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HERE'S THE PITCH

So now we have some idea what baseball boosters have in mind to save spring training: some sort of "amusement tax" on our bowling alleys and movie theaters. What, no ski-rental tax?

And by the way: The town of Marana is wondering if maybe the Rockies would like a new home on the northwest side.

Sure, why not spend, oh, tens of millions of dollars for a new spring training complex? It makes sense! After all, we just spent upwards of $50 million for Tucson Electric Park, along with the associated training facility, and it's not like the Chicago White Sox are leaving town for a new stadium in Glendale.

Oh, wait: Yes, they are.

Let's face it: We've been hosed by Maricopa County, which never should have been allowed to build stadiums to lure teams that were training here. Get this: The Maricopa sports authority isn't allowed to steal teams from other jurisdictions in Maricopa County, but they're free to poach our ball clubs.

Here's one way to buy us some time to keep the D'Backs and Rockies here: State lawmakers should prohibit the Maricopa sports authority from spending one dime on stadiums for teams already training in Arizona. That would decrease the likelihood that the Rox and the D'Backs would bolt, unless they wanted to move all the way to Florida.

As much as we love spring training, we don't believe that the people of Pima County are willing to shell out big bucks for a new stadium in Marana, especially for one month of baseball.

They might be willing to support a more modest plan to keep the Rockies at Hi Corbett. That means we need to stop talking about pitting Marana against Tucson, and start figuring out what improvements we can make to our existing ball park.


TABULATION CONSTERNATION

Could a memorandum issued by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry on April 3 signal the end to the great Pima County Election-Integrity Debate?

Probably not, since the Pima County Democrats are going back to court on April 21. A two-hour hearing is scheduled to determine whether the party will get the remaining election data files it requested through its attorney, Bill Risner. His request for the county to pay his fees from the December 2007 trial also remains a contentious issue between the county and Democrats.

Last month, Huckelberry told The Skinny that he was planning to update an October 2007 memo he issued to the Pima County Board of Supervisors regarding election issues and administrative changes.

The April 3 memo is the result--a new, 22-page memo, with 100-plus additional pages of supporting documentation regarding new election procedures and security methods that Huckelberry has directed the Elections Division to institute.

Huckelberry says he expects the supes to formally discuss the memo at a meeting in late April or early May. He adds that he doesn't think it's important to wait for all litigation to end before making changes.

"We've already begun implementing where we can, especially admin recommendations," he says. "You've got to realize, we're staring in the face of the 2008 primary elections."

Huckelberry says the final recommendations in the memo include changes suggested by staff members, as well changes suggested by members of the public. Huckelberry previously sent a draft of the memo to all local political parties and solicited public comment through the Pima County Web site.

Huckelberry says his office continues to insist that releasing electronic data files from elections poses a security risk that could result in ballot tampering or the production of counterfeit ballots. Risner has responded that the experts he plans to depose for the April 21 hearing are prepared to tell Judge Michael Miller that the county's fears are unfounded--and that the real problem is potential hacking from the inside.

Huckelberry says a recent headline in the Arizona Daily Star saying that the county plans to appeal if Miller rules in the Democrats' favor at the upcoming hearing is false.

"Right now, we feel we are as compromised as you can get, but if the court says, 'Give them everything,' then we'll give them everything, and that will be it," Huckelberry says. "We don't plan to appeal."

If Miller indeed rules in the Democrats' favor, Huckelberry says the county will tighten election security in every way possible--even beyond what is outlined in the current memo. Anything to protect ballots, he says.

In an e-mail sent to The Skinny, election-integrity activists Jim March and John Brakey describe the recent memo as a giant smokescreen.

"Here's the simple truth: Every single system attack described in (the April 3 memo) involves election insiders or anyone else who can implant falsified data or code into the system (and not an outside hacker)," Brakey wrote, dismissing Huckelberry's concerns about the release of the election data files.

In order for anyone to hack the system, perpetrators need configuration files for a specific election, not a copy of the configuration files used in a previous election--like the election database files already in the Democrats' possession, Brakey wrote.

Brakey and March complain that the county wants to continue to be the "sole agency doing oversight and auditing of themselves."

From Huckelberry's perspective, Pima County has gone beyond what any county in the state has done to create a secure elections system.

The memo outlines 26 system changes to improve security, from the procurement of new elections hardware and software, and the use of dual passwords by Elections Division employees to start the GEMS system, to improved ballot-verification procedures and the delay of early-voting tabulations, among others.

Sink your own teeth into the document. Go online at pima.gov or to the TW blog.


WE'RE THE BOOBS

The Skinny last week incorrectly identified Sen. Pamela Gorman as the sponsor of Senate Bill 1143, which specifies that cosmetic breast enhancement be tax-free in Arizona.

Gorman does support the bill. In a letter to us, she explains:

"We are beginning to see multiple instances where the Department of Revenue (DOR) is looking for any remote way they can tax a service (a nontaxable event in Arizona) as a product. We have fought that attempt with both the photography industry and the school data-analysis industry lately. In the air-conditioning service industry, for instance, if the service technician notices a 3-cent nut missing when he opens the unit and puts on a new one or adds freon to bring the pressure up in the system while servicing it, then DOR makes it a taxable event and expects the service provider to pay taxes on 65 percent of the entire service job.

"Until/if this elected body determines that services should be taxed, then I feel that DOR should not be threatening businesses to collect tax revenues that are simply not legal to collect in Arizona. This would include taxing a surgical procedure simply because materials had to be used to complete the procedure or because someone at DOR determines a lesser value to the motivation for having the surgery done in the first place. The government can't be in the business of making value judgments of this sort. Services are not taxable. Period. This is what this bill is attempting to clarify for the department's enforcement team."

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