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The Skinny

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So it looks like we won't get a bonus congressional race to cover in '09. Prez-elect Barack Obama has tapped Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar for secretary of the interior rather than our homeboy, Congressman Raúl Grijalva. That means we don't have every pol with delusions of grandeur in a mad dash to replace Grijalva.

It would have been a glorious war!


David Safier, who recently started penning a column for the Explorer, posted an interesting story earlier this week at, where he's also a regular contributor.

Safier reported that Republican Vic Williams, who just won a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives representing District 26 on the northwest side, tried to stiff an Iraq war vet on a rental deposit for a beach house earlier this year.

Army Sgt. Tasha Downum, a single mother, decided a trip to Newport Beach, Calif., with her son, her mom and her grandma would make for a great homecoming trip after spending a year in Tikrit.

"I had seen so much sand that I told my mom, 'When I come home, I want to see water,'" says Downum, 26. "I hadn't seen water in a year."

After Downum returned home to Missouri in June, the family headed out to Newport Beach, where they stayed in a house they had rented from Williams.

But when Downum tried to get her deposit returned, Williams gave her a big ol' runaround. When she realized the check was not in the mail, Downum--with the help of her mom--filed suit against Williams in a California small-claims court.

That meant Downum had to travel back to California in November. Williams skipped the court appearance, and the judge ruled in Downum's favor, awarding her damages, travel costs and court fees. Williams' final bill: $1,845, which is a pretty big markup on $400.

Williams didn't have much to say about the mess when we talked to him earlier this week.

"We have a dispute, and we're working it out," Williams assured us. "We're going to get it handled. I'm not going to comment on any of the details of the case, but we're going to resolve it in a way that's correct and make sure that all parties are satisfied."

But it was only after we talked to Williams--and a day after he had been slapped around on Blog for Arizona--that Downum got a call from a woman who identified herself as Williams' attorney. (If Williams is now paying an attorney to make calls on his behalf, the expenses on this measly $400 are really piling up!)

Downum tells us that Williams' representative assured her that Williams would be sending her a check--but she then asked Downum if, in the meantime, she would mind faxing a letter to Williams stating that her claim against him has been satisfied.

Downum was having none of that: "I told her, 'I'm not signing anything until I receive the money.'"

Given the sleazy way Downum had been jacked around thus far, we can't say we blame her.

So will Downum finally see a check from Williams? We'll let you know in the second installment of Screwed-Over Iraq Vet Watch.


Leave it to Pima County Supervisor "Sugar" Ray Carroll to remind his fellow supes that they promised to do whatever they could to protect Davidson Canyon from mining interests after they dropped a lawsuit against the Arizona State Land Department in February. And leave it to his fellow supes to disregard Sugar Ray.

Last year, the land department had approved three mining leases in the area, including one from cement manufacturer California Portland Cement.

Back in February, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told the supes that the mining plan could still possibly be stopped, because California Portland was having trouble getting a 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, an application designating Davidson Canyon as an outstanding waterway was still making its way through the state bureaucracy, which could eventually offer protections against mining.

Now Carroll is coming to the defense of community activists still reeling from the county's July approval of a floodplain-use permit that makes way for California Portland to build a mining road through Davidson Canyon wash.

Carroll pushed for a revocation of the permit on Tuesday, Dec. 16, allowing the supervisors one more chance to show they care about protecting Davidson Canyon--and the supes voted it down.

Members of the Empire Fagan Coalition, who are fighting to save Davidson Canyon, note that earlier this month, the state approved Davidson Canyon's outstanding water designation, and California Portland still hasn't received its 404 permit--something they understood was required before a floodplain-use permit could be issued. They like to point out Davidson Canyon's importance; the area southeast of Tucson near Vail is considered a major contributor to the water aquifer in the Tucson basin.

Carroll says the outstanding water designation and the lack of a 404 permit had given him hope that the county could easily revoke the permit.


Neighbors of the Saguaro Ranch development in Marana conducted an old-fashioned sit-in as part of their skirmish with developer Stephen Phinny over the boulders Phinny keeps putting across two access points on a contested right of way.

One of the roads is an extension of Thornydale Road that remains a legally recorded public easement by the county. Neighbors have used the road for hikes and horse-riding for more than 40 years. (See "Tortolita Showdown," Currents, May 22.)

Earlier this month, neighbors--who filed a lawsuit asking a judge to determine if the road remains a public easement--got together and removed Phinny's boulders, encouraging everyone to hike the roads that Phinny claims are private, because he wants to support the exclusivity of his high-end development, Saguaro Ranch.

Along one access point, rather than use boulders, Phinny recently had his employees park a car to prevent access. And on the other access point, rather than waiting for the boulders to return, neighbors Tracy Chamberlain, Steve Blomquist and Sharyl Cummings decided to head out with lawn chairs at 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 15, to block the tractor full of boulders they expected that day. Sure enough, two Saguaro Ranch employees showed up, followed shortly by a tractor.

"Those employees seemed quite incredulous that we were blocking the area," Blomquist says. "They didn't stay more than five minutes. We stayed there all day until about 3:30 p.m. We succeeded."

The neighbors' lawsuit recently took a different turn when their attorney asked the judge to give the surrounding residents the public easement, based on a recent deposition from Marana attorney Frank Cassidy. Blomquist said Cassidy confirmed in his deposition that Marana didn't abandon the easement, contradicting one of Phinny's claims.

And the boulders? Chamberlain says she expects Phinny will replace them in the next day or two, and the neighbors will get together yet again and remove them.

The Skinny is wondering where Phinny is getting all those boulders. If this development deal doesn't work out, maybe he can start a landscape-supply company.

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