Follow the Money

To the Editor,

I would like to point out that in the otherwise very informative and well-written Gift Wrap supplement [November 21], the name of our operation is the United Nations Center and not UNICEF Store. Also, "all the proceeds go to UNICEF" is not accurate: Proceeds go to the United Nations Association of Southern Arizona for its educational work in the community as well as to UNICEF. Specific UNICEF items, such as the greeting and note cards and games, books, etc., are a different matter, however, with all the purchase price, minus handling and selling expenses, going to UNICEF's fund-raising organization in this country, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

--Gene Wilson

Off the Map

To the Editor,

While both of Tucson's major newspapers have rightfully criticized the backroom shenanigans of the majority of the Board of Supervisors regarding county redistricting, I hope that you will allow me to respond to some public accusations directed at me--particularly since the vilification originated from one of your reporters who has regular access to your readership.

At a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, I was castigated by Salomon Baldenegro for comments I made at one of the hearings created (supposedly) to receive public input on an already adopted gerrymandered plan to try to ensure the re-election of Democratic Supervisor Sharon Bronson. Although Baldenegro had earlier said that meetings in the afternoon would "preclude the public," all four public meetings were scheduled for the daytime. Baldenegro served as a representative for Supervisor Raúl Grijalva, and voted with the majority by a 3-2 partisan vote on a new map of supervisorial districts without any public input or discussion. None--not one--of the committee members who drew the map ever chose to attend the meetings to answer questions as to who, why and how this bizarre map was developed. Since their new political boundaries will affect the representation of many thousands of voters for the next 10 years, it seemed pretty ludicrous to me that such a public body could or would avoid any questions from the public. Reflecting my frustration at the time, I said that I didn't blame the committee members for not attending because, if I had created the map, I would be too embarrassed to show up as well.

While this sentiment pales in comparison to the reaction of the many outraged citizens, as well as all the editorial boards, I did not choose these words thoughtfully. If I had, I would have realized before I spoke that those who have no shame cannot be embarrassed. It was apparently upon reading the transcript of my words spoken--at the meeting that he created but refused to attend--that Baldenegro decided to make me an issue to avoid his complicity in effectuating such substantial change in the public's voting representation with virtually no opportunity for that public to have an influence. And this from a man who has prided himself on being in the forefront of the battle for inclusiveness in the political process!

Let's be honest: A member of a committee popping up with a new map with the necessary votes to stuff it down our throats without public input is not any worse than a supervisor doing the same, which is exactly what happened. And it doesn't matter if a Republican, a Democrat, Communist, Green, Libertarian or independent does it, it's still wrong. That was supposedly why the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to set up what everyone thought would be an independent committee with an open process. It didn't happen that way, and Baldenegro shares in the responsibility for this public fiasco.

For those who want to cloud the truth, charges of partisanship and/or racism can always serve as useful diversionary tactics. Baldenegro used both in order to belittle those who raise a legitimate concern regarding the dilution of minority voter representation by "packing" Chicano voters out of Supervisor Bronson's district, asserting that Republicans have no right to raise any issue regarding minority representation because some Republicans had opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1964. Historically, the Democratic Party once supported slavery, so shouldn't their motivations should be questioned as well? It's as good of a justification--or obfuscation--as is being used by Baldenegro.

In reality, people with integrity, no matter their partisan hue, are outraged by the dirty politics employed to rig future Pima County elections. We all should be. To Baldenegro's credit, however, he was the only one of the committee members responsible for the map who had the gumption to show up and try to defend this sham--or attempt to divert attention from it. But what honor is there in defending the indefensible?

Note: For identification purposes, I am an aide to Ray Carroll, but these are my words alone, written without permission or approval of anyone.

--Scott D. Egan

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