The Skinny


Campaign-finance reports for our now-official City Council candidates aren't due for a few weeks, but we're wondering how many members of the Growth Lobby will be writing checks to Ward 6 Republican Fred Ronstadt.

Ronstadt, who has foregone the city's matching-funds program in favor of unlimited campaign spending, has alienated a lot of developers with his fidelity to city staff. One particular episode that SAHBA found hard to swallow: Fred's push to deny water service to developers who declined to commit future residents to annexation.

We know Fred will be getting some checks, because we recently spotted an invitation to one of his fundraisers, hosted by Stan Abrams, the longtime local developer who's pals with Mayor Bob Walkup, and David Goldstein of Diamond Ventures.

This soiree means one of two things:

A. Frodo is successfully mending fences; or

B. The Growth Lobby remains contemptuous of Frodo, but the prospect of having Steve Farley or Nina Trasoff in Ward 6 office really skeeves them out.


Condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and patients of Dr. Charlie Blanck, who trained hundreds of doctors and saved the lives of thousands, mostly southside residents, in his long tenure at Kino Community Hospital. Blanck, on the last leg of a long recovery from a virulent cancer, died June 11, just one day before he was to leave his apartment and his special training for the sight-impaired at the VA. He was 53.

Blanck was a member of the fearless foursome at Kino--Drs. Brendan Phibbs, Leonard Ditmanson and James Angiulo--who delivered top care to a largely indigent population as if each patient were a billionaire. They did so (and Phibbs continues as chief of cardiology) despite the huge obstacles Pima County politicians, bureaucrats and the parade of incompetent Kino administrators placed in front of them. They each rose above and provided compassionate, innovative and effective care while forced to cut through miles of county red tape.

Honored as the county Physician of the Year a dozen years ago, Blanck was laid back and totally unpretentious. He graduated from the University of Florida, trained at the University of Arizona and was on board to train many UA docs. He had a photographic memory and encyclopedic knowledge of all things internal and would freely dispense what he knew to doctors in need.

Blanck messed up and fell from grace when an addiction to painkillers overtook him. He accepted his plea bargain, served his probation and bounced back without going wacko, which is more than we can say for some other addicted doctors. Then cancer leveled him. It robbed him of his thyroid and pituitary glands and stole his sight. Blanck was on a respirator at one point, and doctors and his closest friends gave him little hope. But he fought back and, through miracle and sheer force, recovered and was prepared to do whatever he had to do to get back to work.

An inspiration, Blanck was at the VA refining the skills necessary for getting around independently with severely limited vision when he died.

He leaves his wife, four sons and many grateful patients.


Heads up, Congressman Raul Grijalva! Republican Ron Drake, who's now serving as mayor of Avondale, is putting together a campaign to try to knock Grijalva right out of his District 7 office.

We're told that Drake is convinced he can unseat Grijalva, even though the district's overwhelmingly Democratic demographics make it all but mathematically impossible to unseat an incumbent.

And that's if Drake can get past formidable GOP powerhouse Joe Sweeney, the perennial candidate whose preoccupation with illegal immigration has even some Republicans denounce him as a racist. (Others, like Randy Graf--who'll be challenging Jim Kolbe in next year's GOP District 8 congressional primary--say Sweeney is just a victim of traitorous RINOs and their allies.)

Sweeney himself told us last year that he considers himself a racist, but added that he thought everyone else was, too, so we're not sure if he's entirely clear on the definition of the word. We imagine he thinks of himself as one of the good racists.

In the 2004 GOP primary, Sweeney easily dispatched a Republican challenger who got into the race in a cock-blocking maneuver to keep Sweeney from being the party's standard bearer. It says something about the power of name ID that we can't even remember the dude's name, although he's probably grateful not to be identified as the guy who lost to Sweeney. (Grijalva beat Sweeney by 28 percentage points in the general election.)

Though Sweeney has not yet formally announced his candidacy, we'll hazard a guess he still has the fire in his belly.


Jail officials are improperly listening to and recording conversations Dr. Brad Schwartz is having with his lawyer, Brick Storts, according to a motion Storts filed June 9.

The problem is not the privileged numbers for the lawyers representing Schwartz and his cellmates/podmates/jailmates. Those are known to jail officials, and they supposedly stay away from them. The problem, at least for Schwartz, is when Storts is using a phone at another location--home, a different office, his vacation locale, a different cell phone--that is not registered as privileged.

The prosecution, Storts said, "is effectively wiretapping (the) inmate's telephone conversations at the jail without probable cause. To obtain a wiretap order from the court, an agent of the government must present an affidavit to the court in support of the application."

Asking Judge Nanette Warner to suppress whatever is recorded from Schwartz's phone calls, Storts said Schwartz and others "have no alternative but to consent to having their conversations monitored if they choose to have any telephone calls whatsoever. Clearly, an inmate should be allowed to have telephonic contact with family and friends. The price to pay for such contact should not be a coerced consent to having these telephone calls monitored and recorded. This is particularly true when the purpose of the monitoring and recording has become nothing more than attempt on the part of the state to obtain additional evidence various inmates."

Warner has set a June 21 status conference on the flurry of Storts motions and other matters in the pending murder trial of Schwartz and Ronald Bigger. Both are accused of murder in the Oct. 5 slaying of Dr. David Brian Stidham. Prosecutors contend Schwartz hired Bigger to kill his former medical associate.


Welcoming to all the kiss-ass coverage he can normally depend on getting from the dailies or on friendly radio shows, meat salesman-turned-restaurant syndicator Bob McMahon is crying all over town about how the mean ol' critics are sinking his Century Tower high rise on the green spot south of the Joel D. Valdez Library.

McMahon is bawling that naysayers are forcing him to scrap the 27-story tower and its New Pueblo Club restaurant (an insult to the late, impeccably gracious James Sfarnas, host and operator of the Old Pueblo Club) and its $300,000-$450,000 condos. (Gem Show time-shares?) He is insulted that lawyer Bill Risner has suggested that the building might be better suited for a parking lot on North Court Avenue.

And he is insulted that Risner and others have questioned the propriety of McMahon and his lead partner getting a leg up on exclusive rights to buy the city's library property, given McMahon's argument that the City Council scrap its national search in favor of appointing Mike Hein city manager. (Hein was a great choice in spite of McMahon's endorsement.)

Hein and McMahon now insist they don't much know each other.

McMahon remains close with Hein's best predecessor, Joel Valdez--the man for whom the Main Library is named. Valdez, who helped guide McMahon through the enormously profitable sale of City Meat, has a steak named for him at McMahon's Prime Steakhouse.

You might have also heard that McMahon is wildly insulted by a brief Skinny item, that he somehow interpreted as speculation regarding the size of his penis, in our May 12 edition.

McMahon can be hospitable and giving, but he can be rude, crude and cheap. He can host a party, but treats some people like serfs (including the waitresses whom he signals by raising his glass and rattling the ice when he demands fresh booze). He uses vulgar language, including in front of clergy.

He tries to portray himself as above politics (his spotty voting record would suggest it), yet he is a playa with all his political fundraisers and his entry into the Hein appointment.

It seems that McMahon's purported investors, an unnamed 100 who were to kick in $50,000 each, have cold feet. And Century Tower, given McMahon's whining last week, is headed for the same status as the abandoned Tack Room and his smoked Smokin' barbecue restaurants.


The political landscape is getting a little more crowded in the northwest-side District 26. Already, Sen. Toni Hellon is likely to face a GOP primary challenge next year from Rep. Steve Huffman, who has reached his four-term limit in the House.

Now Hellon and Huffman, who are both liberal Republicans, have to deal with Al Melvin, a conservative candidate who hopes to grab the right-wing support while Hellon and Huffman split the mods.

Melvin, who's often seen traveling in political circles with former state Rep. Randy Graf, is sure to add some excitement to the campaign with his friendly and outgoing manner.

For example, he's already referred to Rep. Jonathan Paton of District 30 as a "little bastard." Can you imagine how civility will improve at the Legislature if he's actually elected?