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Another One Bites the Dust

Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller loses another chief of staff

There's an old fable about the scorpion who asks a frog for a ride across the river. The frog tells the scorpion he's worried she'll sting him and he'll die. The scorpion reassures the frog he has no reason to be concerned because if she stings them, they'll both drown. The frog agrees, but halfway across the river, she stings him and they both start to sink. The frog asks why she stung him and the scorpion says: "It's in my nature."

Many frogs have given Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller rides since she was first elected in 2012, judging from the turnover in her office. The two-term Republican has rolled through more than two dozen staffers over those years, and many have emerged from her office to tell tales of her fear of listening devices in the walls and other weird conspiracy theories.

But we may now be finding out what happens when scorpions give scorpions a ride across the river. Word has dripped out of Miller's office that Chief of Staff JoAnn di Filippo is out.

As usual, the details are hard to come by, as Miller only deigns to speak to her mouthpieces in the media. But we have to wonder if di Filippo's departure has anything to do with Lori Hunnicutt's arrival as a District 1 staff member last summer. Hunnicutt, who founded the online nonsense factory known as the Arizona Daily Independent, has long been one of Miller's closest allies, providing her with positive press for years after Miller burned her relationships with every credible media outlet in town. Miller repaid Hunnicutt by giving her a job earlier this year. Despite her full-time gig on the taxpayer dime, Hunnicutt still somehow finds the time to moonlight as a political reporter for ADI, which explains all those scoops about how so many people in county government not named Ally Miller are evil or incompetent. Anyway, until ADI comes out with the always-reliable version of what's happening in Miller's office, we'll just have to run with the rumors since Miller did not return a phone call.

Don't worry about Di Filippo, by the way; that rotten County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has approved her transfer to another job in the county. We'll see soon enough whether she sticks with that gig, or pursues the rumored 2020 challenge to Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, a Democrat who has represented District 3 since 1996.

If Di Fillipo does go forward with that campaign, we hope she's not counting on the kind of financial support Miller's District 3 candidate, Kim DeMarco, received in 2016.

From what we hear, the business community is quite sick of Miller's anti-biz antics, which range from opposing efforts to keep Raytheon in Tucson to working against any realistic shot at finding dollars to fund Pima County's troubled roads. She stepped in it big-time last year when she lobbied hard against efforts to extend the life of the Rio Nuevo district, which—after years of false starts—has been a major player in downtown Tucson's boom. Despite Miller's efforts to torpedo the bill, it was signed by the governor—but not before Hunnicutt posted a video of one of Miller's flying monkeys, Roger Score, following auto dealer and GOP kingmaker Jim Click around the legislature with a phone camera. That gave Click and up-close-and-personal view of Miller's modus operandi and left him puzzled as to why he had ever supported her. We hear that Click is now among the members of the business community looking for a Republican challenger for Miller when she's up for reelection in 2020.

Miller managed to further damage her reputation just last week, when she turned to Facebook to post a rumor that Doug Martin, a Christian conservative who recently sold talk radio station KVOI to Bustos Media, wanted to run against her in 2020. Martin denied that was planning a challenge to Miller, and said that he'd voted for her in both 2012 and 2016, but Miller's flying monkeys launched into all manner of vile attack upon Martin, including an allegation that his wife, who is of Korean descent, was secretly a Chinese communist spy. Never say Ally's circle ain't woke!


The Starting Gate

Catching up with this year's City Council races

With Mayor Jonathan Rothschild riding off into the sunset after serving two terms, we've got a real mayor's race on our hands.

On the Democratic side, Ward 1 Councilwoman Regina Romero and former state lawmaker Steve Farley have both launched campaigns, while developer and arts patron Randi Dorman announced this week that she's making her campaign kickoff next Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 5:30 p.m. at downtown's Connect Coworking courtyard.

With roughly three Democrats for every two Republicans and an unpopular Republican in the White House, Tucson is rough sledding for a GOP candidate, but it's not like it's impossible for a Republican to win. Mayor Bob Walkup, who was way too moderate for today's GOP, served three terms from 1999 to 2011. So far, the only Republicans who have registered as candidates are Frank Konarkski, a local landlord who has a beef with the city over code enforcement, and Sam Nagy, whom we've never heard of. Whether anyone else will carry the GOP banner remains to be seen.

But independent candidates are looking at the race, including longtime ad man Ed Ackerley; Robert Reus, a onetime candidate for City Council who is well known to fans of the City Council's Call to the Audience portion of meetings; and Bah Iman-Utopia Layjou, who certainly has the most interesting name of all candidates seeking a mayoral seat.

With Romero looking for that promotion to mayor, three Democrats are lining up to run for her Ward 1 seat:

Lane Santa Cruz, who previously worked as an aide to Romero. She entered the race last week via a Facebook post.

Sami Hamed, who has worked previously for Congressman Raul Grijalva. Hamed ran unsuccessfully for the Arizona Legislature about a decade ago.

Miguel Ortega, a onetime aide to former council member Karin Uhlich. Ortega is coming home to the Democratic Party for this race; he was previously registered as an independent and has been a longtime critic of Romero and others in the local Democratic Party leadership.

Over in Ward 4, where Democrat Shirley Scott is retiring after a half-dozen terms representing the southeast side, Democrat Nikki Lee has thrown her hat into the ring. She's an Air Force veteran who made her first political run for the Arizona House of Representatives last year but lost in a four-way Democratic primary. She also was a leader in the successful campaign to convince voters to repeal a massive expansion of vouchers approved by the Arizona Legislature.

Republican Michael Hicks, who lost his bid for reelection to the Tucson Unified School District last year, has also registered to run.


Fiscal Twist

Ducey vetoes bill to adjust income taxes to account for Trump tax cut

When Gov. Doug Ducey was making his first campaign for office, he was promising to scrap Arizona income tax completely. Admittedly, as that campaign continued and the fiscal consequences of eliminating a revenue stream that accounted for more than 40 percent of the state's annual funding became apparent, Ducey's switched to promising to get it "as close to zero as possible."

Nonetheless, in those days, it was hard to imagine Ducey vetoing legislation cutting income taxes—but that's exactly what he did last week, rejecting a bill that would have cut income taxes across the board to account for the elimination of certain federal tax deductions that was part of the Trump tax cut. Because those deductions went away, Arizonans will have a higher adjusted gross income. On the federal level, there's a bigger standard deduction to compensate for the removal of those deductions, but that comes after you calculate your adjusted gross income for Arizona tax purposes, so some Arizonans—particularly those in the higher brackets—are gonna see higher state income tax bills.

The state budget experts don't really know how much more money will be coming in, but they estimate it will be between $174 million to $228 million.

Republican lawmakers are, of course, horrified by the notion the state could take in that much more money and potentially spend it on programs to help schools or roads or sick people, so they passed Senate Bill 1143 last week to cut income taxes. Ducey, who wants to sock the money away in the state's rainy-day fund, vetoed the legislation.

"This legislation is the wrong policy, and any bill with a fiscal impact should be considered as part of budget discussions agreed to by the Legislature and Executive, just as every budget bill is considered, every session," Ducey said. "Let's conform, secure Arizona's future by investing in our rainy day fund, and let's get to work on a fiscally conservative balanced budget."

Kudos to Ducey for taking a fiscally responsible step and not continuing to eat away at Arizona seed corn. Republican lawmakers are pretty unhappy about Ducey's veto and are likely to continue this fight in one form or another, but Ducey made the right call.

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