THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD PROTECTION AMENDMENT: Superior Court Judge Ted Borek made a peculiar ruling last week in the lawsuit over whether the city was following the charter's Neighborhood Protection Amendment with its road-heavy May 21 transportation proposition.

The amendment, drafted by former state Rep. John Kromko and passed by the voters in 1985, requires the city to put major road construction projects like freeways and grade-separated intersections to a public vote.

When the city included three such intersections in the May half-cent sales-tax proposition without putting their design and cost on the ballot, Kromko and others sued, saying the city was not complying with the law.

Borek said it appeared the city may not be following the strict language of the Neighborhood Protection Amendment, but bought the city's argument that it was premature to rule on the issue because voters might reject the proposal in May, rendering the entire issue moot. He said the plaintiffs could file a suit after the election if the proposal, which would raise the sales to 8.1 percent in the city limits, passes.

But opponents of the grade-separated intersections, which are planned for the intersections of Campbell/Grant, Kolb/Grant/Tanque Verde and Kino/222nd, shouldn't read too much hope into that ruling. Councilman Fred Ronstadt telegraphed the city's next move during an insightful radio debate on Emil Franzi's perspicacious Inside Track radio show when he suggested that the Neighborhood Protection Amendment might be unconstitutional.

We imagine city strategists would be delighted to overturn the NPA, but didn't want to raise the issue before the election for fear of backlash at the polls. But if they win in May and Kromko returns to court to challenge the plans for GSIs, don't be surprised if the city responds by looking to scuttle the NPA altogether.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Under the new legislative boundaries drawn by the state's Independent Redistricting Committee, Republicans hold an advantage over Democrats in 19 of the 30 state districts.

Now Democrats have to worry that Republicans are crashing their party in the 11 districts where they have an advantage.

The new Legislative District 28 in central Tucson is 46 percent Democratic and 32 percent Republican. We're told one new Democrat seeking a House seat is Sam Ramirez, who ran for the House as a Republican in the old District 14 back in 1998. Ramirez made one of the finest campaign expenditures we can remember, sponsoring a Little League team with his contributions.

Rumors persist that Republican Rep. Ed Poelstra, who also lives in the new district, is considering switching over the Democrat team for his 2002 run.

Of course, all that assumes the new lines will be in place. Legal challenges have delayed Justice Department approval of the new districts, which puts potential candidates in a bind because they don't know if they're supposed to collect nominating signatures, due by June 12, in the old district or the new district. The delay is also a problem for candidates participating in the state's Clean Elections program, who must get 200 $5 contributions from within their district to qualify for public funds.

NO ACCOUNTING: Attorney General Janet Napolitano sure was excited last month when she announced that the Arthur Andersen accounting firm was going to shell out $217 million to help bail out 13,000 miserable investors who believed in the no-good SOBs with the Baptist Foundation of Arizona, who swindled the faithful of their retirement savings.

The agreement would have allowed investors to recover about 30 percent of their investment in the bogus scheme.

Well, it looks like Napolitano was just as snookered as the suckers who lost their nest eggs in the first place (which can't look good on the gubernatorial campaign trail). The lawyers slipped some fine print in the agreement that lets them slip right off the hook. Seems their insurer--and you'll be shocked to learn it's a subsidiary of Arthur Andersen--can't seem to find enough money to pay up. Maybe all their assets got ended up in a shredding machine. Or the Cayman islands.

It make it hard to swallow all those pleas from Arthur Andersen employees to withhold judgment against the company. We like to think there's a special place in Baptist hell for all the conniving jackals who were in on this con job.

SANDBAGGED: So greedy and adept at using other people's money, Tucson Water is embarking on a wildly foolish deal to acquire the 49ers Country Club water company. Tucson Water, with the blessing of the potted plants that make up the City Council, will pay $325,000 for this dilapidated system. This is the same Mayor Bob Walkup-led council that is jacking up your water rates 4.3 percent.

For your money, Tucson Water will gets its mitts on a crummy system that delivers sand from the tap any time it rains. Tucson Water will grab 370 residential customers, who will no longer be able to luxuriate on lush lawns all summer. The golf course will stay on its own wells. Where's the big conservation?

The City Council swallowed the Tucson Water's outlandish propaganda--that the utility will earn a $1.3 million profit over 10 years. Not even the sky-high rates soon to hit 49ers residents will allow the city to recoup this investment.

Spitz Papanikolas, the late father of 49ers, was a notorious tightwad, easily the cheapest man in Arizona, Utah and anywhere else he stepped. The necessary upgrades to his crummy pipes and wells will cost the poor folks in the center of town formany years to come.

We tip an ouzo (it's cheaper than a shot of Tucson Water's CAP mix) to Spitz. Somewhere, he's having a big laugh.

COP LAND: In an appalling display of machismo, ethnic trashing and simply unprofessional conduct early in his troubled term as police chief, Doug Smith attempted to lampoon cop association boss Rich Anemone as some goomba with gold chains prominently displayed because his shirt was unbuttoned to the navel. Smith, who has since left the department, was childish and offensive.

Now it's Anemone's turn. He resorted to schoolyard and barroom taunts against Tucson Citizen reporter David Cieslak, who did a good job cracking open the elimination and softening of already too-soft discipline of cops who screwed up at the North Fourth Avenue riot a year ago. All you have to do is look Smith's successor, Richard Miranda, in the eye to have the discipline waived.

Cieslak also has done a good job following the questions surrounding the conviction of Louis Taylor in the Pioneer Hotel fire.

RICO SUAVE: The nation's press is following the lead of the locals with ga-ga coverage of SWAT Doc Rich Carmona, nominated to be Surgeon General. Swashbuckling daredevil, up-by-the-bootstraps, made-for-Hollywood, Indiana Jones, blah blah blah.

The Los Angeles Times dispatched a reporter to Tucson and its readers learned Carmona took only one shot to kill the deranged Jean Pierre Lafitte that September 1999 evening at Campbell and Grant.

A little farther off the mark on one of his eight shots and Carmona would also have taken out Wendy Hernandez, for former special city magistrate who was driving by the scene.

More amusing was the predictable suck-up letter to the editor sent to the morning daily by former Republican Supervisor Mike "The Flakey Waffleman" Boyd, who joined Democrats three years ago to force Carmona out of his job as Pima County health czar three years ago.

BLOODLETTING: TUSD Superintendent Stan Paz has let his staff lead him into yet another trap by suspending Sahuaro High math teacher Jim Bloodsworth pending an investigation into the events that prompted Bloodsworth to seek a restraining order against a prized, but very angry Sahuaro basketball player. How will TUSD explain away the high marks Sahuaro Assistant Principal Delano Price recently gave Bloodsworth?

NO MORE SPECIAL DELIVERY: We reported some months back that delivery of the Sunday edition of the Arizona Daily Star was being broken into two parts in the outlying northwest hinterlands, with feature sections and ad inserts arriving for early risers to plan their shopping day, and news and sports rolling in sometime around 7 a.m.

Our spies tell us that's no longer the case in their neighborhoods, where they're now getting the entire paper at the same (much later) time. Tucson Newspaper Inc. either found it too expensive to make two passes, or the move had little impact on sales. We suspect both, which means one more budget cut as the big chain rag tries to keep the profit margin up at the expense of both readers and advertisers.

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