The political fix. Some are classy, most are just sleazy. But this is Tucson, where it's as hard to find a classy fix as it is for the mainstream media to notice when the truly sleazy deals go down.
Of course, a good fix is never illegal. Remember the immortal words of that great fixer, George Washington Plunkitt of New York's Tammany Hall. He compared government to a big apple orchard, only one of the trees is marked "penal code." Why pick the apples from that tree when you have all those others?
So who was doing the picking in 1998?
That infamous 4,000-page budget the GOP Congress sent to President Bill Clinton contains more pork for legendary land speculator Don Diamond. U.S. Rep. Jim Callboy, er, Kolbe, Diamond's favorite water boy, dropped in another million and change to buy some more of Diamond's Rocking K for Saguaro National Park.
Diamond has already made about $8 million from Rocking K since the property was rezoned--this without ever building or selling off anything except to the feds. Obviously, Diamond is a genius, compared to the schmucks who run our government.
The Seattle Times, in a recent series exposing many scams in western land trades with the federal government, told us how.
Don't expect Diamond to just make out selling some land at an inflated price. If past procedures are any indication, what will occur is that Diamond's land will be over-appraised and some other federal land will be undervalued. He'll then not only make out on the swap, but probably get the cash, too. Maybe then he'll be able to afford to buy Callboy, who just won re-election in Congressional District 5, an even bigger water bucket.
Great ongoing fix. Bet we have more to tell you in 1999.
A group of environmentalists concerned with controlling growth decide to place an initiative measure on the statewide ballot. This scares the hell out of the Growth Lobby, so they draft a counter-proposal that, among other things, basically blocks local governments from restraining growth and sets up a process for buying private land for open space. Then they get Gov. Jane Dee Hull and the Legislature to endorse their counter-proposal.
The treehuggers proceed to screw up and not get enough signatures, mainly because they jacked around too long in drafting their proposal. Left standing is the legislative proposal, now euphemized as "Growing Smarter." The opposition doesn't raise much money to beat it, while the Growth Lobby spends more than $750,000 promoting it. So the state is now stuck with it.
Part of "Growing Smarter" sets up a 15-member commission to oversee the land deals and other portions of the operation. The fix is already in--eight of the 15 are members of the Legislature, chosen by themselves, two more are the heads of the corrupt State Land Department and the State Parks Service. Both of those bureaucrats are initially appointed by the Governor, as are the remaining five seats on the commission. Please note that you could elect John Muir governor and you still wouldn't control this puppy.
Hull has made her five appointments: a rancher, the former head of the Salt River Project, and a mayor who heads the League of Cities and Towns. And the final two--Phoenix attorney Steve Betts, who helped draft the Growing Smarter plan in the first place and is one of the many lawyers who represents legendary land Speculator Don Diamond; and Luther Probst, who heads an environmental group with ties to Diamond.
Callboy obviously isn't Diamond's only water boy. Do you suppose some of that $200 million contained in Growing Smarter just might be headed for the purchase of some Diamond land?
The Pima County Board of Supervisors decided to relinquish direct control over a large portion of their budget by setting up a separate authority to administer all county health matters. They delegated most of that authority to Pima Health Systems, which has been allowed a self-perpetuating board of directors, thereby negating the supervisors' constitutional role of "supervising" one-third of the county's general fund budget. The system would appear to be modeled on the Tucson Airport Authority, which has left Tucson as the only major city that doesn't control its own airport.
(The role model for the TAA was the infamous New York Port Authority set up by Robert Moses in New York City earlier in the century, a system that historians tell us greatly influenced the way Mussolini later ran Italy.)
The supes chose Dr. Richard Carmona as interim director for PHS while implementing the plan,. The newly selected board was then charged with picking a permanent director. After announcing a nationwide search and reviewing more than 100 applicants for some months, they chose, as we predicted they would, Dr. Richard Carmona. Nice fix, Doc.
After Tucson's last chief of police, Doug Smith, abandoned ship for a lower-paying job, the local media allowed him to claim it was a "career enhancing" move. And before the Smith administration was even in the grave, much less cold, City Manager Luis Guttierez picked Smith's successor. Well, technically, the seven potted plants that make up the Tucson City Council are supposed to have the power of ratifying his decision, but everybody knew it was Luis' call. And we predicted his choice before he made it.
Unlike the PHS folks, Luis didn't even try to cover this fix. He limited the selection process to the four deputy chiefs, one of whom immediately withdrew, leaving two others as stage props for the guy everybody knew Luis wanted, Richard Miranda.
At least Guttierez didn't waste a lot of other people's time faking it by having them apply. But this is one of the more obvious fixes of the year.
Marie Pearthree is aptly named. She began her meteoric city career with the Marie Antoinette of City Council, three-term Democrat Janet Marcus of eastside Ward 2. Marcus, as this thirsty city knows, levies high water rates, votes to serve CAP water, and votes to impose water restrictions--all while luxuriating on the shores of her private lake and in her East Glenn Street home's private well.
Pearthree started in December 1995 as a Marcus aide at $41,388 a year. A registered engineer since 1991, she then took an engineering job at Tucson Water, in February 1997, at $52,836 year. Ten months later, Pearthree moved up as the troubled utility's water division manager, at $69,293.
Her recent promotion to deputy director comes with even more of the water users' money. Now Pearthree is taking home $76,222--an 84 percent increase in the three years since her days at Marcus' office.
A couple of months ago, we predicted her selection when the job was opened as a civil service position for which all qualified city employees were eligible.
This is but one example of how the bureaucracy manages to hog-tie elected officials. A former congressman explained the game to us:
You're a new staff member working for a member of Congress. They all have committee assignments, so let's say your boss sits on Armed Services. A few weeks into your new job, you get a call from the Pentagon. They want to brief you on a new weapons system they'd like to procure. It's part of your job to be up on this stuff, so you attend. They make sure you just happen to meet a couple of Pentagon staffers who used to work for Congress but who now have much better-paying and more secure positions. So, how do you plan to guide your boss on this decision? Odds are pretty good you won't decide it's a bad deal.
Same ploy works at all levels of government. And with the media. How many former reporters do you think now work for state government or the University for double what they used to make? That's one of the biggest reasons the media generally just print the official hand-outs and call it news.
And that's how it works in local government, too. We don't remember Janet Marcus as being anything besides a trained seal for whatever City Water wanted. And we doubt if her former staffer ever advised her to be anything but. Congrats, Marie. It works, don't it?
This fix got its start last year, when the U.S. Forest Service commissioned an overpriced safety study by a "safety expert"who told federal officials the Tucson Rod & Gun's shooting range at Sabino Canyon was unsafe.
In a subsequent lawsuit, the attorney for the Rod & Gun Club showed the "expert"had no real qualifications and had falsified his résumé when he applied for the job.
That same lawsuit revealed internal documents showing the U.S. Forest Service had been planning to evict the shooters from their longtime Sabino Canyon-area digs.
Nevertheless, Forest Service honcho John McGee stuck to his story that the "temporary"closure was based on safety considerations--and he used the flawed safety study to back up his decision.
This year, McGee delivered the coup de grace when he rejected the idea of setting up a new site somewhere in the Coronado Nationla Forest and instead offered to let the Gun Club stay at the present site
--provided the group built an enclosed rifle range!
The local establishment media reported this proposal with a straight face, and The Arizona Daily Star even endorsed it: A warehouse-style building double the size of a football field at the entrance to Sabino Canyon. Technically, however, the Forest Service had "substantially complied" with the "process."
Congressman Jim Callboy, who pretended to give a damn about the Gun Club while he was up for re-election, found out about the Forest Service's cynical "deal" by reading it in the paper, proving he's as big a potted plant as a Tucson city councilman.
This one has to score as the most brazen and ludicrous fix of the year.
Previously described in these pages as an orgy of meddling and micro managing, the June 9 meeting of the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board was purposeful, choreographed chaos.
To conceal a number of fixes, the Board of Meddlers first sent notices to all 200 TUSD administrators four days before the meeting, stating that they faced transfer.
Next, Board President Joel Tracy Ireland's majority--Gloria Copeland and Brenda Even--put Paul Hatch, an effective and popular assistant principal at Tucson High School, on notice that he would be shipped to Catalina High School. That alone caused upheaval. It also helped divert attention from Ireland's deft move to "abstain" and have all of his board buddies--Copeland, Even, Mary Belle McCorkle and James Noel Christ--approve the hiring of his brother, Jeff Ireland, as an assistant principal at Catalina.
This is a school Joel Ireland busted his butt to close five years ago. He failed. Hatch's transfer was no mystery. He's needed to make Jeff Ireland look good and to shore up the sorry administration of Principal Linda Schloss, an accomplished TUSD game player. And with Hatch out at Tucson High, Copeland could cause more problems there for Principal Cecilia Mendoza.
The fixes didn't stop there. Former Sahuaro High Principal Joan Richardson was handed the top TUSD human resources job. She'd already served as acting director of human resources.
It got worse. Paul Felix, a teacher and longtime TUSD political hack with close ties to Ireland and Christ, was installed as assistant human resources director. Felix and his TUSD librarian wife are veterans of TUSD political campaigns, including those of Ireland and Christ. But then, Christ knows all about fixes. He gets paid for being an English teacher at Sunnyside High School, working for Superintendent Mary Garcia. And as a TUSD Board member, he's the boss--sort of--of Garcia's husband, TUSD Superintendent George Garcia.
Cozy, cozy cozy,
The new Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) managed to get in at least two fixes for the price of one. Following a model used during downtown revitalization in other communities, the BID is designed to provide additional security, clean-up and marketing services for downtown businesses. Its $600,000-plus annual budget is funded through an additional tax on downtown properties, supplemented with additional tax dollars from the City of Tucson.
Tucson's BID was spearheaded by Thom Laursen, a local attorney, and Sheila King, a partner with PICOR Commercial Real Estate Services. Laursen and King worked closely with Carol Carpenter, who was employed as the "downtown development specialist" for the City of Tucson's Department of Economic Security. Last March, on a narrow 4-3 vote, the City Council dismissed the concerns of some downtown business owners and created the BID.
The first matter of business was finding office space for the BID--and, low and behold, in Fix No. 1, the BID decided to rent space in a building managed by PICOR Commercial Real Estate Services, at a monthly rate of $2,812. The offices also got a face-lift at the BID's expense.
The second matter of business was choosing an executive director for the BID--and that executive director turned out to be none other than Carol Carpenter. (Curiously, at a meeting shortly before the BID was approved, both Laursen and King had appeared baffled by the thought that Carpenter would quit working for the City of Tucson to take the BID job.) Carpenter saw her salary climb from $41,390 at the city's Office of Economic Development to $65,000 as director of the BID. The BID Committee unanimously passed a resolution declaring, in part, "the Corporation hereby determines that no conflict of interest exists between Carol Carpenter and the Corporation because of her position as a member of the Board of Directors (or) her work for the City of Tucson in establishing the (BID)."
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