Skinny TRAIL NIX: Pima County and Oro Valley had a deal to establish a trail head to Tortolita Mountain Park in Oro Valley. But now Oro Valley is trying to slide out of the deal by alternatively suggesting another trail head in Tortolita that's considered unsuitable because it has tortuous access. But Oro Valley officials are pushing it, because Oro Valley developers have changed their mind about giving up a couple of acres they could otherwise develop. And, as usual, the Oro Valley Town Council is rolling over for them.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry nailed the problem in a memo to the Board of Supervisors. "It is obvious that we are tap dancing to the tune of a developer that we cannot control," Huckelberry wrote. "Since land use decisions come from the Town of Oro Valley I would suggest that we discontinue with the alternative trail head and simply inform Oro Valley of our request that the trail be dedicated by the developer. If, for whatever reason, Oro Valley chooses not to or fails to obtain the dedication and necessary extractions from the developer, then there will be one less, and perhaps no, public access to Tortolita Mountain Park through Oro Valley."

Oro Valley residents should be aware that, once again, their Town Council, led by Town Manager Chuck Sweet, is rolling over for Vistoso Partners to the townspeople's detriment. Vistoso doesn't want to give up land for the trail head as agreed because the developer now plans to use it as part of an expensive development and it's worth several hundred grand to them.

Huckelberry is wrong about one thing: Pima County's powers of eminent domain extend into Oro Valley. And the Oro Valley Council isn't the only group giving in to the developers. Check the supine attitude of the Pima County Park Department and the lawyers in the County Attorney's office, who have neglected to ever discuss the option of condemnation.

PARKS AND RECREATIONAL VEHICLES DEPARTMENT: We were appalled when we discovered that Catalina State Park was going to be used as a sales lot for a bush-league version of the Auto Mall. Of the 130 parking spots in the picnic area, 80 were given up to La Mesa RV to display a collection of recreational vehicles. For this intrusion into what many thought to be a special place--a park--La Mesa is paying the standard $50 special-event fee, and will pay an additional $5 per vehicle for the estimated 400 cars that will enter the park over the five-day event. Well, isn't that special? For five days of this shameless hustling, the park will receive about $2,000.

This call was made by Neil Donkersley, who manages Catalina State Park. He thinks it's so neat, he told the morning daily he might do this on a regular basis.

Special message to the three folks who represent this area in the state Legislature--Sen. Ann Day (who wants to be a county supervisor), Rep. Dan Schottel (who wants to be a state senator) and Rep. Steve Huffman (who wants to hang on for a while): Get off your butts and lean on Donkersley. Hold hearings if you have to. Using a state park for an RV display is a policy decision that lawmakers ought to make. If we hear nothing from you about this, we'll assume you approve of the policy decision Donkersley made for you. And that may just force us into making some of our own.

MI NIDITO SIN MI JITO: Thirsty and hungry after her commencement address at the University of Arizona, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright slipped into South Tucson to eat at the Lopez family's great Mi Nidito restaurant.

Unlike her gregarious boss, who enjoyed Mi Nidito with gusto after his Rodeo Day speech in February, Albright was kept bottled up by over-protective aides. Slick Willy shared food and talk at a big table full of South Tucson's friendly pols and U.S. Rep Ed Pastor. Albright, or rather her condescending aides, confined their mad bomber boss to her chile relleno and margarita at a small table while Secret Service and other staffers took a couple other tables.

That kept the secretary from visiting with hosts like South Tucson Mayor Shirley Villegas, Supervisor Dan Eckstrom, South Tucson Councilmembers Jennifer Eckstrom and Roman Soltero, state Sen. Victor Soltero and TUSD Board member Rosalie Lopez. But Albright was pleasant enough to visit and take pictures with staff and a few curious kids.

Albright's South Tucson foray was a stealth mission, accomplished without publicity by South Tucson's classy Police Chief Sixto Molino. Maybe that's because no one told Supervisor Raul Grijalva.

HIGHGROUND FALLS FLAT: Unless they have some other clients who fared better, the much-touted political consulting firm HighGround didn't do very well lobbying in the last legislative session. While HighGround's top dogs--Wes Gullett and Chuck Coughlin--are usually pegged as the remnants of convicted Gov. J. Fife Whiteguy III's era, there's also a strong connection with U.S. Sen. John McCain. Gullett was McCain's chief of staff before he went to work for Fife, and Gullet's wife Debbie is McCain's current top assistant.

HighGround's attempt to re-arrange the Arizona presidential primary date to McCain's benefit fell on its butt, as did the group's lobbying for the Town of Casas Adobes, which was better off when it hung in with similarly persecuted Tortolita. In the '98 session, the bill saving the towns passed the House and almost made it through the Senate. This time, with HighGround lobbying lawmakers instead of the committed citizens of Tortolita, the bill saving Casas Adobes didn't even make it out of the House. Nice work, guys.

Casas Adobes citizens should find out just how much the HighGround contract cost them.

FAILING THE SUMMIT: County Attorney Barbara LaWall turned school tragedies into a morning of grandstanding promotion for herself and her chief deputy, Mary Judge Ryan, last Saturday, May 15, at Tucson High School. Both women have elections coming up--LaWall will be seeking a second term, while Ryan is thinking about a run for Congressman Jim Kolbe's District 5 seat.

While both women are Democrats, they seemed to have taken a page from hyper-control freak Liddy Dole, who marks off her paces during her work-the-room speeches. First glaring screw-up: Not inviting Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda and South Tucson Police Chief Sixto Molina to participate. (Who does she think would provide school resource officers?)

As it was, the panel was very pale, including only one Hispanic, Superintendent George Garcia of the Tucson Unified School District, who is busy making sure TUSD under-reports discipline problems. LaWall included no Spanish translators, immediately disenfranchising a significant population.

Students didn't get enough opportunity to speak and vent. And too many political wannabes littered the joint.

But LaWall had a great big LAWALL banner hanging for all the audience and television cameras to see. And her nerdy staff buzzed around the room prying into the notes and materials that people may have brought in.


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