The Skinny

SUPE SCOOP: Richard Elias has been tooling to Pima County Administration since November 1999. He came in as Raúl Grijalva pork, but he's been on Dan Eckstrom's ledger for some time. It paid off. Elias won appointment to succeed Grijalva as his onetime sponsor heads off to run for Congress in the new District 7.

Elias, 43, will pull in a small sum extra for the monumental new headaches he will endure as supervisor in the county's District 5, which includes elite Sam Hughes, West University, the West Side and Tucson Mountains. He made $52,047 as the county's senior housing project coordinator and will make $54,600 as a supervisor.

Oh sure, Elias will be entitled to an SUV. But will he get a driver, like Grijalva?

There was little surprise to the appointment even though Elias, Eckstrom and fellow Democratic Supervisor Sharon Bronson needed Clerk Lori Godoshian to break the 2-2 tie. Just as Bronson's motion for Elias got a second, Republican Sugar Ray Carroll nodded to Republican Ann Day and Day delivered a substitute motion for Alex Rodriguez, a young banker in training at Wells Fargo. Democrats swept aside the substitute motion with a tie (motions that don't carry, fail) and then it was back to the original motion that Godoshian pushed.

Bronson later butchered Elias's name as E-LIE-us.

Rodriguez was an attractive candidate. One of 10 kids of a Tucson and Nogales family, this A-Rod graduated from the New Mexico Military Institute and the University of Arizona before getting Ivy-ized as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. A captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, Rodriguez did a tour as a peacekeeper in Bosnia. Sorry, Alex, nothing--not even Bosnia--could prepare you for the petty, lowdown, backstabbing viciousness that goes on at the Board of Supervisors. Graffiti should be abated, though. Grijalva is no longer around to carve oddly juvenile messages on bathroom stalls about Carroll and his aide Scott Egan.

Elias, Rodriguez and the 10 other candidates mostly pandered when they filled the dais on Monday for a forum hosted by League of Women Vultures, er Voters. They swore love for the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Yes, they love Kino Community Hospital and the county's public health system. Never mind that they tripped all over themselves with misstatements about Kino's management, history and attempted privatization.

The tip to see who would get the prize the next day was not in the board room, where fallen star Sal Baldenegro, not-a-chance in-a-million-years Rodney Glassman and Rodriguez showed. It was 10 floors up. There, in the administrator's conference room were Albert Elias, Richard's father, his wife and his daughter. They watched on television.

Eckstrom added a novel parliamentary move yesterday with a reconsideration of the vote for Elias. He did so to offer Carroll and Day the chance to make a unanimous vote and relieve the sting left by the split vote for Carroll in 1997. They did, sort of. While they voted to reconsider the item, they were apparently too overwhelmed by euphoria to take the next step on a new vote on Elias.

Bronson, who resumed her role as chairman, nominated Elias with a big speech on the greatness of Grijalva. It made you wonder why she was so bitter about him for much of her first term, including the times she wanted to have Grijalva thrown off the board.

The Greens are happy, according to Carolyn Campbell, a tireless worker for the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Builders are not. They have their own horse, former state Sen. Frank Felix, in the race for the seat in the special elections--primary on September 10 and general on November 5--for the heavily Democratic district. Felix would be wise to show he is more than their boy.

The women? Bronson and Day dissed Irma Yepez Perez. Her flaw? She worked with Egan when the two were aides to Councilman Bruce Wheeler, a Democrat, ending in 1995.

FAMILIA: One of Grijalva's aides, Ruben Reyes, made a play for the office, clowning during the forum Monday night. When he will leave his $47,060-a-year county job is anyone's guess. His fiancee, Regina Romero, works for Elias in Community Housing, making $37,150. Reyes may do his work boosting Grijalva's campaign for Congress from a county office.

PAMPHLETEER: Richard Elias gave props to his family and his father, the marvelously understated yet fastidious printer Albert Elias, who has created political brochures, cards, door hangers and other items for scores of politicians and political wannabes from his Old Pueblo Printers at 255 S. Stone Ave.

We, and Elias's dad, can only hope the sonny-boy supe will realize the pain Pima County has caused small business with its tax rates that the are the highest of Arizona's 15 counties.

Old Pueblo Printers, a small shop across from Tucson police headquarters, is paying about $760 in Pima County taxes this year. Move the shop, valued for tax purposes at $54,186, to Phoenix, and Mr. Elias's county tax bill would be about $210.

FLASHING CAUTION LIGHT: The Arizona Legislature came to a standstill last week as the House and Senate focused their limited concentration skills on plugging that billion-buck shortfall. Given the lousy ideas legislators try to turn into law, we wish that would happen more often.

Case in point: Two of the dopier Republicans in the Senate, Dean Martin of Phoenix and Scott Bundgaard of Tempe, want to pass laws to increase the amount of time for yellow lights at traffic signals.

The end result will be more congestion, which will just further anger road-ragers. And it won't make anybody any safer, since drivers will get used to the longer yellow light and be more likely to blaze through intersections.

There are some things that ought to be left to professionals. Lawmakers are experts in pandering, not traffic engineering. Bundgaard and Martin should quit playing in traffic.

KRAFT WORK: All that focus on the state budget doesn't mean there aren't some sideshows at the Legislature. Take, for example, the meltdown of Rep. James Kraft.

Kraft likes to talk up his connections to the Kraft Foods family. When he ran for the Legislature in 2000, he handed out a reported 12,000 boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, which evidently was all that was necessary to get Phoenix voters to elect him to office. And he vowed to give away 40,000 boxes of mac and cheese--and spend up to $240,000 of his own money--to win re-election this year.

Kraft recently returned from a trip to the Super Bowl, where he told his fellow lawmakers he hung with his cousin, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in the owner's box.

The story set off Arizona Republic reporter Robbie Sherwood's bullshit meter--especially since Robert Kraft isn't related to the Kraft Foods family, nor has he ever met the Phoenix lawmaker.

Sherwood exposed these lies and raised some serious questions as to whether Kraft really has any connection to Kraft Foods, especially since company officials are saying no family members have even been involved in the company since 1977. Confronted by Sherwood, Kraft mumbled something about "special assignments" for the company.

Perhaps Kraft can use the family connections to introduce a new food product this year: political toast.

FORM AND DYSFUNCTION: Candidates choosing to use the state's Clean Elections program, which provides public funding for campaigns provided the politicians can raise a qualifying number of $5 contributions, have discovered that getting those five-buck checks isn't all that easy. The challenge lies in the form each contributor must fill out to go along with the check. Most folks will give you five bucks if you ask them, but they don't need any more government forms in their lives.

Of all the candidates running for governor, where 4,000 checks/forms are required to qualify, GOP Secretary of State Betsey Bayless seemed to have the best handle on the problem. Her campaign mailed a fundraising letter explaining the process to whatever list they were using (probably a combination of old contributors and GOP activists.) The team included a completed form and a return envelope, so all the contributor needed to do was write a check and include it.

Pretty slick--except for one problem. The Republican activist who told us about it got a form filled in for the wrong person. We hope that was a minor glitch and not a computer bug that put the same name in all the forms, making all the inserts useless. Whatever the case, it's still a great idea and we expect others to try it.

SEX CHANGE IN ORO VALLEY: Last Saturday's Tucson Citizen carried a front-page story concerning the flap in Oro Valley over the re-naming of Dennis Weaver Park. The story quoted City Councilwoman Fran LaSala, even though LaSala is a guy. And no, it wasn't a typo--the next paragraph referred to LaSala as "she."

We suspect that Citizen staff writer Larry Copenhaver, who wrote the story and interviewed LaSala, knew the councilperson's gender--unless the interview was a phoner and LaSala was sucking on helium. We surmise the screw-up was made by some over-empowered nameless third-stringer on the copy desk who assumed Fran was a woman's name and didn't bother to check with the reporter or even take a look at the town's web page.

Former Supervisor Dennis Weaver (whose name was just sand-blasted off) was the guy who found the money to build the park in the first place. The Citizen got that part right, along with the name change to Oro Valley "founder" James D. Kreigh.

What they left out was the fact that for years Oro Valley pols, including Kreigh, refused to take over maintenance costs of that park, leaving Pima County taxpayers with the bill for something used mainly by Oro Valley citizens for many years. They now badmouth Weaver for opposing Oro Valley incorporation back in the early '70s because that caused a long and costly court fight.

Memo to Kreigh and the rest of the Caddyshack hypocrites: Weaver did exactly what you're now doing to the folks in neighboring Tortolita, the tiny community fighting a long and costly court battle to incorporate.

Considering what the wonderful folks up in Oro Valley have done with self-determination--check out the cliff dwellings spiraling ever upward on the Catalinas--we wonder why anybody who cared about his or her reputation would want to be known as the founder of that sleazy little developer-owned burg.

THIN ICE: We don't watch much TV, so we probably missed all the hours of coverage on NBC last week of the Tucson Open golf tourney, the rodeo, spring training baseball and UA basketball, baseball and softball. But, fortunately, we have the morning paper, its sports pages dominated by photographs and stories about local favorite Michele Kwan, then Michele Kwan again the next day, then a day later that other local sports star--Sarah Hughes--who won Olympic gold in our favorite local sport, figure skating. Sports Editor James Bennett and the other folks in his department were really good sports about keeping their bosses, the ice queens, happy. We look forward to equally compelling coverage of our other favorite sport that uses judges rather than keeping score--the Miss America pageant.

TOM BEAL AT LARGE: Longtime Arizona Daily Star writer Tom Beal is escaping a miserable management post to grab a new role as the paper's writer at large. He'll do it all. News, non-news, humor, pathos. And he's just in time to revive that once-annual piece on servicing the swamp cooler.

As Democracy Team Leader (we're not making up that title), Beal had the job of policing Smilin' Joe Burchell, Joe Salkowski, Tony "Owl Boy" Davis, Patty Machelor (yet another Citizen social climber) and a few others who strolled in and out of the Star's downtown bureau.

Star brass screwed up by not allowing Salkowski to replace Beal. He's toured several beats and is flat smart. But then again, Salkowski is probably lucky he's not trapped in the management job.

B.J. Bartlett won the right to crack the whip on the downtown crew and Democracy Team.

BIG VALLEY, BIGGER REALTOR: Arizona Daily Star real-estate writer Mac Juarez cranked out a front-office special last week on Robin Sue Kaiserman, real-estate agent to the stars, that landed on the front page and jumped inside long and deep.

Why were we not surprised at this puffery? Kaiserman had the listing for the Foothills home Star Publisher Jane Amari abandoned last year. Amari sold the little house on one acre for $385,000 and paid $489,000 for a big spread underneath the Rincons.

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