The Skinny

LOYALTY OATH: Much has been made of the power of Janet Napolitano's veto in blocking the Kool-Aid drinkers from the East Valley from implementing their agenda at the Arizona Legislature, but the governor has had a lot of help from two Republican senators: Slade Mead and Linda Binder.

The two moderates, who have infuriated the conservative members of their caucus, have played key roles in several legislative battles, including the showdown over last year's budget. (The two spent time literally on the run from leadership to avoid one budget vote.)

Last week, Mead and Binder wrote an op-ed defending House members Pete Hershberger and Tom O'Halleran, the two renegade Republicans who were first politically neutered and then stripped of their committees by House Speaker Jake Flake, who accused the pair of disloyalty during last fall's special session.

In their article, Mead and Binder confirmed a rumor that has been floating around the Capitol for a few weeks--namely, that one of the House mods was ordered to his office by Flake to write an essay on loyalty during negotiations over Child Protective Services funding last fall.

So now you know why we call it the Romper Room Legislature.

We're willing to bet it was Hershberger who was told the write the term paper. Wonder if he had to clean erasers after Sine Die as well?

Sadly, Binder--a Brit from Lake Havasu who seems to have wandered into the Legislature from the set of Absolutely Fabulous--has decided not to seek re-election, so we won't be seeing much more of her at the Capitol. Conservatives have meanwhile made beating Mead a top priority in the September primary.

Maybe Jack Jewett and Grant Woods can properly educate his district's voters before then.

ARMAND'S HAMMER: Armand Salese--the Tucson lawyer whose established practice has mixed tough defense for criminals, representation for public officials caught in compromising positions, and advocacy for the downtrodden and aggrieved--is stepping up to run for the TUSD board.

Salese knows the Tucson Unified School District is rotten. After all the dust was said to have settled in the landmark, 30-year-old desegregation case, Salese and the late idealistic lawyer Bill Morris were summoned to mop up for Mexican-American students and employees who still got the short end.

Twenty-six years after the late U.S. District Court Judge William Frey issued his ruling, TUSD still plays games by placing minorities in certain schools, excluding them from neighborhood schools and doing little to boost achievement or reduce drop-out rates.

Salese, 62, is smart and not easily pushed around. He also has a sense of justice. Besides taking up the cause in the second round of the deseg case, Salese was a lead lawyer for the African-American families who had their kin shot down by Cochise County deputies in 1982. Members of a church sect settled in what they called Miracle Valley. The good folk of Cochise County never quite got used to having the female-led, black congregation around. Deputies, under Sheriff Jimmy Judd, came a knockin' one Saturday to serve routine warrants for traffic violations, etc. But they came loaded to the teeth.

Three seats of the five TUSD seats are open this year. Joel Ireland, who has forced TUSD students, parents and taxpayers through 16 years of suffering, is toying with a fifth term. He has planted denials with some, but he has taken out papers from the county Superintendent of Schools office. Judy Burns, completing her first term, is seeking a second. No word from Mary Belle McCorkle, which can be read one of two ways: She already filled the district with enough of her pork, including making her daughter a principal; or she will file late for a fourth term to preserve that pork.

Marilyn Freed, past boss of the all-powerful teachers' union, has also pulled papers to make a run.

Last week, Salese appeared on a panel at the University of Arizona College of Law that explored the desegregation case. He criticized TUSD's poor record and the hundreds of millions of dollars--thanks to TUSD's ability to raise property taxes without limits for desegregation--that has not gone where it is needed.

Salese was joined at last week's forum by Richard Yetwin, the dignified lawyer who represented TUSD and continues to be paid to justify the district's George Wallace-like operation.

Also on the panel were Anna Jolivet, the wonderfully resilient and gifted former TUSD administrator who succeeded despite horrid segregation and racism while at TUSD; and Larry Hammond, who 30 years ago was an eager and bright former clerk for two U.S. Supreme Court justices when he and his Phoenix partners signed on to join the clever and frank Rubin Salter to represent African-Americans in the original suit.

It was Salter who capped the forum when addressing progress, political and otherwise.

"The only reason things are going to get better is if there are a few funerals over there" at TUSD headquarters, Salter said. "I've always said that."

Salese would be critical enough to do justice at TUSD. And he is committed to fairness and in helping underdogs. We do hope he gets his campaign off on the right foot. One way would be to stop the improper practice of having TUSD administrators circulate Salese nomination petitions on school time and property. Longtime TUSD school administrator Ralph Lim, who knows better, did just that a couple of weeks ago.

THE LAST REFUGE OF A SCOUNDREL: Rep. Marian McClure is outraged that the Pima County Board of Supervisors has included $10 million for buying land near Davis-Monthan in the same package that sets aside $172 million for other open-space acquisitions.

County officials paired up the two questions to make it harder for homebuilders and other business groups to run a negative campaign against the bonds.

So McClure has introduced House Bill 2538, complete with an emergency clause that would allow it to go into effect as soon as the governor signs it. The proposed legislation, which cleared the House Federal Mandates and Property Rights Committee last week on a 6-3 vote, would bar counties from combining military-base preservation efforts with any other item in bond packages. That way, elected officials won't be able to wrap their pet projects in the flag.

But McClure was one of 36 House members--mostly Republicans--who did exactly the same thing last year with the Military Base Preservation Initiative, which the voters of Arizona will decide this November.

The proposition would amend the state Constitution to allow for land swaps between the state and federal government--an idea that has been defeated at the polls five times since 1990, mostly because opponents fear the state will be swindled by smart developers who will grab valuable acres in exchange for crappy old mines.

The most recent loss was less than two years ago. After the 2002 rejection, a group of Republican senators resurrected the legislation with the exact same language, but changed the name to the Military Base Preservation Initiative, because they hoped the new name would persuade a tiny percentage of voters to switch sides in 2004. To give themselves a bit of cover, they did eventually slip some language about bases into the proposition--even though it's not at all clear that land swaps would really help preserve Arizona bases at all.

House Bill 2538 asks that elected officials not cloak themselves in stars 'n' stripes to win at the ballot box. Too bad that's a standard lawmakers seem incapable of achieving themselves.

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