May 4 - May 10, 1995

[The Skinny]

TUSD FREQUENT FLYERS. Eighteen teachers and staff members and two administrators from TUSD are off to sunny San Jose this week for four days to attend the 13th Annual International Conference on Magnet Schools. That little jaunt to the tip of the San Francisco Bay is costing taxpayers a tidy $9,147. Oh wait, that doesn't include the four days of substitute teachers for seven of them and four half days for another attendee. Calculators ready? That's $40 a day for subs, so add on an additional $1,200. Don't forget the five or six hundred bucks approved earlier for another assistant superintendent to travel to the conference and unknown registration fees, adds TUSD Board Member Gloria Copeland, who says she was the only person voting against approving travel funds at the April 25 board meeting. Gee Gloria, quit picking on 'em already. The Golden State doesn't come cheap, ya know.

What's really bugging her fiscally is that the money is coming out of desegregation and OCR (Office of Civil Rights) funding, meaning it's the taxpayer bucks. In fact, she says, $49,000 year-to-date has been spent on travel with deseg and OCR money. Why, Copeland wants to know, is that money going for travel to sunny climes when there are schools without toilet paper and books?

A bunch of the TUSD travelers will be presenters at the conference and that's impressive, right? No way, insists the school board's newest outspoken member. "I've presented at conferences before and the conference has always paid for that. I don't understand why we're paying for our people to present."

Several of the schools represented are not even magnet or deseg schools, adds Copeland, naming off schools like Booth-Fickett, Catalina, Palo Verde and Pueblo. Even if they were magnets, however, she's against using the money.

"I'm not saying (travel) should be completely cut off, but it should be limited. There's no reason to send 10 or 15 people to the same conference. If we're going to spend $59,000 for travel, it would be cheaper to bring people here and have more of our people attend.

"I think it's a misuse of taxpayer money. If TUSD is going to be a travel agency, we ought to let the public know that."

Hey, public, now you know.

MAMMY YOKUM HANGS ON IN DOGPATCH: Marana Mayor Ora "Mammy Yokum" Harn and her sidekick, Vice Mayor Sharon Price, survived a recall attempt that generated an above-average turnout for local elections. The winners got about 58 percent of the vote and carried both ends of town--Old Marana and Continental Ranch.

There were winners and losers beyond the candidates. Winners were developers, particularly Don Diamond, Dave Dolgen and Bob Sarver. Diamond's a winner because (other than having some interest in land speculation everywhere) he's tapped Harn as his choice to follow Big Ed Moore on the Board of Supes in 1996. Harn would be an even bigger toadie to builders than Moore. Sarver and Dolgen are winners because they get to keep their hireling, Price, on the council and they'll have a group that, as usual, will do whatever they want--particularly if they need any help putting that fabled Rockies stadium in Continental Ranch.

Another big winner is political consultant Bunny Badescher, who finally broke a long dry spell and will now get to do Harn's supervisor race.

Losers are the folks at Alliance Marana and Citizens for Responsive Government who were trying to clean up one of the more wretched and corrupt governments that plague this valley.

Biggest losers will be all the saguaros, ironwoods and wildlife that will be bulldozed in the name of economic growth.

BIG ED TO RUN AGAIN? The re-election of Ora "Mammy Yokum" Harn may have one other spin-off. Pima County supervisor Big Ed Moore has been talking retirement--until now. One thing Big Ed knows is that politics is always a matter of compared to what, which is why he's won so many elections.

Mammy may have been able to survive a recall in a town with a couple thousand votes, but given her bulldozer mentality and willingness to see the worst kind of unrestrained growth as "economic development," Mammy will be in deep trouble in the rest of the district. Ed knows that next to her, he's almost environmentally benign.

Which could be good news for long-time environmental activist Sharon Bronson, a Democrat. The soon-to-be contested district isn't that GOP, and Bronson could well come out the beneficiary of a nasty primary.

By the way, since Harn has told us she's running for Big Ed's seat, doesn't that constitute an announcement for higher office? And doesn't that mean she has to resign immediately to comply with the Arizona Resign to Run Law that cost both Tucson City Councilman Roy Laos and Pima County Supervisor Conrad Joyner their seats a few years back? Or doesn't Attorney General Grant Woods do windows?

DIMBULB INCREASES WATTAGE: We, who once called for Pima County Supervisor Paul Marsh's resignation on the grounds of hopeless muddling, find it only fair to point out he may be growing into the job. Of course, when you're lying flat on your back on the floor, it's hard to fall out of bed, but the following incident indicates Marsh may no longer be a simple stooge for Big Ed Moore.

As both The Skinny and the establishment media reported, Big Ed had one of his great tantrums a few weeks back, during which he insulted just about everyone. What none of us knew at the time was that Marsh took Moore aside and told him if he ever pulled that stunt again, Marsh would not only gavel him down but would have the Sergeant at Arms eject him. With his usual macho, Moore shot back that the guy wasn't big enough--but he's been quieter and more respectful since then.

Maybe Moore's noticed that Marsh is the only guy left who takes him seriously.

MIKEY'S PUFF PIECE: There's nothing wrong with politicians spending a little tax money to sound out their constituents via questionnaires. But too often they do so merely to puff themselves or, or on occasion, just plain lie. That's the case with one mailer recently dropped on District 1 by incumbent Mikey "The Waffle" Boyd.

Try this: "In chairing the Board of Supervisors I ensured that the 'goings on' of the county were conducted in an open, evenhanded manner. As your independent voice on the Board, I will continue to push for a more deliberative, accountable government."

Not according to those depositions we keep running, Mikey. You're the guy who, by your own admission, can't even define "spirit of the law."

Mikey also claims he led the treehuggers and cement heads into sitting down and passing the county's riparian ordinance. Try this for total delusions of relevance: "I got the environmental and business communities to hammer out the law." All by himself. Right....

And finally: "I supported passage of an ordinance banning car sales on vacant county land." Now there's a burning environmental issue that rivals the acres of saguaros and ironwoods we lose weekly--but, hey, car dealers don't need that extra competition.

What Mikey doesn't tell his constituents is how little time he actually spends on the job. Unlike another lazy predecessor on the Board who wasn't around a lot, Greg Lunn, Mikey doesn't usually have a clue about what's happening. And unlike Lunn, Boyd has blown off going to Board meetings--you know, those things they have once a week that justify his getting paid $42,000 a year.

Mikey missed two in a row, and had he blown it a third time, he would've faced the law that says three consecutive absences can cost you the job. However, we suspect his colleagues wouldn't have had the stones to remove him.

REPUBLICAN RENAISSANCE: The local GOP, despite the continued ineptitude of chairman Rex Waite, may end up with a full brace of City Council candidates for this fall's city election. Which means mayoral candidate Sharon Collins won't have to run alone.

We reported the possibility of development consultant Ray Fontaine running in Ward 1. While we know of no announcement, Fontaine has acquired car dealer Jim Click and developer David Mehl as co-chairs. That means he'll probably have some big bucks.

Also, in Ward 4, former GOP treasurer and accountant Bill King, a brother-in-law of state Rep. Dan Schottel, is ready to go, and printer Todd Clodfelter also is considering a shot. And in Ward 2, local fire extinguisher company owner Rick Grinnel is thinking hard.

CATALINA FINALE? The end never looked so near and yet took so long to arrive as Catalina High School finalized its big campus redo. The process is now over, and the losers are eight current teachers at the school who did not make the final rehiring cut.

Some teachers sweated out a weekend with letters received on a Saturday saying they had not been rehired. The following Monday they found explanatory letters from the administration in their boxes blaming it all on a computer glitch, and noting that, in some cases, they'd actually been rehired.

Principal Linda Schloss told teachers they'd receive a letter for each job they applied for: "The unfortunate part of this is that the district sends out the negative letters first," Schloss wrote. "If a positive letter congratulating you comes, it nullifies all the negative ones. You may have already gotten another letter, and if it is a rejection, throw it away. The congrats letter is what you are looking for!"

Yippee, skippee. What a way to treat those responsible for the education of our kids, the most important job in the country.

TUSD confirms there was a computer glitch, saying the program software is new, but that only a total of nine letters for 325 positions district-wide were sent out incorrectly, with four going to Catalina. They also note all teachers who were affected got personal phone calls regarding the situation.

We can't verify the calls, and we're a little wary these days, since TUSD also insists that Benita Riley, a Catalina teacher who died last month, did not receive a letter. "When someone passes away we're very efficient and get their name out of the system very quickly," assures a TUSD communications official, after checking with Human Resources twice to verify Riley did not get a letter.

Not so, says Riley's widower, Paul. She'd never intended to apply for a job at Catalina, but she did indeed receive a letter saying, "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to interview you," apparently for a job at Cholla High School she'd applied for. Paul Riley says that unless he's "totally out of it," his wife died before she ever interviewed for that position.

Librarian Norma Inkster also said she got two thanks-for-the-interview-but-no-thanks letters for two jobs she applied for in the district. She never interviewed for them. A simple glitch is our guess.

Some of the Catalina teachers who were not rehired say it's probably a blessing without a disguise and hope the new hires have more fun with the administration than they did. Other teachers say they could have returned if they had "sucked up" to the current administration.

On the losing end of her job, by the way, was the consistently outspoken Luci Messing, the teacher's union representative and safety committee chairperson at the school. That makes two smacks in the head for her; she's still trying to track down a report the student resource officer was supposed to file when she got hit in the head trying to break up a fight this spring. Ironically, Messing, the sandpaper under the skin of Catalina's administration, last night received the "Star of the Month" award from the Catalina PTA.

Messing said she checked with the district's human resources department and was told that four of the five positions she applied for have been filled. Her current position, which she applied for even though she did not have the bilingual endorsement the job was advertised with, has not been filled.

With the 16 teachers who didn't reapply for their jobs, that's 24 bodies the district has to find places for--at current salary levels, by the way. We just can't wait to hear where they all surface.

LAWALL AT WORK: Barbara LaWall, perhaps in line to fill County Attorney Steve Neely's sweaty shoes when he abandons this nation of vice and violence for New Zealand, is moving along on her Catalina High School investigation. She has given parent Laura Neely, whose kid was beaten up at the high school in March, a complete packet of medical and police reports and statements regarding the assault and robbery of her son, along with a copy of a letter she sent to the school resource officer, Paul Chapperon, asking him to add them to his information and send it all along to the county's juvenile division to "review for possible criminal charges." Sources at Catalina say that since LaWall's visit with the Catalina Safety Committee and her subsequent actions, the administration is trying harder to keep reported troublemakers at bay.

UTTERBACK OUSTER: Maybe LaWall should get the name of the kid who brought a handgun to Utterback Middle School not too long ago. The eighth grade student was recommended for automatic expulsion by the principal, but when the case was reviewed by TUSD officials, they said just suspend the kid, who was due to graduate from the southside arts magnet this month.

According to an Utterback source, outraged teachers and "others" made an appeal to the teacher's union, saying kids had been expelled for knives and marijuana and that this was inconsistent with TUSD's discipline policy. No word on whether the principal also protested. Ross Sheard, saying he's been burned by The Weekly before, referred us to the next bureaucrat up, Assistant Superintendent for Middle Schools Louise Kleinstiver, who didn't bother to return phone calls.

The district, apparently under pressure, did expel the kid. Here's a supposed success story from a campus that has reportedly worked hard to get rid of some rotten elements and no one wants to talk about it. Anyway, we're glad they put up a fight for consistency and safety. Now, does anyone have any information on that kid with a bomb at Fickett Middle School?

A BAZILLION EASY PAYMENTS: In January of 1994, the Pima County Board of Supes held pointless and expensive hearings involving the activities of thenCounty Assessor Alan Lang. Hired as the attorney for the Board for these hearings was the Phoenix law firm of Lewis and Roca. The matter was handled locally by attorney Si Schorr, who billed the county close to $175,000.

Lang was recalled last November, but Schorr is still sending in bills for the case. The latest one, for $1,647.47, came in just last month. Apparently the beat and the bill goes on because the county--no doubt with Schorr's advice--chose to appeal some ruling a judge made in this now-defunct case.

It's way, way past time to end the BS on this case. Is the issue remaining so important that the taxpayers must keep paying for it? Is it so complex that the good folks in the Pima County Attorney's Office can't handle it?

Could we maybe get two supes to put this on the agenda for a public hearing as to why this won't die? Or do we have to write about it every time Schorr sends in a bill and keeps making our elected representatives look stupid?

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May 4 - May 10, 1995

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