The Skinny

BOOBY PRIZE: So what could the University of Arizona's top wankers possibly offer the Tucson City Council to entice it to go forward with its $1-million pledge in the now-defunct Microsoft deal?

You'll recall the city promised all that financial help to lure Bill Gates, the world's richest man, to open--sigh--yet another boiler-room phone pit. A dismal deal done to benefit not just one rich guy, but two, if you count legendary land speculator Don Diamond, whose massive Rocking K development would surely profit by any activity at the former IBM site, now the UA's so-called Research Park.

Of course, most of us think that's the reason the real estate whizzes and their toadies on the Arizona Board of Regents approved the IBM site takeover in the first place--to benefit Diamond and themselves by promoting growth on the far-and-gone-to-hell southeast side.

Well, some of our favorite info brokers speculate the UA may choose to offer the Research Park itself as the city's booby prize for staying with this sleazy deal. Expect the arrogant UA officials to whisper sweetly to the Council, "We're willing to allow you to annex us."

Oh boy! Of course, if the UA holds true to form, its fatcats won't be willing to pay anything for the privilege. And once UA officials place their ill-conceived baby in the city, they'll want city taxpayers to cover various infrastructure costs.

Whatever the UA overlords offer--and there's another rumor afloat they want to move Flandrau Planetarium downtown to free up space on campus--you can bet it'll cost city taxpayers plenty. About $17 million for the Planetarium, according to our sources.

The City Council should follow the lead of the Pima County Supervisors and tell these ivory-tower geeks to go piss in a parking lot.

MICROBABBLE: There is an upside to the crash of that Microsoft program last week: It's been fun to watch the suits who oversold it from day one begging in front of the City Council and Board of Supes. Best of all have been the appeals from attorney Donald Pitt, who's beginning to look like Rodney Dangerfield.

A former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, Pitt has come up with a novel argument to defend the deal he helped broker: City, county and state taxpayers must continue to fund renovations at the UA Research and Technology Park even though Microsoft is leaving because our reputation is at stake. Boy, there's great legal advice.

What reputation is Pitt talking about, anyway? Our image as a bunch of bumpkins who roll over for anything that comes down the pike? The largest accumulation of marks waiting to be hustled anywhere west of the Mississippi?

The class act was UA VP Joel Valdez, who walked away from the microphone when he realized nothing he was going to say was going to win him any votes from the Board of Supervisors, who cancelled the county's commitment. Valdez knew the score--the deal was indefensible.

MEET THE NEW BOSS? Paul Sypherd's name appears to be getting a brisk jawboning around town as the possible successor to the original Invisible Man, UA President Manuel Pacheco, who's mumbled something about wanting to wander away from the intellectual nursing home shortly. We're told Sypherd has the backing of joined-at-the-hip political kingpins Don Diamond and Donald Pitt.

Sypherd is the UA's provost. Our only question is, does he have the one degree that really counts with the Arizona Regents--the one from the Broadsky School of Real Esate?

STATEHOUSE SMACKERS: While the Republican caucus in the state Legislature seems unable to take care of much of anything--from welfare reform to that nagging school finance issue--they and their Democratic colleagues have done a superb job of taking care of themselves.

The first shot was a pay raise from $15,000 to $24,500. That measure, however, requires a vote of the people, who continue to shoot down the legislators' schemes to pocket more money.

So the lawmaking neuticles wised up and went for something easier: a per diem increase. That tax-free allowance is currently $35 for Maricopa County legislators and $60 a day for the rest. The proposed legislation would allow the leadership of the House and Senate to set the per diem amount based on IRS standards. That would mean lawmakers would be eligible for $143 per day, or--let's do the math here--$14,300 tax-free dollars for the 100 days the Legislature is supposed to be in session.

And remember: That's on top of the 15-grand salary and mileage dollars from the home district.

State Rep. Bill McGibbon, who represents the folks in Green Valley, explained he was supporting the measure because he says he actually had to spend his salary on living expenses because the per diem is too low for him.

Hey, Bill: That's what most people do with their salary--spend it on rent and food. We know it's a bitch, but the very fact that you complain about it tells us you're overpaid now.

TERM WARFARE: In addition to upping their compensation, the state House of Representatives also passed a measure extending their own terms from two to four years. If this proposal, which requires voter approval in 1998, were really to become law, it would make Arizona the only state in the union with a four-year term for its lower house.

This shameless power grab is the work of Rep. Andy Nichols, who pushes the same thing every year. Andy doesn't like two-year terms because he doesn't care for all that bothersome campaigning that comes along with public office. He says the only advantage of a two-year term is that it keeps politicians closer to their constituents. Duhhh--that's the idea, Andy--it's called democracy.

Another idiot also argued it would save the voters money to have the election every four years instead of two. Guess what, knucklehead: There's still an election every two years for other stuff--unless you'd like to abolish those, too. And arguing that elections are too expensive is a helluva case for monarchy.

RAIL TO THE CHIEF: Tucson Police Chief Doug Smith is dancing a Minnesota two-step as he tries to explain why he's suddenly a finalist for public safety director in his old home town in Richfield, Minnesota. He's tried to explain that he has no plans to leave Tucson--unless, of course, he gets the job, which means he'd consider it. Huh?

Smith's bullshit is at least encouraged by the incredible job of ass-kissing the local establishment media have given him in the three years he's been here. They've played pitch and putt with him, and he, in turn, has granted all the staged interviews they can handle. Smith avoids any situation where the calls aren't screened, from his Channel 12 cop show to local talk radio. He doesn't like tough questions--in fact, he won't take them.

Unfortunately, he may still be the best option. There's hardly anybody left on the force who could hack the position, and national searches keep bringing us more gypsies who could care less about the town they don't plan to stay in.

Sorta like the media types who report on it.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION? It appears two of the three GOP freshmen conservative congressmen Arizona elected in the Year of the Newt, John Shadegg and Matt Salmon, are showing even more independence and splitting from their colleagues. Salmon urged Speaker Newt Gingrich to step down, and Shadegg crossed the Newt over the provisions of that idiotic Balanced Budget Amendment. Only that pinhead J.D. Hayworth has remained a loyal lackey.

The split showed up again over one of the few items of substance the current Congress has voted on, the renewal of the 10-percent airline ticket tax favored by both Gingrich and the Clinton administration. Shadegg and Salmon, as well as the senior Republican in the delegation, Bob Stump, were among 73 house members voting against the proposal. Hayworth, Democrat Ed Pastor and Republican Jim Kolbe voted to reinstate the tax.

In fact, besides Hayworth, it would appear Kolbe has turned into one of Gingrich's closest butt kissers.

WILD TURKEY: Our spies tell us Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva is up to his old tricks again. They report he appears to be drinking heavily, and occasionally shows up plastered at the office. He's missed several meetings, luncheon dates and appointments with no explanation. We're also told he can become belligerent and aggressive when he's stinko.

Get some help Raul...your constituents deserve better. So does your liver. TW

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