The Skinny

BONDS AWAY: The Citizens Bond Committee folks got their wish last week when the Board of Supervisors, with dissent from GOP Supervisor John Even, agreed put a $305 bond package on the ballot in May, which will pay for more courts, jail cells, open space, parks and libraries. In the process, the Supes delayed a decision on $250 million for transportation bonds, which may or may not make it on the November ballot.

Those road bonds are in real trouble--and for good reason. With municipalities like Tucson and Marana trying to muscle in on the action--and threatening to not support a bond election if they don't get their slice of pork--Pima County has less and less incentive to put the bond package on the November ballot.

Consider: If the county passes a bond election using HURF (Highway User Revenue Funds) monies from the state to pay for the bonds, they'll get $250 million for road construction over the next 10 years. If they just use those HURF dollars as the money comes in to Pima County for road construction, they'll have about $370 million to spend over 15 years--which means an extra $120 million gets used for road construction instead of interest payments to investors who buy bonds.

Given the city's outrageously greedy demands on the bond money--at one point, city staffers wanted $210 million of the total $250 million to be spent within Tucson's city limits--we're betting the end result will be no bond election at all--which, of course, means hardly any of the county's HURF dollars will be spent within city limits.

All of which leaves Tucson Mayor George Miller, who's been one of the loudest dogs barking on this subject, looking like that farmer who hacked off the head of the golden goose.

Miller and others in the city argue that most--about 60 percent--of Pima County taxpayers live in the city. While that argument is true, it conveniently ignores the fact that those state HURF dollars are distributed on an unequal basis and have been paid mainly to incorporated cities in the first place (which is what the whole fight over tax equity has been in the Legislature for the last several years). Even under the current system, Tucson gets 60 cents of every HURF dollar.

While we don't advocate forcing taxpayers to subsidize all the road needs that irresponsible zoning decisions have created, we would point out the city hasn't been all that responsible in spending its road dollars from the state. Almost all the city HURF dollars have paid for that white elephant known as Aviation Parkway, a streetlight-strewn freeway to nowhere.

And the City of Tucson continues to dump on current residents by constantly annexing more empty dirt leading to big subdivisions which will obviously need more roads (with the curious argument that all those new residents will make the city eligible for more HURF dollars). So if the City Council wants to give us a rational road maintenance policy, how about the responsible one of not biting off more road needs than the budget can handle?

Translation: Don't annex Rocking K.

RANCH GUESSING: Supervisor Raul Grijalva has been fighting to keep Canoa Ranch from becoming another Rocking K/Rancho Vistoso/RedHawk. With the election of Supervisor Sharon Bronson, there are now two votes to trim back the proposed Canoa Ranch project.

We expect Supervisor John Even will support the rezoning, as will his Republican colleague, Mike Boyd. (Despite his alliance with Grijalva on many matters these days, we're betting Boyd will obey his natural master, the Growth Lobby, on this one.)

That means the swing vote on the Canoa rezoning is Supervisor Dan Eckstrom.

Grijalva has recently observed that Fairfield Homes, which is requesting the rezoning, has made some subtle shifts with their staff and consultants, bringing aboard several of Eckstrom's close allies and contributors. Grijalva contends the Canoa developers will get their third vote from Eckstrom, who will vote with his old friends instead of supporting his new one, Supervisor Sharon Bronson.

If that happens, Grijalva would be able to tell Bronson, "I told you so." Grijalva believes Eckstrom's animosity to him will transcend his friendship with Bronson.

The first indication on how the vote might go came last week, when the Supes had to decide the time and location of a public hearing on the rezoning. The developer wanted the good old downtown daytime meeting, which would force residents to take a day off from work and travel many miles to comment on the rezoning. Grijalva and Bronson both wanted an evening hearing near the residents--a move opposed by GOP Supes Even and Boyd. (You might recall Boyd actually campaigned on making access to public hearings easier for residents--but hey, that's why we call him the Waffle Man.)

The surprise came with a motion from Eckstrom to conduct the hearing as supported by Grijalva and Bronson, which passed 3 to 2.

Thanks, Danny. We hope Grijalva is wrong and you're motivated by more than payback and cronyism when it comes time to cast the big vote in March.

HOT ON THE STORY: On a recent late afternoon, the Pima County Attorney's Office received a call from Arizona Daily Star reporter Anjelica Pence asking to speak to Richard Boykin about the shooting of Three Points resident David Aguilar by a plainclothed DEA agent. When she was told that Boykin no longer worked there, and hadn't for three-and-a-half years, Pence then asked to speak with County Attorney Steve Neely, who had resigned his post last November and moved to New Zealand.

SQUEEZING THE PRESS: Last week, Rep. Don Aldridge, the dried-out Republican fossil from Havasu City who somehow weaseled his way into becoming our state's Speaker of the House, had Mesa Tribune reporter Mark Flatten escorted from the House of Representatives by security guards.

Unhappy with Flatten's blistering profile in the Trib, Aldridge had previously refused to sign Flatten's press credentials. Flatten, like any good reporter, had simply continued to go about his business reporting on the asylum we charitably call the state Legislature. But when Aldridge sighted Flatten doing his job, he ordered House security to escort the reporter from the room.

Politicians generally have a low opinion of the press, just as the press generally has a low opinion of lawmakers. That's a system that keeps both sides honest. But Aldridge's clear contempt for the First Amendment is nothing short of reprehensible.

It's exactly that sort of chickenshit behavior that makes the Arizona Legislature such a laughingstock. If Aldridge didn't want negative publicity, he never should have run for office, much less lobbied for the post of Speaker. It's time the GOP caucus in the House realized its mistake, booted Aldridge from his leadership post and apologized to Flatten.

HOW MANY ASSHOLES DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW A TV STATION? Well, here we are, slouching toward the tail end of sweeps month, that quarterly season when local and national TV types engage in hemorrhoid-inducing strain to produce larger audiences than their competitors.

Despite the usual sweeps hoopla, however, local TV news continues to be the boring, largely irrelevant fluff it's always been. Are we all better informed now that KGUN-TV, Channel 9, went to that all-important hour's worth of news? Are we a wiser populace now that KGUN has a big-time weatherstud all the way from the Windy City?

Nope and double nope--but it's certainly been a giggle listening to the new dude try to get excited about the so-called weather in this burg. How much do you pay a guy for talking about nothing two or three times a day? Fifty or sixty grand? More?

Money's no problem for KGUN's out-of-town owners, Lee Enterprises, Inc. All they have to do is shitcan a couple of locals. Hey, anybody seen KGUN's goodwill ambassador, John Paul, lately? We hear they fired his ass and escorted him from the building. And on what pretense? To make way for the new guy's huge salary? To pay for all that repetition on the "news" hour?

At least KGUN's doing a fabulous job telling us what a good job their TV news folks are doing. It seems like they're airing more promos than an oldies radio station. But then, when you're offering the same bland crap as everybody else, only more of it, the whole thing comes down to who does a better job of marketing, doesn't it?

Between all the infomercials and the promos telling us how Colleen Bagnall saved the life of that cute little doggie's owner--lying used to be against the rules in news, even TV news--we're thinking the Home Shopping Network is looking mighty fine these days.

Oh, and thanks, KGUNners, for that incivisive report on Vanna White on Tuesday. Or was that just another promo? TW

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