The Skinny

Th-th-that's All, Folks!

The Legislative looney-toon show wraps up for the year

The Arizona Legislature finally came to an end last week after the Senate got tired of waiting for House lawmakers to get their act together and adjourned unilaterally in the wee hours of Friday, April 3.

Unable to push legislation back to the Senate, the House was left to approve some of the bills that the Senate had sent over before calling it quits sometime before dawn.

We'll get more into the details of the session in an upcoming feature story, but there were a few bills that died as a result of the Senate giving up on the House.

An election bill that would have prohibited people from picking up early ballots and delivering them didn't make it past the finish line. And a bid to put a proposition on the 2016 ballot to ask voters to repeal the Clean Elections program that provides candidates for state office with public dollars for their campaigns ended up on the cutting-room floor.

Both bills are likely to come back next year, however.

Other election bills, including a measure to make it more difficult to put an initiative on the ballot, did pass.

Then there was a bill to allow guns in public buildings, such as city halls, libraries and community centers. That effort collapsed at the end of the session, although lawmakers did pass a bill allowing individuals or groups to sue local officials who pass ordinances that restrict gun rights. That could put Tucson's requirement that gun shows on city property require background checks on all firearms sales in jeopardy.

Transit Troubles

Cost of city's bus system continues to rise

Earlier this year, the Tucson City Council decided against raising fares or making significant changes to the bus system's routes.

As a result, city staff has prepared new projections of what the bus service will be costing the city's general fund.

It's not unusual for a transit system to require a subsidy from a community's general fund; most systems are lucky to cover 25 percent of their cost via the farebox.

In Tucson, the cost to the general fund continues to rise. In the 2011 fiscal year, the city paid about $34.7 million out of its general fund to subsidize the transit system. In the current fiscal year, that number is expected to hit $42.7 million—an increase of about $8 million.

Unless the council decides to either raise fares or reduce service, that general-fund subsidy is expected to rise. City staff estimates that Sun Tran, Sun Van (a service for disabled Tucsonans) and Sun Link (the modern streetcar) will require a subsidy of $47 million in the fiscal year that starts in July, $50 million in fiscal year 2017 and nearly $53.5 million in fiscal year 2018.

Council members have said they are awaiting a review of the system by a transit expert before committing themselves to fare increases or route changes.

Frog Mountain Honors

County supervisors honor late author Chuck Bowden atop his beloved Mount Lemmon

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this week to honor the late author Chuck Bowden by naming the Mount Lemmon Community Center.

Supervisor Ray Carroll, whose District 4 includes Mount Lemmon, spearheaded the effort to create the Charles Bowden Community Center for Bowden, who died last August from heart disease.

Bowden was a longtime friend of Carroll and a fierce protector of the environment who supported the county's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and opposed the Rosemont Mine.

But Bowden especially loved Mount Lemmon. The sky island was the topic of Bowden's "Frog Mountain Blues" and Carroll remembered hearing tales of how Bowden rode his bicycle up the mountain when he was just a teenager.

"Chuck did a lot for the environment and so in his memory, we have the honor of naming the Mount Lemmon community center after him," Carroll said.

Rancher, author and raconteur J.P.S. Brown wrote a letter in support of the plan. Brown recalled meeting Bowden at a book festival in 1978.

"He accosted me while I wandered around trying to find out what I was doing at a book festival," Brown wrote. "I didn't know him and I didn't know his work yet, but I liked him and thought of him as a close colleague ever since that day because he knew my work and didn't mind going out of his way to tell me so. Since then he backtracked me on my horseshoe trails in the Sierra Madre and proved to me that he liked the country to which I had introduced him.

"I liked him a lot for the respect that he gave me and those trails for the rest of his days," Brown continued. "I came to understand that he did not ordinarily respect cowmen and he understood that I didn't respect many of his famous activist environmentalists, but we enjoyed a deep regard for each other and the out-of-doors that we both loved. He found as many new trails on his own that I did and he made his living writing about his regard for them as I did mine, although later he scared people when he told them about the tough guys that he wrote about.

"Some people love to point at his sinful ways and tell us that he might have found the door to Paradise locked when he tried to get in because of the way he freewheeled in this life," Brown concluded. "I just bet that the Great Environmentalist who holds the key opened the door to his heaven and gave him the run of it without explaining why to anybody."

So say we all, Mr. Brown. So say we all.

Jim Nintzel hosts Zona Politics Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's episode includes a one-on-one interview with former congressman Ron Barber and a panel discussion on the recently completed legislative session with Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lea Marquez Peterson and political strategist Rodd McLeod.