AND THEY'RE OFF: What a busy little week at the Capitol!
We certainly were impressed with the inauguration of Gov. J. Fife Whiteguy III. And what a bargain--we only had to shell out $4,000 of taxpayer money to set up a soundstage for the Guv to make his 20-minute diatribe about freedom, opportunity and the great power of his ideas.
His Whiteness looked so regal, accompanied by wife Ann and the unmistakable strains of bagpipe music as he made his way to the stage. And that speech was so inspiring, with all its talk of throwing off the enslaving yoke of our federal masters.
We got another really big laugh later in the day, when Whiteguy, who was charging $600 a person for his inaugural ball (with the money directed to retiring campaign debts), suggested that the rich people attending his bash bring along a can of food or two to help the hungry. That's a big heart you've got there, Fife.
And then came Monday, with the Guv's State of the State address highlighting the kick-off of the 42nd Legislature. Fife really turned up the heat, launching yet another salvo in the states' rights crusade by announcing that the state should take up arms against the federal government and its choking regulation of pollution and welfare services. Hey, Fife's never expected hand-outs from the government--he got his hand-outs from his buddies in the S&L business.
He continued to wrap himself in his patriot's guise by promising to fight for so-called private-property rights--in other words, the right of a property owner to create a Superfund site if he damn well decides that's what he wants to do. So what if Prop 300 was rejected by the voters last November? Fife plans to ram it through anyway, by executive order, if necessary.
Fife also found a moment to mention his eagerness to flush the state's campaign finance laws down the crapper. Guess he's tired of trying to find ways around 'em.
The legislative leadership, of course, responded warmly to Fife's crusades. They've already promised to resurrect the Prop 300 "takings" issue and have created new committees to join the states' rights movement.
About the only hero of the week was Attorney General Grant Woods, who used his inaugural speech to inform his fellow Republicans that their agenda basically, well, sucked.
Kudos to Woods for recognizing, in his own words, that it was his job to fight for "the government's ability to enforce civil rights laws and consumer laws and antitrust laws and environmental laws." You know, all those terrible regulations that protect lives and ecosystems but get in the way of profit.
He added--as we've been telling you all along--that the states' rights movement was thinly disguised horseshit. Right on, Grant--it's about time somebody in the GOP recognized we're not living in Chechnya.
Of course, the AG was not warmly received by the rest of the GOP. Gov. Whiteguy simply wrote him off, telling reporters, "We don't have to work with him, and if we do, we'll change the law."
Senate President John Greene, still pissed that Woods didn't support the tort reform props on last year's ballot, added that he was glad Woods had finally "come out of the closet" and admitted he was a liberal. Which, of course, makes him the enemy.
Greene swore Woods would pay for his defiance--the Legislature has all kinds of ways of exacting its revenge, ranging from reducing the staff of the AG's office to eliminating its responsibilities.
And soon, the streets will run red with the blood of the non-believers!
DIRT FROM DOGPATCH: Despite the determined efforts of both the Marana Town Council and New World Homes, voters in Marana will have the opportunity to reject that obscene rezoning we've been bitching about for the last year.
As regular readers will recall, the rezoning, which would allow the homebuilder to construct 1,200 houses on what is now a forest of saguaros and ironwood trees, pissed off so many folks in Marana that they gathered enough signatures to force a public vote on the council's action.
That didn't faze the stooges running the show in Dogpatch. They just tossed out the referendum petitions, declaring the typesize to be 1/72 of an inch too small. When Alliance Marana, the group that gathered the signatures, sued the town to force it to reverse its decision, the town played its trump card, calling in high-powered attorney Si Schorr of Lewis and Roca to defend the town's position.
How was it small Marana was able to hire such a bigshot? Well, as it turns out, Dogpatch wasn't footing the bill--New World Homes agreed to cover legal costs. In fact, as correspondence recently uncovered by Alliance Marana shows, town officials had cut a deal with New World before the petitions were even submitted. The fix, as we like to say, was in.
A June 20 letter from town attorney Daniel J. Hochuli to Greg Anderson of New World Development, written two days before the signatures were turned in, reads in part, "I had understood that your client was going to give us, in writing, confirmation that he will be providing all the costs associated with the referendum. This is to include not only attorney's fees and court costs, but attorney's fees for outside attorneys and all costs associated with the referendum and the election.
"Please provide this documentation immediately in writing. If you are not able to provide such a release, please advise, as that will have some weight on the council's future actions."
Hmmm--if New World doesn't agree to cough up some cash, town officials might stop going to bat for the developer? Gee, does the word "shakedown" come to mind?
Alliance Marana organizer Shari Kelly was amazed when she stumbled across the letter following a public records request of the town's correspondence with the developer.
"I don't know how it could be anything but criminal that they could be having those kinds of negotiations about the court case and the outside attorney's fees while we're still circulating petitions," Kelly says.
Well, maybe it wasn't criminal--but we sure think it was reprehensible, and we were mighty glad the attempt to squash the referendum failed. Last month, Judge J. Richard Hannah ruled the petition forms met legal requirements. Last week, the town council decided not to appeal Hannah's decision.
So what did all this court action cost? Beats us. Marana officials and New World Homes management are too embarrassed to disclose what they owe Lewis and Roca, although Jerry Myers, one of the attorneys for Alliance Marana, believes he has a right to see the bills.
"The Town of Marana is a public entity and their bills are public record," Myers says.
In addition, Judge Hannah also ruled Dogpatch was responsible for covering the legal bills of Alliance Marana, which could easily top $50,000, according to Kelly. We wonder who's paying that--Marana taxpayers or New World Homes?
There's no word on whether New World will also pay for the recall election of the officials who've been so supportive of the developer. After Dogpatch officials tossed the sigs, Alliance Marana got to work on a recall of Mayor Ora "Mammy Yokum" Harn and Vice-Mayor Sharon Price. Kelly says the signatures for that effort have been verified and are back in the Marana town clerk's office. She's hopeful the referendum and the recall will appear on the same ballot, sometime in May.
"We'd like to have all these people running on their record on this rezoning," she says.
PROOF THAT EVEN THE INSANE CAN SERVE IN GOVERNMENT: If The Skinny didn't have Pima County Supervisor Big Ed Moore's ranting and raving, we'd probably have to spend a lot more time watching C-SPAN for the politically bizarre.
Take Ed's latest tirade, for example, against Arizona Daily Star reporters Chris Limberis and Joe Burchell. At the end of the weekly supes meeting is a standard agenda item, "Call to the Audience," which allows any citizen--including Moore--to step forward to address the supes. The following is from the transcript of the January 3, 1995, meeting:
Moore: "I'd like to avail myself of that. I had heard a rumor that starting in January 1 of 1995 The Arizona Daily Star was going to tell the truth in their ordinary articles and their everyday reporting. I was glad to see, Mr. Limberis, that you're the same old sleazy scumbag liar that you and Mr. Burchell have always been. Wouldn't it be nice if you actually did try to turn the, uh, uh, trick and, uh, turn around and start telling the truth to the public for a change? You're a sleazebag. Congratulations, sir. Continuing in your long-held tenet to, uh, not tell the truth."
FORREST IRELAND: Generalissimo Joel Ireland, deposed dictator of the Tucson Unified School District Board, continues to amaze by his showing of how low an elected official can go.
We're talking about Catalina High School, of course.
As the story goes so far, Ireland had used Catalina High's plight to get a $389-million bond package passed by the voters in 1989, then tried on two separate occasions to close Catalina and divert the $17 million allocated to repair the school to build a high school on the southwest side of town. Ireland and his puppet majority on the TUSD Board were thwarted when the courts ordered Catalina to stay open. After the court decision, Ireland and his puppets let Catalina swing in the wind, giving rise to student anarchy on campus.
But on a recent KVOA-TV, Channel 4, broadcast, Ireland stated that since the TUSD Board postponed plans to build that southwest side school, "I feel that the $17 million surplus should go to Catalina High School."
As Forrest Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does."
KOLBE, THE POWERFUL: While he didn't acquire chairmanship of a congressional sub-committee because he was uniquely positioned behind senior members, U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe will have considerable clout on the House Appropriations Committee. He's second-ranked on two appropriations subcommittees and fourth-ranked on the committee itself.
Kolbe will have a key role in funding social programs. Those concerned about welfare reform and its impact should spend less time harassing the folks at GOP headquarters, which is only good for a photo op, and more time at Kolbe's shop, where the actual decisions will be strongly influenced.
Once again, reality therapy for all the folks lining up to run for Kolbe's seat in 1996: Wait a little longer--he isn't going anywhere for a while now that the GOP has a majority.
AN UPSTANDING MEMBER OF THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY: The Foothills Mall is under new ownership--or at least prospective new ownership, because the deal, involving a group of investors headed by legendary land speculator Don Diamond, has yet to officially close. But in the meantime, those in charge at the mall are acting like it.
According to the minutes of the merchant's meeting held on December 8, the new team is making life uncomfortable for current mall tenants. First, by requiring extended hours of the remaining shopkeepers. Second, by turning off the lights at the old time. And third, by cutting the air conditioning at 2 p.m.
Nice touch, Don. You philanthropical son of a gun.
HANGIN' WITH THE BIG BOYS: Immensely wealthy power dude Don Diamond was spotted in our nation's capital last week with a covey of other fat-walleted businessmen from our county doing the various inaugural events hosted by the Arizona's Republican congressional delegation.
When the events were over, a small group of 10 or 12 locals gathered for a private dinner. Joining Diamond was local attorney and county lobbyist John Munger, investor Stan Abrams and Pima County Supervisor Mikey Boyd--the only local elected official present. Boyd claims not one cent of his D.C. expenses came from county funds. "My entire trip was paid from my campaign funds," Boyd says.
Oh, in other words it was paid by the guys you had dinner with? Next question: How did you vote this week on Diamond's Pima Canyon project?
PROOF THAT EVEN THE TERMINALLY NAIVE CAN SERVE IN GOVERNMENT: Ever since the Republicans swept themselves into a majority nationally, Mikey Boyd is so excited with anticipation his shoes get damp from time to time.
"I support the return of power to the states as a means of getting the power closer to the people," puffed his Waffleness, "except when it comes to the environment. I think it would be a disaster to strip the Environmental Protection Agency (of its regulatory powers) and think that the states will do the job. States will not be able to effectively police big business. In Arizona, it would be a complete disaster."
Mikey boy, we are somewhat embarrassed to point this out to you, but isn't having a business-friendly, state-run environmental agency one of the major reasons greedy business types and their Republican henchmen want to "return power to the states?" Do you honestly think Newt or any other Republican in Congress believes the EPA needs to be disassembled because it could be more effective at a state level?
POLITICAL PUNDITRY GONE HAYWIRE: 1995 is an election year for the City of Tucson, and Citizen reporter Heather Newman gave us a brief rundown on prospective candidates. For mayor, she named the two obvious Democrats, incumbent George Miller and Councilman Bruce Wheeler. She then polled the rest of the council, and got the "maybe" from Molly McKasson and a coy "no comment" from Tom Saggau. Janet Marcus and Steve Leal said they weren't interested in the job. The response from Roger Sedlmayr was that he wouldn't run against Miller.
What she didn't tell you was that a major portion of the "business community" (whoever in the hell they are) have been courting Democrat Sedlmayr to run for mayor as a Republican. We believe this is an insurance policy sought by certain power brokers to cover their asses in case Wheeler knocks off Miller in the Democratic primary.
Newman apparently was also unaware that Republican businesswoman Sharon Collins has been seriously considering the mayor's race. And Newman discussed a few candidates for Wheeler's seat, including former council aide Scott Egan, former councilman Rudy Bejarano and José Ibarra, an assistant to county Supervisor Raul Grijalva. Ibarra has already taken out nominating papers.
Well and good. But Newman describes Ibarra as "a Democrat with close ties to President Clinton."
Hold on. Ibarra had a major role in the Arizona Clinton campaign, and is considered a bright young man. But close ties? Hey, we know the President's MCI calling circle has shrunk since November 8, but that's a bit much. And we don't think Ibarra is pretentious enough to claim it, so that leaves Newman with one hell of an overstatement on her hands.
ONCE UPON A TIME, TUCSON HAD REAL LEADERSHIP: On January 14, 1995, one of Tucson's well-known, long-time residents will celebrate his 90th birthday. So happy birthday, Joseph Bonanno.
(What? You were expecting some smart-ass remark from us? Sorry, but we like it when our cars start without a big explosion, thank you.)
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