The Skinny

FLOW JOB: The Tucson City Council will have another chance on Monday to approve a fee for water hook-ups that was sunk a few weeks back by Republican Kathleen Dunbar and Democrats Steve Leal, José Ibarra and Shirley Scott.

Tucson Water officials hope to start charging a fee of $1,416 per new home. The $8 million raised every year would help keep down water rates for you and me. But only Mayor Bob Walkup and council members Carol West and Fred Ronstadt--y'know, the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association pawns on the council--supported this sinister plot to make growth at least start paying for itself within the city limits.

Dunbar is opposed because she doesn't like impact fees--never has, and we can't imagine she ever will. But the Democrats, who say they want thousands of dollars for other impacts fees, are harder to figure out.

Ibarra tells the press he's opposed to them because Tucson Water officials didn't take nonprofit builders into account, even though the utility set up a specific program to give such low-income developers a break. But then, it's becoming increasingly difficult to believe anything José says.

Leal and Scott, meanwhile, have spouted convoluted arguments. Similar fees have been set up in communities around the country--but none in the ass-backwards way proposed by the Democrats.

Near as we can understand, Leal and Scott propose that the utility charge homeowners over the course of a few years after they buy the home instead of getting the money up-front from developers--which means the utility will become a financing agency that collects a trickling revenue stream when the whole point was to get the money up front to keep rates down.

Even goofier, the Democrats are worried that longtime Tucson residents need to have some kind of exemption program because those folks have subsidized the system over the years, so asking them to pay a second time just isn't fair. They propose some sort of prorated program that takes into account how long homebuyers have lived here.

Hey, why stop there? Let's also take into account whether they were renters and what portion of their rent covered water costs. And what about apartment residents? If a couple splits up and the wife marries a newcomer, do they get a half-credit? What if they've never washed their car and planted only cacti instead of a grass lawn? Perhaps we should review exactly how much each individual has paid to Tucson Water for the last three decades and plug it all into the quadratic equation!

Why do we have to needlessly complicate something that other communities--even Oro Valley, for chrissakes--have figured out?

WAR TORN: Mayor Bob Walkup and the local Republican Party screwed up the big welcome home for the troops last week. After GOP volunteers manning a booth at the county fair collected signatures welcoming home the troops, they started blundering.

Air Force Maj. Gary Carruthers was invited to the opening ceremonies at Walkup's re-election headquarters, but he wisely declined. Sadly, this meant Walkup couldn't arrive at the opening ceremonies by landing a fighter jet on Broadway Boulevard.

So they GOP activists instead settled on Pima County Republican headquarters--also a stupid move. Frankly, Walkup and the council should have had the class to drive out D-M to present the banner instead of summoning Carruthers to a political party's headquarters. It's just bad form.

But the Democrats are probably overreacting as well. Tom Volgy, the former mayor who wants his old job back, delivered some deft criticism, but it was overshadowed by more puerile whining from others, particularly Ward 1 Councilman José Ibarra, who now has police investigating the possibility that a crime was committed.

Please, José--we still haven't forgotten that you were the one requesting police records regarding calls at the home of the Republican candidate who challenged you four years ago. Spare us the outrage about misuse of city resources.

GOOD CLEAN FUN: Like parents who catch their kids spending their lunch money on cigarettes and pornography, the Clean Elections Commission has ordered three Libertarian legislative candidates from Tempe to pay back more than $104,000 in funds they spent on their bacchanalian campaign during the 2002 election.

In a 5-0 vote, the commission voted that the team campaigns of the District 17 candidates Yuri Downing (Senate), Trevor Clevenger and Paul DeDonati (House) wasn't in good clean fun.

During an audit of their campaigns, the Commission learned that the three District 17 candidates' idea of the Libertarian Party was only a step down from Kid N' Play's Pajammy Jammy-Jam.

The trio spent thousands of dollars of state money at dance clubs such as Cat Eye Lounge, which advertises itself with a photograph of a drenched kitten (i.e., a wet pussy--get it?), and Axis-Radius, where the door prizes are gift certificates for breast enlargements.

Downing, who managed the money for the campaigns, claims that these were "voter outreach" events and that the commission is just a bunch of old farts who don't like the idea of a campaign targeting young folk. That would be a fair enough argument if the dance clubs weren't outside their legislative district and if they'd kept a proper record of their spending.

It also didn't help their case that the receipts they did turn in showed they spent $300 on sushi one night, and on another day dropped $1,200 at Costco for cooked shrimp, raver flashlights and enough booze to support a frat house for two years.

The kids also shoveled off $6,700 in consulting fees to Yuri's brother, Demitri Downing, who has run for the City Council and state House of Representatives himself. Their father, Ted Downing, is a yap-a-lot liberal Democrat who finally won a House seat in District 28, which covers midtown Tucson. One of the very first candidates to qualify for Clean Elections funding in 2000, Ted is a staunch supporter of the program--and now his kids are giving opponents of Clean Elections a damn good reason to argue for its repeal.

In her report, the commission's executive director Colleen Connor wrote "there does not appear to be any evidence that (the party animals) used the clean elections funding for a political campaign." In the general election against veterans Harry Mitchell and Laura Knapereck, Downing took 3.7 percent of the vote. In the House race, Clevenger won 2.3 percent and DeDonati 2.4 percent.

In their defense, Downing did offer 41 pages of photographs of their Libertarian crew standing on street corners wearing Village People costumes in front of some of the cleverest campaign posters in years: "Don't vote and the weirdo in the next car votes for you," and "Arizona is for Lovers (of Liberty)."

And if you want to talk about wasting taxpayer dollars, how about the commission photocopying all 41 pages for every one in attendance at the commission meeting?

At the same meeting they let another candidate, Ray Barnes (House District 7), who overspent by $614 and kept no records except for slips in his checkbook, slide with a slap on the wrist of no more than $6,140. So it's not inconceivable that by laying down the harshest punishment they could, the commission was out to make an example of them.

Nevertheless, if ruling is upheld in appeals, its sets an unsettling precedent about what kind political speech is kosher--and kills our plans to run an all-strip-club campaign in 2004.

QUIETED HEROES: Tucson last week lost two who should have been around forever: Eleanor Weeks Smith, 93, and Raymond Losano, 24, were unassuming doers who were too polite and giving to want any of the attention they deserve.

Weeks Smith was an old-line liberal in the best sense, a genuine person who backed up talk with blood, sweat, tears, brains and money. She was a regular at Pima County Democratic Party functions, lending her support, along with her jovial and smart son, Walker, to even the duds who appear at the weekly Democrats of Greater Tucson lunch that has moved from one rubber-chicken joint to the next.

Her work began long before she and her husband moved to Tucson in 1973. She graduated from Smith College, a faraway place in more than geography from her childhood home in Odgen, Utah.

She and her new family lived in the Chicago area and Arlington, Va., and she worked as a magazine editor, church secretary--she was an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church--and public aid social worker. Her real work was to see that all people be treated fairly. She served for a dozen years on the key desegregation committee of the Tucson Unified School District. Unlike most on the committee, scar-free phonies who have their position purely because of political payback, Weeks Smith was real. She pushed for desegregation of schools and public facilities long before while living in Virginia and as a rare white woman in the NAACP.

Her work for the American Civil Liberties Union earned her awards in Illinois and Arizona.

Tragedy struck her family in 1999, when her granddaughter, Shannon Smith, was killed by a bullet that had been fired into the air near her Encanto Park home in Phoenix. State lawmakers responded by passed Shannon's Law, which makes tightened up Arizona's loose laws against such random shooting.

Weeks Smith clearly would have done more and given more had she not be robbed by Alzheimer's disease in recent years.

Ray Losano was a quiet, self-effacing young man who might have been known in Tucson as an aide to Pima County Supervisor Dan Eckstrom. But Losano didn't stay holed up in that Democratic office. He handled a full range of non-stop constituent calls and became a devout volunteer at agencies and schools throughout the southside, from Pio Decimo to Pueblo Gardens and the Valenzuela Center.

Losano was soft-spoken, immaculate and invariably polite. He enjoyed a good cigar. If you offered him one, he was likely to decline and then hand you a much superior smoke.

He could have made a career of politics and government here, but instead chose to sign up for the Air Force after taking business courses at Pima Community College.

Airman 1st Class Raymond Losano was killed April 25 when a patrol group he was in was ambushed in Afghanistan. He leaves behind his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter in California.

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