The Skinny

DEADLY POLICY: Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner Doris M. Meissner is in Tucson this week, no doubt to help spin the "success" of the Border Patrol's latest PR effort, Operation (we rescue, not kill) Safeguard.

If we're gullible enough, the BP spin docs would have us believe they are heroes for rescuing more than 1,000 border-crossers this year in the Tucson Sector--compared with 599 in FY 1999. In years prior to FY 1999, 12 deaths would have been considered high. With this year far from completed, 60 people seeking a better life have died while trying to enter into the U.S.

To help the Great Unwashed swallow this whopper, four PR specialists were assigned earlier this summer to work with the existing three public information officers in the Tucson Sector.

Their work done, the INS PR folk have left town, leaving the Border Patrol to do God's work.

But hold on--Ron Sanders, the former Tucson Sector Chief of the Border Patrol and the former chief of the (Sector) Chiefs Association, says it is the INS border policy that is the real killer.

Since 1994, the year this strategy was first implemented by the Border Patrol, more than 1,500 people have died along the length of our border with Mexico trying to cross into the U.S., according to Sanders.

Sanders, who retired from the Border Patrol in 1999, told The Skinny that the "balloon strategy" of the Border Patrol, which squeezes or prevents people from attempting to cross the border in more populated areas such as Nogales or Douglas, forces the illegal aliens to cross the desert in the worst possible places.

What Commissioner Meissner needs to do, says Sanders, is own up to the fact that it is her border policy that is killing innocent people. If the policy doesn't change, more people will die. Spin that.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT: The Citizens for Growth Management won a round in court this week, when the Supreme Court ruled that the ballot description of the Citizens Growth Management Initiative was biased. The summary had been approved by the Legislative Council, a group of lawmakers who write the brief summaries of propositions that help voters understand the measures once they get into the ballot box.

In this case, the Legislative Council tossed out the description suggested by their own staff and replaced it with one drafted by Arizonans for Responsible Development, a Growth Lobby group campaigning against the proposition, which would require communities to establish urban growth boundaries and enact steep impact fees, among other provisions. (Representatives for Arizonans for Responsible Development officially kicked off their opposition campaign last week, calling themselves a "grassroots" organization, even as they're raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from various developers across the state.)

The Sierra Club, the primary backer of the Citizens Growth Management Initiative, sued to have the description changed. The high court agreed, ordering lawmakers to write a new description that didn't suggest that all our growth problems have been solved by the legislature's wimpy new Growing Smarter regulations.

In other court action, a portion of Growing Smarter may not make the ballot. Prop 100 would set aside up to 3 percent of state trust land for preservation. Opponents of the measure say the referendum amends too many sections of the constitution at once. (A similar argument is being made in court regarding two other initiative drives, one that would eliminate the state income tax, and one that would make life easier for Qwest, the phone company formerly known as U S West.)

Lawmakers put Prop 100 on the ballot in hopes of defusing the rising public tide against runaway growth. If the state Supreme Court kicks it off, it's likely to cut in favor the Citizens Growth Management Initiative--which polls showed 68 percent of the voters backing last week.

BOARD WAR CONTINUES: As The Skinny reported last week, Karl Eller's billboard cartel defied a court order by not removing 14 illegal billboards by the July 31 deadline. Only two of the eyesores were down, three were partially removed, and nine remained fully intact. In the full week since, only five more partial removals have occurred, while Eller's latest media flak has been whining that taking down half a billboard is somehow the same as irreversibly yanking the whole enchilada.

Well, maybe the Skinny has been too hard on Eller Media. Seems Eller's cranes have been just too damn busy. Skinny monitors sighted one crane posting new advertising copy on the billboard at 6450 E. Grant, two days after its July 31 removal deadline. (Which is a pretty far cry from taking the whole monster down). And another one was later sighted rebuilding an old rickety wooden billboard with steel reinforcements along I-10 east of Craycroft in the Pima County jurisdiction.

The new ad at 6450 E. Grant was for Compass Bank, which includes auto dealer Jim Click on its board. Was this supposed to be some kind of message? Click had muscled state legislators on Eller's behalf last session.

If so, the mayor and council didn't bite. On Monday, they directed city attorneys to continue to seek a contempt order against Eller at an August 21 court hearing. Even Eller's toady on the Council, Fred Ronstadt, voted for it.

In the face of this resolve, and the prospect of the city (incredibly) dismantling the blighted remnants with its own cranes, Eller next claimed that the four remaining advertising tops would be gone by August 9 and the 12 scattered support structures by August 17. Given Eller's track record, Skinny monitors will most certainly be watching.

LUCK OF THE DRAW: Local census officials will be whisked off to Las Vegas next week to thank them for all their good work on the soon-to-be-completed count. They will be wined and dined and applauded for the terrific job they did.

They'll leave behind, however, a growing number of people who fell victim to the Census Bureau's bait-and-switch payment scheme. Lots of census employees were told to work lots of hours in May and June so the count could be completed early, with the promise of being paid for their extra hours in July and August. But when the time came around to collect, these employees were told, "Tough luck."

Some of them aren't going quietly. One former census employee, who is owed thousands of dollars for his overtime work, is talking to attorneys about filing a lawsuit against the Census Bureau. At the same time, he is trying to get the state's Congressional delegation interested in this scam.

WRITE-IN WRITTEN OFF: The Arizona Democratic Party has been a bunch of bungling buffoons for years. While Republicans like Kathleen Dunbar, who's in a tough race for the District 13 state Senate seat, can count on help from huge soft-money campaigns, the statewide Democratic Party has been broke for years. It's also dysfunctional when it comes to helping its candidates in other ways.

So it came as no surprise when the Democrats couldn't even get a candidate to run against U.S. Senator Jon Kyl this November. Kyl is wrapping up his first term and could have been a vulnerable target. But the Democrats couldn't get a name on the ballot.

Now Stuart Starky is trying to mount a write-in campaign during the September primary in order to qualify himself as a Democratic candidate for the Senate on the November ballot. He'll need 4,500 write-in votes to do so.

This isn't Starky's first shot at trying to qualify for the race. He failed in June to gather enough petition signatures to get his name on the ballot.

But that doesn't deter him. He says the issues are too important to let Kyl have a free ride. Lotsa luck.

FORUM FOR YOU: Those growling watchdogs with the Pima Association of Taxpayers are sponsoring two candidate forums this month. The first is 1 to 4 p.m. this Saturday, August 12, at the River Center Library, 5605 E. River Road. Scheduled for battle at 1 p.m. are candidates for the District 1 seat on the Board of Supervisors (Democrats Byron Howard and John Crouch, Republicans Ann Day and Dan Schottel, and write-in candidate William Miller).

At 2 p.m., you can catch candidates for the District 13 Senate seat (Democrat Andy Nichols, Republican Kathleen Dunbar and Libertarian Wayne Sunne). Next up, at 2:45, are the candidates for the District 13 House seat (Democrats Colette Barajas, Ted Downing, Gabrielle Giffords and Howard Shore and Republicans Jonathan Paton and Carol Somers).

Mark your calendars for the next forum on Saturday, August 26, at the Woods Library, 3455 N. First Ave. Beginning at 1 p.m., you can see candidates for the Pima County Board of Supervisors from District 3 (Democrats Sharon Bronson and Dick Pacheco and Republican Barney Brenner) and District 5 (Democrats Raul Grijalva and Dan Medina and Republican Rosalie Lopez). Bronson, Grijalva and Lopez on the same stage? They oughta sell tickets!

At 2 p.m., candidates for state Senate in District 12 (Republicans Scott Alexander and Toni Hellon and Democrat Mark Osterloh) will debate, followed by District 12 House candidates (Republicans Pete Hershberger, Steve Huffman and Jane Madden and Democrats Craig Molloy and Mort Nelson).

VOTE NOTES: If you haven't registered to vote in the September 12 primary, the time is now. Deadline for joining the active voter rolls is August 14.

If you're registering at the last minute, County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez will make it as easy as ordering a Happy Meal. County staffers will be offering a drive-thru registration service in front of the glorious Old Pima County Courthouse, 115 N. Church Ave., from 5 p.m. until midnight on August 14.

Early voting begins on Thursday, August 10, so expect a flurry of campaign junk in the mailbox. To request an early ballot, call the Pima County Recorder's Office: 623-2649.

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