ballot to provide more government support for health-care coverage.

How? That still needs to be worked out, but the ultimate aim is ensuring that every legal resident of the state has access to health-insurance coverage.

Details will follow as they're worked out, but you can weigh in and learn more by visiting the group's Web site, www.healthyarizona.org.


WELL SAID

We all know that many politicians and bureaucrats have flacks that craft the op-eds that run under their names in the dailies. It's basically a chloroform-laced version of canned quotes in press releases.

Here's an example: Ken Deibert, who heads up Child Protective Services as the deputy director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, "wrote" a guest-opinion piece about CPS' accountability and confidentiality in the wake of the recent deaths of three Tucson children who had been under CPS scrutiny.

After the editorial was on its way to The Arizona Republic, Deibert shot off an e-mail to DES spokeswoman Liz Barker Alvarez and DES Director Tracy Wareing.

"I really wish I would have been given a chance to see this before it went out," Deibert complained. "In the future I don't want any communication going out under my name to be released without my review."

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