The Skinny

WALKUP SHOOTS SELF IN FOOT: Last Sunday's morning daily brought us the headline: "Walkup to gun enthusiasts: Kindly holster your support." It seems a group of folks were beating up Molly McKasson for her stands on gun control and urging voters to support Republican Bob Walkup in the mayoral contest. These anonymous campaigners distributed a handout saying Walkup supported the Second Amendment and was a member of the NRA. Walkup has declined their support, telling the paper he doesn't belong to the NRA, a group he said was from "the right-wing part of politics."

What could possibly have given all those NRA types a false impression of Walkup? Perhaps it was his highly visible presence at the Friends of the NRA Dinner a couple of months ago, where he schmoozed with the several hundred members present. When he was table-hopping that night, he surely realized most of those folks were voters, and he worked hard to win their support.

We call that "pandering," and when candidates get caught playing both sides of a major issue, both sides end up disgusted with them. Walkup's half-assed dance on the gun-control issue isn't going to impress anybody, whatever side of the gun issue they happen to support.

Walkup was later quizzed on John C. Scott's radiofiesta by Scott Woods, a firearms enthusiast with the gun-loving Brassroots group. Woods wanted to know if Walkup supported the city's ban on guns in parks. After some sidestepping, Walkup eventually said he would tell us exactly where he stood on the issue -- and proceeded to hem and haw before revealing that if he were to be elected, he would consult with law-enforcement officers before making a decision.

Gun enthusiasts will now react in two ways. The more principled will vote for Libertarian Ed Kahn, while the more practical will actually vote for McKasson as a payback for Walkup's two-faced actions. Why? So that when she kicks his butt, they can claim they helped do it -- a great lesson for the next flake to learn about taking a dive.

PRIME CUTS: The Amphi School Board finally bowed to pressure last month and agreed to a 5 percent raise for the disgracefully underpaid teachers in the district.

Now it's a matter of finding the money for the raises -- which could prove to be a tricky feat. Board member Gary Woodard says the district should ask voters to approve a budget override, but similar attempts have failed in the recent past, even before Woodard and his cronies on the Board flushed Amphi's former bright reputation down the toilet.

The Board majority gave in to progressive members Nancy Young Wright and Ken Smith and created a 16-member budget committee to find cuts in Amphi's budget.

We've got a few suggestions for them to consider:

· Board members and administrators should stop calling outside attorneys every time they want justification for their stupid behavior. Attorney Barry Corey has been paid tens of thousands of dollars to draft tortuous legal opinions, like the one that suggested an open call-to-the-audience segment at the beginning of meetings was illegal. (Attorney General Janet Napolitano shot that one down as soon as it reached her desk.)

· Administrators might give up their cell phones. District sources suggest the bills have run as high as $20,000 annually.

· Administrators could give up some of their junkets to summer conferences in places like Vail, Colorado. We're sure it contributes to their professional advancement and all, but if the budget is as tight as administrators say it is, maybe teachers could come first for a change.

· Board members could give up their travel allowance, saving the district another $10,000.

· Superintendent Bob "Bubba" Smith could give up some of his $8,000 annual expense account. That's about a third of a starting teacher's annual pay; given that Smith is already "earning" more than $94,000 a year before his numerous benefits are calculated into the mix, we doubt he'd go hungry without that $8K.

We know it's just a start, but it's a lot more money than a bake sale is likely to raise.

SPEEDY TRIAL? It's been a year since the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard attorneys for the Defenders of Wildlife and the Amphi School District argue their case concerning the district's attempt to build a high school on the edge of habitat for the endangered cactus ferruginous pygmy owl.

The cash-strapped school district has blown a bundle defending their ill-considered purchase of the parcel, which is on the corner of Shannon and Naranja roads. Although the district won the first round here in U.S. District Court, environmentalists won an injunction preventing construction until they could appeal the decision.

Recently, Amphi attorneys asked the court to make a decision, arguing that the crowded conditions at CDO could turn the campus into another Columbine. The court said they would issue a decision one way or the other by the end of the month.

Of course, that might not be the end of the story: the losing side could still appeal that decision, which means a trip to the Supreme Court -- a lengthy and expensive process.

STOP 'EM BEFORE THEY MAIL AGAIN: The gang at Tucson Water is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to spiff up its tarnished image. That's money that comes from ratepayers like you being used for television ads, radio spots and direct mail pieces all telling you that all is well at Tucson Water.

We're sure this propaganda campaign isn't designed to influence voters. It's just coincidental that Tucson Water's rep will be a key factor in whether Prop 200 passes on the November 2 election.

We mentioned the giant water quality report last week. Soon after, Tucson Water dropped another mailer explaining what the utility had done to make you all safe from radon gas. That mailer included a tear-off card for the terminally gullible to return.

Gee, it almost looks like a get-out-the-vote device to us. But Tucson Water officials wouldn't do that, would they? Those returned cards will no doubt be safely locked away and the list will never be turned over to anyone.

NICHOLS FOR YOUR THOUGHTS: State Rep. Andy Nichols is looking to advance to the Senate in northeast Tucson's District 13. A Democrat, Nichols announced the formation of an exploratory committee for his Senate run earlier this week.

The D13 Senate seat is now held by Democrat George Cunningham, who is weighing a run for U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe's District 5 seat. Cunningham, who has been plagued with health problems over the last year, may face a primary with Tom Volgy, the former Tucson mayor who lost to Kolbe in 1998.