The Skinny

BOND BOMBS: The Tucson City Council, following the advice of City Manager Jim Keene, is trying to make life difficult for county officials who are laying the groundwork for an open-space (and possibly more) bond election next May.

Keene thinks the council should demand that half the open-space dollars be spent within the city of Tucson, since about half the county's property tax revenues come from within the city limits.

Unfortunately for city officials, the idea behind the bond election is to jump-start the county's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan by raising money to set aside the most ecologically valuable land within Pima County. That means habitat for endangered or threatened species, of which there's relatively little within the city limits, other than some pineapple cacti. So it's not likely the city is gonna get its way.

But just because open space isn't in the city limits doesn't mean city residents can't get to it. Westside and downtown residents are a whole lot closer to Tucson Mountain Park than they are to Udall Park on the far-flung east side.

The city's provincial attitude comes despite the county's repeated offers to work with the city on the conservation plan. Our mayor and council said they'd rather do their own plan (although city officials are piggybacking on the county's work).

City Council members have embraced the notion that the city is a poor, neglected stepchild of the county. City Councilman Frodo Ronstadt (R-Middle Earth) has been the most vocal whiner, complaining loudly that the county has ripped off city taxpayers by spending its transportation bond money outside the city limits. Ronstadt says that's unfair to the city residents who are paying property taxes on the county bonds.

Whoa, Frodo! Those road bonds aren't re-paid by property taxes. They're revenue bonds re-paid by the county's share of gas taxes doled out by the state. Of every dollar you pay in gas taxes, roughly half stays with the Arizona Department of Transportation to build highways and other projects; about 30 cents trickles back to cities like Tucson, and the final 20 cents goes to the county.

Despite the fact that the county gets a smaller share than the city, county officials agreed to share the 1997 road bond proceeds with Tucson under what was essentially a blackmail threat by the City Council. But part of the deal from the get-go required the city to pony up its share--which it has never done.

Instead, Tucson officials simply whined that the county took away money for a widening of 22nd Street--but they never seem to mention that was after city officials informally raised the idea of transferring those dollars to another project such as Broadway Boulevard or Grant Road. (Reality check: Did they really think outgoing Supervisor Dan Eckstrom was going to let them take that bling out of his district?)

And we should remember that the money originally allotted for 22nd Street is now going to fix decaying residential streets on Tucson's southside--which, like most everywhere else in town, has been woefully neglected by the city.

As we watch city officials do their best to ratfuck the bond election, we have to ask them: Tell us again how you're going to achieve your plans for city/county consolidation?

SANTA BARBARA FAULT LINE: Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall strutted into office seven years ago with victories over Richard Gonzales in the Democratic primary and David White, a former Democratic activist, in the general election.

White, a longtime LaWall colleague, became the chief deputy for the criminal division.

White, who died early this year, was held out as the champion of victims, a crusader against the slime and filth who rape, rob and kill.

White was the embodiment of the county attorney's take-no-prisoners policy. A Skinny dweller witnessed an execution with White eight years ago. He was, in a mannerly way, pleased to watch the end result of government work.

LaWall now is throwing White's name and record to the wolves over "a discovery" in her office that White was guilty of gross prosecutorial misconduct. The case in point is the clearing of Carolyn Peak, who was accused of killing her husband in the bed of their Avra Valley home.

White, according to LaWall and two of her top dogs, flat failed to turn over a veritable storage room of evidence, depositions and other exculpatory material to Peak's defense counsel. Hell, White didn't even provide material to the sheriff.

White had been called to account when he was alive for misconduct in up to a half dozen cases that were slam dunks, where no cheating was required. Even the Daily Star is chronicling those.

His name pops up for questionable behavior in two huge cases. One of those also exposed gross misconduct by another supposedly legendary prosecutor, Ken Peasley. In that trial arising from the grisly scene at El Grande Market, White absurdly noted that a co-defendant was "pretty close to guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

And there are now questions if White told the truth about some evidence in the trial that put shooters on Death Row for the June 13, 1996, night of terror at the Moon Smoke Shop and the Firefighters Association Hall.

White was deified as he fought through his cancer and when he died. Make no mistake: LaWall booked political mileage from that funeral.

Now he is being demonized.

He was simply representative, according to some veterans of the defense bar and some judges we've talked to, of what is endemic in LaWall's "overcharge" and "win-at-all-costs" operation. Under staggering prosecutorial misconduct in Arizona, look under Peasley, Zawada and now White.

A battle from the left was already brewing. LaWall and her political goons sensed that. Assistant Attorney General Paul Eckerstrom, the county Democratic boss, would be a formidable foe in 2004. LaWall can expect a battle from the right, which holds White as an icon, as does the victim-rights lobby. LaWall's annual budget cry has grown so tiresome that a majority of the Board of Supervisors doesn't listen. At all.

But that's all politics.

More problematic for LaWall is her apparent broadside of White's widow, Janet Bingham, who expressed outrage.

Even Steve Neely, who nurtured both White and LaWall as the Democratic county attorney from 1977-'96, tapped out a letter defending White and decrying the attack on a man who cannot from the grave defend himself.

HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE: Local lawyer Michael Crawford, the only member of the Tucson City Council to be tossed out by voters in the last 14 years, recently went on the warpath against Democratic mayoral nominee Tom Volgy.

Crawford is chairing Democrats for Walkup, an independent campaign committee targeting Volgy, who's pals with Jerry Anderson, who K.O.'ed Crawford back in the 1997 Ward 3 Democratic primary.

The Web site is an unintentionally hilarious comparison of Volgy and Bob Walkup, the Republican mayor Volgy hopes to unseat on Nov. 4. It blames Volgy for everything from the disastrous delivery of CAP water to a 2002 sewer line break along Grande Avenue (a decade after he left office).

Seems like Crawford's barely trying. After all, Volgy has traveled throughout the former Soviet Union to help establish fledgling democracies. Surely there's a way to link him to al-Qaeda and Sept. 11.

It didn't take long for Crawford's pathetic political shenanigans to blow up in his face. Crawford was coordinating Pima County for surging Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean, who has recently landed endorsements from both Volgy and a heavyweight pal, Congressman Raúl Grijalva. After the Web site launched, Crawford was promptly busted in rank and dumped to a low-level, low-profile position within the campaign.

That can only be to the benefit of Howard Dean.

WE SUPPOSE SHE MIGHT HAVE A POINT, IF THEY WERE SIAMESE TWINS: We're told Tucson City Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar recently started sniffing around the City Clerk's Office, suggesting that Ted Prezelski, who was appointed to the Tucson Sign Committee by José Ibarra, ought to be tossed off the committee because he was now a member of the Arizona Legislature.

The effort came to a quick halt once cooler heads pointed out that it's his brother Tom Prezelski, not Ted Prezelski, who was appointed to the state House of Representatives at the beginning of the year.

PULITZER MATERIAL: Jane "Toot" Amari slapped her face into the Arizona Daily Star Money page last week to promote her promotion to vice-president-news for St. Louis-based Pulitzer Newspapers Inc.

Sadly, Amari will continue in her present role at the rag that pumps the money into Pulitzer. She also will consult the Pulitzer's four other properties, including on "editorial strategies," the release, er, industry note said. Good--she can join the Provo equivalent of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council and then stick her head into political manipulation.

Insiders and outsiders are wondering what this means. Particularly given the facts of the Star's permitted monopoly partnership with Gannett's dying Tucson Citizen. How long will Gannett allow that utter failure? When will the bigger, more acquisitive Gannett just take over the whole mess here with a buyout of the Star? It can't be that far away. The Citizen is clinging to 30,000 circulation in a metropolitan area that is approaching a population of 900,000.

How pathetic are those numbers? In 1964, just five years before the U.S. Justice Department hauled the Star and Citizen into federal court for violating anti-trust laws, the Citizen's circulation was 42,538. Population of Pima County then was 265,660.

Size matters.

Penetration matters more.

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