The sheer absurdity of the modern-day Republican Party was on full display last week, when conservatives came unglued at the notion that President Barack Obama was going to address schoolchildren, because they were worried he was going to indoctrinate them in socialism and turn them against American values.
Yes, this is what it's come to: Republicans now hate the president of the United States so much that they believe he should not be encouraging students to stay in school and study hard.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, a Republican who regularly visits schools himself to encourage them to do well on the AIMS test, joined the pitchfork-and-torches crowd. This shouldn't come as any surprise; Horne wants to run for attorney general against Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, a much more conservative Republican, so he has to develop his right-wing bona fides somehow. And what better way than busting on the most hated Democrat in America?
Horne maintained that he was concerned that the teaching materials sent out to accompany Obama's speech seemed too much like "hero worship," because they didn't encourage students to challenge what the president had to say.
Asked what could possibly be challenged about a message that children should stay in school and study hard, Horne said that "certainly, everyone agrees with that. But my guess is that it will be more than that."
And, indeed, it was more than that. Obama also told the kids to be sure to wash their hands so they don't spread the flu.
Following a summer featuring threats of eviction, demands for "back rent" and other hostile back-and-forth, our friends at the Rialto Theatre Foundation are out of immediate danger of being kicked out of the building behind the theater that they use as a green room and office space.
The foundation came to a lease agreement with the property owners, Scott Stiteler and Don Martin. The foundation will now pay $2,800 a month in rent and had to give up the attorney's fees—in the neighborhood of $6,000—that they won when a judge ruled they were not illegally occupying the property during an eviction action brought by Martin.
That's good news, although the Rialto Theatre Foundation—headed by former Tucson Weekly publisher and editor Doug Biggers—can't move forward with plans to improve the lobby until they strike some kind of deal with Stiteler and Martin to acquire some of the space they're now renting. In the meantime, the foundation hopes to begin work on a new patio on Herbert Avenue east of the theater.
As regular readers may recall, the whole fight came about after the foundation opposed a complex deal that involved giving Stiteler and Martin about $4 million in city-owned property in exchange for the developers fixing up the Rialto block, giving some land to the city and fulfilling various other requirements. That proposal was rejected by the City Council earlier this summer.
Which brings up a couple of interesting questions:
• Will Stiteler try to strike a new redevelopment deal with the city that would include giving some of the Rialto building to the city of Tucson (which now owns the Rialto Theatre)?
• Will the city agree to pay Stiteler up to $950,000 for his expenses in putting together the deal that collapsed?
Arizona finally has a budget in place, although it's not what the economists would call "balanced."
As Labor Day weekend approached, Gov. Jan Brewer did some slicing and dicing of a GOP budget blueprint that was hammered out in a long special session.
To restore some of the cuts that Republican lawmakers had made to education and welfare programs, Brewer vetoed an extension of a $250 million property-tax cut. Republican leaders are, of course, outraged. The cost to an owner of a $200,000 home will come out to about $70 a year. Big whoop.
Brewer has given up, for now, on her insistence on a one-cent-per-dollar temporary sales-tax increase, although she vowed to keep fighting for it—or at least we think she did. It can be hard to tell what Brewer is talking about sometimes.
The governor also wants lawmakers to come back for yet another special session to clean up some of the mess left by her various vetoes last week.
Make no mistake: Tax collections for the current fiscal year continue to come in under projections, and the state has yet to hit bottom, so this budget will need more revisions when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
And it's likely to only get worse. When lawmakers start writing next year's budget, all those stimulus funds that are helping to get us through this fiscal year will be gone, and nearly all the gimmicks will be played out.
The real pain is yet to come.
You probably didn't notice, but the city of Tucson had a contested primary election for the Republican nomination in Ward 5. Shaun McClusky captured 59 percent to beat Judith Gomez.
In raw numbers: McClusky got 456 votes, while Gomez got 318 votes. That's a pretty unimpressive turnout, but then again, there are only 4,398 Republicans in Ward 5, so the 780 votes (counting write-ins, blank ballots and over-votes) come out to less than 18 percent of the electorate.
Only 132 people cast votes on Election Day. The rest—82 percent of the voters—cast early ballots. It might have been cheaper to go to the voters' homes and ask them if they wanted to vote than to open the polls.
McClusky will face Democrat Richard Fimbres in the Nov. 3 general election.
We wrote last week about how Oro Valley wanted Pima County to give them money to run their library, and how Pima County said they'd be happy to take over Oro Valley's library so residents there wouldn't have to spend their precious tax dollars on it.
Oro Valley officials have rejected that offer, saying their library is so much better than all the other "average" libraries in Pima County.
Oro Valley residents made their pitch for more funding at last week's Board of Supervisors meeting. Jayne Kuennemeier, who helped form the Friends of the Oro Valley Public Library, explained that Oro Valley was different from the rest of Pima County.
"We have an interesting community," Kuennemeier told the board. "We have a higher education level. We have a higher income. We probably read books that other people don't."
Hmmm—maybe with those higher incomes, Oro Valley residents could just buy books and help support authors instead of being cheapskates and checking them out at the library. Or maybe they can afford to pay a little extra in taxes and help the rest of the poor and uneducated people in Pima County have access to books and other library programs.
Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías took exception to Kuennemeier's comments.
"While I recognize that your community has affluence, that does not give you intellectual superiority," Elias said. "We all read the same books, believe it or not."
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