The Skinny

SYSTEM ERROR: Alas, the world-conquering Borg have concluded our community could not be assimilated--or there was nothing of value here to assimilate. Not even our three spring-training teams and that gorgeous new stadium!

Guess that's what a girl gets for sleeping with a software giant on the first date. Ah, Microsoft, when we think of what might have been....

As usual, our community's economic development geniuses are assuring us the colossal blunder was still a splendid idea--and that Boston-based Keane, Inc. ought to get the same $4-million rent subsidy our elected officials were suckered into giving Microsoft when this whole sorry episode got its start last year. "Resistance," they tell us, "is futile."

With a flourish that would have awed even Norman Vincent Peale, the editorial boards at both daily papers managed to find a positive spin to the entire Microsoft fiasco. The Tucson Citizen went so far as to point out that the comedy spectacular wasn't a total loss because the corporation had donated a couple hundred grand worth of computers to libraries and schools. Yes, and created future consumers in the process--and who wants to bet there's a tax break in there for 'em somewhere?

Realizing the gravity of the situation, UA President Manuel Pacheco turned off his cloaking device and appeared before the City Council and the Pima County Board of Supervisors to appeal for those taxpayer dollars that had been pledged to fix up the research park to make Microsoft feel comfy.

Bad enough we taxpayers had to give quadrabazillionaire Bill Gates a four-million-buck break on the rent to get his company to bring a couple hundred decent jobs with benefits--jobs that ended up filled by temps without those lucrative Microsoft pay and perks.

Now we're supposed to do the same for a fancy phone bank outfit that delivers neither the prestige nor the bueno bennies as Microsoft? Sounds like we need to think about rebooting that logic program.

That Research and Technology Park just keeps paying off, doesn't it? First IBM pawns the building off onto the UA and saves a bundle in property taxes (simultaneously crippling the tax base of the Vail School District). Then we learn the cost of operating in the park is so steep that even Microsoft can't afford a lease unless the state, county and city team up to provide a multi-million-dollar subsidy.

Here's a question for all those brainiacs who are defending the Microsoft travesty: If the world's richest man can't afford the rent, who can?

Answer: Apparently, only the university's dimwitted little step-child, the Arizona International Campus, which has made itself quite comfy in the park's sterile environs while teaching those students How To Become A Fully-Educated Person. And, of course, the nearby campus is helping spur development of Don Diamond's Rocking K sprawlopolis in the Rincon Valley.

Maybe AIC--or Ache U, as we call it 'round The Skinny Newsplex--ought to offer a course in political bungling, corporate welfare and insider fixing. The history of the Research Park would make a nakedly cynical case study. (But it's not the sort of subject we'd expect a professor without the protection of tenure to have the guts to explore.)

POTTED PLANT AND PROUD OF IT: While we're on the subject of Microsoft: City Councilman Mike Crawford, current chairman of the Council's agenda committee, refused to put a discussion of the Microsoft fiasco on the agenda for the February 24 Council meeting until he was pressured by the written request of four Council members, Steve Leal, Jose Ibarra, Molly McKasson and Shirley Scott. (Even Councilwoman Janet Marcus got ready to jump on the bandwagon.) Crawford finally relented when Leal and Ibarra announced plans to stage a protest in front of Crawford's office.

Crawford's spin: Microsoft's pull-out wasn't an emergency and, besides, staff wasn't ready to report to the Council. Apparently Crawford doesn't believe Council members are supposed to be in charge of the bureaucracy. Wake up, Mike--you're supposed to call them in and give them direction, not wait for them to lay out the deal for your rubber stamp.

TUMOR-CAUSING, TEETH-STAINING, SMELLY PUKING JUNKET: U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor's recent refusal to confirm if he attended that fun-filled Tobacco Institute junket at the luxurious Phoenician resort stinks worse than an overstuffed ashtray in a honky-tonk. Asked if Pastor had been a guest of the cancer merchants, the congressman's spokeswoman simply said he was "not issuing any statements about it."

Although he finally 'fessed up after the press applied the squeeze, Pastor's evasive manuveurs suggest he's about as yellow as the Marlboro Man's teeth.

But then, Pastor has been hooked on those tobacco dollars for a long time. As The Arizona Daily Star pointed out, Pastor has picked up $6,000 from tobacco PACs in 1995 and 1996--which is second only to Rep. J.D. Hayworth in Arizona.

CLASS STRUGGLE: Never mind the virtues or vices of the proposed Hispanic Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District. Just note that the mother of one of those students, Rosalie Lopez, has filed a lawsuit to force TUSD to create the program.

Lopez is also on the district's Independent Citizen's Committee, which oversees the district's desegregation efforts. Some members of the TUSD Board would like her and the committee to be a tad less independent--in fact, they're trying to change the rules to eliminate her from the committee altogether. Her critics maintain she has a conflict of interest because she's on a committee concerned with TUSD's desegregation budget and is also a participant in a lawsuit against the school district on that same subject.

Maybe. But while we're on the subject of conflicts of interest: TUSD Board member Jim Christ is a teacher in the Sunnyside School District. And Sunnyside Board Chairman Luis Araiza is a TUSD employee. So both these guys work for each other. And TUSD policy forbids any employee who's on a leave of absence to take a job with another school.

Araiza, who is on a leave on absence from his job at TUSD, is teaching at the PPEP TEC Charter School, which would seem to be a clear-cut violation of the policy. (But hey, we're not lawyers.) So where's the outrage from the TUSD board on this one?

VICKI'S NEW GIG: Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson made a very strange appointment when she named her GOP opponent, Vicki Cox-Golder, to the Catalina District's Board of Adjustment, an outfit that hears cases regarding, among other things, zoning variances.

Given Vicki's tight ties to the Growth Lobby, we wonder why Bronson chose this post to display this sudden burst of bipartisan ecumenicalism. Bronson says the Catalina Village Council asked for the appointment. Catalina is Cox-Golder's hometown.

We didn't see any of those Council members working to elect Bronson, who carried Catalina anyway. We suspect that, had the election gone the other way, Cox-Golder wouldn't have given this appointment to a tree hugger. And since Catalina is only about 3 percent of Bronson's district, why should it be entitled to 20 percent of the adjustment board?

Sharon, please learn how to say "no" to the lackeys of the ruling class.

GARY TRIANO IS STILL DEAD--AND SO IS THE LOCAL NEWS MEDIA: While the dailies rewrite old stories about Tucson's most well-known bombing victim, there's a couple of questions they don't seem to ask. The Skinny's been told there are some out-of-town reporters looking into just how Triano's second wife, Pamela, supported a high-end lifestyle in Aspen the last few years, and the possibility that millions were transferred to her prior to Gary Triano's bankruptcy--just before she filed for divorce. And was it true that she'd gone through most of the money at the time of his murder?

We're also told the real reporters are looking at Triano's casino connections in China, particularly a sour deal involving Tong Shi Jum, a major developer in Shanghai and political leader on the island of Hainan. The deal involved a casino in Tong's new hotel. Triano was filing a lawsuit against Tong, who, coincidentally, just moved from his part-time Tucson home. Tong is also involved in a dispute with a local mortgage company over information he supplied them in his efforts to get a $145-million loan for a Shanghai project of his Tai Yiu Real Estate Company.

Seems Gov. Deadbeat has really set an example. TW

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