The Skinny

FLAT EARTH: Rescued again by heavy-but-nimble Dan Eckstrom, Democrats controlling the Board of Supervisors approved a new map of Pima County political districts this week that keeps Sharon Bronson hooked to a lifeline while reducing the severity of her horrid gerrymander.

Eckstrom chopped off the odd tail of Bronson's incursion into the city by swapping with fellow Democrat Raúl Grijalva eight precincts from roughly Swan Road at Grant Road down to Broadway and Craycroft Road for nine precincts north of Grant between Interstate 10 and Tucson Boulevard.

Changes also allowed Eckstrom to retain an area off South Old Nogales Highway that he has served well, and eliminated the bizarre hook Bronson attempted to make in Sahuarita, which now will be represented by Eckstrom and Republican Ray Carroll.

Smart and fast, Eckstrom's work gave more evidence that the commission he and other supervisors appointed to do the work was a charade.

Republicans Ann Day, apparently overwhelmed into near silence, and Sugar Ray dissented. The maps, if cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice, become effective for the supervisor and Pima College board elections in 2004.

Eckstrom protected Bronson from the northwest side and Tortolita precincts she failed to carry last year.

It's hardly difficult to see why Bronson prayed to dump them. It was there that Republican Barney Brenner and his underfunded and outgunned campaign took nearly every precinct last year in his narrow, 1,404-vote loss to Bronson.

These are the same precincts, though cranky about development, that overwhelmingly supported the $350 million road-improvement bond in 1997 that Bronson opposed. Bronson can't scurry away fast enough from these people. Why? Commuters were told last week that the $20 million Cortaro Farms Road widening project, from the Southern Pacific line to Thornydale Road, is being pushed back. Way back.

Not one of the 10 precincts full of commuters using Cortaro, Thorydale, Camino de Oeste, Linda Vista, Shannon and the other crowded roads up there voted against the road bonds, which are to be repaid for the first time in county history with gas tax revenues. Many precincts used by the 20,000 to 22,000 drivers choked on Cortaro every day approved the 1997 bonds, in the preposterous hope they'd get relief, by huge spreads up of 3 to 1 and greater.

They can get used to more bumper-to-bumper waiting. And Day can hope that the streets are widened by the time she seeks a second term.

The map as proposed by Democrats on the redistricting committee was the worst gerrymander in the nearly 30 years Pima County has had five supervisorial districts. Leslie Nixon got a bit Nixonian in her on-off defense of the plan. The lawyer in Nixon came out at one point when she said she would have committed "malpractice" had she not tried to protect Bronson. From what? An awful Republican-Growth Lobby-Don Diamond conspiracy to hurt Bronson? Gotta remind Nixon that Diamond, the legendary land speculator, and his acolytes gave heavily to Bronson's campaign last year. They like her. And she's impressed most by people with money. A more urgent reminder to Nixon is that the $56,204 she'll collect in pay this year comes from all county taxpayers, not from Bronson's bag. How about "constituent malpractice?"

Democrats haven't had the market cornered on exaggeration and fear-mongering over the map. GOP big shots cried that they couldn't get a Republican map. Go screw yourselves. It's a board with a Democratic majority and three Democratic districts and Democratic voter registration to back up those districts. Even when Ed Moore rode herd on District 3 as a Republican in 1992, that year's new map did not change his district into a Republican utopia. Big Ed still cleaned Democrat John Kromko's clock. We have such nostalgia for Big Ed.

CATALINA REZONING, PART DEUX: Whoops! We made a boo-boo last week when we reported the Pima County Board of Supervisors would vote on the controversial Black Horse Canyon rezoning in Catalina on December 4. The vote will be taken next Tuesday, December 11--which gives us a chance to tell you more reasons why it really sucks.

And what it sucks is water. The water table in the far northwest is already being sucked down to a deficit of thousands of acre-feet a year. This development will add to the problem and affect a host of wells taking care of the current residents. Oro Valley will add more golf courses and rationalize the ground water they still use on them, further exacerbating the problem. Until other sources of water are found, the area is (try this concept) approaching build-out for high-density development.

The few remaining wildlife corridors between the Catalinas and the Tortolitas will also be adversely affected.

There is no good reason to roll over for this development plan, other than taking care of some major contributors to Democratic supervisors. This Board of Supes has hidden behind the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan to look like environmentalists for some time. The moment of truth is at hand in Catalina, with an actual vote on a real rezoning, not discussion of an abstraction. Watch them closely.

HIVE POLITICS: Wary of the protectors of Honeybee Canyon who have placed the annexation of another hunk of prime real estate on the 2002 ballot via referendum, Oro Valley's real owners--Vistoso Partners--have decided to go for a rezoning in front of the Pima County Board of Supes instead.

Gee, what do they know that we don't? The item flew by before back in '97 and the supes rejected it. Unless somebody changes their mind, it still should be short votes. Should. Which is another item that requires careful watching by the environmental community outside of Oro Valley. Again, look beyond the Desert Conservation Plan, folks. This one should be in front of Pima County P&Z in about three months, which is before the Oro Valley vote on the annexation. Vistoso Partners are playing both cards.

Or maybe they're so used to an elected body that just rolls over for them that they think the supes will act the same. Scary part? They could be right.

POLITICAL POLITO: While Tucson Unified School District lobbyist and political pimp Sam Polito should be minding the store of the special session of the Arizona Legislature, he's busy trying to cozy up to wannabe governors, including former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez, a skilled Democrat who could make deals faster than anyone in this Legislature can find a bathroom.

Polito had time from his busy schedule, protecting TUSD's scandalous desegregation taxes and budget, to send Superintendent Stan Paz a note inviting him to join a reception for Gutierrez. "Please share it with your board members, administrators, teachers and staff. If this function is successful," Polito wrote, "we may follow it with receptions to meet other candidates."

Polito and his wife, Linda, once a fixture at Board of Supervisors meetings as a rezoning consultant and member of the Growth Lobby, played host to Gutierrez at the Polito home, appropriately, on Linda Vista Boulevard.

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: Former Arizona Secretary of State Richard Mahoney jumped into the 2002 gubernatorial race as an Independent candidate last week with a bizarre series of political pronouncements.

Mahoney said he was running because he could see no difference between Democratic front-runner Janet Napolitano and Republican front-runner Matt Salmon, calling them Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Hey, say what you will about either candidate (we sure will in the next year), but there's plenty of difference between them, from abortion to the environment.

Mahoney suggested neither would take on special interests like the oil companies. Huh? That might be an issue in the governor's race, if we were living in Texas or Alaska. But here, the 800-pound gorilla of special interests is the development community. Try taking on the Growth Lobby, Dick.

Still, Mahoney could play a spoiler role, especially if he can qualify for funds under the state's Clean Election system, which could leave him eligible for more than a million dollars for his campaign.

Mahoney has been skidding helter-skelter from one political position to the next for some time. Last year, he wanted to eliminate the state income tax without proposing an alternative, which would have cut more than 40 percent of the state's revenue stream. This year, he was championing education, saying the legislature couldn't cut school spending, although that would have been slashed to the bone had the income tax been flushed.

We've got news for Mahoney: He's no Jesse Ventura.

Defeated Ward 3 Council candidate Paula Aboud could hardly be described as a "good loser." We certainly hope that as a coach she instilled a different attitude in those she was charged with molding than she has exhibited so far as a defeated council candidate. Aboud has been surly, abrasive and unable to concede defeat. In fact, she has told whoever will listen that she was "robbed" because she carried Ward 3 while her opponent, Councilmember Kathleen Dunbar, won big on the east side, carrying her to citywide victory.

We would point out to Aboud that citywide elections have been with us for some time and that she, as a more or less lifelong Tucsonan, should have noticed when many folks tried to change that a few years back by going to ward-only elections. Aboud, who now finds citywide elections so unfair, was AWOL from that effort--assuming she cared enough about political matters at the time to even be aware that there was one.

We mention all this because Aboud has announced that she will still be around. And this week, she was elected--without opposition--to the presidency of the Democrats of Greater Tucson, a small group of party faithful that meets for lunch every Monday at a Chinese restaurant on Alvernon Way. Aboud herself hasn't been real active in the group, as one DGT veteran notes never having seen her there before her candidacy and only twice during the campaign.

Unless she grows up politically, Aboud's new post will make one group very happy: the Republican Party.

AJO FLASH: Pima County and its Superior Court lost a dignified and courageous presiding judge last week when Gordon T. Alley died after battling cancer. He was a young 63. Alley, who was born in Ajo, lived up to what some feel obligated to say about cancer sufferers. He truly didn't complain. He truly stayed upbeat. He truly thought about others, rather than cry for himself. He continued to work as much as he could despite debilitating pain, medication and fatigue.

We'll remember Alley, a sportsman and athlete, for elevating the dignity and respect of his office. Unlike his predecessor, Michael J. Brown, he did not stoop to black-robe politics in the courthouse or next door with the Board of Supervisors and county administration.

He resisted the calls to join the County Attorney Barbara LaWall's annual trip to the budget Wailing Wall. He had responsible and reasoned negotiations and got what he wanted.

Judge Alley was unpretentious, funny and smart. Condolences to his three kids, colleagues and friends.

He was replaced, during the latter stages of his illness, by Judge Kenneth Lee on an interim basis. Lee performed marvelously. He, or Lina Rodriguez, would make an outstanding choice by the state Supreme Court as Alley's permanent successor.

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