The Skinny


Ward 6 voters--or at least a small percentage of them--are heading to the polls to vote in the Sept. 13 primary to decide between former TV news reporter Nina Trasoff and artist/activist Steve Farley.

Trasoff has picked up most of the available endorsements, including those from Congressman Raúl Grijalva, local labor unions, Democracy for America Tucson, the Stonewall Democrats, the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus and the morning daily.

Farley, meanwhile, grabbed support from the Tucson Citizen and the fine publication you're reading right now.

Both candidates have been endorsed by the Sierra Club.

Last week, Farley took his hardest shot at Trasoff, sending out a mailer to Ward 6 voters that revealed Trasoff was stopped on the street by a Tucson Citizen reporter after voting for the 2002 transportation plan that was rejected by about 68 percent of city voters.

That plan, cooked up by city officials, would have raised the sales tax by a half-cent to pay for road projects, including the notorious grade-separated intersection at the corner of Grant Road and Campbell Avenue. The GSI, an expensive project which would have allowed Grant to tunnel underneath Campbell, was the target of criticism from neighborhood and business groups that feared it would do little to ease traffic while disrupting the area for at least two years.

The Citizen quoted Trasoff as saying: "The interchanges they're talking about, I worry about the neighborhoods that they're in. But we need the interchanges. Twenty years ago, if we had built the Rillito-Pantano Parkway, just think how much better off we would be now."

Trasoff says she was misled by the city propaganda machine about the grade-separated intersections--which makes us wonder how much attention she was paying to the campaigns back then, given that the GSIs were probably the most controversial element of the entire plan. She says she now thinks GSIs are a terrible idea.

Trasoff also complained that Farley was attacking her instead of running on his own record--which is certainly amusing, given that Trasoff has passed up few opportunities to bust on Farley over the light-rail transportation plan he pushed in 2003, which was rejected by about 63 percent of voters citywide.

All of which, by the way, is fair game for both candidates to talk about. It's only by knowing where they've stood on issues like transportation that voters can make an intelligent choice between them. And given the virtual mainstream media blackout regarding the Ward 6 primary, mailers are probably the only way to alert voters about their records.

A lot of Ward 6 voters are voting from the comfort of their homes; as of last Friday, Sept. 2, 2,108 voters had requested an early ballot in the Ward 6 Democratic primary. As of the same day, 922 had already cast a vote.

Polls, as always, will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you don't know where you're supposed to cast a ballot, call 791-4213.


After the Tucson Weekly's recent investigative report transformed Vernon Walker from a clumsy rookie candidate into a radioactive monster, most Republicans were fleeing from him as fast as they could. (Democrats, meanwhile, have been watching in delight, hoping that Walker could poison the entire GOP ticket.)

But Republican Fred Ronstadt, who is seeking his third term on the City Council this November, emerged on the John C. Scott show to defend Walker.

"Vernon is a friend of mine," Ronstadt declared on the talk show, heard Monday through Friday from 8 to 10 a.m. on KJLL 1330-AM. "He's been an ally of mine."

Ronstadt told Scott he hadn't read the Weekly exposé, but expressed surprise about "the amount of attention this is getting. ... It just amazes me that there's so much attention paid to one person when there are other people out there who are doing things that are equally bad or worse, and they get a free ride."


Some see Hurricane Katrina as a national tragedy. Some see it as an utter failure of the federal government to handle a natural disaster. And some see it as a great chance to raise a little money.

Chris Simcox of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps is in the last category. Alleging that U.S. Border Patrol agents were being called away from their Southern Arizona duties to help with rescue efforts, Simcox urged followers to make a donation to his organization.

"While we certainly encourage donations to worthy relief organizations, NOW is the time when we need help in order to 'pick up the slack' as more than 100 U.S. Border Patrol Agents have been reassigned from Arizona and New Mexico to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina," Simcox wrote in an e-mail plea. "Click Here to help with your best contribution now!"


For the second time in five months, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct has reprimanded Pima County Justice of the Peace Paul S. Simon. This trip to the woodshed was earned "for not discharging his administrative responsibilities appropriately by assigning a colleague to the 'forcible detainer and evictions' calendar for three days," the commission noted in a Sept. 2 release.

Simon also "possibly exceeded his authority by using a constable to deliver a letter to the same colleague, rather than delivery the letter personally or by mail."

Sounds right. Simon would rather bother a taxpayer-supplied constable, who has real work serving court papers in the real world, than walk a few feet to hand the letter to, say, Justice of the Peace Jose Luis Castillo.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct nailed Simon last spring for his improper use of court letterhead in May 2002 when he sent Farmers Insurance a letter demanding a settlement for his mother's accident claim. He also used the weight of his office by using court letterhead to reject a caterer's proposal.

Castillo, a southside Democrat first elected in 1994, also was reprimanded this summer for his role in the assignment flap. Simon, also a Democrat, was appointed to his position by the Board of Supervisors in 1997. He was re-elected last year from his central Tucson and foothills justice precinct without opposition.


Good for U.S. Magistrate Bernardo Velasco for rejecting the whines of the local U.S. Attorney's Office and allowing Bill Walker and Jeff Rogers to represent Shanti Seliz and Daniel Strauss, the No More Death volunteers accused of transporting illegal aliens.

Lawyers, even at the bluest of blue-blood, high-brow firms, are cheering Walker and Rogers for taking these cases.

Federal prosecutors also want to know the exact role Margo Cowan, the old lefty warrior, played in all this. Cowan grabbed most of the face time, putting her grill on television in the press conference/mini media circus that followed the arrests of Seliz and Strauss.

Cowan can't do the defense work. She is less than 10 months into her latest government gig, as an assistant public defender for Pima County. She is paid $54,305 a year plus bennies.


Brick Storts must now rely upon the Arizona Court of Appeals to light a fire under Nanette Warner to get the Superior Court judge to start the murder and conspiracy trial of Dr. Bradley A. Schwartz on Nov. 15.

Storts has been demanding that Schwartz get his speedy-trial rights. Schwartz is accused of contracting the Oct. 5 stabbing death of his former ophthalmology associate Dr. David Brian Stidham. But Warner has acceded to prosecutors and Jill Thorpe, the lawyer for co-defendant and alleged hit man, Ronald Bruce Bigger.

Through no fault of his, Bigger has had turnstile representation. Steve Sonnenberg of the Pima County Public Defender's Office was first assigned to represent Bigger. But Sonnenberg left the office, and the case was handed to Leo Masursky and Susan Shetter. They were forced to bail when Paul Skitzki, a former Pima County prosecutor who knew Schwartz and was close to Schwartz's ex-fiancée, Lourdes Lopez, joined the public defender's office. Next came Richard Lougee, a talented and relentless lawyer who allowed his hatred for Ken Peasley, a member of the Storts team, to get in the way of his defense of Bigger. Lougee is the man who pressed for Peasley, a once-famous prosecutor, to be disbarred. Thorpe has been ever so slowly picking up the pieces for Bigger since June 21.

Storts says none of that is Schwartz's problem. But Warner wants the trial to begin Feb. 28.

Warner also affirmed her earlier decision by declining to order separate trials for Schwartz and Bigger. That issue is almost a lock to be revisited when Thorpe declares some defense theory that forces a split.

Finally, Storts also lost in his attempt to curtail statements from Lopez, and was shut down, again, by Warner in his attempt to get Stidham's widow, Daphne, to answer questions about whether Stidham had been in an affair.


Is it possible that Joe Sweeney will sit out next year's congressional race? A perennial candidate, Sweeney has sought a U.S. House seat at least nine times over the last couple of decades. Last time out, he even won the GOP primary before getting crushed by Congressman Raúl Grijalva in the general.

But Republican Ron Drake, mayor of Avondale, believes he's got a good shot against Grijalva, despite the overwhelming Democratic voter registration in District 7. We hear he had a summit with Sweeney to persuade him to stay out of the race. A deal may have been cut, with Sweeney agreeing to sit this one out, as long as Drake took a hard stance against--you guessed it--illegal immigration.

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