Filler The Skinny

WATER WHEELS: Every so often, Tucson City Manager Mike "The Spike" Brown confesses he has to lecture a small group of Tucson Water employees on how "democracy works."

Brown tells The Skinny a group of seven to 10 professional and managerial employees within the city water department think they know what's better for Tucsonans than the City Council. "I keep having to remind them, we have a council-manager form of government," Brown says, "and it's the Council, not the bureaucracy, that makes the policy."

The way Brown tells it, the technocrats simply believe the Council just doesn't have the education or skills to understand complex scientific issues.

We don't know how many times Brown has had to lecture his charges, or what issues were involved. Brown wouldn't say. What we do know is that shadow governments--which is what the water technocrats really are--suck.

Maybe it's time for Brown and the citizens of Tucson to give the city's water department a treatment that works--an old fashioned enema.

And by the way, Mr. Brown, if you're not up to the job, just get in line and grab your socks.

PARTY BOY: Noticeably absent from the April 27 Candlelight Vigil concluding the National Crime Victims' Rights Week, which commemorated the thousands upon thousands who've been murdered, was Democratic county attorney candidate Rick Gonzales. Republican county attorney candidate David White and Democratic candidate Barbara LaWall, along with a host of others who work with victims, were there.

But, hey, it seems Gonzales had a party to attend. Invitations were sent out by his wife, Julie Davis Gonzales, and the shindig was hosted by his neighbors up there in the posh Finisterra area. The invitation cajoled folks to, "Bring your friends, your family, your tired masses yearning to have some fun for a change." It also warned: "Every attempt will be made to protect the innocent should they blunder into our midst."

Crime victims at the vigil claimed they didn't miss Gonzales all that much anyway, because he's never attended previous vigils--or any other victim-sponsored event that anyone could remember.

Party on, Rick!

TORT BOY: Oh, and while we're on the subject of Rick Gonzales, doesn't it seem odd this big-bucks personal injury shyster wants to go to work for the very county he personally--and pathetically--tried to squeeze some years back?

It seems odd to us, but then we're not money-sucking personal injury lawyers, who, like the rest of the rich, are truly different.

Seems the Rickster was riding a bicycle along the shoulder of River Road one fine day in 1989, when a car pulled out of a driveway and stopped directly in front of him, waiting to make a right turn. The driver of the car saw Gonzales, who was pedaling rapidly, suddenly go down, mountain bike and all.

During the subsequent arbitration proceeding Gonzales brought against the county, he claimed he'd hit a manhole cover negligently left three or four inches above the grade of the dirt shoulder.

The county denied any negligence, and the arbitrator agreed, finding for the county. Perhaps he did so because the evidence indicated Gonzales was pedaling like a maniac, on a borrowed bicycle, on the side of the road, at dusk, when it's hard to see, and had very little cycling experience to begin with.

Or, perhaps it was because the photographs the county introduced as evidence showed nothing like the jutting death-trap of a killer manhole cover Gonzales had claimed it was--and, after all, aren't mountain bikes built to take on, well, mountains?

Then again, maybe the arbitrator decided against Gonzales because his whole story just sounded way too fishy.

All of which causes The Skinny to wonder how Gonzales would do prosecuting murderers based on circumstantial evidence--assuming he plans to get his hands dirty should he actually win the job of top prosecutor.

THE JOURNALISM BIZ: Yes, it's tough running a newspaper, even one that sucks as much money out of our community as The Arizona Daily Ad Space. While the paper itself pulls in tens of millions in revenue, the cheapskate Pulitzer Publishing overlords want their boys and girls in the newsroom to keep their belts firmly tightened. We're assuming the corporate geeks want the newspapers to develop profit margins as healthy as Pulitzer's string of mediocre TV stations. Eyewitless News--now there's a fine example for a daily newspaper to emulate.

An April 27 memo from Managing Editor Bobbie Jo Buel to all Star department heads bemoans the fact they were $10,000 over budget in the first quarter of this fiscal year. This despite the fact one hire was delayed, and a position in the Accent section went unfilled all last year, Buel writes.

No wonder Accent stinks.

In her memo, Buel goes on to enumerate possible areas in which the fiscal ax may fall, we assume after some sort of pointless group discussion. Among the items:

"Eliminate overtime. $20,000." Because everybody knows news is what happens from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when most of those interesting government press releases come out.

"Eliminate bonuses. We're already $5,000 over where we should be through three periods. If we eliminate bonuses the rest of the year, we'd save $12,000." Of course, isn't there a bonus for a couple of key newsroom executives who manage to make their budgets?

"Hold Accent position open until Aug. 1. $11,000." Why not--nobody's reading that bilge anyway.

"Don't pay moving expenses for new employees. We've always paid in the past. Nothing is budgeted. This is an issue because we know we'll soon have three openings..." And the low-paid kids we'll be hiring fresh out of J school don't know any better, so why not screw them over in an effort to save a few bucks?

"Election polling with Republic, KVOA and Phoenix TV. We're already committed, but haven't paid. $1,500." And nobody around here gives a damn about politics...

"Hold legal expenses down. This expense is difficult to predict, but it's not unreasonable to try to cut $20,000." Note to bureaucrats: Go ahead, tell those annoying Star reporters--both of them--to flake off.

"Eliminate Christmas party. $3,500." And besides, nobody wants to make uncomfortable chit-chat with Auslander.

THE DEPARTMENT OF SUCKING FACE: Government workers must sometimes wonder why the public holds them in such low regard. One reason may be that they're not seen as working very hard. As an example, on a recent Monday afternoon, we saw a City of Tucson Development Services Department employee playing kissy face with an attractive lady in the parking lot of a local bank. Standing near his vehicle, number 2310, the employee apparently wasn't concerned about what the public thought.

While we don't know what he was supposed to be inspecting at the time, we doubt what he was doing was covered by the Uniform Building Code. TW

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