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Unwelcome to Wal-Mart

The Range was all set to head over to last Wednesday's big ol' grand opening of the latest Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, which features nearly 40,000 feet of shelves stocked with groceries and more located somewhere in midtown. The store's cheerful PR agent, Cyndee Cochran, had sent us all sorts of background materials about how the store's 97 employees--er, associates--would join an Arizona Wal-Mart workforce that earned an average $9.73 an hour; and about how manager Jim Grow would be giving away so much money to various charities (which undoubtedly comes in handy when poorly paid employees need a little extra help); and that the store would be so friendly that customers can just grab donuts and coffee and leave payment in a box on the "honor system."

But before we departed the midtown bureau for the fine celebration, we took a look at the online edition of The New York Times, which included a story examining how Wal-Mart's low, low prices are made possible by low, low pay and lousy benefits. We thought about how most Wal-Mart employees--er, associates--earned less than $19,000 a year. We thought about how Wal-Mart's workforce is essentially subsidized by taxpayers, since so many workers are eligible for food stamps and publicly provided health care, even though Wally-Mart earned $10 billion in profit on $288 billion in revenue last year. We thought about their union-busting tactics and how supporting Wal-Mart means taking business away from grocery stores that pay better wages.

And then we remembered that we hate Wal-Mart. We really do.


Billboard Games

Clear Channel Outdoor's dream of blocking enforcement of Tucson's billboard ordinances came to an end when Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed Senate Bill 1193, which would have allowed the advertising company to simply file new paperwork with the city to resolve a long-standing dispute over billboards.

"This bill would weaken the ability of municipalities to enforce local ordinances regarding billboards and outdoor advertisements," Napolitano said. "State law should not dilute or negate their ability to manage local issues."

Anti-billboard crusader Mark Mayer cheered Napolitano's decision, but expressed concern that city officials might still cave in to Clear Channel.

"We want to see the city and county move forward on enforcement," Mayer said.

Earlier this week, Napolitano vetoed another bill that would have allowed billboards with flashing lights along Arizona highways.


Fife's Out

To no one's great surprise, Republican J. Fife Symington III, who resigned his governor's seat after being convicted on multiple federal fraud counts in 1997, announced he would not attempt to run against Gov. Janet Napolitano in 2006.

Symington, whose conviction was overturned on appeal and who escaped further prosecution following a pardon by outgoing President Bill Clinton, had floated the idea of challenging Napolitano earlier this year. A subsequent survey by Phoenix TV station KAET showed Napolitano with the support of 70 percent of voters polled, while just 14 percent supported Symington.


Screwing the Pooch

In the man-humps-dog department: Theodore Robert Griffin Jr. has surrendered to Pima County Sheriff's deputies on charges that he sexually assaulted a mixed-breed puppy on March 18.

Deputy J.S. Brady reported that he found Griffin, 27, lying on the ground amidst some tall weeds near an alleyway. "I observed a dog underneath Mr. Griffin as Mr. Griffin was penetrating the dog with his penis into the dog's anus," Brady reported.

Once Griffin saw the deputy, he pulled his pants up and tried to clamber onto his bicycle, but Brady detained him and, upon further investigation, placed him under arrest on charges of public sexual indecency, according to reports.

On his ride to Pima County Jail, Griffin told Brady that he doesn't normally do drugs, but he'd been out the previous night and "he must have taken something and did not know what is was ..." according to Brady's report. "Then he stated by his own free will that all he remembers was he was having a bad dream, waking up with the cops there and his pants down, and that was all he remembered."

Brady reported that Griffin did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. "At no time ... did I smell any odor of intoxicant coming from his breath," said Brady. "There was a strong odor of what I thought was dog feces, which appeared to be on Mr. Griffin's shirt."

The dog later died from complications, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Dawn Barkman, who said Griffin was no longer in custody but would be facing charges.

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