August 17 - August 23, 1995

The Skinny

THE DEADLINE APPROACHES: If you're planning on voting in the City of Tucson's September 19 primary election, which features the showdown between Mayor George Miller and his challenger, Ward 1 Councilman Bruce Wheeler, you'd better get yourself registered. If you're not on the voter rolls by August 21, you can't vote in the primary.

You can register at all local post offices and libraries, as well as most government offices. You can also sign up at a bunch of grocery stores, including all Smith's, Safeways, Fry's, Smitty's and Basha's. In addition, forms can be had at the Price Club (6255 E. Grant Road), Wal-Mart (455 E. Wetmore), Kmart (7055 E. Broadway) and Target (4040 N. Oracle Road). Mall shoppers can sign up at Park Mall. There are a bunch of other places, too--call the county recorder's office at 740-8101 for the location nearest you.

HONK IF YOU LOVE TREES: Pima County's plans to widen and straighten a stretch of River Road between Dodge and Alvernon has some of the affected residents ticked off. They're complaining that Supervisor Mikey Boyd, who supposedly represents them, isn't helping in their fight to save their yards, plants and fences. And they see their troubles as part of a secret plot by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry to build a far-flung freeway-like infrastructure to move traffic more swiftly around our rapidly metastasizing metro area.

All of which is true, of course.

Huckelberry's passion for piecemeal road building is well known; and Boyd, bend-over builder stooge that he is, certainly hasn't lifted a finger for these particular constituents. We take that back--he more or less thumbed his nose at them during a recent supervisors' meeting.

Instead of the north side of River Road, where the yards and trees are, the county could have done its dirty work on the south side, on land owned by the Jewish Community Center and just a few others, argue the angry homeowners. They add there's ample room for improvements on the south side of River, and only one unoccupied house would fall victim to "progress."

Ah, not so, says Mary Lou Johnson, of the county transportation department.

She explains the decision to widen River on the north side was made for several reasons, not the least of which is the Community Center's long masonry fence on the south side, which would cost a small fortune to rip down.

Yeah, but the Community Center folks had the foresight to make a generous allowance at the edge of their property for River's eventual widening, so why not do it on the south side, say the residents.

Because, this project is really all about improving safety, Johnson replies, and bulldozing the north side of the street will allow engineers to make that stretch of River into a straight shot, rather than add yet another curve to an already too kinky thoroughfare.

River Road can never be too kinky, say the ticked-off residents; and besides, all the improvements look exactly like the proposal voters rejected years ago to widen and straighten the ambling little two-lane. The county has already widened the intersection at River and First Avenue, they point out, adding the overall game plan seems to be to connect the dots until Tucson has this amazingly extensive parkway system that nobody ever voted for.

Ah, say the project's defenders, the voters actually only rejected a funding mechanism for the River Road improvements. They didn't reject the general idea of widening and taming River, which increasingly looks like some kind of dangerously twisted and constricted artery as the city grows madly around it.

Whatever. If money's the issue, the county may wind up paying more than it bargained for in this little tussle. The affected homeowners have hired condemnation attorney Philip S. Abromowitz to fight the process, or at least get them considerably more for their property than the county at first was willing to pay.

If safety's the issue, why put in a dual-direction turn lane, which is the county's stated goal--single, bi-direction lanes seem to cause more accidents than they prevent as confused motorists come at each other head on.

But then maybe that's a good idea. Fewer motorists would mean less of a reason to widen River, a once picturesque little road slowly but inexorably falling victim to Tucson and Pima County's unwritten policy of growth-at-all-costs.

Undoubtedly, someday soon River Road will be just another straight shot on the big grid that allows hundreds of thousands of us to rush from some nondescript mall or discount superstore to our soothingly bland tract homes and back again without so much as an original sight or thought.

Progress will be complete.

REEKING RESERVOIR: Pima County Parks and Recreation guy Dan Felix told the morning paper last week that one idea for the proposed CAP reservoir would be to have hookups whereby reservoir campers "could place bets on video poker from inside their RV homes." Excuse us while we relish the wilderness reservoir experience. "Honey, stop watching those damn birds and get in here and plug that thing into the casino."

Frankly, the only thing we're betting on when we hear ideas like that between the people on the Rez and county planners, is the demise of endangered Pima Pineapple Cactus. To date, it's the only thing that doesn't go "ching, ching" every time the reservoir is mentioned.

And what's this we're hearing around town that the current proposed reservoir site was pushed on the uncaring feds by Pima County Supervisor Big Ed Moore for his buddy Joe Cesar, who owns land nearby? Somebody disabuse us of this notion--please.

TUSD SPRING CLEANING: The gigantic, ineffectual bureaucracy that is the Tucson Unified School District has cleaned house again, this time at an August 5 auction at the former Spring Junior High School. Skinny auction shoppers have alerted us to a few items that, oddly, somehow missed the preview the day before but arrived by Ryder truck on the eve of the big sale. In that batch were seven pieces of shop gear that said "Hold for Catalina High School Aerospace Program."

Nice stuff, especially if you think the magnet school could use an industrial band saw, power hack saw, metal-cutting lathe and a diamond sharpener for machine tool dies. Plenty of professional shop people seemed interested, even with some pieces going for a couple thousand bucks. Oh well, maybe Catalina doesn't want it, or perhaps the district simply ordered too much of a good thing. You know how easy it is to order doubles of things that just look so durn yummy in the catalog.

SPEAKING OF CATALINA: Catalina High School is going to be one assistant principal short this year. Skinny sources say Al Watson hopped over to Cholla High for a real assistant principal's position. Apparently he was a "teacher on assignment" at Catalina last year. Catalina spies say Principal Linda Schloss wasn't too keen on losing Watson, who, many insiders say, was one of the few people keeping order at the school. But district poo-bahs reportedly told Schloss that in order to keep Watson she had to drop either Mary Matts or Dorothy Gonzales, because she could only have two assistant principals.

With Watson gone, that leaves three white women in charge of the inner-city school, which last year had a 54 percent minority enrollment, 38 percent of that Hispanic. Don't worry, says our source--Gonzales speaks Spanish.

BIG ED, AN INDEPENDENT GUY: Latest rumor about the 1996 Board of Supervisors race has District Three GOP Supe Big Ed Moore running for re-election as an independent. Republicans are lining up to take him out in the primary, with serious candidates like Vicki Cox-Golder and Ann Holden chomping at the bit. In fact, next to Ed, even Marana Mayor Ora "Mammy Yokum" Harn looks like a serious candidate. Democrats appear to be centering around another serious candidate, Sharon Bronson.

Moore started out in 1984 as a Democrat, squeaked by in the 1988 Demo primary, and became a Republican in 1992 to avoid sure defeat in another Demo primary. He squeaked by again with 51 percent of the vote in that GOP primary against former Marana councilman Dave Morales, whose entire campaign consisted of one sign he carried around street corners. Switching to independent would at least guarantee Moore he'd still be on the ballot in November.

Interesting that Moore, who has always had problems facing strong women, has a whole pack looking for his ass. Which is why we now call him Special Ed.

IN THE SMOKE-FILLED BACK ROOMS:Citizens who attend meetings of the Pima County Board of Supervisors to make a presentation or speak on issue often have to wait long hours while the supes themselves drone on and on. Meetings often last well into the afternoon, leaving the public uncomfortable and hungry.

The supes get up and walk out at will, particularly during the more mundane items, and retreat into a rear room. Sure, they can still hear what's going on when they leave because that room contains a sound system.

But that's not all their little retreat contains. Besides a private bathroom, it's also well supplied with coffee, soft drinks and munchies--all paid for at your expense. Citizens sitting for hours need to remember that.

AND SPEAKING OF BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR: Marana's new mayor, Eddie "Earthquake McGoon" Honea, may turn out to be as much fun as his predecessor, Ora Harn. Seems he's gone on a power trip since acquiring the exalted position of Big Kahuna in Dogpatch and has been generally acting like--well, Earthquake McGoon.

We're told he's causing the staff nothing but problems and is so paranoid that, along with the new furniture he ordered for himself, he's had the door to the mayor's office replaced with a much thicker one, so that no one can overhear his private conversations.

Maybe he's discussing his failure to file a full financial disclosure in the last council race, something the Dogpatch town clerk chose to let him off the hook on.

THE BIZARRE CAMPAIGN OF RAY FONTAINE: GOP Ward 1 city council candidate Ray Fontaine is running what has to be one of the strangest campaigns this town (known for some pretty weird politics) has seen in years.

First he names GOP heavies Jim Click and George Mehl as his co-finance chairs, but they haven't raised him any real money. Then he gives Demo Mayor George Miller a $100 contribution, while his wife gives GOP candidate Sharon Collins a paltry $20. Looks like he's just playing along with the big business guys, right?

But wait. He also gave Demo mayoral challenger Bruce Wheeler $50! So maybe he's just a guy who can't say no? Not quite--he told the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association he'd been recruited to run by Roy Drachman. That's the same Roy Drachman who, with a clot of his cronies, announced he'd like to become personally in charge of all the water in this community by naming an unelected board to manage it for us (and for those money-grubbing, land-raping developers).

Meanwhile, the real skinny on Fontaine's lack of money probably stems from the five-way Demo primary on the other side of Ward 1. If the Democrats nominate somebody the fat cats can handle, Fontaine will be kissed off. Right now, he's just an insurance policy with a low premium.

AIN'T NO CONFLICT OF INTEREST 'ROUND HERE: Kendall Burt is in charge of economic development for the City of Tucson. Kendall Burt is also on the board of directors of something called the Rita Road Campus Corporation, which has something to do with a certain IBM site and the University of Arizona. There are several others with an interest in the area on that corporation, including former UA Regent Donald Pitt (whom everyone knows is joined at the hip with legendary land speculator Don Diamond), as well the equally legendary Roy "Just-Give-Me-All-Your-Water" Drachman.

Oh, did we mention Diamond's massive Rocking K development is near the Rita Road site?

Thus, a fair question would be: Why is the city's economic development guy part of group working on something that isn't in the city? And would that have something to do with why the city's proposed site for the local Microsoft operation at the airport was rejected in favor of the Rita Road Campus site?

Tucson City Manager Mike "The Spike" Brown says it's OK for Burt to be on the Rita Road board because he can watch what they're doing. Yeah, he just watched the city that pays his salary lose a whole bundle of tax revenue.

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August 17 - August 23, 1995

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