The Range

Smells Like Teen Spirits

We have an epidemic of hard-drinkin' teens, according to a report from the Tucson/Pima County Commission on Addiction Treatment and Prevention, which reveals that Pima County kids have their first drink at age 12, as opposed to an average of 13 across the United States. "Youths in Pima County abuse alcohol more than any other substance, including tobacco and other illegal drugs," notes the report, which estimates that 41 percent of eighth-graders and almost 59 percent of high school seniors have had a drink.

Well, that explains those lousy AIMS scores.

The report recommends that the community take steps to make it harder for kids to get alcohol, spend more resources studying the problem, strengthen prevention programs and "promote positive messages through media and advertising." (A TW rate card is on its way!)

The report has the Pima County Board of Supervisors considering asking the Arizona Legislature for the authority to raise taxes on booze to fund underage-drinking-prevention programs, although the commission's recommendation of a dime-a-drink tax could prove to prove troublesome to track.

Supervisor Ray Carroll tells The Range he supports the idea of using a new sin tax to combat the "epidemic" of underage drinking. "I hate taxes," Carroll says, "but I hate teenage drinking a little more."

Expect Delays

The Range would like to take you back in time, to February 2003, when the Tucson City Council voted to pay a consultant $68,000 to study impact fees, with the promise that they would come back with a heavy-duty, full-recovery fee that would make the county's transportation impact fee look puny. Back then, the Weekly predicted two things: (a) the city wouldn't be collecting the fees until 2004 at the earliest, and (b) the fees would ultimately be at the same level as the county.

Well, guess what? Last Monday, Sept. 13, the council got the long-awaited proposal on impact fees--and it turns out that (a) we won't be collecting them until the middle of 2005, and (b) the median fee would be $3,560, which is just a few bucks less than county charges. Surprise, surprise.

Since the impact-fee study was launched, the city has issued 5,591 building permits, according to City Planning Director Albert Elias, who estimates that more than $22 million would have been collected had the fees been in place--which is surprisingly close to the $25 million the council borrowed this year to pave crumbling thoroughfares. But, as Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar pointed out at the meeting, that $22 million is offset somewhat by money paid by developers who sought re-zonings on the city's perimeter, although Elias has no hard numbers on the amount builders have paid.

Staff is recommending that the impact fee ordinance be effective as of January--but no residential fees should be collected until July 15. At that point, they suggest that developers be required to pay half the fees until January 2006, when the full fees will kick in.

That's a rapid implementation compared the proposed fees for commercial and industrial development; City Manager James Keene recommends that developers be exempt from fees for three years and be charged only 50 percent for the following six years.

While council members bickered about the boundaries of the benefit zones and other marginalia, they appeared prepared to approve the final ordinance at a meeting later this month.

Dropped in the process were impact fees for parks, but staff promises that they'll be along later this year. Maybe the city will be collecting them sometime in the next half-century.

Veep Squeak

Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards drew a large crowd to the Tucson Convention Center Monday, Sept. 13, tapping a torrent of anti-Bush passions. Range correspondent Tim Vanderpool, who attended the rally, reports that Democratic mandarins were out in force, including Congressman Raul Grijalva and Gov. Janet Napolitano. Even Tucson City Councilwoman Carol West, who frequently cuddles with the council's Republicans, couldn't resist playing Democrat for a day. The only observers who didn't sparkle in Sen. Edwards' flash were a cabal of Bushies who sneaked into the nosebleed section. They briefly interrupted the candidate with a chant of "Four more years!" And they were immediately drowned out by a crowd roaring "Two more months!"

Meanwhile, the most recent presidential poll, conducted on behalf of the Arizona Republic, shows Bush has a lead of 16 percentage points in the state. The survey of 600 likely voters, taken in the days following the Republican National Convention, showed 54 percent of respondents supported Bush and 38 percent supported Kerry.

Democratic activists remain skeptical that the polls accurately reflect the feelings of voters.

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