The Skinny

MR. ELLER: TEAR DOWN THIS BILLBOARD! Just as The Skinny predicted last week, Eller Media has grossly failed to meet the court-ordered July 31 deadline to remove 14 of its illegal eyesores. From the reports that have come in from Skinny-deputized billboard monitors, here is the tally, as of press time:

Of the 11 illegal billboards that were originally ordered by the court to be removed by December 29, 1999, nine remain untouched in their blighting glory and two have been partially removed. As for the three losers that Eller threw in to buy the extra seven months on the original eleven, Eller so graciously removed two ultra-dogs and partially removed a third.

We also hear that Tucson Electric Power has not disconnected the electricity to any of the illuminated billboards--a clear sign that Eller has no intention of complying with the deadline.

Some of this may be old news by now, as The Skinny's swift kick in the butt last week appears to have finally gotten the mainstream media on the story. Even Channel 4 teased the story all through prime time on Monday night--but pulled it by the 10 o'clock news. Could it have anything to do with the giant heads of its news team looming above the city on the illegal billboard at 6450 E. Grant Road?

It seems clear that if Eller Media can't get its way by bullying local government, the legislature and even the courts, it just acts as if it is a sovereign nation that does not answer to any of them. Kind of reminds us of those giant billboards that have messages from God--except in this case, they forget to tell you it is Karl Eller who actually thinks he is God. Guess that's what comes from having the University of Arizona name a building and an entire department after you, after you've tearfully given them a gazillion dollars.

The Skinny hopes that by the time you read this, attorneys from the City of Tucson will be in Superior Court seeking an order of contempt against Eller.

CHRISTOPHER CITY COUNTDOWN: Last week's article "Gimme Shelter," examining the plight of soon-to-be evicted residents of UA's Christopher City housing complex, seems to have gotten some attention. The day after the story ran, the remaining residents of the complex were given eviction notices signed by Jim Van Arsdel, director of Residence Life for the UA. The notice said there would be no extensions to the August 31 deadline for people to clear out of Christopher City. If squatters attempted to remain, they would be targeted with "legal action."

At the same time, however, the university is starting to dig into its very deep pockets to pay bigger cash settlements to those who still remain at the complex. While they have given the tenants the run-around on exactly what the lovely parting gifts will be, some residents have been told they will receive thousands of dollars more than originally indicated by the UA.

These payments come over the objection of Van Arsdel, whom Christopher City residents characterize as pinching every penny he can from the financially poor residents. But sources also tell us that Van Arsdel's office is the subject of a current internal probe looking into allegations of financial impropriety.

University officials insist that all monetary arrangements for the remaining Christopher City residents must be determined on an individual basis. They've done what they can to ensure that those tenants don't talk among themselves about the latest turns of the screw, including locking up the paper for the copy machine so residents can't use it to notify others of organizational meetings to discuss their options. How petty can you get?

IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF PLAGIARISM: As we've all heard, identity theft is on the rise--and the latest victim is The Skinny itself.

Earlier this week, the Arizona Repugnant (motto: Fiercely Defending The Status Quo!) debuted a new column, which runs down the left side on the front page of the Smart Living section. The name of this new column? You guessed it: The Skinny.

The one true Skinny, of course, is the rabid examination of the community zeitgeist you're reading right now. We've been poking and prodding the body politic in these pages since 1991.

The Repugnant's rather fluffy Skinny promises, according to editor Scott Craven (we'll forgo the obvious slam), "to inform, entertain and be cribbed by morning news hosts." They're ones to talk about cribbing.

We know we're but a tiny newsweekly, beneath the notice of a mighty daily paper recently swallowed up for a gazillion bucks by an even mightier chain, Gannett. But really now: You'd think with those kinds of resources, they could employ creative people who could come up with original ideas. Or at least rip off papers in Minnesota, instead of stealing from a rag just two hours south.

But we're willing to be fair about the whole thing. We'll forget all about it as long as The Repugnant's staff considers us to be another high-priced content consultant and sends us a check for $280 million.

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