The Skinny

GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY: All smiles on election night, former Councilwoman Molly McKasson quoted Yogi Berra in a victory speech to supporters in her cramped, hot campaign headquarters on election night: "What we have here is an insurmountable opportunity."

Not even a final desperate attack from Mayor George Miller could slow down the McKasson machine, as she rode to a stunning victory on Tuesday night, picking up 45 percent of the vote in a four-way race in the Democratic primary.

McKasson's closest rival, utility bigwig Betsy Bolding, trailed McKasson by more than 10 points all night long, with current Councilwoman Janet Marcus getting only 12 percent of the vote and real-estate broker Pat Darcy finishing last with about 9 nine percent.

The outcome was easy to predict. McKasson was a popular councilwoman when she held office, although she had her share of political enemies. While it's tempting to suggest those forces splintered the anti-McKasson vote with three candidates, her strong showing suggests she would have beaten any of the candidates in a one-on-one race.

All four candidates ran clean campaigns, with the exception of Bolding's final radio spot, in which Miller went ballistic and attacked McKasson for not supporting a hate-crimes law. McKasson had concerns about the constitutionality of the law as it was initially proposed, although she eventually supported it.

Painting McKasson as pro-hate-crime was simply ludicrous -- and a clumsy move on the part of the Bolding campaign, which probably cost the candidate more votes than it won. After all, Miller hasn't had much muscle with the electorate in the last few years, on water, ward elections or backing Council candidates like Michael Crawford, who was bounced by voters two years ago in favor of Jerry Anderson.

The mostly clean campaigns mean there's less rancor among the Democrats than when Alison Hughes won a crowded Ward 6 Democratic primary two years ago. In that race, supporters of rival candidates sat out the general election, allowing Fred Ronstadt to become the first Republican to win a Council seat since Roy Laos retired in 1989.

If Republican Bob Walkup is hoping he'll benefit from a similar split, he'd better think again. McKasson is an experienced campaigner with a well-oiled machine. Supporters say the primary campaign came in under budget, which means she'll have money in the general to supplement her grass-roots campaigning style. While some Democrats in the Growth Lobby will support Walkup, McKasson will pick up votes from Republicans who don't like CAP water or Tucson's unrestrained growth policies.

FEAR FACTOR: We'd like to congratulate whoever feeds the headlines to the two dailies on the water issue. They've been so busy trying to scare Tucson voters into voting against November's Prop 200, which would extend restrictions on use of CAP water, that it may not have occurred to them that the headlines they've helped generate may also scare some other folks -- namely anybody with a decent business or industry thinking about moving here.

If you were planning to move a major corporation to a new town, wouldn't you have somebody checking their daily newspapers so you'd have information beyond what the GTEC guys tell you? The following are just a sampling of headlines you'd have read just on the front page alone:

· Tucson Citizen, August 18: "Radon fear: City may shut 40 percent of wells";

· Tucson Citizen, August 19: "Vote to shut down wells called political";

· Tucson Citizen, August 20: "EPA rules may force CAP use";

· Arizona Daily Star, August 27: "Pollutant rules may hit 90 percent of city water";

· Arizona Daily Star, September 1: "Arsenic more of a threat than radon to city water."

As hard as it is for the dorks who want to make everything around here into a golf course to grasp, this place is a desert that doesn't have a lot of water. Ask yourself this: wouldn't you think twice about relocating your operation to a town that has as big a water problem as the above headlines indicate?

ROCKY ROADBLOCK: Periodically, some keystone cops high up the ladder in state law enforcement get together with some of their colleagues in other agencies and squander some more of those badly needed cop-shop dollars on something stupid and counter-productive. One classic example is the DPS-led roadblock at Rocky Point during the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, which left many law-abiding vacationers baking in their cars for hours as the cops checked to find stolen cars. According to the morning daily, they found one stolen vehicle.

This idiotic scheme was supposedly set up by a multi-agency stolen car task force, but DPS appears to be in charge, with all the other agencies rolling over for them.

The net result of this causes lots of folks a long wait at the border choke point at Lukeville -- and hardly ever has this rather stupid operation ever found a stolen car. What it has done is show us just how power-hungry, macho and ineffective much of the top cop bureaucracy really is.

Judging from the results of this half-baked scheme, none of the professional cartheft gangs are driving stolen cars through Lukeville -- at least not on Labor Day weekend, when they know a row of cops will be awaiting them. Those same cops whose efforts are being wasted scaring off kids driving rental cars into Mexico could be better used somewhere really chasing down stolen cars.

We're sorry for those decent police officers whose time has been so wasted by the bozos who give them dumb orders. Motorists are willing to put up with the inconvenience of checkpoints, like for drunk drivers, when they see actual results. Hardly any have come from this loser operation and everyone inconvenienced by it should write, call or e-mail their state rep and senator to tell them to end it. The toll-free number for the Capitol: 1-800-352-8404.

HARDY EFFORTS: Kudos to local attorney Dave Hardy, whose persistent efforts have uncovered new evidence that -- surprise! -- the FBI lied to us when they said they never fired any shots into David Koresh's loony religious compound in Waco during the assault following that lengthy stand-off back in 1993.

We're baffled by the attitude of the overwhelming majority of the usually left-leaning media when it comes to that Waco debacle. From day one, they have behaved like PR flacks for the FBI and BATF. They seem to find it impossible to believe that federal law enforcement agencies could ever behave like Serb paramilitaries.

Why should federal cops behave any better towards a bunch of weird religious types than local cops treat folks they don't like or understand in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles? Why is this concept so hard to grasp, particularly now that we know federal cops have been lying about what went on? And why does that same media continue to classify all the casualties as "cult members" when many of them were children, some as young as six months?

Letting President Clinton and Attorney General Reno skate on their responsibility is an interesting rewrite of principle. A whole lot of Germans tried to claim after WWII that they weren't guilty of committing any atrocities because "they were only following orders." Clinton and Reno have a new spin on that -- seems they're not guilty of anything based on the argument that they were just giving the orders.

MORE AMPHI ANTICS: Negotiations have collapsed between teachers and administrators in the Amphi School District, with administrators giving teachers a take-it-or-leave-it offer of a 1.1 percent raise. The teachers union decided they were mad as hell and they weren't going to take it, meaning the matter will now go to mediation.

It's yet another controversy for the Amphi district, which has had more than its share in recent years. Those controversies -- ranging from endangered pygmy owls halting school construction to squelching the rights of citizens to speak in an open call to the audience at Board meetings -- have led to a recall against Amphi Board members Gary Woodard, Richard Scott and Virginia Houston.

Amphi teachers have long been paid disgraceful wages near the bottom of the education scale in Tucson -- a funny thing, since it seems the district finds additional dollars when it comes time to hand out raises and bonuses to top administrators.

And there are other examples of waste, like hiring 'round-the-clock security guards to protect the land tied up in that still-unresolved court fight to build a new high school in pygmy owl habitat. Or the $1 million the district spent three years ago to acquire a hazwaste-ridden building it now wants to sell. Yes, some of these dollars come from funds that couldn't be spent on teachers -- but the money could certainly be used to improve deteriorating facilities around the district.

At the same time district officials are telling teachers they don't have enough money to pay them a decent wage, they've stepped up attempts to move the entire district to a "modified calendar" that will shorten summer vacations while giving kids three-week breaks in October, over the year-end holidays and in the spring.

Boosters of the modified calendar claim kids retain more of what they've been taught without a long summer break, although there's no evidence of that in test scores at the various Amphi schools where the modified calendar is already in place.

Opponents of the plan say it's more expensive, with cooling bills alone driving up the district's utility costs -- a valid argument, given that the district is crying poverty in its negotiations with its teachers.

Beyond that, critics of the plan say it makes life more difficult for students who participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities.

If it's a question of paying teachers or a utility company, which will the Board majority choose? We're afraid it's probably the latter.

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