The Skinny

HOW DARE WE? Last week, Tucson City Councilwoman Shirley Scott got hopping mad at the Skinny for daring to predict, without first asking her, that she would vote to privatize Tucson Water.

Then, on Monday, January 13, she provided the swing vote to "study" privatizing the management of the municipal water company.

Karnak the Magnificent strikes again!

Gazing into our crystal ball, we see Scott breaking her campaign promise to not privatize Tucson Water. We predict she'll ultimately vote to privatize our water utility by handing it over to some combination of players greatly resembling the Tucson 30 and the Growth Lobby.

We also predict she'll vote to annex legendary land speculator Don Diamond's mammoth Rocking K sprawlvelopment way to hell and gone out there in the Rincon Valley, allowing the Don to weasel out of most of the obligations Pima County squeezed out of him, mostly in infrastructure costs. That means the rest of us will be paying to further enrich the Don.

Also, we predict both the water privatization and the Rocking K annexation will have three more votes besides Scott's--namely, those of Councilmembers Michael Crawford, Janet Marcus and Mayor George Miller.

Scott and the rest could prove us wrong by one simple act--NOT voting as we predict. Hey, we'd be happy to grovel, call them statespersons and otherwise kiss their butts. But until that happens, we're betting Diamond and the Growth Lobby have four votes on two big issues.

DANCIN' THE CHUCKY HUCK: Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry reacted to charges from Democratic supervisors Sharon Bronson and Dan Eckstrom concerning the county's declining fiscal health by announcing a hiring freeze for county employment. Pardon us if we yawn, Chuck, but that hardly addresses the real problem. If you were really serious, you could freeze or eliminate a lot of other needless spending.

Huckelberry is in a box built by his most ardent supporter, GOP Supe Mike Boyd, a member first of the GOP majority and then of the floating coalitions that ran Pima County for the last couple of years. Boyd waffled and watched while the county got flushed down the fiscal toilet.

Any real solutions would require more surgery than Huckelberry currently wants to recommend. Eliminating the leftover pork and those who made costly bad decisions would alienate Boyd, who's still enamored with many of the bureaucrats inserted into high county government roles by the thoroughly discredited regime of previous county administrator Manoj Vyas.

All of which may have some bearing on why new County Board Chairman Raul Grijalva has been so quiet about the poor state of county finances. Grijalva, unlike Bronson and Eckstrom, is chummy with Boyd and far less inclined to critique him or Huckelberry.

Bottom line: Huckelberry is walking a tightrope to keep three votes, with the ultimate decision on his future resting with Grijalva.

THE JOHN WAYNE OF STATE POLITICS: Much to the chagrin of The Arizona Republic and all other media outlets he's consistently bad-mouthed, former congressman and current Phoenix radio talk-show host Sam Steiger has a new role in state government. Steiger has been named a counselor to GOP Speaker of the House Don Aldridge of Havasu City. Which raises our opinion of Aldridge--at least a tiny bit.

We've always considered Steiger one of the few charming things that occur in Phoenix, and his views are often as "alternative" as you can find. He hammers, from the right, many of the same phonies we have from the left. His addition to the Legislature in any capacity can do nothing but help. As Steiger himself always says, "When you're lying flat on your back it's hard to fall out of bed."

ADIOS, MANUEL: Maybe Manuel Pacheco always intended to resign the presidency of the University of Arizona after a term of five to seven years, as he said in his resignation statement last week, but it's also true that in the last year and a half he's careened from one crisis to another.

Gov. J. Fife Symington III withheld funds and yammered on about the poor quality of the state universities. John Munger, perennial troublemaker on the Board of Regents, attacked both affirmative action and tenure. Pacheco made a vigorous defense of affirmative action, but his arguments in favor of tenure were inconsistent and illogical. Tenure was necessary on the main campus, he said, but dispensable on the new Arizona International Campus.

And it was AIC that brought Pacheco into conflict with an angry faculty in a series of tumultuous Faculty Senate meetings last winter. The UA profs were furious that Pacheco was allowing AIC to shape up as an outlaw campus that would trade on the UA's name (all its diplomas will be issued from the UA) while bypassing the UA's usual scholarly scrutiny.

In fact, while Pacheco himself declares that the establishment of AIC is one of his lasting achievements, the whole business demonstrates that while the gentlemanly Pacheco was nothing like his divisive predecessor Henry Koffler, he was still willing to play back-room politics. He had gotten the new campus off to the worst possible start by high-handedly appointing Celestino Fernández to head it, without benefit of a search committee, in an institution where even the lowliest assistant professor can get hired only after a rigorous national search. Fernández was an unpopular administrative flunky left over from the Koffler regime, and when Pacheco named him new campus provost, the whole AIC enterprise immediately lost credibility.

Again, it was AIC that set the stage for perhaps the most humiliating public moment of Pacheco's presidency. At the regents' meeting one year ago this month, local business interests succeeded in getting the old IBM site approved as the location for AIC. Pacheco could have told the regents that in conscience he couldn't go along with the selection, as it directly contradicted the mission of the new school as well as the recommendations of his own community committee, but he didn't. Instead, knuckling under to the pro-business regents, he declared that the dismal, high-security corporate park out in a desert wasteland looked the most like a university of any possible location. It was a statement that was patently false, and an embarrassing public demonstration of his weakness as university leader. That impression was reinforced by a faculty survey that came out in the fall criticizing Pacheco's invisibility and poor leadership.

Still, Pacheco will be remembered as a mostly decent fellow who helped renew the university's commitment to undergraduate education. He successfully shored up a university library system that had been debilitated by Koffler. He had started the job when the university was torn apart by the machinations of the Koffler regime and he had a lot of mopping up to take care of. It's questionable whether even a stronger figure than Pacheco could have dealt better with the internecine warfare between public and private interests that wracks large state universities.

And in time, his weakness may even be recalled fondly. After all, the Board of Regents, many of them Symington appointees, now has the power to hire their own guy. Far worse than an ineffectual president would be an ideologically motivated hatchet man. TW

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