It would be easy (and perhaps even justified) to go the ad hominem route in pointing out just how stupid it was for four City Council members to vote to fire City Manager Mike Hein.
I thought of doing a Wizard of Oz thing, but they all would have been the Scarecrow. It could be argued that, collectively, they're dumber than a box of sticks, but these being lean economic times and all, I don't want to leave the Weekly open to a potential libel suit from an offended stick. At least one of them, were she taken to a public swimming pool, would wonder how that rope keeps the deep water from spilling into the shallow end.
However, there is no law against dumb people serving on a City Council or, once there, doing dumb things. In fact, it's pretty much the standard operating procedure in these parts. What they need to know is that the consequences of their shortsighted action will send negative ripples through the community they claim to care about for years to come. When Steve Leal, Shirley Scott, Regina Romero and ringleader Karin Uhlich formed their little Butt-Hurt Coalition to fire Hein, they almost certainly guaranteed the death of Rio Nuevo. (That may or may not be a bad thing, but the expenditure of millions with little to show for it certainly is.) On the plus side, we all get to watch in a mix of wonderment and horror as they now get to deal with a projected $80 million budget deficit for which they had so conveniently blamed Hein.
Here's a tip, Ms. Uhlich: Public art isn't the answer.
It must be noted that Mike Hein is a friend of mine, but I don't fret over his future. He got a severance package and will land on his feet because he's good at everything he does, a fact that the idiocracy will soon learn the hard way.
A couple of days before the firing, state Sen. Jonathan Paton, who was trying to help keep Rio Nuevo alive in some form, flat-out said that the only reason the state Legislature hadn't pulled the plug earlier was due to the integrity of Mike Hein, with whom state lawmakers had a solid working relationship. Paton went on to say—quite unequivocally—that if the council got rid of Hein, Rio Nuevo was dead.
After the firing, Uhlich tried to spin things in a diametrically opposite direction, claiming that getting rid of Hein was the council's best chance of holding on to Rio Nuevo. Bold strategy: If you're going to lie, lie big.
Uhlich's and Romero's names appeared in the byline of a rambling piece in the Sunday, April 5, Arizona Daily Star which outlined potential steps that could be taken to make open and public where and how Rio Nuevo monies were being spent. The uninformed reader might have seen it as an attempt by the two to actually do their jobs in a prudent and forward-thinking manner. What it was, however, was a legislative example of the Stockholm syndrome.
As mentioned here before, new GOP members of the state Legislature—including Southern Arizona's Frank Antenori—have displayed an almost religious zeal in avoiding raising taxes to balance the state budget and are therefore understandably hot to hack off what they consider to be that gangrenous, money-sucking appendage that is Rio Nuevo. The Legislature holds the Rio Nuevo purse strings and really doesn't have much reason to loosen them.
At first, some members of the council took an adversarial position, trying to turn the Rio Nuevo funding debate into some sort of partisan fight between an all-Democrat council and a GOP-controlled Legislature. Even the dolts on the council realized the lack of wisdom in that course; basically, you don't get in a pissin' match with somebody who has access to a water cannon.
Antenori laid out a bunch of conditions that had to be met before he'd even consider voting to continue funding Rio Nuevo. He's a no-nonsense former military guy who's smart enough to know that when you're holding all the cards, there's no need to bluff. It was the equivalent of the bad guy in the movie saying, "Tell me all you know, and I might let you live," knowing full well that there was no damn way the victim was getting out alive.
Uhlich and Romero took the bait, however, and started embracing Antenori's demands like hostages, thinking, "Y'know, these guys have guns to our heads, but they're not really such bad guys."
I'm telling you right now: They can preach transparency until the cows come home and meet every one of Antenori's demands, and they're still going to get stiffed. Hein might (and only might) have been able to pull it off; these amateurs have no chance.
So now, Tucson has lost one of the best city managers it's ever had; there's a gaping hole in the budget; and despite their feeble protestations to the contrary, nobody on that council is ready, willing or, most of all, able to face the challenges ahead.
I guess the best way I could put it is this: On the current City Council, Rodney Glassman and Nina Trasoff have emerged as the voices of reason.