By Emil Franzi
THE FOLKS IN Marana will have to vote three times this year on their road to recovery: there's the March 14 primary election, the April 25 recall election for two council members and the May 16 general election, which includes the much-needed New World Homes referendum.
It's a challenging course, but at least it gives Marana residents the chance to redeem themselves and to quit being a total embarrassment to the rest of the valley--we hear the public approbation is so bad that some residents have acquired mail drops in places other than Marana to avoid being sniggered at when they write checks around town. Such is the sad legacy of Mayor Ora Harn.
First move, the primary:
There are eight candidates for three slots. Two incumbents are seeking re-election, along with two candidates from Alliance Marana (the group pushing the referendum), two from the existing council power structure, and a couple of former council members who wore out their welcome long ago but who keep running anyway. (How'd you like to be pegged as a guy who kept running for this elected body and lost? Brings whole new dimension to the phrase "Get a life.")
First the incumbents, Eddie Honea and Betty Horrigan.
Honea is a lifetime Marana resident; his family's been there since 1920. He has served four terms on the council, off and on. The 47-year-old Honea is a rural letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.
Horrigan, 49, owns a grocery store in what is currently downtown. She has lived in Old Marana for 10 years, and was appointed to the council three years ago. Which should immediately make you suspicious--Horrigan has been your basic builder stooge/Ora Harn toady. Honea has, on occasion, acted with independence. He's still a little overwhelmed by it all, however.
Both have declared "pro-growth" stands, and neither is worth voting for.
The two Alliance Marana candidates are Phyllis Farenga and Bill Gordon.
Gordon, 38, is a computer-support specialist with Tucson Electric Power and has been in Marana three years. The worst thing to be said of Gordon is he hangs around with Farenga.
Farenga, 40, owns her own pest control business and has lived in Marana for eight years. Farenga has become the target of an anonymous hit sheet claiming her pest control business was responsible for illegally killing bats at the University of Arizona stadium some years back, a charge Farenga says is totally false. Other charges against her are too incoherent to translate.
The two new faces are Bobby Sutton Jr. and Cheryl (Sherry) Millner. Sutton, 25, is a Yellow Pages advertising salesman who has lived in Marana for more than two years. Millner, 42, is a secretary at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and has been in Marana a bit more than a year.
Both these folks are claimed by their opposition to have been recruited by Marana Vice Mayor Sharon Price, another target of the April 25 recall and general all-around lackey both for her developer employers and Harn. If those claims are true, that would make Millner and Sutton the front people for a stooge--a situation almost too Byzantine even for Marana. We don't believe it.
Which leaves us with the two retreads, former mayor Billy Schisler and former council member Robert McCrea. Schisler was on the council from 1979 to 1993, and served as mayor from 1982 to 1987, back in the days when nobody cared.
Schisler attends council meetings and rants on in a general pro-development stance. He's a retired naval officer and sorta reminds you of that other retired naval officer across the railroad tracks, Mayor Richard Parker of Oro Valley. After listening to Schisler and Parker, we're beginning to understand why no former admiral has ever been elected president of the United States.
The only two candidates who seem to recognize and strongly deplore the past actions of the Marana Town Council--things like gerrymandered annexations and basic denial of citizens' due process and cramming a state prison down everybody's throat--are Farenga and Gordon.
Both Honea and Horrigan, as well as newcomers Millner and Sutton, are not directly recognizing even the perception, let alone the problem, of the town's shabby image.
Schisler and McCrea are yesterday's figures, although McCrea claims he'd like to be a "mediator," which at least recognizes that something needs mediating.
Meanwhile, there's been little discussion of the one issue that pissed off the town's residents more than anything else--namely, the acquisition by stealth of that new state prison nobody but Harn and a few others really wanted. Harn and her supporters on the council are still trying to deflect blame by claiming the state lied to them--but it was Harn and her hick bureaucracy who went to the prison folks with the project in the first place. For all the dodging and weaving, most folks are smart enough to know that when you deal with the State Corrections Department, chances are that you're talking prison. Kinda like expecting rice at a Chinese restaurant.
Long-term demographic trends will start to kick in with this election. Marana added about 400 new voters in the past year, an increase of more than 30 percent. Most of these come from the area known as Continental Ranch, south of old town by many miles and totally divorced from it in outlook and need.
As the builders fill up all those rezonings previous councils have given them, the area once known as Marana will shrink to a single precinct in a sprawling town and have little impact on its future. Already half of the eight council candidates come from this new area, and the average residence time has shrunk dramatically. Harn and company basically have annexed and rezoned themselves out of existence. Some old-timers might survive this election, but eventually they'll be swamped by new folks with new interests.
Any candidate receiving more than 50 percent of the votes cast will automatically be elected. Otherwise, the top six candidates will face off in the May 16 general election.
In between, on April 25, Harn and Price will face longtime Marana business owner Dick Kelly and newcomer Sandee Brisbine in the recall.
It's a time for penance and redemption. Marana has a golden opportunity to join the free world. On March 14, they'll be taking the first step.
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