The Skinny

FINALLY, THE GOOD GUYS WEIGH IN: After those over-paid, white-collar bubble butts on the Greater Tucson Chamber of Crapola announced they were opposed to spending bond money to acquire open space around here, and after the mega-developer-dominated greedheads at the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Ass. made similar idiotic, self-serving pronouncements, we've finally heard from the decent folks in Tucson's construction community.

The American Subcontractors Association, representing roughly 140 local businesses, supports the $36-million open-space bond proposal. And why not--the small contractors and craftspeople who live here know how important it is to keep our city livable. They're little guys just like the rest of us, who work hard to keep food on the table and who take pride in a job well done, no matter how small.

Unlike the Chamber and SAHBA creeps, they're generally not the types who see our unique and irreplaceable environment as a commodity to be raped wholesale for immense profit.

As long as the little guy can keep his workers profitably employed, he's happy--he doesn't really need those vast subdivisons chewing up the desert, he's generally content putting that new patio on your house, repairing your plumbing, or gambling everything to build one spec house on one small lot in town...Which brings us to the point:

For so long, our community has encouraged big developments on the outskirts of Tucson. Why? Because the big-money boys and the boot-licking pols who serve them want it that way. We've given these creeps loads of freebies--tax breaks, infrastructure, lax environmental laws--all, ultimately, at taxpayer expense.

We say it's time to give the breaks to the little guys instead--small contractors and subs who want to build on land already in the city, where the infrastructure is already paid for. Give 'em the opportunity and incentives to make money for their own workers and families. Stop subsidizing some gaggle of rich shareholders back in Cincinnati or Hong Kong, people who don't give a damn about trashing our precious environment as long as the dividend checks keep coming.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Leal, unfortunately not as venomous in his opinions as we are, nevertheless thinks waiving inspection and sewer fees for small contractors developing small, in-town lots would encourage infill. And infill means our infrastructure--sewers, roads, police and public transportation services--will be more efficiently employed. It's a great idea, for several reasons:

How many of us really want to live in some sterile, cookie-cutter, stucco crackerbox out in the sticks, when we could have a unique home, built with pride by an innovative small contractor, here in town near schools, shopping and other services? How many of us really want to encourage the continued destruction of saguaros and ancient ironwood forest when there's plenty of vacant land to be developed, on a smaller scale, in town?

It's time to end the current madness. With their recent statements against the open-space bonds, the big-business Chamber and SAHBA pigs have shown us all what they really are, and now it's time to kick their fat asses away from the public trough.

SUCKER PUNCH: The new law passed in the final days of our last legislative session that allows communities to incorporate without the permission of any other incorporated city within six miles went right over the heads of most of our local dummies, including Supervisor Mikey Boyd and Mayor George Miller.

Boyd is mumbling about having the foothills residents incorporate so they can get better representation and government than they currently get from their present supervisor, which, curiously, is Boyd himself. Miller is whining that these new cities will hurt the City of Tucson's attempt to annex everything in sight, even while Tucson's bureaucrats are incapable of handling all the turf they've already grabbed.

Both seem to have ignored--perhaps purposely, since neither has a reputation for candor--the real reason the Legislature changed the law.

It was lobbied by folks on the payroll of legendary land speculator Don Diamond. The Don wants his Rocking K development annexed by the city under the most favorable conditions he can get. Annexation means Diamond doesn't have to come up with millions for infrastructure--city taxpayers would be forced to cover him.

With Miller more concerned about phantom cities springing up around him, this clearly gives Diamond more leverage in pushing Miller and other pro-Rocking K annexation council members like Shirley Scott, Janet Marcus, and Michael Crawford, who will now have an even bigger excuse to cut Diamond an even better deal on annexation.

Listen closely for city officials to start explaining why they'll have to give Diamond what he wants "or else he'll incorporate his own town." In a pig's ass.

Diamond's game has always been to get somebody else to do the hard part. Anybody who thinks he'd ever want a real town out in Rocking K is a total sucker, and somebody we'd like to invite to the next Skinny poker game.

THANKS A BUNCH, TNI: Matt Welch, president of the well-respected PSI Travel, writes to say he was approached by sales reps for TNI--the sales arm of Tucson's dreary daily newspaper oligarchy--who asked him to advertise in a special supplement. The purpose? To congratulate the UA Wildcats on their national basketball championship.

Being a team-spirited kinda guy, Welch obliged. His teensy little ad read: "They Fought Like Wildcats"--his quote marks, not ours--and included a heartfelt thanks to the individual team members. It also included the words "The Cats In Australia! We Can Send You There"--our quote marks, not his.

The ad also invited folks to book passage Down Under through PSI Travel (296-3788, in case you've got the urge), and it promised to contribute $100 to the UA for every Aussie package booked by April 15.

Of course, when it comes to oligarchies and bureaucracies, no good deed goes unpunished. Which is why Welch soon received a letter from the UA saying that because the ad mentioned the players' names, it was in violation of NCAA and UA rules. Oh, and had it not included the Australian travel offer, things would have been hunky-dory.

There was no, "Gee, thanks for your support, but..." to soften the bad news for Welch, a former UA student, just a warning letter in ersatz legalese with carbon copies listed to a bunch of UA bureaucrats and Wildcat Coach Lute Olson, who, of course, makes a bazillion bucks a year off his association with the taxpayer-owned Wildcat name--but we guess that's a special deal, even though he's really just another state employee.

All of which prompted Welch to ask several questions, including:

"Where was TNI in all this? They don't approve ads, they only sell them?"

WHERE INDEED: Word from inside TNI is that the mega-corporate overlords (Gannett and Pulitzer) who control the sales and production arm of Tucson's two daily papers recently shafted their loyal ad sales staff big time.

We hear the bigwigs have screwed with commission schedules in such a way that many ad reps saw their incomes chopped in half. Why? Because the brass knew they could get away with it, and there wasn't a damn thing their employees could do about it.

Yet another argument for a return to unions in the coming millennium.

UA GALL: And speaking of the University of Ailments, where the hell do UA brass get off requesting a presence on the board of the Pima County Association of Governments (PAG)? Unbelievable, but we're told they did just that recently.

Excuse us, but who elected them or their bosses, the Arizona Regents, to anything? And since when do unelected factotums and their toady bureaucrats constitute a "government" in any American sense of that word?

We suspect the UA lackeys are only doing the bidding of Gov. J. Fife Deadbeat III, who's probably only trying to please his political sugar daddy and business buddy Don Diamond, who, in turn, would like some clout with PAG to bolster his massive Rocking K development plans near that ill-conceived "New U" Diamond and his business buddy, former Regent Donald Pitt, managed to finagle into the old IBM plant a few years ago for the purpose of--what else?--fueling more growth in the region.

In other words, it's just another example of government by raw power, and democracy be damned.

ON TOP OF OLD SMOKEY: U.S. District Court Judge John Roll recently turned down the Tucson Rod and Gun Club's request for an injunction to reopen the club's Sabino Canyon shooting range to firearms, but he did allow the range to re-open for archery practice.

That leaves the club's range in a tenuous position as its lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service's temporary closure drags on. By the time the case reaches trial, the temporary closure period will most likely be over and the Forest Service will probably have shut the club down for good, which means the club will have to file suit all over again or amend its suit.

In his April 25 ruling, Roll also said Tucson Rod and Gun Club attorney Dave Hardy had impeached Glen Shumsky, the expert who put together the safety survey which gave Coronado National Forest Supervisor John McGee the basis for his emergency closure of the range.

On the stand, Shumsky admitted he had no background in ballistics and had never attended any university, despite having claimed to have done coursework "beyond the master's level." He'd actually gotten a law degree from LaSalle Extension University, famous for advertising in comics and on the back of matchbooks.

The Forest Service paid Shumsky $25,000 for the study--at least three times above the budgeted amount--and has since signed a second contract with Shumsky, paying him $100 an hour for his testimony in the lawsuit.

Forest Service officials continue to refuse to turn over records relating to the bid process, claiming competitive bids are not public record because competitors who lose the bids could have proprietary information leaked if those files were turned over to reporters. (The Weekly has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the records, which the Forest Service is slowly reviewing.)

In fact, Sylvia Nuñez, who oversaw the bidding process, refuses even to tell The Weekly how many bids came in. We're not sure how that would hurt any competitors, and we're astonished anyone on the public payroll would demonstrate sheer contempt for the public's right to know by stonewalling such obviously public information.

Of course, it could be that the information is really embarrassing--that, perhaps, Shumsky's bid was the only one that came in on the job; or that someone in the Forest Service, perhaps even Nuñez herself, expressed concern about the outrageous amount of the contract.

Shumsky, meanwhile, recently sent Hardy a bill for his time--charging $75 an hour (which is a bargain, compared to the $100 Shumsky's getting paid by the U.S. Forest Service), plus an additional $150 for "Misc/Incidental-Insurance Expense (all or any part)," for a total of $213.

Hardy promptly responded with a two-paragraph letter:

Dear Mr. Shumsky,

I received your billing of April 12, mailed April 21. Thanks for the chuckle. You are apparently under the impression that I retained you as an expert. Actually, I subpoenaed you for the purposes of showing you were not. I'd suggest sending your statement to the Forest Service. Last I heard they were happy to pay $100/hour for that kind of thing.

I'm not quite sure what the "insurance/incidentals" thing might be. Last I heard witnesses did not need insurance. At $150/day, it must be an expensive policy. I will, however, be happy to remit the cost of a large tube of Preparation H.

CYCLE OF HARASSMENT: We're certainly glad to see the Tucson Police Department is working so hard to make downtown a safe place.

For example, just last week an officer stopped a downtown bicyclist and gave him a ticket for running two stop signs.

Sure, running stop signs is against the law--but then, so is burglary, and the cops never seem too interested in even showing up to dust for prints when some scumbag rips you off, as you've probably discovered if you've ever been a victim in this town.

It seems to us that cops really ought to have something better to worry about than popping bicyclists for minor infractions--but that means maybe busting a real bad guy, which isn't as comfy as beating up on some poor schmuck on a bike.

Hell, if you ask most downtown residents if they'd prefer more cops or more transients downtown, they'd probably take the bums--giving them some spare change is a lot cheaper than the fines the cops are sticking to downtowners in their attempts to protect and serve.

But remember what the signs say: Tucson is a bicycle-friendly city. TW

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