The Range

Hail to the Chief!

President George W. Bush visited Yuma and took a Border Patrol dune buggy for a spin while pitching his new immigration-reform plan. Bush, who describes Yuma as "a hospitable place with good weather," repeated his pledge to put National Guard troops on the border until more Border Patrol agents could be trained to do the job.

He also pushed his proposal for a guest-worker program to reduce the number of people sneaking across the border and put a dent in the human-smuggling industry, which he said "degrades the human soul."

Bush called on Congress to pass a plan that included a way for illegal immigrants now in the country to remain here if they've established themselves in their communities.

"That's not amnesty," Bush said. "Amnesty is automatic citizenship. This is a rational way to deal with people who are God-fearing, decent people, and respect their dignity at the same time."

The commander in chief also noted: "I liked riding in the dune buggy."

Hey, Big Spenders!

The Pima County Board of Supervisors gave tentative approval to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's proposed $1.28 billion budget last Tuesday, May 16. The spending plan reduces property-tax rates to compensate for rising property values, but increases property-tax rates for libraries.

Later the same day, the Tucson City Council gave tentative approval to City Manager Mike "Huckelberry 2.0" Hein's proposed $1.1 billion budget, which does not lower any property taxes. Big winners in Hein's budget: cops, firefighters, parks, streets and elephants.

Place Yer Bets

Maricopa County horse-racing tracks are trying to put Pima County's dog track out of business! After a lengthy dog and pony show on Monday, May 15, the House of Representatives gave tentative approval to a bill that would allow Phoenix's Turf Paradise to muscle in on the off-track betting action now run by Tucson Greyhound Park. Yoikes, Scooby!

In other action at the special-interest Wheel of Fortune known as the Arizona Legislature: Local business leaders took a buscapade up north to persuade Senate President Ken Bennett to support the stalled Rio Nuevo legislation. The bill, which has already passed the House of Representatives, would extend the special downtown taxing district for an additional 30 years, allowing the city to capture sales-tax revenues that would otherwise go the state. What's on the wish list if it were to pass? How about a new arena? A rainbow bridge for the UA Science Center? Maybe a downtown elephant enclosure? Hey, if you can create a PowerPoint presentation, you've got a shot at the money.

The biz guys, led by TEP's Steve Lynn, made their pitch for the legislation, which has been watered down in various ways since the House version passed. Then state Sen. Toni Hellon, who insists she most certainly supports the bill (despite the fact that it was sponsored by Rep. Steve Huffman, who is busy running for Congress against Hellon's ex-hubby, Mike Hellon), pointed out that there might be a constitutional problem with the legislation. Gee, that's a funny way of supporting it.

Meanwhile, an omnibus illegal-immigration package that contains a bunch o' stuff that has already been vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano--such as trespassing legislation making being an undocumented migrant a state crime--has been passed by the Senate and was awaiting action in the House. The bill faces a likely veto by Napolitano, but Rep. Russell Pearce, king of the conservatives, is threatening to put the whole darn thing on the ballot. That has the business community plenty freaked, because it includes employer sanctions that would be enshrined in state law, thanks to the Voter Protection Act.

Finally, lawmakers are still bickering over the budget, which is the big item that stands between them and sine die.

How Hot Was It?

It was so hot that temps topped 100 degrees for the first time this year at 3:24 p.m. on Sunday, May 21.

It's enough to make us want to drink like monkeys--and, as it turns out, monkeys are a lot like people when they drink! Researchers who gave booze to monkeys recently revealed that monkeys who are left alone tend to drink more, and many enjoyed a drink at the end of the day, according to a report by Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News.

"It was not unusual to see some of the monkeys stumble and fall, sway and vomit," researcher Scott Chen concluded. "In a few of our heavy drinkers, they would drink until they fell asleep."

Sounds like just another Saturday night at the midtown bureau!