Last week, while Pima Community College's Chancellor Roy Flores was trying to sell his plan to change the college's admission policy, which would require incoming students to have a high school diploma or GED, and would shrink the college's adult education department, the college was also interviewing four candidates for a new position that comes with a $148,188 salary: vice chancellor for government relations and public information.
The Skinny recently asked the college's marketing and public relations manager, Paul Schwalbach, why the college decided to create such a position—wondering if the contentious reception to Flores' plan has anything to do with the new job, as well as Pima County Superior Court Judge Stephen Villareal's decision to force the college to release information as part of a public information lawsuit filed by the Arizona Republic on the college's former student and Jan. 8 shooter Jared Lee Loughner.
Via e-mail, Schwalbach replied, "It is important for the college to communicate that it has a rigorous planning process. By combining public information and government advocacy, we can inform both officials and the public of the college's goals and achievements as identified in its College Plan, which addresses fundamental issues facing the college and the community."
Last week, four candidates were interviewed, including C.J. Karamargin, communications director for U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived Loughner's Jan. 8 shooting rampage.
Although Karamargin didn't respond to a call or e-mail asking for comment on the position, the Skinny thinks the former Arizona Daily Star reporter would make a great king of information, and after what he and his co-workers have gone through this past year, no doubt Karamargin will have new experience responding to crisis, as well as those pesky requests for the full story and public information.
Down at the Skinny, we're all for the Freedom of Information Act, because making requests for information often leads to those details public officials would rather you didn't know. But this mess Republican Tyler Vogt created for himself after getting e-mail correspondence from Tucson City Council members Paul Cunningham, Shirley Scott, Steve Kozachik and others, as part of an Arizona Public Information request, isn't making him too many friends during his run for city council against Ward 4 incumbent and Democrat Shirley Scott.
Because Vogt solicited campaign contributions using the e-mail addresses he compiled from the correspondence, the Pima County Democratic Party is accusing Vogt of breaking the law.
It also accuses him of violating the city charter, because those messages included city workers' e-mail addresses and it's a no-no to solicit city workers using their official addresses during work hours.
"First he announces his candidacy with a menacing e-mail, trying to extort Council member Shirley Scott out of the race. Next he wastes city employee time to work on his campaign, illegally hits them up for money and spams the rest of the list," Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rogers stated in the press release.
Even Vogt's fellow Republican Steve Kozachik is getting in on the complaints. Koz sent this e-mail to Vogt:
"When your campaign requested a list of our constituent e-mail addresses, I objected on the grounds of wanting to protect their privacy. I was told by the City Clerk and City Attorney that I could not withhold that information and therefore they turned over the list to your campaign."
The Koz also wants Vogt to take his ward off the spam list, too:
"I continue to believe your having accessed those e-mail addresses constitutes an invasion of the privacy of the people now receiving your campaign material. I request that you identify those e-mail addresses secured from the Ward 6 list and delete them from your list serve."
Vogt responded that an opt-out link was on his spam, but wasn't working. Regarding the Koz's opinion: "I will choose to let the individuals make the decision whether they wish to continue to receive e-mail from my campaign and I will respect thier decisions," he wrote.
Other than a need to use spell-check, Vogt may also need to check in with the city attorney about bad spam.
Incumbency in politics has its distinct advantages, including with name recognition and fundraising. Another advantage is being able to potentially influence campaign issues through controlling meeting agendas.
That last point may currently be on display in the three City Council races.
In January, a spokesman for Tucson Water, commenting about the long-delayed Decision H2O water quality program, told the Weekly, "We'll take it to the City Council sometime this summer."
That schedule seemed to be on track when the Citizens' Water Advisory Committee (CWAC) on June 1 unanimously voted to allow water hardness to rise to a 600–650 level. That is a cheaper but lower-quality product than the alternative 450 level.
After the CWAC vote, Tucson Water representatives briefed each City Council office staff about the Decision H2O program. As for discussing the highly controversial subject in public, the Council is apparently going to wait quite a while.
Last week, a Tucson Water spokesman projected that the issue wouldn't come before the Council in a public meeting until "late fall, early winter." That, of course, will be after the Nov. 8 City Council elections.
Whether any of the Council incumbents—Paul Cunningham, Regina Romero and Shirley Scott—had any say in delaying a public discussion of the water-quality issue until after the election isn't too important.
What is more relevant now is—at the August 9 City Council meeting, will any of them push to have Decision H2O talked about publicly before the November election?
Just when you thought things couldn't get any schmoozier with Augusta Resource Inc.'s PR parade, the Skinny is now charmed to see that Tucson's own Arizona Daily Star—the same paper that recently sent 52 of its loyal staffers packing—still finds the wherewithal to co-sponsor a set of commemorative copper coins with the wannabe mining company. In case you forgot, Augusta is the foreign corporation hoping to sink a butt-ugly open pit in the lovely Santa Rita Mountains south of town.
This gorgeous coinage is aimed at commemorating Arizona's (nearly) 100 years as a state, which is downright neighborly of Augusta, considering that the company is based 1,000 miles away in Canada. And yet, we must acknowledge that Augusta's promise of bringing a multitude of jobs to the area is already proving true, if you look at the number of PR folks in the company's employ, from Zimmerman Public Affairs and Mary Rowley's Strongpoint to its own in-house geniuses. Hard telling which came up with this latest stroke of brilliance.
Still, even a small army of spinmeisters can't seem to wrangle Augusta's own habit of head-shaking catastrophes. Such as the public meetings packed with "mine supporters" who actually turned out to be poor schmucks hoping for a free meal, cheap T-shirts and hypothetical jobs. Then there are the letters of support last fall that blanketed parts of Tucson contrived by Augusta. Some of the signatures were also faked.
So now those dark trolls driving Augusta's PR machine are at it again, and this time the tool is coinage. Each of these shiny little gems celebrates an aspect of Arizona's history, citrus, cattle, cotton, climate and, yep, copper.
But we also wonder just how they commemorate the notion of journalistic independence. Just how the Star justifies this little deal remains to be seen; publisher John Humenik didn't return several phone calls from the Skinny.