A Current Lawsuit Suggests The Latest CAP Water Debate Was Rigged From The Get-Go
THERE ARE VERY FEW excuses--except incompetence and stupidity--for what happened in this community in 1992-'94, when tens of thousands of unsuspecting local households were forced to take gunky Central Arizona Project water; and, as nearly everyone knows by now, the damages resulting from this salty chemical chowder are still being sorted out.
But just this week we've learned those damages were far worse than even the $1 million-plus in breached pipes, ruined walls and dead pets strewn in the CAP's wake. Far worse.
Now we discover the CAP debacle has ripped opened a major crack in the very foundation of our community, a foundation built of trust between city officials and the voters they serve.
Former Tucson Water Director Kent McClain, in a sworn deposition taken last week in Pima County Superior Court, revealed he was ordered to refrain from implementing, in any meaningful sense, the terms of 1995's Proposition 200, the so-called Water Consumer Protection Act, approved by 57 percent of Tucson voters angry in the aftermath of the CAP disaster.
McClain's deposition was taken as part of a suit between the Metropolitan Water District and the City of Tucson over which entity has the right to chemically treat CAP water for the bedroom communities of Oro Valley and Marana. Sure, as far as we're concerned they might as well be fighting over who has the right to poison Frankenstein and Dracula. But the fact remains that McClain claims--under oath--that he was preparing to go all out to implement the terms of Proposition 200 and the wishes of a large majority of voters, when then-City Manager Michael Brown ordered him to cool it.
"I received orders from the Manager's Office to substantially reduce those efforts," McClain told attorneys last week.
Brown has not yet been deposed in this case, but he denies putting the kibosh on McClain's Prop 200 plans. He cites numerous projects designed to meet the voters' wishes that he claims were on-going during this tenure. "I made every effort to implement Prop 200," Brown says.
Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that McClain has leveled a very serious accusation at a man who was then the city's highest non-elected officer.
And, if what McClain swears is true, we doubt it's a move Brown, a savvy political player, would have made on his own initiative. Which leaves only four possibilities:
1) McClain is lying.We suspect the latter is the most likely scenario. For one thing, McClain says in his deposition that Brown at first ordered him to "Shermanize" efforts to implement Prop 200, referring to Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's all-out attack on the South during the Civil War. It's highly unlikely that Brown, a man not prone to mindless dithering on matters of great public importance, would have idiotically countermanded his own orders for no apparent reason.
And the fact that the City Council never officially voted to kill McClain's Prop 200 implementation plans doesn't assuage our suspicions. As someone close to the current Council notes, we citizens would be surprised how much official business gets done by a majority of the Council calling the City Manager and making "suggestions."
WHATEVER THE CHAIN of command in this instance, it's far too late to punish Brown for his alleged perfidy, because he skipped town some time ago.
However, if current elected officials were involved in a deliberate nonfeasance of this magnitude, the requirements of an orderly and effective democracy demand their impeachment.
Those 57 percent of the voters--a big majority by most election standards--who ordered their servants in government to stop the flow of CAP water for five years while diligently exploring ways to clean it up to local groundwater standards as well as distributing it to farms and mines, have received nothing but contempt for their trouble.
While Brown claims to have at least begun numerous projects in conformance with the Water Consumer Protection Act, it's clear the city has been crawling, when it moves at all, toward meeting the requirements of this law.
Now a cynical and corrupt Tucson Water has merely wrapped its pre-Prop 200 plan in the plain brown wrapper of official bullshit before attempting once again to deliver it to our homes. And now, if McClain is to be believed, we know a bit more about the pathology of the sinister plot to rob us of our basic right to responsive, obedient government. In Tucson, as in the United States in general, we would remind our local bureaucrats and pols, all power is derived from the people. Mess with us at your peril.
The current Prop 201, which the Growth Lobby is desperately trying to con voters into approving this time around, would, of course, remove any real possibility of punishment for behind-the-scenes, anti-democratic machinations, even as it reinstates home delivery of CAP water. So this Tuesday, when voters again go to the polls to deal with the CAP issue, it will be interesting to see whether, as a community, we're really as stupid as the developers, power companies, auto dealers and big construction outfits who control many of our spineless politicians seem to think we are.
AND SPEAKING OF spineless, McClain, who was earning close to $95,000 a year as director of Tucson Water, whimpers that he was ordered to do "absolutely nothing" from September 1996--about the time Brown quit--to sometime in May 1997, when McClain himself "resigned."
McClain says current Deputy City Manager John Nachbar was one of those who gave him that order.
We include the following bit of Q&A from McClain's deposition just to show you what Tucson voters really got for their support of Prop 200. It's nothing short of outrageous:
Q: If I heard you correctly, you said from about that time, late August, early September, until the time you left in May 1997, you were told to show up for work, but didn't have anything to do. Is that correct?This is certainly not the sort of response a majority of voters expected when they passed Proposition 200. And we're worse than fools to let the Growth Lobby and its corrupt running dogs in local government get away with it.
We urge you to send a message to these crooks. Vote NO on Prop 201.
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