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The Skinny

BYE, GEORGE? Lay 'em down for Superintendent George F. Garcia to get a job heading the sprawling Clark County School District in Las Vegas. Garcia, the phlegmatic, mediocre superintendent for eight long years at TUSD, is among five candidates left in the running for the country's eighth-largest, fastest-growing school system, with 216,000-students. A winner will be announced in December.

Beat reporters and even TUSD Board members missed a great opportunity last week. They should have caught a red-eye to Vegas to watch and hear Garcia's performance in what he clearly has shown absolute distaste and disdain for here -- a public forum. Yes, there is much more sunshine in Vegas than in TUSD, which loves to operate in the dark. What's more, Garcia didn't 'fess up that he also dropped down to his native Texas for another interview. Hats off to Mary Bustamante of the Tucson Citizen for busting him on the Texas jaunt.

Garcia boasted in the dailies about how he could lead the Clark County system and keep it focused under the strain of tremendous growth. Yet his bloated bureaucracy here has failed miserably at keeping up with our homebuilding frenzy. In the face of new housing projects here, Garcia and his crew, including longtime Board members Joel Ireland, James Christ and Mary Belle McCorkle, have their heads in the sand. Even as developments are being built, Garcia's troops defiantly refuse to plan for needed new schools, with an attitude of "we'll believe there will be a new subdivision when we see the cement being poured for foundations." The district's East Side Growth Task Force has been handicapped by bureaucrats and is in disarray. The result has been overcrowded and painful busing all over.

Meanwhile, Garcia bragged about boosting academic performance, but the gains were infinitesimal. And hey George, how 'bout them AIMS results? Garcia says he's an expert in multicultural education, yet his silence forced parents and students to wage war to finally install Mexican-American studies.

His wife, Mary Werner Garcia, was quietly forced out as superintendent at Sunnyside Unified School District, but there is no word yet on a Vegas gig for her. Our money says she'll do fine in Glitter Gulch.

Meanwhile, students, staff and taxpayers can rejoice if early indications hold that McCorkle, Christ and The Rev. Ireland do the right thing and give up their seats at the end of their miserable terms next year.

McCorkle, the classic wolf in sheep's clothing, reportedly won't seek a third term. She is not a good Board president, proving inept at running meetings and providing the dynamic leadership that is needed to stir the moribund district. Her husband (like Mary Belle, a former TUSD bureaucrat) has put out his own message on whether she'll seek re-election. He's telling friends that she'll be a single woman if she runs again.

Ireland, who has overcome odds and voters' common sense to serve three terms, also reportedly will step down. He's handed out enough pork in jobs and contracts to friends and family. We could only hope those delusions of adequacy that swept him into the District 5 congressional race in 1986 would reappear. We loved seeing his clock so thoroughly cleaned.

Finally, Ireland's buddy Christ also is telling associates and insiders something along the lines of he'd rather have pins driven through his eyes than run for a third term. But he's told others that he'll give it another shot. Wise up, Jimbo. You've accomplished zero. And you're carrying a lot of baggage that, unlike in previous nap-time elections, is going to be opened up.

Getting rid of these losers should open things up for Judy Burns, a tireless TUSD parent and citizen activist who has been short on luck and campaign cash in her repeated bids for a seat.

ROAD RAGE: With the release of the Texas Transportation Institute's report rating Tucson as the 42nd worst commute out of 68 cities studied, we've heard a lot of whining about Tucson's traffic woes. Councilman Fred Ronstadt raced to the radio to bemoan the fact that Tucson citizens lose 28 hours of their lives each year sitting in traffic.

Do the math and the figure's not so shocking. Twenty-eight hours equals about 33 minutes a week. Figure five workdays a week and two commutes each day, and it's about three-and-a-half minutes per trip -- give or take holidays. People probably waste that much money trying to find something meaningful in The Arizona Daily Star.

The report inspired Pima County Supervisor Mike Boyd to spend a day bitching about traffic on his new radio show last week. He called for a courageous politician to lead the way in encouraging voters to pass a sales tax dedicated to transportation so we can build a freeway.

That courageous politician won't be Boyd, of course, because he's spending his final days in office moonlighting as a daytime talk-show host. You'd think that his $52,000 salary -- along with a car and other great perks -- would be enough for Boyd to focus on the many problems facing the county, but he's off doing another part-time gig. Boyd, who came to the startling conclusion a few years back that growth wasn't paying for itself, has done no visible work to find ways to make it pay its own way. Now he's calling for a pol with guts to push for a freeway. How about pushing for increased impact fees, Mikey? Now that would take some guts.

Something freeway advocates like Boyd neglect is the cost of building those magical corridors (although they always whine about the cost of buying vanishing open space to save it from development). Freeways are hardly free. The cost of one good mile through a heavily populated area where the traffic is worst -- the middle of town -- would about equal the $32 million that Pima County is short for all the open space acquisition they have currently listed. Freeways are an expensive boondoggle.

And a freeway project would take many years to complete, bringing little relief to everybody who lives here now. Assuming they were ever a good idea in the first place, it's too damn late. The best a freeway might do is alleviate further traffic congestion years in the future. In other words, a freeway would primarily be useful to the constituency which the Growth Lobby cares the most about: people who don't live here yet. Their interests always come ahead of the existing peasants and rubes who are the mere residents.

BUSH LEAGUE: Texas Gov. George W. Bush skipped the big presidential debate earlier this week at Arizona State U. He said he was keeping his word to the voters of New Hampshire to make his debate debut in the Granite State.

It's a pretty lame excuse, once you consider that Bush has already skipped several New Hampshire debates. His reluctance to confront his opponents makes us wonder why the GOP front-runner is so scared. Is the emperor wearing any clothes?

BORED OF REGENTS: Make-believe real-estate kingpin Hank Amos, dimbulb for the millennium, speaks as president of the Board of Regents and asks that prospective medical and law students do some community service before acceptance. Included in the do-good list is volunteering for Meals on Wheels, literacy work, assistance for those with AIDS, the United Way, and even political work. We ask Hank: what charity or volunteer work did you do in college? We think any list of this sort ought to include the more fundamental love, respect and work for mothers.

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