April 6 - April 12, 1995

[The Skinny]

CATALINA OBITUARY: The unexpected death of 44-year-old English teacher Benita "Nita" Riley was an added blow to a faculty and staff already in disarray at midtown's Catalina High School. Riley, a respected faculty member who suffered from a variety of health ailments, reportedly died of heart failure on March 29.

A student who spoke at her standing-room-only funeral talked about how he fell asleep once in class and Riley called his home to find out if things were OK there. His message was clearly that she cared about him.

And apparently that was typical Riley. She was often seen tutoring kids at lunch or after school. As one colleague noted, "her forte was taking tough kids and making them feel loved." Her work earned her a TUSD teaching award for excellence in 1993.

She wasn't, however, on the best of terms with Catalina's administration, and that's putting it gently, according to Catalina insiders. The 18-year TUSD teacher had contacted the teachers' union and retained her own attorney in dealing with issues concerning sick leave and a physical exam Principal Linda Schloss was pressing her to undergo, to prove she was fit to do her job.

And even though Riley did not reapply for her position at Catalina, she remained a dedicated and concerned teacher who, in fact, spent a portion of her last night alive listening and speaking at a Catalina Safety Committee meeting.

A substitute teacher has already been hired and will attempt to fill the needs of Riley's students through the end of the school year.

INTERIM DOBERMAN: Contrary to our prior reports that the GOP majority would appoint Republican Chief Criminal Deputy David White to Steve Neely's job as Pima County Attorney should Neely split for New Zealand, we have now been informed that the probable game plan is to appoint Deputy Civil Attorney David Dingeldine as an interim. Dingeldine, a Democrat, has held down the seat before, having been the interim between Dennis DeConcini and Neely back in 1976.

White's not the only candidate to surface so far. There's also Democrat Barbara LaWall of Neely's shop, proving Neely's Doberman pinschers are not homogeneous in thought and action as most folks assume. Also rumored as a possible Demo candidate is former prosecutor and current big-bucks civilian lawyer Rick Gonzales.

Gonzales is the guy who cashed in big settling a class action TCE suit against assorted defendants, including the Huge Aircrash Company, the Tucson Airport Authority and the USAF. Before this is used to prove Gonzales has some kind of social conscience, let it also be known that part of the settlement agreement was that his clients would support any efforts by those defendants in the event somebody else sues them over the TCE issue. In other words, I got mine, too bad, up yours.

FALLOUT IN ORO VALLEY: The two pro-development incumbents, Mayor Richard Parker and Councilwoman Valerie Hoyt, got stomped 2 to 1 in that recent Oro Valley recall election. There were, as The Skinny has pointed out before, other issues like fire protection and the attitude of the mayor and council in general, but let it be known far and wide that being the developer candidate doesn't fly, even with conservative GOP types like the residents of Oro Valley.

This may well have been a bellwether for next year's races for the Board of Supes. OV is in the heart of Mikey "The Waffle" Boyd's district, and he's been observed brown-nosing a lot of builder and developer types, starting with legendary land speculator Don Diamond. And the natives are equally restless next door in Big Ed Moore's turf.

Big winner in Oro Valley is vice-mayor Cheryl Skalsky, who has put up a long, hard fight for sane growth, not wasting ground water on golf courses and saving Honeybee Canyon.

Skalsky will no doubt replace Parker as mayor when the two new council members, Rudy Roszak and Paul Parisi, are sworn in April 6. Skalsky may have ambitions for a higher office--we hope! She's one of the few local politicians who has consistently told the big boys to stuff it, and she'd be a welcome addition to an otherwise useless Board of Supes.

INSIDE THE MIND OF A BUREAUCRATIC HACK: In the 1992 election there was a big flap when a guy was not allowed to vote because he was wearing a green sweater. It was determined by some fascist poll worker that this could be construed as a form of electioneering on behalf of the Green Party, so the voter (a Republican) was chucked out of his polling place.

The recent Oro Valley recall election gave us a similar experience. Nancy Wright, one of the leaders in the fight to save Honeybee Canyon, was told to leave her polling place because she was wearing a "Save Honeybee Canyon" T-shirt. The guy who upheld that decision was former Secretary of State and acting county elections director Jim Shumway.

Shumway interpreted wearing that shirt as a form of electioneering because Honeybee Canyon was an issue in the recall election. Apparently Shumway reasoned that saving the canyon was only on the agenda of one group of candidates, and that the others were up for destroying it. How else would he have determined which side was benefiting from this so-called electioneering?

Now you get a glimpse into the mind of that most dangerous of human commodities, the dedicated bureaucratic hack off on his own making policy-making interpretations.

According to attorney and elections law expert (you can tell by the cases he's won) William Risner, Shumway's interpretation is completely off base. Risner states supreme court cases have defined electioneering as the direct support of a specific candidate or issue that is on the ballot. In the absence of a specific ballot question on Honeybee Canyon, Wright was free to wear what she wanted and Shumway violated her civil rights by deciding to deny her access, as well as her First Amendment right to free expression.

So much for the legal violation, which is appalling enough. But the real problem is the mentality of Shumway and others like him. The idea is to make voting a pleasant experience, not a chore.

How many times have you gone into a polling place and met some hatchet-faced jerk who delighted in being important? While most poll workers are decent and polite, too many aren't. And too often, it doesn't seem to be a negative to those who employ them. Kinda like they couldn't make it full time at MVD.

And even worse, think about a mind so narrow that it tries to decide what might influence a decision and finds a common denominator among the rest of us so low that we'd be influenced by a slogan on a T-shirt.

If Shumway's interpretation is continued, then no one can wear a baseball cap to a polling place at the next county election because that rip-off stadium package will sure as hell be an issue. Or any jewelry depicting wildlife, because so will their habitat or the destruction thereof. And gun-rights advocates better not wear NRA belt buckles because, as we know, gun control is always an issue.

Which further proves how stupid and petty Shumway's decision was--and explains how others can come up with banning green sweaters, and who knows what else?

We suggest Shumway spend less time screwing voters around and come up with a faster way to count votes. The Oro Valley election had only three polling places and four candidates, yet it took the elections division more than three hours to count them. Considering the massive payroll they ran up, they could have had the 3,100 ballots hand-tallied in half the time.

And we further suggest those politicians and bureaucrats who keep dragging Shumway out as some sort of expert recognize that his entire career is based on the use of an obsolete 1960s punch-card voting system he's long touted to the detriment of accurate and easy voting throughout this state.

Shumway is not only the promoter of the obsolete, he's downright dangerous to our civil rights. He should be put out to pasture before his rank interpretations deprive any other citizens of their fundamental right to vote.

SIC TRANSIT GLORIA: One last time for former Oro Valley Mayor Richard Parker--now that he's been recalled, will Councilman/ Sheraton El Conquistador Groundskeeper Marty Wells still send a crew by twice a week to do his lawn?

DOGPATCH UBER ALLES: We recently reported the Town of Marana's bizarre council released its grandiose plans for future annexation. We are now told the high rollers at the Marana Chamber of Commerce estimate the town will reach a population of 210,000 in the early part of the next century. Oh boy. That'll leave a lot of ironwoods and saguaros, won't it?

But here's the best part. Several months ago, during the public hearings on that New World Homes development that caused all the fuss, the Marana Council was complaining about all the outsiders who showed up at the public hearing to protest. Mayor Ora "Mammy Yokum" Harn was so apoplectic about all the flatlanders (who lived near the New World development, which she does not) showing up, she reminded us of Snuffy Smith checking his still for revenooers. Only now it seems Mammy and her crew want to annex most of the very folks who came in to protest their policies. Which will make great future politics for Marana when Harn and others like her get voted out by the newly annexed victims--assuming Mammy survives her April 25 recall.

MIKE THE SPIKE COOKS THE BOOKS: Tucson City Councilman Steve Leal is a reasonable man, and he had a reasonable idea. Leal wanted to review all the fees the City of Tucson charged everybody--everything from copying charges to renting a room at the Community Center. He figured some fees were probably too high, others too low and the rest just right. Good idea, said his colleagues. So they approved a consultant's study for City Manager Mike "The Spike" Brown. Big mistake.

Consultants usually report what the guy who hires and pays them want. Suddenly we're being told that everything is too low--because they are using a cost factor that includes stuff not directly related to the actual cost of providing the service. For example, if you want to have your wedding at TCC, plan on being charged for a piece of the racing wheels on Mike The Spike's hot new Chevy.

The consultants have already conceded they made a few errors. And Leal is totally livid and figures he's been had. Meanwhile, the other council members don't seem to recognize they were set up by a power-hungry city manager who'll blow whatever smoke he can to increase how much of our money he gets to spend.

HEY, DON'T BLAME US: You should be able to count on the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors to report accurately which supe votes how on what. It's not too hard--even though they mumble, there are only five of them, and if you're not sure, you could ask.

Last week, we reported Attorney Steve Twist's porkchop lobbying contract was passed by the Board 3 to 1 with Mikey Boyd voting no (Big Ed Moore was absent). We thought that a tad strange, as Boyd made the motion and Raul Grijalva always votes against Twist. So we double-checked our source, an employee of a board member. That source faxed us the tally sheets of the Clerk's personnel, who recorded the meeting, and they all said 3 to 1, Boyd voting no. OK, we know how flaky Mikey is, and we wouldn't be shocked if he backed out on his own mother. And Grijalva might have figured, for once, hey, they got the votes, why fight it.

Wrong. We received a call from a rightfully indignant Grijalva staffer claiming the negative vote was his, not Mikey's. When we pointed out to him that the Clerk of the Board's office was our source, he went out to right matters. Within an hour, we received a copy of an official-looking document signed by Clerk Jane Williams telling us who voted how on the Twist contract and confirming that Grijalva was the "nay."

We bring this up not so much to cover our own asses--although, hey, if your butts were as big as ours, you'd be performing under the big top, too--as much as to point out there's a real problem with the public's records. We're told this sort of stuff happens all the time and that the minutes are constantly being corrected because all kinds of votes are misreported. It appears Williams' inability to keep track of elections is not her only shortcoming, and that her office is also incapable of performing its daily responsibilities.

This is serious stuff, folks. Besides routine matters, which are never routine for the people involved, there's an election coming up, and how these guys vote will help determine its outcome. If those votes are constantly misrecorded, it could have a major impact in 1996.

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April 6 - April 12, 1995

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