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SCREWED-OVER IRAQ VET WATCH, PART III

We've been telling you in recent weeks about Army Sgt. Tasha Downum, a 26-year-old single mom who was stiffed on a deposit on a beach house that she rented from Republican Vic Williams, a newly elected member of the Arizona House of Representatives in District 26.

As David Safier of Blog for Arizona originally uncovered, Downum celebrated her safe return home to Missouri after a year of serving in Tikrit, Iraq, at Williams' house in Newport Beach, Calif. But when it came time to get her $400 deposit back from Williams, he gave her a big runaround.

Downum filed suit against Williams in a California small-claims court. Williams skipped the early November court appearance, and the judge awarded Downum $1,845, which included damages and travel costs. (We certainly hope that Williams doesn't bring this sort of fiscal genius to the table to solve the state's budget problems.)

Williams made no visible effort to pay the court judgment until he was contacted by the Tucson Weekly. Although he didn't want to comment on why he failed to return the deposit, he assured us that "we're going to resolve it in a way that's correct and make sure that all parties are satisfied."

We're not sure what constitutes satisfaction on Williams' end, but we're pretty sure that it would merely take a check for $1,845 to make Downum happy.

That check has yet to turn up in her mailbox. Downum says that soon after we talked to Williams about the court judgment against him, she got a call from his attorney, who asked that she send a note saying her claim against him had been satisfied. The attorney told her that a check would be Fed-Ex'ed her way.

That seemed a little screwy to Downum, so she told the lawyer: "I'm not signing anything until I receive the money."

As of earlier this week, Downum still had not received her check, although she has been playing phone tag with Vic's people. Maybe the check has been delayed by all the holiday shipping?


PREDICTIONS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD

At the start of each year, we ask Tucson Weekly psychic Stella Sabrini to peer into the future and tell us what lies ahead. This year, Stella has her usual shocking predictions:

January: The state's economy continues to tank, with Raytheon announcing it is shutting down Arizona operations and relocating to Pakistan.

As the state budget shortfall grows, the Arizona Legislature attempts to boost the economy by creating a new liquor license for gun ranges. State Sen. Russell Pearce announces: "This is the kind of common-sense solution to our budget problems that Gov. Janet Napolitano blocked for too long."

February: Jim Click must shutter his auto dealerships after it is revealed that he lost his entire fortune by investing with Bernie Madoff.

March: The state's budget deficit tops $5 billion. The Legislature responds with stimulus package of $3 billion in tax cuts and a plan to put the state's highway system on eBay. China submits the winning bid of $10 million and immediately puts toll booths across the state. Lawmakers hail the new jobs created for toll-booth attendants--until Chinese officials announce they'll be using robot labor.

The Center for Biological Diversity reveals that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has been running a breeding farm for the endangered Rocky Mountain oyster fish. The news forces Salazar to resign from the Obama Cabinet, putting Congressman Raúl Grijalva back in the running for the post.

April: Thanks to new tax-cut package, state budget woes have now increased to $8 billion. Lawmakers respond with another round of tax cuts and a plan to put the state's prison system on eBay. China puts in the winning bid of $10 million and announces a plan to put Arizona prisoners to work assembling cheap plastic items for Chinese consumers. The Goldwater Institute calls the news "a brilliant masterstroke of privatization that demonstrates Arizona's leadership in the 21st century."

Grijalva's revived bid for interior secretary collapses when President Barack Obama announces he's chosen actor Jake Gyllenhaal for the spot.

May: Gyllenhaal has to turn down the Interior Department post, because it conflicts with the shooting of his next project, The Day After the Day After Tomorrow, in which he battles robotic apes that take over the world following the onset of the next ice age. Grijalva is named secretary of the interior.

As the state's economic woes continue to worsen, and toll-road prices increase, millions of Arizonans begin fleeing the state, further collapsing the housing market.

The median price for a home drops to $50,000. State Sen. Russell Pearce hails the development as "a return to housing affordability" and suggests another round of tax cuts targeted toward robotic toll-booth attendants.

June: The Arizona Legislature is unable to come to a budget agreement, forcing a shutdown of most of state government. Pearce announces: "Now we're getting somewhere."

Three dozen Democrats get into special election to replace Grijalva, including Richard Elías, Ramón Valadez, Sharon Bronson, Steve Leal, Nina Trasoff, Karin Uhlich, José Ibarra, Tom Volgy, Elaine Richardson, Rodney Glassman, Alex Rodriguez, Daniel Patterson, both of the Prezelski brothers and John Kromko. Joe Sweeney is the sole Republican in the race.

July: The 36 Democrats vying for Grijalva's seat gather for a 90-minute debate, which is limited to a two-minute opening statement and a one-minute closing statement by each of them. The number of candidates exceeds the number of people in the audience.

The Legislature, in a last-ditch effort to spur development and solve the state's budget crisis, puts all of the state parks up for sale on eBay. Catalina State Park is purchased for $1.5 million by legendary land speculator Don Diamond.

August: Pima County agrees to purchase half of Catalina State Park from Diamond for $25 million. The remainder is rezoned for a master-planned community that includes six golf courses and a theme park.

Still unable to come to a budget agreement, state lawmakers put the Department of Environmental Quality up for sale on eBay. DEQ is purchased by a consortium of chemical manufacturers who announce plans to relocate to Arizona. State Sen. Russell Pearce calls it "an example of how we're getting this economy up and running in a tough time."

September: With no money to pay teacher salaries, the state puts the Department of Education up for sale on eBay. Two seventh-graders put in a winning bid of $27 and announce a new curriculum based on "smarts through farts." The Goldwater Institute praises "the end of the waste of government dollars on government schools."

October: Kromko wins the congressional primary, thanks to a bunch of giant wooden signs and a strategic letter of support from Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll.

November: Believing he has the election in the bag, Kromko spends the month puttering around the house with his cats while Republican Joe Sweeney launches a massive door-to-door campaign effort. On Election Day, Sweeney comes out ahead by thousands of votes. Kromko accuses Pima County of rigging the election.

December: As economic woes continue to worsen, the Arizona Legislature holds a special session to put the rest of the state government up for sale on eBay in an everything-must-go liquidation sale. There are no bids.

On his way to his first congressional hearing, Sweeney is run over by a vanload of anti-immigration activists who had gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest the Obama administration's new immigration-reform proposal. Gov. Jan Brewer announces a February 2010 primary to fill the now-vacant Congressional District 7 seat. Four dozen Democrats file to run.

More by Jim Nintzel

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