IT'S GOOD TO KNOW THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Who knew that when former Tucson Citizen staffer Ann-Eve Pedersen started Tucson Unified School Supporters--in what would become a successful effort to challenge the Tucson Unified School District's school-closure plan--that it would inevitably bring her brother-in-law Paul Eckerstrom back to political life?

Eckerstrom, a former Pima County Democratic Party chairman, is often credited with getting the party's act together earlier this decade. He'd planned on running against County Attorney Barbara LaWall in the Democratic primary this year, but Eckerstrom had a change of heart, as The Skinny reported back in January.

How lucky for TUSS and Pedersen.

Eckerstrom was introduced by Pedersen at a TUSS meeting on Sunday, Aug. 17, as the campaign chair for the latest TUSS effort: supporting Proposition 403, an override bond package that will ask voters in November to increase their property taxes to get more funds into TUSD.

The last time TUSD asked voters to approve an override was in 2004--and that proposition failed. Back then, however, TUSD didn't have Pedersen and TUSS.

At the Aug. 17 meeting, before introducing her brother-in-law, Pedersen explained that the new override package will provide almost $27 million in additional funding to TUSD every year for the next seven years. The increase in property taxes, according to TUSS e-mails, will cost average homeowners, with a home assessed at $151,000, about $120 a year in property taxes.

Pedersen gave everyone the Prop 403 pitch: It would allow TUSD to keep class sizes down for K-2 students and middle school math students; expand Opening Minds Through the Arts (OMA) to all TUSD schools; and recruit hard-to-fill positions, like math and science teachers, as well as special-education teachers and staff.

"I want her to succeed," Pedersen said, referring to TUSD's new superintendent, Dr. Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, who replaced Roger Pfeuffer in July. "I don't think she can do it without our support. I don't want to be (in front of the school board) every year to fight over the scraps."

Celania-Fagen gave her own presentation at the meeting, but quickly left before the TUSS prop-campaign kickoff. (By law, TUSD and its staff cannot campaign for the override.) Celania-Fagen began with a multimedia presentation that showed teachers in cinema, from Ferris Bueller's Day Off to Dead Poet's Society.

It's the same presentation that she's been showing to teachers throughout the district, and the buzz is that it's earning Celania-Fagen standing ovations. She is using it to tout her vision for TUSD and the possibility of creating schools that have different specialties to compete against charter schools--and as an alternative to closing schools.

TUSD is saying the override could also help prevent the school-closures mess from returning. And most likely, Pedersen and Eckerstrom figure that if the teachers like Celania-Fagen and her presentation so much, so will voters.

The final pitch was all about donations: TUSS has $23,000 in the bank, and needs $177,000 more to get to its $200,000 goal.


SHOW YOUR FACE, YOU STINKING COWARD!

Is there a newspaper curse on 14-year-old José Rincon's ghost-bike memorial near the intersection of Broadway Boulevard and Vozack Lane?

The first bike, put up in May, was locked to a city fence; the city asked the first installer, Ari Shapiro, to remove it. When he went to remove the bike in July, it was already gone. In reaction, dad and son Chris and Riley Chandler (Riley was a classmate of Jose's at St. Michael's Parish School) put up another ghost bike, this time with the rear tire secured in a concrete pad.

But that bike disappeared after an article on ghost bikes was printed in the Arizona Daily Star in mid-July. Chris Chandler and his son worked fast to put up a third bike, but that bike disappeared, too--right after last week's Tucson Weekly, which included a story on the ghost-bike phenomenon, hit the streets.

Chandler and his son went back on Sunday, Aug. 17, and put up a fourth bike with Jose's friend Oscar Perez, who was riding with Jose the night he was struck and killed by a car, allegedly driven by Glenda Rumsey. (See "'It Doesn't Seem Right'," April 3.)

"It's troubling that people can't let people get through a grieving process. ... There was certainly some anger that came up when the second bike (was removed)," Chandler said.

Chandler said the fourth bike is, perhaps, one last jab at the coward taking down the bikes. It may also be the last time the father and son put up another ghost bike in Jose's memory.

Chandler and other community bicycling advocates are wondering: Who would be motivated to remove the bikes? Rincon's memorial doesn't deny access to anything. Some may consider it an eyesore, maybe, but it is also a powerful memorial meant to remind people to share the road, and to remind people about the bright young man who lost his life.

Chandler says he can't help but wonder if the person or people responsible for the disappearances are close to Rumsey. After all, she's the one who is most responsible, allegedly, for the ghost bike's presence.


WHAT'S THAT IN THE WATER?

After last week's story on pharmaceuticals in Tucson's water (See "Drink This!" Aug. 14), the Tucson City Council was informed that more trace amounts of drugs had been found by a recent test.

These results--from a well on the northwest side which serves people in the Continental Ranch area--indicated that both carbamazepine and sulfamethoxazole continue to be in the water. They had also been found in the water in 2002, when the well was previously tested.

Two new drugs--Iopromide, which is used as an X-ray contrast media, and triclosan, an anti-bacterial agent--were also discovered. A third pharmaceutical found in 2002--dehydronifedipine--was not tested for this time.

Based on these results, Tucson Water will now test the water annually, instead of every three years, as previously planned, and will increase the number of wells tested.


NONE OF YOUR RELIGIOUS BUSINESS!

On Sunday, Aug. 17, the Arizona Daily Star published its primary-election information insert. It included Q&As with every Southern Arizona candidate in a contested race--including a question about what religion they practiced.

Of the almost 50 candidates included, only three didn't answer the question. While Star staffers asked the question, the Star didn't provide an explanation to The Skinny about why they asked it.

"I didn't think anything about it," observed Bennett Bernal, who is seeking the Democratic nomination as constable in Precinct 6. "But upon reflection, religion doesn't play a part in a constable race."

John Kromko is running for the state Legislature and responded to the question by stating, "I'm shocked that you'd ask."

"The time is long gone," Kromko told The Skinny, "to ask that question. It's a person's own business."

The former state House member also remembers that when he served in Phoenix, each session would begin with a legislator reciting a prayer. When his turn came, Kromko said, he read from the portion of the state Constitution which prohibits mixing politics and religion.

"I don't care if people pray," Kromko indicated, "but they shouldn't be forced to pray."

Kromko is also disappointed that so many politicians answered the Star's religion question. "This kind of mindset, where people just go along, contributes to this," Kromko said.

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