The Skinny

STAR GAZING: They cried last week in the newsroom of The Arizona Daily Star, the Pulitzer Co.'s cash cow, when the heads began to roll. Real tears, we're told, for the protest resignation by Ann-Eve Pedersen, the beloved and talented city editor for a little more than two years.

Pedersen was joined by photo editor Linda Seegar Salazar and Salazar's deputy.

They dissented to the increasingly Gannettized direction the morning rag will take under the new regime of editor and publisher Jane Amari. Tops on that list is the planned daily California Page that is needed, the consultants say, to lure readers who have moved here from the Left Coast. Remember the goofy Canadian Report, a weekly column the Star ran until the early 1980s to pacify snowbirds? The new gimmick sounds as stupid as the one developed in 1995 to attract readers: reporters were told to quote women who were in their 20s and early 30s.

Pedersen succeeded John Silva, who held the city desk longevity record at 10 years. A Tucson Citizen refugee who jumped the Gannett ship in 1993, Pedersen is bright and hard-working. She regularly cleaned the Star's clock while covering courts and then City Hall for the Citizen. After compiling several key investigative stories at the Star, she moved to the city desk as an assistant and then turned down a city desk job at the San Francisco Examiner to take over from Silva.

Pedersen, who is married to the politically active lawyer Peter Eckerstrom, originally was going to remain through December. But she'll be able to celebrate her 34th birthday on December 12 at home. Her departure was moved up -- to immediately -- a couple days after her announcement.

And now the real wailing has begun. Metro reporters and editors, who have been sworn to secrecy, have undergone person reorientation sessions led by Dennis Joyce, one of three assistant managing editors. (The others are Randy Wright, plucked by the Star from some Idaho paper, and Chuck Kramer, the resident anopheles -- look it up -- mosquito.

The reward for Keith Bagwell, a former longtime environmental reporter who performed well on the court beat and most recently at City Hall, was a clear demotion to night cops. That's the sort of beat given to 1) a hot-shot crime reporter who actually wants to produce something, 2) new hires, or 3) UA journalism interns. Bagwell got the assignment on Friday. By Monday, Bagwell, a Star reporter since 1986, was saying adios.

Who's replacing Bagwell on the city government beat? Nobody! Seems the Star management figures they don't need both a city and county reporter, so the mighty Joe Burchell will be picking up both beats.

Similar shabby treatment for Tony Davis, who was ordered to pack up from the downtown bureau and move to the northwest bureau while incongruously refocusing his coverage on inner-city matters. This is a real malicious screwing. Davis, one of the finest reporters anywhere, has provided miles of critical coverage on sprawl, developer greed and the pygmy owl. This one smells like the Star's new corporate hitmen are carrying out orders from the Growth Lobby and legendary land speculator Donald Diamond.

Rhonda Bodfield Sander, who provided outstanding coverage of the mayoral campaign this year while also writing everything else thrown her way, also will pack up. Lured away from the Citizen by Pedersen and allowed to flourish at the Star, Bodfield Sander will pull another stint in Phoenix at the Star's turnstile Capitol bureau.

Back home, B.J. Bartlett is out as sports editor and will lead a northwest edition crew. Tom Beal, the columnist in exile, will return to the city desk he was tossed from 13 years ago, not long after he set a Star field goal record with his late Friday kick of a waste can after then-editor Steve Auslander spiked a story on a southside polluter. Beal will be an assistant city editor, but he lucks out by working out of the downtown bureau.

Speaking of Auslander: he's content with his canning and happy to be back in editorial, where he produces such wild errors as the one where he moaned about traffic problems and claimed "city voters" rejected a bond issue in 1990 for transportation improvements. When did we annex Ajo? Actually, it was a countywide vote on a half-cent sales tax that was crushed by 61 percent to 39 percent.

SECOND WIND: New Mayor Bob Walkup and his City Council will now pay a bundle for screwing City Manager Luis Gutierrez with threats of ouster. Walkup and his pals wanted a fresh start without Luis. So Gutierrez announced his resignation last month and Walkup thought he'd have his pick, John Nachbar.

But Nachbar took the money -- $135,000 vs. $130,000 -- and the stability of a city manager's post in Overland Park, Kansas, to be near family. Gutierrez will stay until a successor is named. A city code amendment will allow him to stick with his retirement and collect the $85,000 a year while also getting his usual $130,000 in annual pay. We like it: $215,000 for a $130,000 job.

Now he should hire former County Manager Enrique Serna as his deputy. Serna is a gifted, gracious man who added private sector work to his résumé after he left county government in 1993. In a short time the Council will have an easy time naming a new manager.

CRIME COSTS: No one disputes that Sheriff Clarence Dupnik needs more cops. The ever-declining ratio of officers to population in the unincorporated areas has now hit about half the national average. But it also seems no one wants to discuss what causes the problem.

In supporting Dupnik's plea to the Board of Supervisors to cash in on a federal grant for $4.7 million, The Arizona Daily Star editorial staff (which has hardly ever seen an expenditure it didn't like) has urged the supes to cough up the measly $2.3 million in matching funds over the next three years. Where does the money comes from? That's the Board's problem, but the Star is ready to support raising the sales tax.

Well, there are a couple things both Dupnik and the Star leave out.

While both concede that the county taxpayer will eat the full cost of the new deputies after the first three years, neither disclose the full cost of their employment. Deputies do not exist in a vacuum; they require support personnel, from dispatchers to forensics techs to computer geeks. And they use equipment -- cars, radios, guns and computers.

And we expect those new deputies will be doing their job, which is busting perps. That increases a whole bunch of other costs for more corrections officers, prosecutors and even public defenders, all of whom require their own support personnel. Which will also have an impact on the budgets of the county attorney, the jail and the entire court system.

Major Marty Cramer, who's also the mayor of the Village of Casas Adobes, says that Pima County adds 20,000 new people every year, which is causing the need for more cops.

We thank Marty and Clarence for once more illustrating what we've been trying to get across to this whole damn valley: growth doesn't pay for itself.

Yes, we've already had growth. The need for more cops is real. And it will cost us a lot of money. But to myopically continue to act like growth is inevitable while subsidizing and encouraging it is irresponsible. Growth can be restrained and it can pay more of its own costs without simply raising taxes for everybody. Try instituting impact fees and reforming a pro-development tax structure. Try saying no to more rezonings and development. Try hammering the hacks in the state Legislature for some real reforms with the corrupt state Land Department. There are many options.

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