THE SOUND OF HAMMERS
Gabby Giffords made a surprise statement last week at a Senate Judiciary Committee on gun violence.
"Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important," said Giffords, who was struggling with the words but determined to say them. "Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous."
Giffords' husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, offered the committee four suggestions for gun-violence legislation: Expand background checks to include person-to-person sales by unlicensed dealers; enact a tougher federal gun-trafficking statute; remove the limitations in federal law on collecting data and doing scientific research on gun violence; and start talking about "the lethality of firearms we permit to be legally bought and sold in this country."
Kelly interrupted his testimony to inform senators that as they were speaking, he had learned that another fatal shooting had erupted in Phoenix.
The Phoenix shooting, which spiraled out of a legal mediation session gone terribly wrong, left three people dead, including the killer (who took his own life).
That's just another day in America now. The day before Kelly testified, an Alabama school bus driver was shot to death by a 65-year-old nutjob who then kidnapped a 5-year-old boy from the bus and stashed him in an underground bunker, starting a standoff that would last days before the FBI entered the bunker, rescued the boy and shot and killed the kidnapper. A day after Kelly's testimony, an assistant D.A. was killed in San Antonio, Texas. Over the weekend, Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL veteran known as the deadliest sniper in Iraq, was shot alongside a fellow veteran at a gun range outside of Fort Worth, Texas, by a third vet said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Tucson City Council took the first step toward wider background checks earlier this week, voting to require background checks at any gun shows on city property. That sets up a legal battle over a state law that forbids the city from enacting more stringent gun regulations than the state allows; City Councilman Steve Kozachik believes that the city has authority to control how gun sales are conducted on its property. If the city loses in court, it will have to decide whether to allow gun shows at the Tucson Convention Center.
But the real question goes back to Washington and whether there's political will to increase gun regulation. At the very least, it appears there's movement to expand background checks, with more Senate Republicans—including Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake—saying they are open to reform.
SO MUCH FOR THAT FISHING EXPEDITION
Critics of Pima County government often point to the bond program when they're knocking the Board of Supervisors or Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
They claim the county allows voters the opportunity to borrow too much and shifts the money around in order to reward friends and punish enemies.
Former state lawmaker Terri Proud was one of the loudest critics of Pima County's bond program, accusing Huckelberry of having "repeatedly taken bond money and spent it on projects other than what voters intended."
"Where's the money, Huck?" Proud demanded in an article she penned for a right-wing blog. "What did you get for $1.5 billion?"
Proud, who did not seek reelection last year, first tried to run legislation that would have allowed the small towns in Pima County to veto bond projects, but eventually settled on passing a bill calling for an audit of the Pima County bond program.
That audit, which was released last week, notes that with bond projects that were approved by voters in 1997, 2004 and 2006, the county had completed 477 of 513 projects (or 93 percent) on time or ahead of deadline. Any changes were approved by the Board of Supervisors, "without any indication in the board's records that changes were made to reward or punish an entity, party, or official who stood to benefit from or be affected by the project."
Huckelberry called the audit a "complete validation of the integrity and importance of the bond program."
"We hold as sacred voter trust and believe strongly that voters must have assurance that they will get what they paid for," Huckelberry said in a prepared statement. "We are pleased that this independent review has unequivocally found Pima County to be accountable and transparent in its management of these programs."
Proud, who worked hard to undermine confidence in Pima County during her time in the Legislature, dropped her hostile tone toward the county after the audit was released.
"I'd like to thank Mr. Huckelberry and his staff for their cooperation during this audit," Proud told The Skinny via Facebook. "I am pleased it turned out well. It's my hope that this audit will restore some confidence back into the taxpayers in Pima County knowing that the bond monies are being taken care of appropriately."
We mentioned last week that three incumbent Democrats on the Tucson City Council—Richard Fimbres, Karin Uhlich and Steve Kozachik—would be seeking reelection this year.
So far, none of them has drawn a Republican challenger.
The job of unseating the incumbents in heavily Democratic Tucson looks like it's going to get a little harder. The Green Party has lost its ballot status in the city of Tucson, so it doesn't look like it will be easy to run a candidate to draw support away from Democrats on the left.
To maintain ballot status, Green Party mayoral candidate Mary DeCamp needed to get at least 5 percent of the vote. Her quixotic campaign (which concluded with her moving out a foreclosed home and into the Occupy Tucson encampment in a downtown park) ended up with 4.9 percent. Or, as Maxwell Smart might put it, "Missed it by that much." To regain ballot status, the Greens have to deliver a petition with 1,707 signatures of registered Green Party members who are also city residents before Feb. 28, according to Assistant City Clerk Suzanne Mesich.
There are 906 Greens in Tucson, according to figures on the Pima County Recorder's Office website.
Dave Croteau, who has run for county sheriff and mayor of Tucson on the Green Party ticket, told The Skinny that he doesn't expect the Greens to push for official recognition by the city. Instead, he said a rejuvenated Green Party is now working to register enough voters to earn permanent ballot status in Pima County.
"Pima County Greens can get 10 to 20 percent in every election with permanent ballot status in the county," suggested a hopeful Croteau.
It's not as if the Greens were likely to win an election in this year's city races, but in a close race, a Green Party candidate could conceivably siphon off enough votes from a Democrat to allow a Republican to win citywide.