The Skinny

WEDGE ISSUE: The GOP establishment is tripping over itself back-peddling from the Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, a proposed initiative that would require foreign-lookin' folk to show their papers if they wanted to, oh, vote or check out a library book or report a crime. And speaking of crimes, the initiative would make a criminal out of any state employee who did not report anyone they suspect--yes, suspect--of being an illegal alien who is seeking government services.

This xenophobic claptrap comes with the solid support of the GOP leadership in the state House of Representatives, including Appropriations Chair Russell Pearce and Majority Whip Randy Graf, the onetime golf pro who now represents eastern Tucson and Green Valley. Pearce complained that the state wouldn't have to build so many goldarned schools if it weren't for all the illegals filling up the classrooms.

Arizona Republican Party officials fired off an e-mail bulletin last week complaining that Democrats were trying to blame Republicans for the proposal. "The Democrats are trying to frame this as a Republican problem and hoping to alienate any potential Latino Republicans," the missive read, asking party members to be on the lookout for any media blowback toward the party.

Hey, kids, clip this column out and send it to headquarters!

We wonder how anyone would ever think that the GOP is somehow involved in this effort. Maybe we should ask Russell and Randy if they have any clue where that idea could have come from.

Bob Fannin, the longtime lobbyist who now chairs the state party, released a prepared statement announcing that "the Arizona Republican Party does not support an initiative that appears to be counterproductive to what members of our congressional delegation are attempting to achieve in the way of a comprehensive guest worker program. This is one of those rare instances that truly is better solved at the federal level."

The comment brought a sharp rebuke in an e-mail from one member of the party faithful who's clearly not toeing the line on Latino recruitment: "The statement loudly pronounces that looks like the state chairman is being guided by the 'congressional delegation.' -- It is obvious he does not speak for the entire party."

FLAKE OUT: Speaking of party poop, Congressman Jeff Flake announced last week that he wouldn't be challenging U.S. Sen. John McCain. As Flake himself acknowledged when making the announcement, McCain would have kicked his ass from here to Four Corners.

But Flake made a Faustian bargain when he won his Maricopa County seat back in 2000: Like his predecessor Matt Salmon, Flake promised to serve just three terms.

You might remember that Salmon guy; he ran for something or other last year. Well, we hear that now Matt--the guy who hated all that Beltway phoniness--is set to reclaim the seat once Flake steps down.

That is, provided Flake doesn't get smacked down on the road to re-election next year. But hey, McCain's not the kind of guy who holds a grudge, is he?

RIOS NUEVO: City Council candidate Armando Rios Jr. , a recent Republican convert, busted a move to become a more participatory citizen. He has paid the deep-discount taxes on his roughly $200,000 home in the westside foothills. County records show that he paid $414.81, including a trifling $10.77 in interest, on June 13. That is just one day after The Weekly broke the news to Rios at a local watering hole that his taxes were late, again. He was nearly three months delinquent on the first portion of taxes due Nov. 1. Rios blamed it on miscommunication with his mortgage company, Nova Home Loans, headed by golden boy Jon Volpe.

Hope it's all fixed by the time the assessor stops drastically undervaluing the property as some sort of vacant lot. Other people with that type of new crib are paying around $2,659 in taxes this year.

It could be a year of firsts for Rios, who is using a new campaign tactic: defiantly vapid. But say what you will about Rios; he has a clean city voting record. So clean that if he manages to vote for himself in the Nov. 4 general election against petulant Democrat José Ibarra, Rios will be breaking his city election cherry. He hasn't bothered to vote in a Tucson election since registering to vote 15 years ago.

MONKEY BUSINESS: In case you haven't noticed, the city's Reid Park Zoo has been advertising on billboards across Tucson for the last three months or so.

Yes, those billboards are owned by Clear Channel Communications, the same company that the city of Tucson has been battling in court over all kinds of screwy maneuvers related to the company's efforts to keep dangling those hideous erections in our faces.

So why is this happening, especially since city policy bans the use of billboards? Well, the Tucson Zoological Society is handling the publicity campaign independent of the zoo administration, so no city funds were used.

We think that dodge stinks worse than elephant crap--especially since at least half the ads seem to be on billboards that the city has sued to take down.

Speaking of billboards, Sierra Stout, who calls himself the spokesman for Artists for Responsible Action, points out that the Clear Channel folks might want to pick up a copy of Bartlett's Quotations.

On a billboard on 22nd Street near Kino Parkway, the billboard barons have posted the quote "There is no substitute for victory," which they've attributed to Winston Churchill.

Stout points out that answer isn't gonna win big money in final jeopardy. "The billboard puts the renowned words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur into Sir Winston Churchill's mouth, which is disrespectful to Winston Churchill and insulting to the people of Tucson," said Stout.

How do you goof up like that? It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma to us.

THAT DIAMOND TOUCH: Legendary land speculator Donald R. Diamond broke Dan Eckstrom's Cardinal Rule in the days before Diamond's son-in-law Yoram Levy sought Board of Supervisors approval for nearly 1,000 homes across the street from Raytheon, our very own maker of weapons of mass destruction.

Every player, including Levy, knows that once a project is kicked upstairs by the Planning and Zoning Commission, Eckstrom's policy is strictly don't ask, don't tell. He doesn't take calls from speculators, stooges or suck-ups from either side when the ball enters Supe Court.

That didn't stop The Donald from dialing in from a summer palace on Long Island. Diamond claimed he had nothing to do with this project and that it was Levy's. Just trying to help. Right.

Eckstrom, a Democrat whose district includes Raytheon, should have told Diamond: "Hey, while I've got you on the phone, Donald, why don't you and your deadbeat partner, Mr. Pitt, pay the goddamn $170,000 you owe in Old Tucson rent?"

MASSED MEDIA: The top story in the July 8 Tucson Citizen proclaimed, "Kino change swamps ER at St. Mary's." In the seventh paragraph, writer Anne T. Denogean paraphrased a comment from Dr. Heeten Desai, Kino's medical director for emergency services: "Misinformation, spread in part by the media, may have led to the public perception that Kino's emergency room has closed. -- It has not."

Ya think?

One week earlier, a Denogean and Garry Duffy story referred to Kino ER as the "now-closed Kino emergency room."

News flash: Though decimated by the Board of Supervisors, the Kino Community Hospital emergency room is not closed. Emergency services are restricted, primarily because Kino has closed medical/surgical inpatient services.

EQUAL PROTECTION? Last week, 21-year-old Dalina Gutierrez came home with her two children at 5:30 a.m. She made the tragic mistake of forgetting the younger one and fell asleep, leaving him in the car. Five hours later, when she awoke, he had died from the heat.

Gutierrez is currently being held in the Pima County Jail under a $1 million bond.

Several days later, Daniel and Suzanne Popson stopped for lunch in Oro Valley. They forgot their son was in the car. More than an hour later, as they were leaving the restaurant, their blunder dawned upon both of them. In their case, the child survived, but they, too, were held on felony charges.

Represented by ace defense lawyer Steve Weiss, Daniel and Suzanne Popson were released on their own recognizance.

Why the big difference? Obviously, Gutierrez's son died, while the Popsons' son lived. But in terms of motives, it appears to come down to this: Two tragic mistakes, two felonies, two different reactions by the Pima County Attorney's office.

Is Gutierrez a flight risk? Is she a danger to the community?

Why no bail for one error and a million bucks for the other?

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