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The Skinny

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ROAD BLOCK: As we foreshadowed in our previous episode, opponents of the city's effort to hike the sales tax by a half-cent per dollar to pay for transportation projects were in court this week, suing the city over its failure to abide by the terms of the charter's Neighborhood Protection Amendment.

The NPA, passed by voters in 1985 to put a spoke in the wheel of plans to build freeways without public approval, requires a citywide vote before the construction of any highways or grade-separated intersections. It specifically states that the design and cost of projects be listed on the ballot.

City staff sidestepped that requirement when assembling the current proposition before voters this May, which includes three GSIs -- or, as they're now known, continuous-flow intersections -- at the corners of Campbell and Grant, Kino and 22nd Street and Grant and Kolb.

Rather than letting us know what they'll look like and what they'll cost, the city's lawyers simply added a line to the legalese saying the May vote would satisfy the requirements of the NPA.

Not so fast, says John Kromko, who played a key role in drafting and passing the NPA. The former state lawmaker and his lawyer, Joy Herr-Cardillo of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, say that provision is a judicial finding, not a legislative act, so voters can't override the NPA in such a roughshod manner.

"It shows the contempt they have for the citizens," Kromko says. "It's very clear what the Neighborhood Protection Amendment requires and they know it."

Kromko is joined as a plaintiff in the suit by Andy Mosier, a graphic designer who also pens the "K. Rat" strip found back in the Weekly's Classified section, and Susan Chambers Casteloes, who owns a home near Grant and Cherry.

The suit, before Superior Court Judge Ted Borek, asks the court to force the city to give voters the chance to approve the individual GSIs in accordance with the NPA.

City Attorney Michael House said he hadn't had time to review the lawsuit as of press time, but remains confident that the proposition's language is just fine the way it is. "We believe the Mayor and Council have the legal authority to ask voters to approve a transportation plan in this form," he says.


DAY'S NEW MASCOT: We reported earlier that Supervisor Ann Day's chief aide, George Goebel, was leaving to take a job with the New Jersey political consulting firm that got a $35,000 no-bid contract from Pima County to produce two television spots promoting the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan that we have yet to see and probably never will.

Day has decided on his replacement: Mike Boyd's former chief aide, Ron St. John. St. John will join a couple of other former Boyd staffers in Day's office. Day apparently has few political contacts or loyalists of her own. Perhaps she should consider Kelly Services or just run an ad somewhere in the classifieds; the job pays over 50 grand with full bennies, so it shouldn't be that hard to fill without resorting to political retreads.

And speaking of retreads, this is the same Ron St. John who raised a bunch of money back in '96 to run for the state Legislature and then proceeded to piss it away on a bunch of personal stuff like shirts, computer gear and a set of tires he claimed were for a rental car which had "unsafe" tires on it. He ultimately chose not to run but only returned some of the money, making him one of the bigger flakes in local politics. That reputation in no way reduced his ability to function as Boyd's aide, as Boyd himself was an even bigger political flake.

But we always thought Day wanted a little more out of the District 1 office, like someone actually answering the phone. It will be amusing watching St. John adapt to a role which might even require that he do some work.


BEING RAÚL: Raúl Grijalva is taking the plunge, leaving the loftiest local perch as chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, in stages. First a letter to supervisors, then more time to clean out the District 5 office he's occupied since 1989. He is set to address Democrats of Greater Tucson on Feb. 18 -- the day before he celebrates his 54th birthday -- and then get to running for Congress in the new Southern and Western Arizona District 7.

Those he leaves will choose a successor. Grijalva has promised not to anoint, a stance that doesn't help activist Salomon Baldenegro. Dan Eckstrom, the Democrat who is the only supervisor to serve longer than Grijalva, is in the driver's seat, though the state Constitution threw a wrench into his plan by barring appointment of one of his crew chiefs, state Sen. Ramon Omar Valadez.

Grijalva joked last week that Irma Yepez Perez is the frontrunner because she has one solid vote. That comes from Republican Ray Carroll. Perez and Carroll aide Scott Egan worked with Perez at the Ward 1 council office of Bruce Wheeler before Perez narrowly lost to José Ibarra in the 1995 Democratic primary to succeed Wheeler.

Democratic Supervisor Sharon Bronson is pushing for a woman in the seat, but she has her own favorite: Her campaign treasurer, Anne Chen Graham-Bergin, a onetime NIMBY lawyer who went big time in the tower at One South Church with Raven & Kirschner, now Raven & Awerkamp. She and the firm, which once included Barry Kirschner, husband of Bronson aide Leslie Nixon, battled the county over the knot that was Avra Valley Airport several years ago.

Graham-Bergin, 43, once sat on the county Planning and Zoning Commission, an appointment Grijalva has trouble remembering.

She's got at least one blemish on her record. As treasurer of the Bronson's 2000 re-election campaign, she'll have to explain why donor Ralph Wong, a former longtime member of the county Fair Commission, is listed as giving two $320 in-kind contributions to Bronson on Nov. 1, 2000, for food. Bronson was allowed to exceed the $320 cap on contributions for a time because her Republican challenger, Barney Brenner, exceeded the threshold on money from his own pocket.

Still, the Wong contribution is improperly reported. Wong's credit card receipt shows that the Lariat charged him $798.25 on July 30, 2000.

Whoever becomes Raúl has six months before the September primary election to try to retain the seat for the two years left in Grijalva's term.


LONELY AT THE TOP: We hear there's tension between Gov. Jane Dee Hull and Secretary of State Betsey Bayless these days. Although the two were once close pals -- Hull appointed Bayless to Secretary of State after she left the office to become governor -- relations have recently become frosty as Bayless has begun her own pursuit of the governor's seat.

The chill set in during last year's special session, when Hull didn't support a bill that would have helped do away with punch-card balloting in state elections. Bayless was leading the reform charge, hoping that the pandering would prove popular with voters following the Y2K Florida fiasco. But Hull slapped down the effort.

Bayless would be most grateful if Hull would just step down, maybe to grab a cushy appointment from the Bush administration. That move would allow Betsey to run for governor as an incumbent, albeit an appointed one.

But Hull is either determined to stick out her responsibilities or is fielding any good job offers, because it appears she's going to hang on to the end of her term.


POLL AXED: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Newcomb, the doctor out patiently collecting the 4,000 $5 contributions to qualify for $409,950 in public dollars for the Democratic primary, certainly knows how to put out positive spin.

In a recent Rocky Mountain Poll, Newcomb picked up a whopping 4 percent of the vote statewide, compared to 34 percent for Demo front-runner Janet Napolitano and 7 percent for former state lawmaker Alfredo Gutierrez. Newcomb did even worse among likely voters, picking up just 2 percent compared to Napolitano's 40 percent and Gutierrez's 5 percent.

Newcomb's response in a press release: "Doctor Mike Newcomb now is statistically tied for second place in the Democratic primary for governor."

Newcomb went on to say: "This poll validates what we have been seeing as we travel the state. The citizens of Arizona are embracing our vision of investing in Arizona's greatest asset, its people. This is a true grassroots campaign with tremendous momentum. We have come out of the gate running hard."

That's one way of looking at it. Then there's the pollster's analysis: "Newcomb barely move(s) the needle at 4 percent."


LEFTOVERS: Left hungry after the Weekly's kumbaya jambalaya ("Pol Pot," January 24-30)? That's because only 17 of the promised 18 bill-stuffed dumplings were served up. Somewhere on the way to the table, Rep. Marion Pickons' contribution jumped out of the kettle.

First the Daily Star, now the Weekly, Pickons laments. The Star habitually skips her, she claims.

Pickons can pick her chin up. Valentine's Day is coming up and she's promoting a bill that will score big with people who like sex. Maybe the Star will call.

Her "contraceptive equity" bill, which doesn't quite mean everyone gets laid, expands the variety of female prescriptions for preventing babies that insurance companies cover, namely, the pill, IUD and Norplant. No word yet on colors and textures.


JUDICIAL ERROR: On January 30, the Supreme Court rolled out its new bionic offering, an online search that boasts a scope of more than 136 courts.

To flex its muscle, High Judicial Priestess Ruth McGregor entered in the names of suspected Sept. 11 terrorists. And sure enough, Arizona's judicial system had them and let them go.

It seemed like a promising toy. But days later the Skinny-gone-weekend lawyer was left rattling his fingers when the only result the Public Access service could produce was a cryptic error message.

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