WATER PRESSUREFormer state Rep. John Kromko has had a lousy political run in recent years, but he finally managed to get one right. At least, so far.
Tucson City Clerk Kathy Detrick says that Kromko's Tucson Water Users Bill of Rights has enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. That makes this year's city elections a lot more interesting.
Kromko's proposition would eliminate the city's $14-a-month garbage fee, block the home delivery of treated effluent and prohibit Tucson Water from allowing any more water hookups once the utility begins delivering 140,000 acre-feet of water a year.
That last provision has the Growth Lobby plenty worried, because the shut-off date wouldn't be far in the future. Tucson Water delivered about 127,000 acre-feet last year, according to spokesman Mitch Basefsky.
Kromko's proposal may still face a legal challenge, because it includes a wide range of topics. Although the city charter doesn't have the same sort of single-subject rule that limits amendments to the Arizona Constitution, opponents of the initiative could still try to make the case that there are common-law restrictions against this sort of legislative logrolling.
In a letter to the editor this week, Kromko takes issue with how The Skinny has been characterizing his initiative. He says it doesn't deal with a wide range of topics at all.
Your mileage may differ, but we'd say there's not much to connect paying trash fees to deciding how many water connections the city can have.
Kromko also complains that we've said the initiative would ban the delivery or recharge of treated effluent. Given that Kromko himself is portraying it as "no toilet to tap," we'd say that we've been at least as accurate as he's been.
But we'll give him this: The initiative does allow the delivery of treated effluent for irrigation. And it does allow for treated effluent to be recharged in the Santa Cruz River, although it bans Tucson Water from building any wells so it could actually retrieve the water.
So let us clarify: When we say it bans delivery or recharge, we mean it would prevent treated effluent from being delivered to homes or recharged in a manner in which it could be recovered for our future use. All clear now?
Kromko says the initiative is necessary, because the Democrats on the City Council took a dive and failed to repeal the trash fee after they took control of the council after the 2005 elections.
It's certainly true that Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich hammered Republicans Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar for approving the fee. Democrats Steve Leal, José Ibarra and Shirley Scott, who were on the council when the fee was passed, also voted against it at the time.
But all of them have since supported two budgets that include the garbage fee, even though this year, the city had enough additional revenue to increase general-fund spending by $26.6 million. The trash fee raises about $23 million annually.
Trasoff, who said she was "morally oppose(d)" to the garbage fee during her '05 campaign, didn't return our phone calls.
Uhlich tells us she's concerned that Kromko's initiative combines too many separate elements.
"Voters who feel strongly about one part of the proposals may be inclined to vote yes whether or not they fully support all of the provisions," says Uhlich, who hasn't decided whether she'd support a legal challenge over whether it belongs on the ballot.
As she did on the campaign trail, Uhlich says the trash fee should be revisited. She wants a more modest fee--perhaps $4 a month--and hopes that the decision to split the city's Environmental Services Department away from Tucson Water is a first step toward deciding whether to cut the fee someday.
Uhlich didn't consider cutting the fee this year, despite the big increase in city spending, because "anything we do to roll back or eliminate even a portion of the fee has to be sustainable. ... It would have been a quick fix; it would have been politically popular, but I don't think it's good budgeting, and I don't think, financially, it's a responsible way of looking at it."
Mayor Bob Walkup says he believes the money from the trash fee is vital to providing services to the city.
"We made good use of the added revenues in the general fund for additional police officers and firefighters and started fixing our roads," Walkup says.
Walkup's most concerned about the idea of blocking any new water connections once the city is delivering 140,000 acre-feet of water annually.
"I see that as a classic community disaster," Walkup says. "When you cannot manage growth, your economy turns down, and your city begins to die."
SCRAMBLEWATCH '08: EXPLORATORY EDITIONLast week, state Rep. Jonathan Paton filed papers for an exploratory committee to prepare for a 2008 run for the state Senate seat in District 30. Paton, who is in his second term in the House, can't come right out and say he wants the job, because Arizona law would require him to resign if he announces before January.
Incumbent District 30 Sen. Tim Bee, now serving as Senate president, is being forced out by term limits and is expected to challenge Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords next year. That pesky resign-to-run law prevents him from announcing his plans, but we wouldn't be surprised to see Bee launching an exploratory committee of his own in the near future.
The other member of the District 30 delegation, state Rep. Marian McClure, has also hit her term limit in the House, but rather than face Paton in a primary for the Senate seat, she's considering a run for the Arizona Corporation Commission.
This all would leave two empty House seats in District 30. Among the Republicans rumored to be considering a run:
· Sharon Collins, who has made unsuccessful runs for Arizona secretary of state, the Legislature and mayor of Tucson. Collins, who worked as a deputy director for Gov. Jane Dee Hull, now works for the Arizona Department of Education.
· Knothead David Gowan, who works as a Sierra Vista magazine distributor. Gowan, who has relentlessly battered McClure in his previous unsuccessful bids for District 30 office (in one debate, he accused her of being "pro-sodomy"), is as conservative as they come, except when it's financially advantageous for him to take government money. In 2006, he took more than $53,700 for his primary campaign; in 2004, he got more than $42,300.
· Frank Antenori, a former Green Beret who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for the Congressional District 8 seat last year. Antenori now works for Raytheon and serves on the Pima County Library Board.
· Doug Sposito, a Sonoita-area homebuilder who also unsuccessfully sought a House seat in 2004. Sposito got more than $42,300 for his primary campaign that year.
As long as we're catching up with 2008 candidates: Al Melvin, the conservative Republican who pulled off a rookie upset against Toni Hellon in the District 26 GOP primary last year before losing the general election to Democrat Charlene Pesquiera, wants a rematch. Melvin has already launched his campaign and is eager to qualify for Clean Elections dollars.
Yes, that's right: Melvin, who thinks the government spends too much on social services, is another conservative who's happy to take public dollars for his own campaign. Last year, he sucked up more than $86,000 in his losing bid. What a political welfare queen!
Melvin is likely to face a challenge from state Rep. Pete Hershberger, who has launched his own exploratory committee. Like Hellon, Hershberger is a moderate Republican. But unlike Hellon, we imagine he's not just going to roll over and let Melvin steamroll him.
Stay tuned for a fireworks show!