CALIFORNIA DREAMINGTucson City Manager James Keene has told Mayor Bob Walkup and the city council to "take this job and shove it," calling it quits after four years in the top post.
Is this a case of Keene walking before they make him run?
Keene is telling the media that the move is purely for personal reasons--he's got family back in Northern California, near where he'll be working as exec director for the Sacramento-based California State Association of Counties. (This lobbying organization somehow got called a "think tank" in early reports from City Hall. Think tank? Perhaps there's a lot of thinking that goes into deciding what drinks will be included in the next round as the yokel county officials git a little lobbyin' done in Sacramento.)
Contrary to the constant rumors he was interviewing elsewhere, Keene insists that he wasn't even looking for work until he got a call from a headhunter inviting him to apply.
But it has been a rocky tenure for Keene. Three Democrats--Steve Leal, José Ibarra and Shirley Scott--shopped for a fourth vote to fire him midway through his tenure. And this year, he had several high-profile screw-ups, including the botched relocation of downtown's Greyhound Bus terminal and the disastrous stab at using water hook-ups to extort pre-annexation agreements from developers in the Rincon Valley.
The water fight was an especially humiliating experience for Keene, with a majority of council members complaining that the manager slipped his plans past them in the fine print of a five-page memo. After Tucson Water officials surprised developers with a demand that they agree to sign away their future customers' right to reject annexation by the city, all hell broke loose. The ensuing chaos--which included crowds of angry Vail residents packing the council chambers to tell them to stay the hell out of their neighborhood--left the city's water policy in shambles and the annexation atmosphere more poisoned than ever.
Even Keene supporter Carol West, an eastside Democrat, says the water-for-annexation affair was handled horribly. And Republican Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar, who repeatedly clashed with Keene during the fiasco, made it pretty clear Keene was on her last nerve.
By the time Dunbar was talking tough, though, we're told Keene had flipped at least one of his earlier detractors, so he wasn't in any immediate danger of being axed. Still, the whole ugly episode must have made another offer pretty tempting.
In his new job, Keene can now help another former Berkeley city manager who failed (for different reasons) at Tucson City Hall. The explosive Michael F. Brown, who recently received a short extension to his contract, is the manager of Santa Barbara County.
While he lacked Brown's nasty temper, Keene was just arrogant enough to alienate members of the city council and to construe the city charter's provisions for a strong city manager as a mandate to run roughshod over elected officials. Who could blame him? He's definitely smarter than most of the council members.
While Keene had monumental failures like the transportation sales tax and picked stupid fights with the media and County Manager Chuck Huckelberry, he helped to modernize most city departments and to ring the bell that Tucson can no longer just float year to year while draining reserve funds and letting the streets crumble.
Who's in line? Assistant Managers Benny Young and Liz Rodriguez Miller will top some lists and then flare or flame out. Albert Elias, now attempting the job of planning director, can relax and keep his salon appointments. That leaves David Modeer, the director and television pitchman for Tucson Water. He's a big favorite of Walkup's.
THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FORWhen the city's troubled solid waste department was assigned adult supervision by Tucson Water, who knew the babysitters would charge? And charge big?
Tucson Water, a utility that cannot in theory spend money on non-water-related operations, helped solid waste with customer service and billing tips. Tucson Water then handed solid waste a $120,000 bill.
Ouch--that kind of jack is in not in solid waste's budget.
COULTER CLUBBEDThe Skinny has learned that there's an ideologue on the left who somehow manages to match Ann Coulter, the Eminem of the GOP, in sheer lunatic offensiveness. No, it's not Michael Moore to whom we refer. In fact, Ann's liberal counterpart in distastefulness is one Louten Narc, a self-styled "welfare abuser/spammer/deadbeat dad" who's originally from Kingman.
When told the UA College Republicans were bringing Coulter to speak at Centennial Hall, Narc was apoplectic. "You tell that diseased harpy she's as welcome here as a seeping case of the clap," he declared. Narc claims to be the originator of the "shock value" punditry aesthetic with which Coulter has made her thousands. "You can talk to that treasonous, slanderous shrew if you must, but I warn you it's the equivalent of being tongue-kissed by Fidel Castro after a bender and a couple of cigars. And I would know," says Narc.
Coulter's celebrated acidic contempt for leftists, which trucks no difference between New York Times readers and, say, the Gang of Four, is set to be on full display when she takes the Centennial stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, for what the College Republicans intend as a de facto rebuttal to Moore's speech of last Monday. How sad that Republicans--the party of war dead, record deficit and infidelity--are reduced to putting Coulter in the tiny Centennial Hall, when Moore was easily able to fill the cavernous McKale Center. But not to worry--we're sure she'll reassure her crowd that size doesn't matter.
No word yet on how the College Republicans plan to protect "that vile, infested sewer of calumny and propaganda" (Narc's words) from the same kind of annoying disruptions that showered down upon Moore from the cheap seats of the McKale Center during his sold-out visit last week. The right's usual method of quieting dissent, the loyalty oath, is not an option--campus being a "free speech zone" and all.
Since tickets for the event were distributed by the College Republicans, of which there are several, there will doubtless be some Coulter supporters on hand in the 2,500-capacity hall. But the smart bet is that Ann, for the first time in her life, won't be able to get any words in edgewise. "And as flat as she is, she's no good at playing tit-for-tat," says Narc.
Thanks largely to the ideo-largesse of über-salesman Jim Click, seeing Coulter speechify (or more correctly, seeing Coulter's speech be disrupted) is gratifyingly free, despite her ludicrous $37,000 appearance fee. But this further inflames Narc, who promises to one day reclaim all that "liar money" he thinks is rightfully his. "She'll be paying me to speak once I file my class action. Evil skank."
EARLY DEADLINEThe Tucson Suffragettes would like to remind all citizens that Friday, Oct. 22, is the last day for you to request an early ballot. Get yours by calling 740-7330.
The Suffragettes also announced they have bagged Linda Ronstadt for the all-out excitement of the Virgin Voter ball at Hotel Congress on Election Night. The party will continue until 2 a.m., when we'll all be watching reports about malfunctioning touchscreens in Palm Beach.