The Skinny


We had the recent pleasure of chatting with one of the two most influential men in Southern Arizona (hint: It wasn't Lute Olson) and were astounded that the first thing out of his mouth was exasperation with the young Fred Ronstadt, the Republican who represents midtown Ward 6 on the City Council.

"What's wrong with Fred Ronstadt?" he asked us.

Funny, we'd been wondering the same thing. And we were in the back of a long line.

How could this guy--gracious and candid in his nail-biting first election victory over do-gooder Allison Hughes in 1997, and pragmatic and thoughtful afterward--turn into such a self-important, delusional oaf?

The signs of this turn, long evident, went full bore recently with Ronstadt's self-righteous Diogenean look at Pima County government and its bloated bond program. He went over the top with the nonprofits and community agencies he wants to slash from the city's $1 billion budget, and he can't do anything but misstate the facts on funding and operations in the Tucson-Pima Library System. And, both a shock and a laugh, he tried to smack around Esther Tang, the wonderful, tiny and aging doyenne of the city's Sister Cities program, in a petulant fit about a proposed trip Democratic Councilmembers Steve Leal and Shirley Scott are scheduled to take to China.

Republican leaders, Ronstadt insisted, should be on that trip! But wait--Republican Mayor Bob Walkup had scheduling problems and really wasn't interested. On the other hand, Freddy in China would be amusing--almost as entertaining as his oddball appearance on Oprah to condemn TUSD's old-school porn queen Nonie Reynolds.

We've mentioned before Fred's irritating habit of showing off during council sessions by playing with his laptop, as if he's too smart and too well-coached by City Manager James Keene to need to pay attention. What the hell is on Fred's screen? Constituent e-mail? We doubt it. City budget numbers? Nah. Hair Club for Men? Hmmm ...

In the face of the county's huge bond victory last Tuesday, Freddy boy briefly attempted to be conciliatory, but by Friday, had once again unleashed his inner brat. City and county officials staged a meet on the library issues, including the question of whether the entire bill should be paid for by the taxpayers' county pocket. That's a move that would double the county's library district taxes to $64 a year for the owner of a $150,000 home.

Throughout the hand-wringing session last Friday, held in the Board of Supervisors executive session room, Freddy played with his Palm Pilot. Keene talked. Deputy County Administrator Mike Hein stood in for County Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry. Fred bided his time.

Until the end, that is. Then, after all was said, if not done, Freddy launched into a tirade aimed at Hein.

"It's all bullshit," Freddy told Hein.

Indeed, Freddy; it's all bullshit.


Community radio KXCI 91.3 FM is teetering under its us-against-the-world management and board of directors as the Democracy Initiative brought by longtime members gains steam for a reformation election. Larry Bruce, KXCI's latest paladin, is right when he says the station has legitimate threats: a wacky FCC with puritan thinking, punitive rules and bank-breaking fines; raids on listeners and sponsors (advertisers in one world, underwriters in another) by insidious Clear Channel; and a whole big issue about tower relocation that might boost listenership in some parts of the metro area while cutting off others.

All the more that Bruce and his board should end the hostility and come out of the bunker into the fresh air and sunshine and embrace what the Democracy Initiative seeks--a democratically elected board majority, along with fairness for programmers and volunteers. Bruce, the hired gun in the fight against the Democracy Initiative, needs the brains and the brawn of those in the Democracy Initiative to win those other battles. Instead, he and his board have allowed themselves to be consumed by personal animosity toward those "rebels" and have a narrow, winner-take-all attitude.

The Democracy Initiative secured sufficient signatures from KXCI members to force an election on board and station reforms. After losing costly legal battles on the preliminary issues involved here--the right of KXCI members of the Democracy Initiative to have membership lists--the KXCI brass is squandering more money with negotiations on the particulars of the election, including verifying signatures. That process began last week with phone bank operators calling those who signed. Rather than just verify, the callers asked if the signer had read the Democracy Initiative proposals and--get this--if they now wanted to remove their names.

Try that the next time you sign, say, a nominating petition for the re-election of Democratic Congressman Raul M. Grijalva.

KXCI brass wants backers to pay for verification and some other election costs. That's not the way it works.

Last week, Bruce sledge-hammered through some supposed reforms for volunteer DJs, including grievance procedures. It must be noted that those changes would not have come about had the Democracy Initiative not first pressed for them. He did so with the thinnest quorum that evaporated when board member Jim Lipson left the meeting. (A typical move for Lipson, who strives to sit on the fence.) When folks attempted to politely point out that the meeting was done because there was no longer a quorum, Treasurer Jim Hannley--to whom the gavel had fallen with both the president and vice president absent--got pissy. He threatened to have audience members thrown out.


Arizona Daily Star political reporter C. J. Karamargin has finally topped his erroneous declaration that there was a write-in candidate on the ballot for the South Tucson city election: Last week, C.J. informed Oro Valley residents that their May 18 town election would be conducted by mail-in only.

Whoops! That was the March primary, not the general election, which had been merged with the county's bond election. Worse, that blunder was on the front page of the Tucson/Region section on Election Day, May 18, causing much consternation among those few folks in the town who actually read the Star and were worried that some voters wouldn't go the polls because they'd think they weren't open.

That was about par for the Star, which left coverage of the Oro Valley election to its limp Northwest edition. Apparently, the Star has become so Tucson-centric that the editors have decided readers don't really care about what happens in the rest of the valley.

For those who do care, the developer-owned incumbent council and assorted lackeys basically got stomped by a population tired of crappy insider deals like the Vestar scam--which the Star's northwest edition editorially endorsed.

Fortunately for Oro Valley, their voters didn't like the deal. Now we can finally stop calling them "Caddyshack."


Thanks to The New York Times, reporting Sunday on catchers who have worked perfect games, for pointing out that Tucson High and UA product Ron Hassey remains the only major leaguer to have caught two perfect games. He worked Len Barker through one in 1981 while with the Indians, and another with Dennis Martinez (against the Dodgers) while with the Expos 10 years later. Hassey is one cool dude.