The Range

Dash for Trash Cash

After weeks of vowing to stand by her campaign pledge against charging for garbage collection, City Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar flip-flopped to provide the fourth vote Monday for a $12 a month fee. Dunbar joined forces with Mayor Bob Walkup and council members Fred Ronstadt and Carol West to tentatively approve the new fee, giving City Manager James Keene a big victory as he tries to find more dollars in the city budget for cops, firemen and street repairs, not to mention PR tabloids and junkets for city employees. Democrats Steve Leal, José Ibarra and Shirley Scott opposed the fee, with Shirley getting in a jab at Kathleen with a speech about how she couldn't support it because she's not the kind of dishonest politician who breaks campaign promises. Me-owwww!

Dunbar put conditions on her vote, including a program to spare poor Tucsonans and trailer parks from paying the fee and a promise of new leadership at the city's Environmental Services Department. Could that mean department Director Eliseo Garza is gonna get taken out with the trash? Well, for now, Keene promised to have Tucson Water Director Dave Modeer oversee the transition to an enterprise department.

The council rejected Keene's advertising and rental-tax proposals and plans to borrow $25 million to help close this year's budget gap.

The council is scheduled to adopt a final budget next Monday, June 21.

Downtown Admits Problem, Seeks Rehab

It's makeover time downtown! One of downtown's biggest stumbling blocks, the long-abandoned Thrifty Building, will soon be replaced by a sexy new retail/residential development. Bourn Projects Inc. and The Fina Companies plan to demolish the Thrifty Building and develop 19,000 square feet of retail space, 61 loft condos and plenty of parking! The project, which looked really swell on the poster boards at the council meeting, may even save the old Talk of the Town building that was recently marked for death, but the developers aren't promising anything until they get a closer look.

Meanwhile, down the street, the Rio Nuevo district plans to acquire the historic Rialto Theater for $1.54 million. Under the proposal, the theater, which has hosted acts big and small during the last decade, would be leased to the Congress Street Historic Theaters Foundation, headed by none other than former TW editor/publisher Douglas Biggers. Rock on, Doug!

The theater will be shuttered through at least November, with a new grand opening planned for Dec. 1. Biggers says he and his partners in Congress Street Investors LLC--developers Tom Warne, Yoram Levy and Don Semro--will provide $100,000 to spruce up the theater. He adds that the foundation hopes to raise another quarter-million bucks for the fix-up project and will be eligible for another $350,000 in Rio Nuevo funds. At the same time, he tells The Range that the group is set to move forward on a $3 million rehab and redevelopment of properties in the immediate vicinity of the theater. The first phase will include restoring the historic façade of the Rialto building and renovating the apartments on the building's second floor.

"I'm excited to build on the tremendous work Paul Bear and Jeb Schoonover did to save the theatre and put it back into productive use," Biggers said. "Although we're still working on a lot of details regarding programming and uses of the Rialto, I can guarantee that the theatre will be ready to rock again this winter, better than ever."

Officer Down

Tucson Police Officer Jobe Dickinson was shot in the leg while pursuing a suspect who had stabbed a man at the Desert Wind Apartments, near Country Club Road and Speedway Boulevard, last Tuesday, June 8. While Dickinson and the stabbing victim were treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a local hospital, the suspected shooter, Adam C. Fulton, eluded police.

Acting on a tip from police in San Jose, Calif., TPD officers returned to Fulton's residence three days later, where they found him dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Cowboy Up

The Arizona baseball team squeezed out an 11th-inning upset victory over Long Beach State Sunday to send them to the College World Series this weekend. A sac fly by Nick Hundley gave the Wildcats a 4-3 victory and trip to Omaha for the first time since 1986. The team won two of three over Long Beach to advance to the double-elimination tournament and will face the Georgia Bulldogs at 11 a.m. Friday, June 18. Other teams in the series: the Texas Longhorns, Miami Hurricanes, Cal State Fullerton Titans, Arkansas Razorbacks, LSU Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks--which raises one question: What the hell kind of name is "Gamecocks?"
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