NO INITIATIVE: As you may recall, Mayor George Miller declared in his state-of-the-city address this year that he was determined to annex the communities of Casas Adobes and the Catalina Foothills. The first step, Miller said, was to change the City Charter from the current system of electing City Council members citywide to a ward-only system.

But a charter change requires voter approval. Miller hoped to put the issue on the November ballot, but the City Council balked at the plan, with only Republican Fred Ronstadt supporting the change.

Frustrated by the Council's intransigence, Miller then announced he would push an initiative to put the question to voters. Car dealer/banker Jim Click agreed to raise money for the initiative, which is being headed up by Tucson's last Republican mayor, Lew Murphy.

But there's a problem: The City Charter only allows an initiative every 12 months--and, since we had several initiatives on last November's ballot, only 364 days will have passed before this year's election day.

Last week, City Clerk Kathy Detrick declared that even if the initiative backers gather enough signatures, the city can't hold another referendum election until November 1999.

So, barring a legal challenge to Detrick's call, Miller's plan has hit another setback.

CONFLICT CONVOLUTION: Real-estate agent Esther Underwood, the ringleader of the yellow-ribbon-wearing parents who have pushed the Amphi School District to build a new high school in the midst of critical habitat for the endangered pygmy owl, rarely finds fault with the majority of the Amphi Board.

Underwood has defended the outrageous price paid for the property, and she hasn't uttered a peep about the egregious contract the district signed with real-estate broker Bill Arnold, which allowed Arnold to negotiate his own fees at the same time as he was working out the amount of money the district would pay property owners--an arrangement that has recently landed the district in court.

But Underwood has finally found a "conflict of interest" she's concerned about--namely, that Amphi Board member Nancy Young Wright has been a passionate defender of our rapidly vanishing desert.

In an op-ed in the Tucson Citizen last week, Underwood whined that Wright--whom she described as a "rabid environmentalist"--had ties to the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, and asked, "How can Wright sit in executive session with other school board members discussing legal strategies against her hiking buddies? Isn't that a huge conflict of interest?"

Well, no, Esther, unless you have some kind of evidence that Wright is leaking information from those executive sessions to the other side--which she denies doing. If Esther's got evidence to the contrary, we'd love to see it.

Underwood demanded Wright's resignation, apparently because she doesn't believe citizens should serve on the Amphi Board if they don't agree with her.

In fact, Wright has not, as Underwood alleges, been serving an environmental "master." Rather, she's been concerned that federal law will prohibit construction of a school on this site. For more than a year, she has asked the district to consider alternatives to the site because there might be a quicker--and cheaper--alternative way to get a school built.

Instead, the idiots in the majority on the Amphi Board have pushed ahead with the plan to build the school in the owl habitat, culminating in a tree-removal debacle two weeks ago, which was quickly halted by a federal judge.

We'll find out who was right next week, when the school district faces the environmentalists in federal court.

FROM ONE BROWN TO ANOTHER: Former Tucson City Manager Mike Brown stacked City Hall with as many Californians as he could. One of them was Sally Nagy, who was head of the Management Information Department. Skinny sources tell us that Nagy grew so obnoxious to city personnel that new City Manager Louis Guttierez, usually inert, actually counseled her on her behavior. Nagy was being moved closer to the door.

Now she's been hired by the other Mike Brown, Pima County's presiding Superior Court judge. She's being paid $105,000 a year to handle the court's computer system.

Putting aside whatever talent and managerial skill Nagy may have, it's interesting to note that the many bureaucratic jobs in the court system are still handled the old-fashioned way. The judiciary basically runs a fiefdom independent of those rules and procedures--like competitive tests, searches, etc.--that other governmental entities must comply with. Gee, when the Board of Supes used to do business that way, it was called "patronage."

Perhaps the county's newly formed "ethics" committee would like to place judicial "pork" on their agenda.

GOP BACKSTABBING IN DISTRICT 12: Republican County Chair Toni Hellon is the wife of GOP State Chair Mike Hellon, who is also a GOP national committeeman. (So many titles in just one household--imagine the pillow talk!)

Anyway, the Hellons and retiring GOP state Rep. Freddie Hershberger aren't happy with the three candidates currently running for the state House in District 12. So they're looking for somebody else to get into the race already occupied by talk show host John C. Scott, incumbent Dan Schottel, and Realtor Steve Huffman, who lost his bid for the seat in 1996.

The Hellons and Herschberger have approached several folks, asking them to jump in. It's no secret that Hershberger and Schottel were never close, or that Huffman alienated Hershberger by including her in a campaign mailer sent from Phoenix by an "independent" group. Scott, meanwhile, is apparently too uncontrollable or too conservative or too socially unacceptable or whatever. The Hellons and Hershberger have always represented the "moderate" (read "country-club") wing of the local GOP.

The Hellons' actions may not sit well with some other GOP types. Party leaders usually don't spend their time jacking with incumbents like Schottel--particularly when they've been having trouble filling out the card to run for offices usually held by Democrats.

HOME OF THE RANGE: Here's something to keep in mind as the Tucson Rod & Gun Club continues to fight its eviction on federal land near Sabino Canyon:

We've been reading a lot about the latest attempt by U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe to secure a "compromise" between the U.S. Forest Service and the gun club, which would find a new home for the range on Forest Service land.

Most of the reporting on Kolbe's move has made it seem like the new county-proposed shooting range--which will be paid for with funds generated by the recent bond election--will be the substitute for that controversial TR&G range in Sabino Canyon.

Wrong. The proposed range was actually meant to replace Pima County's old range on Kinney Road, which--like the Sabino Canyon range--has been encroached by developers and whining neighbors.

The Sabino Canyon Range should be replaced--at least when it comes to long-range and loud rifle shooting--by another range on federal land somewhere else.

But we generally agree with Kolbe--one would think they could find 20 acres somewhere for people to shoot on.

TV NEWS 101: Ever watch Chicago's WGN news on cable? Now there's a real station that's successful, right? So how come they devote a great deal of time and effort to political coverage of Illinois candidates and issues? You can see independent polling, candidate debates, professional pundits giving analysis--the stuff Tucson's news media once did before all those out-of-town bean counters took over and decided nobody was interested.

Here's some free advice to the ratings losers at KGUN-TV, Channel 9, and KOLD-TV, Channel 13: Fire all those consultants, quit using the stupid focus groups, and park the dumb chopper. Just try watching a real news operation by flipping your remotes to WGN. And then take some notes--if you still remember how to take notes--and ask yourselves the big question: If the big-city guys are successful doing it the old-fashioned way (by presenting real news), couldn't you be, too?

CLUELESS, OR JUST SUCKING UP TO MANAGEMENT? The Arizona Daily Suckwad's "Northwest" section has always been pathetic when it comes to news.

The masthead proclaims the paper is "serving" Oro Valley, Marana, SaddleBrooke, Catalina, Flowing Wells, and Rancho Vistoso. Notice anybody missing? How about the two newly incorporated towns right in the middle--Tortolita and Casas Adobes?

While we recognize that the editorial powers at both local papers opposed the incorporation of these two communities, don't you think Tortolita and Casas Adobes are at least as geographically relevant as places that aren't towns at all, like SaddleBrooke, Catalina, Flowing Wells, and Rancho Vistoso? Aren't they communities too, deserving of the same inadequate Suckwad "service?" TW

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