The Skinny

TICKET TO THE TITANIC: Key among the "structural" changes at the Tucson Citizen is the return of Ann-Eve Pedersen, a sterling reporter at Gannett's anemic PM before she upgraded to the Arizona Daily Star in 1993.

Pedersen is editor Michael Chihak's lone bright move in the two years he has 1) kept the paper going 2) prepared for its closure.

A Tucson native and Brown grad, Pedersen is one of the rare pleasures in this dirty business. She is smart, works hard and doesn't mind getting her own hands messy. She began as a clerk at the Citizen then got bumped to cover courts, where she regularly beat the Star. She ripped the cover off lawyer Bob Hirsh's attempt in March 1990 to run Len Scheff through City Court as a "John Doe" when Scheff, a prominent lawyer, was busted for agreeing to commit a "lewd act" at Himmel Park. She later did a fine job at City Hall, particularly leading the coverage of the city's coverup of fuel leaks at the city's Thomas O. Price Center and contamination of the Fairgrounds Neighborhood.

Star reporters (including some who now scribble for this rag) pushed and pushed and pushed Star editors Bobbie Jo Buel and John Silva in 1992 to hire Pedersen. She finally suited up there in 1993. Among her highlights were coverage of the preposterous--and losing--trial of supposed IRA terrorists in federal court here and the wildly ignored regulations and codes that allowed Old Tucson to burn to the ground. The first is made more interesting by the fact that the Irish persecution came at the hands of then U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Janet Napolitano. Pedersen's brother-in-law, Paul Eckerstrom, worked for now-Gov. Napolitano when the Democrat was the Arizona Attorney General. He was an ardent campaigner for Napolitano last year.

Pedersen was the beneficiary of the coup that sunk Silva, the longest serving metro editor (10 years) in modern Star history and now Page 1 editor at the Dallas Morning News. Delayed News Flash: Silva wasn't at all bad and the bad old days at the Star are now viewed, in light of current management, as the good old days. Pedersen's spin at the wheel was over after just more than two years. She clashed with the Gannettization brought by Star boss Jane Amari and her henchmen.

Chihak, a poseur who bores all with his stories about his uncle's South Fourth Avenue meat market, announced to his staff that luring Pedersen as the Senior Editor for News "shows that the Citizen is going to kick the Star's ass." Really?

The butts she'll have to kick first are those of the non-performing, cry-baby, tantrum-throwing incompetents in her own shop. One good byproduct: Lazy and talent-shy Joe Garcia got moved aside. In a snit, he threatened to stop writing his worse-than-lame column.

This is a step in the right direction. But we have to wonder why Pedersen would leave her comfy Sam Hughes home (the one marked last summer and fall with the big Raul Grijalva-for-Congress sign) and her pre-school son for the Citizen unless Gannett is closer to taking over Pulitzer's Star and making Tucson a one-daily town.

As saintly as Ann-Eve is, she is inextricably linked with Tucson's Democratic politics. Her dad, Lars Pedersen, is a former chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party and a former deputy county attorney and failed candidate--long ago--for county attorney. He's a nice guy as is Ann-Eve's husband, Peter Eckerstom, a talented if politically correct defense lawyer. Tune into the Citizen's coverage of one of Eckerstrom's high-profile clients, Edward Manuel, the chairman of the Tohono O'odham tribe who is fighting drunk-driving charges.

A year ago, Ann-Eve and her husband pushed for Paul Eckerstrom to fill the seat Grijalva vacated. With Eckerstrom's support for union-bustin' Bruce Babbitt, in the 1988 presidential primary, and bad-mouthing of Public Defender Susan Kettlewell in the early 1990s, snow in Hell was more likely.

Buon Viaggio!

NON-CITIZEN: Another nifty trick from the Citizen: Run a big ad touting border coverage from Susan Carroll ("she sees more in a day than most see in a lifetime") in the Christmas Eve ad rag that is mailed to Tucson households. After being billed as the border expert, $usan left for the greener pastures of the Arizona Republic.

PROSECUTION RESTS: Condolences to family, friends and colleagues of David R. White, a deputy Pima County attorney who died Sunday of pancreatic cancer at age 52.

White, a one-time Arizona Prosecutor of the Year, handled some of the most difficult and nastiest cases. He put away plenty of thugs and murderers. He was a fierce friend and ally of victims. He wasn't afraid to see the end result of a prosecutors' work--an execution.

White was a Democratic activist in the old days, but became a Republican and ran under that banner for County Attorney in 1996, losing to Democrat Barbara LaWall. He didn't sulk, bitch or moan, but rather bore down to win convictions in the brutal Moon Smoke Shop and Firefighter's Union Hall murders.

We were fortunate to see White recently as he courageously made his way with wife Janet Bingham to the Katie Dusenberry library branch on several occasions to check out and return books.

Always a fighter.

SHE HAD PLUCK: Martha Salzman, a wonderful classical musician and keyboard teacher, died of lung cancer January 9 at age 69. Her most famous artistic creation was her son, Mark, author of the novel Lying Awake and the memoir Iron and Silk. But Martha was a significant figure in her own right. She played the harpsichord, that plucked-string forerunner of the piano, and played it superbly.

Before she and her husband relocated to Tucson a few years ago, she performed quite a lot on the East Coast and, most notably, with London's famous Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. She played in Tucson, too, and worked on the board of the Arizona Early Music Society, which sponsors performances of music written before about 1750. Diminutive in physique but not in kindness, talent or intelligence, Martha Salzman will be sorely missed.

HILLS AND VALLEYS: Graham County Sheriff Frank Hughes presides not just over the mountainous terrain along Highway 70, where the small towns of Safford, Thatcher and Pima are located, but also is president of the Arizona Sheriff's Association. So we ought to belatedly pass on the news that the Arizona Attorney General's office has decided not to pursue felony charges against him.

The charges stemmed from a January 2000 incident in which Graham County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Kieffer pulled over the sheriff's sister, Michelle Ashcraft, for a traffic violation and found her in possession of drug-related paraphernalia. Instead of arresting her, Kiefer called in his boss, Sheriff Hughes.

Saying the local hospital was unable to accept Ashcraft at the time, Hughes took his sister home. That decision and subsequent events triggered Deputy Kieffer to lodge a complaint with then Graham County Attorney Jack Williams, who referred the case to the Arizona Attorney General's office.

The original charges against Hughes were obstructing a criminal prosecution, conducting a fraudulent scheme and willful concealment of evidence. Four months after filing the first three charges, the Arizona Attorney General's office added an additional charge: conflict of interest.

Hughes' Tucson attorney, Walter Nash, successfully argued before the Arizona Supreme Court that Hughes could not be charged under Arizona's conflict of interest statutes because he had no possibility of financial gain from his action on behalf of his sister.

On November 14, Gov.-elect Janet Napolitano's Attorney General's office decided to dismiss all charges. A week later, Hughes was elected president of the Arizona Sheriff's Association. County Attorney Williams, who served in his position for the previous 17 years, was defeated in the November election. Meanwhile, Hughes won his own re-election by a landslide. Deputy Kieffer was fired from the Sheriff's Department and ended up with a $75,000 legal settlement from Graham County. Hughes said his sister is off drugs now.

ANOTHER YEAR, MORE HOUSES: An April story in The Weekly highlighted conflicts between developer Christopher Kemmerly and residents of the historic West University neighborhood. Kemmerly planned to build 23 units in the area, which residents supported, but they wanted him to construct them out of masonry, not frame and stucco. Kemmerly prevailed, and the homes are now going up. At the same time, a lawsuit he filed against the neighborhood association alleging it maliciously delayed the project is still pending, and has cost the group at least $1,000 in legal fees.

Another proposal to build 62 apartments for senior citizens on the former site of Drachman School has pitted neighbors against City Hall for more than two years. But that project is also now under construction, despite a pending lawsuit claiming it is not the residential care facility approved by the city.

A May article in The Weekly highlighted local dentist William Deeming's problems with the city over purchasing his house on Dodge Boulevard near El Con Mall. Municipal officials had determined his home was worth much less than the house next door, a property they had acquired for $500,000 two years ago. The city had negotiated with La Frontera about purchasing the long-vacant house, but the behavioral health center did not buy it. The city has now had another appraisal completed which shows a current value of only $305,000. Deeming thinks the city's inaction with the next-door house may have reduced his own property's value.

In August a Weekly article outlined the city's proposed use of criminal background checks of people applying for Section 8 housing assistance. To facilitate that process, applicants were required to supply their Social Security numbers, and the Tucson Police Department was going to perform the checks. But that hasn't happened, according to Peggy Morales of the Community Services department. She is still negotiating with TPD over the process, including what will happen to the information after it is obtained by the police. While Morales earlier indicated the city may no longer request SSNs on the Section 8 application form due to privacy concerns, she now says that federal law requires her to do so and that city attorneys are looking into the issue.

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