The Skinny

KEENE EDGE: The biggest winner of last week's primary election was probably City Manager Jim Keene, who's hanging on to his job by a slim and single vote. If Democrat Lianda Ludwig had knocked off Councilwoman Carol West in Ward 2, Keene might as well have starting packing up his office knickknacks.

But West hung onto her seat, which wasn't all that surprising, given that she represents the most conservative ward in the city. Ludwig's campaign was the kind that might have won in one of the midtown wards, where Democrats lean further left, but hers wasn't a message eastside voters were going to buy.

Now Keene has to hope Democrat Tom Volgy is unable to knock off Mayor Bob Walkup. Although Volgy might not move to ax Keene immediately, we think he'd damn sure act like his boss rather than his employee. And we certainly hope Volgy wouldn't put up with the stonewalling of public records that continues on at City Hall.

Then again, both mayoral candidates could lose to Libertarian Kimberly Swanson, who got enough write-in votes to qualify for the November ballot.

Swanson's best hope of victory is for both Volgy and Walkup to rip off their faces on live TV and reveal themselves to be the leaders of an alien invasion from the planet Lominac, united in a plan to steal our women and eat our children. Hey, it could happen --

BLAZE OF GLORY: Some city employees are happy with Bob Walkup. The Tucson firefighters union has formed an independent campaign committee to help boost hizzoner, as well as Republican Armando Rios Jr., who is challenging Councilman José Ibarra in the November general election.

We'd bet these guys will stick with a positive message, acting like good cop to the Growth Lobby's bad-cop negative campaigns that we smell in the wind.

FEDERAL EXPRESS: Taking a cue from wildlife agencies that relocate troublesome bears, the federal government last week began flying illegal immigrants captured in Arizona to Texas, where they're being tossed across the border into Ciudad Juarez.

OK, so at least they're not shipping them in by overnight courier, like that one whackjob we read about last week. (We suspect they would, but it would be too expensive.)

Still, it seems ungodly cruel that people who have traveled across Mexico to reach the border and then got nabbed crossing the deadly desert end up dumped at the other end of Mexico with no money and no hope.

Our border policies are completely broken--and the Bush Administration seems to have no solutions, other than occasional pandering to the Hispanic population in hopes that they'll bring voters into the big tent of the Grand Old Party.

THE GREAT OLD TUCSON HEIST: Pima County is rolling over--again--for the two most powerful and richest speculators in the valley, Donald Diamond and Don Pitt, with a giveaway lease for the Western theme park that the Dons have decimated.

Rather than give them the boot, the county is coddling Diamond-Pitt by chopping annual rent from $300,000 to $50,000. For accurately reporting that wild reduction way back in May, The Weekly was denounced as a pack of lies by Old Tucson barkers Phil Mangelsdorf and Terry Pollock.

None of that matters, though. The county also is going to forgive the rent, even at the 83.3-percent discount, for three years.

The lopsided restructuring also allows Diamond-Pitt to escape with another half-million dollars in rent credits for work that was to be done to maintain buildings and other features. The Diamond-Pitt crew is now supposed to maintain all structures. County records repeatedly show they haven't done a very good. And certainly neither Diamond-Pitt nor the county did a damn thing to make sure that the place wouldn't burn to the ground like it did in April 1995.

Finally, the county is going to allow Old Tucson to pay back rent, now at $240,000, over 10 years at 6 percent interest.

Only Republican Supervisor Ray Carroll has raised objection to this lease that so slobbers over Diamond and Pitt that Pima Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry took the unusual step in his message to the Board of Supervisors to note "while some may criticize the amended and restated lease -- it provides the best opportunity to allow Old Tucson to continue operating as a major tourism attraction while providing the county with approximately the same benefit over the term of the lease."

Right, Chuck. Zero benefit.

BUZZIN' WITH THE BEES: So sticky was a new lease for a Bee Line bus yard at the Tanque Verde Unified School District that even Tanque Verde's craven board majority joined usual dissidents to nix it. A revised version is expected next month.

The Bee Line is a family business with incredible political connection and clout, because it includes former five-term state Senator Keith Bee, his brother and Senate successor, Tim Bee, and, as Keith Bee noted for the Tanque Verde board, the real boss, his wife. They are powerful Bees, because they are Republican and in the majority.

Bee Line flouted nearly every provision of its lease with Tanque Verde, stopped paying rent ($725 a month) and was allowed to stay on school property after the lease expired on Feb. 1. They must be talking to Don Diamond, because not only did they stay--it must be noted they have since come current on rent--but they are proposing a new lease that will switch landlord-tenant roles on a well-vegetated residential parcel north of the Tanque Verde bus yard.

Keith Bee whined that his company was always good for Tanque Verde. He said he rejected an opportunity to relocate his bus storage at $600 month.

No one asked if the new lot would have meant higher fuel costs and more wear and tear. Nor did anyone press the ever-smiling Keith Bee on the fact that his drivers help themselves to Tanque Verde space and equipment.

Tanque Verde board member Doug Hughes improperly directed Associate Superintendent Marty O'Shea earlier this year to back off the Bees because Tim Bee's support was needed for other Tanque Verde matters, including the ill-planned high school. O'Shea, a CPA, is a stand-up guy who earned respect for his work in another tumultuous government, Pima County, in the 1990s.

Message to Hughes: Quit meddling; quit violating board and state school policies; and quit kissing legislative butt. If legislators, including Tim Bee, vote the wrong way, then vote them the hell out of office!

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS: Gov. Janet Napolitano has pinned a lot on the idea of reforming the state's antiquated tax code with an overhaul that eliminates useless loopholes and stabilizes the state's finances.

She'd better take a close look at Alabama, where a similar overhaul was shot down by voters, despite the fact that it presented a progressive tax system that would have mostly raised taxes on the rich. It just goes to show you that folks reject any complex tax proposition.

Any overhaul of the tax code would have to pass with a two-thirds majority in the Arizona Legislature, which ain't going to happen. So the only hope is taking it to the ballot. Lotsa luck on that one!

So how are the state's finances? Well, the most recent report from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows mixed results. We're about $12 million below projections for July, the first month of the fiscal year, but hey, we've got 11 more months to make that up.

The good news: Sales tax revenues were $4.6 million higher than expected. The bad news: Income tax withholding was $13 million below the projections.

So that's the Bush recovery: fewer jobs and more spending! Let's all work a little harder and save a little less.

YOU DO THE MATH: Speaking of the state's financial problems, The Associated Press recently published online a surprisingly authentic state government simulator in which visitors are invited to play gubner and pass a state budget in 10 weeks while facing a $30 million shortfall.

It's called "Tough Times, Tough Choices" and it's online here.

Pass a budget two out of three years, and you've won yourself a second term in office. You can manipulate spending on education, health care, business development, law and order and tax relief. Then you can mess with taxes including: personal income, sales, corporations, liquor/tobacco and estate.

Then it's submitted to the Legislature for a vote--and that's where it gets frustrating.

A diverse band of lawmakers will undoubtedly reject it, and you're back at the drawing board. You can click to view each district's agendas and respond to their needs. You can also check the weekly newspaper to hear what folks like us have to say about you. Don't pass a budget, and you're a crappy governor.

Of course, the game is lacking several key elements in lawmaking, specifically bullying, blackmail, policy-bill hijacking, campaign contribution bribery, constituent pandering and activist protesting. But what you will face are legislators who hate your guts and will vote against your budget out of spite. There are knee-jerk liberals and independent anti-tax militants who won't budge.

If there's one thing you'll learn, it's that your spending philosophy means jack squat compared to your ability to compromise.

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