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TALES OF SUSPENSE

Remember how City Councilman Rodney Glassman sent his Democratic colleagues into a tizzy a few weeks ago with his plan to suspend impact fees for a year?

After publicly spanking Glassman for proposing the idea without considering their feelings, the council created a committee to study economically stimulating ideas.

Here's something those folks might want to consider before they report back on Tuesday, March 10: Republican lawmakers are likely to include a one-year suspension of impact fees across the state as part of their economic stimulus plan that will roll out this week.

So at the end of the day, the City Council may not have much say in the matter.


TALKING TRASH, PART 342

We've mentioned a few times recently that City Council members may be asked to raise the city's trash fee--a politically dicey proposition, since most of the current members have opposed the fee, or at least complained that it is too high. (Or at least that it was too high when Republicans on an earlier council created it.)

Well, the memo requesting a hike in the trash fee has finally arrived.

Andy Quigley, the city's new director of Environmental Services, says he has done what he can to lower spending in his department. He's cut employees--including one civil engineer--from the staff to save a million dollars a year. He's not paying down the department's bond debt this year. He's saving $2.3 million by putting off the purchase of new garbage trucks.

But the market for recycled materials is declining, and private waste companies are dumping garbage elsewhere, so the department isn't bringing in as much money as it had hoped. So Quigley is asking the council to boost the $14-a-month trash fee by 60 cents.


BALLOT BUST 'N' BOUNCE

Election-integrity activists and the Pima County Democratic Party want to know where the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority ballots were taken after Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard received permission from a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to take possession of 'em.

The ballots supposedly left a secure storage facility in Pima County on Tuesday, Feb. 24, for a new home, possibly the Maricopa County Elections Department. Election-integrity activists like John Brakey from Audit AZ and Jim March from the Pima County Libertarian Party lament that Maricopa doesn't have the best history with its own elections--at least according to their investigations. They think the ballots should remain in Pima County.

AG Press Secretary Anne Hilby says the ballots are in the possession of Goddard's office and are being treated as evidence as part of their ongoing criminal investigation into allegations that the RTA election was flipped--although Hilby couldn't confirm or deny they may indeed be at the Maricopa elections office.

Goddard may think he's doing the right thing, but he could be blowing a chance to openly resolve the election-flipping question. The fact that the ballots were procured through a secret order from a Maricopa County judge and taken to an undisclosed location only heightens the suspicions of the same people who believe the election was flipped in the first place.

The Skinny requested a copy of the court order, but Hilby said the document is sealed and is not considered a public record.

There's still time for Goddard to prevent any more election-integrity disasters: Just tell us where the ballots are located, return them to Pima County and work with all political parties to establish an examination protocol.

Hilby tells us an examination protocol has yet to be decided, but once it is, it will be made public before any counting or examination takes place. In the meantime, she says, the ballots are safe from tampering.

"The ballots are treated as evidence in a criminal investigation," Hilby says. "We understand the significance of this issue, especially to particular organizations in Pima County."


HIGHWAY PATROL

You wouldn't expect that the neighborhood streets in Barrio Centro--a collection of homes south of 22nd Street between Tucson Boulevard and Country Club Road--would be considered county highways.

Nor would you expect county officials to be putting traffic circles on these local highways--or that city officials would have to declare an emergency to get that traffic-circle work done.

But that's what's happening, thanks to a combination of state law and local politics.

Let us preface this story by mentioning that we don't have any problem with the work being done in Barrio Centro, where residents need their streets fixed just as much as many other beleaguered Old Pueblo homeowners.

As longtime readers may recall, back in 1997, Pima County decided to borrow a bunch of money to speed up road construction. But some local officials--including George Miller, who was then mayor of this burg--said that the county should agree to spend money inside the city limits in exchange for city support.

The only problem: State law forbids the use of county transportation dollars inside city limits, unless the roads being worked on are county highways. The logic: Cities and towns have their own methods of raising money, so counties shouldn't have to be responsible for building roads inside incorporated areas.

The county agreed to the city's blackmail, saying they'd contribute money--as long as the city came up with its share--to widen a variety of major Tucson arterials, including 22nd Street, Broadway Boulevard and Grant Road.

After the bonds passed, the city couldn't come up with its share of the dollars after all, so city officials began thinking about having the county provide money for just one of the projects--and it wasn't 22nd Street.

Back then, Dan Eckstrom represented that area on the Pima County Board of Supervisors--and when he heard that dollars set aside for his district might be moving elsewhere, he decided the money would instead be used on residential streets for his constituents. You might recall a lot of outrage when the Board of Supervisors voted to transfer money from the widening of 22nd Street to residential streets. That brings us to Barrio Centro. At this week's meeting, the Board of Supes agreed to declare the neighborhood streets to be county highways so they'd have the legal authority to spend $29,000 sprucing them up. That came a few weeks after the Tucson City Council requested the county help out with some funding--and because they wanted it to happen soon, they had to officially declare an emergency. Yes, it's always an emergency when your neighborhood highways don't have traffic circles and speed humps.


FEED AND SPEED

In today's recessionary times, what could be more stylish than a cute scooter? The wee little cycles get great gas mileage and look sharp.

And if you're really lucky, you can get one for just $5 (or 10 cans of food), thanks to our friends at Scoot Over Fun in Motion.

Yes, just $5 (or 10 cans of food) gets you a raffle ticket to win a special scooter commemorating the Tucson Weekly's 25th anniversary! Best of all, the $5 will go to the Community Food Bank, which is facing unprecedented demand thanks to our crashing economy.

Drop off your contributions at Weekly World Central, 3280 E. Hemisphere Loop, or at Scoot Over, 4534 E. Broadway Blvd.

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