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NUMBERS GAME

The U.S. Air Force last week announced that Luke Air Force Base outside of Phoenix, and not Tucson International Airport, was the "preferred alternative" for the F-35 pilot-training program. While it saddened TIA supporters, the announcement was good news to Tucson opponents of the loud aircraft.

But is that the end of the story?

Earlier this year, the Air Force began an environmental impact statement (EIS) process as it looked to locate training sites for the F-35. According to Air Force material, the EIS would examine the impacts of "six increments of 24 primary assigned aircraft."

In addition to those six squadrons of planes (144 in total), Eglin Air Force Base in Florida was already slated to receive at least 59 F-35s for a training mission. The Air Force was also considering locating even more of the planes there.

In a separate announcement last week, the Air Force decided to keep the number of planes at Eglin at 59. About the same time, Arizona Sen. John McCain speculated that "three squadrons with dozens of aircraft would be based at Luke if the Air Force finalizes its decision."

However, a media representative from the Air Force states in an e-mail message that their announcement "includes up to six squadrons at Luke."

How will that large number of planes impact the environment around the Phoenix-area base? Maybe folks in the Valley of the Sun will decide that 144 planes are just too much to bear.


MILEAGE, PART DEUX

After a July 15 Skinny item examined Republican Jonathan Paton's state Senate campaign reimbursements, the state Democratic Party filed complaints claiming that those former campaign dollars were essentially used by Paton as a personal fund.

Paton said he decided to reimburse himself $8,350 in mileage expenses as he closed out his state Senate campaign account, since he wasn't running for re-election. Paton, one of four GOP candidates fighting for the chance to run against Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in November, resigned from his Senate seat on Feb. 22.

The Dems filed a complaint with the Clean Elections Commission on Monday, July 19. A week later, on July 26, the commission declined to take action on the complaint, so on July 29, the Dems filed a complaint with the state Secretary of State's Office.

In a letter from Dems' attorney Rhonda Barnes to state elections director Amy Bjelland, Barnes wrote that Paton "had a surplus of over $12,000 when he announced he was running for Congress. But rather than disposing of the money in compliance (with the state law) ... (his) campaign wrote him a few checks totaling $8,350 for 'travel reimbursement,' which accounted for 94 percent of his expenditures in the latest reporting cycle."

When asked to provide mileage documentation, Paton spokesperson Daniel Scarpinato said that Paton will provide documentation if it's requested by the secretary of state.

"The main thing is, we think the complaint itself is bogus," Scarpinato said. "They are digging for something here and really reaching."


NEOCON CASH

Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have popped up in Arizona—on the pages of Legislative District 30 Rep. Ted Vogt's campaign-finance statements.

Vogt—appointed to fill Frank Antenori's seat when he moved up to the Senate earlier this year—once served as an intern for Cheney, and was an assistant for Rumsfeld in the '90s.

"I worked for Mr. Rumsfeld, and I also got to know the family, and they have been very supportive," Vogt said.

Rumsfeld donated $410, the maximum amount allowed, to Vogt's campaign—and so did his wife, Joyce, and his two daughters, Marcy and Valerie. His executive assistant also threw $150 Vogt's way.

Cheney also wrote a check as large as the state would allow.

Those six contributions total $2,200—more than Vogt has received from Arizona citizens. Of the 74 donations, totaling about $22,000, that Vogt had received as of the June 30 report, only nine donations, totaling $1,670, were from Arizona. Most came from lobbyists, attorneys and political consultants.

"I don't think (Arizonans mind)," he said. "You get your support from in state and your support from out of state. ... I am very fortunate and very glad that the people I've met and the people I've worked for thought enough of me that they're willing to support me in my campaign."


PRIMARY PRIORITIES

Terri Proud is asking primary-election voters to give her a shot at a House seat in Legislative District 26—even though Proud herself has never voted in a primary election, according to the Pima County Recorder's Office voter database.

"My focus was mainly on the general (election)," she says. "It's not that I wasn't too unaware of what was going on in the primary; it just wasn't my No. 1 priority at the time."

Proud said she plans to vote for herself at the polls in this year's primary election. Most of the people she talks to don't know much about the primary, she added, and she tries to educate them about why it's important.

"If we don't vote ... we are still kind of voting—we're voting the other direction," she said.

Proud has voted in general elections for the last 10 years, and she said she regrets sitting out those primaries.

"I was busy with family stuff, and that's not an excuse," she says. "... I wish I would have been more active in the primaries."


MURAL HATERS

Since October 2009, Artist Joe Pagac has painted murals on the eastside of the Rialto Theatre to promote upcoming shows at the nonprofit venue.

Almost 10 months later, after someone complained, the city of Tucson decided those murals violate city code.

Doug Biggers, the Rialto Theatre Foundation's executive director (and the former publisher of the Tucson Weekly), said the Rialto was served with a notice of violation for having a sign without a permit.

"Why, now, they decide to tell us we are in violation is anyone's guess," Biggers said via e-mail. "... We have been told that we can put together an appeal and present it to (the city's Sign Code Advisory and Appeals Board) and ask for some kind of variance. ... From what I've been told by the city official in charge of the process, it requires quite a bit of effort, and we have our hands full right now just keeping the Rialto's doors open (because of the SB 1070 boycott and the recession)."

Biggers directed Pagac to paint a new mural to celebrate the venue's "nine decades of cultural history and the free expression of ideas."

City planner Glenn Moyer is also working with the Bookmans on Grant Road and Campbell Avenue, which has also hosted similar murals promoting Rialto shows—and which also received a notice of violation.

Moyer said the sign code allows three feet of signage for every linear foot of street-front property. Moyer said he didn't have details regarding the Rialto complaint, but said someone complained about pornography regarding Bookmans.

The murals recently had touted a show by the New Pornographers at the Rialto. "I've encouraged Doug to file an appeal ... which would cost $220," Moyer said.

Sheila Kressler-Crowley, Bookmans marketing director, said the bookstore is interested in pursuing a variance, because the murals "promote cultural events and downtown."

Kressler-Crowley said she sent a letter to Moyer and is waiting for a response.

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