The Skinny


So what can you say about a week at the Arizona Legislature that starts with the House of Representatives passing a bill that would require Obama to show his birth certificate before he could get on the 2012 ballot, and ended with a media shitstorm of epic proportions when Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill turning local cops into immigration agents?

Perhaps Jon Stewart summed it up best when he observed earlier this week: "Arizona is the meth lab of Democracy."

The birther bill is just dumb pandering to the wack wing of the GOP. Senate President Bob Burns is saying he's going to quash it in the upper chamber.

But Sen. Russell Pearce's Senate Bill 1070 spells a whole lot of trouble for the state. And we're pretty sure it's not going to help the GOP capture many Hispanic voters, either.

Part of the problem is that citizens can sue cops that don't move aggressively to enforce the law. We can see all sorts of problems erupting when you give guys like Joe Sweeney a legal club to whap cops.

But our bigger concern revolves around prosecutorial discretion. We've already seen Republican Andrew Thomas, who wants to be the next Arizona attorney general, twist laws in order to go after illegal immigrants in Maricopa County in an effort to boost his political profile. Imagine what he'd do with this kind of power.

We're still not sure how this plays in November. If it motivates Hispanics and libs to go the polls to vote against Republicans, it's a win for Democrats.

Sure, a recent Rasmussen poll suggests that seven out of 10 Arizonans like the new law, but we have to wonder if they really know what's in it, and how it could play out in the hands of the wrong kinds of cops. (We're looking your way, Joe Arpaio.)

Our guess: That support for the bill comes more from a general frustration with illegal immigration, fueled by the recent killing of rancher Robert Krentz. (For more on that, see Leo W. Banks' "The Krentz Bonfire" on Page 16.) And if enough Latinos start getting hassled by The Man, the whole gambit will backfire on the GOP.


The Skinny stopped by a Prop 100 forum last week to hear what supporters had to say about the proposed one-cent-per-dollar sales-tax increase that voters will decide on May 18.

We heard what we expected from people such as Penelope Jacks of the Children's Action Alliance, who warned that more cuts to programs for kids and low-income families "will make our state unrecognizable."

But there were other points, made by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, that are worth repeating.

Huckelberry warned that if Prop 100 doesn't pass, the state plans to send all prisoners with less than a year left on their sentences to county jails to serve out their time.

For Pima County, that means more than 1,800 new prisoners, effectively doubling the county's jail population. And some of those prisoners would be really bad guys—murderers, rapists and other violent offenders who don't normally end up in county jail except when they're awaiting trial.

That's going to cost an estimated $50 million a year, which means higher property taxes for Pima County residents, Huckelberry warned.

The numbers, Huckelberry said in his dry style, are "very real. They're not imaginary. Nobody is making them up. Your property taxes will go up."

Ron Shoopman of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council rattled off some of the cuts on the horizon: $400 million to K-12 education, $120 million to the universities, $100 million to public safety, and $200 million out of health and human services.

"They're down to the bare-bones level of what education can sustain," said Shoopman. "You cut another $400 million, and you get into an area that we've never seen in this state."

Shoopman warned that those kinds of cuts would do damage to efforts to recruit new businesses.

"We understand the value of a low tax structure in attracting business and creating a healthy economy," Shoopman said.

But he added that SALC had "wholeheartedly" endorsed Prop 100.

"If we don't pass this, there are going to be things that happen to this state that will make it impossible for us to recruit new business here," Shoopman said. "Businesses don't only move to a state for a low tax structure. That helps. But they also want a robust education system for the kids of the workers that they want to bring here. They need a work force that is well-trained."

At the end of the forum, Tom Sander of the Pima Association of Taxpayers stood up to repeat some talking points from the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

Sander said the average Arizonan would pay an extra $400 in taxes if voters approve the sales tax.

The Skinny approached Sander after the meeting to point out that in order to pay $400 in taxes, the average Arizonan would have to spend $40,000 on items that are subject to the sales tax. That does not include mortgage (or rent), utilities or groceries.

Given that U.S. Census data from 2008 shows that half the households in Arizona earned less than $51,100, that seems pretty hard to believe.

Sander gave that a bit of thought and agreed with us.

"Good catch on that one," he said.

The next day, Sander—to his credit—dropped a line to Tom Jenney of Americans for Prosperity, saying he thought the organization should be careful about tossing around wild figures.

Jenney defended a calculation of his that the average family would pay $400, because he divided the total amount the tax was going to raise and divided it by the number of households in Arizona.

"The point you're after is how much the TYPICAL family (or person) will pay," Jenney wrote to Sander. "That depends on how you define 'typical.' And that's a purely subjective choice."

Well, thanks for clarifying that your numbers remain mathematically accurate, if completely useless except as a deceptive rhetorical device.


The Southern Arizona Leadership Council wants to make some changes to city government.

We know, we know: Why did you save that kind of sexy stuff for the end of the column?

We only have enough room to summarize the changes SALC is proposing after interviewing former city managers, various policy wonks and other folks who have done business with the city:

• Give the mayor an equal vote with council members on issues like firing high-ranking city officials.

• Give the city manager enough power to fire department heads who now enjoy civil-service protections.

• They want full-time City Council members, which would include doubling their pay. (Lotsa luck with that one.)

• Increase the number of wards in the city as population increases.

If you're interested in hearing more, SALC is hosting a get-together from 9 a.m. to noon, Friday, April 30, at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave.

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