The Range

Social Anxiety

Supporters of local nonprofits bombarded the Tucson City Council after Councilman Fred Ronstadt led an effort to consider redirecting a portion of a $9.1 million funding package for social-service agencies that deal with pregnant teens, battered wives, victims of rape, homeless families and other folks getting ground up in the gears of poverty, sickness and crime. Among the agencies that get money: The Brewster Center, Child and Family Resources, the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault and Chicanos por la Causa.

"It would have a drastic effect on Tucson and people who are already marginal," said Anne Maley of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, which annually serves about 1,100 people with HIV and AIDS.

On Monday, council members abandoned the plan and voted unanimously to fully fund the $9.1 million package. They also rejected an effort by Ronstadt to cut a portion of the funding in the 2006 fiscal year, although they agreed to take another look at the issue this fall. Ronstadt, who got a hearty laugh from the audience of social workers when he assured them the city valued their work, said the tight budget had forced him to examine how much of the money could be used for basic services, such as police or fire protection.

In other big-city news, the City Council unanimously voted to ban motorized skateboards from Tucson streets.

Road Map to Peace

Mayor Bob Walkup and Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson negotiated a delicate peace accord over the issue of the county's '97 road bond proposal. City officials had long accused the county of screwing them out of tens of millions of dollars in road improvements, while county officials argued that the city had failed to pony up their promised share. Last Friday, May 7, Bronson and Walkup signed a memorandum of understanding that the county would spend about $60 million on five projects, including an extension of Alvernon Way to River Road, a Kino Parkway bridge over 22nd Street, and a widening of Broadway Boulevard between Euclid and Campbell avenues. The city would kick in $25 million to widen Broadway from Campbell to Country Club Road. Bronson and Walkup now need to sell the deal to their respective warring families.

Coincidentally, Walkup also announced his support of the bond package that voters will decide next Tuesday, May 18.

Bronson said she was hopeful the agreement with the city will bring "an end to discord" and allow for more regional cooperation in the future. My Country Went to War and All I Got Were These Lousy Gas Prices

Hey! What happened to all that cheap gas we were supposed to get after we brought freedom and democracy to Iraq? Fuel prices climbed a few more cents to a record high this week, with standard unleaded reaching an average of $1.95 a gallon, according the AAA Arizona.

In related Iraq war news, the effort to win over the hearts and minds of the Arab world has been seriously fucked by the ongoing release of photos and videos showing naked Iraqis stacked like cordwood, cowering at the end of leashes and under attack from mean-looking dogs. Oh, and by the way: Anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of the prisoners may have been picked up "by mistake," according to a Red Cross report first uncovered by The Wall Street Journal.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who's terribly sorry the photos of abuse came to light, had reassuring words about the depth of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in testimony to Congress: "It's going to get a good deal more terrible, I'm afraid."

The question on the mind of Sen. John McCain: Whether the abuses were an isolated incident or a strategy ordered by military intelligence to soften prisoners up for interrogation.

U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe trotted out a standard "shocked and appalled" but commended Rumsfeld for "his candid, albeit tardy, remarks before Congress" and urged that the Pentagon thoroughly investigate the incident "and bring those involved to swift justice."

His Democratic counterpart, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, joined the chorus calling for Rumsfeld's head.

"Secretary Rumsfeld has finally accepted responsibility and issued an overdue apology," said Grijalva, who added that Rummy's leadership has "unnecessarily jeopardized the safety of our troops, and it has seriously undermined our ability to prosecute the war on terrorism. He has been dismissive of international law, of world opinion, and of Congress. The Pentagon has become an island of unaccountability, ignoring the Geneva Conventions, our allies, and common sense."

Stick Shtick

Local drummer Chip Ritter had a brush with greatness last week when he performed a Stupid Human Trick on David Letterman's Late Show. Ritter, who performs regularly with the Bad News Blues Band, dazzled the crowd with his mutant power: drumming while juggling three drumsticks.

Ritter tells The Range that the appearance "was the opportunity of a lifetime--I met David Letterman and I shook his hand. He said my name like 10 times in front of 10 million people."

Ritter, who has been doing the trick for the last couple of years, is also available for lessons--visit is a two-time TAMMIES winner. (Shameless plug: Don't miss the megarockin' madness of this year's TAMMIES award ceremony, coming to the Rialto Theatre on Wednesday, June 16!)

Ritter says the strangest moment came when he was recognized by the skycap at the airport when he boarded his return flight in New York.

"He said, 'Hey, I saw you on David Letterman. You did good!'" Ritter reports.