BALLOT-BOUND, AFTER ALL? Because of El Niño, The Skinny goofed last week when we reported that Mayor George Miller's proposed initiative, which would change Tucson's current system of citywide council elections to ward-only races, had been stalled until 1999.

Last month, City Clerk Kathy Detrick mailed a letter to initiative backers, telling them they had until July 1999 to collect signatures for the 1999 general election. But she says that didn't preclude the possibility of getting the issue on the 1998 ballot.

"That's standard procedure," Detrick says. "We always talk about last day as opposed to first day."

According to its charter, the city can only have one initiative election every 12 months. The precise definition of 12 months, however, is somewhat blurry, mostly because the city argued in 1984 that a referendum the Council majority disliked couldn't go on the ballot because election day fell two days earlier on the November calendar than it had in 1983. The referendum had to wait until the following year to appear on the ballot.

Miller is confident his initiative will overcome any legal hurdles.

"It's going to be on the ballot," he assured us last weekend.

But Detrick says the City Attorney's Office has not yet ruled on the issue.

"I still haven't heard anything back from the attorney's office," says Detrick. "So I assume they're still doing some research on it."

CELESTIAL DOINGS: Celestino Fernández, captain of the monumental failure known as Arizona International University, believes his talents are needed at another failing educational enterprise--the Tucson Unified School District. Fernández, who will step down this summer as provost of the AIU, is telling anyone who'll listen that he wants one of the two TUSD governing board seats up for grabs in November.

His big booster now is George Garcia, the publicly phlegmatic TUSD superintendent. Since when should administrators like Garcia tell voters who one of his bosses should be? Board Member James N. Christ also appears infatuated. Although he's repeatedly declared his support for Rosalie Lopez, the mother, lawyer and judge who is suing TUSD for discrimination against Mexican-American students, Christ has met twice with Fernández. The second meeting last week, at Celestino's favorite spot--the Arizona Inn--included Pernela Jones, head of the powerful teachers' union.

Fernández, a foothills guy, will have a lot of explaining to do to voters, particularly on the southside. Despite his impressive Stanford degrees and his study of a broad range of Chicano and Mexican-American issues, he's been silent on Lopez's initiative. So has Garcia. Fernández also will be unable to escape his record at Arizona International University, or questions about why he banned tenure at his dream campus while keeping it for himself (he's expected to eventually return to his job as a UA sociology professor) or why his kids went to private school.

Although nominating packets were not due to be released until this week, Lopez and Fernández are not alone in seeking the two TUSD seats now occupied by Brenda Even and Gloria Copeland. Even is challenging incumbent Ray Carroll for the Board of Supervisors seat her husband held until his death almost a year ago. Copeland, a major disappointment, is seeking a second term. Hard-working Jesus Zapata is making his second run at TUSD. Carolyn Kemmeries, a retired TUSD principal is running, as is Diane Carrillo, a current TUSD principal.

CHRIST GETS RELIGION: It took him six years to figure it out. James Noel Christ has watched and participated in TUSD's flagrant flouting of the law. Now the school board member is complaining to the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the Pima County Attorney's Office that three of his colleagues, Gloria Copeland, Brenda Even and Joel Ireland, violated the law by circumventing TUSD policy with a vote in February to transfer six employees.

The Arizona Daily Star reported Christ's whining last week. Reporter Sarah Tully Tapia noted that Christ himself violated the state Open Meeting Law twice before. Omitted was another improper action Christ and the board took last year when, in a closed session, they devised and approved a motion to kick Rosalie Lopez off a TUSD citizens committee. Christ never owned up to the AG or County Attorney's Office on that one, although he widely divulged the details of that executive session.

WHITE WASH: We were equally amused by another Star story and photo last Saturday about the opening of a sheriff's substation at Corona de Tucson. Landlord Joe Schulte was praised for providing strip-mall space to the county for $1 a year. Sgt. Brad Foust beamed that Schulte "stands to gain nothing from this.'' That's how taxpayers must have felt in 1991 when Schulte, one of then-Supervisor Ed Moore's cronies, peddled his worthless 26 acres of river bottom on the Pantano to the county for $262,900.

CLOUDY FUTURE? This comes to us from a high-ranking city source, and yet we still find it hard to believe.

As you may recall, the Tucson City Council voted to cover several million dollars in infrastructure costs for Civano, the so-called solar village located somewhere in the desert in southeastern Tucson. We were told this was a valuable investment because the development would demonstrate the viability of solar power and result in a new construction paradigm.

But we now hear that, because of the wash configurations in Civano, the site plan for homes must be changed--and there's a possibility there won't be solar panels on most of the homes.

But not to worry--we're told the Civano folks will make sure those homes are still "energy efficient." Yeah, just like every new, mass-produced crackerbox springing up across the desert.

It's sorta like telling us we built a new baseball stadium where we can't play baseball, but it'll be great for lacrosse.

RECOUNT REVENUE: Tucson voters should remember the gross fiasco of last year's city election, when thousands of votes went uncounted. The blunder was first discovered by computer whiz Leo Pilachowski and perennial gadfly John Kromko. Pilachowski took his statistics to City Clerk Kathy Detrick, who agreed that something looked askance. He asked her to do something about it, but Dietrick said she couldn't do anything unless Pilachowski sued the city.

So Kromko and Pilachowski hired local attorney Bill Risner to do just that. As Risner prepared to file his suit, the City Attorney's Office did an about-face and decided to argue in favor of an investigation. Net result: The city recounted the ballots, which conclusively proved that thousands of votes weren't counted, although it didn't alter the outcome of the election.

Risner then asked for legal fees for making city officials do what they claimed they couldn't. And the City Attorney's Office opposed paying him on the grounds that the lawsuit was unnecessary because the city's legal staff was already trying to resolve the problem.

The city's odd strategy didn't work, and Pima County Superior Court Judge Bernie Velasco ordered the city to pay Risner.

GROWING SUSPICION: Gov. Jane Dee Hull has introduced a counter-proposal to the Urban Growth Boundary Initiative.

The proponents of the Urban Growth Boundary Initiative consider it only a first step which won't accomplish all that much, but the Growth Lobby here and statewide is scared to death of anything that will change the rules.

Hull's proposal would actually diminish some current growth controls--for example, it eliminates voter referendums on rezonings if the rezoning complies with a current general plan. Of course, because current general plans put strip malls and high-density tracts just about everywhere, Hull's proposal amounts to an insidious attack on public rights and clearly indicates the Governor is sucking up to the Growth Lobby.

And it confirms what others suspected when Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Boyd called for a summit meeting on Tucson's sprawl: Looks like Boyd and his aide, Ron St. John, were both pimping for a job with the Hull administration early on. What's the deal, Mikey--gotta pay off the Guv before you can grab a role as one of her flying monkeys?

What both Boyd and Hull are trying to do is deflect the growing hostility in this state to our suicidal growth policies away from support of the Urban Growth Boundary Initiative by offering a phony "compromise." Using a second ballot proposition to screw over the first one is not exactly a new idea.

We were a little nervous when Hull shared a podium recently with legendary land speculator Don Diamond. Hull's proposal indicates we had good reason.

INCORPORATION DEFLATION: The appelate court ruling that declared the legislature's 1996 incorporation law unconstitutional hasn't stopped another group of Pima County citizens from attempting to form a town. The proposed Town of Tanque Verde would contain about 18,000 people on 33 square miles. It's bounded by the Coronado National Forest on the north and east, East Broadway to the south, and Sabino Creek on the west.

Proponents turned in 1,326 petition signatures. And then stopped dead in their tracks.

When the item to set the election appeared on the Pima County Board of Supes agenda, nobody from Tanque Verde was there. Supervisor Ray Carroll, whose district includes Tanque Verde, postponed the decision for two weeks so folks who live there could comment. Parralee Schneider, who led the petition drive, told The Arizona Daily Star she was unaware the item was on the board's agenda.

Excuse us? We've consistently supported the right to self-determination by all local communities. So have three members of the Board of Supes--Sharon Bronson, Dan Eckstrom, and Carroll. But those who wish to run their own town have an obligation to do a little more than hand in petitions and then act surprised when they're acted upon. If Tanque Verde wants to run with the big dogs, or even the little terriers like Tortolita, they clearly have a lot to learn.

Step one: Keep close contact with the County Recorder's Office about the petition validation. County Recorder Ann Rodriguez has been moving those petitions quickly and efficiently.

Step two: Call the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and ask about the agenda.

Step three: Lobby the supes for support. Start with the three friendlies, including the guy who represents you.

Step four: Bring a whole lot of people to the board meeting when your item is on the agenda and fill the room.

Simple stuff, but those who can't figure it out will look pretty stupid when it comes time to sell being a town to the rest of the folks in Tanque Verde. TW

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