Tom ponders the city Transportation Department, disingenuous talk-show hosts and the refreshing mayor

A few things to touch upon; let's call it pre-autumn cleaning:

• Back in the heyday of Saturday Night Live, there was a vicious skit that I believe starred Bill Murray. (Hey, it was a long time ago.) It involved a disgraced political candidate giving his concession speech on election night. Instead of being at campaign headquarters, he's holed up in some seedy motel room. He calmly goes through a litany of blunders and gaffes he has committed along the way, some of which suddenly come to mind as he's relating other sins. There's drug use, the embezzlement of campaign funds, graft and all sorts of corruption. The whole time, his underage girlfriend, who appears to be stoned out of her mind, is standing by his side.

I remember thinking it was funny. But nowadays, it would play as a docudrama.

I thought of it during the past couple of weeks as the tragicomic opera involving the city of Tucson's Transportation Department played out. With the city about to put a much-needed $100 million bond issue before the people for a vote, could the exposed crimes—felonies and misdemeanors—have come at a worse time?

It is highly doubtful that city voters will want to entrust their government with that much money so close to the exposure of these scandals.

Here's a really distressing note: One of the most egregious offenses involved streets administrator Kurt Hough reportedly ordering city workers to use city materials to pour a concrete motorcycle pad right next to an existing asphalt slab, because Hough and his motorcycle buddies didn't like parking on asphalt. Apparently, during the hot summer months, asphalt softens, and a motorcycle kickstand can sink into it an inch or two. Well, boo-freakin'-hoo.

Let's hope that the city goes after every single penny, even if it costs more to retrieve it than what the city will get back. Maybe the next jackass will think twice before abusing his position.

• After I wrote about how the owner of the Guadalajara Original Grill finally got the OK to put in a patio at her restaurant after butting heads with city staff for four years, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild called me. He said that while he certainly would prefer that people who are doing business with the city go through the proper channels, he wants people to know that if they feel mistreated or stonewalled, they should email him at mayor1@tucsonaz.gov. He says he reads all of his emails, and that he'll take appropriate action if he feels it's necessary.

I'm sorry, but that's almost frighteningly refreshing.

• One of my most-consistent critics keeps emailing me about how a certain morning-drive talk-show host took me to task after he claimed that I called him a racist in my column. Let me make this clear, once and for all: I did not call him a racist. I hinted in my column, and then flat-out said when I went on his show, that he uses obvious racial references and cues to get a point across to (and get a rise out of) his audience. His defense was something along the lines of, "When I mentioned Al Sharpton, I never said he was black."

Yeah, well, when I mention Sofia Vergara, I don't have to say, "Latina actress Sofia Vergara." I assume that anyone with a pulse and an IQ above that of a fern knows that she's Latina. Likewise, people know that Sharpton is black, and they further know that the names of Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are used by right-wing talk-show hosts to elicit a certain response from their mostly rabidly white audiences. (Likewise, there's that ridiculous recording of women talking about how they've shown up to get their share of "Obama money.")

I don't even think it's that big of a deal; I really don't. That's the way it's been done for decades. Successful hosts know their audiences, and they play to them accordingly. It's just disingenuous to do it and then deny that it's being done.

My favorite part of this whole thing is how Tea Party defenders bristle at the suggestion of racism in their movement. It's absolutely hilarious. Look, there is racism in the Democratic Party, and there's racism in the Republican Party. But we're supposed to believe that there is no racism in the most-strident political movement in this country over the past several decades? That stance is indefensible.

Another emailer defied me to point out one instance of hatred by Tea Partiers toward President Obama. Let's try this: Each of you go back over your life, however far back it stretches, and name a United States president (other than the current one) who has been openly and often accused of being un-American. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were involved in criminal activity while in the White House, but that just makes them crooks, and it's an almost infinite distance between crook and traitor. Bill Clinton was a sleaze; Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford were incompetent; George W. Bush was a dolt. But none one of them was un-American.

There have been a whole lot of unpopular presidents in my lifetime, but if you guys can't see that this one is being treated way differently than all the rest, there's something wrong.

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