The Skinny


Opponents of the transportation plan that voters will decide next Tuesday, May 16, haven't been particularly well-funded--they've raised less than $8,000, compared to the nearly $979,000 raised by Regional Transportation Authority supporters--but they've been relatively effective about getting their message out.

Or perhaps we should say "messages," since so much of what they complain about is totally contradictory.

For example, they complain that the city and county can't be trusted--and then turn around and say that the new Regional Transportation Authority takes too much power away from the city and the county.

They've spent months complaining that the city of Tucson has been shortchanged because too many of the roads are being built on the fringes of the community--and then, just last week, John Kromko's Enough! group carpet-bombed Green Valley voters with a mailer bitching that too much money was being spent "to build roads in Tucson."

It's clear that they'll say just about anything to knock the RTA plan down. The biggest whopper is the suggestion, also in Kromko's mailer, that the half-cent increase "averages almost $300 per three-member family per year."

But an average number when you're talking about sales taxes is absolutely meaningless. For starters, the $300-a-year figure completely ignores the fact that a significant portion of the sales tax will be paid by tourists and out-of-town shoppers.

On top of that, anyone who is honest about sales taxes understands that rich people spend more money than poor people, so they end up paying more in sales taxes. Sure, the wealthy pay a smaller percentage of their income, but they pay far more in raw dollars.

Do the math: Any household that is paying $300 annually in a half-cent sales tax is spending $60,000 a year after paying for their mortgage, their utilities and their groceries. Given that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Pima County's median household income in 2004 was $38,800, the $300-a-year figure is--to be blunt--absolute bullshit.

We direct your attention to a slightly more sophisticated analysis by UA economics professor Marshall Vest, who concludes that the half-cent sales-tax increase will, on average, cost the household $74.39 annually. But what does he know, with all his fancy-dancy economic models and big-brained figurin'?

Let's face it: The truth is clearly not a big issue to Kromko and his pals as they seek to knock down the transportation plan and the psychiatric bonds on Tuesday's ballot. (We have to wonder, given Kromko's increasingly incoherent arguments against the psych bonds, if he's worried that if they pass, the men with butterfly nets will be coming after him next.)

The Enough! supporters who are opposing these ballot props are clearly content with overcrowded streets. They don't worry overmuch about marginal bus service--let the poor folks who can't afford cars walk to work! They're OK with tossing the mentally ill into the county jail instead of seeing to it that they get treatment.

That's John Kromko's Tucson. C'mon, people: Let's reject that primitive vision and vote yes on Tuesday.


A couple of months back, retiring Congressman Jim Kolbe told the press he had no plans to endorse a successor in the GOP primary race, which includes state Rep. Steve Huffman, former state lawmaker Randy Graf, former GOP national committeeman Mike Hellon, frequent unsuccessful candidate Mike Jenkins and former Army Special Forces soldier Frank Antenori.

But last week, Kolbe gave Huffman his stamp of approval. Guess his real plan was to wait until his GOP supporters--Jim Click, Don Diamond, et al.--leaned hard enough on him to pick their boy.

Kolbe's endorsement of Huffman came shortly after Hellon had sent out a mailer featuring Kolbe's picture. (Actually, it was a badly reproduced Arizona Daily Star page with Kolbe's picture that ended up looking like some kind of photo from an undercover exposé.) If the idea was to make Hellon look like Kolbe's successor, it appears to have been a wasted effort.

Kolbe's pick can't be sitting well with Hellon or his ex-wife, state Sen. Toni Hellon, who has given years of her life to Kolbe campaign efforts. Toni Hellon is none too fond of Huffman, especially since he announced he was going to try to knock her out of her Senate seat, back before Kolbe announced his retirement and Huffman got his eye on a bigger prize.

All things considered, Hellon probably won't win the GOP primary, but he can play a spoiler role, especially since a lot of his current supporters don't care much for Huffman, who needs to consolidate moderate voters to beat Graf, king of the conservatives.

Which may be why Kolbe made the pick when he did: to encourage Hellon to get out of the race before he puts any more effort into it.


Scads of Randy Graf groupies, toting all manner of "Graf for Congress" paraphernalia, came out to show their love at a public forum Saturday morning, May 6, featuring GOP candidates who want to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe. Ron Drake, Republican candidate for Congressional District 7, moderated the event at Catalina High School.

Graf was polished and decisive, giving much of the crowd what it was salivating for on the issue of illegal immigration and border security. We thought women were going to throw underwear on stage after he called illegal immigration "the immovable object" in Washington, D.C.

Graf dismissed Mike Hellon's assertion that any GOP candidate would have to play for the center in a district in which Republicans hold a registration advantage.

We envisioned newcomer Frank Antenori using his kung-fu action grip to kick everyone's ass in the auditorium (he's a former Green Beret), and then patching them up on the way to the hospital (he was an EMT in New York City). Antenori also trumpeted his involvement in Joint Task Force Six, intercepting drug traffickers on the border. What manly job hasn't this guy had?

Hellon relied heavily on his experience as a party insider during the past 30 years. Indicating he has worked for both conservatives and moderates, he said, "I have never hyphenated my Republicanism."

It's a good thing he never did that, because, according to Antenori, the country is being "destroyed by Democrats" who are "putting hyphens in everybody's name" (e.g., Mexican-Americans). And here we thought it was homosexuals--not hyphens--who were responsible for the disintegration of American society.

State Rep. Steve Huffman vowed to be the dependable Clydesdale of the group, saying he would "pull together" and solve tough problems like Kolbe has during his lengthy congressional career.

Mike Jenkins, who at times seemed more like a car salesman than a candidate for political office, cracked a joke about Illinois during his introduction, which was met with dispiriting silence from the audience.

Seemingly unfazed, Jenkins later lambasted the restoration of an Alabama statue of the Roman god Vulcan--specifying that he didn't mean Mr. Spock, or, as he put it, "the guy from the planet"--as being an example of "absurd spending." Live long and prosper, dude.

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