The Skinny

WE HATE TO IMAGINE WHAT THIS MEANS FOR DOWNTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT: Tucson police brass are busily trying to satisfy Mayor Bob Walkup and City Manager James Keene with a new Downtown Division that will strip resources from areas that have much higher calls and, well, crime to primp for fallow Rio Nuevo.

Chief Richard Miranda briefed, and it certainly was brief, the City Council on this plan last month and was met by seven fawning politicians who could not muster the courage to ask a decent question.

Here's the way a little Q&A could have started:

Q: Who will be in charge of the new Downtown Division?

A: Capt. Rich Harper.

Q: What are his qualifications?

A: Incident commander for the 2001 Fourth Avenue Riot!

Any more questions?

ECUMENICAL MAYOR: After voters smashed City Hall's anachronistic transportation plan and accompanying half-cent increase in the sales tax, Mayor Bob's Happy Talk Road Show now features regional transportation schemes. The first-term Republican now is beseeching Pima County, South Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita to come out to play. Isn't this the mayor who, in the days leading up to sales tax election, proclaimed in his favorite morning daily that the "city is not the county?"

Walkup's holier-than-thou attempt to claim city bureaucrats don't hand out contracts to their pals, who then roll them over and over and over, didn't wash. Voters saw through this and every other lie and crushed the road and tax plan.

Walkup is stealing an idea that was resurrected by Republican Greg Lunn when he successfully campaigned for his seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1988. Lunn may have worked only quarter-time, but he was infinitely smarter and quicker than Walkup. He proposed a regional transportation authority 14 years ago. Turf battles predictably stalled Lunn's plan.

How do you think Walkup and Republican Fred Ronstadt will do in luring the county and South Tucson? The two accused the Board of Supervisors, and specifically Democrat Dan Eckstrom, of all kinds of wrongdoing when supes moved $10 million slated for improvements to 22nd Street to South Tucson and other southside neighborhoods. And then there was Walkup's classic moment at a Rio Nuevo board meeting: calling Alice Eckstrom "Mrs. Grijalva."

Happy motoring.

LOW IMPACT: The City Council last week ordered the city manager to begin a study of the amount of an impact fee and for what range of services it would levied. Although Tucson remains the only major metro area in the state that doesn't have an impact fee (even Oro Valley and Marana expect builders to pay some share of the road costs), Mayor Bob Walkup seems to be softening in his opposition to the fees in the wake of the defeat of his half-cent sales tax prop. Bob's now talking about a pilot program, which will probably cover one subdivision for a decade before city leaders conclude it doesn't raise much money.

For those Growth Lobby shills who suggest impact fees in Tucson will drive growth further to the fringe: that's only going to happen if the plan is devised by complete idiots (which is always a possibility in this town). In case you haven't noticed, the city limits now reach nearly down to Benson and include a whole bunch of vacant land just aching for new subdivisions. The simple and elegant solution is to craft impact fees that increase as development grows farther from existing infrastructure, and possibly even provide incentives for infill so that affordable housing issues can be addressed. If we can figure that out, it clearly doesn't take a genius.

SNOW JOB: We get weary watching the non-profit Cosa Nostra line up every year to take the tax money handed over by the City Council and the Board of Supervisors. And it is difficult to cheer for the poor management at the Brewster Center for Domestic Violence Services.

But Brewster is being forced to cut services and staff to plug a $175,000 hole in a meager $1.5 million annual budget. Still, the county has plenty of jack to pay Craig Bradford Snow $45,000 to serve as a consultant to evaluate outside agencies like Brewster.

It is a game Snow knows all too well. The former mouthpiece for the Tucson Aids Project, Snow has worked himself into a slick gig that is a flat waste of money. That's why we pay those fat-butted bureaucrats at the city and county.

MORE POWER TO HIM: We hear the morning daily is looking for a new political correspondent. Veteran reporter Joe Salkowski, in need of a change of pace after more than a decade at the Star, is heading off for a job as a flack for Tucson Electric Power. We're sure the smooth-talking Salkowski will do a fine job spinning excuses for the electric company. Who will fill in for him on political beat? Our vote goes to movie critic Phil Villarreal.

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