WASTED: The Tucson City Council is shuffling toward approving City Manager James Keene's budget without paying much attention to the alternatives brought forward by the three amigos, Democrats Steve Leal, José Ibarra and Shirley Scott.

Although a majority of the council rejected Keene's proposed hike in the city's tiny primary property tax, it did approve a "Solid Waste Enhancement Fee," giving the city's solid-waste department the income stream it's been seeking for years. The bureaucracy first tried to camouflage this one as a fee for the city's worthwhile brush-and-bulky collections that pick up big loads of trash twice a year, until someone pointed out that the $3 million raised by the $2-a-month charge would be about three times the amount of money that the program costs. So it got an enhanced name and the solid support of Mayor Bob Walkup, Republican council members Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt, and Democrat Carol West.

Elsewhere on the garbage front, the council did reject Keene's pound-foolish suggestion that the city give a big discount to Waste Management Inc. to dump more of its garbage in the city's Los Reales landfill. Given the cost of finding a new landfill once this one fills up (one of the reasons we're supposed to be recycling our bottles and newspapers), it didn't make much long-term sense to encourage more garbage, even if it would bring in a little money in the short term. Wonder if Waste Management made Keene an offer he couldn't refuse to cut the deal.

The council also jacked fees for parks programs and told employees they wouldn't be getting a raise this year, but the budget remains about $5 million out of whack--and let's face it, the last $5 million is always the toughest to lose.

MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON THEIR SOULS: We often beat up on the gang at the local dailies, but we have to praise Stephanie Innes, who escaped the Citizen a few years ago to report for the Star. She has done a fine job covering that old-time religion, including the pampered pedophiles within the Catholic Diocese of Tucson. Neither the faithful nor the hierarchy can complain. Innes has covered the full spectrum, the changing of the guard (such as it was), and a host of Catholic activities, business, education and the like.

We were impressed by Innes' efforts to track down "Father" Robert Trupia at his Maryland hideout. Trupia has used ancient Vatican legal loopholes to avoid defrocking despite his history of abusing underage boys. It's a shame Innes and her photographer didn't take the opportunity to follow the Mercedes-driving Rev. Trupia for a week to find out where he hangs.

While we're on the subject of local priest scandals, our alternative brethren at the SF Weekly have come up with another scandalized priest right here in our backyard. Reporter Ron Russell reveals that G. Patrick Ziemann, who resigned as Roman Catholic bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif., in 1999, has sought sanctuary at Southern Arizona's Holy Trinity Monastery. Ziemann was forced out after a younger priest, Father Jorge Hume Salas, said that he was forced into a sexual relationship and given cash payments--as well as a venereal disease--by Ziemann. Hume, who had some troubled history of his own, eventually received more than a half a million dollars from the Santa Rosa Diocese to settle a civil lawsuit.

Ziemann retreated to Arizona under the aegis of our own former Tucson Diocese Bishop Manuel Moreno, who was pals with Ziemann since the days when they attended St. John's Seminary College four decades ago. Manny sure did cover up for his pals, no matter what their sins.

The SF Weekly reports that Ziemann has become a "fixture on the artsy party circuit in nearby Tucson [who's] even spotted occasionally at a karaoke bar."

Read all the tawdry details for yourself online at www.sfweekly.com.

GOT YA COMING AND GOING: Democratic Supervisor Richard Elias was right to push a resolution calling on the feds to bring an end to the outlandish fees charged to use public lands and recreation areas. The fees should be yanked for any number of reasons, including that they really keep poor families out of the parks.

But Elias would look a lot better if he paid as much attention to county issues. He shouldn't have simply nodded at a meeting last August and proclaimed the county's fat, $1 billion budget was a "good budget." How would he know? Sure, it's good for Elias' supporters in Sam Hughes and in the fancy neighborhoods around the Arizona Inn. (Mayor Walkup, please come to the front desk. A Chief Miranda to speak with you.) That "good budget" is fueled by property taxes that are the highest of any Arizona county.

Worse, Elias has, in his short 14 months in office, has twice approved sewer rate increases totaling 8.8 percent. We've got no problem with his vote to jack up connection fees. They were overdue. His vote to boost development impact fees for roads also was a long-overdue correction. But the new sewer user charges are just another load of crap the Board of Supervisors has dumped on the poor.

And how about Gilbert Ray Campground in the county's Tucson Mountain Park? Can't Elias see to it that fees for locals at Gilbert Ray are cut?

WHAT'S UP, DOC? University Physicians Inc., remaking itself as the savior of Pima County's Kino Community Hospital, wants more than the keys to the 26-year-old hospital. UPI is proposing to operate chronically mismanaged Kino for a no-cost, $10 a year lease. The move seems good because bungling Boards of Supervisors, particularly since 1993, have done nothing but screw up Kino and, by extension, all the hard-working doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians and aides.

But UPI wants more than the keys. These white-knight University of Arizona docs also want the county to continue subsidies in the range of $12 million to $15 million for a dozen years or so. Although that is the amount now provided with scant opposition from taxpayers, it is enough of a deal-breaker that it prompted a recent walkout by county negotiators.

LONG LIVE THE (HORSE TRACK) KING: Condolences to the family, friends and horse-loving colleagues of Howard L. King, the generous and sometimes crusty contractor who rescued a neglected jewel of Pima County history: the Rillito Race Track. He died April 10 at age 74.

King and his buddies in the Pima County Horsemen's Association protected Rillito--where the chute of the once-elite quarter-horse track is on the Register of Historic Places--from the bulldozers and developers who sought to convert it into a Mercado. Mercado? What is it with developers (J. Fife Symington III) and ill-conceived Mercados?

During his efforts, King suffered a severe stroke. He battled back and made sure, with the help of his friends, that racing continued at Rillito even if through county Fair Meets allowed by the state. We enjoyed seeing King and his kick-in-the-pants wife, Charlotte, from time to time at El Greco's Grecian Gardens. He had good taste.

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