PARTYING LIKE A ROCK STAR
We read in the daily papers this week that the UA's student council managed to lose nearly $1 million on the Jay-Z and Kelly Clarkson concert at Arizona Stadium last week.
Yes, you read that right: They lost nearly a million bucks on a show that was supposed to be a fundraiser for students who can't afford to pay their tuition.
Not only does this wipe out the Associated Students of the University of Arizona's reserve fund; it also means that the outgoing ASUA leadership leaves the organization in such heavy debt that future student councils will have less money to spend for years, according to the morning daily.
This is an utter disaster that can be credited to outgoing ASUA President Tommy Bruce and his brain trust, who decided they would throw a big-ass party even if it meant leaving the tab for someone else.
While Bruce blamed the weak economy for the losses, anyone with any experience in successfully promoting concerts could have told him that this had the potential to crash and burn.
Bruce got lucky last year when he booked Kanye West at McKale Center and only lost a little bit of money on the show. So he must have figured: Hey, anyone can do this!
Not so much.
Jay-Z was actually a late addition to the bill. Originally, ASUA had planned to bring in Chris Brown, but then there was that trouble with Rihanna. You see the trouble that abuse leads to?
Sadly for all concerned, ASUA could have worked with local promoters—there are several in town—to produce a show that would have turned a profit. Hell, they could have hired a long-haired hippie to play a guitar outside of the Student Union for a few bucks and done better.
The afterparty appears to have left Bruce delusional. He told the Arizona Daily Wildcat that the show was a success, explaining: "You have to prove yourself in the industry."
Well, if by "prove yourself," you mean "demonstrate that you're an easy mark who has no idea what you're doing," you nailed it, Tommy! You'll go down in history as the George W. Bush of the ASUA.
SPEAKING OF MONEY TROUBLES ...
A new version of the Republican budget emerged this week at the Arizona Legislature. Good luck with this one, guys.
We mentioned some of these financial maneuvers last week, when details first started to leak out. Of particular interest is a plan to swipe more than $200 million in impact-fee dollars from cities and towns.
We're not sure how you can take money from homebuyers who were assessed special fees for specific purposes, and then use it for whatever you want. That's a gigantic legal challenge waiting to happen.
Then there's a sweep of nearly $300 million in school-district funds. As far as we can tell, this is based on very screwy interpretations of school-district budgets.
So right there is about $500 million coming to the state as the result of some of those gimmicks the GOP always complains about.
And, of course, there are plenty of cuts, as will be necessary when facing a $3 billion shortfall. People are losing health insurance; K-12 is taking a hit that's somewhat alleviated by stimulus dollars; university funds are getting swept; state agencies are facing lump-sum reductions; general-fund support for the Arizona Commission on the Arts is zeroed out; yadda, yadda, yadda.
But hey: While they're swiping funds from local governments that will force those local governments to raise taxes, the Republicans do manage to eliminate a statewide property tax that raises $250 million.
Rep. Matt Heinz, a freshman Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, called the budget "legislative malpractice."
Added Heinz: "If I were treating a patient in the hospital the way the majority is treating the budget, I'd be hauled off to jail."
In related news, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee released a new report last week that shows the state's economic picture continues to spiral downward. The state's number crunchers are still trying to make sense of the income-tax numbers—it's tricky with all those payments and refunds going in and out the door this time of the year—but sales-tax collections in March showed a drop of more than 19 percent compared to 2008. That's the biggest drop the state has seen in this fiscal year.
The report also notes that in the last year, the state has lost 183,000 jobs. The number of payroll employees in the state hasn't been this low since June 2005, and the unemployment rate of 7.8 percent is expected to climb.
While state lawmakers continue to debate the fate of the Rio Nuevo downtown-revitalization effort, the city and the Arizona Department of Transportation are taking steps that could lead toward the approval of a proposed development along Toole Avenue downtown. (For details, see "East Side Story," April 9.)
The city would give up a piece of property next to the Interstate 10 frontage road near Congress Street. In exchange, ADOT would hand over two historic warehouses and a parking lot on Toole Avenue.
If the swap were to go through, the Toole structures would be renovated, and a new housing complex for artists would replace the parking lot.
Unlike the city's earlier offer to give ADOT three parcels of worthless property for 15 downtown warehouses, the Interstate 10 property is valued at $550,000. The Toole parcels may be worth more than that, with an appraisal putting a $652,000 price tag on the parking lot alone, but those values are now under review.
If the two sides can come to terms, the City Council could finalize the swap in July. By that time, we might even know the future of Rio Nuevo.
MEET THE NEW BOSS
Arizona's new secretary of state, Ken Bennett, turned up in town last week to talk to the Pima County Elections Integrity Commission, a panel set up in January with representatives appointed by the Board of Supervisors, the political parties of Pima County and County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
The meeting gave Bennett a chance to address elections concerns and topics that Jan Brewer, who was serving as secretary of state before she ascended to the governor's office earlier this year, didn't address during her reign.
Last year, Pima County officials turned to Brewer's office to ask her for guidance regarding the treatment of election-database files as public records, but she never wound up defending the county in or out of court during the public-record lawsuit proceedings. She was harshly critical of the dozens of changes Huckelberry began making as the Pima County Democratic Party shed light on elections problems during its public-records lawsuit for access to the electronic database files.
Bennett, by contrast, addressed each question from the commission with what seemed to be genuine concern and knowledge of the state's elections systems.
Bennett even said he's interested in looking at discussing potential changes in the state election-procedures manual, and working with county officials on electronic election equipment needs and new technology changes.