Skinny A CHANGE OF OWNERSHIP: Rumors have been floating around City of Tucson offices of late that Wick Communications, publisher of the Daily Territorial and Inside Tucson Business, are about to buy the Tucson Weekly.

At this time, we wish to confirm those rumors.

In order to smooth the transition to new ownership, Weekly staffers will be going out into the community in the next few days to communicate our deep and abiding respect for developers, the banks that finance them, the politicians who serve their interests, as well as the large, national chains that profit from Tucson's glorious, rapid-fire growth machine. Oh, and we'll be doing our best to celebrate the rich, powerful and successful in all walks of life, a much-needed public service now that Tucson Monthly is ceasing publication.

You see, dear reader, after years of banging our heads against what we have erroneously perceived to be an iron wall of money, greed and power, we now realize our mistake: Newspapers are supposed to promote the status quo! Silly us for thinking otherwise.

We wish to apologize to all the important people we've offended over the years here in The Skinny, and assure them that soon this space will be filled exclusively with positive news from the Chamber of Commerce and delightful tidbits from Tucson's wonderful public-relations community, just like all the other tabloids and dailies in town. Yes, we're finally joining the ranks of the "big boys" who do "serious journalism."

We hope you'll enjoy The New Tucson Weekly, as we'll be calling ourselves in just a few short weeks!

In the meantime, we have to use up some of our Skinny backlog, so please pardon our obsessive and totally unproductive negativity.

DUPED AGAIN: Guess Arizona voters sure are dumb--they reaffirmed their decision to change the state's drug policies by supporting the medical use of marijuana, as well as treatment, rather than prison for first-time drug offenders.

We haven't heard as much from our elected officials about how we were duped into supporting the law by a slick advertising campaign, as we did when we passed the law the first time in 1996. Maybe that's because the issue seems to win in any state where it's on the ballot--a real problem for the drug warriors in Washington who keep trying to warn us of the dangers of the Demon Weed.

Frankly, we think if the voters were duped by a slick advertising campaign this year, it was by the Growing Smarter referendum lawmakers put in front of us. Wonder if our public servants will be talking about the need to repeal that one during the legislative session?

AMPHI ACTION: It wasn't even close in the Amphitheater School District last week--voters overwhelmingly backed newcomer Ken Smith and drove Board President Mike Bernal right out of office. If there had been a second challenger for voters to choose, Amphi Board Member Gary Woodard would have been carried out on a stretcher as well.

But Woodard was able to hang onto his seat, although he trailed Smith by thousands of votes on Election Day. That means Woodard will be able to dominate the board if his longtime allies, Virginia Houston and Richard Scott, continue to back him against Smith and Nancy Young Wright, who has been a voice of dissent on the Amphi Board since her election in 1996. Look for Woodard to become board president on the 3-2 vote when the new board takes office in January.

Amphi taxpayers clearly want changes in the district--starting with restoring their right to address the Board in a call-to-the-audience segment at the beginning of meetings. But will the Board majority listen? Or will they just dig in their heels and continue rendering the same lousy decisions that finished Bernal this year?

ONLY A START AT TUSD: The clean-up at the Tucson Unified School District began with the November 3 election victories of Rosalie Lopez and Carolyn Kemmeries. But much work is needed.

Too bad voters were deprived, because of staggered terms, of the pleasure of throwing them all out. Incumbents the Rev. Joel Tracy Ireland and James Noel Christ have contributed mightily to this awful district's myriad problems.

We gladly accept the Kemmeries landslide (thanks mostly to Laura Almquist, Kemmeries commandeered 23 percent of the vote in the nine-person race for two seats). Lopez received 14 percent while defying the incredible odds of winning a seat without the help of the goons from the Tucson Education Association or the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

Voters sent a clear message Tuesday: TUSD is a mess and it starts with the Board.

Kemmeries has brains, excellent experience and a good, self-deprecating sense of humor. Lopez's election is poetic justice. A 1972 Pueblo High grad, she has battled the recalcitrant TUSD on a variety of issues ever since she gave up a full-time law practice in Houston to come home.

In two years, voters in search of a better Board should consider adding Judy Burns, the deadpan populist and funny hippie who knows the district inside and out; Jesus Zapata, a strong advocate for the working and underclass; and Diane Carrillo, a one-time Kemmeries student who has worked as a teacher, coach and principal in TUSD for 31 years. Such a lineup would neutralize the cliques and blocs that leftover board members Mary Belle McCorkle, Christ and Ireland are now fomenting.

What's truly amazing is that a dithering and distracted Arizona Daily Star runs to Ireland for election reaction. This is the same idiot who lied to the Star and who sued the newspaper, seeking unheard-of censorship and prior restraint.

The Star and Tucson Citizen were busy with overwrought analysis on how this new Board will get along beginning in January. Ireland did a good job of trying to poison everything, while McCorkle and Dumbbell Christ want to have a retreat. Where? At The Shanty? Get real. And get ready to invite the public and the press. You idiots can't have any meeting of a quorum without us. We thought you remembered that Brenda Even, out as of December 31, tried that when she was new to the Board.

Kemmeries had a stupid idea on the campaign trail when proposing how Board members could get along, not meddle and do a better job: attend school-board training in Phoenix with the Superintendent of Public Instruction. But why should taxpayers have to eat those costs for the three multi-term incumbents?

Now the prissy Star is fretting over Lopez's frankness, specifically because she has the guts to say that the Star's darling, Superintendent George Garcia, must improve or he's out. What's wrong with expecting your highly paid CEO to be more than be the world's tallest amoeba? He needs to lead. He needs to act. He needs to be strong in his recommendations rather than timidly and constantly searching for three votes.

Finally, both the rotten TUSD and rotten Amphi districts must stop the electioneering and political games by Board members, candidates and employees--all of whom should be focused on their jobs rather than misusing staff, tax dollars and school property for campaign propaganda and strong-arming. Because of the abuses, widespread in both districts and from official hands, TUSD and Amphi ought to implement stiff new rules on political activity.

YOU GO, GIRL: Fresh off a losing, fourth-place finish in her hopeless bid for re-election, Gloria Copeland will use at least $1,395 in TUSD tax money to attend the week-long National Alliance of Black School Educators conference in San Diego beginning November 16. Gloria's lame-duck reward includes $162 for travel, $595 ($85 a night) for hotel, $400 for registration, and $238 ($34 a day) for eats.

That $1,400 is a drop in the TUSD budget bucket, but it would buy a lot of pencils, paper and the other classroom supplies TUSD cries it cannot afford to provide its children. Why is it being spent for an ousted Board member to travel?

Copeland may go out with a bang. Talking with buddy John C. Scott on KTKT radio the day after the election, Gloria said she would now be free to speak out against some dirty abuses and pilfering within TUSD. She claims administrators misspent public funds, including some for personal gain. And she says she knows that Mary Belle McCorkle is really different from the media-created image of a squeaky-clean Board member.

We must say--and this will seem mighty strange coming from us--that Gloria will be missed. She deserved her seat four years ago. Too bad she became too overbearing, too angry and too bullying. And it's too bad she was taken in by Brenda Even and Joel Ireland and thoroughly misled.

She remains a necessary thorn in TUSD's side and deserves some role on some TUSD committees.

DAWN OF A NEW DAY? Wanna know how bad it's really gotten in the state Legislature? Tucson Sen. Ann Day has been chosen by her GOP colleagues as the Senate Majority Whip, the No. 3 person in the Senate leadership. Sounds like that makes Day, one of our flakiest public officials, a real leader.

Wrong. The Senate is now composed of 16 Republicans and 14 Democrats, which means the Republican majority will need every vote it can get. The Whip's main job is to round up party colleagues to vote with the leadership. The real reason they gave Day the job, our spies tell us, is because the leadership sees her as such a flake they think this move will at least ensure they get the one vote most likely to stray--hers.

And Sen. Flake is still making noises about running for the Board of Supes next year when she's term-limited out of her present job. She's looking at District 1, currently held by her equally flaky GOP colleague Mikey Boyd. Boyd is now saying he might run for the Corporation Commission in 2000. God help us all.

Maybe they could schedule a joint fund-raising event at the Waffle House. And maybe the local GOP can market them by placing their photos in the cereal section of supermarkets.

AND SPEAKING OF FLAKY VOTES: It wasn't your biggest rezoning, but it was symbolic as hell. By a four-to-one vote, with Sharon Bronson dissenting, the Pima County Supervisors have approved 68 new homes for the 23-acre parcel near Oracle Jaynes and Shannon roads. Estes Homes, now part of a national operation and no longer a local company, owns the property.

Amphi School District officials did their usual shill job for the developers, claiming the neighboring schools can handle the additional people Yeah, right--tell that to the parents of the kids who are already in the portables at Lulu Walker Elementary. And how about the bazillion apartments down the road at River and La Cholla that the last board rezoned for legendary land speculator Don Diamond?

Supervisor Ray Carroll excused his Estes vote by claiming the project is "infill." And Supe Raul Grijalva quietly went along, leaving Bronson standing out there all alone. Well, what the hell--it's her district. But the "infill" argument doesn't mean squat to the neighbors who'll now face even more crowding in schools already packed full to bursting. And once again Amphi School District bureaucrats have proved they're just another cog in Growth Lobby's machine.

WHY THE LONG VOTE COUNT? Pima County's new ballot-counting system was supposed to speed things up. Yet it still took days to resolve close contests. Why?

According to a recent federal court ruling, if you move before an election you still get to vote at your new address, even if you never got around to changing your registration to that address. In our blind passion to make it easier to vote, we continually remove more individual responsibility from the process.

In the past, county recorders invariably found themselves with few hundred questionable ballots cast by voters whose status was shaky. Because the process for verifying these ballots is now much more cumbersome, the number of questionable ballots reaches into the thousands.

There may be ways to speed things up, but until the Legislature passes something the feds will buy into, plan on the 2000 election, with a much larger turnout, being far worse.

THE CITIZEN IS TUCSON, BUT NOT DOWNTOWN: Media monstrosity Gannett's colonial governor Donald Hatfield has unwisely locked the doors on the afternoon paper's downtown bureau at La Placita Village. It's a devastating move for the reporters covering City Hall, the county, and especially Superior Court and the feds. (Does the Citizen still cover U.S. District Court?) Now the paper's government reporters are shackled six miles away at the main plant at South Park Avenue and Irvington Road.

This isn't really a cost issue. The Arizona Daily Star supports the Citizen, via the Crybaby Publisher's Act--er, that is, the Newspaper Preservation Act. And the Citizen is still paying the rent at La Placita. Sources say Hatfield simply wanted to see the smiling faces of their downtown reporters.

Here's a question for Hatfield: What's the return rate on Citizen copies? It's a number nobody seems to want to talk about. We've heard that actual circulation of the nearly daily afternoon rag has been known to fall below 20,000 on some recent weekdays. Of course we'll never know as long as TNI, the jointly-owned Pulitzer/Gannett printing and advertising Goliath, keeps those figures secret.

If such reports are true, however, it's time to shoot the sorry old horse the Citizen has become. Perhaps Citizen staffers can join the wonderful Wick family of journalists. TW

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