Jersey Pricks

A county contract for cactus-conservation PR goes to the land of the Sopranos.

The Democrat-controlled Board of Supervisors paid a Republican political consulting and advertising firm from New Jersey $35,000 to produce television and radio ads promoting the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

The ads created by Jamestown Associates of Princeton, N.J., were completed two months ago, but have not been released. They are being revised, said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who considered the finished products to be "drafts."

Huckelberry has not seen or heard the spots that he wants construed as public service announcements meant to spark community interest and comment on the sweeping natural resource and cultural conservation plan.

County sources also say that Raúl Grijalva, the Democratic chairman of the board, did not want the commercials to be released.

Grijalva joined his colleagues last week in voting to retroactively approve the county's contract with Jamestown. The firm, which did work for Republican U.S. Reps. Jim Kolbe of Tucson and Jeff Flake of the East Valley in Maricopa County, was signed up by Huckelberry on April 23 to produce two 30-second television commercials and two 60-second radio spots.

Huckelberry confirmed that Jamestown was pushed by George Goebel, the aide to first-term Republican Supervisor Ann Day. Goebel formerly served as an aide to Kolbe.

County records show that Jamestown was paid $10,000 on May 10 for start-up costs, according to the contract, and $25,000 for completion on July 12.

But supervisors didn't get around to approving the contract until last week when their meeting included passage of Jamestown as part of a single vote on a bulky, 94-item consent agenda. No supervisor pulled the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan ad campaign for questions or comment.

Under county procurement rules, Huckelberry has authority to enter contracts and pay for services and materials up to $35,000.

The contract called for the work to be done by May 31. Jamestown, which also lists a Washington, D.C. office, was to produce the ads with its own film crew, gear, equipment and film and by developing the creative concept, providing the voiceover, music, graphics, editing and processing. Similarly, Jamestown was to provide everything for the radio ads including the concept, scripts, voice talent, studio time, music and sound effects.

Jamestown also was required to make the media buys.

The company hired local actor and reader Don Collier, whose deep cowboy voice is heard on KUAT-TV's The Desert Speaks. That didn't assuage local producers, denied the opportunity to bid, who asked why a New Jersey firm was needed to hire the local Collier.

Huckelberry declined to explain what revisions he seeks.

"They will be public service announcements, not commercials as such, to get people, regular people, not the developer or the environmentalist, to respond with input to the plan, " he said.

"They will be somewhat like the PSAs that Tucson Water has used for the Central Arizona Project, water conservation and water quality," Huckelberry said.

With a notable exception.

Huckelberry, unlike Tucson Water Director David Modeer, will not star.

On its Web site, Jamestown bills itself as a "full-service Republican political consulting firm specializing in direct mail, television, and radio production, and general strategy consulting."

Jamestown worked for Kolbe in his successful run last year for a ninth term, a race where he encountered little trouble from former state Sen. George Cunningham of Tucson. Flake also was a client of Jamestown, which boasts that it had a success rate of better than 90 percent. Both Republican representatives are pictured in Jamestown's revolving cast of politician clients on the company Web site.

Kolbe and a fellow Republican, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, are being sought to change the boundary of the proposed Ironwood National Monument northwest of Tucson. The monument was among those established by President Bill Clinton as the Democrat prepared to leave office.

Supervisors took fewer steps than the city did 11 years ago, under then Mayor Tom Volgy, to secure goods and services from Tucson firms and to encourage Tucson business to do the same.

But supervisors have stepped up local purchasing in some areas and now seek company headquarters, rather than just regional offices, in bid and contract data.

Few if any county purchases these days attract the attention of the dailies. This one also slipped by them. But it is one that is embarrassing, given the unique nature of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. It is perhaps the most ambitious land, wildlife and cultural resource protection plan ever contemplated by a local government in the country.

Huckelberry downplayed Jamestown's New Jersey headquarters.

"Given the fact that it's not a huge contract," Huckelberry said, "it doesn't make that big of a difference."

Neither Huckelberry nor his board got whacked by Carolyn Campbell, the longtime environmentalist who is a leader and spokesperson for the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection.

She was muted, saying, "It's always nice to spend money closer to home."

Jamestown's Republican ties did not, alone, offend Campbell, who says the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is a non-partisan measure that requires support from all in what she believes will be tough battle for approval.

"If they do use them," Campbell said, "I hope they get their money's worth."