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The Skinny

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THE BORROWERS

The Republicans who want to knock off the incumbents on the Pima County Board of Supervisors have a similar problem: They haven't had much luck raising money.

Republican Sean Collins, who captured about 43 percent of the vote in his unsuccessful effort to oust Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll in last month's GOP primary, slipped into the red while running his campaign.

As of mid-August, Collins had raised just $19,091, according to his pre-primary campaign-finance reports. He'd spent $18,210 of that, leaving him with $880 in the bank at the end of the reporting period.

But that's not counting the debt that Collins ran up. The pre-primary report had some glitches in the math, and Collins spokeswoman Jeannie Haldorsen told The Skinny that as of Aug. 16, the campaign had $11,490 in debt. Most of that—$8,990—was owed to TagLine Media.

Haldorsen said she didn't know how much of that debt has been cleared, but new campaign-finance reports are due before Sept. 27.

Collins isn't the only Republican candidate who ran up big debts with TagLine, a consulting company that keeps popping up in the various efforts to knock incumbents off of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Republican Fernando Gonzales, who hopes to unseat Supervisor Richard Elías in heavily Democratic District 5, had raised just $8,945 for his campaign as of mid-August. He'd spent $5,757 of that, leaving him with $3,188 in the bank, according to his pre-primary campaign-finance report.

But Gonzales' campaign-finance report showed that he had also run up $6,468 in debt on his campaign. All but $500 of that was owed to TagLine Media.

Gonzales told us last week that he now owes TagLine about $2,500.

Republican Tanner Bell, who is facing Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, also owes money to TagLine. Bell has raised $11,406 for his campaign and had spent $9,190, leaving him with $2,216 in the bank. That's not enough to cover his debts, which totaled $5,228.49, according to his campaign-finance report. With the exception of $60, all of that debt was owed to TagLine.

Bell said that he's not sure where the debt now stands.

"Since we were fired unexpectedly by the company months ago, we are currently waiting on a final aggregate statement of all the products/services that we purchased from them," Bell told us via email.

What's so interesting about all this debt to Tagline? Well, the firm is connected to two separate but related complaints filed by two Republican candidates who lost to Ally Miller in last month's GOP primary for the District 1 seat held by the retiring Ann Day.

Both Mike Hellon and Stuart McDaniel filed the complaints because they say that an independent campaign (funded by La Encantada developer Mitch Stallard) spent at least $10,000 on TV and newspaper ads supporting Miller. Since the independent campaign used TagLine, and Miller had been using TagLine, Hellon and McDaniel asked county election officials to look into whether any illegal coordination had occurred.

Miller has refused to answer any questions as to whether she was involved in any coordination—she has dodged phone calls from the Tucson Weekly and the Explorer—but Deb Weisel, the head honcho at TagLine Media, told the Weekly last month that she has severed ties with all of the Republican candidates, because she's now working for a few independent-campaign efforts that are backing the Republicans in various ways. Since the law prohibits coordination between candidates and independent-expenditure campaigns, Weisel chose to go with the indie committees, which include Arizonans for a Brighter Future, a nonprofit business league that does not have to disclose its donors.

Arizonans for a Brighter Future has been running TV and radio ads that criticize the county's spending and bonding programs.

Weisel said last week that she was "pretty surprised" that the candidates still owed her so much money. But she added that sometimes, candidates just don't pay their bills.

"I have candidates who owe me money from three years ago," she said.

Weisel said she didn't do credit checks before she agreed to work with the candidates, although she added that running credit checks is "probably a good idea."

Weisel said she isn't concerned about an investigation by the Secretary of State's Office into coordination between the independent campaigns and the candidates' campaigns.

"I'm honest to a fault," Weisel says. "I don't have anything to do with those campaigns."


BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

After hearing from a group of unhappy downtown residents, the Tucson City Council voted unanimously last week against extending a rezoning agreement for a key downtown parcel.

The property in question, at Stone Avenue and Franklin Street, sits on the edge of the historic El Presidio Neighborhood and is smack-dab in the midst of the developing Warehouse Arts District. Most of the property is owned by the city of Tucson.

Town West, which has done some good developments around town (such as its current work rehabbing a deserted apartment complex on Fort Lowell Road east of Campbell Avenue), got the original rezoning on the property in 2007. The plan at that time was to build a hotel, a brewery, retail space, artist studios, condo units, parking garages and such in a complex that would include towers as high as 15 floors.

But with the economic slowdown, that project—which had the support of some neighbors—has stalled. So Town West officials had recently approached council members and neighboring property owners with the idea of doing a student-housing complex instead.

Town West was not seeking approval for student housing last week; instead, the company simply wanted an extension of the rezoning allowing for the earlier plans.

In most cases, these kinds of extensions are granted, because council members are sympathetic to the challenges that developers have faced during the economic downturn. But in this case, Ward 1 Councilwoman Regina Romero said she was skeptical that the original plan would ever be completed.

"What we have in front of us tonight will not happen," Romero said as she made the motion to reject the extension.

Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik said he had seen recent proposals from Town West for a student-housing complex on the site, which he called "not at all consistent with the master plan" for the area. Kozachik said he wanted to see a viable plan for the property that "fits in contextually with what's being developed" in the Warehouse Arts District.

The concern over student housing comes as neighbors near the new District on Fifth apartments, near Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street, are having conflicts with the noise and traffic generated by the 700-plus students who have moved into the massive complex.

New student-housing complexes are already in the works on the east end of downtown near the Fourth Avenue underpass.

Kozachik says that student housing makes sense in the downtown area, but he's concerned about over-saturation.

"I'm not real-estate expert, but I do know that we have 50 to 60 stories of student housing in design ... or under construction," Kozachik says. "You have to wonder at what point you reach that tipping point where you have oversaturated the market."

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