The Range

Getting Crosswise

If you stray from the crosswalk, expect to get hassled by The Man! Having evidently eliminated all serious crimes within the city limits--remember when we used to lead the nation in property theft?--the Tucson Police Department is now putting cops on street corners to hand out tickets for jaywalking and bicycle infractions. The crosswalk crackdown, coming just in time for Bike to Work Week, is funded through a $170,000 grant from Gov. Janet Napolitano's Office of Highway Safety. Thanks, governor!

But do you think Tucsonans are grateful for this new effort to stem the tide of jaywalking that has so damaged our quality of life? Not according to the e-mails that are popping up in The Range's inbox.

Take David Sbarra, who passed along his open letter to Mayor Bob Walkup. Sbarra and his fiancée were out on an early morning jog last week, when, noticing there was no traffic, they crossed against the light at down at Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street, better known as Hippie Corner. They were slapped with a pair of tickets totaling $470 in fines.

Writes Sbarra: "Given the absurdity of this situation, I can't help but ask: Does our Police Department have nothing better to do than slam motor-vehicle violations on early-morning runners? (Incidentally, I know the answer to this question is a resounding 'No.' I saw someone selling crack cocaine on South Fourth Avenue last week, so I am positive there are more important matters for the protectors of our safety.)

"Why on earth would the city and police levy such major fines on runners if for no other reason than generating some extra cash? Surely a $25-$50 citation (or merely a stern warning) would have made me reconsider my actions very carefully. But $235 for running across the road? This is outright robbery."

Fourth Avenue appears to be a favorite spot for the ticket-happy cops, who are earning overtime pay on the jaywalking duty. Wayne Hausknecht of WGH Woodworking, in the same neighborhood, also writes to tell us about cops handing out tickets.

"No warnings, no 'Have a nice day,' just a $200 ticket," says Hausknecht. "This may be great way to increase the city's coffers, but it really sends the message that downtown Tucson is not people-friendly, especially now, when on top of watching out for aggressive panhandlers, you also have to keep an eye out for aggressive police, too."

Have you gotten popped for a minor infraction? Send your story to The Range. If we print it, we'll give you free tickets to an upcoming Sidewinders game!

April Fools!

Tombstone Tumbleweed publisher Chris Simcox punk'd the media on with his April Fools' hoax about the Minutemen Project. Simcox had promised 1,200 volunteers would be arriving in Tombstone to join a month-long effort to stem illegal immigration, but only 150 of his undocumented border patrol agents actually showed up on April 1. They were far outnumbered by hundreds of media representatives from around the world who showed up to report on the event. (For more on this, see elsewhere in this issue.)

The Minuteman Project has been condemned by the U.S. Border Patrol, which announced just before the launch of the Minuteman Project that more than 500 new agents would soon be patrolling the border with fancy technology.

The Range went on its own special Minuteman mission, traveling to Rocky Point to keep an eye out for a wave of illegals coming up the Gulf of California. Although we can safely report that wasn't a problem, we did note that Puerto Peñasco is facing an invasion of real-estate speculators who are throwing up condos far and wide. Talk about ruining a country!

Also, The Range's mobile newsroom nearly hit a cow while crossing the Tohono O'odham reservation. Remember, travelers: Take the foot off the accelerator while driving through Sells!

Cash Flow

Let the good times roll! The latest revenue figures, calculated through the end of February, show the state continues to do better than anticipated. We're $60 million ahead of revised January estimates and a staggering $360 million ahead of the original estimates produced during budget planning last year.

Gov. Janet Napolitano and state lawmakers continue to wrestle over this year's budget. Napolitano wants an expansion of all-day kindergarten, more pre-school funding for low-income families and other social programs, while the Republican leadership wants to pay up-front for big-ticket items like school construction.