Skinny LET THE WATER SPORTS BEGIN: If Ward 6 Councilman Fred Ronstadt has his way, there'll be at least three water propositions flowing your way on the November ballot.

Ronstadt, the Council's sole Republican, plans to ask his colleagues to put the referendums on the ballot so that voters can choose among three approaches to using the city's annual allotment of CAP water: (1) enhanced treatment and direct delivery; (2) recharge in the Rillito River; and (3) continuing Tucson Water's recharge project in the central Avra Valley well field (the CAVSARP project).

"My intent is to place in front of voters, in clear, understandable language, two alternatives put forth by Mr. Robert Beaudry as well as the City of Tucson's major water project," Ronstadt wrote in his memo.

Ronstadt's proposal has backing from at least one top dog in the Growth Lobby: Real-estate broker Joseph Cesare of Broadway Realty & Trust. Cesare made the mistake of sending a fax outlining his support of the proposal to Ted Abrams at the Ward 3 Council office.

Unfortunately for Cesare, Abrams no longer works at the Ward 3 office--he lost his job when current Ward 3 Councilman Jerry Anderson defeated Michael Crawford in the 1997 Democratic primary (although Cesare's memo makes it clear Abrams was the Growth Lobby's running dog during his brief stint in the office).

Cesare's misdirected memo outlines six points. Among them:

  • "There are many issues to be resolved prior to an election; one being that the election may be moved to May 1999 rather than November 1999 and a united front."

  • "There appears to be sufficient Council votes to place the water issue on the ballot."

  • "A meeting will be called shortly."

We don't know who's likely to be invited to this mysterious "meeting," but we doubt we'll be on the list. And we're certainly intrigued by the idea that Cesare and his shadowy allies think we should be voting on this plan in May. There's one good reason for an early vote--those kinds of elections attract less media attention and fewer voters, so they're easier to manipulate.

And finally: How did Cesare manage to count four votes less than a day after Ronstadt's memo had been sent? How long has this plan been in the works? And who else was in it?

THE WASTELAND: Genuinely enthused by recent attempts to introduce sound environmental procedures into this dusty consumer paradise, one of our spies recently called the Tucson Mayor and Council Hotline to express his support for a plan to institute once-a-week garbage pickup as well as once-a-week recycling pickup. Big mistake.

In the last 10 days, he's received a two-page letter from City Councilman Jerry Anderson thanking him for his concern; another letter from Councilwoman Shirley Scott; and a three-page letter from the head of Tucson's solid waste department explaining how everyone's committed to waste reduction around here.

Hey, guys, it's about waste reduction. And you've just wasted three 30-cent stamps and six pages of paper in response to a phone call. What's next? A semi-tractor trailer rig bearing a life-like diorama and mini-theatre presentation entitled, oh, we don't know, how 'bout: Saving Money The City Of Tucson Way?

CASHING IN AT THE CAPITOL: Many members of the state Legislature have responded to the recent pay increase the voters were dumb enough to give them with new ways to rip off the taxpayer.

Attorney General Janet Napolitano has already decreed that the portion of the pay raise referendum that reduced legislative per diems is unconstitutional. The opinion of one lawyer/politician will be sufficient for the legislative pols to once again raid that end of the trough.

Don't like it? File your own lawsuit and see if you get a judge to disagree with Napolitano. And try to remember in the future that the Attorney General of Arizona is not--and never was--the "people's lawyer." She's the lawyer for the incumbent pols and bureaucrats.

But there's worse coming. Limiting the number of terms a politician may serve reduces those politicians' ability to accumulate pension benefits. So the slimeballs in Phoenix have found an answer to that terrible challenge to the democratic process. They want to be given the pension they would have received had they stayed around long enough to collect it!

Yeah, that's right. It's a concept called "pay for non-performance." They would allow a state legislator, now annually paid $24,000 plus per diem, to retire after the eight years with a $15,000 annual pension. A Corporation Commissioner, limited to one six-year term at $75,000 per year, will retire on half-pay at $37,500 when that term is complete. Guys who pretend to be conservative Republicans are pimping this ludicrous new form of welfare.

We would remind these self-serving slimeballs that cops and military personnel have to serve 20 years to get half-pay, and they not only risk their lives occasionally but sometimes even perform useful public services. And, unlike our greedy legislators, real public servants don't have part-time jobs, which is all the Legislature was ever designed to accommodate.

THEY ALREADY STOLE THE MONEY! The state retirement fund for elected officials collects a piece of the action on a variety of items via the offices of the Superior Court clerks of Arizona's 15 counties. Your friendly pols grab a piece of the action on every marriage, divorce, adoption and other legal action via higher court fees.

Please note the Pima County's Superior Court Clerk's Office is more than a million bucks in the hole from last year alone, and the strained court system all through the state is demanding more money. Higher taxes for the rest of us will be the result.

We have a brilliant idea for the folks in Phoenix: How about letting those extra fees paid to the courts go into fixing the criminal justice system, instead of stealing them for higher pensions for yourselves? And how about sticking those proposed bigger pensions up your corrupt asses?

TUSD SCRAMBLE: Nice to know it's business as usual at the Tucson Unified School District. Three of the four appointments the TUSD Board made last week reek of the political fixes that characterized the old Board.

The Board voted 4-1 to install Lynn Niemann as principal at Fruchtendler Elementary School, on the northeast side. Rosalie Lopez dissented, not because of any criticism of Niemann but because Niemann's references included Rebecca Montano, a TUSD assistant superintendent who also was on the panel that evaluated and ranked the Fruchtendler candidates. That's the way Superintendent "Cadillac" George F. Garcia likes it.

Next up, a nifty Board majority of Chairwoman Mary Belle McCorkle, Carolyn Kemmeries and James Noel Christ put Carmen Campuzano in at C.E. Rose Elementary School on the southside--in the face of the site-based (neighborhood/parent) committee recommendation for another person. Lopez dissented, again not out of criticism of Campuzano's qualifications, but because Cadillac George and his bureaucrats dissed the site-based committee that TUSD always preaches is so vital to such decisions. Kemmeries cast the deciding vote, even though she pledged repeatedly in her campaign to rely upon site-based committees. Joel Tracy Ireland abstained for unstated and unknown reasons.

TUSD should stop the charade. If the Board is consistently going to ignore the site-based teams, then they might as well be abolished.

The final fix was so slick that it brought a unanimous vote. Lisa Ilka Abrams was hired as a TUSD staff attorney. Abrams, 30, will leave her $46,920-a-year job in the Pima County Legal Defender's Office for the TUSD job, which has a pay range that reaches to $71,000. Abrams is the wife of Ted Abrams, a young Tucson lawyer best known for his work as an aide for City Councilman Michael Crawford, an appointee who was resoundingly thrown out of the Ward 3 office by voters who elected Democrat Jerry Anderson in the 1997 primary. Ted's wife Lisa is also the daughter-in-law of Stanley P. Abrams, a close bud of Don Diamond and a political kingmaker in his own right. We also remember that Stanley's wife, Judy, was a big shot aide to Sen. Dennis DeConcini, in the Democrat's early terms. And who is TUSD's lead--and expensive--outside legal firm? DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy.

BIG MONEY MOUTHPIECE: Fresh off the debacle that was Democrat Paul Johnson's 1998 run for governor, local political hack Dan Benevidez has landed a nebulous job with Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, also a Democrat. Taxpayers are shelling out $36,000 a year plus the full range of top benefits given to county employees for Benevidez's job, which the morning rag described as "spokesman" for the County Attorney. Remember this waste of money the next time LaWall whines to the Board of Supervisors and the public (sales taxes) for more money. At $36,000, the arrogant and vapid Benevidez, a former flunky at the Chamber of Commerce as well as a campaign aide to Mayor George Miller in 1995, is a needless burden to taxpayers

GROWING EVEN SMARTER! If you recall, the Growth Lobby spent dump trucks of stuccodollars to pass the Growing Smarter initiative last November. Atop the finest Astroturf money can buy, lawmakers and concerned citizens urged us to vote to save the desert from rampant development.

Well, the Legislature is already tinkering with the parts they can. One portion of the law requires jurisdictions to adopt a development plan. (Sure, the plans probably would have been full of loopholes--but at least it was a start.)

Now there's Senate Bill 1023. Co-sponsored by Pima County's own Sen. Keith Bee, the bill exempts the planning provisions for all cities and towns in counties with fewer than 250,000 persons and all cities and towns with fewer than 75,000 persons.

Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr reports that, during a recent hearing on SB1023, not a single one of these concerned citizens who pushed the proposition showed up to complain that their work was being gutted.

As Bahr notes, "It kind of makes you wonder about their sincerity in promoting this measure." TW

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