Skinny HARD TO SWALLOW: During his recent primary bid for the Ward 3 Tucson City Council seat, Democrat Demetri Downing proposed an ambitious plan to annex the proposed towns of Casas Adobes and Catalina Foothills, which would become Wards 7 and 8. As part of his scheme, Downing proposed having councilmembers elected from their own wards rather than citywide.

The Downing plan got little attention, partially because it ignored the complexity of linking charter changes to annexation agreements and partially because the mainstream media pretty much ignored the entire primary.

But it seems at least one person was listening: Mayor George Miller, who last week resurrected the Downing plan at a Rotary Club luncheon. In hopes of influencing voters in the proposed towns, Miller pitched a slightly tweaked version of the plan, which got front-page attention in both dailies. Miller even upped the stakes, saying the city would lock in current zoning--a moritorium which is probably against state law.

The proposal makes no more sense coming from Miller than it did from Downing. Sure, Miller and others have made pre-annexation agreements with a nasty cabal of developers and land speculators, giving away everything from tax breaks to special services. But now the mayor wants to carry that to new irrational heights by dealing a charter amendment as part of a pre-annexation deal!

The charter change can't happen until the Council puts it on the ballot and the voters of Tucson approve it. Miller's argument brushes aside these two major hurdles. And it neglects the simple fact that folks in those two target areas have long resisted annexation efforts by the City of Tucson.

And here are some additional questions the local mainstream reporters didn't ask: Which comes first, the annexation or the charter amendment? What happens if Tucson voters approve the two new wards and the folks in the proposed annexation areas say "forget it?" Or vice-versa?

Miller and others have pounded on the target residents with dire predictions about the massive tax increases they'll face if they incorporate. That raises another question nobody's asking. If it will cost all that money for Casas Adobes and Catfoot to be towns, and they don't have the revenue to support it without tax increases, why the hell won't it cost Tucson about the same to provide those same services? Or do inner-city residents continue to subsidize services as Tucson's boundaries stretch outward, as they have with water service?

We can understand an idealistic--but unworkable--idea like this coming from a fresh-faced political neophyte like Downing. What's Miller's excuse?

OH, AND IN A RELATED ACT OF IDIOCY: The usually bull-headed bozos in the city Annexation Department have announced they're grabbing a big chunk around River Road and Campbell Avenue. Part of that deal will allow developers to weasel out of impact fees they'd have to pay if they stayed outside Tucson city limits--some more lost revenue for Pima County.

SQUEEZE PLAY: Arizona Daily Star sports writer Greg Hansen continues to play softball when it comes to covering professional baseball.

Although he hasn't bothered to write about the Tucson Toros for years (and probably never even made it out to Hi Corbett for a minor-league game last year), Hansen has led the cheerleading to change the name of our beloved ballclub, all in the name of a better "marketing opportunity" in concert with the new parent club, the Phoenix Diamondbacks.

Hansen says the name change will bring new life to the ballpark. Gee, Greg, maybe dedicating an occasional column to the team might have increased attendance over the last couple of years.

Hansen's snuggling up to new owner Martin Stone follows his recent bootlicking pattern. Not too long ago, he declared Arizona's highest-profile corporate welfare recipient, Jerry Coangelo, to be the leading sports figure in Arizona history. More recently, he wrote:

"I have long proclaimed that Jerry Coangelo should be forever worshiped for bringing major league baseball to our little corner of the globe." (Last time we checked, that "little corner" is called Phoenix, currently the 12th-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Where did you think he was going to put his new baseball franchise--in Sheep Dip, Wyoming?)

Hansen spent considerable ink singing the praises of the guys who built--at mostly taxpayer expense--Phoenix's new Bank One Stadium. He slobbered over the air-conditioning, the sliding roof, the yuppie restaurants that will replace the old, overpriced hot dogs with overpriced hamburgers, and all the other crap that will pretty much make a day at the ball game an impossible dream for anybody who works for a living. Hansen thinks this is just wonderful.

What he neglects to mention: The Diamondbacks' season tickets will be the most expensive in organized baseball. Try $50 for a box seat; or $4,100 for an 82-game season--over double the cost at Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium. The average season ticket here will run about $2,500, or five grand a pair.

And yet they're selling 'em, folks, many to corporations who take tax deductions and use them as giveaways. Over 40,000 season tickets have already been sold, meaning the owners already got their first $100,000,000 before we even know what league the Diamondbacks will be in. Real fans can look forward to spending nearly $200 for a family of four to park and watch a three-hour game. And we bitch about movie prices.

Sure, there's some $3 seats--maybe 100 or so behind a post. And there'll be some showcase bullshit where a few poor kids get placed in front of the cameras once in a while to prove how socially conscious Coangelo and his cronies are. That'll give media sycophants like Hansen more drooling material for puff pieces.

The taxpayers ponied up the first $253 million for the stadium. The owners put up another $100 million they've already collected. Considering the lavishness Hansen describes, it's clear that the taxpayers were screwed even bigger than those who'll be in attendance.

CHUCK HOLD: Last week, three Pima County Supervisors--Republican Mike Boyd and Democrats Sharon Bronson and Dan Eckstrom--voted to approve a four-year contract with County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who got a $138,800 annual salary as part of the deal.

When they were sworn last January, Bronson and Eckstrom wanted to can Huckelberry and replace him with former Deputy Manager Bruce Postil, who had been purged by a crazed GOP triad way back in '93. (You may recall Postil eventually collected a chunk of a $3 million settlement from Pima County following his wrongful ouster.)

Board Chairman Raul Grijalva also wanted to dump Huckelberry, saying he wanted to bring back former County Manager Enrique Serna. But when Bronson and Eckstrom both switched to support Serna earlier this year, Grijalva declined to join them, claiming their action wasn't "sincere." Some of us started to speculate his real choice was County Parks Director Dan Felix.

Huckelberry had only two hard votes--Boyd and the late John Even. When Even was replaced by Republican Ray Carroll, who's been an occasional Grijalva ally, Huckelberry's future looked even shakier. He's obviously mended fences with Bronson and Eckstrom and kept Boyd, making yet another unlikely majority on the Board.

The Growth Lobby generally likes Huck, who has a great reputation for throwing all that cement they love so much. But Huckelberry has also supported Bronson on many pro-environmental moves, including the fast track for incorporating Tortolita.

No one has ever challenged Huckelberry's professional competence. It has now been matched by his political acumen. And Grijalva, while remaining chairman, lost big.

WEATHER ROT: Last week, KGUN news director Forrest Carr and weatherguy Paul Huttner, the latest news nomads to mine our desert community for fame and fortune before moving on to a top-10 market, penned an op-ed piece in the morning rag explaining why they spent half a week telling us to stock up on sandbags and canned foods because a windy day was on the way.

Huttner and Carr defended their overblown coverage of Hurricane Nada, arguing the storm did indeed bring the promised three inches of rainfall--to Yuma, at least.

"KGUN-9 will err on the side of preparedness, every time," they wrote. "Any other course of action indeed would be an example of 'media irresponsibility.' "

Certainly weather is unpredictable, and Nora might have reached Tucson. But KGUN--along with other local TV stations--grossly overplayed the story, donning raincoats and heading out to play Dan Rather in the storm path.

It was an absurd capper to the ongoing trend of expanding weather coverage. We've noticed over the last few years that weather reports come earlier and earlier on the newscasts, and the segments grow longer and longer. In fact, when it rains in town, the stations often lead with that information--as if we're too stupid to look out our windows and see it for ourselves.

Precisely what are they hoping to accomplish with such mindless crap? Do they believe they're performing a service for thousands of paralyzed shut-ins around town who're chained to their TVs in windowless rooms?

But given the TV airheads' sorry coverage of local government, we're shocked--shocked!--the KGUNners can toss around words like "media irresponsibility" with a straight face. How about those basic responsibilities that come with a license to profit from the public's airwaves, like providing informed election coverage? Guess the brave and aggressive TV reporters are too busy doing voice-overs for canned consumer reports to dog the candidates and inform viewers about something that might be relevant.

That kind of reporting requires more than just taking pictures of raging waters and falling trees--but it's not what passes for news in this town. So count on seeing more weather reports, car crashes, house fires and liposuction demonstrations on your TV news. That is, if you even bother to tune in anymore. TW

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