News & Opinion » The Skinny

The Skinny

STORMY DAY: Who the hell is running the Republican Party? President Bush comes to town, sort of, and Republican Supervisor Ann Day is left off the invitation list. Outrageous! Do Bush and the GOP realize that he wouldn't be president if it weren't for Ann's sister, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor?

THE ANNA PRINCIPLE: Anna Rivera, Ph.D. --be sure to include the Ph.D., just like Wile E. Coyote included "Genius" when introducing himself to a certain waskally wabbit--is the new senior academic officer for leadership at the Tucson Unified School District. A big salute to Superintendent Stan Paz for promoting Rivera, formerly principal of Lawrence Intermediate School on the southwest side.

Here are the highlights of Dr. Rivera's leadership at Lawrence, according to recent results from the Stanford 9 tests. They are given in percentile rank; 50 is the national average. Let's start with third grade at Lawrence. The language arts score is 18, down from 27; math is 11, down from 21; reading is 13, down from 23. Fourth-grade language arts fell from 29 to 22; math fell from 24 to 18; and reading fell from 28 to 26, but that's a bonus because that is the highest score at Lawrence. For fifth grade, language arts fell from 21 to 19; math from 22 to 20; and reading--we're always happy to oblige TUSD and end on a positive note--rose from 20 to 24.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: If there's one growth industry in Arizona during good times and bad, it's criminal behavior. The state's prisons are now incarcerating about 4,000 more prisoners than we have room for. Add to that a regular shortage of guards, er, correctional officers, and you have a system that's in serious crisis.

Being tough on crime sounds good on the campaign trail, but there's a cost to taxpayers. The corrections budget has skyrocketed, from about $251 million in 1993 to close to $580 million in 2003--an increase of 131 percent, higher than any other area of the budget.

A review of the state's mandatory sentencing laws is overdue (and there's a House of Representatives committee looking into it), but we expect that reducing criminal penalties isn't going to be an easy sell at the Arizona Legislature. The Napolitano administration wants to look at alternatives to incarceration, such as intensive probation, house arrest and bracelet monitoring, which, given the advances in GPS and computer technology, make a lot of sense.

GOP lawmakers have their own plan: privatizing the prison system. They figure that private corporations have an easier time finding a site for the prisons and are willing to front all the cash to build 'em, confident that there's a future market for all those cells.

But there are some functions that should remain a state responsibility. Incarceration is one of 'em. The only way private operations can spend less per prisoner and still turn a profit is by cutting corners--and for the sake of guards, low-level criminals and the general public, this is no place to do that.

WRATH OF CONSERVATIVES: Does Rep. Marian McClure need to be worried? We hear her fellow House member, Majority Whip Randy Graf (and doesn't that title conjure up all kinds of kinky S&M scenarios?), is quietly helping find a more conservative candidate willing to knock Marian off in next year's GOP primary.

McClure and Graf represent Legislative District 30, which is rapidly mutating into the Mesa of Southern Arizona. The district, which includes southeastern Tucson, Green Valley and Sierra Vista, is home to a lot of Republicans from the cave-dweller wing of the party who are steadily building their power base. Breaking with tradition, leaders in the district recently pushed a plan that now allows precinct committeemen to vote to endorse candidates in primaries. And the idiotic initiative that would keep illegal aliens from acquiring library cards is a big hit with LD 30 leaders. We're told Rep. Pete Hershberger, from Tucson's northwest side, was lucky to make it out alive after he gave LD 30 leaders a briefing on Rep. Jim Kolbe's proposed guest worker program.

McClure, a mostly moderate Republican, was the weak sister in 2002, trailing Graf by more than 2,500 votes in the two-person race. Sounds like somebody sees her as easy pickings next year.

BOTTOM-LINE RADIO: Given KXCI's love of money and its newly discovered obsession with political correctness, former programmer Jim Swope had a great time confronting KXCI's new president, Tom Spendiarian, about Spendo's attitude during an earlier period of community radio tumult.

Spendiarian had just been installed by his KXCI board allies when Swope, the former host of Jim's Joke Joint, reminded him that he didn't think much of programming criticism during debate in 1989.

As read by Swope, this is what Spendiarian wrote about the earlier episode of station controversy: "I am single, white heterosexual male and my tastes reflect what I am. Am I supposed to feel guilty because the slimy sided, frog-faced, silt-eating slugs on the (KXCI) community relations board feel that I should be a handicapped, minority, homosexual, left-wing, radical drug-addicted Tibet Buddhist?"

Assessing critics who had aired grievances in the Arizona Daily Star, Spendiarian said: "Screw those wimps. ... Don't listen to such swine."

Just kidding, insists Spendiarian, an architect and member of the influential Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission. He was just trying his hand at National Lampoon-style humor.

KARAOKE NIGHT AT THE CITIZEN: Music man Irwin M Goldberg, who moonlighted as the business editor of Gannett's parasitic partner in the Tucson joint operating agreement known as Tucson Newspapers Inc., has been bumped up to city editor.

No word yet if he'll have to cut back his karaoke business, but his team leaders will also handle the remaining business reporters.

The Citizen is scoring a few points, however. It scooped all last week with the story about how the feds knew that the gas pipeline that ruptured on Tucson's westside July 30 was defective for 15 years. The Citizen did a good job getting the documents that showed the Kinder Morgan pipe was corroded and had defects.

The Citizen also has Tucson's best Mexican-American columnist, Sal Baldenegro. He's insightful, writes well, didn't grow up in some Pollyanna fantasy land and has the battle scars to back it all up.

Down the hall from the Citizen, credit must be given to health care reporter Jane Erikson for closely following the appalling July 15 death of Wendy Gazda in Kino Community Hospital's psychiatric unit. We dropped into Kino last week and must note that the once-wonderful hospital that has survived derision, ridicule, attack and neglect from the Board of Supervisors and county administration was once able to fend all that off as downtown political nonsense.

No longer. There is a real sense of foreboding at Kino. You wonder if you check in whether you will walk out or be shipped out in a bag to the coroner.

Back to the Star: Sports has a new look. Debbie Kornmiller, the Star reader advocate, briefed some of the changes in sports but failed to note that Terrance Harris is long gone. Harris could miss wildly: He once said John Mackovic was going to the University of Washington and Mike Price to the UA. But he offered a different perspective. Star brass wanted an even different perspective, so Harris was to be reassigned to UA women's sports. Ha.

Kristen Davis was reassigned to head prep coverage while Brian J. Pedersen, a first-class cheerleader, graduated from preps to second-string UA coverage. And Harris? He now covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune.

Add a comment