The Range

Water Torture

A claim filed against the city of Tucson may answer a nagging question: Can City Councilman José Ibarra walk on water? Cara Reid, a former aide to Ibarra, slapped the city with a $2.5 million claim that she was defamed by Ibarra when he accused her of stealing more than $4,000 in water-bill payments from the Ward 1 office. Ibarra made the comments to reporters in the closing days of his 2003 re-election campaign, after news broke that money had vanished from an unsecured cash box in the ward office. Ibarra told the Arizona Daily Star that Reid was sabotaging his office on behalf of his Republican opponent, Armando Rios Jr.

Police investigating the missing water-bill money said there was not enough evidence to charge anyone with a crime and noted Ibarra's office was plagued by a loose accounting system that allowed staff members to dip into the cash box whenever they needed lunch money or petty cash. Earlier in the year, City Manager James Keene had warned Ibarra that the collection of water bills was "just a problem waiting to happen."

Reid's claim--a precursor to a lawsuit if the city doesn't pay up--alleges that Ibarra accused Reid of stealing the money as retaliation for her supposed disloyalty in leaking information related to Ibarra's illegal use of city e-mail for campaign purposes. The e-scandal launched an earlier police investigation at the Ward 1 office.

Reid is represented by former Ward 3 City Councilman Michael Crawford, who was knocked out of office in 1997. During the two years they served together, a mutual loathing developed between Ibarra and Crawford, which means we can look forward to some fun depositions if the city doesn't settle. "Ibarra is totally fucked," one Republican operative gleefully tells The Range. "My nipples are hard just thinking about it."

If nothing else, Reid's claim may have taught Ibarra to think before he shoots off his mouth. Last week, he declined to say anything about the legal action: "I'd like to comment, but I can't."

April Showers Bring May Potholes

As Michael Stipe once asked: Should we talk about the weather? Should we talk about the government? A record-shattering storm struck Tucson, dumping .96 of an inch of rain in the first five days of the month, including a new high of .62 of an inch on Friday, April 2, according to Mic Sherwood of the National Weather Service. OK, so it's not much of a record, but it's more impressive when you consider that the average rainfall for the entire month of April is just .28 of an inch.

The much-needed rain may be a boon for the parched desert and antsy TV weather reporters, but it's not doing local roads any good. City crews are out patching a plethora of potholes on major streets, according to Michael Graham, spokesman for the Tucson Transportation Department, who says that when it comes to asphalt, "Water is the enemy."

Graham reports that the city has spent about $4.3 million on pothole repair in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, with another $2.3 million in the budget for the next three months. The priority is arterials and collectors rather than residential streets, because a lot more cars are driving a lot faster on the major roads. (Incidentally, the current bill for re-building Tucson's crumbling residential streets: $300 million, according to Graham.)

Report your potholes to the Department of Transportation's hotline at 791-3154.

In related transportation news, legislation that would transform the Pima Association of Governments into a full-fledged regional transportation authority, complete with the power to ask voters once again to approve a half-cent sales tax, cruised through the Senate Finance Committee last week on a 6-1 vote.

End in Fire, End in Ice

The U.S. Border Patrol reported the first heat-related deaths of illegal entrants in the Tucson Sector this year with the discovery of a body on March 23, and a second body on March 25, according to Rob Daniels, spokesman for the Border Patrol. Last weekend, as the aforementioned storm hit Southern Arizona, agents came across three more bodies of immigrants who had been killed by exposure to the cold. Last year's official stats show that 81 immigrants were killed by exposure, according to Daniels. The total death toll: 139.

Free Diana Ross!

City Magistrate Jay Cranshaw backed off his demand that Pop Star Supreme Diana Ross return to Tucson to serve 48 hours behind bars for her 2002 DUI. After hearing that Ross had ordered out for food and taken several breaks during her stay behind bars in Greenwich, Conn., Cranshaw ordered her to experience two full days of good, old-fashioned cowboy justice here in Pima County. Ross attorney James Nesci argued that Ross had intended to spend the full 48 hours behind bars, so it wasn't her fault that Greenwich officials didn't have the staff to keep an eye on her.