Skinny UNDER THE INFLUENCE: In a newspaper whose editorial comments often lack coherency, The Arizona Daily Star's writers hit a new low last week. In endorsing the so-called "Clean Election" proposal, after pointing out some of its major flaws, the Star said: "The proposition is a step in the right direction--a big step that will bring the state closer to elections freed from the influence of those who benefit from laws passed by our Legislature and administered by our statewide officials."

Huh? The Legislature and statewide officials are not supposed to be influenced by people who benefit from what they do? Well, gee, that must be OK if they're big, evil corporations, but how about the rest of us? We always figured we were supposed to elect people who passed laws that benefited us and influence them accordingly. We believe it's called "representative government"--and everybody gets to play. What we're now seeing is a desire to "level the playing field" that has become so pathological that some folks apparently want the entire playing field eliminated.

Democracy is not about policy being made in some theoretical "clean room" by a bunch of wonks. It's a messy process that doesn't always work very well, but so far it's the best idea for government around. Those at the Star who want it sanitized by the elimination of any influence from those "who benefit" are negating democracy's fundamental principles.

GOOD FOR NOTHING: How about that front-page headline on last Sunday's Star: "American heroes like Glenn make us feel good." The Star has taken "feel-good" journalism to a new height--or depth.

Regardless of the news value of John Glenn's return to space, that story isn't news. It's a feature. It's part of the "feel-good" crap too many newspapers have gotten into in their losing attempt to compensate for declining circulation. It's a classic example of the "dumbing down" of the media at all levels.

Advice to Star editors. Fire all those shuck-and-jive out-of-state consultants. Dump the focus groups. Spend the money on some more real reporters. Let the ones you have act like it. Try being a newspaper again. There's lot of real news out there, locally and otherwise. More people might read your paper if you'd write about it.

DIRT BAGS: When you drove around just before the election you no doubt noticed a bunch of new campaign signs touting Proposition 200--the "Clean Elections" proposal--that read "Get dirty money out of politics."

Those signs raised a fundamental question about campaign finance: What kind of money paid for the signs, and how "clean" was it? Why is out-of-state money from one batch of wealthy special-interest people "clean" while all other money is dirty? If the reformers of campaign finance were so damn interested in banning cash from campaigns, why didn't they include a ban on out-of-state expenditures for ballot propositions?

This kind of political rhetoric is the American way--the other guy's "corrupt machine" is always opposed by our "noble organization."

RING-A-LING DING-A-LINGS: GOP candidate Kathleen Dunbar was able to wrest a state House of Representatives seat from incumbent Democrat Brian Fagin in District 13, which is one of few legislative districts that's roughly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

Late in the game, a phone bank kicked into gear to help push Dunbar's campaign. Unfortunately, the phone bank was located somewhere in Nevada, and it swung into action right around the same time the rest of the country turned their clocks back an hour in accordance with daylight savings time.

That meant Nevada was an hour behind Arizona--and it meant District 13 voters were getting calls after 9 p.m. at night, which doesn't sit well with some folks.

Republicans frantically called the Nevada operation and begged them to adjust their calls by an hour--which the phone bank did. Only problem: They adjusted it the wrong way--and started phoning homes after 10 p.m. If that hadn't pissed off some voters, Dunbar might have come in ahead of her new colleague, Rep. Andy Nichols.

ARTFUL DODGER: Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson went out of her way to screw fellow Democrat Art Hamilton in his campaign to become secretary of state. In classic Bronson form, the second-year supervisor cut a wildly misleading radio ad for Hamilton's snooty Republican rival, the appointed incumbent Betsey Bayless. Bronson also joined 24 other county stupes from around the state in a three-paragraph letter of support for Bayless in last Saturday's Arizona Republic.

Hamilton first heard of Bronson's defection while in Tucson on a campaign stop last week when he turned on the radio. He was more than shocked and disappointed to hear Bronson brag up Betsey. Bronson had just promised Hamilton that she would take him campaigning in Ajo and do a radio spot for him. (Don't despair, Art--you're better off that you didn't have make that tortuous trip to Ajo with her.)

Bronson was way off in her radio spot, claiming that Miss Betsey knew all about Tucson because she went to the University of Arizona many years ago and that she would visit Tucson once a month. Kinda like Sharon's pledge to go to Ajo every month.

Worse, Bronson turned the truth right on its head. She claimed, on the radio and in the Republic letter, that Bayless had helped Pima County in its fight for tax revenue equity. Bullshit. She was a monumental impediment. And all the players know it. She also was happy to slap a sales tax on Maricopa County consumers to pay for the Arizona Diamondbacks' ballpark.

PORK ONAPLATTER: Retiring Superior Court Clerk Jim Corbett has run a low-key patronage operation from that office for years. The Clerk's employees are not part of the regular County Merit System, but fall under a more primitive methodology known as the Judicial Merit System, which consists of a large batch of perks and pork maintained by the local judiciary and the Clerk, including contracts for jobs which have generally been ignored by the Board of Supes at budget time.

Corbett and about-to-be-retired Presiding Judge Mike Brown have milked this cash cow for years, and the supervisors have let them, basically because there wasn't much they could do about it except expose it. Even then, Corbett and Brown would simply take any budget cuts to court to claim a "need" and prattle about "an independent judiciary." The pretense that the pork in the Superior Court system is based on "merit" and "need" is one of the more repulsive aspects of this sordid arrangement.

Corbett, with Brown's collusion, is going out the door with style. He's paying off a whole batch of loyalists with fat raises before he leaves. Nine top-ranking employees will get annual raises in the $4,000-plus range, and another six will see their paychecks fattened by another $2,500. Brown will probably slip in some more of his own before he goes back to being just another judge in January. Note that Corbett isn't doing anything for all the grunts at the bottom of the Clerk's barrel. Only four of them are getting anything--another 30 cents an hour. Hey, the rest are all lucky to have a job.

Remember that next time they tell you why we need a tax increase to fund all those vital services the court provides. It's past time the Board of Supervisors held the courts to some degree of accountability and forced their hand, even if the judiciary can get one of their ilk to cover their asses by ordering the "needed" expenditures anyway.

A VALIANT LITTLE FIFIE GIVES HER DOGGIE LIFE FOR THE CAUSE OF GROWTH: There was a sad letter in several papers recently from an Oro Valley woman who lost her small terrier out of her own back yard to a predatory owl. Owls knock off as many small critters as coyotes, who often get the blame.

One of the reasons owls are hovering over people's pets instead of their normal prey is the destruction of habitat brought on by all those bulldozers clear-cutting for more pink-tile roofs. When the larger predators, like owls and hawks, lose their normal range, they can't move farther out because that turf is already occupied by other predators. So to make a living they hover around urbanized areas and bag domestic pets.

We're sorry for the woman who lost her dog, which is a warning to all of us with small pets. It's become just another way to pay your growth bill. TW

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