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SCRAMBLEWATCH '09: DO THE HUSTLE

One thing that marks a serious political candidate is an ability to squeeze dollars from contributors. Without money to reach voters with your message, you're not going to win at the ballot box.

In this year's city election, candidates are aiming to raise roughly $50,000. That's because they've all signed up for the city's matching-funds program, which matches every private dollar that candidates collect with a public dollar, as long as they agree to limit their spending to about $100,000.

The catch: To qualify, they have to collect at least 200 contributions of at least $10 from city residents.

So far, Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich is the only candidate who has qualified for matching funds. Uhlich reported raising $41,849 as of May 31, which means she's almost done with fundraising. She got an additional $36,787 in matching funds from the city on July 1.

Her challenger, Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia, had only raised $4,905 by the end of May. However, he says he's picked up the pace and now has about $16,000. He also tells us that he's got about 75 percent of the contributions he needs to qualify for matching funds.

Republican Steve Kozachik, who is seeking to unseat Ward 6 Democrat Nina Trasoff, reported raising just $5,540 as of May 31, according to a campaign-finance report recently filed with the city.

But Kozachik says he's "doing substantially better than that now." He tells us he's raised about $20,000, and that he expects to file for matching funds by the end of the week.

Trasoff, by comparison, reported raising $23,373 and has not yet applied for matching funds. She did not return The Skinny's call for an update.

In Ward 5, where Democrat Steve Leal is stepping down after two decades on the council, Democrat Richard Fimbres had raised $14,181 as of May 31.

The GOP candidates duking it out in the Ward 5 primary were both struggling to raise funds at the end of May. Judith Gomez reported raising $1,495, while Shawn McClusky had raised only $1,300.


THE COST OF FIGHTING CRIME

It appears that voters will decide whether the city should spend more money on cops and firefighters. The Public Safety First Initiative has qualified for the Nov. 3 city ballot.

The initiative, which would require the city to hire roughly 350 cops over the next five years, is being supported by police and fire unions, which contributed $25,000 to the petition drive as of May 31. The other big money behind it comes from the Tucson Association of Realtors, which had put in $43,276, and the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, which contributed $10,000.

We suspect a big reason behind the initiative is the fact that these groups want to make public safety a major issue during the upcoming City Council election.

Already, city officials are saying that the initiative will be costly to city residents, with some officials tossing around numbers like $50 million a year. Given that the rental tax which was rejected by the city this year was only expected to raise $12 million, you can see why the City Council hasn't already hired more cops.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich has not yet taken a position on the initiative, but she warns that "there are probably three paths if this passes: deep cuts, significant taxes or a conversation about regionalizing law enforcement."

Meanwhile, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says there will be big costs for county residents, too, because more cops will arrest more people. That, in turn, means there will be a need for more prosecutors, public defenders, judges, jail space, etc.—increasing all costs associated with the justice system.

In a memo sent to the Board of Supervisors last week, Huckelberry warned that if the city hires 350 more cops, the county is looking at $24 million a year in operating costs, and $67 million per year in capital costs.

Huckelberry warns that the costs will translate into higher property taxes for Pima County residents.


DRAWING A CROWD

The Rialto Theatre, which remains tangled up in a battle with would-be downtown developers Don Martin and Scott Stiteler of the Downtown Tucson Development Corporation, got some good news this week: Pollstar's midyear rankings showed that the theater was ranked no. 42 on the list of Top 100 Worldwide Club Venues, based on ticket sales. That's a jump from the venue's previous ranking of no. 58.

Rialto Theatre Foundation Executive Director Doug Biggers (and the Tucson Weekly's founder, in the interest of full disclosure) notes that the ranking puts the Rialto ahead of places like the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas' House of Blues.

Much of the credit goes to Curtis McCrary, the theater's booking agent and general manager. You can find McCrary's take on the ongoing struggle to keep the theater alive on Page 8.

We'd just add that the Pollstar report is just more evidence that the Rialto is doing its job of bringing people downtown, even in the midst of a less-than-ideal economic environment.

Speaking of the Rialto: Part of the complex proposed development agreement between the city of Tucson, and Martin and Stiteler, who own the building surrounding the Rialto, involved the city giving the developers some land in exchange for various investments downtown. One of those parcels was a former Volvo dealership on Broadway Boulevard east of downtown that's estimated to be worth $1.9 million.

As regular readers know, the deal between the city and Martin and Stiteler fell apart. Now the Rialto Theatre Foundation is trying to persuade the Tucson City Council to condemn about 4,000 square feet on the Rialto block that's owned by Martin and Stiteler if the developers can't be persuaded to sell the space to the city, which already owns the theater. The space is now being used by the foundation as a green room, for administrative offices and as storage, but the developers are threatening eviction.

Councilman Steve Leal supports the condemnation plan and suggested that the city could just sell the Volvo property and use the proceeds to help cover the costs of purchasing the property.

Unfortunately, city staff says that plan won't fly. The property was purchased with transportation dollars generated by the city's share of gasoline taxes, so any proceeds from the sale of the property have to go back to the transportation department. Oddly enough, the same restrictions don't apply if the city trades the land.

As of press time, the Rialto was still trying to work out a short-term lease deal to stave off eviction.


NOW APPEARING ALONGSIDE CAPTAIN AL MELVIN

Congratulations to state Sen. Jonathan Paton, who has earned his captain's bars as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.

An intelligence officer, Paton joined the reserve in 1999 as a private. He spent six months in Iraq on active duty in 2006 and 2007, winning election to the House of Representatives while overseas.

Find early and late-breaking Skinny at our daily dispatch, The Range.

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