The Skinny


District 8 Congressman Jim Kolbe is striking back against his opponent, state Rep. Randy Graf, in a radio ad that compares the right-wing Graf to John Kerry and John Edwards.

Is it a fair charge? Well, Graf doesn't share much common ground with the Democratic ticket. Most of Kolbe's case is based on an incident--first reported here in The Skinny!--in which Graf hung a picture of himself with George W. Bush upside down in his legislative office for a few days after the president unveiled his immigration reform proposal.

Graf describes the incident as "just a little signal of distress," adding that "it was not meant to be disrespectful to the president, just very concerned, once again, with the lack of urgency of what is a tremendous problem here in Arizona."

Judging from the general response from conservatives over the Bush immigration reform plan, Graf wasn't alone in his concern. The proposal went over so poorly among the conservative crowd that Bush dropped it like a hot tamale and started focusing on the perils of gay marriage--an issue on which Kolbe sounds a lot like, well, the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

But Graf may have to contend with another credibility issue: In the closing moments of a debate aired on KUAT-TV's Arizona Illustrated last week, Kolbe brought up a stupid bill that Graf sponsored in 2002 that would have established 12-year term limits for all state employees, lobbyists and members of the media.

"I don't think the that legislation that my opponent introduced in the state Legislature that said after 12 years, all professional teachers and law enforcement agency people--firemen, policemen--should have to be fired--I don't think that's the right way to go," Kolbe said.

Graf denied sponsoring any such bill. "I'd like you to present that bill number, because I never introduced that," he said.

Well, the bill number was 2296, which the Graf campaign remembered a few hours after the debate. We got an e-mail from Graf campaign spokesman Steve Aiken, who said that Graf "was amazed that Jim Kolbe would try and inject a bogus piece of legislation like HB 2296 into a congressional primary debate! Apparently Mr. Kolbe's failure to connect with the voters on real issues of importance has the congressman desperately grasping at straws to try and maintain his seat in the House. HB 2296 was simply a 'statement' made by two Arizona House legislators reflecting their disgust with some state bureaucrats."


Travel with us back to 1991, the year of Operation Desert Storm, when George Bush I really kicked ass in Iraq. Back then, the Mexican border was rife with rumors about Arab invaders sneaking across near Patagonia to inflict mayhem on the Motherland--after a pitstop in the Wagon Wheel Saloon for a couple of cold, jihad-bolstering brewskies.

As The Skinny recalls, those pernicious invaders turned out to be two southside hotdog hawkers with Adidas T-shirts stretched across their scorched noggins.

Fast-forward to 2004, and the recent front page alert about an al-Qaida leader possibly northbound through Nogey, his evil arsenal tucked in a souvenir armadillo handbag. Not surprisingly, a Phoenix FBI agent quickly debunked the report, calling it outdated and overblown.

Still, sensation makes more gravy than does common sense. Consider the recent hyperventilation of KVOA Channel 4 in its white-knuckled "Terrorist Alley" report. Among other sobering nuggets, the SPECIAL REPORT noted that:

· A Muslim prayer rug was found near Douglas in 2001!

· The incredibly credible Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper--run by border vigilante/wingnut Chris Simcox--reported that 53 Middle Eastern men were apprehended by Border Patrol agents near Willcox in June!

· Colonel Ben Anderson (retired military, spends his golden years tracking illegals from his Sierra Vista home) reports, "This is the main alley. It's called 'Cocaine Alley' or 'Terrorist Alley.' Whatever you want to call it, Arizona is the prime place." Yikes!

Taken together, it's enough even to make The Skinny suspicious of imported olive oil. And where does pita bread come from, anyway?

In his rush to capitalize on this election-year threat--and maybe score a nice Afghan rug--Rep. Jim Kolbe's office hustled out a quick press release pounding home the point. "Last night's KVOA report highlights that more needs to be done to protect the border," said the congressman.



John Kromko, the erstwhile state lawmaker who is seeking a justice of the peace post in the November election, has been testing the waters to learn if there's support for a recall election against Tucson City Council members Carol West, Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar, who voted to impose a $14 a month garbage fee on households earlier this year. (Kromko isn't bothering to push a recall against Mayor Bob Walkup, who also voted for the fee, because, he told reporters, Walkup "smiles a lot.")

Kromko, who says he's already gotten 600 requests for petitions from pissed-off Tucsonans, says the recall effort is ready to go. "It looks like it will start very soon now," he says. Expect to see recall backers at polling places and the Fourth Avenue Street Fair.

Recall supporters will have to run an aggressive campaign to gather roughly 13,000 valid signatures to recall Ronstadt and Dunbar, and 13,500 to recall West. If you assume that at least 25 percent of the signatures are screwed up for one reason or another, they'll need to gather at least 18,000 autographs to ensure a recall election, which could be held next spring.

The recall campaign has 120 days to gather the signatures, which means Kromko and Co. would be delivering them sometime around Christmas--quite the holiday treat for West, Dunbar and Ronstadt.

The skeptical spin: Ronstadt and Dunbar are up for re-election next fall anyhow, so a successful recall would only push them out a few months before their terms end, at a cost in the six figures. Recall supporters might better use their times recruiting a Democratic candidate who can actually capitalize on the city's Democratic edge to beat Ronstadt or Dunbar next November.

But the recall gang wants to prevent Dunbar, West and Ronstadt from voting on next year's budget.

Lotsa luck!


When it adopted the new $14 monthly trash fee, the City Council generously authorized an assistance program for low-income households.

But families who want a waiver must apply for it every month--and, according to the guidelines, they have to submit "Social Security cards for all members of the household."

Given that the federal Privacy Act of 1976 regulates how governments can request and use Social Security numbers, The Skinny contacted City Hall to find out what's up with that.

Turns out Pima County's Community Action Agency, which is implementing the assistance program, routinely collects SSNs for some of the federal programs they administer. But a spokeswoman for the agency says they don't let people they're assisting know in writing--despite the requirements of federal law--why the numbers are being collected.

The city of Tucson's garbage-fee assistance program is being handled in the same laissez-faire manner. The agency promises that the numbers will be locked in a file and shredded after five years--and that nobody will have access to the database. Yeah, right.

Why worry about a national ID card? Governments can evidently collect our information as they see fit, no matter what the federal privacy laws say.

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