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click to enlarge Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry

Explosive Announcement

County's economic development plan pays off with Raytheon expansion

When Raytheon Missile Systems made its long-rumored announcement that it would be bringing 2,000 new jobs to the community last week, it was a major win for Pima County's economic development efforts.

Ever since 2010, when Raytheon announced plans to expand its footprint in Huntsville, Alabama, local officials have been scrambling to find ways to accommodate the region's largest employer.

It has been a long effort that included relocating and transforming the old Hughes Access Road into the Aerospace Parkway, purchasing land to serve as a buffer against urban encroachment, developing the county's Aerospace, Defense & Technology Research and Business Park (which is already home to World View and Vector Space Systems) and putting together an incentive package to persuade Raytheon—which already employs about 9,600 people locally—to expand here.

The effort, spearheaded by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, had significant bipartisan support from Pima County Supervisors Sharon Bronson, Ramon Valadez and Richard Elias (all Democrats) and Ray Carroll (a Republican), as well as members of the all-Democratic Tucson City Council and Republican officials like Gov. Doug Ducey, Sen. John McCain and Congresswoman Martha McSally.

The big outlier has been Queen Nut Ally Miller, the recently reelected supervisor from District 1, who railed against many of the steps the county was taking because of her rock-solid conviction that everyone besides her in county government is corrupt. And besides, as she complained during a board meeting where she voted against the plans to relocate Aerospace Parkway, Raytheon executives didn't pay her a personal visit to kiss her ass (from which she pulls many of her arguments against the county's economic-development proposals).

Miller said reorienting the road to give Raytheon room to expand was not worth the gamble because Raytheon officials had not promised to expand if the work was done.

Miller has once again been proven wrong, but we're sure she'll learn nothing from this episode; if there's one thing the last four years has taught us, it's that Miller and her supporters are frequently in error, but never in doubt.

Health Scare

Congressional Republicans see an opportunity to privatize Medicare

With Republicans set to take full control of the federal government with the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan is already eyeing the possibility of privatizing Medicare.

Right now, once you turn 65, Medicare is there to take care of your medical needs with the occasional co-pay.

But Ryan wants to adopt more of an Obamacare-style program for Medicare in which seniors purchase private insurance plans and get some support to make those payments to the private insurers. Ryan is making the argument that Obamacare somehow weakened Medicare when, in fact, it extended Medicare's life by making some cost reductions.

Ryan's plan would surely end Medicare as we know it—and if you think that the Obamacare exchanges were a problem with rising rates, just wait until insurance companies start to calculate how much it will cost to provide health care to an older and sicker population.

Whether the GOP will stick together when Ryan reveals the details of his risky scheme remains to be seen. So far, however, few Republican lawmakers around the country have said they'll oppose it.

Republican Martha McSally, who recently won a big reelection victory in Southern Arizona's Congressional District 2, isn't opposed to the privatization plan, according spokesman Patrick Ptak, who told The Skinny via email that McSally "will thoughtfully consider any proposal put before the House."

Radioactive Politics

McSally critical of Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran but declines to say whether U.S. should withdraw from it

Speaking of Congresswoman Martha McSally: She was among the Republicans and Democrats who voted nearly unanimously last week to extend sanctions against the Iranian government for the next decade. The Iran Sanctions Extension Act passed the House 419-1 and was headed for the U.S. Senate.

McSally has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action hammered out between the United States, Iran, European Union countries and the United Nations that was designed to slow Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons by forcing the country to turn over most of its enriched uranium along with equipment used to make nuclear weapons and to allow inspectors access to its nuclear facilities to ensure that the nation is not engaged in developing nuclear weapons.

The deal's "implementation in 2015 infused the Iranian regime with billions of dollars in new cash and removed the strongest leverage we had to halt their nuclear program," McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak told The Skinny via email. "Since the deal went into effect, we've seen Iran violate its terms, test-fire ballistic missiles in violation of international agreements, and continue to fund terrorism and fuel instability throughout the Middle East."

President-elect Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail that he would tear the agreement up on his first day in office. But since he won the presidential race, many critics of the agreement have said that withdrawing from the deal might not be such a hot idea, according to a Politico story last week. While the United States would unilaterally drop out of the agreement, that could mean that the inspectors on the ground in Iran would no longer be able to do their job and it's unlikely that the other countries involved would support reenacting sanctions.

The Politico story noted that Republican Sen. Bob Corker, a longtime critic of the deal, told MSNBC that withdrawing from the agreement doesn't make much sense.

"I think the beginning point is for us to cause them to strictly adhere [to the deal]," Corker said. "And I think that what we have to remember is, we have to keep the Europeans and others with us in this process."

McSally is being more cautious in her comments regarding the future of the Iranian deal. Asked if McSally is among the members of Congress who are urging Trump to hold off on withdrawing from the agreement, Ptak told The Skinny that "she believes President-elect Trump should use all elements of national power to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions and that all options should be thoughtfully considered to meet that objective."

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 5 p.m. Sunday on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM. This week's guests include Congressman Raul Grijalva and Arizona Capitol Times reporter Hank Stephenson.

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