The Skinny

CALL THE SPCA: Yet another glossy Tucson magazine covering food and the restaurants that advertise in it--Arizona Gourmet--spins interesting tales at Evangelo's, that quirky Greek joint housed in the former Scordato's. Here's just a sample that is certain to leave an aftertaste, or at least afterthought:

"Peter speaks with an unmistakably Continental sensuality as he notes that recipes don't have much of a place in his kitchen. 'Cooking, my friend, is like making love,' he says. 'There is no decision to be made. You don't think should I do this or do this? You just do your tricks and if it works then you've got a meal.'"

Hold on while writer Keith Turausky then allows chef Peter Vassious to discuss how he prepared that day's entree.

"'I've been in this business since I was a kid,' Peter says, 'and I do different things all the time. What I did today was think, what is the best way to do the lamb right now? Never mind yesterday and the day before.'"

Uh, no thanks.

Peter and his brother, Evangelo, claim in the article that while in their native Greece they served the Onassis family, and Peter also boasts of "serving meals to the nation's kings."

"When the kingdom split up," Evangelo continues -- Huh? Split up? We don't think this dynamic duo was around when Alexander the Great perished on his way back from India. Will somebody tell Arizona Gourmet that Greece didn't "split up," not after the military coup dumped King Constantine in April 1967 and not when the civilian government resumed control seven years later?

TURNING TO LOCAL KINGDOMS: To most things political Big Ed Moore used to advise: "There's a lot of humor in it."

Sure is with the Police Chief Dickey Miranda's Fourth Avenue riot review panel. Jaime Gutierrez has resurfaced from the oblivion, albeit lucrative, that is the University of Arizona bureaucracy to serve as a moderator for the review board. This is timely political profiling for the former state senator, who is moving and acting like he wants to run for congress next year.

Gutierrez reportedly hates his UA gig as an assistant vice president for community relations (what a joke) although it pays him $96,000 a year. That's a hell of a boost from the $15,000 he made as a state pol.

His flirting with a congressional run sets up a battle with someone he ducked from 13 years ago. Raúl Grijalva, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, snatched the District 5 board seat away from Gutierrez in 1988 and also wants to run for congress. Add state Sen. Elaine Richardson, a West University Democrat who, we're pleased to see, is not shaking in her boots at the thought of facing Grijalva in a primary.

Much depends on the shape of new congressional districts that are being drawn with new census figures. But all the early jockeying has rekindled our memories of that fun spring of 1988:

The beloved Sam Lena left the southside District 2 Board of Supervisors post to head up the Tucson office of his old pal, Gov. Rose Mofford. Grijalva took himself out of consideration for that Democratic appointment--it went to Lena capo Dan Eckstrom. And three-term Democrat David Yetman declared his burnout. That opened up the UA, westside and southside district to Grijalva--then two years off the Tucson Unified School District Board. He had calculated such a run, moving in mid-April that year from a house on South Ninth Avenue in District 2 to his current residence on West Ohio Street in District 5. He had taken care of party business 11 years earlier, when he abandoned La Raza Unida to become a Democrat.

And so, as Grijalva and his aides jeered Gutierrez, the anointed one, and said, not very quietly, that they went to Jamie's and pissed (politically, we trust) in his yard.

As political power shifted in the Senate, Gutierrez, a pretty boy of the first order, had an excuse. He was needed in Phoenix. It was good enough to serve as one of the reasons used in Gutierrez's defense when he made his "I'm not running for the Board of Supervisors" announcement, a concession to Grijalva, really. No less than U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, the Tucson Democrat then running for his third and final term, anchored that show on a Sunday at the Arizona Inn.

But Gutierrez really wanted a local job with bigger money. After all, Grijalva's board salary, starting in 1989 at $36,000, was more than double that of pay for state senators. (Supes' pay increased to $42,000 over that term and now is $54,600, plus a bundle of bennies including a new SUV and all the gas it needs.) Gutierrez was going to make Big Macs as a protégé of local McDonald's jefe Jose Canchola, but his franchise never materialized. He made another move for mo' money in 1992 with a run for Justice of the Peace. That failed when his nominating petitions were worthless--a real embarrassment for an experienced pol who was then the head of the Senate Finance Committee.

But Gutierrez managed to land on his feet at the UA, which also provided a haven for Grijalva after he left his city job at El Pueblo Neighborhood Center.

Let's get ready to rumble.

POPPED: Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano's office has opened a preliminary investigation of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Border Patrol to determine whether the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol has violated the Randolph-Sheppard Act. That piece of law requires all federal facilities to share a portion of their vending-machine revenue to benefit the legally blind. The investigation comes on the heels of the Weekly's March 22 article "Blind Man's Bluff."

The Border Patrol has vending machines at 11 locations within the sector. The annual revenue from the junk-food treasure chests could add up to big bucks now that the Border Patrol has become a major employer in Southern Arizona.

For example, in the southeastern corner of the state, the once-tiny Douglas Station has grown from 35 agents in 1994 to more than 600 troopers today. That figure includes agents temporarily assigned, or "detailed," from other stations. Douglas is now the largest Border Patrol station in the nation.

Even with the phenomenal growth of personnel within the sector, BP officials continue to insist that many of their facilities are exempt from the Randolph-Sheppard Act because their machines do not produce the requisite level of income to be covered by the law. Officials say the Randolph-Sheppard Act focuses on revenue from individual as machines opposed to individual facilities. There's the rub.

Otis Stevenson of the Arizona Business Enterprise Program, the state agency that oversees the Randolph-Sheppard Act for the benefit of the visually impaired, is on the Border Patrol's side; he told the Skinny the law does not refer to income from individual vending machines.

But if the AG's preliminary investigation determines that an individual INS facility generates $3,000 or more in annual income, it's very likely the Tucson Sector will be compelled to comply with the act.

Retired Border Patrol agent Dave Stoddard, a former supervisor at the Naco Station, recalls monies from the vending machines being used as a "slush fund" by the boss of the Naco Station. Stoddard says not only was the money never shared with agencies serving the blind, as prescribed by the Randolph-Sheppard Act, but as far as he was aware, no one ever kept records or accounted for the money from the machines.

As far as we can tell, the Border Patrol still has not turned over its financial records to substantiate its financial position. The sector has provided investigators only with numerical estimates. For good reason: It's doubtful if any financial records exist.

OPHIDIAPHOBIA: USA Baseball has put the city on notice that it will entertain offers to abandon its Hi Corbett Field training headquarters. Adios! That would open the quaint, central city park to once again host minor league baseball from April into September. The Tucson Sidewinders, struggling at Pima County's Tucson Electric Park, could slither to Hi Corbett solving two problems. It would give the city a replacement that will certainly pay more than USA Baseball, and the county would be relieved of the Sidewinders, money losers at the county park and more than a pest to county officials. The county could then put the stadium out to bid or rent it for special events. Under the current scheme, the county would not lose the money it is losing with the Sidewinders.

One issue of contention between the Sidewinders and the county is parking. The contract calls for Zucker to pay the county 15 percent of the parking take if attendance for the season is below 200,000 and it has not cracked that figure in three years. Zucker waived the parking fee and instead pays the county $11,500, a figure that is based on what was paid by former owner Martin Stone in 1998 and 1999. Zucker is running slightly above the 2,777.7 he needs to hit the 200,000 mark. Attendance figures Zucker released last week show 69,964 fans at 24 dates through May 20. And the April 6 game was rained out. The average is 2,915. Stone, when demanding supervisors approve his lopsided contract four years ago, said he needed 250,000 in season attendance to break even.

A bright spot at the ballpark is Sidewinders manager Tom Spencer. He's a real Tucsonan--his wife teaches at Wakefield. And the humble Spencer is the son-in-law of THE coach, Rudy Castro.

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