comment

COLOR GUARD

The UA College Republicans are promoting a new plan to improve the educational atmosphere on campus: an American flag in every classroom! Hell, who could argue with that?

We can. We hate to sound un-American (again!), but it's a bad idea. Sure, the delightful young Republicans can probably raise enough money to pay for the flags privately--maybe just from GOP-father Jim Click. But surely the money can be used better elsewhere, like maybe on copies of Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies, for all members of the Republican club.

Draping the flag in every classroom is a lousy idea, because flags aren't just dust cloths. They need to be treated with the kind of respect that they're not gonna get once they're in every lab and lecture hall on campus. They'll be stolen; they'll be torn; they'll be soiled in ways we'd rather not imagine.

Would you want to abandon a baby in every classroom at the UA? Then you shouldn't want to leave a flag, either.

By the way, if you're looking for a good time, the College Republicans are sponsoring Conservative Week, beginning April 11. Michael Cole, an executive board member, promises lots of fun stuff, like a blood drive.


BETWEEN THE LINES

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission met last week to consider public comment on the most recent legislative map, which was drawn in reaction to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Field's order that the group develop more competitive districts in the state.

By the end of the day, Pima County Democrats had been screwed once again.

A quick recap of the redistricting process: Back in the '90s, Pima County had three heavily Democratic districts, two heavily Republican districts and one swing district. Democrat Jim Pederson, who's now chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, then spent more than $600,000 of his own money pushing a successful initiative to create the Independent Redistricting Commission, which was supposedly going to draw more "competitive" districts.

So what happened when the commission was done with the maps? In Pima County, we lost a swing district and ended up with three solidly Democratic districts and two heavily Republican districts.

Then a group of disgruntled Democrats sued, because not enough districts were competitive. Fields agreed and ordered the commission to have at least seven competitive districts statewide.

So a new map with eight competitive districts statewide was released last month that looked pretty good for Pima County Democrats: Two districts were heavily Democratic; two were likely wins for the Democrats; and the fifth was solidly Republican.

Local Republicans didn't much groove on that. Led by Growth Lobby political operatives at SAHBA, they sent more than 400 petition signatures, e-mails and faxes to the commission, complaining that the maps were now unfair. Meanwhile, local Democrats didn't make an audible peep.

The commission agreed with the Republicans, re-drawing the map one more time so that there were only seven competitive districts statewide. Under the latest maps, Pima County has two heavily Democratic districts, two heavily Republican districts and one swing district. Amazing what a little tinkering can do, isn't it?

So now Democrats are worse off than were in the 1990s.

The new maps also save Sen. Tim Bee's ass. A second-term Republican, Bee had been drawn into a Demo-heavy district with Democratic Sen. Gabrielle Giffords. Bee was so worried about running against his old pal Gabby that he was telling reporters he might quit the biz altogether. Now that he's safe again, what do you want to bet he runs for re-election?

One thing to keep in mind: The latest maps still need federal approval, while the June deadline for candidates to file to run for office is fast approaching. Given that Field's ruling to re-draw the districts is still under appeal, we wouldn't be surprised to see the commission's original maps used for the upcoming election cycle.


COUNT ON IT

Tom Burke will become Pima County's director of finance when Carol Bonchalk retires later this year.

This change in county bureaucracy merits notice, because of the immense power involved and Bonchalk's uncanny-Annie Oakley ability to shoot down bureaucratic and political rivals.

Bonchalk is pulling down $120,078 a year, a far cry from the paltry money she collected when the former nursing-home administrator joined the county as a deputy in the budget office back in the late 1980s. Always capable, Bonchalk catapulted to county stardom when Big Ed Moore and his Republican posse took power in 1993. When Ed was forced to ride out as the sun set on 1996, Democrats Sharon Bronson, Dan Eckstrom and Raúl Grijalva declared that Bonchalk, 53, was a Moore partisan who would be canned. Ha! She continued to rise and became Pima Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry's right-hand money-woman.

Bonchalk is loved or hated. There's no in-between. She can be frank, abrasive, helpful and penny-pinching with the county money that she considers hers.

Bonchalk is a Republican. Burke is a Democrat. Trust us: In the hyper-partisan nature of county government, these colors matter even in appointed positions. Her endurance exposed the failure of the Democratic board majority to deliver for its own.

Burke, once on the path to become a Jesuit priest, earned accounting and law degrees. Burke, 49, maintained his CPA certification until recently. He was highly respected as the director of county property management--the county's real estate office that is fraught with good ol' boys and political hacks. It also is subject to constant incursions by real estate speculators, from sharks to bottom feeders, who circle around the county's inventory to snag profitable insider deals. After a stint in private practice, Burke returned as a deputy county attorney. Then he was dispatched to parks and recreation--sorry, it's been fancied up as the Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation--to be the money guy and deputy to Raphael Payan. Burke is making $89,003 these days


WAL-MART WELFARE

The Oro Valley Town Council is continuing to debate how big of a subsidy they'll pay Phoenix-based developer Vestar for building a shopping center at Tangerine and Oracle roads.

Leave aside, for the moment, the fact that Vestar probably doesn't need a fat subsidy, given that the parcel is in the path of massive development within one of Arizona's wealthiest communities. Take a look north to Chandler, whose council cut a similar deal with Vestar for millions in diverted sales-tax revenues.

Like Oro Valley, Chandler council members were told they were buying a really high-end "boutique retail community" called Ocotillo Towne Center when they made the deal last August. But in February, Vestar posted the list of incoming tenants on the site. It included well-known high class boutiques Wal-Mart and Hollywood Video.

Vestar removed the signs after the phones started ringing, and company officials say that no leases have actually been signed yet. Right--and the same can be said for the pending deal in Oro Valley. In both cases, the developer will control who are the ultimate tenants. Biker bar, anyone?

And on a related Oro Valley note: The Skinny erroneously reported that the Golder Ranch Firefighters had endorsed incumbent Councilman Bart Rochman, along with challenger Conny Culver for the two seats with a two-year term. They chose not to endorse Rochman, citing his poor record on their issues. That leaves Culver as a single shot in that race, while Helen Dankwerth, Barry Gilaspie and Terry Parrish have been endorsed for the three four-year seats also up for grabs on Tuesday, May 18.


DISCRIMINATING TASTE

Superintendent Stan Paz, aided by his legal team and a TUSD governing board who fails to understand who is in charge, is gutting the powers of the district's court-required desegregation monitoring committee.

Paz and Jane Butler, the head of TUSD legal services, hope to starve the Independent Citizens Committee by cutting off funding and support and by improperly robbing the group of its responsibilities.

For example, Paz has boldly declared that he can personally set school visit/monitoring assignments. That's been a duty of the citizens committee.

There's some fun ahead. Mike Tully, the former TUSD lawyer who fell victim to Butler's vendetta and lost his job last year, is signed up to serve as local counsel for the Mexican-American plaintiffs in the 30-year-old desegregation lawsuit.

TUSD will do more than protest. The cash-strapped district will waste more money by having hired gun Richard Yetwin object to Tully's participation with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

What's at stake? TUSD's planned closing of Keen Elementary School, among other issues. U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury, who inherited the case soon after he took the bench last year, will have to allow more time for a response by Tully and MALDEF on the Keen closing.

And former TUSD board member Sylvia Campoy is now on the Independent Citizens Committee. That's great. Hell hath no fury like Sylvia and her computer. She'll investigate, poke, prod, snoop and bury TUSD in paper and e-mail. Campoy may have screwed up as chair of the county's meddling Health Care Commission (the one that chased out Surgeon General Richard Carmona as county health CEO), but she did a fine job on the TUSD board. She was brighter than the others in sniffing out that then-Superintendent George F. Garcia was all blow and no go. Her loss in 1992 was a setback to students, parents and teachers.


GET EXERCISE; FIGHT CANCER

Planning on stretching your legs during the Southern Arizona Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's Race for the Cure on Sunday, April 18? Why not sign up now?

Organizers are getting a bit antsy this year, because fewer folks are registering for the 5K walk/run. (A shorter, one-mile family walk is another option.) They're worried that a late rush will overwhelm the volunteers who handle registration.

So if you want to help out on race day--organizers hope to raise $600,000 this year, three-fourths of which will remain in Pima County to help victims of breast cancer--go get yourself an entry form, available at all Safeway stores, McDonald's restaurants, Robinsons May and online at komensaz.org.

The fun begins at 7 a.m. in Reid Park. For more info, call 325-7223.

Add a comment