CAMPAIGN DEVELOPMENT: Democratic gubernatorial candidate
Paul Johnson has jumped on the mighty growth issue and,
if the mainstream media will bother to report it, he might have
a chance to unseat incumbent GOP Gov. Jane Dee Hull. Johnson
has come out swinging against both the new law prohibiting counties
from down-zoning property and Hull's phony "Growing Smarter"
Johnson has had the guts to paint Growing Smarter as a device drawn up by lawyers for legendary land speculator Don Diamond. Johnson calls the proposal's $220-million for open-space acquisition (to be spent over 11 years) a potential windfall for developers in need of bailouts on failed projects. The candidate also wants to eforms the wretched policies of the State Land Department.
This could be a wedge issue for Johnson with GOP voters--both the green ones and those tired of parting with their hard-earned green when they're taxed to continue the growth-subsidizing policies of the Hull Administration.
Hull has never gotten more than 50 percent of voter support in the polls. If Johnson can raise enough money to get some attention, he could make this a real race.
THOSE LIVELY LIBERTARIANS: Two Libertarians are facing off in the September primary for governor--which is one more statewide primary than the Demos have, making the LP not only more interesting but possibly more viable.
Former GOP Maricopa County Supervisor Tom Rawles and Mesa beauty salon owner Kit Gallant are vying to head the LP ticket. Rawles almost ran against incumbent Gov. Jane Dee Hull in the GOP primary, but gave it up and took the $150,000 war chest he'd raised as a county supe with him into the LP race. He's used a chunk of it to pay himself a monthly salary to be a candidate.
Gallant has taken the lead in some Mesa-area issues. She's campaigned for smokers' rights and once did a tax protest as Lady Godiva--maybe with a body stocking, maybe not. She's certainly more colorful than Rawles, or anybody else on any ticket.
The Libertarians will clearly have more fun on September 8.
BLADE-'N'-GRADE BUREAUCRATS: It's no secret that the State Land Department is nothing but a stooge for big developers and speculators. Just how big became clear last year when the Attorney General's Office representing them took over a lawsuit against the new Town of Tortolita filed by Forest City Development and drawn by their law firm, Lewis & Roca. The AG, at the behest of the State Land folks, simply swapped title pages and took over. Among other arguments, this greedheaded lawsuit alleged that Tortolita shouldn't be allowed to exist because of the residents' attitude regarding blade-'n'-grade development.
So we weren't surprised that the same State Land Department wrote a four-page letter to the Pima County Board of Supervisors telling them that any new ordinances restricting development would lead to a court challenge, and that Pima County had no power to restrict the use of state lands. In other words, it seems that the State Land Department believes it has the power to de facto rezone large tracts of land for whomever is buying them prior to the sale.
What was surprising is that the Land Department staff waited until August 7 to tell the county supes this, after the Planning & Zoning Commission had passed those ordinances and forwarded them to the Board. Either the State Land lizards were sleeping at the switch, they didn't expect the P&Z to pass them, or it was a sleazy and arrogant last-minute attempt to spook the supervisors into voting against the ordinances.
Whichever, it makes it clear that it's long overdue for the folks of this state to revise our entire policy towards the use and mis use of state lands, via constitutional amendment here and a change in the statehood enabling statute at the federal level.
We are no longer a sparsely settled frontier state, and we do not benefit from figuring out how to fill our 9. 5 million acres with as many people as we can cram in here. And the bozos at the State Land Department and their AG cronies need to quit interpreting every action that might slow this process down as illegal. They need to start working for the rest of us, instead of the big developers.
State lands are to be held in trust for educational costs. It's past time we recognized that filling them up raises educational costs beyond the money gathered from selling the lands.
We call that a no-brainer over here.
THE CITIZEN IS TUCSON: But don't bother reading it. Tucson Citizen editorial writers apparently don't, as evidenced by Saturday's "capsule comment" that sucked up to the Tucson Unified School District board for allegedly cutting property taxes.
First, the Board never made one move all summer to set or adopt a tax rate. All it did was adopt a budget that purports to cut property taxes.
Second, the tax levy (the amount taken from all property taxpayers) needed to prop up TUSD's $330.9 million budget actually increases by $6.36 million on the primary side (for daily operations) and $1.01 million on the secondary side (for voter-approved debt).
Third, the TUSD primary rate increased by 2.24 cents per $100 of assessed value. Using the windfall of increased valuation through higher property values and new construction, TUSD was able to trim the secondary rate by a dime. The Citizen claims the net TUSD cut will offset a 6-cent increase in Pima County property taxes approved by the Board of Supervisors. That brings us to point No. 5:
It doesn't work that way, particularly for homes that have a difference between limited and full cash values. TUSD could have cut another 8 cents from the primary rate and it would have mattered not one bit to homeowners. TUSD could have raised primary taxes as much as possible and it still would not have affected homeowners. That's because the combined net primary tax rate for the county, TUSD, the city, state and Pima Community College already hit $10 per $100, the maximum according to state law. Any difference is made up by the state.
All of which the Citizen editorial ninnies would have realized if they read their own paper, because Blake Morlock, the best county reporter they've had in years, explained this concept to Citizen readers a couple of weeks ago.
A final note to Citizen editorial writers: If you insist on praising the TUSD Board--and we guarantee not a one of those elected dummies can explain tax rates--then you must also tell your readers that Brenda Even and Gloria Copeland, TUSD's twin terrors, both voted against the budget that produced your so-called tax cut.
COMING NEXT: SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER: A recent biz page story in The Arizona Daily Star told of a trade mission by a naive Tucson group to Croatia and Hungary. Star PR man, er, reporter Bob Christman dazzled readers in his inimitable style with this lede: "All aboard for the Sunbelt World Trade Associate's small business travel mission to Hungary and Croatia, leaving late next spring."
Christman's hard-hitting piece quoted trade delegate Alberto Moore about the political and economic environments of both countries. "Croatia," Christman wrote, "is recovering from ethnic unrest, (Moore) said.''
Thanks, Alberto and Bob, for putting that "unrest" in perspective. We're sure those pesky Star editors probably trimmed any elaboration on how Croats burned churches (full of Serbians) and joined, via the Ustasse, the Nazis in World War II. Maybe Moore and Christman also explained how the people of what was once Yugoslavia coexisted in the post-WWII years, but always with a festering hatred that compels them to avenge centuries of bloody death--going back even to the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.
WAILING HALL: Earlier this week, the City Council slowed the runaway effort to build a new $57 million City Hall by creating a committee of citizens to study the proposal for the next three months. And at least city staffers have admitted that they're planning to use general-fund dollars to finance the project. Here's hoping the citizen committee doesn't end up stacked with dimwits who rubber-stamp the project. The committee needs to explore alternatives to a new City Hall, including the possibility of acquiring office space at the federal courthouse on Broadway and Scott Avenue when the feds move into the new palace that's being built at Congress and Granada.
The committee members are sure to hear a lot of propaganda about the cramped quarters and slowpoke elevators at that old City Hall. Maybe city staffers oughta walk a few flights of stairs.
We're also hearing that a new City Hall would help revitalize downtown. That's the same song-and-dance performed by city and Downtown Development Corp. pimps eight years ago, when they blackmailed the county into spending $21 million for the Beirut Hilton, which is now the County-City Public Works building. The propagandists in that scheme, a bailout for developer Rodger Clifton, even planted a story and picture of the gutted Lawyers Title building in a San Diego fishwrap to illustrate how Tucson's economy was supposedly in the toilet. That, combined with the cries for more space for city and county bureaucrats, was enough to get three members of the Board of Supervisors--Republican Reg Morrison and Democrats Raul Grijalva and Ed Moore--to vote to buy a turn-key bureaucrat palace in 1990. (Backers played it smart. They put real-estate and political insider Ron Caviglia on the payroll for about $30,000, which helped lock in the necessary vote from his buddy, Grijalva. Democrat Dan Eckstrom asked so many nasty, uncomfortable questions during that meeting that then-Assistant County Manager Chuck Huckelberry was bright red. Eckstrom even peeled off Republican Greg Lunn.) County taxpayers' payments for the Public Works Building come right out of the general fund, the same one that's too tight to add sufficient Sheriff's deputies these days.
Tucson Mayor George Miller wants to go the same route: Sell bonds that voters don't approve but that they end up paying for out of the same accounts that could pay for more cops or parks.
Good for Councilmen Steve Leal, José Ibarra and Jerry Anderson for being skeptical. Looks like Republican Fred Ronstadt, who has waffled back and forth on this one, could be a swing vote later this year.
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