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BORDER BEWILDERMENT

The U.S. Border Patrol finally agreed to give Sheriff Clarence Dupnik what he wanted: a couple of Border Patrol agents to work with his border-crime unit.

"The Border Patrol said, 'To hell with the lawyers; we're going to send you two people, because we think it's that important,'" Dupnik says. "That's all we ever wanted."

Dupnik was worried that someone would get hurt or killed when his deputies bumped into Border Patrol officers when both groups were working in the desert at night. To avoid that kind of trouble, Dupnik wanted to have a Border Patrol agent work with his team, but lawyers from the federal agency first wanted an intergovernmental agreement approved by the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Dupnik thought he had the votes for an agreement, until Isabel Garcia and some other immigrant-rights activists freaked out over visions of the Border Patrol teaming up with sheriff's deputies to round up illegal immigrants. When they brought a crowd to the supervisors meeting, Dupnik recognized that the Democratic supes were likely to crumple under the pressure, so he withdrew the request.

That's when State Rep. Jonathan Paton stepped in to sponsor a bill that would allow county sheriffs to enter into agreements with the Border Patrol without approval of county supervisors. The bill passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano last week.

Democratic supervisor and board chair Richard Elías says he supports Dupnik's plan to have Border Patrol agents working with the border-crime team. "I don't want anybody to get hurt out there," he says.

But Elías explains that he opposed Dupnik's request for the intergovernmental agreement and the vetoed legislation because he didn't like the idea of having Dupnik "deputize" Border Patrol agents. Says Elías: "It sends a chilling message out to people who call the Pima County sheriff now that they might be dealing with immigration issues as well."

It's an odd complaint, since Dupnik is quite insistent that he didn't plan to "deputize" the agents--and besides, he already has the authority under current law to deputize them if he so desired. Besides, Dupnik has stated on numerous occasions that his deputies have plenty of crime to deal with without the extra work of arresting illegal immigrants, and he doesn't have extra space at his jail to house them. Even Elías says he doesn't believe that Dupnik would suddenly start sending his men out with the Border Patrol to roust illegal immigrants.

So in the end, was the issue more over perception than policy for Elías?

"Perceptions are very powerful, especially when it comes to the immigration issue," Elías says.


SCRAMBLEWATCH '08: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES EDITION

Democratic state Rep. Debbie McCune Davis announced last week that some backers of an initiative effort to eliminate the payday-loan industry would give up the petition drive and instead concentrate on defeating another initiative that's backed by the payday-loan industry.

The initiative drive against payday loans--Stop Payday Loans--was launched in May of last year, and organizers need to gather 153,365 valid signatures by July 3 from registered voters to make the November ballot.

State Rep. Marian McClure of Tucson, who is the chair of the effort, said last week that she's still hoping to have enough signatures to put the question before voters, but added that she's not sure how many have been collected. The payday-loan sharks responded to McClure's initiative effort with an effort of their own: The Payday Loan Reform Act. So far, the Arizona Community Financial Services Association has dumped somewhere around $1.6 million into its petition effort, which is certainly enough to fund a successful initiative drive. So the initiative that would have reined in payday lenders probably won't make the ballot, while the industry's alternative will. And if the payday guys win, lawmakers won't be able to change the law, because it will be voter-protected--the result of another initiative years ago that prevents lawmakers from changing the so-called will of the people.

Enough irony for your diet? How's this for another heaping teaspoon: The law that created the payday industry is set to sunset next year--and if the loan sharks hadn't gone to the ballot, Gov. Janet Napolitano might have vetoed any extension that got through the Legislature. All of which means that opponents of payday loans are now going to have to dig deep to oppose an industry-backed initiative that probably wouldn't have been on the ballot had they not launched their campaign in the first place.


PAVING THE WAY

While some surrounding neighborhoods still have some worries, the Tucson Department of Transportation may have come up with an innovative solution to handle future traffic congestion on the corner of Sixth Street and Stone Avenue.

For decades, city engineers have been trying to extend the Barraza-Aviation Parkway all the way to Interstate 10. Two years ago, funding for the project was included in the regional transportation plan approved by voters.

But there were problems with the proposal alignment of the so-called Downtown Links plan. It would dump a lot of new traffic at Stone and Sixth, and the city would have to knock down the Citizens Transfer building, which is a major component of the downtown Warehouse District.

Now, city staff wants to push Sixth Street a half-block north between Seventh and Court avenues. The new plan would solve a bunch of problems--not the least of which is a potential impact on the historic Steinfeld Warehouse--but not without a price, including the demolition of a few other buildings on the other side of the street.

Want to learn more? There's an open house between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 12, in the Turquoise Room of the Tucson Convention Center.


WE WON'T HAVE JENNFER BURNS TO KICK AROUND ANYMORE

State Rep. Jennifer Burns announced last week that she won't seek re-election, saying she "can no longer afford the level of time and financial commitment required to be a representative."

Burns is something of an anomaly in the Arizona Legislature: A Republican who represents the Democratic-leaning Legislative District 25, which includes Marana, Sierra Vista and a big chuck of rural Southern Arizona.

Burns is a moderate who often sides with Democrats. She has faced frequent challenges from the right wing of the GOP, as well as occasional challenges from Dems.

With Burns calling it quits, Rep. Marian McClure and Sen. Tim Bee forced out by term limits, and Rep. Pete Hershberger facing an uncertain future as he campaigns for the Senate seat in Legislative District 26, Southern Arizona is losing a lot of experience within the GOP caucus--which, unless the Democrats retake the House or Senate, could mean a drop in influence. We could well have Rep. Jonathan Paton, who is seeking Bee's Senate seat, as the only Republican with experience at the Legislature.

More fallout: In LD 26, Burns' seatmate, Manny Alvarez, is expected to seek the Senate seat that Democrat Marsha Arzberger will have to give up after four terms, leaving two open House seats.

Democrat Pat Fleming, who unsuccessfully ran the LD 25 seat in 2006, has announced that she is running for a House seat, as has Democrat Richard Boyer, who lost a Corporation Commission race in 2006. Republican David Stevens, another former House candidate, is also in the race.

More by Jim Nintzel

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