The Skinny

GETTING JOE KAY OK: Teamwork, hustle and brainpower are pushing Tucson High School scholar athlete Joe Kay to recovery since his freak and debilitating injury Feb. 6 following the Kay-led Tucson High basketball victory over Salpointe Catholic.

Kay suffered a stroke after a celebrating student attempted to lift him off the Badger court. They tumbled and were buried under more students who raced onto the floor.

The injury damaged Kay's carotid artery, resulting in the stroke that paralyzed his right side. But Kay emerged from intensive care at University Medical Center after five days. After one day in a regular ward, he was transported to Barrow Neurological Center in Phoenix.

His parents told The Weekly that doctors say there is no reason why he should not regain his speech and ability to walk. In fact, he had accomplished some enunciation and moved his right arm before the ambulance ride to Phoenix.

Kay's brother Al, trained in advanced physical therapy, scouted sites for Joe's rehab. And the whole community, from Tucson High to the Rincon Market--where Joe Kay had just started clerking on Sundays--rallied. Kay's team, led by Jorge Leon, Marcharne Flannigan and crew, responded by defeating Mountain View and Canyon del Oro to win the conference title.

Fred Kay and Suzanne Rabe, Joe's parents, remain gracious, unwilling to point fingers and leaving TUSD to remedy how students were allowed to burst out onto the floor at the most crowded, emotionally charged game at Tucson High in years.

Tucson High and TUSD officials are fouling out, making excuses and basically playing dumb. Rosy Beetcher, the assistant principal for activities, and Estella Zavala, a TUSD publicist, scurried to claim Tucson High and TUSD did all it could and all it ever does. They claimed the district had 19 people at the game working security.

That's some kinda B.S.

We're not suggesting any behavior during the game warranted police, but why did Tucson have cops at Pueblo High basketball games that drew far fewer fans this year? The Beetcher-Zavala 19 would include Tucson High administrators and TUSD bureaucrats who sat to the enjoy the game--and it was a great game, make no mistake. That's fine, because nothing went awry until the end. Sensing the emotion of the Friday-night game and the exuberance of the Tucson High student section, it takes neither a genius nor a Monday-morning quarterback to note that TUSD should have told those 19 people to rise in the closing minute of the game and take positions on the court.

Those 19 should have admonished people in their section to chill. They could have easily communicated with one another via the Stan Paz-allocated communicators. No one thinks students, family and fans should be denied access to players and coaches after the game. But at this game, a little presence and an announcement might have helped.

The cool part, though, is that Joe Kay is responding and making progress. Given his condition, his strength, the support from family and docs and therapists, he will recover.

In the meantime, Stanford University announced it would honor the volleyball scholarship Kay received. And Stanford said it would hold open his admission.

A classy move from The Farm.

A final note, with humor. Someone please tell the Arizona Republic, picking up copy from the Gannett rag, that the crowd was not ignited by a game-ending dunk by Kay. We read one story that said it was a game-winning dunk. He did provide a rousing slam, but it was with several minutes left.

POLITICAL POTHOLES: The county's new transportation plan hit a rough patch during its trip through the Romper Room Legislature last week.

The trouble began when Rep. Steve Huffman, in an homage to Rodney King, gave a "Why can't we all get along?" speech to his colleagues, defending his fellow District 26 representative, Pete Hershberger.

Accused of disloyalty, Hershberger was exiled to the political wilderness earlier this month by House Speaker Jake Flake.

Shortly after Huffman's plea for mercy, the time came for a vote on Pima County's new transportation package, which would beef up the Pima Association of Governments into a road-building regional authority funded by a half-cent sales tax. The conservatives promptly voted against the bill, although it still cleared the House on a 40-19 vote.

The bad blood has supporters of the bill a tad nervous about returning to the House, but it appears that amendments in the Senate are certain, partly because some lawmakers will amuse themselves with pointless tinkering, and partly because some language is screwed up.

EARLY ASSESSMENT: With County Assessor Rick Lyons giving up the job after 10 years, rookie Democrat John M. Ugrotzi Jr. has announced his interest in the seat.

A relatively recent transplant to Tucson, Ugrotzi worked as a deputy assessor for Ouray County, Colo., from 1996 to 1999 and has done time with various appraisal outfits in Colorado and Wisconsin.

With no local name ID and a name like Ugrotzi, we can see why he's trying to get some attention early.

Ugrotzi's qualifications for the office, according to rÉsumÉ, include the fact that he "enjoys meeting people and dealing with the public" and has an "ability to get along well with others."

The only known Republican sniffing around the race is Bill Heuisler, a longtime anti-tax activist who's running because he's mad about how the value of his own home continues to climb every year.

Forget what we said a couple weeks back about former two-term City Councilman Bruce Wheeler going for the office. His fans encouraged him to make a run, but Wheeler, a facilities administrator for the Tucson Airport Authority, has decided against jumping in.

Wheeler would still represent Ward 1--and westside residents would be better off--had he not sought to take the Democratic title away from George Miller when the latter won for a second mayoral term in 1995. Wheeler happily has more noble concerns and duties, namely his brainiac sons. One is headed to MIT in the fall, while the other will complete his senior year at Catalina Foothills High School.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE IN CADDYSHACK: Richard Johnson wants another term on the Oro Valley Town Council. And why shouldn't he? Nobody's really looking at his record. And nobody looked to see if he really was worthy. Credit worthy, that is.

Dickie boy and his wife, Roxy, filed for bankruptcy protection in 1992, listing $17,607 in assets and a whopping $379,357 in liabilities, including $276,923 in unsecured debt, records in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tucson show.

Included in secured claims was $53,000 in debt for Dickie and Roxy's Pinetop condo, valued back then at $65,000. The bulk of the debt was for Johnson's business venture, Marana Unique Products, at about $160,000.

Thems was tough times for the councilman, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. One home was foreclosed and a car, a then top-of-the-line Mazda 929, was repo'ed.

We're sure Johnson is valuable for Oro Valley, particularly in exemplifying the snotty burg's attitude of eat, drink, spend and let someone else--primarily Pima County--pay for it.