February 16 - February 22, 1995

Youthful Indiscretions

By Emil Franzi and Jim Wright

LEGENDARY LAND speculator Don Diamond apparently does more than bully the Republicans on the Pima County Board of Supervisors to give him the zoning rulings he wants. Seems he can also bully most of the Democrats on the Tucson City Council to spend your tax money on the out-of-state consultants he picks to assess our community's needs.

Diamond heads a group called The We Care Coalition, which has some nebulous mission to do stuff for kids in this community.

Before the kids get a thing, however, a fancy needs assessment survey must first be conducted, says Diamond lawyer-mouthpiece Larry Hecker. So We Care recently demanded the city and county pony up $38,000 each to match the 38 grand the multi-millionaire Diamond has pledged from the private sector to pay the consultants--who have already been selected by We Care.

Those consultants are members of a New York outfit, Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Alschuler. One partner of the group is reported to be a friend of Tucson City Manager Michael Brown.

The all-Democratic council recently voted 4-3 to give We Care what they wanted, with council members Bruce Wheeler, Steve Leal and Molly McKasson voting no. Janet Marcus spoke against the proposal, but finally voted for it. Apparently Marcus is congenitally incapable of voting against a staff recommendation, even when she knows better.

One other questionable vote in favor of this largess to an out-of-town group for something that easily could be accomplished in town was that of Councilman Tom Saggau. Hecker was the attorney who successfully represented Saggau during his recent legal problems over allegations Saggau requested kickbacks from his staff. Now Saggau votes to give city funds to an outfit represented by Hecker? Give us a break.

Also, note that Diamond pledged to raise the 38 private grand, and guaranteed to back it up himself. Considering how much money Diamond has taken out of this town, we humbly suggest Uncle Scrooge just pay for the $115,000 study himself and quit trying to impress us with how much he cares. Proportionate to his income, obviously not that much.

You ain't a philanthropist, Don, when you do it with other people's money--particularly the taxpayers'.

Fortunately, We Care's master plan was at least temporarily derailed at Tuesday's meeting of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Hecker and Karen Pacheco, wife of UA President Manuel Pacheco, had requested the county join with Tucson officials to fund We Care's big study. But, due to heavy last-minute lobbying by angry local youth officials, Supervisor Mike Boyd's motion to fund the We Care proposal died for lack of a second.

A substitute motion by Supervisor Ed Moore calling on the county to create its own youth policy plan was seconded by Supervisor Raul Grijalva and supported by Paul Marsh--unusual cooperation among Republicans and Democrats on the board, especially since the action flies in the face of Diamond's wishes.

After the meeting, Hecker told The Weekly he was upset and disappointed by the board's failure to fund We Care's proposal.

When asked if the group would go forward with its study, Hecker said it was doubtful.

But We Care's temporary setback still raises additional interesting questions about the Tucson City Council and the people who voted to fund the study--Saggau, Marcus, Roger Sedlmayr and Mayor George Miller.

With the exception of Saggau, a relatively new member, these city officials have spent years honing the centerpiece of their self-defined purpose, namely to make Tucson a "Youth Friendly City." Now they're willing to blow off all that effort by passing the leadership torch to a private group headed by Diamond? It doesn't make sense.

Furthermore, the proposed consultants, whose resume is silent on the subject of youth violence and street-gang organization in Southwestern communities, would provide a range of analysis to We Care, including the identification of program needs and duplication of services coupled with an overview of how existing groups can better use resources.

Never mind that over the past few years the city has spent thousands of staff hours and millions of dollars foraging for answers and programs to address Tucson's youth violence problems.

Never mind that with the help of broad-based community groups such as the Pima County Interfaith Council, the city council already has made big strides towards providing support and assistance to scores of community-based private programs.

In exchange for their fat fee, we'd expect the consultants would review the work of at least two dozen Tucson and statewide agencies which have, or are currently, conducting studies into these very same issues.

The We Care proposal also provides for the formation of a technical advisory committee to oversee "input and participation of (the city's) Project Youth." Gee, thanks for allowing the city's team in your ballpark, gang.

Along with other local groups interested in the problems of youth, We Care "will be involved in drafting policy options and in proposing an action plan for carrying out youth policy," according to its proposal. Excuse us for asking, but when did the City of Tucson absolve itself of its charter responsibility to determine policy--youth or otherwise?

The way we see it, the Tucson City Council has made The We Care Coalition our de facto youth policy czar. Strange, because We Care has at its helm the same people who bankrolled the Newt Gingrich revolution--whose troops are currently bragging in our nation's capital about how they plan to "unfund" social programs for dependent children and youth.

Then again, perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on our wishy-washy city council--after all, they're just following the recommendations of their city manager. We find it alarming, however, that Michael Brown shows increasing signs of being in Don Diamond's pocket, even as Brown relentlessly attempts to increase his already considerable control over city hall.

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February 16 - February 22, 1995

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