The Skinny

DASH FOR CASH: One sure sign of campaign organization in city elections is an application for city matching funds. To open the floodgates for a dollar-for-dollar match of privately raised contributions, candidates must collect a minimum of 200 contributions of at least $10 from city residents. Participating candidates must limit spending to about $84,000.

The first candidate to apply was Democrat Gayle Hartmann, who is seeking to unseat Republican Fred Ronstadt in midtown Ward 6. As of her most recent filing, Hartmann had raised a little more than $35,000.

Hartmann still trailed Ronstadt, who reported $44,534 in contributions as of May 31. Ronstadt has also applied for matching funds.

In Ward 3, Republican Kathleen Dunbar, who had a comfortable fundraising lead with $30,709 as of May 31, has already applied for matching funds.

Earlier this month, Paula Aboud, who is battling Vicki Hart in the Ward 3 Democratic primary, applied for matching funds. Aboud reported about $8,600 in contributions. Hart, who had raised $2,380 as of May 31, has yet to apply for the match.

In Ward 5, Councilmember Steve Leal, who applied for matching funds last month, had raised $26,162 as of May 31. His Democratic primary opponent, Jesse Lugo, applied for matching funds last week, reporting $11,320 in contributions. Lugo tells the Weekly his total has risen since to more than $31,000. Since candidates are limited to spending roughly $62,000 in the primary, Lugo has raised just about all he needs for the race. (Because there are no opponents in the general election, the September 11 primary will determine the future of the council seat.)

Meanwhile, in other campaign finance news, two independent campaign committees have registered with the City of Tucson.

Tucsonans for Excellence in Government filed paperwork back in mid-June. The committee's chairman is Paul Rubin of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99, which is providing major funding for the effort. The group has launched an early ballot campaign on behalf of Leal.

Tucsonans for Alert Government filed its statement of organization on July 13. Campaign chairman Sergio Martinez Jr., a local architect, says the committee will aim to "get some officials who are more responsive to the needs of our community for development and growth and prosperity of the community."

Smells like the Growth Lobby to us.

Martinez says the committee has yet to decide which council candidates it will back. "We're going to start looking at who we're going to support," he says. "We really don't have a candidate at this point. By next week, we will have a couple of names."

He declined to name any contributors to the campaign. "We'll make those names available as soon as we can do that, which will be about a week as well," Martinez says.

AMPHI THEATRICS: Former Amphi administrator Katie Frey is filing a claim--the first step to initiating a lawsuit--against the district for more than $5 million.

Frey spent most of her career at Amphi with her nose buried deep in the hindquarters of former Amphi Superintendent Bob "Bubba" Smith, who resigned last year as an angry mob of citizens took a battering ram to the old board. In the early 1990s, she was the genius who worked with real estate wheeler-dealer Bill Arnold in the district's land deals, which included spending about $2.5 million for two parcels without bothering to appraise the land. One of those properties, where the district is now building a new high school, turned out to be on the edge of habitat for the endangered pygmy owl, which led to years of litigation and more than a million dollars in additional costs for the district.

Frey was later hammered by the state Auditor General's Office, which criticized the district for violating state procurement laws when it spent more than a half-million bucks on security guards and construction services at the aforementioned high-school site.

After voters cleaned house in a recall election and a new board was installed last year, the district chose not to renew Frey's contract. So now she's complaining that she's a victim of discrimination and seeking a seven-figure settlement.

Now that we think about it, giving Frey $5 million might let the district off cheap. Had she stuck around, she likely would have cost taxpayers a lot more.

Oh, and we almost forgot: As part of her claim, she's seeking a positive letter of recommendation.

VALUE COMPARISON: To place some earlier reports regarding the profit margin of the Arizona Daily Star in the proper perspective, match them to Albertson's, the nation's second largest supermarket chain. The Star's net profit approached 14 percent last year. In an article in the business section of the Star that detailed Albertson's plan to close 126 stores nationwide, it was mentioned that the giant market chain was hanging but worried that rapid expansion could hurt future profitability. The Star reported that Albertson's had made $186 million on gross sales of $9.3 billion--or about 2 percent.

While groceries and newspapers are not the same commodity, please remember those point spreads the next time you hear the phony report about how newspapers are really losing money, so they have to further debase their product. How long would a grocery store make it if it sold wilted produce, watered down the canned goods and left more fat on the meat?

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS: Ellyne Bell abruptly resigned from the Brewster Center last week, just before City Councilmember Steve Leal did the right thing with a community sit-down that resulted in restoration of domestic violence services at El Pueblo Neighborhood Center.

Two of Bell's commanders will be leaving with her. But don't think the resignations will put the agency on proper footing. The Brewster crew has a long way to go to repair the damage done by the union-busting tactics they've happily practiced. The real clean-up should begin with some of the board members, who present their own conflicts of interest. The city and county give plenty of tax dollars to Brewster and must demand better. Brewster, sadly, is typical of many in the non-profit Mafia that soak up dollars for big salaries, toot their own horns and then don't deliver.

BRINGING NEIGHBORS TOGETHER: Several residents and property owners of the Barrio Viejo neighborhood last week filed two appeals over the city's approval of a senior-citizen housing project at the site of the old Drachman School. This week, they went to court to overturn the Tucson City Council's controversial decision to use an "overlay" zone to facilitate construction of the project.

The first appeal argues that the city incorrectly labeled the proposed complex a "residential care facility." The neighbors believe it is simply housing for senior citizens, not 62 units for people who require care.

That difference is important because in their second appeal, the neighbors claim the project needs 125 parking spaces, not the 31 determined by the city. As the appeal puts it, "It would appear the developers of the project have deliberately misidentified the project in statements to you in order to avoid Land Use Code requirements applicable to elderly housing, particularly the parking requirements."

If the higher parking requirement, or anything close to it, is upheld, the project is on the rocks.

The court case filed earlier this week seeks to undo the overlay zone the City Council approved on a 4-3 vote in June. Neighbors argue the city was required to notify them of the change and allow them to legally protest it.

For years, the residents of downtown's Barrio Viejo have been acrimoniously split over a variety of issues. But the city's bungling of the Drachman project has brought the area together like at no time in the recent past.

ROAD SHOW: On August 6, look for City Manager James Keene to advise the City Council on the process leading up to a half-cent sales tax election next May. Keene will recommend:

· Extensive public involvement spearheaded by city staff, running from August to November, which will discuss the city's transportation needs and funding options;

· Appointment of a citizens committee to recommend projects that should be funded by the sales tax;

· Use of focus groups and public surveys to discover the community's mood regarding transportation issues and tax increases.

Assuming the Council goes with Keene's recommendation, be prepared for interest groups ranging from freeway freaks to long-ignored pedestrians to come out of the woodwork at the public meetings. Everybody has an opinion on transportation and higher sales taxes, and they'll be expressing them this fall.

TIPPING ONE FOR BILL HEALY: The last thing Bill Healy would tell a reporter covering one of his gavel- pounding, record-setting lawsuits was to please use only one E in his name, never an EY. His father, he said, would spin in anguish over the misspelling that would Brit-up the proud Irish family. Bill Healy was a good guy, a good, tough lawyer and a fun guy to talk with in spite of being a (Tucson) country clubber.

He died unexpectedly while being treated for pneumonia while at his summer home in San Diego. He was just 68. Healy grew up in Bay Shore, Long Island and graduated from Colgate. He was a sailor who chose not to leave the desert after graduating from the University of Arizona college of law in 1960. He was a city prosecutor and rose to chief trial deputy in the Pima County Attorney's Office (there was a higher class of lawyer there back then) before embarking on his lucrative private practice.

It was Healy who kept UA football coach Tony Mason out of the slammer. After the Arizona Daily Star won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 (ancient history) for its investigation of Mason's irregular expense account and other improprieties, Healy made a Superior Court jury believe that Mason's peculiar accounting system was indeed an "administrative headache," but not a crime.

Healy also beat the UA, nailing down a $250,000 judgment for a student who was injured by the cannon the Wildcats fired at football games. That was the end of the cannon. And he won $637,000 from the city in 1982 for a motocyclist injured when he hit a light pole. He had a string of big-dollar verdicts and settlements. Among them: $3.3 million from Sears for a woman hit by one of the company's trucks; $2.2 million for a motocyclist who piled up when a construction truck turned in front of him; $925,000 for the death of a woman in a helicopter ambulance crash; and a $5.5 million judgment for a former Tucson woman whose husband and children were killed when an Aeromexico jet crashed into their Los Angeles home. He also represented the family of one of the 19 Marines killed last year when their MV-22 Osprey crashed in Marana.

Despite all that, Healy was down to earth. He was fun when he ripped the county over its gaudy bailout of an S&L when it bought the Great American Tower, chasing his and other established firms from downtown. And he was even funny and pleasant when defending his beloved Tucson Country Club from city annexation.

Condolences to his wife, sons and daughter and friends and partners.