The Skinny

THE WHITEWASH IS COMPLETE: The Tucson City Council, in its standard potted-plant mode, unanimously rolled over and accepted the final report on the behavior of the Tucson Police Department during the Fourth Avenue riot last April. Chief Robert Miranda mumbled his way through it and the Council praised him for his leadership. The entire process bordered on farce for those familiar with it, but the events of September 11 have given cops from the FBI and CIA down a considerable degree of newly found slack with both the public and their nominal bosses, the elected officials.

One high point of irony occurred when the chief was complimented for making the process public. Apparently, the entire Mayor and Council forgot he tried to make the process secret and they had to force him to allow the press into the hearings held by the original citizen oversight committee.

That the largest punishment was an eight-hour suspension without pay for a cop who not only fired a flash-bang grenade at an innocent citizen but bragged about it later says much about the attitude of those who are sworn to preserve and protect. For the rest of us, that's called aggravated assault, but County Attorney Barbara LaWall had already announced that she didn't plan to prosecute any cops even before the report was released.

The cop brass has publicly stated that there were no innocent bystanders. That would apparently include those who live in homes in the area and those business people either blocked from leaving by the riot or allowed to return by TPD itself.

Council members José Ibarra and Jerry Anderson had both expressed the need to question the chief further, but neither showed up for the meeting to do so. Anderson is about to take over as the property manager for La Placita and has pretty much given up on many of his council duties in preparation for his leaving office in December.

All in all, a sad moment in Tucson history and an even sadder moment in the history of democracy and representative government. Score one more for control by the unelected.

IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN: Already figured out which Tucson City Council candidate you're voting for this year? Then go ahead and cast your ballot. Early voting for the November 6 general election is officially underway.

If you've got any kind of history of going to the ballot box, you're likely to get an early-vote appeal in your mailbox, if you haven't already. Last week, about 50,000 voters got mailers from the Democratic team of Gayle Hartmann (who is facing Republican Councilman Fred Ronstadt in Ward 6), Paula Aboud (who is facing Republican Kathleen Dunbar and Libertarian Jonathan Hoffman in Ward 3) and Steve Leal (who is unopposed in the general election, but willing to toss in a few bucks to help the cause).

The GOP, meanwhile, is mailing an early ballot request to Republicans. But a quirk in state election law prevents parties from directly aiding campaigns unless there are three candidates running on a ticket. So while the GOP can ask voters to request an early ballot, it can't mention candidates by name or run their photos. Of course, the GOP can--and will--push a get-out-the-vote effort.

The GOP can also direct money into an independent campaign committee, so expect to see one of those swing into action soon, with support from both Republicans and some of the Democrats who worked to elect Mayor Bob Walkup two years ago.

Early voting is increasingly important. In last month's Ward 5 Democratic primary, in which Councilman Steve Leal trounced challenger Jesse Lugo by 20 percentage points, 38 percent of 3,112 voters cast early ballots. That record high in both early voting and voter participation in a Ward 5 primary was driven by an avalanche of campaign dollars. Between 'em, Leal and Lugo spent about $115,000 on their campaigns--and that's not counting two independent campaign committees, which probably spent at least $40,000 and aggressively worked the early ballots. (Reports on the precise amounts are due October 11).

In the Ward 3 Democratic primary, where Paula Aboud captured 75 percent of the vote against Vicki Hart, only 24 percent of 2,102 people voted early. Neither candidate did much to pump up the early vote.

Aboud had better work early voting better in the general election; her opponent, Republican Kathleen Dunbar, running unopposed in the GOP primary, gave her early-vote machine a dry run and captured just more than half of her 763 votes by mail. But election day turn-out in an unopposed race was undoubtedly depressed following the end of the world as we knew it.

The easiest way to request an early ballot: Call the City Clerk's Office at 791-5784 before October 26. If you still dig the experience of visiting a voting booth but want to vote early, the city has set up kiosks at City Hall, 255 W. Alameda St., and the City Clerk Support Services office, 800 E. 12th St. (just southeast of Broadway Boulevard and Euclid Avenue). Both locations are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through November 2.

Voters will also be able to cast early ballots at the Wilmot Library, 530 N. Wilmot Road, beginning October 15. Call 791-5784 for times.

If you haven't registered to vote yet, you'd better get your ass in gear. Deadline is this Monday, October 8.

RETURN TO SENDER: About 200,000 property tax statements--nearly two thirds of the property tax bills sent out by Pima County--are being returned because of a monumental screw-up in mail preparation. Presorting by the county's low-bid vendor, KPT of Dallas, has rendered the tax bills presort info unreadable. Bills on the county's 332,000 parcels were to be in the mail shortly after Labor Day.

You read that correctly: Tax bills are being mailed from an outfit in Dallas.

The Board of Supervisors approved the contract with KPT and now the county is reaching out to a local company, Automated Presort Services, to redo 200,000 statements that had incorrect Zip codes and unreadable bar codes. Another 1,000 had the wrong address.

Neither the Board nor county administration is upset. In fact they like delaying the bad news the statements bring: The highest property tax rates of any county in Arizona.

That tune will change. Taxpayers now have a month to pay up and the county needs the cash. With Gov. Lady Jane Dee Hull trying to ax a chunk of the sales tax the county gets, Pima County needs every penny.

County Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry, anticipating a 4 percent cut in shared sales tax revenue, has told his deputies to put the brakes on spending and to stop adding more bodies to the nearly 8,000 now collecting county paychecks. This extends to the county's diffuse management that includes dozens of independently elected officials.

Huckelberry's theme in the cut to the county's bloated $1 billion budget is "general fund equity." That means shared cuts in law enforcement, courts, county attorney and the non-profit Cosa Nostra that does business here as outside agencies. Huckelberry has specifically told Robert Jensen, chancellor of Pima Community College, to share the pain with a cut of at least 4 percent in the county-subsidized Adult Education that the county spun off to PCC.

Will there be a new administrator of the Justice Courts to replace the one who falsified information in his résumé? The county brought in a string of contestants, put them up in hotels and showed them around. That has exercised westside Justice of the Peace Carmen Dolny, who demanded that the county not pay for this screening. She even called Risk Management, which handles tort and other liability issues facing county government. People there wondered who she was. Judge Dolny, a Democrat who is now in her second term, would do well to mete out justice and leave those matters to others such as the gadfly, John Kromko, she defeated in 1996.

UNDER THE BOARD WALK: Just as intriguing as his run for Congress is the posing to be Raúl Grijalva's successor on the Board of Supervisors. Grijalva, under state law, must resign to run for Congress because he will not be in the final year of the term of his $54,600-a-year board seat. There is a formidable Democratic field: state Sen. Elaine Richardson, former Mayor Tom Volgy, former state Sen. Jaime Gutierrez, state Sen. Pete Rios and former Clinton Administration insider Fred Duval.

Grijalva has a distinct advantage in the way the district is currently carved. He says he wants to be running for nine months before the September 2002 election. He'll bolt the board, he's saying now, by the end of the year.

He'd like to anoint a successor, but the law says his soon-to-be former colleagues choose. In case of a tie, board Clerk Lori Godoshian becomes the Most Powerful Person in Pima County. A consummate pro, she is nonetheless loyal to Grijalva, which is a key reason Ray Carroll has a (county) job.

The list includes Gayle Hartmann, if she loses to Vice Mayor Fred Ronstadt in the November 6 election for City Council in central Ward 6. She has been lecturing Boards of Supervisors for three decades. Salomon Baldenegro, Grijalva's old protest buddy, is tops on Grijalva's list. Ruben "Kings" Reyes, a Grijalva aide, is needed in the congressional campaign along with longtime Grijalva enabler Glenn Miller. Bruce Gungle, who casts Grijalva's votes on the Planning and Zoning Commission, wants the job. Gungle abandoned the Green Party on May 10 and signed up with the Democrats. His wife, Carolyn Campbell, would be better, but she remains loyal to her Green Party. And then there is westside City Councilman José Ibarra, the brooding former Grijalva aide who chafed under Miller's thumb. Only to Ibarra does Grijalva cry "veto."

Voters will have a shot at a veto themselves. The replacement can hold the seat through 2004 only by winning election next fall.

UNDER THE BOARD WALK, PART 2: Raúl Grijalva may not be the only one leaving the board. We're told Supervisor Dan Eckstrom is also considering leaving District 2 before his fourth term is even half through. It's called burnout. Eckstrom is trying to anoint his daughter Jennifer Eckstrom, who now sits on the South Tucson City Council.

For the royal succession to take place, Eckstrom will need to get at three supes or two supes plus Godoshian. Grijalva's congressional run puts Eckstrom on a tight timeline. He can count on Raúl's vote because he's raising money for Grijalva's congressional run, but if Grijalva's leaving by the end of the year, Eckstrom may have to make his move soon.

Eckstrom also would be happy with either of two protégés, state Rep. Vic Soltero, like Eckstrom a former South Tucson mayor, or state Sen. Ramon Valadez, who despite his brainpower has an awful lot of growing up to do. If, that is, Eckstrom's truly over it.

FINAL ASSESSMENT: Arnold Jeffers' deep and soothing voice has been silenced. We hope his common sense and fight for tax fairness, both in terms of homeowner burden and Pima County equity from the state, will continue. Jeffers died last week after a severe stroke that followed what was thought to be successful open-heart surgery. He was 71.

Jeffers was an old-school television and radio man, advertising agent and actor before his near-hit Republican political career took off. He lost twice in primary races for mayor, then was twice elected to the state House of Representatives and finished his political career serving nearly three terms as Pima County Assessor.

It was Jeffers who first publicized the rent-a-cow scam, the longstanding and continuing practice of real estate speculators to manipulate state law by seeking grazing leases to drastically reduce their property tax bills. Some retained cows on the property well after it was rezoned for high density housing.

Jeffers also blew the whistle in 1987 on the trick David Yetman bamboozled his fellow Pima County supervisors into approving: a wild, nearly 50 percent increase in county flood control taxes to raise millions of dollars to buy the Empire-Cienega Ranch southeast of Tucson. Jeffers warned of out-of-control secondary taxes that homeowners could not be spared.

He was a devout Republican, but worked with and trained Democrats, including Rick Lyons, the cerebral assessor who has directed that office for eight years.

In retirement, Jeffers still worked to ease the property tax burden. He was a founder of the county's Tax Equity Committee and also was an effective champion of city annexation. He was a better spokesman for expanding the city's boundaries than the expensive crew the city had on the payroll to sell annexation.

We remember Jeffers as the judge in his many appearances in the television series Petrocelli, filmed here. He also was a regular actor in movies shot here.

Condolences to his family, friends, staff and colleagues.

PATRIOT GAMES, POLITICAL HACKS: In the Diamondbacks' first game at Bank One Ballpark since the September 11 terrorist attacks, there were plenty of patriotic festivities and tributes to the victims. It was marred by the over-the-top, time-guzzling introductions of all the pols from Gov. Jane Dee Hull and Attorney General/Gov-wannabe Janet Napolitano to a bunch of Phoenix and Maricopa County hacks. And not a Rudy among them.

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