Guest Commentary

Some last questions on the way out of town

Journalists are about questions. And when you hang around a place for more than a couple of years, you come away with questions you wish you'd asked and solutions to issues that have driven you crazy.

My family dropped anchor here in 1962, and, aside from a year in Phoenix and a four-year adventure in Bakersfield, Tucson has been my home. And as I prepared last week to move to Fresno, I had questions and ideas.

Such as: Why can't the city and the county spend a few bucks more to add the letters "MPH" to their speed limit signs? Or hasn't anyone at the top of either puzzle palace ever been caught on Grant Road behind a car with plates from a Mexican state, cruising serenely along at 25 mph? Actually, that driver's doing the best he or she can to comply with the posted speed limit. Y'see, 25 mph converts to 40 kilometers per hour.

Seems that if Tucson values the commerce from south-of-the-border shoppers AND the sanity of its motorists, someone would think to make the speed signs bicultural.

Why did the SlimFast fiasco happen? It didn't have to, and it wouldn't have if anyone many years ago had listened to what then-county assessor Arnold Jeffers had to say about offering tax breaks to what was then LearJet, when the aircraft maker pitted Tucson against Wichita in a battle of tax breaks and economic incentives. Jeffers looked at the impact of all the past goodies thrown LearJet's way. Every other property owner in Pima County'd suffered some degree of pocket-picking to keep LearJet happy, especially the folks in the Sunnyside School District, who didn't have much of a non-residential tax base to begin with.

A follow-up question. Many businesses offer new hires various incentives, such as relocation allowances, to help them get to a new city. In turn, the employee agrees to stay a set period of time, or reimburse the help. If the private sector can come up with deals like that, what's stopping local governments from weaving that into their sweetie pie deals with new companies?

When will the local governments knock off the Claude Rains approach--as in his "Round up the usual suspects" line from Casablanca--to naming folks to major citizens committees? It's amazing to see how many committees have many of the same appointees who landed on those committees a couple of decades ago. The community would benefit from more new blood--especially folks who haven't been co-opted by self-appointed "kitchen cabinet" organizations.

Why can't the local cops do more about busting bonehead motorists--folks who make illegal turns in construction zones, for example? I'm surprised that someone in the city and county revenue offices hasn't realized "thar's gold in them thar mullets" and sought some options--such as letting volunteers, reservists and Explorer Post teens engage in "photographic enforcement."

Don't you think the city's cable channel would get a lot more viewers if ex-Mayor Lew Murphy became "Judge Murphy" on People's Traffic Court? Murphy had a ton of erudite ways for nailing folks who seemed like they were running their brains on learner's permits. The one drawback--can you cut judicial robes to look like guayaberas?

How many administrators does it really take to run TUSD? Folks like Robert Morrow and Thomas Lee (no relation to the Thomas Lee who calls the shots for Territorial Publishers and its local pubs, including this one) seemed to do OK with a couple of associate superintendents and a few good division chiefs.

And if all the big high schools in TUSD are magnet schools, do they really all need "Magnet" in their names any more?

Why don't the county and local municipalities require candidates for the Board of Supervisors and city councils to write an essay: "My vision for (insert jurisdiction name here) over my expected term in office"?

Speaking of politics, why didn't the Vegetarian Nudist party, which a couple of zany journalists founded several decades ago, make a go of it? These days, that party sounds a hell of a lot more friendly than the Democrats or the Republicans. And maybe more politically astute as well.

And finally, does anyone remember an old country song with the lyric "gotta see the lights of Tucson"?

I'm sure I'll see them again someday, too.