September 28 - October 4, 1995

The Skinny

QUESTIONS FOR A REAL REPORTER: How much money has the law firm of Munger & Munger billed the State of Arizona for services rendered on behalf of our state universities while cheesy anti-minority insider John Munger has been sitting on the Board of Regents?

It's a simple question with a simple answer. When are you gonna tell us about it?

We betcha half a million bucks some dumpy editor is sitting on your story.

A SYMINGTON SALUTE: In the week since he declared himself broke, a great deal of criticism--mixed with a dash of sympathy--has come Gov. J. Fife Deadbeat III's way, but we here at The Skinny believe Fife deserves neither jeers nor tears. Instead, we'd like to be among the first to say he's truly earned our admiration.

With a declaration of bankruptcy that allows him to be absolved of his debts while still living like the millionaire he continues to be, Fife has entered the true pantheon of great Arizonans--the land swindlers.

Let's face it: This state was built on land scams. There are the little ones that go on every day, with developers jacking up their property values to get loans, then lowering them to evade taxes. And then there are the heavy hitters--remember Ned Warren Sr., an ex-con who arrived in Arizona with just his wife, his mistress, a couple of pets and $800 in his pocket and went on to become a millionaire selling worthless plots of land as vacation homesites? Or Charlie Keating, who created and then lost a fortune by inflating the worth of his bogus properties?

Both men knew how to run a hustle, but both eventually fell from grace--Warren died in prison, and there's still a chance for Keating to meet the same fate. We can only hope.

Fife, however, isn't looking at prison time. No, having done his dirty work, he's now sitting pretty in the governor's seat, a position so high-profile that Warren and Keating could have never dreamed of obtaining it.

And not only that--a good number of Arizonans still love Fife! And why? Because he's paid them off, each and every one, with a paltry tax return from the state. Never mind that we'll all be paying for the collapse of Southwest Savings, where Fife once sat on the board and later got millions in loans to develop more of his failed Phoenix projects. Those are financial dealings too complex to understand, but a tax return, by golly, that's right in our pockets today.

And we'll probably re-elect him in 1998, if he runs for a third term. (You might recall Fife signed a law limiting governors to two terms, but a grandfather clause allows him a third term, so he's already raising money for another run--God only knows where that money will end up if he chooses not to run.)

Fife was never much of a businessman, but he was--and continues to be--one of the greatest con men to ever grace the Grand Canyon state. He's always been a master of using other people's money for his own comfort. And now he's using your tax dollars to pay off his friends, with a judicial appointment here, a rigged consulting contract there.

So we salute you, Fife, for living a life most of us can only dream of. Liquidating $62,000 to get off the hook for a $25 million debt was nothing less than a masterpiece in the art of the con.

WE THINK WE SAW HIS MUG ON A MILK CARTON: Tucson City Councilflake Tom Saggau, AWOL so long he was declared MIA, has finally resigned as the Ward 3 Councilman--effective October 21. Meaning we all get to pay the bum for another month of not showing up.

Apologists for Saggau, including Mayor George "The Thriller" Miller and a couple of his council colleagues, are lamenting his loss. They're trying to tell us this loser, probably the worst council member in modern history, was an effective spokesman for his ward. And even press accounts by reporters who know better try to tell us he's off in West Virginia with personal problems.

It's rather obvious Saggau's personal problems are right here in Tucson, along with his obligations. He's in West Virginia trying to avoid them--and the folks who elected him.

Avoidance behavior was his modus operandi long before he took office--remember, this is a guy who lived here for years and never bothered to register to vote.

His council record since he beat the potential criminal rap for soliciting kickbacks from his staff has been one of total acquiescence to Miller. Miller owned Saggau's vote the way Don Diamond owns Rocking K--which may have something to do with why Miller will miss him.

IMPACT IMMINENT? Pima County will hold the next impact fee hearing on Monday, October 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the TCC Exhibition Hall.

Plan on getting there a couple hours early to go through the security choke point. And plan to see the Southern Arizona Home Builders Ass. and its allies pack another hearing. These get-togethers are beginning to resemble Iowa GOP preference polls--you may see busloads of out-of-state construction workers.

The attitude of the builders toward paying for some of the needs they help create borders on the surreal. One local cement head recently wrote County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry whining about the high cost of regulation and fees making it impossible for working people to buy a new home.

To his credit, Huckelberry responded as follows:

"It's unfortunate the cost of housing has increased by 23 percent. In January of 1992, the median sales price of homes in Pima County was $79,148 and by July of 1995 it had increased to $97,000. During this period I do not recall there being any significant regulatory initiatives imposed by local government on the development community. Market forces, along with labor and material costs, probably had something to do with this increase."

Huckelberry's response touches on one of the economic factors running up the cost of houses--growth. When more people move here looking for a home, homes get more expensive. That's called Econ 101, something these supposedly free-market land speculators and developers appear to be totally ignorant about. Good deal for land speculators, builders, some real estate folks and people selling their houses. Not so good for people who can't afford the higher prices.

AND SPEAKING OF DEVELOPER STOOGES: Pima County Supervisor Special Ed Moore recently provided the third vote to OK 270 apartments on River Road north of Campbell, against the recommendation of both the Planning and Zoning Commission and county staff. The latter believe the increased traffic generated by the development will be hazardous.

Apparently, Supervisor Mikey "The Flaky Waffleman" Boyd thought voting for it would be hazardous, since it's in his district, so he joined Raul Grijalva in voting "nay." Of course it probably didn't escape Boyd's attention the item already had three votes anyway. Paul "I've-Never-Met-A-Zoning-I-Didn't-Like" Marsh and Dan "Who-Cares-It's-North-Of-The-River" Eckstrom joined Moore in the majority.

Here's the good part: The attorney representing the property owner was Tom Parsons of the law firm of Stubbs & Schubart. This is the same law firm that represents the three GOP supes (at your expense) in that massive federal court case filed against them by seven defrocked bureaucrats. And the firm also has represented Moore when he was sued for not paying his 1992 campaign bills.

Unfortunately, there's nothing illegal about this blatant conflict of interest because the scum-bags who write the laws have exempted lawyers from just about ever having one. But it does bring to our minds the word Special Ed loves to throw around concerning everybody else--corrupt.

MASTERS OF SPIN CONTROL: Apparently the Hughes spin masters didn't like the Skinny's snotty tone in a recent item noting the GM subsidiary would be laying off 1,200 local workers, many of them recently transplanted Californians, during the next year.

That figure is now up to around 2,000, according to the lede article in this week's Inside Tucson Business, which liberally quotes local Hughes PR mouthpiece Jim Gilkerson. Massive spin control tainted the article, which was little more than a corporate blowjob by reporter Mark Ochs.

"Reports appearing recently in Tucson media, regarding imminent layoffs at Hughes...of thousands of transplanted Californians, are 'way off line'..."

Mark, old buddy, we said 1,200, not the "thousands" you set up as a paper tiger for this flak to knock down.

"Those reductions would come from the entire nationwide work force of 7,600," Ochs went on to write. "Including 7,200 in Tucson and 400 elsewhere."

Duh? Guess local Hughes workers and their families can sleep soundly knowing the odds are on their side.

MOTTO MANIACS IN MARANA: We hear rapidly growing Marana is searching for a town slogan--guess they aren't that fond of "Dogpatch," our nickname for that festering pustule. Town Councilman Billy Sutton, who's cashed in splendidly since his election by picking up the painting contract for the developers of Continental Ranch, is leading the charge for the community to pick a motto. A committee has been appointed and the town council is ready to support its recommendation.

If Tombstone is the town too tough to die, what's Marana? So far, we've accumulated the following suggestions:

• Today Marana, tomorrow the world.

• No shirt, no shoes, no rezoning.

• Developers--we roll over faster.

• Give us your humble, your poor, your crowded schools, your bad roads, your prisons, your toxic waste dumps yearning to be free.

• Marana--Where the fix is in.

• Seen one ironwood, you've seen 'em all.

• Here we come, whether you like it or not.

• Our development decisions are clear-cut.

• The town too dumb to quit.

• Saguaros? We don't need no stinkin' saguaros!

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September 28 - October 4, 1995

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