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NO BUSINESS LIKE FLOW BUSINESS

Readers of the Arizona Daily Star have been treated to not one, but two stories about how magnanimous Tucson Water is toward stepchildren: the Flowing Wells Irrigation District and the town of Marana.

Meanwhile, City Hall's behemoth water utility wants to control as much CAP water as possible, which is why city bureaucrats and lawyers conned the easily duped City Council into condemning Flowing Wells Irrigation in a preposterous takeover bid launched in December. For Tucson Water, it was essentially a legal ruse to better position the city to grab 1,500 acre-feet of CAP water that Flowing Wells was negotiating to turn over to Marana. But for Flowing Wells, it was an attack on the company's future.

Flowing Wells should have immediately countersued to condemn Tucson Water, but it didn't need to. Critics created enough turbulence that Republican Mayor Bob Walkup said, on the John C. Scott radio show a couple weeks back, that the council would rescind the vote to condemn Flowing Wells.

We thought we didn't hear that correctly, given that the mayor was talking to Scott well before 7 a.m. over there at KJLL 1330 AM. But Scott, showing his utility, got the mayor to repeat the vow. Of course, neither the mayor nor any of his council colleagues has done anything to rescind the action. And last week, the powerful bureaucrats and lawyers hung City Councilman Kathleen Dunbar out to dry when she attended a water forum in Flowing Wells.

Dunbar, a Republican, has trouble following the flow anyway, a point painfully exposed during one of her own friendly fire radio appearances. She proclaimed that city voters who aren't Tucson Water customers cannot vote in the May city water bond election.

Right. And there's a poll tax, too. She has a sizeable bloc of Flowing Wells Irrigation users in her northside Ward 3. And they most certainly can vote in any city election.

At the water meeting, Dunbar tried to calm the crowd by saying the city was talking to Flowing Wells and Marana and was close to a negotiated settlement on the claims for Central Arizona Project allotments. But she got called on that by Flowing Wells and Marana honchos who said no settlement was imminent, and, in fact, there had been little or no substantive talks.

Dunbar, completing her first term, should realize by now that city bureaucrats love to watch her lose these Marco Polo games every time.

It is just the type of childish splashing that incoming City Manager Mike Hein shouldn't tolerate.


OOH, LOOK! UHLICH!

Speaking of Kathleen Dunbar: Her opponent, Democrat Karin Uhlich, made a formal announcement earlier this week that she's running for the Ward 3 seat.

Uhlich brought in a bigger crowd of supporters to the Democrats of Greater Tucson meeting than Democrat Steve Farley did a week earlier for his announcement that he was running on the Democratic ticket in Fred Ronstadt's Ward 6. (But Farley was just billed as a speaker on transportation--and the change in topic drew complaints from some of the tighter-wound luncheon regulars.)

Former Mayor George Miller, who is co-chairing the campaign with his wife, Roz, introduced Uhlich, recounting her experience at homeless advocacy outfit Primavera Foundation and her more recent work heading up the Southwest Center for Economic Integrity. Given that background, it's no surprise to see that many of Uhlich's supporters tend to be from the social-justice gang, like onetime Green Party legislative candidate Katie Bolger, who's promising to get voters off their asses in Wards 1 and 5 this year.

As a testament to her early organization, Uhlich announced she already had more than enough $10 contributions to qualify for the city's publicly funded campaign program, which provides a dollar-for-dollar match for privately raised contributions. Dunbar has elected to take no public funds this year, allowing her to sidestep the program's provision that limits campaign spending to about $80,000.

Knocking out the incumbent Dunbar won't be easy. As Uhlich herself acknowledged, Dunbar's staff has done a terrific job on neighborhood outreach and constituent service. Kathleen has good relations with the business and development community, which makes it likely she'll outspend Uhlich. And she's earned the vote of some unlikely allies, including TW newshound Cricket, who loves her visits to the new dog park on Sixth Avenue south of Grant.

That leaves the fight over bigger policy issues, such as the city's new garbage-collection fee, which is a favorite complaint of Democrats this season. One problem for Democrats with busting on the trash fee: Both Farley and Uhlich support some kind of fee, though they're squishy on the details.


CRIME DOESN'T PAY

There's a showdown brewing between the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the county's criminal-justice crew, which includes judges, prosecutors, public defenders and cops.

The cost of dispensing justice in Pima County continues to climb, swelling beyond the $200 million mark in the most recent budget. But because most of that money is spent by other elected officials--the county attorney, the sheriff and judges--the Board of Supervisors has little control over expenditures.

One sore point: County Attorney Barbara LaWall's refusal to plea-bargain more cases, although LaWall's trial rates have decreased somewhat recently.

Now Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, spurred by outside reports that show the players in the justice system do a lousy job talking to each other, is recommending the board create a Justice Coordinating Council, made up of the presiding judges of the superior and juvenile courts, the sheriff, the county attorney, the public defender, the legal defender and the justice director. The group would review supplemental funding requests, among other responsibilities.

Huckelberry's proposal hasn't gone over well with justice officials. Both LaWall and Presiding Judge John S. Leonardo have argued that they are independent officials who don't need to be told what to do by the board. Nonetheless, they've also scurried to create their own informal group that's been meeting to improve communication.

LaWall and the judges ducked the discussion at this week's board meeting, instead sending over Pima County Court Clerk Patti Noland, who told supervisors they should butt out and let the players work out the problems.

"Give us a chance to proceed on our own," Noland said.

But supervisors, expressing skepticism that the group would even be meeting if it weren't for the threat of an ordinance, just put off the ordinance for 90 days, with a plan to get a progress report in 45 days.

"The sword of Damocles must hang," said Supervisor Ray Carroll, who reminded Noland of a particularly snotty exchange he had with LaWall a few years back, during which LaWall suggested Carroll go to law school and run for county attorney if he wanted to know about her budget.

"I've got a long memory," Carroll said.


NUTS AND BOLTS

Cathy Eden, the Napolitano administration's head of health care, announced her retirement last week with the predictable mumbo-jumbo about wanting to seek new challenges and yadda, yadda, yadda.

But the resignation comes just as the heat is increasing on the state's mental-health system. Two weeks ago, the House Government Reform Committee heard testimony from people who had lost mentally ill family members to suicide while they were under the treatment of Value Options, the private outfit that oversees mental health delivery in Maricopa County. A bill sponsored by freshman Rep. Jonathan Paton, a Republican who represents eastern Tucson, Green Valley and Sierra Vista, would audit Value Options' contract with the state.

The day after Eden quit, Napolitano tried to get ahead of the story, expressing her own concerns about Value Options. That's quite a change from the position of her underlings with the Department of Health Services, who had aggressively lobbied to kill Paton's bill.

Guess that's the last time Value Options writes fat six-figure checks to the Arizona Democratic Party.


NOT JUST ANOTHER GUY

Two wise readers clued us into the fact that the Weekly's Oct. 28 cover boy, Robert Du Pre, was not just a disgruntled citizen who didn't think it was worthwhile to vote. The grizzled, smoking Du Pre uttered the memorable line to that Dave Devine-Molly McKasson story that gave voice to those who don't vote. Said Du Pre: "You'd have to put a .38 to my head to get me to vote. I don't vote because it encourages them."

Du Pre should know. He was once an aide to U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, D-, R-, now-dead-S.C. Du Pre, a lawyer, also was a public defender, prosecutor and FBI agent--and someone who reportedly ran out on his family decades ago.

He is the subject of the book, The Prodigal Father: A True Story of Tragedy, Survival and Reconciliation in an American Family, written by his son, Jon Du Pre, a former Fox News television reporter.


HAIL TO THE AZTECS

Basketball at Pima Community College, contrary to the popular myth, did not collapse when ego-maniacal coach Brian Peabody bolted with loud crying that PCC administration didn't want a championship team.

The Aztecs finish the season this week at Scottsdale having already posted two more wins than Peabody's 7-23 squad had last year. They did so with some of Peabody's holdovers, like the smooth Chris Denny, who also played for Peabody at Salpointe Catholic. They had other nice local talent in sharp-shooter Abel Solomon of Tucson High, Thomas Glenn of Santa Rita and Marsharne Flannigan of Tucson High.

Mannerly and avuncular (with his cozy cardigans) coach Mario Ramirez may not have lit the world on fire in previous gigs, including sports haberdashery. But he did better than the frantically self-important Peabody.

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