IT ISN'T TOO often we can find something where a local government has rolled over so big that it can be called both pork and perk. The manner in which Pima County government has allowed a private outfit to handle a piece of public property fits both definitions.
In 1985, the existing lease on Old Tucson was acquired by a couple of our town's biggest fat cats, Don Diamond and Don Pitt. Bet most of you thought it was private property. Well, according to a front-page story by Ann-Eve Pedersen in last Sunday's Arizona Daily Star, so did some of the bozos who run county government.
Pedersen did a splendid job of pointing out that Pitt and Diamond's company failed to take even rudimentary fire precautions--like having people around who could run the fire engine, or keep operational the water pump that could have helped put out the recent blaze that did $5 million damage there. She also let us know just how derelict in their duties both Pima County's Risk Management Department and State Fire Marshal officials have been.
Old Tucson burned down because nobody complied with basic rules concerning zoning and fire codes. Hey, Diamond's a very important man and, gee, we didn't bother to check on what he was supposed to be doing because we know he's all right. Makes you wonder if this guy has to get his car's emissions checked, or if he ever has to renew his driver's license.
State Fire Marshal types said they didn't know the county owned the park and had sorta forgotten to check it out. Does that mean private amusement parks aren't subject to regular fire inspections?
How far Pima County went with Diamond is a classic example of how badly they're intimidated by him. That's the perk.
Now here's the pork. The contract itself was renewed without competitive bidding and was good for 25 years. Diamond and the county had begun negotiations on a further extension. Amusing, isn't it, that even third-world dictators only claim they're president for life.
Diamond's company held close to $700,000 in an account to be used for improvements, drawing interest for them instead of paying rent while they contemplated what improvements to make. It's obvious they ran the place however they pleased and they're responsible for what happened. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed due to their mismanagement.
And while they were guilty of mismanagement, Pima County officials were guilty of brown-nosing to the point of malfeasance. The current board should seriously consider not renewing Diamond's lease and canceling what remains, based on his inability to perform in both contractual obligations and simple and reasonable ordinances.
That's what they'd do to anybody else in this situation.
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