The Skinny

CHARTER CRASH: The Tucson City Council unexpectedly dumped the idea of putting three amendments to the city charter on the November ballot earlier this week. Instead, the council unanimously voted to assemble a citizens committee to look at a host of possible charter changes.

The proposed three changes would have created non-partisan elections, expanded the current six wards to eight and expanded the power of the mayor in small but significant ways (see "Charter Chatter," June 7).

Supporters of the changes were touting poll numbers that showed roughly 70 percent of the voters would support the amendments. But that was before a number of local organizations began questioning the changes and pointing fingers at the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, a group of local bigwigs that was pushing the council to put the question on the ballot. Somebody must have figured out which way the wind was blowing--and recognized that a strong negative campaign might not only defeat the charter amendments, but also increase Democratic turnout in the general election, which would hurt Republican council candidates Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar. Perhaps the members of the Leadership Council did the math and figured out they were better off taking their chances of winning council seats than in changing the charter.

PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE WOMAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN: The Arizona Daily Star editorial page staffers must be particularly disappointed at the city council's decision to flush the charter changes. The sage minds at the morning daily had written several editorials boosting the charter changes (most recently last Sunday), calling arguments against them "nonsense" and "unfair, divisive and irresponsible."

The Star also complained that opponents to the charter changes were wrong to point out that the amendments came straight from the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

Oddly, at no point did the Star point out that one of the few female "leaders" on the Leadership Council is Arizona Daily Star publisher Jane Amari. Wonder if that had anything to do with the Star's eagerness to unquestionably support the charter changes?

ZERO TOLERANCE RUN AMOK: In a community where horror stories about the lack of government programs for kids pop up almost on a daily basis, children's advocates are apparently too busy hustling more money for themselves and sucking up to politicians to bother being publicly appalled about the worst case of child persecution we've seen.

State law now makes it a felony to disrupt "the peaceful conduct of an educational institution." A staggering 514 Pima County students have been arrested this year under this law, passed in the wake of the Columbine shooting tragedy and mandated by the federal government's "order" to do something or risk losing funding. We find the number shocking not for the "crimes" it supposedly represents, but for the mentality of those doing the prosecuting.

Think about the above terminology. Anyone with a pulse has "disrupted" an educational institution in some fashion at some time. The state Legislature pandered to media hysteria and passed the buck after Congress pandered and passed the buck, all ignoring the simple fact that school violence has been steadily declining for years, despite the few high-profile cases.

The real problem here and throughout America isn't school violence. It's the gutless political sluts who pass these stupid laws giving an inordinate number of kids juvie records over trivial actions, causing the countless "zero tolerance" horror stories that fill the pages and airtime of the same inept national media that helped bring them about with their earlier fear-mongering.

Pima County is much worse. We bust more kids here than is done in all of Maricopa County, meaning our local law enforcement is over five times more rigid than in the Phoenix area. Even the usually pro-cop Tucson Citizen opined that the law was being "abused here."

Great, but in 18 column inches of damning prose, they never could quite bring themselves to name who the principal local child abuser is. Try the Pima County Attorney's Office, which could drop most of these trivial cases, but chooses instead to proudly be in the front rank of the feel-safe fascists. Think about that next time County Attorney Barbara LaWall does her "macha pose" on the plea-bargaining issue.

MAY WE SEE YOUR PAPERS, PLEASE? Joel Valdez grew up a few blocks from where the 10-story City Hall he ruled until 1990 was built. This spring, Valdez, now vice president for financial affairs at the UA, returned to see City Manager James Keene.

Valdez was stiffed by the freshman manager, the fifth in the executive suite (Tom Wilson, Ruben Suarez, Mike Brown, Luis Gutierrez) since Valdez retired. Adding to the insult were the Pedus Security goofs on the first floor, who demanded to see Valdez' ID before they would allow him to hop onto one of the building's creaky elevators, which also are now staffed by a Pedus officer. And she doesn't even operate the thing. During a ride last week, she was working on a book of word games.

It is insulting to require Valdez, or anybody else, to show ID to go see elected or appointed officials. County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, also a Tucson native, was similarly stopped when she was invited to a session in 1999 with then-Mayor George Miller. Rodriguez wondered aloud if the INS were working City Hall and then left, saying if she needed to show ID as a native and a three-term Recorder in an office in the same plaza, that she didn't really need to go to City Hall.

City Hall security checkpoints were installed by Miller and Gutierrez. But Republican Mayor Bob Walkup and his boy deputy, Andrew Greenhill, have tightened it.

Here's an idea: The next time a council member, be it Republican Fred Ronstadt or Democrat Steve Leal, trespasses on your property and comes a-knockin' for your vote, demand to see some ID and have them sign in. See how they like it.

A final note to Commander Keene: You should have kept the appointment with Valdez. He could have, just in passing, helped you get your budget through with a fraction of the huge trouble you are having now. Strike three streaked by last week when your $72-a-year garbage collection fee was scrapped. That followed the trashing of your other proposals to cut bus service and to impose a renters' tax.

SHOW THEM THE MONEY: Reporters at the Arizona Daily Star are wondering just where is all that big money Assistant Managing Editor Dennis Joyce says they make. Attempting to open up to readers in a piece about how teacher pay stacks up against pay in other fields, reporter Sarah Garrecht Gassen wrote that beginning Star reporters make "about $31,000 a year; those with 10 years at the paper are paid about $41,000 a year, and those with 20 years make roughly $52,000."

We, and a number of Star reporters, hope that Garrecht Gassen is more skeptical with officials on her regular beat--higher ed--than she was with Joyce, who was blowing smoke. There are only two reporters/writers at the Star with 20 years. And the $52,000 benchmark is a lot less certain than even "rough." Few of those with 10 years are making $41,000.

The story also cited average annual pay--$35,000--for a county probation officer and used Melissa Larson, who actually makes $32,582. The Star's information came from Juvi PR woman Gabriella Rico, a onetime Tucson Citizen court reporter who, the Star failed to say, collects $40,468 a year from county taxpayers. That isn't too much for Rico. By most accounts, she does a good job.

OPEN MOUTH, INSERT FOOT: County Democratic boss David Bradley screwed up last week when he suggested that Pima County gets the short end of the stick in Washington because the District 2 Rep. Ed Pastor lives in Phoenix. Bradley showed he's got much more on-the-job training to complete. While he may not visit all that often, Pastor has been generous to Pima County since winning the three-way Democratic primary to fill Mo Udall's seat in 1991. He has delivered millions in sewer, road, flood control and other public works projects and has helped communities from Littletown to Ajo. His rapport with the former philanderer-in-chief Bill Clinton helped. And give credit where it is due: Much of Pastor's work for Pima County is a result of Democratic Supervisor Dan Eckstrom's cultivation.

ONE MORE TIME: Gov. Jane Dee Hull's Vision 21 transportation task force says we need $61 billion for more roads for all those new people we have coming here and proposes an increase in sales and gasoline taxes (along with a small impact fee on new homes) to pay for it. Meanwhile, Pima County will now start charging citizens/subjects two bucks and up a trip for the privilege of using the county's landfills because all those new folks on the northwest side and elsewhere were adding more trash.

We still don't understand this, so could some cementhead or Growth Lobby-paid spinmeister stooge please write in and explain to us: How it is that GROWTH PAYS FOR ITSELF?

APOLOGIES TO BATHSHEBA: The Skinny obviously needs to crack open the Old Testament a little more often. It came to us in the middle of the night, but well after the presses for last week's issue were rolling. Don Awerkamp, the Tucson lawyer up against the University of Arizona legal giant, did not have his power robbed at his last haircut. The Skinny mistakenly called Awerkamp the Samson in his fight against the UA Goliath. We meant that he is the slingshot-wielding David in that battle. Apologies also to the late Victor Mature and Gregory Peck.

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