DIARY OF A MERGER: Judging by the many calls and emails
we received from startled readers following our rather off-handed
confirmation last week of rumors that Wick Communications,
publisher of the spellbinding Inside Tucson Business
and the highly respected Daily Territorial newspapers,
is about to buy the Tucson Weekly, we thought we should
keep a diary of the corporate-takeover process. It's something
practically all locally owned businesses will no doubt eventually
experience in this town. And certainly many long-time local media
types have already gone through the process. Now it's finally
our turn. So here goes:
Last Friday: The Wick corporate types cannily tell an Arizona Daily Star business reporter that they aren't planning to absorb The Weekly, and they have no idea what The Skinny is talking about...The suspicious biznews hound promptly calls The Weekly, where quick-thinking top brass cleverly laugh off our somewhat premature report as "those boys in editorial" having a few yucks. Monday: Top Wick managers from around the nation, including the corporation's flagship Podunk Corners (Idaho) Semi-Weekly Bratwurst, converge in Tucson via gleaming Greyhound bus lines...The Weekly's dangerously over-caffeinated staff of five, already saddled with the demanding work of putting out this edition, must drop everything and suck up to the corporate types...It's announced that a gala "Welcome To The Family Mixer," carefully planned by Wick's 14-member Corporate Relations unit, is scheduled for this evening...Weekly staffers rush to local discount department stores, looking for gala-appropriate clothing...At the mixer, Weekly employees demonstrate they can brown-nose with the best of them, laughing uproariously at the Wicksters' corporate-insider jokes and noting, sotto voce, that they know where plenty of Tucson Weekly fat can be cut. Tuesday: The Luby's Cafeteria manager calls to say he found one of the Wickster's corporate blazers in the women's restroom after the mixer...It's not hard to determine the owner, since the bright-blue sport coat has the name "Larry" stitched in yellow thread above the attractive Wick corporate logo (dollar sign with the word "Yummy!") on the breast pocket...A vicious fistfight breaks out among Weekly middle managers seeking the honor of returning the jacket to Larry, thus earning major corporate suck-up points...It's quiet at the Weekly today, since most of the corporate officers are playing golf and pricing condos. Wednesday: Although his corporate blazer was found mysteriously ripped to shreds and stuffed in a toilet, Larry seems to be relaxed and in great spirits. This is probably due to the serial bouts of cheap, meaningless sex he had last night with a succession of Weekly staffers hoping to land cushy jobs at Wick corporate headquarters in Large Bone, Wis...Larry and other corporate officers assure Weekly staffers there will be no layoffs, although they add a few jobs--probably only five or so in editorial, and a mere 30 or 40 in other departments--might be trimmed through attrition only, of course...After handing out the mandatory clip-on ties done up in vibrant corporate colors of dark beige and light beige, the corporate types apologize for not having available the latest edition of the Wick employee handbook, which, Larry assures us, is currently being rewritten to reflect Wick's new Gen-X approach, and which will read more like a "funny, funny story." The older version of the handbook he's waiving around is entitled Knowing Your Place.
To Be Continued.
TUCSON HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL: The morning daily played right along with the Rev. Joel Tracy Ireland and his lame-duck crony Gloria Copeland recently to elevate a tempest in a teapot at Tucson High School to a major scandal.
Let's reset it: In an orgy of meddling and micromanaging last summer, the Rev., Gloria, and political catastrophe Brenda Even shuffled a bunch of TUSD administrators. Included was Paul Hatch, the popular assistant principal at Tucson High who was moved to Catalina High. It was a cunning move by both Ireland and Copeland. They needed to shore up a weak Catalina administration that also would include Ireland's brother.
Tucson High students, parents and Hatch's colleagues were upset. The Concerned Citizens For the Future of Tucson High Magnet School responded with meetings, one of which was organized by a mailing at TUSD expense--$879. Also at issue was the use of student matriculation numbers combined with addresses.
Principal Cecilia Mendoza is taking the hit. She's the boss who gave her blessing. Copeland, defeated by a wide margin in the November 3 election, doesn't like Mendoza. Copeland also wants to stuff her own political pork chop, Kelly Lankford, in as Tucson High principal. So TUSD brass ordered an internal investigation that showed Mendoza did not misspend district funds, which came from an account that includes revenue from soda machines and facility rental. The probe also alleged there was a violation of student privacy law. Mendoza was reprimanded.
Not satisfied, Copeland pushed for another investigation that was done by ultra-uptight lawyer Ronna Fickbohm. The issue was then slapped on the TUSD Board's agenda last week--improperly, we must add, in that it didn't include full notice of all of the supposed dirt on privacy law violation.
Mendoza was sharp enough to demand that the issue be discussed publicly. She must continue to do so. This Board is too cowardly to pull a trigger in public.
Now for the Star: On Tuesday it reports this from the Rev. Joel: "(Mendoza's) job is in no way in jeopardy, whatsoever, period, nor her position at Tucson High. I, as a Board member, have been supportive of Cecilia Mendoza since she's been here."
Later that afternoon, in a flip-flop, Fickbohm's new investigation concluded the matric numbers and addresses did not constitute a violation, but that she found misuse of public funds. Suddenly what the Rev. Joel portrayed as no job threat was growing into a major stink-up. Wow!
So what's the Rev. Joel's take now? The Star reported with a straight face, never mentioning what he said earlier: "I consider this a weighty, weighty matter." With the Rev.'s push, the wimpy Board punted the matter to its incapable Superintendent, George F. Garcia, who is now supposed to determine Mendoza's punishment.
Perhaps the Rev. Joel and his lame-duck allies should have Ms. Fickbohm investigate Copeland's practice of having a Cholla High School janitor drive across town to stuff mailboxes at Palo Verde with her campaign propaganda.
THEGOODLIFE: The Arizona Daily Star recently carried an op-ed piece by Janine Palley, who tried to respond to the now famous/infamous Atlantic Monthly piece by Robert Kaplan that pointed out many of Tucson's ills. Palley, who just moved here from San Francisco to a classy job at the University, babbled about how wonderful this place is and how she just loves the clean air and the sunsets.
Tucson Mayor George Miller, who went ballistic over Kaplan's piece and wrote an embarrassing response to the Atlantic, has been mailing copies of Palley's article to many of those quoted in Kaplan's piece. No cover letter, just a photocopy. Kind of like saying, "See!"
Like a lot of Californians who've already made their own state nearly uninhabitable, Palley is happy to be here, and no doubt happier still that she snagged one of the few decent jobs. So it's understandable that she totally misses one of Kaplan's major points, namely that a very large number of Tucsonans have crappy, low-paying jobs. We suggest she check out the excellent recent Star series on the 16,000 and growing telemarketing boiler room jobs. More than 5 percent of Tucson's workforce is currently employed in this "industry" for barely minimum wage. Then she can tell us more about how it's just a wonderful day in the neighborhood around here.
Yeah, it's a pretty place. So, we're told, was California at one time. And Mexico is a country with great natural beauty.
Both Miller and Palley would appear to subscribe to the Happy Peasant theory. Feel free to glance at those beautiful sunsets and sunrises, particularly while you're on your way to your minimum-wage job.
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