The Skinny

DOLLARS FOR SCHOLARS: Rhonda Bodfield, of our favorite morning daily, did a good, if perhaps too polite, job on Saturday of exposing the folly of UA Prez Peter Likins' plan to boost Hispanic enrollment. As he announced last week, Likins wants to kick the UA's Hispanic population up to 25 percent (from its current 14 percent).

Why? As Bodfield pointed out, federal recognition as a Hispanic-serving institution can free up federal grant money, which pays the tuition of those students who can't foot the bill themselves, and Hispanic alumni have already raised a $1.6 million endowment that covers tuition for 108 current students. Obviously, Hispanics could be a financial bonanza for the UA, especially if they're from beyond Arizona's borders--out-of-state tuition is substantially greater than what the locals pay. Trouble is, recruitment and retention programs can cost big bucks, which could wipe out the Hispanic tuition windfall.

Even so, Bodfield didn't manage to connect the dots of Likins' cabinet reorganization. It's all about money. Just look at the new proposed duties of the central administrators--a revamping still subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents.

Second-in-command George Davis is supposed to supervise academic affairs, but he also chairs the UA finance committee. No change there, except he gets his title tweaked. No. 3 man Joel Valdez is senior VP for business affairs, and Likins wrote in an e-mail to faculty last week that his "financial acumen has been critical to our success in navigating in dangerous financial waters"; you can bet Joel will be up for a big fat raise, although he has a history of spreading his out to his staff. Patti Ota is being shifted into a new vice presidency to oversee "enrollment management," which means in part that she'll be collaborating on graduate-student enrollment matters with Dick Powell, vice president for research, graduate studies and economic development. Note that significant triad of interests: Research, which is tied in with graduate students and the research-obsessed professors who deign to supervise them, is a cash cow for the UA; the institution grabs an unconscionably big cut of every research grant to cover "administrative overhead."

No wonder this is lumped in with "economic development."

Taking Ota's old vice-presidency, overseeing the Hispanic-enrollment initiative and serving as the main link to the Board of Regents is former regent Edith Auslander. Edie seems only slightly more Hispanic than Taco Bell, so the real reason she's getting this plum job is surely that she's being rewarded for her work as director of development for the UA Alumni Association--in other words, it's a way to insinuate another fund-raiser into top administration.

This leaves only senior vice president Saunie Taylor, whose specialty is "campus life," without a tin cup to bang.

And what of the able Randy Richardson, vice president for undergraduate education? His job, which has nothing to do with generating revenue, is no longer a UA priority, so Richardson is being sent back to teach in the geosciences department. Some of his duties are being transferred, bizarrely, to chief information officer Sally Jackson. And with the retirement this summer of the popular vice provost for academic affairs, Elizabeth Ervin, that position will be reconceived as a dumping ground for whatever academic supervisory jobs may remain, and will be filled by a necessarily impotent seat-warmer until the UA gets around to shifting somebody into the position permanently, which could take a year or two.

Wouldn't it be swell if the UA devoted this much administrative attention to actually educating students, especially undergraduates? But in the UA's tower of power, it's all about money--sucking it in, and rewarding the people who suck the hardest.

ALL ABOARD: Everybody wants a ticket punched on the Tucson light-rail express, or at least the picked-upon petition process that has backers dangling on the precipice, awaiting a final decision by the city clerk/attorney to see if the proposal will be on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot.

Light rail conductors Steve Farley, Clague A. Van Slyke III and others are pressing Mayor Bob Walkup and members of the City Council to make City Clerk Kathy Detrick and her deputy city attorney husband, Brad Detrick, lighten up or suspend the rules and place the damn thing on the ballot.

Detrick's office is nothing if not a stickler for petition detail, and she has bounced a big batch of signatures based on faulty notary practices and smaller infractions. The magic number was 12,777 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot. It seeks voter approval for light rail on Broadway Boulevard and South Sixth Avenue, beefed up bus service and neighborhood street repair--all to be paid by a .3 percent increase in sales tax and by revenues from a new construction sales tax.

When the clerk struck 2,100 signatures, Farley and Van Slyke went into overdrive, including purchasing an entire (three-hour) morning of the John C. Scott Show. Scott suddenly became an ardent ally for ballot placement. Whaddya know?

Walkup, a Republican wanting to punch his ticket for another term, raced around for a week trying to mollify the light railers. He doesn't support the measure, but he wants it on the ballot for voters to choose. If that was too much rail-straddling, Walkup had his chief mouthpiece, Republican Councilman Fred Ronstadt, announce that he and Walkup actually support light rail--for Tucson's future.

City Council Philosopher Steve Leal, a Democrat, wondered how hard the clerk works to knock down citizen budget measures.

"The city spent $1.5 million last year trying to manipulate the will of the people for the transportation sales tax," Leal said. "Voters killed it. Now the city is spending money trying to thwart the will of the people."

INTO THE FIRE: Alan Lurie, the distinguished retired Air Force general who had the impossible task of directing and representing the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, is not out of the growth game. City Councilwoman Shirley Scott, a Democrat, has appointed Lurie to the city Planning Commission.

Good move.

Thought that would get your attention. No, the Skinny has not become blade 'n' grade.

Lurie is thoughtful and smart, and he has cajones. He is quiet and never brags, back slaps or back stabs. And he'll be no pushover for developers and the very home builders who must have driven him batty over the years with their bratty ways.

PREACHING TO THE CHOIR: It's sad but true that damn near everyone who attends the mayoral and City Council campaign forums is a partisan. Hardly any average citizen shows up in order to be possibly swayed by a candidate. It has been that way for decades, but nobody told the political reporter for the Arizona Daily Star.

The Star is so desperate to have people comment in their stories that they get duped. Covering a mayoral puff-fest, the Star's C.J. Karamargin latched onto Paula Maxwell to have her say in his July 23 story that she went to the forum as a fan of Republican Mayor Bob Walkup and left as one.

Walkup could have done and said anything--and Maxwell would have remained a fan. She works for the man's re-election effort, for crying out loud! She passed nominating petitions for Walkup's re-election campaign and has given him two cash contributions to help him qualify for city matching funds. Maxwell also gave Walkup cash contributions in 1999 and served as a campaign worker, including driving Walkup from function to function.

Maxwell is a Republican diehard who has worked in the GOP's county headquarters. She was a secretary for Mike Boyd, when the Flakey Waffleman was a Republican member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Now she works at another Republican bastion--Select Mortgage, the lender headed by Dick Dunbar, husband of Republican Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar.

Maxwell isn't exactly a recent unknown, either. She was front and center in the GOP fanfare to paint the A on Sentinel Mountain red, white and blue.

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