Skinny PRESSURE DROP: Apparently more than just the tree-huggers are noting the departure of David Baron, long-time activist attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.

Baron, who spent nearly two decades forcing the EPA to uphold its own air-quality standards in Tucson and Phoenix, recently moved to Washington, D.C., where he'll tackle similar work with the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. His relocation apparently sparked a sigh of relief among officials from the Pima County Association of Governments. A pair of agenda items, taken from the minutes of a November PAG meeting recently obtained by The Skinny, listed a satisfactory air-quality report from the Speedway/Wilmot intersection. The next item went on to say that "David Baron of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest is leaving the area, so less pressure will come from that direction, at least for now."

Does that mean officials can kick back and breathe easier, now that their air-quality activities will apparently receive less scrutiny? Oh, absolutely not, says PAG chairwoman Karen Morehouse. She calls the memo item "an offhand remark," before she passes the buck to Lee Comrie, PAG's senior transportation modeler. According to Comrie, "We make jokes all the time. We we're just making light of the fact that there won't be a watchdog watching over us all the time."

Now that's a real lung-ripper. Ha, ha, hack, hack....

ORO VALLEY RECALL, PART 27: Wayne Bryant, Oro Valley activist, perennial candidate, and union official, is apparently the only person who's running against Oro Valley Town Councilmember Cheryl Skalsky in that twisted burg's March recall election. The other potential candidate, Matt Moutafis, claimed he was too busy but would probably run later, clearing placing him in the weenie category.

Skalsky appears to be running a back-porch campaign, mouthing attacks at Bryant through surrogates. This may be a good strategy, since both Bryant and Skalsky are capable of saying things so bizarre they could turn off most of the electorate--assuming their utterances ever got reported. Look for Skalsky's new best friends in the Growth Lobby to keep a sock in her mouth and hammer Bryant for being a liberal Democrat and a union guy in a GOP town.

YOU'RE NOT MY DADDY! No wonder Fairfield's lead Canoa Ranch planning consultant, Frank Thomson, was always in the loop. Looking at the perpetually fading Tucson Citizen on the day after those gutsy and glorious Pima County supervisors rejected the Canoa Ranch rezoning, we got the startling answer: Fairfield's boy blunder CEO, David Williamson, is pictured leaning and talking into Thomson's ear. The caption says Williamson is talking to his father.

That must have been news to Fairfield Board President Lowell Williamson, who thought all along that he had placed his son in charge of Fairfield's operations here.

G.O., G.O. LET'S GO! State Sen. George Cunningham, a moderate Democrat from central and foothills District 13, is essentially up and running for Congress. He's locking in supporters now to try what former Tucson Mayor Tom Volgy couldn't do last year--take out U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, an eight-term Republican. Cunningham, a former University of Arizona lobbyist/administrator, won't impede his campaign with self-imposed financial restrictions the way Volgy did.

He and Volgy had some agreement on who would have the honors of challenging Kolbe last year and in 2000. But will Volgy stick to his end of the bargain?

TUSD MOPE & GROPE: George Santayana said those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Not a problem for the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board. It will meet in a day-long, feel-good retreat at the end of the month to learn how to be n-i-c-e. Money, which could go for even a few books or supplies for the district's thousands of bereft students, is being spent on a facilitator for this joke. Board President Mary Belle McCorkle is pushing this to help get this group functioning. But it really was the brainchild of Board Member James Noel Christ, who suffers acutely from delusions of adequacy. These wasteful retreats have been attempted before by the Board and they've ended in failure each time. One year the session disintegrated after only 15 minutes.

SENSELESS CENSUS: Rhonda Bodfield's recent Sunday Arizona Daily Star article attempted to tell us about the demographics of the state Legislature compared to statewide statistics. Titled "Legislators Don't Reflect Ariz. Diversity," the piece seemed to be based on the goofy supposition that exact quotas are somehow desirable, although Bodfield gave little reason for why things are the way they are.

She noted Republicans make up only about 45 percent of Arizona's voters, but represent 62 percent of the Legislature. So what? So they won more elections--big deal.

In noting that "Hispanics" are 22 percent of the state's population, but hold only 11 percent of the legislative seats, Bodfield conveniently shifted from comparing voter registration numbers to population numbers. The primary reason there aren't more Hispanics in the Legislature is that a disproportionate number of them aren't registered and don't vote.

Likewise, it's disingenuous to whine about "gender disparity" in the Legislature while ignoring the recently oft-stated fact that the top five offices in Arizona government are held by women. Should at least two of those offices be given to men?

Finally, Bodfield's discussion of religious declaration is also incomplete. She uses the fact that Mormons are disproportionately represented among those providing biographical information, at 20 percent, to explain the Legislature's social conservatism. What she fails to do is explain why there are apparently so many Mormons in public office here and elsewhere.

We'll tell you why: Because Mormons have had government on their collective ass disproportionately throughout their history. For this reason Jews, too, tend to pay more attention to government than your ordinary Protestant wankers. Mormons and Jews culturally encourage their members to participate in government. Mormons tend to be conservative, Jews tend to be liberal. It's part of the mix that makes America great, or at least occasionally amusing.

And while Bodfield named a number of Mormons in state government, past and present, she missed the most relevant one of all: Morris King Udall, U.S. House, 1961-1991.

DOWNTOWN DOLDRUMS: It's distressing to see the continuing flight of businesses from downtown. Most recently, Yikes/Picante fled for the upscale Broadway Village at Broadway and Country Club Road; J. Kareiva Menzwear has left the Hotel Congress; and even Ackerman's Pen Shop, after a half-century in the same location downtown, is closing its doors.

The complaints from downtown businesspeople vary, but few of the outgoing shopkeepers will miss the homeless beggars or the mental patients who are housed downtown. The time is long past for the City Council to follow through on its promise to break up the Toole Avenue feeding center into six smaller facilities, one to each ward.

And the federal government has to bear a big part of the blame. The feds snatched up an entire block along Congress between Scott and Stone avenues with grandiose plans to build a new courthouse, only to decide later to construct their $80 million Taj Mahal on Congress and Granada Avenue--which, of course, would have been the ideal spot for that downtown convention hotel that state Sen. George Cunningham is trying to subsidize with state funds. Thanks, Uncle Sam! TW

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