The Skinny

ARRESTED BEHAVIOR: New Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association honcho Ed Taczanowski has barely settled into his job, but it's clear he's playing a tougher game than his recently retired predecessor, Alan Lurie.

Last week, SAHBA called a press conference to crow about the Ninth Circuit's ruling that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn't cover all the technical questions when they listed the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl as an endangered species. Several local environmentalists, some dressed as pygmy owls, crashed the party to demonstrate against the decision.

SAHBA folks claim that Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity pushed his way into the SAHBA offices and refused to leave. A few days later, the cops showed up at Suckling's house and pushed him into the back of a squad car, charging him with assault and criminal trespassing. The police report says there were no apparent injuries, but two SAHBA employees complained of "soreness."

Suckling, who spent a night in jail before being released on his own recognizance, denies pushing anyone and says he was the one who was assaulted--first when he entered the building and again when he was leaving.

"We're thinking about suing SAHBA for filing a false complaint and possibly the Tucson Police Department for false arrest," Suckling says. "The only assault that has occurred here is the developers' assault on democracy and the desert."

TRIMMED BUSH: So a Zogby tracking poll now shows that George W. Bush's approval rating has dropped to pre-Sept. 11 levels--and that the number of people who think we need a change in the White House now exceeds the number of folks who want to keep W. around. Guess maybe ol' Honest Abe was right about not being able to fool all of the people all of the time.

Last week, Bush sent Attorney General John Ashcroft out to promote the Patriot Act. That's good for another 10-point drop by the end of the year.

MERRY MERCHANTS: The business owners on North Campbell Avenue are continuing their efforts to revitalize their shopping and dining corridor. Last week, banners went up between Grant and Fort Lowell roads to promote the street as a destination district, with help from Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar's Back to Basics bling. About 100 businesses are now getting involved in the fledgling Campbell Avenue Business Partnership, according to Hear's Music owner Britt Dornquast.

Now they're hoping to implement a plan developed by local architect Corky Poster and some UA architecture students to spruce up the corridor, including some vegetation, a nicer pedestrian path and crosswalk islands to make crossing Campbell less deadly.

Dunbar's done quite a turnaround since last year, when she and the City Council majority were pushing a grade-separated intersection at Grant and Campbell that would have devastated area business owners. Dunbar now says she doesn't think the GSI will be built at the intersection.

This being an election year, Mayor Bob Walkup has also given the area $50,000 in Back to Basics bucks.

That's a serious attitude change on Walkup's part. Last year, he saw the corridor as an acceptable sacrifice on the altar of faster traffic flow. His response to concerned business owners was: "As mayor and the CEO of the city, I've got a responsibility to the city. I've got to worry about people getting to and from work. I've got to worry about ambulances and fire trucks and the future of Tucson."

These days, he seems more worried about the future of his political career.

EARLY WARNING SYSTEM: The end is nigh for requesting an early ballot in the Sept. 9 city primary election. If you want to vote early, you have until 5 p.m. on Aug. 29 to get your request in. Contact the Tucson City Clerk's Office at 884-VOTE or visit

The only real action this year is the Democratic primary in eastside Ward 2, where incumbent Councilwoman Carol West is facing a challenge from lefty Lianda Ludwig. As of Monday, Aug. 25, 1,003 Democrats had requested early ballots, along with 142 independent voters. So far, about half of those folks have already sent their ballot back in.

SELECTIVE SERVICE: Dick Dunbar, husband of Ward 3 Republican City Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar, is an earnest sort who is well-regarded as a mortgage broker. But he gets wound too tightly on his politics and City Council business, ranging from the city's disastrous transportation scheme last year to the current matter closer to his expertise: home loans. Though he says the proposed ordinance to clamp down on predatory lending would not affect his Select Mortgage, he has been a leader of the pack gathering to abort the measure.

In doing so, he's sidestepped some facts and exaggerated the prestige and weight of some the studies he supplied to the City Council.

Attempting to justify high interest charged in the subprime market to those with poor credit, Dunbar said Pima County "charges 15 percent interest on unpaid property tax bills and the process can lead to foreclosure if left unpaid." The interest rate is 16 percent--and that process takes three years from the time tax liens are sold at auction.

Included in Dunbar's packet to the council was a report from a then-second year law student at Harvard University that Dunbar claims is an official Harvard University study. Deborah Goldstein, the author of the 1999 report "Understanding Predatory Lending: Moving Towards a Common Definition and Workable Solutions," clearly makes a distinction. "Any opinions expressed are those of the author and not those of the Joint Center of Housing Studies of Harvard University ... the findings and conclusions of this report are solely the responsibility of the author."

Hey, we once sneaked onto Harvard Square. Can we claim a Skinny-Crimson link?

Dunbar went over the top with another report, one by Robert Litan, the vice president and director of the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. Dunbar told the council that the 2001 report was from the Brookings Institution even though the author includes a disclaimer stating the report was prepared "on behalf of the American Bankers Association. The views are his own and not those of the Brookings Institution."

POKER NIGHT AT PCC: If Scott Stewart, a Libertarian and president of the Pima Community College board, gets some money and has the itch to play a few hands of poker, you'll want to race to the table. The man has no mask. He blushes. He turns ruddy.

Maybe not all the time. But certainly when Mary Schuh, the incomparable tax watchdog, exposes the holes in an agreement PCC cooked up with the voracious tax-eater, the Northwest Fire District. These are holes big enough to drive hook and ladders through.

Taxpayers of both districts (which includes all of Pima County) are subsidizing Northwest's latest sweetheart deal to have its members get some learnin' in fire classes through PCC. Full credit, no tuition and, as Mary Schuh pointed out, closed to the great unwashed.

Why should you care if you live in Tucson? Because you pay, on average, the cost of a movie ticket to subsidize Northwest and the county's 16 other fire districts. That's on top of the taxes you pay for Tucson Fire Department.

"I have not reviewed the intergovernmental agreement," Stewart, his face glowing, confessed to Schuh at last week's meeting.

Replied Schuh: "It was in your board book last month when you approved it. You just passed it last month."

Stewart then said, "I suspect things are perfectly fine."

CLOSE COUNTS: The Tanque Verde Coalition, seeking to redirect the Tanque Verde Unified School District, has brought in a ringer as a candidate in the Nov. 5 recall election of school board President Dr. Sherrylyn Young.

Karen Close and her husband did not alight in the Tanque Verde Valley until the spring of 2002, well after the proposed high school catalyzed the bitter division in the district. Close, 60, is a registered independent and served on a Yakima, Wash., school board for 18 years. Her kids were educated in public schools. She was a member of that state's School Director's Legislative Committee and represented some 25 districts before the Washington Legislature.

That should give her enough experience to be able to tell when smoke is being blown, including from the Tucson Unified School District. That rotten system has an almost pied-piper hold on Tanque Verde dissidents who are fighting the high school. Y'all need to get down to 1010 E. 10th St. to witness how poorly the TUSD board treats students, parents, taxpayers and teachers.

Superintendent Denise Ryan is in an unenviable position trying to mollify a board split 3-2. She could not be reached soon enough two weeks ago for comment on the effect the recall may have on the high school. The state School Facilities Board has again given a series of proceed signals. Young now says that the high school issue depends on who runs in--and wins--the recall election.

SEX LINE: In "Addicted to Sex" (Aug. 21), we did not include a local phone number for COSA--a recovery program for men and women whose lives have been affected by compulsive sexual behavior. That number is 570-1233.

EL REY RETURNS: Richard Martinez is out as the boss of Raul Grijalva's Tucson congressional office, next to the pawn shop at 810 E. 22nd St, and Ruben Reyes is in.

Why? That's a good question; nobody's talking.

Martinez can get back to lawyering and searching for an authentic Brioni. When the Grijalva was on the Board of Supervisors, he awarded a couple of big-paying Pima County cases to Martinez, a longtime friend,

Reyes was the Grijalva county aide who made headlines for skipping out on a fabricated job at the county to put together a film on youth. Instead, Reyes devoted his time to getting his mentor elected to Congress. He repaid the county a fraction of the pay he received for the no-show job. He promised to make good on the film.

We'll see if Ruben can make a run at Alfonso Cuarón.

Grijalva also has the services of a pet he once claimed would be a "liability." Rodney Glassman, scion to a major Fresno farming family (what pesticides?), is strutting wildly for Grijalva. It's yet another job his parents purchased for him.

And Sami "The Bull" Hamed, the political whiz kid at Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind, Pima Community College and the University of Arizona, is also on Grijalva's 24/7 clock, collecting gossip and spreading the company line.

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