Fuzzy MathAfter a long afternoon of budget jibber-jabber, a majority of Tucson City Council members on Monday, June 7, appeared to remain opposed to most of the big tax and fee proposals recommended by City Manager James Keene. Armed with a PowerPoint presentation and a laser pointer, Keene tried his best to focus council members on the business of telling him what to services to cut and what fees to raise in order to hire more cops and firefighters, fix more streets, improve more parks, stock more libraries and handle other costs of a growing metro area. But through the testy session, council members refused to play along, wondering instead about possible savings in software costs and increased revenues from the city zoo.
Keene is still hunting for support for a 2 percent tax on rental housing and advertising, as well as a fourth vote to implement a monthly $12 garbage fee that would generate about $20 million a year.
Ward 1 Democrat José Ibarra told Keene that his constituents were concerned about whether they could trust the city. Before council members could vote to raise taxes, Ibarra explained, "We have to make sure the trust is there." Like, for example, being able to trust candidates to properly spend public campaign funds. Or being able to trust that your water bills will get paid if you drop off money at your ward office. Or even being able to trust that elected officials won't generate multi-million defamation claims against the city.
The council will resume the budget discussions at next Monday's study session. They must adopt a budget by June 30.
Heat TreatmentYee-haw! Temps finally broke the century mark last Tuesday, June 1, with a high of 101.
The heat pushed the Range out on assignment to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez. While we were investigating exchange rates at various Rocky Point cerveza distributors, big border news was breaking all over the daily papers that occasionally dropped into our hands.
The Arizona Republic, for example, brought us the news that a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform estimated that illegal border crossers cost the United States $1.3 billion a year, with the bulk of that--$810 million--going to educate migrants and their kids. Health care and prison bills make up the rest.
The study was commissioned by the same crew gathering signatures for the Protect Arizona Now initiative, which would deny library cards and driver's licenses to illegal entrants. The Republic also reports that PAN backers have only half of the 122,600 signatures required by July 1 to put the question on the November ballot. Sounds like somebody has a lot of supermarket parking lots to canvass!
Meanwhile, the Arizona Daily Star was popping with border stories, ranging from the blessing of water stations to coverage of a group of marchers from Derechos Humanos who had spent the last week hiking from the border town of Sasabe. Hey, we saw those guys on Ajo Way on our way back from the beach!
The Star's most astonishing story detailed how a group of 20 illegal migrants were aboard a 1987 Ford truck when it spun out of control on Interstate 10 near Benson early last Wednesday, June 2. Only three people were killed, although three others were severely wounded and as many as seven suffered other injuries, according to reporter L. Anne Newell, who noted that auto wrecks are starting to prove as deadly as the heat for migrants.
In related road-anxiety news, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. government couldn't prevent Mexican trucks from entering the United States on environmental or safety grounds. U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe praised the decision in a statement, saying, "Today's Supreme Court decision signals to our Mexican neighbors our commitment to free trade. Abolishing commercial border zones is mutually beneficial to both countries because it will allow for increased trade between the United States and Mexico."
Play Ball!The UA baseball team went on a post-season tear, starting with a 7-3 win over UC Irvine in South Bend, Ind., last Friday, June 4. The following day, the Wildcats beat Kent State 7-4. Finally, on Sunday, the Cats upset top seed Notre Dame 7-6 to advance to a three-game series against Long Beach State at Blair Field in California this weekend. It's the first regional title for the baseball team since 1986.
Also over last weekend, three Wildcat juniors were snatched up in Major League Baseball amateur draft. The Arizona Diamondbacks took right-handed pitcher Koley Kohlberg and slugger Richard Mercado, while the Philadelphia Phillies tabbed infielder John Hardy.
In other diamond-related news, professional women's softball made its local debut Saturday night when the Arizona Heat played its first home game at High Corbett Field, which they lost to the New York/New Jersey Juggernaut. The Heat also struck out Sunday night against the Juggernaut, but finished the series with a 2-1 win Monday.