ERODING CONFIDENCE: How much longer is Tucson Water Director Dave Modeer going to continue running his "C'mon, Trust Me" spots? The water utility is spending about $300,000 of our ratepayer dollars in a thinly veiled political campaign to defuse this year's water initiative, which would extend the ban on CAP water for five more years and force recharge in our riverbeds, among other things.

That's not the only dirty trick afoot. It seems the Growth Lobby is trying to confuse the electorate as well. The latest organization to battle the Citizens Alliance for Water Security (CAWS) is the Coalition for an Assured Water Supply (CAWS). Gee, is the copycat acronym just a coincidence -- or is it a deliberate effort on the part of the development community to confuse the voters and obfuscate the issues? And then they wonder why we don't trust 'em.

Speaking of the initiative's foes, word is that car dealer/banker Jim Click is meeting with well-heeled community members trying to squeeze some big contributions to defeat Prop 200. Click has already personally contributed $30,000 to the effort.

VOTE NOW: The early voting program is up and running in this year's city primary. The City Clerk's Office reports that 4,365 ballots have been requested as of Tuesday, August 24, with 2,203 already returned.

If you're interested in early voting, act now. You have until Friday, August 25, to request a ballot from the City Clerk's Office by calling 791-5784. You'll need to get that ballot back to the city by Election Day, September 7. And remember, that's on the tail end of the Labor Day weekend, so get 'em in the mail early. The city has also set up early voting booths at City Hall and the Wilmot Library through September 3. Hours of operation vary, so call 791-5784 for details.

AND NOW HE KNOWS WHERE BABIES COME FROM: Amphi School District constituents have finally had enough. They've launched a recall against three members of the Board: Gary Woodard, Virginia Houston and Richard Scott.

We've been chronicling the missteps and blunders of the Amphi Board for years. From blowing a bundle on sleazy land deals (and the subsequent legal fees defending those lousy deals in court) to blocking their own citizens from addressing the Board in an open call to the audience, Woodard, Houston and Scott have shown contempt for the public. And now the public is ready to strike back.

Responding to the recall, Scott complained, "It's not a matter of bad decisions or misallocations, it's a matter of the budget just isn't big enough to cover all the demands on a growing district."

Well, duh. Unfortunately for Scott, he and his colleagues had many opportunities to comment on rezonings before the Board of Supervisors. And whenever that kind of opportunity came up, Amphi administrators typically told the Board of Supes they had no problem accommodating all the new students. So when did Scott, who has served on the Amphi Board for 23 years, finally figure out the impact of all that growth on taxes and budgets?

MORE BABIES BE GOOD: Just to prove how clueless some of our educators can be, Marana School District Superintendent Wade McLean takes a different view than Scott. At a recent forum in Marana concerning the dangers of the pygmy owl to the well-being of the Growth Lobby, McLean was quoted in the morning daily as saying: "Growth is good because every new student brings the district more revenue."

Right, Wade. That's why your high-growth district just raised property taxes again. The thought that guys like you actually oversee the curriculum for math and economics is pretty scary.

TAXATION WITHOUT ANNEXATION: Tortolita's ever-diligent Town Marshall Lou Benson, like many other folks living way up there along the valley's northwestern corridor, drops a few bucks on pizza, video rentals, groceries and such in the new ABCO shopping center at Thornydale and Linda Vista. Being well-attuned to which local jurisdiction claims what, has annexed what else, and is in court fighting about the rest, Benson knew that the entire shopping center, including the Chevron station and the fast-food joint across from Mountain View High School, is indisputably within unincorporated Pima County.

So Benson was shocked when he noticed that the Grandma Tony's where he'd bought numerous pizzas over the past couple of months was charging him an extra 2 percent sales tax for the Town of Marana. And furthermore, Marana had issued a new business license when the restaurant moved from its prior location at Ina and Thornydale within Marana.

Several other businesses, including the Blockbuster Video, were also collecting the unnecessary tax and the Town of Marana was happily just taking their money. Lest anyone think that Marana was simply too incompetent to know where their own borders lie, their response the first time a police call came in from the same shopping center was an immediate referral to the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Most of these businesses have stopped hijacking customers for Marana's coffers. But the real question -- and story -- is the attitude of the Marana bureaucracy. That collection of dollars they were never entitled to would be a crime if done by a private citizen.

Maybe somebody should call the cops. Make that the sheriff.

TUSD HURDLE: You might have noticed a little gem on Dale Frederick in the Clay Hitchcock installment of Greg Hansen's excellent series on the century's 10 significant sports figures in Tucson in The Arizona Daily Star. A 1964 graduate of Pueblo High School, Frederick is a true success story who could likely whip the Tucson Unified School District into shape. Hansen noted Frederick's accomplishments in his profile of Hitchcock, the great Pueblo track coach and teacher.

Hitchcock molded Frederick into a champion in the high hurdles. He was the Western Athletic Conference champ, runner-up in the NCAA and a near-miss for the 1968 Olympics. Frederick was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and then became a biology teacher. Frederick was a principal at Rincon High School and went on to become the superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. He's closer now, running the state's largest school district in Mesa.

Meanwhile, George Garcia, the Kansas City export who sits in the TUSD superintendent's chair, recently did what he does best: pocketed another raise, this one for 3.7 percent, to bring his salary to $127,817. Only TUSD Board Member Rosalie Lopez dissented. She had the revolutionary idea that the Board should review Garcia's performance before handing him another raise. Too radical apparently for Board President Mary Belle McCorkle, who shouted down Lopez and defended the action by repeatedly saying it's always been done this way.

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