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The Skinny

UNEVEN: Tax Lady Brenda Even is back. And she's got the whole damn county to levy now.

Appointed to the foothills seat on the Pima Community College board after the death of Ted "Miracle Mile" Koff, Even has slowly been awaiting her opportunity to spring a hefty tax increase.

It's one that she is squirming not to pay.

Whining about cuts from the admittedly backwards governor and inept Legislature, the PCC board wants to whack property owners--whom PCC founders promised would be spared such taxes--for mo' money to go with the nearly 7 percent increases in tuition.

Pima College property taxes, already at $155 on a $100,000 home and $387 on a similarly valued business, would increase by about $18. The Pima board will attempt to jack up secondary taxes to do this and that's news that even the complacent homeowners in TUSD can't ignore. Unlike the at-the-limit primary tax rate, there is no homeowner cap or discount for secondary taxes. Voters will have to reject this override.

Even is cushioned. She fled the high taxes she imposed while on the Tucson Unified School District Board from 1990-'98 (TUSD property tax rates soared 51 percent under Even) and moved into a grossly undervalued, luxury townhome high in the Catalina Foothills. Even paid $360,000 for the Finesterra cocoon in October 2000, but it is on the tax rolls for a mere $280,000. She's paying $385 in PCC taxes when she should pay $554. The difference would pay for a four-credit course for some poor PCC student.

It gets worse for you and better for Brenda and her savvy partners in their Transamerica Building, 177 N. Church Ave. This office building has been spruced up and is on the tax rolls for $4.5 million. Even and her chorus cry poverty, claiming the Transamerica is worth a measly $3 million. In other words, Even would like to pay a third less in property taxes to PCC--$10,105 instead of $15,082. The difference could pay for 127 credits at PCC--enough for two associate's degrees.

Even also is a cheapskate on some warehouse property she owns on the southside. It is on the tax rolls for $335,275, yet she claims it is worth only $241,398. The PCC tax bill here is $908. Even would feel better if it were cut by $254.

She's not alone. Scott Stewart is an embarrassment as a Libertarian advocating for higher tuition and higher taxes at PCC. Liberal Democrats Richard Fimbres and Marty Cortez are oblivious cheerleaders for Jeff Scurran's costly ego trip. Sherryn Marshall is alone is exhibiting some restraint.

WRONG NUMBER: The city's high-priced shills for the half-cent sales tax for road and intersection improvements are going all out for young high-propensity voters in the early ballot drive that begins this week. Their boiler rooms were busy calling some young voters we know south of Broadway to bray about the deluxe parts of the 10-year, $400 million transportation plan.

One wily voter played dumb, saying gosh, gee, he couldn't really remember his polling place. Don't worry, he was reassured, we'll get an early ballot to you in advance of the May 21 election.

One problem that One To One didn't anticipate on that night and the others it was busy calling voters in the city of South Tucson, who are ineligible to vote on the transportation plan.

JAIME BOND: Tucson's Industrial Development Authority is pushing a horrifically bad plan to issue $23 million in low-interest, tax-free bonds to garbage ogre Waste Management for five projects, all outside the city, including a $9 million bailout package for the troubled Butterfield facility in Mobile in Maricopa County. Remember Mobile and the $35 million Arizona taxpayers were forced to shell out to prevent the state from becoming one of the nation's top hazardous waste dumps? Even then-Gov. J. Fife Symington saw that danger.

But apparently the deal has blinded Jaime Gutierrez, the former Democratic state senator and current congressional candidate.

Gutierrez is the chairman of the city IDA board. With landfill space quickly shrinking in Tucson and Pima County, Gutierrez's board thinks it nifty to help Waste Management fix up facilities in Florence (even Pinal County is on to Waste Management), in Phoenix and Joseph in Apache County.

How does this deal fit with the Tucson IDA mission statement? It declares that the IDA "(is) committed to improving the standard of living of the resident of Tucson.... Funded projects must serve a public purpose while sustaining the long term fiscal viability of the IDA."

What's with this drive by both the city and county IDAs to dole out big money for projects all over Phoenix and Maricopa County?

Four-term Councilman Steve Leal, a southside Democrat, wisely demanded City Council approval. And Gutierrez and others need to get something straight: The only thing this has to do with the Congressional race is if Waste Management litters his campaign treasury with its famous contributions.

CAN'T SPELL FELIX WITHOUT F-I-X: At TUSD, Paul Felix, a member of The Weekly's Fix-Is-In Hall of Shame, is being fixed again in a brand new job for which he is not qualified. Now Felix, longtime boy of board member the Rev. Joel T. Ireland, will go from his pork-barrel job in Human Resources to assistant principal at Hohokam School on the southwest side. It is a school that most people in TUSD have tried hard to make sure has skilled leadership, evidenced by Principal John Michel, who was completely sidestepped.

Yaqui parents are furious, as is board member Judy Burns, who told Felix's other protector, board President Mary Belle McCorkle, that the appointment was a "continuation of a time-honored tradition in TUSD of moving incompetent people from one place to another with total disregard for the students or the other employees."

The other scam underway is to reward flunky former board member James Christ with a high-paying administrative job.

TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS: Independent campaign committees are supposed to 'fess up to the Secretary of State's office each time they spend more than $530 slamming or promoting a candidate. That way, the Clean Elections Commission can even the score easily with a matching check to publicly funded opponent.

But what's the fun in spending soft money if the opposition stands to benefit? It's likely many independent campaigners will risk the fine by ignoring the requirement. After all, the commission will have to catch them first--and if the independent campaigns wait until a few days before election day to do their dirty deeds, then the money won't get to the targeted candidate in time to do anything, anyway.

This month the commission set the groundwork for a political speech enforcement team. It's not quite the thought police, but close.

The Commission has contracted a team of professional boob-tube junkies, the Campaign Media Analysis Group, to watchdog the airwaves for unreported TV advertisements. They also released a list of 15 newspapers it'll be combing through on a daily basis. Soft-money spenders would be smart to stay away from the Daily Star, which made the list twice.

The enforcement team also proposes to track e-mail communication, although it's beyond us how they'll estimate how much spam costs.

Once the team has found an unreported ad, the burden of proof is on the commission to prove that the communiqué "expressly" advocates the election or defeat of a "clearly identified" candidate.

It comes down to language. Here are some examples of hypothetical independent slogans and how the Commission would deal with them:

· "Vote for Bayless."

This would obviously trigger more money for Secretary of State Betsey Bayless's publicly funded primary opponent, likely Treasurer Carol Springer.

Whoever paid for the ad would be subject to a $320 per day fine. In legislative races, it's $110 a day.

· "Don't Vote for the Nerd in the Toupee."

In this case, the enforcement team would have to determine whether Mark Osterloh really wears a hairpiece in order to write him an equalization check.

· "Cummiskey Rocks"

Theoretically, the independent committee could argue its way out of this one, because it doesn't actually advocate the election.

· "Elect Jaime--If you like Stupid Kids."

Even though the words literally advocate the election of Superintendent of Public Instruction incumbent Jaime Molera, the commission already has decided that this sort of sarcasm will not trigger matching funds for opponents.

Narrowly passed by voters in 1998, the Clean Elections Act provides public funds to candidates who qualify by collecting enough $5 contributions. To deter soft money spending by independent campaign committees, it provides even more money for participating candidates if independent committees get into the fight with negative or (less likely) positive campaigns.

Crafty advertising slogans are one way around it. An easier way is for a special interest to simply spend a lot of money discreetly slamming the candidate it wants to support.

In other words, if you wanted to give a publicly-funded candidate an extra edge without triggering matching funds for the opposition, you could simply put up a row of expensive billboards in the middle of the desert saying, for example, "Janet Napolitano Deserves Prison, Not the Governor's Office." Then you report the spending to the commission, who would then write Napolitano an equalization check.

ROAD SHOWS: If you haven't learned all you need to know about the city's transportation plan by reading this week's insightful feature story, you can attend a debate next week sponsored by the Democrats of Greater Tucson.

The forum will feature proposition proponents Katie Dusenberry, chair of the Let's Go Tucson committee, and Tom McGovern, of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, taking on Steve Farley, founder of Citizens for Sensible Transportation, and John Kromko, a former lawmaker and co-sponsor of the Neighborhood Protection Amendment.

The debate will be moderated by KOLD anchor Bud Foster, who wants to know how the proposition will affect local golf courses.

The debate is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Plumber's and Steamfitter's Union Hall, 2475 E. Water St. (on Tucson Boulevard, one block north of Grant Road).

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