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click to enlarge Councilman Steve Kozachik

Councilman Steve Kozachik

Broadway or Bust

Will the City Council approve the long-delayed Broadway widening?

The rubber is hitting the road when it comes the long-planned expansion of Broadway Boulevard between downtown and County Club Road.

City officials hope to widen the road, now two lanes in each direction with a center turning lane, to three lanes in each direction with a median.

But critics of the plan worry that the project will ruin the corridor's "sense of place."

The current $72 million plan is actually a compromise from the proposal approved by voters as part of the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority proposition. The original plan called for four lanes in each direction, but that has been scaled back with the approval of the county and RTA, who are both providing funding for the project.

But both the county and the RTA have warned that reducing the project any further would likely result in both jurisdictions pulling their funding, which would mean the project would be canceled.

Nonetheless, opponents of the plan still want to stop it—and a lot of them turned out for a 90-minute public hearing on the next step at last week's Tucson City Council meeting.

Councilman Steve Kozachik, who represents the south side of Broadway, made it clear from the outset of the meeting that he wants to see the scope of the proposal reduced even further.

Before testimony began last Tuesday, April 4, Kozachik said the RTA was "hellbent on cramming down an outdated corridor design that is unresponsive to driving trends, does not respect context-sensitive solution principles and ignores the will of the public."

Kozachik definitely captured the spirit of many in the room who complained that traffic is not that bad on the central-city corridor and warned that moving forward with the plan would result in the loss of the charm of the so-called Sunshine Mile.

But others said that the city had waited long enough to get the Broadway project underway.

Dale Calvert, an accountant who has served on several transportation-related citizen committees over several decades, said the project "breaks 25 years of uncertainty for businesses in this community. It is time to move on."

Calvert pointed out that Broadway's current status left much to be desired.

"For pedestrians, there are no sidewalks," Calvert said. "For bicyclists, there are no bike lanes. There is not much to facilitate transit. There are five lanes of traffic basically devoid of modern turning lanes. And there is stagnation caused by 25 years of inaction on this issue."

If the City Council approves the plan, it will provide sidewalks, bike paths and a dedicated transit lane when the city is ready for such a thing—and it opens the door the eventually running the modern streetcar down Broadway, should funding for a such a thing ever become available.

But if the doesn't move forward with widening Broadway, Calvert warned, the county and RTA funding will no longer be available and the city doesn't have the money to fix up the corridor on its own.

"If you reject this plan, I suspect we are looking at another five, 10, 15 years without sidewalks, without bike lanes," Calvert said. "So in my opinion, this is a project whose time has come."

The City Council is scheduled to vote to approve or reject the latest version of the plans at its next meeting on Tuesday, April 19. If council members approve the proposal, the city will restart its efforts to acquire properties that will need to be demolished for the project to move forward.

Hammer Time

Arizona House Speaker David Gowan caves on a short-lived plan to crack down on reporter who revealed his love of graft

House Speaker David Gowan caved earlier this week on his plan to require reporters to undergo a BS background check before they could go about their business of reporting on the Legislature from the floor of the House of Representatives.

Given the ongoing roasting that Gowan was experiencing in press, it was only a matter of time before he'd admit defeat and let the press get back to doing its job.

The Skinny would like to point out that we were telling voters that House Speaker David Gowan was a nitwit way before it was cool.

Back in 2006, we noted that Gowan was “as dumb as a bag of hammers” after he sent out hit pieces targeting his then-opponent, state Rep. Marian McClure. (McClure was a class act and Gowan isn’t fit to shine her shoes, BTW.)

Despite his lack of smarts, Gowan—with the help of public dollars from the Clean Elections program—eventually managed to weasel his way into the House. And he has risen to the spot of House speaker, mostly because there were enough Republicans who figured he was the least dangerous alternative because he too dumb to get much of anything done.

But since landing that speaker job, he’s has had plenty of bad press, mostly based on his own inability to keep his piggy little snout out of the public trough.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that he tried to ban the media from reporting from the House floor.

Last week, Gowan’s team told all members of the Capitol press corps that they had to go through a bullshit “background check” to ensure that they didn’t pose some kind of security risk.

The reporters, bless their hearts, told Gowan where he could stick his background check, so they were all booted from the House floor for the first time in more than three decades.

The entire sorry background-check affair stems from Gowan’s desire to punish one reporter: Arizona Capitol Times reporter Hank Stephenson, who nailed Gowan for his propensity to campaign on the public dime.

Earlier this year, Stephenson revealed that Gowan had used state-owned cars to rack up 11,000 miles driving around Congressional District 1. As it happens, Gowan is delusional enough to believe he could actually win that congressional district, which ain’t gonna happen.

And then Stephenson followed up with report that showed that Gowan had paid the state back more than $12,000 in mileage reimbursement he received for driving the state car and other expenses he shouldn’t have asked for. Gowan said it was just a clerical error made by a staffer. Sure, happens all the time—you just end up with $12,000 more in taxpayer dollars than you expected and don’t think twice about cashing the check. Those are some conservative values right there!

So Gowan and his pals cooked up a scheme to block Stephenson from being able to cover the House in the final weeks: A background check that would block anyone who had convictions for murder, rape or criminal trespass. Why criminal trespass? Because Stephenson was a criminal trespass conviction on his record stemming from a Wickenburg bar fight.

Gowan’s transparent and dumb effort at revenge isn’t working out so well for him. All he has managed to do is bring more attention to his efforts to enrich himself at the expense of the public.

And his record in that department is long. There was the episode where he had his cars fixed for free by students in a JTED program—right before voting to cut funding for the program. There was his plan to use taxpayer dollars to build a nice new gym for House members. There was his decision to hire a pal for the House Sergeant at Arms position at double the pay of the last guy—and turn the Sergeant at Arms into his private driver while he was campaigning for Congress.

Why would you want every media outlet in the state to recap all these stories? Well, you wouldn’t—unless, of course, you were as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Editor's Note: The Skinny has been updated to reflect developments that occurred after our paper went to print. 

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on Dish, DirecTV and broadcast. You can hear the show on KXCI, 91.3 FM, at 5 p.m. Sundays or watch it online at zonapolitics.com. This week's guests are political strategists Rodd McLeod and Barrett Marson.


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