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JUST SAYING NO TO PROP 200

The opposition to the Public Safety First Initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot continued to grow last week.

The latest business group to come out against Proposition 200: The Metropolitan Pima Alliance, a wide-ranging group of commercial real-estate developers, contractors, engineering firms and architects. Wow, what a bunch of lefties!

Michael Guymon, executive director of MPA, says the initiative, which would require the city to hire 333 new police officers and 70 new firefighters in the next five years, strips the Tucson City Council of too much authority to make decisions for the city.

"We think that the tenets of the proposition are commendable, but we cannot support tying the hands of our elected officials, who we elect to make budgetary decisions on our behalf," Guymon says. "With a charter change, if anything were to change in the future—if standards change, or what have you—it would have to go back to the voters. To us, that's not responsible public policy."

The Metropolitan Pima Alliance joins several other business organizations, including the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Multihousing Association and Cox Cable, in opposing the initiative.

The organizations are savvy enough to realize that if Prop 200 passes, the city is eventually going to have to find an estimated $63 million a year to pay for it, which is likely to mean higher taxes on businesses and utilities—and, ultimately, you.

The initiative has been largely funded by the Tucson Association of Realtors, which has protection against tax increases thanks to a ballot proposition they paid for last year.

Meanwhile, some reluctant members of the Tucson City Council are finally sacking up and coming out against Prop 200.

Ward 6 City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, who had previously stopped short of telling voters to reject the initiative, announced her opposition to Prop 200 during press conference at the Reid Park Zoo.

That was a weird get-together: How often do you see Chamber of Commerce honcho Jack Camper standing next to Brian Flagg of the Casa Maria soup kitchen?

City Councilman Rodney Glassman also came out against the initiative last week. Glassman succinctly announced via e-mail: "I will not be voting for Proposition 200 and do not support it. I support increasing law enforcement, but this is the wrong way to do it."

One day later, Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich joined the growing chorus of opponents to Prop 200. In her statement, Uhlich announced: "In the past couple of weeks, the rhetoric around this issue has greatly intensified, and the proponents of Prop 200 have attempted to mislead the voters. Because of this, it is important that I speak out more strongly: I have my ballot in hand; I will be voting this weekend, and I am voting no on Proposition 200."

With City Council members Steve Leal and Regina Romero already opposed to the Public Safety First Initiative, that leaves only Ward 4's Shirley Scott supporting it. Or at least issuing a statement in support of it; she wouldn't tell Arizona Illustrated anchor Bill Buckmaster whether she was voting for it. What kind of hair-splitting is that?

Speaking of Arizona Illustrated: The program will air a one-hour live forum on Prop 200 from the Leo Rich Theatre at 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 26.


DEMOCRATS SAY: ENOUGH, ALREADY

The Pima County Democratic Party's executive committee seems to have had enough of attorney Bill Risner's ongoing legal battle over the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority ballots.

The committee voted 13-9 on Monday, Oct. 5, not to appeal a ruling that allows Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford to destroy the ballots.

But it's still not over. Election-integrity activists continue to pursue the ballots, despite Attorney General Terry Goddard's investigation that determined no fraud had occurred during the special election. Goddard's office seized the ballots from a storage facility in Tucson and did a hand-count in Maricopa County.

In September, Pima County Superior Court Judge Charles Harrington ruled that those ballots can now be destroyed. Harrington determined that according to state law, the election wasn't challenged within five days of the RTA canvas, which makes it too late to demand the ballots if the point is to challenge the election results.

Last year, Ford announced she was going to destroy the ballots as dictated by state law. Risner, however, sued to prevent the ballots from being destroyed while pushing Goddard for an investigation.

Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rogers confirmed this week that the party voted not to pursue an appeal—a big change, considering the party has generally given Risner approval for election-integrity legal challenges. When asked if it has to do with Goddard's anticipated run for governor, Rogers says the party consensus is that it is time to focus on city and state elections.

"Look, we've done a lot of work on these public-records lawsuits, but it is time to move on," Rogers says.

Risner says there was never a discussion during the executive committee meeting about whether an appeal would get in the way of Goddard's bid for governor.

"The individuals who had questions at the meeting asked about costs related to an appeal," Risner writes in an e-mail.

If the party had approved the appeal, it would have had to pay about $2,500 for filing fees and RTA-ballot storage. However, Risner tells us that the Libertarian Party, which has worked with the Democratic Party on election-integrity issues, will take up the appeal and foot the bill.

"I'm glad they are doing so, as the legal question is a fundamental one that needs to be answered," Risner says.

Another case that remains before Harrington is the future of the poll tapes—the election results printed from each precinct computer at the end of the election. Election-integrity peeps want a chance to look at those and compare them with the RTA election results and Goddard's hand-count. Those tapes are in the RTA ballot boxes, and so far, Pima County has agreed with the Democratic Party that the tapes are public records. But Risner needs the court's approval to retrieve the tapes in order to prevent them from being destroyed along with the ballots.

Rogers says the Democratic Party gave Risner approval to pursue the poll tapes on behalf of the party.

Risner wrote that his efforts aren't about changing results of the election, as Harrington asserts in his ruling, but about preventing election fraud in the future.

"Our view is that the court system must have a role in protecting the vote, which is the bedrock of our democracy," Risner says. "That is the fundamental question. Does the court have the ability—jurisdiction—to consider the facts and consider a remedy in a fatally flawed system? We think the answer must be yes."


OPEN RECORDS, OPEN MINDS

On Page 11, you can learn about all the big awards we won in the Arizona Newspapers Association journalism contest. (The Skinny even picked up a second-place honor, proving that we've totally sold out.)

But we'd like to mention that District 30 state Sen. Jonathan Paton won the 2009 Legislative Freedom of Information Award for the third year running. While Paton tends to be a wee bit too conservative for us on some issues, we appreciate his efforts to ensure that the government keeps information available for those of us in the press—and those of you in the public.

Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch.

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