The Skinny

CROOKED TALK EXPRESS: Sen. John McCain jumped into Tucson's mayoral race last week, cutting a series of ads on behalf of Republican Mayor Bob Walkup. McCain's message: Bob Walkup is a man of his word.

Yeah? Tell it to members of SAHBA (Sorry-Assed Home Builders Assocation), who have seen Bob totally cave on the question of impact fees.

The message aside, McCain didn't do the ads for the Walkup campaign; he did them for Independent People Like You, the independent campaign committee that concentrated its early efforts on a smear campaign against Democrats Tom Volgy and JosÉ Ibarra.

It's quite a turnaround for McCain, whose federal campaign finance reform package bans independent campaign committees from spending money on attack ads 60 days before an election--one of several elements that's now being reviewed by the courts.

Guess independent campaign committees are only bad at the federal level. Or straight talk ain't what it used to be.

TAX ATTACKS: Gov. Janet Napolitano's Citizens Finance Review Committee, faced with the task of reviewing the state's dusty tax codes, produced a few preliminary recommendations late last month--and the reaction from GOP legislative "leaders" demonstrates why the entire exercise is likely to be ultimately proven futile.

Republicans pounced on the recommendations--such as a statewide property tax to build schools and a quasi-progressive real-estate transfer tax--as unacceptable almost as soon as they were revealed.

Here's the tactical mistake that Republicans made: By attacking the ideas right out the gate, they passed up a golden opportunity to go after Napolitano. After all, these are recommendations from her committee, not from the governor herself.

If the Republicans had been smart, they would have held off on their attack until Napolitano took some ownership of the ideas. They could have lured her in by saying there were some interesting proposals worth a hearing. They could have sent phony back-channel suggestions to Napolitano that some of these ideas were worthwhile. And then, when they scheduled hearings in front of the finance committees, they could have stacked the deck with people testifying about how the governor's plan would drain their pensions, destroy their lives and disgrace their daughters.

Instead, they just look like those nutty Republicans, once again complaining about something.

Meanwhile, for those interested in how the state doing financially: In the short run, it looks pretty good. The state has taken in about $42 million more over the fiscal year than expected.

September sales tax revenue was up $14.2 million over than the forecast for the month, although personal income and corporate income tax collection for the month were running more than $11 million lower than the estimate.

But here's the bad news, according the a recent Joint Legislative Budget Committee report: The so-called "structural deficit"--the expected growth of expenses over revenues--is expected to soar from $480 million in this budget year (covered by some one-time gimmicks) to $860 million in fiscal year 2005.

Does that explain why we need tax reform in Arizona?

OUTSIDE THE LINES: It was a trip into the Bizarro universe at the Capitol when Gov. Janet Napolitano said she wouldn't pay the legal bills for the Independent Redistricting Committee. The committee, as you may recall, was created by voters in 1998 to take the power of drawing legislative districts away from lawmakers and put it in the hands of a five-member committee.

The proposition that created the district was funded by Scottsdale developer Jim Pederson, who is now chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. Pederson hoped to create more competitive districts, but ultimately ended up with a map that looked even more skewed.

The committee, which is now fighting a legal battle to defend its work against critics who say they didn't create enough competitive districts, has blown through the $6 million it was given to do its work and now wants more money to pay legal bills.

Napolitano, who was helped into office by Pederson's generous $2 million contribution to the Democratic Party last year, said she wasn't inclined to give any more money to the committee, leading Republicans (who opposed the initiative in the first place) to claim she was thwarting the will of the people.

So you have Napolitano insisting on more accountability from the redistricting committee, while Republicans are demanding that the state give more money to lawyers.

Napolitano agreed last week to let lawmakers shovel some more lawyer pork in the committee's direction, but wants a review of the legal bills.

TANQUE VERDE HI JINX: We just glad there was no shootin' out in the Tanque Verde Valley in the school district recall hullabaloo that thankfully closes a chapter--just a chapter--of the messy battle rooted in construction of a high school. Wait, maybe some shootin' woulda been better and less painful than all that bitching and moaning.

In the week before the final vote on whether Karen Close should replace Dr. Sherrylyn Young on the Tanque Verde school board, there was the typical chicanery. Defaced signs. Stolen signs. Nasty e-mails. Long-winded explanations. Legal action. You know, the regular Hatfield-McCoy stuff we've all come to expect to erupt out of the hollers controlled by Tanque Verde's hillbilly upper crust.

Top prize, however, goes to someone who doesn't even live in the Tanque Verde school district. Joel T. Ireland wins for the most underhanded electioneering. That's right--the same Rev. Ireland who has piloted giant rival Tucson Unified School District into the ground during his insufferably long 14.83 years on the TUSD board.

Less than a week before Election Day, Ireland concocted a press release announcing he would seek to formalize TUSD's commitment (rip-off) of Tanque Verde students transported to Sabino High.

Never mind that the meddling Ireland had nearly four full terms in which to accomplish this benevolent deed. Ireland, the president of the awful TUSD board, said in the publicity stunt that he would seek approval from his colleagues to "guarantee" Tanque Verde students places at Sabino. What's more, Ireland, spoken like the bargain-bar lawyer he is, promised TUSD will charge Tanque Verde a tuition rate "at or below the amount" that Tanque Verde receives in state aid.

What's next? Some television spots with Superintendent Stan Paz and legal beagle Jane Butler at TUSD HQ: "Our president has gone crazy! He'll beat any price any time!"

Ireland also tried to promise seats on the PTAs at Sabino and other schools that lure Tanque Verde's commodities, er, students.

Of course, not even Ireland could so manipulate the TUSD board agenda with enough speed to get action before the recall. The matter won't even be up for a vote until Dec. 9. But he got his press-release promise out just in time to interfere in Tanque Verde's election.

SUNNYSIDE UP: After dropping two games early in the season, Richard Sanchez has his Sunnyside High School Blue Devils so hopped up on touchdowns to gain some kind of playoff advantage that his team exploded for a 56-12 halftime lead against Rincon/University last week. The Blue Devils racked up 28 points in each of the first two quarters. That's enough, right? Not for Sanchez. He needed another four touchdowns in the third quarter. Final? 84-12. That's classless.

LEAVING LAWALL SPEECHLESS: County Attorney Barbara LaWall may be a Democrat, but she is always happy to pop up on the law 'n' order segments of John C. Scott's radio fiesta. It is such a friendly venue that John C. had Babs breathing heavy--for air and words--in a recent performance.

After chit-chat about lead prosecutor Rick Unklesbay escaping his desk duties and returning to the courtrooms, Scott directed LaWall to the U.S. Supreme Court reviews of the Miranda rules that, from an Arizona case, require cops to warn suspects that they have the right to counsel and the right to remain because what they say will be used against them.

Scott: "How do you view this high court consideration of toying or tinkering or changing Miranda?"

LaWall: "Well, they're, they're going (pause) to be revisiting it to determine the timing of when cops have to (pause) warn suspects of their rights. And that's pretty much (pause) uh, (pause) uhch, well, O.K., let's, let's, I'm struggling for words here for a minute because it sort of like to me (pause)."

Scott: "I'm sorry."

LaWall: "I just have to, I have to think here about, so right now uh the the rulings that they are going be looking at uhm will tell police how far they can go to get answers from suspected criminals."

Scott: "Exactly."

LaWall: "And let the courts know when the have to uh, uh, confessions or evidence from a trial."

Scott: "Exactly."

LaWall: "So, (tick tock, tick tock, tick tock) uh, (la la la la) they're going to uh, (tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock) ahk, boy, I'm really stumbling here."

Scott: "All right."

LaWall: "I'm really stumbling here, I'm ..."

Scott: "O.K. ..."

LaWall: "Well here's the issue, I, I haven't, I haven't really read what exactly what this is but ..."

LaWall recovered, slightly, but then stumbled again on what constitutes custodial interrogation. Anyone wanting to challenge LaWall in next year's election will want to review that tape. (Tucson Media Monitoring is the source.)

Even Scott marveled that LaWall whiffed on the "curves" he threw.

Said he: "You remind me of one of the Chicago Cub hitters in the eighth inning."

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