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SCREWED-OVER IRAQ VET WATCH, PART II

We told you last week about how Republican Vic Williams--who is set to take his first oath of office in the Arizona House of Representatives next month--stiffed an Iraq war vet out of a $400 rental deposit on a beach house she rented from him last summer.

Tasha Downum, who decided she wanted to spend some time next to the ocean after a year in Tikrit, had a good time while staying in the house owned by Williams in Newport Beach, but got a runaround when she tried to get her deposit back from Williams. She eventually had to take him to court in California; he didn't show up for the hearing, and the judge awarded Downum $1,845.

Williams--who will represent Legislative District 26, which includes the Catalina Foothills, Oro Valley and SaddleBrooke--assured us last week that he was taking care of the judgment. Downum was told by one of Vic's people that a check was in the mail. As of our deadline, however, Downum--a 26-year-old single mom--still hadn't relieved a check.

We'll keep following this with our new series, Screwed-Over Iraq Vet Watch, until Downum gets her money. Stay tuned!


TALKING TRASH

Waste Management, a private trash-collection firm, stopped using the city's Los Reales landfill last month after opening its own transfer station on Valencia Road.

The private firm was dumping about 65,000 tons a year at the city's dump, according to Andrew Quigley, the city's environmental services director.

The good news: With a lot less trash going into the landfill, the city won't need to expand the facility or find a new dump.

The bad news: The city won't be collecting as much money, so the budget is taking a hit in the short term. Quigley estimates Waste Management's payments were about $900,000 per year.

Since Environmental Services is designed to be self-supporting, does that mean that the City Council might be asked to increase residential-collection fees?

Quigley says it won't be necessary. The department increased commercial fees earlier this year, which is bringing in an additional $6.7 million. He said they may request another increase in the commercial fees, but the residential fees will probably remain stable.

That's good news for the current council, which railed against the Republicans who originally enacted the fees a few years back. The Democrats' outrage declined considerably once they actually had the power to do something about the fees.


MARS MANIA

The Skinny's favorite space probe, the Phoenix Mars Lander, will get some attention next week on NOVA, the brainy PBS science program.

"Is There Life on Mars?" includes many details on the discoveries that Phoenix made during its visit to the harsh arctic plains of Mars. Phoenix landed on Memorial Day weekend and continued transmitting until early November, when it finally ran out of juice.

The NOVA episode will include interviews with Peter Smith of the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab, who was the principal investigator for the $424 million NASA project. For the record, Smith and his team haven't found any proof of life on Mars, although they're still digging through the data.

NOVA airs at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 30, on KUAT Channel 6.


CHARITY CASES

In the spirit of the season, The Skinny would like to remind readers that you've only got a week left this year to make a donation to a nonprofit agency that helps the down and out.

And here's the best part: If you donate $200 (or $400 for a couple), you get the money back when you file your state tax return. That's right: The state will completely refund your contribution.

On top of that, you can donate $200 (or $400 per couple) to the public or charter school of your choice and also get the money back from the state. (And you can give as much as $500--or $1,000 per couple--to a private school as well.)

Most of these folks accept donations online, so you might not even have to leave the house to make a difference.

We have a few suggestions for organizations that could use the money:

• If you want to help the hungry: The Community Food Bank is in a world of hurt. As intern Claire Conrad reported in these pages just a few weeks ago, the Food Bank had handed out roughly 18,000 boxes of food by the end of November, which was an increase of 46 percent over 2007. They're happy to take checks or nonperishable food items. Call 622-0525, or visit them online at communityfoodbank.com.

Or you can give a check to the tireless Brian Flagg, who continues to feed the homeless every day over at Casa Maria, a Catholic relief outfit. Mail your contribution to 401 E. 26th St., Tucson, AZ, 85713.

• If you want to help the homeless: The Primavera Foundation helps provide shelter and job training to low-income Tucsonans. It also helps folks buy homes and avoid financial pitfalls such as payday lenders. For more info, call 623-5111, or visit primavera.org.

Habitat for Humanity also helps low-income folks achieve the American dream of home ownership. Get details at habitattucson.org, or call 326-1217.

• If you want to help homeless teens: Youth on Their Own, a nonprofit that helps teens who are struggling to find food, shelter and clothing, can always use a little aid. Call 'em at 293-1136 for details on making a donation.

• If you want to help folks who are trying to get the proverbial monkeys off their backs: The Pima Prevention Partnership helps people beat drug and alcohol addictions and stay sober. To make a contribution, call 624-5800, or visit thepartnership.us.

• If you want to help battered women: Two of Pima County's domestic-violence agencies, the Brewster Center and the Tucson Centers for Women and Children, have merged to form Emerge!, a new nonprofit. Visit them at emergecenter.org, or call 795-8001.

• If you want to help out kids: Consider a contribution to the Arizona's Children Association, which funds a variety of programs. Check out arizonaschildren.org, or call 622-7611.

• If you want to help victims of sexual assault: The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault could use your help. You can call 'em at 327-1171, or visit their Web site at sacasa.org.

• If you want to help out victims of disaster, ranging from home fires to flooding: Write a check to the Red Cross of Southern Arizona. If you've got some blood to spare, stop by to give them a pint. Find out more at redcrossarizona.org, or call 318-6740.

There are a few other nonprofits that we'd recommend you consider as the tax year draws to a close. They're not eligible for the tax credit, but they're worthwhile causes nonetheless.

KXCI radio brings real people real radio every day. It's a local treasure that depends on listeners for support. Visit 'em at KXCI.org, or call 'em at 623-1000.

KUAT-TV features great programming that's supported by viewers like you. Plus, Skinny scribe Jim Nintzel appears nearly every Friday! Visit them at azpm.org, or call 'em at 621-3808.

The Loft Cinema, which is regularly voted Tucson's Best Movie Theater by Tucson Weekly readers, features the best in contemporary independent films, old-time classics, grindhouse features, locally made short films and a whole bunch more. If you're a movie lover, consider a well-deserved gift to these folks. Call 'em at 322-5638, or visit loftcinema.com.

More by Jim Nintzel

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