BUILDING BOOM-BOOM: Tucson City Manager Luis Gutierrez
has finally revealed his big plan--the one we've been telling
you about for the last couple of weeks. Surprise, surprise! Gutierrez
wants to build a new City Hall right next to the downtown library.
What a stupid idea: Let's take what little attractive open space we have in the heart of the city and throw up another crappy, multi-storied bureaucratic bungalow! What's more, let's drop that puppy directly across from a building of real architectural distinction, the Old County Courthouse, thus further walling it off from view.
Part of Gutierrez' plan also involves tearing down City Parks & Rec administration buildings in the heart of Reid Park--possibly to erect a multi-storied parking facility. Pardon us, Luis, but why the hell should taxpayers further subsidize the Colorado Rockies? And expand the zoo? It's already a heavily subsidized operation--where are we going to get the additional bucks?
He also wants to take the city transportation and real-estate departments, currently housed in the county's public works building, and relocate them to his proposed New City Hall. Hey, whatever happened to the city-county partnership in these areas? Why retreat from intragovernmental cooperation, dude?
The existing City Hall is about 75,000 square feet, and 75 percent of that is functional space, and he's talking about building a new tower that's about 130,000 square feet, then refurbishing the existing City Hall. The construction debt on this project would be about $75 million, and the debt service on all of that would be about $7.5 million a year. In other words, Gutierrez wants us to spend $150 million over the next 20 years because the city is short on office space.
Wouldn't it be cheaper just to lease some office space? Everybody leases fleets and computers--nobody owns anything these days. Why not just lease the space and let somebody other than the taxpayers cover the operation and maintenance costs? And besides, wouldn't the folks we'd lease that space from be paying property taxes?
Gutierrez also wants a new midtown police substation, which we probably need. The owners of El Con mall are willing to give the city the land for $1 a year. Sounds cool to us--if the neighbors approve. But Gutierrez is also proposing a new Ward 6 City Council office in that facility. All that stuff would run roughly $200 a square foot. The whole shebang looks to be about 42,000 square feet, with roughly 2,000 of it going to the new Council office. Add in all the air-conditioning and stuff, and you've got a brand new, $500,000 office for Councilman Fred Ronstadt.
Oddly, plans for an additional City Hall tower have existed for years. It was supposed to go on the north side of the existing building. If you must build a monument to yourself, Luis, why not build it there? Or better yet, why not put it on the south side of City Hall, where you park your big, honking city car? That way, you and the Council members would have to hunt for parking spaces downtown just like the rest of us poor schmucks who bother to go down there these days.
LEARNING FROM HISTORY: Sometime around 280 B.C., King Pyrrhus of Epirus sailed for the Greek colony of Tarentum with a force of 25,000 men and 20 elephants to help the locals defend themselves against the Romans, who were extending their empire through southern Italy. Pyrrhus managed to defeat the Romans, but his forces suffered such heavy losses in the battle that his name gave rise to the phrase "Pyrrhic victory"--a win so costly that the battle might have been better avoided.
We were reminded of Pyrrhus last week when we read Tony Davis' fine story in the morning daily detailing the rising bills the Amphi School District is racking up in its fight to build that new high school in prime pygmy-owl habitat.
Once you figure in legal bills, security costs, additional land acquisition, architectural changes and other related costs, the total bill for the fight comes close to $2 million--with more on the way as the case winds its way through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Amphi's response to the climbing costs, in a nutshell: Yeah, but we won!
Sure you did--at least so far. In October, however, the appeals court may yet side with environmentalists, who maintain the district must enter into a consultation process with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before construction can begin. If the courts decide the district has to enter that process, expect delays to continue for several more months, while the bills continue to climb.
To achieve its Pyrrhic victory, the district has spent enough money to buy another site, where construction could already be underway--something which seems never to have occurred to the Amphi Board majority of Mike Bernal, Gary Woodard, Richard Scott and Virginia Houston, who have pushed this crusade to build the school at any cost--and Amphi taxpayers be damned. The only Amphi Board member to see this trouble coming was Nancy Young Wright, and the rest of the Board has essentially ostracized her for pointing out the flaws in their approach.
The entire sad affair reminds of the words of old King Pyrrhus: "Another such victory over the Romans, and we are undone."
CULTURE CLASH: TUSD's long-delayed and recently-passed Hispanic Studies program will get about $211,000 in its first year. That's far less than what the school board spent on lawyers and two studies over the course of 18 months to end up with what eight Mexican-American families told the district was needed in the first place. The families sued TUSD in U.S. District Court, alleging the district discriminates against its 26,600 Hispanic students. That's 42 percent of TUSD enrollment, and as the Tucson Citizen's Mary Bustamante pointed out last week, the program for 42 percent of the student population will get $210,000, while Asian-American Studies will get $100,000. Asian-American students make up 2.3 percent of enrollment.
We also note that no one forced Asian-American Studies, pushed by TUSD board member Mary Belle McCorkle, to undergo more than a year's worth of study, debate, scrutiny and skepticism. Meanwhile, as Bustamante's story showed, TUSD spends $816,856 for African-American Studies. African-American students make up 6.4 percent of TUSD's enrollment. And Native American Studies operated on $416,850. Less than 4 percent of TUSD students are Native American.
Certainly, ethnic studies can benefit all students and the two established programs, African American and Native American studies, have shown success in helping students stay in school and perform better. But it remains a disgrace how long TUSD kicked and fought Hispanic Studies.
NOT EVEN: Ever-friendly Brenda Even has kiboshed the idea of bringing her Tucson Unified School District board stooge Gloria Copeland along if Even wins the Republican primary for the Board of Supervisors. Copeland was licking her chops over a high-paying county job, either as one of Even's aides or a social service bureaucrat, as far back as last year when Even sought the appointment to fill the seat left vacant when her husband, John died. As she trails Ray Carroll less than 50 days from the September 8 election that also features accountant Ken Marcus, Even is ditching Copeland. Even tried to establish some distance from Copeland, who is well behind in her race for a second term on the TUSD board, at the July 18 meeting of legislative District 13 Republicans. Asked if she would hire Copeland as an aide or in county management, Even said: "I don't know where that came from. But, no, that's not true."
EVEN MORE: Asked at the same GOP forum why she has not pushed for an audit of TUSD's out-of-control desegregation budget, Even snapped: "I have and we did have one."
But when we asked Even the following week for a copy of the audit or for some explanation of its details and timing, she was evasive. She advised us to seek the information from the TUSD board office. She also hemmed and hawed because the audit may have been discussed in executive (secret) session.
WARD-ONLY RUMBLES: Looks like the initiative to amend the Tucson City Charter to allow election of the Council members exclusively from their own wards has just barely obtained enough petition signatures to make it on the ballot.
By the submission deadline earlier this month, proponents had 12,506 signatures--just above the 10,609 necessary to put the issue on e ballot.
After a random sample check, Pima County election officials determined the results were too close to call, so they began checking every individual signature.
At the same time, under a provision of the Tucson City Charter, backers of the change were given 10 more days to collect more signatures. Using this extra time, they turned in an additional 1,867 names.
Assuming there are now enough valid signatures, the City Council will consider the issue at its August 3 meeting. Council members will have the choice of placing the measure on this November's ballot, or waiting until next year's Tucson city election. Our spies tell us there's a good chance the measure will be on this year's ballot--which could make for very interesting City Council races in 1999.
ALL THE NUDE'S THAT FIT TO TIT, ER PITCH, UH, WHATEVER: Last week--Wednesday to be precise--there was something in the air, and the local TV newspuppies had caught a whiff and were baying excitedly.
Rain! Excess moisture! Water, water everywhere!
Ah, what riveting television it was: Reporters getting dribbled on, reporters standing next to flowing washes, reporters talking to motorists who dared to drive along the dangerous edge of dampness!
Most people get their news from television, we're told. Of course, among the upper classes, that's just a polite way of saying most people apparently don't give a crap about being well-informed about their community, their governments, or where their lives and the lives of their children might be heading.
The truth is, most of us are too busy with the day-to-day hassles of putting bread on the table to take an interest in politics or to develop informed opinions on community issues. And besides, what possible influence could we, as mere individuals, exert on such weighty matters, even assuming we were well-informed?
At this point in such musings, it's more or less traditional for the pundit to assure you, the reader, that yes, you can make a difference, damn it! That it's not too late to roll up your sleeves and pitch in, to do your part for this faltering, though still noble experiment we call Democracy...blah, blah, blah.
Well, screw that tired old treacle. It's every bit as dull and unimaginative as the nightly video blather we endure to pretend we know what's going on. Instead, we'd like to take this opportunity to suggest an entirely new approach to television news reporting, and to rainy-day stories in particular:
The Nude News. Attractive, naked young reporters doing full-frontal stand-ups would go a long way to reducing the dull-sameness of Tucson's day-to-day local TV news.
For example, an attractive young reporter covering a flowing wash during the rainy season--how many hundreds of times have we seen that? But strip that same TV reporter buck naked and make him or her cover that same non-story entirely in the buff, and suddenly we'd have some important, hell's-a-poppin' TV going on right before our eyes!
And we'd love to see how an attractive, naked young person would cover the usual weather-related car crash out on the interstate, or the traditional downed-power-lines live report.
City hall coverage? We bet our local pols would be much more willing to bare their souls to an attractive, naked young reporter.
The Nude News is the next logical step, really. Currently, you've got your attractive young reporters--only a few of whom actually know anything about this community--who've been hired basically because they're, well, young and attractive. And if they were naked, you'd have your powerful visual stimulus, which TV news is ultimately all about.
It's not so far-fetched. They already use tons of make-up to make those aging TV news anchors look even more plastic than they already are. And we like plastic--the shallower the better.
So how about it? No more of this BS of pretending to be well-informed. Call your favorite local TV station today and request--no, demand!--that those news reporters do their jobs naked, naked, naked.
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