No-Spin CityWelcome to the no-spin zone, Tucson! Our little town was featured on The O'Reilly Factor last week after labor leader Dolores Huerta made an impassioned speech at Tucson High that included the rallying cry of "Republicans hate Latinos!" Students were told that if they wanted to skip the speech, they could go to the library, which was locked up.
Fox News blowhard Bill O'Reilly introduced viewers to Tucson High senior Mon-yee Fung, president of the school's Teenage Republican Club, who said she was offended by Huerta's comments, but was forced to remain for the entire speech by her government teacher.
"I was a little angry, but mostly I was hurt. I have really a lot of wonderful friends, really close friends, who are Latino," Fung told O'Reilly.
O'Reilly's other guests included State Rep. Jonathan Paton, who has called TUSD Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer to the Capitol to explain why Huerta was allowed to engage in "political hate speech," as well as to explain why TUSD paid overtime wages to bus drivers to pick up students who had walked out of classes to protest illegal-immigration legislation last month. Wonder if Paton has anything else up his sleeve?
"It isn't fair that students have to be forced to listen to a political diatribe for 40 minutes and are not allowed to leave," Paton said.
Pfeuffer joined the program to defend the school district.
"Education is not an event; it is a process," Pfeuffer said. "Mrs. Huerta's speech is part of a process of education about this situation."
O'Reilly cut off Pfeuffer's edu-speak with: "All right, I got all that. Look, you don't believe Republicans hate Latinos, do you?"
Pfeuffer said it was his understanding that Republicans do not, as a whole, hate Latinos.
"We were rather surprised and saddened by that," Pfeuffer said. "We advocate to students that they do not create stereotypes for groups."
Off the ListThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was removing the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl from the endangered species list and rescinding protection for the teensy raptor's critical habitat. Fish and Wildlife officials said that although the known Arizona population was very small--fewer than two dozen were spotted last year--the state's subspecies was not significant to the species as a whole.
The decision came after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association, which had filed a lawsuit claiming that the federal government used faulty data when listing the owl as endangered.
Besides teaching reporters how to spell ferruginous, the pygmy's owl listing as an endangered species in 1997 slowed development on Tucson's northwest side and provided inspiration for Pima County's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
Environmentalists with the Center for Biological Diversity, who brought the initial legal action to list the pygmy owl as endangered, vowed to take legal action to restore its protection.
Promises, PromisesThe Regional Transportation Authority board pledged last week that if voters approved a half-cent sales tax for 51 transportation projects next month, the organization would spend money just as they've promised. RTA board chair Ramon Valadez--curiously misidentified as fellow Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias in the morning daily--said that the resolution went above and beyond the RTA's legislative requirements.
Plan critic Ken O'Day said the "11th-hour press conference" was a PR maneuver to rescue the plan from defeat at the polls on May 16.
"The only thing historic about this pledge would be if they kept it," O'Day said.
Heated EnvironmentMichelle Maliniak, a veteran Tucson firefighter who has been on a nonpaid leave of absence since Dec. 17, 2005, dropped a packet of info on City Council members and local media alleging that she has been the victim of discrimination during her 17 years with the Tucson Fire Department. Among the allegations: Maliniak says that when the fire department finally set aside a restroom for women, male firefighters continued to use it, sometimes failing to flush and leaving behind floaters. When a supervisor put a sign on the door of the restroom stating "No Men," another firefighter added the words "for me."
Maliniak also said that she had rocks placed in the hubcaps of her fire truck, had other firefighters sabotage her safety on the job and, on the day she took her leave of absence, she saw a sign behind her truck that stated, "Fu@# You Use Reverse B!*ch."
In an October 2005 memo, Captain Roger Lee and Captain Gus Mazon of Station 17 acknowledged that "we still have a lot of people out here with very slanted ideas. It's a shame we are given a black eye from these types of individuals. This really can't be denied, or we would not be in the position we are in right now."