January 5 - January 11, 1995

[The Skinny]

WE SWEAR WE DON'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP: That states' rights movement just keeps building. Along with regular bleating from the Legislature and Gov. J. Fife Whiteguy III's Constitutional Defense Council, we also have private citizens joining the battle.

The latest patriot to pick up the banner is Glendale resident John P. Wilde, who identifies himself as the national coordinator of the Save Our States Task Force. Wilde has taken out an application for an initiative which essentially would repeal the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which ensures U.S. Senators are elected by popular vote, rather than by appointment by their cronies in the state Legislature.

The actual text of the initiative reads:

The initiative will have the effect of returning the election of the United States senators from the state of Arizona to the legislature of this state and providing the legislature with the means to supervise the two U.S. senators while Congress is in session and for the Legislature to recall the U.S. senators.

That's right: Wilde thinks the Legislature should appoint senators, since letting people vote seems to be such a disaster. And he has until July 3, 1996, to collect 169,442 signatures to give us a chance to vote on it.

If anyone sees this clown passing petitions in a supermarket parking lot, do us all a favor and run him down, please.

LEADERSHIP VACUUM: The Tucson Citizen recently ran a front-page special report titled "Who Runs Tucson?" The December 22 edition also contained a 32-page supplement devoted to the same topic, with bios of the top five "most powerful" local dudes and dudettes, and shorter pieces on the balance of the top 20 (called "the second tier"), and then another list of everybody who was mentioned at least three times by those asked. Also included were some notes on methodology.

The reporter/writer was Heather Newman. Considering the framework there's no quarrel with her competence. But that framework exemplifies the concept known as "GIGO"--garbage in, garbage out.

That concept was based, as is any poll, on those polled. What we have is a list of people who are supposedly influential based on who the Citizen thought were influential enough to ask.

There's a problem right there. You must first grant power to those you think are important to tell you who's really important. Ask different people and you'd get different answers.

The Citizen pre-determined the results by "examining boards and committees." When you ask people who are on boards and committees who they find relevant, they'll usually tell you either other members of boards and committees or people who do business with boards and committees. GIGO all over the place. For some of the people named, and many of those queried, their lives are one continual committee meeting.

The Citizen should tell us how many people who got questionnaires actually responded. One high-profile local attorney told us he chucked his because he thought the whole thing was bullshit. And we know a lot of folks who think he's a pretty powerful guy. A few more like him in the pot could've changed the vote count, a vote count the Citizen never published.

A note on motivation. Some of us suspect there's a Gannett management manual that tells their editors, who sometimes know squat about the town in which they're working, to run these surveys every once in a while so they'll know who to suck up to beyond their list of advertisers. Because sucking up is what this is really all about.

The top five named in the survey are not without influence in one important regard--print advertising dollars. Jim Click has multiple car dealerships and a bank. Dorothy Finley has a mammoth beer distributorship. Don Pitt and Don Diamond own so much stuff it would be hard for even for them to name it all. (And they should have been a single entry--everybody knows they've been joined at the hip for years). The only one not fitting that profile is University of Arizona President Manuel Pacheco. Who, like many of our local politicians that were not named, has inherent powers, but is hardly "one of the powerful."

Only one pol made the top 20--Congressman Jim Kolbe. And only two bureaucrats beside Pacheco--County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and UA vice president and former Tucson city manager Joel Valdez. Huckelberry, working for a group of idiot pols, must find it interesting that he's got more clout than City Manager Mike Brown, who basically controls his idiot group of pols. And Valdez must chuckle over Pacheco's ranking. Valdez has more juice under any scenario because he's smarter, craftier and he's been around longer.

But there's good news here. Of the top 20, only four are in the public sector.

The Pima County Supervisors have their offices on the eleventh floor of the County Administration Building. Insiders often refer to a group they call "The Twelfth Floor," which consists of the people who paid to elect the five guys on the eleventh. This would definitely include Click, Diamond and Pitt.

And any genuine discussion of clout in town would involve an in-depth look at various politicians' campaign contribution lists. This would reveal some other really heavy hitters who may not wish to be revealed. Power, clout, influence--whatever you want to call it--is often exercised with stealth, likes to keep a low profile and works through "agents" who are perceived to have power but who really don't. Tucson has far more of these than we'd like to admit, usually agents for out-of-town powers, and a real story would tell us more about them.

Low profiles are certainly not what the Citizen's "Top Five" kept when they posed for a group cover photo. Some of us found that arrogant, others thought it was merely tacky.

Furthermore, if the five or the 20 are, in fact, the real leaders of this community, then what is their agenda? Do they have a common purpose? Do they have a plan for the rest of us to follow? Do they talk to each other about it? What's their collective vision? Do they even have one? And besides a batch of sub-peer wannabes, do they have a constituency to bring it about?

The Citizen stated, "They don't necessarily work together, other leaders said. Influence in Tucson is an individual thing, and most people tend to concentrate on their own priorities rather than forming power cliques to try to control the city."

From The Good Government League in the '70's to the Tucson 30 and the DM 50 today, forming power cliques has been a way of life involving most of the folks named by the Citizen. And these power cliques have consistently fallen on their ass because they had no real agenda and no constituent base. They attached to ad hoc issues, often disastrously, from the Rillito-Pantano Freeway to the half-cent sales tax for road construction.

Those who have strongly suggested this area's biggest problem is that it's actually leaderless were validated by the Citizen piece. The paper named folks who have no collective vision, no goals and nobody available to follow them.

And maybe that's not so bad. For those of us who prefer limited government and limited hassle, having a bunch of people at the top of the heap whose biggest agenda item is the next rezoning or the next contract beats the hell out of a bunch of activist reformers who want to change everybody else's life at everybody else's expense.

Check Marana and Oro Valley, where mayors have tried to lead on stuff that many residents didn't like. There are two places that could've used a little less "leadership" and a lot more responsiveness, as their respective recalls now indicate.

When it's all said and done, there's considerable wisdom in

H.L. Mencken's obituary of Calvin Coolidge: "He had no ideas and he was not a nuisance."

At least part of it fits here.

IF HE BUILDS IT, WE WILL PAY: Don Diamond's proposed Rocking K development in the Rincon Valley came up in conversation with City Manager Michael Brown last week. Brown likes to talk about the "possibilities" should the mega project be built and should the city annex it, even though it's way the hell out east.

You could even say Brown was licking his lips as he recounted his discussions with Diamond and the Rocking K's Chris Monson. "This is just in preliminary discussions," Brown said, "but so far we've talked about the Rocking K donating one of the three planned golf courses to the city. I think it's the one south of Rincon Wash or creek or whatever it is...it's the one on the south end. Also, the park--to be donated by Diamond. It's a 40-acre park."

Brown also said the city has already discussed the possibility of locating a new library, police and fire stations and even a small "general civic center" within the development.

"It's almost like a new town," said Brown, "so we would need to provide these services there."

Gee, Mike, and we thought you'd be easy. Let's see. It sounds like the land for a 40-acre park and an 18-hole golf course, a city center and several other city buildings could be donated if the city would just build the facilities and maintain them for life. Good job, Mike. Hell, we thought the city might have to carry some heavy infrastructure costs.

Oh, we haven't got to that yet?

SLOUCHING TOWARD PAY DAY: At first glance, City Manager Michael Brown did the right thing by backing off his request for pay hike from the city council. But only at first glance.

Recently things heated up for Brown when the story broke telling how he'd phoned individual council members to ask if they'd support his request for six months' worth of additional lump-sum settlement on top of his current 12 months should he be fired; and an additional $7,500 a year on top of that for each year of service should he be fired. Currently, Brown knocks down a cool $120,000 before perks.

Brown thought he had the votes. He told inquiring Councilwoman Molly McKasson he had the support of four council members--Roger Sedlmayr, George Miller, Tom Saggau and Bruce Wheeler. But when the editorials from the daily fishwraps hit the fan, some of Brown's support wilted.

All of a sudden "Wet-Finger-to-the-Wind" Wheeler was saying it was the council's responsibility--not Brown's--to initiate pay talks. And those talks, said Wheeler, should come only after the mayor and council had a chance to evaluate the manager's performance. Privately, Wheeler was furious with McKasson for releasing the names of the council members supporting Brown's request for a mid-contract pay hike.

Now, as we read the daily press stories, we're told Brown has simply withdrawn his request for additional compensation. End of story--Not!

Having withdrawn his request, all Brown has to do is wait for the heat to cool. Then his "Four Votes" (along with the other council members) will conduct a performance evaluation. Once that's done, the rest is easy. Brown's "Four Votes" could then "initiate" discussions, which could then result in a fat pay raise for Brown.

The wheels are already greased.

THE POLITICAL PUNK SAGA, PART 2: State Rep. Andy Nichols, D-Dist. 13, was so concerned about losing his stinky little political signs during the last election that his campaign staff actually had a citizen arrested for removing them from the citizen's own front yard, as previously reported by The Weekly ("Ignorant Arrogance," December 22). Andy even believed he had a right to place his signs in public rights of way, declaring them "public access" lands--whatever the hell they are.

Problem is, Andy's campaign workers apparently didn't share his attitude about trashing other people's signs.

The Skinny has now been told by two reliable witnesses that the night before the November 8 election, they observed someone tearing down "No on 200" signs all over the northeast side. As our witnesses were conducting the pre-election night process of posting their own candidate's signs near all polling places, they wondered who was so militantly supporting Prop. 200, the cigarette tax initiative.

They found out when they saw someone who was putting up a Nichols' sign also pulling down and throwing aside a "No on 200" sign.

Such dedication to a cause should not go unmentioned. Neither should the hypocrisy of Nichols and his campaign team.

We wonder if the Nichols' worker who removed those Prop 200 signs was the same clown who called 911 earlier on that poor citizen.

THAT ALAN LANG LAWYER PORK JUST KEEPS ON OINKING: We've reported how much the bills were for those fiasco hearings the Pima County Board of Supes held over now-defrocked County Assessor Alan Lang. The lawyer tab alone approached a quarter million bucks.

But that was last February, and Lang, courtesy of a recall election, is now gone. However, the legal bills keep on coming.

Latest one from the county's ace counsel, Si Schorr, of the law firm of Lewis and Rocca, was $10,230--for November. And add to that another $1,100 for Lang's lawyer, Stanton Bloom. Which means either Schorr is 10 times better, Bloom is 10 times quicker, or somebody is milking the hell out of us taxpayers.

The pork keeps oinking because the county chose to appeal one item from the superior court ruling. Think about that high fiscal priority next time you hear Big Ed Moore, Paul "Dim Bulb" Marsh or Mikey "The Waffle" Boyd explain how much money they've saved us poor taxpayers.

BALLOT BOX BLUNDERS: We all know how badly the Pima County Elections Office and the current Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, Jane Williams, screwed up the last election. That there are some 800 ballots that didn't get counted in Oro Valley alone is a massive disgrace. The incompetence of Williams and underling Delores Johnston calls into question all sorts of things--like, did Sam Coppersmith really win the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate over then-Secretary of State Dick Mahoney?

As Mahoney's job included being the state's chief election official, it's poetic justice that he can now wonder about just how screwed up vote counting really was in the state's second biggest county. Moral of the story: Next time, do your job, Dick.

But we digress. The supes are bringing in former Secretary of State Jim Shumway to check out the local balloting problems.

And Supervisor Big Ed Moore again exhibited his total lack of sanity by actually placing a two-page list of instructions to Shumway on the Board's agenda of December 20. It began as follows:

"The lies and misrepresentations printed on an almost daily basis by The Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen editorial pages on election matters are an insult to the public and appear to be an orchestrated attempt to cover up what actually happened."

Quit the crap, Ed. The sycophantic losers you and Mikey and Dim Bulb hired screwed things up so badly that hundreds, maybe thousands, of people lost their vote. That's not a lie, that's a disgusting fact.

Try showing some remorse instead of trying to point your dirty little finger of blame.

TIME FOR A HISTORY LESSON, BIG STEVE: In the January 1 Arizona Daily Star summation of the career of Senator Dennis DeConcini, Steve Meissner wrote in the second graph: "He was becoming the first Southern Arizonan in state history to win a U.S. Senate seat."

Yeah, right.

Only 10 Arizonans have become U.S. Senators since statehood in 1912, and while DeConcini is the first (and only) from Tucson, two others were from the southern portion of the state: Sen. Marcus Aurelius Smith of Tombstone served from 1912 to 1921, and Sen. (and later governor and supreme court justice) Ernest W. McFarland served from 1941 to 1953. "Mac" was from Florence.

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January 5 - January 11, 1995

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