The Skinny


Don Diamond's posse is hosting a big bash on Thursday, April 22, for Pima County Supervisor Ramon Valadez, the Democrat who has no opposition in his bid to win election to the southside District 2 seat, to which he was appointed last year when his one-time boss, Dan Eckstrom, retired.

We'd go (the cover charge is a mere $100), but the invitation is so off-putting that we'll just have to say no. The Diamond propaganda says, "Ramon Valadez is an intelligent, talented and hard working young man; a community leader that (sic) is one of today's bright stars on the political horizon."

We sense a storm--namely, Diamond lackey Priscilla Storm--on this one. The invite also urges support to "re-elect" Valadez. This is no re-election for Valadez. He's never run for the county office.

So does Diamond own Valadez, or is he just leasing him?


During last year's legislative session, there was one thing that Gov. Janet Napolitano and the conservative cave-dwellers agreed on: They could dip into the state's workers' compensation fund to help balance the state's books.

That's not to say that lawmakers and the governor were just going to lift a couple hundred million from the fund. No, they were going to sell them some state property--like, for example, the state mental institution. Now there's a prize for any portfolio!

The state comp fund was established way back in the '20s with some seed money from the state. The idea was simple: Create a cooperative that would allow employers to purchase insurance to cover workers injured on the job. The comp fund worked so well that its managers were able to quickly pay back the state's stake and have since accumulated more than a billion dollars in assets through careful management. The fund now covers more than 60 percent of the state's employers and is particularly attractive to small businesses because it offers lower rates than most private carriers.

A well-run fund with fat assets--well, that's just the kind of thing the state should get its grubby paws on.

Alarmed by the proposed raid last year, state comp fund officials offered to deal. The Legislature could have one bite of the apple, but that was it. When lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would prevent future dips into the program, the comp fund officials sued the state.

Last week, the state comp fund prevailed in Maricopa County Superior Court. Judge Rebecca Albrecht said the state had no business monkeying with the comp fund.

The decision could still be appealed, but it sure looks like the comp fund won't be helping balance this year's budget--if the GOP leadership ever gets around to introducing one.


As expected, the Oro Valley Town Council voted 3-2 earlier this month to approve an absurd tax-subsidy agreement with Vestar to develop a shopping center at Tangerine and Oracle roads. By delaying the decision for a couple of weeks, Mayor Paul Loomis and council member Paula Abbott were able to shave roughly $16 million off the subsidy, which tells you all you need to know about council members Werner Wolff and Dick Johnson, who voted against any delay last meeting. Werner and Dick, along with the Oro Valley staff, were willing to take the first deal with Vestar, which puts them squarely in the pigeon/mark/dupe category.

Councilman Bart Rochman, who is feeling the heat in his effort to keep his seat in the upcoming May 18 election, voted for the first delay but caved in and voted against Loomis' attempt to cut a better deal. In the meantime, the joint signs touting his candidacy along with Johnson's are down and have been replaced with individual ones, but don't be fooled: They're still tight.

Wolff, who is retiring this year, appeared unusually delusional when he threatened the candidates in the upcoming election who opposed the deal--namely, Conny Culver, Kenneth "KC" Carter, Helen Dankwerth, Barry Gillaspie, Terry Parish and Richie Feinberg. Wolff warned them that if they try to change the deal after the election, he will personally lead a recall against them. Congrats, Werner--you've won the Developer Stooge of the Year award!

Somebody needs to give Wolff a reality pill. If the voters choose those who think the deal stinks, doesn't that kinda tell you that a recall against them would fail?

And why wait for a recall when a perfectly good referendum is coming? Citizens have pulled petitions to submit the whole sordid mess to the voters. If they can qualify for the ballot, Oro Valley voters will have the final decision as to whether they need to subsidize Wally-Mart.


The KXCI Democracy Initiative, that group of wily insurgents who don't cotton to self-anointing boards of directors running the station, is doing what the KXCI board should be doing: It will sponsor and facilitate a town hall for all to speak out about the tactics employed by KXCI's board and management. Supporters of the current regime are welcome.

Bruce Wheeler, the former two-term Ward 1 Democratic city councilman and former legislator, will moderate.

This town hall is being held when the KXCI board should be meeting to set an election that the Democracy Initiative, among other things, has earned with sufficient petition signatures. The reform movement seeks to have a board majority not handpicked, but elected by the KXCI members.

The KXCI board and management have stooped to all-time lows, particularly with the state Bar complaint against Bill Risner, a KXCI founder who is simply exercising First Amendment and other rights to advocate change at the station. That's no way to treat a man who labored hard to keep KXCI on the air.

The town hall, at the Armory Park Center, 220 S. Fifth Ave., begins at 6 p.m. on April 29. It is scheduled to run until 8:30 p.m.


Robert Sarver, the young and savvy son of the late Jack Sarver, has agreed to plunk down--with the help of a growing list of investors--a whopping $401 million for the Phoenix Suns.

His old man, a smart, tough and fun banker and hotel developer, would be damned proud. Jack Sarver built the Plaza Hotel and the Desert Inn, now dust at West Congress Street and Interstate 10. The Desert Inn was wired for slots that never came to mainland Arizona and featured the grandest pool in the city.

Jack died of heart disease in 1979, when Robert was just 18.

Robert Sarver attended the UA and graduated with a degree in business administration. He founded the National Bank of Tucson in 1984 at age 23. He parlayed the bank into riches with a sale and piled on more with subsequent bank deals. But he and his buddies in Southwest Value Partners really scored by buying up RTC properties in Arizona and California. They transformed Continental Ranch in Marana, and they own most of downtown San Diego.

Sarver paid too much for the out-of-the-playoffs Suns, a franchise created and controlled by some other smart Tucsonans 36 years ago. That included the legendary land speculating trio of Don Diamond, Donald Pitt and Richard Bloch. Diamond and Pitt bailed from the Suns in 1987, just as Tom Collins, then the Maricopa County attorney, was hauling in some Suns players in a cocaine scandal.

With all his wealth, Sarver looked around and saw that the Maloof boys, enriched by their father's keen business skill and work ethic in the New Mexico Coors distributorship, were having all the fun with the Sacramento Kings and the Palms Resort Casino in Las Vegas.

Jerry Colangelo, the man Bloch hired to run the Suns in 1968, will stay on as CEO. This deal is one that buys his son Bryan a job as general manager.

Former UA sharpshooter Steve Kerr (see those Bulls and Spurs championship rings?) and Sean Elliott, the Cholla High product who also sports the 1999 Spurs championship ring, are among the investors.