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The Skinny




One of the trauma surgeons who saved Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' life is considering a career in politics.

Dr. Randall Friese is preparing to launch a campaign for the House of Representatives in Legislative District 9 as a Democrat, which includes central Tucson and the Catalina Foothills.

Friese, an associate professor of surgery who works in the UA trauma center, was among the doctors who attended to the victims of the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting rampage at Giffords' Congress On Your Corner event.

"He'd be a great legislator and he's a great guy," says Cheryl Cage, who is managing Friese's campaign. "I'm very excited to be part of his campaign."

LD 9 is an anomaly in Arizona politics: It's a competitive district where 37 percent of the voters are Democrats and 32 percent are Republicans. The House seats are currently held by Republican Ethan Orr and Democrat Victoria Steele, who are both in their freshman terms.

Orr is something of an anomaly among Republicans: He was one of the few GOP lawmakers who backed Gov. Jan Brewer's push to expand Medicaid in the last legislative session. As a result, he has a vocal group of conservatives who want to see him driven out of office, although we have yet to see if that crowd can recruit two GOP candidates who can beat Orr in a primary.

While he has a conservative voting record on some issues, Orr has emerged as one of the most moderate Republicans at the Legislature. He worked alongside Steele to push for funding for a Mental Health First Aid program this year. And a few months ago, he helped head off a hike in the Van Tran rates for disabled Tucsonans by suggesting that the city pursue some state funding to make up for transit shortfalls.


Gov. Jan Brewer announced this week that she had created another special team to look into why more than 6,000 CPS cases went uninvestigated since 2009.

This is the third special team assigned the job of digging into why the cases were marked "NI"—short for "not investigated"—by CPS supervisors. Previously, Brewer had Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter looking into the failure to investigate the cases, as well as a team of state troopers from the Department of Public Safety.

Brewer said the new Child Advocate Response Evaluation Team—made up of a few state lawmakers, child advocates and law-enforcement types—is supposed to be an independent body that can "ensure that there is thorough, transparent and independent oversight of the investigation into each of these neglected cases."

Pressure was building on Brewer to do more about the scandal last week. Democrats were calling for Carter's head and Republican lawmakers were grousing that Brewer wasn't doing enough.

GOP Sen. Nancy Barto said before Thanksgiving that Brewer's original plan to get to the bottom of the neglected cases "falls short on addressing the accountability that the public and legislators are demanding."

Barto expressed skepticism that CPS would be able to thoroughly investigate the neglected cases and called for a "long-term reform of the agency."

The formation of the CARE Team this week is unlikely to stop criticism of the Brewer administration's oversight of CPS.

State Rep. Debbie McCune-Davis, a Phoenix Democrat who has been fighting for more CPS funding, said this week that the CARE Team was a "step in the right direction" but added that that CPS "is an agency in crisis and the CARE Team must now identify what problems contributed to this disaster and find ways to prevent something like this from ever occurring again. With that in mind, I urge the governor to add more child welfare experts to the team. Such professionals have the kind of experience needed to truly assess the problems and find real solutions that protect Arizona children."

State Rep. Bruce Wheeler told The Skinny that the failure to investigate the cases is "ridiculous."

Wheeler said part of the problem was related to budget cuts not only to CPS, but also to preventative programs that served to prevent the kinds of problems that explode into the kinds of crises that require CPS involvement.

He added the rank-and-file CPS case workers deserved support, not condemnation.

"It's not glamorous," Wheeler said. "Look at the kind of cases they have to deal with. They're not appreciated and they're not compensated right."

But he added that the pressures on the agency "do not excuse Carter not informing somebody that these cases were being ignored. ... If indeed this was the result of a lack of funding—and I think a lot of it is—he should have told Gov. Brewer."


The Skinny noted last week that the Environmental Protection Agency had raised red flags about Rosemont Copper's plans for a open-pit mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.

As our print edition was reaching the streets, the U.S. Forest Service released its Final Environmental Impact Statement, which is a major step toward approving Augusta Resource Corporation's proposal.

Augusta President and CEO Gil Clausen said the release of the document means the company "can move forward and finalize the last remaining steps of permitting."

But Gayle Hartmann, president of Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, said that hurdles remained before the mine got final approval.

"Despite what Rosemont Copper would like its investors to believe, this mine is not a done deal, not even close," said Hartmann. "The damage this mine would cause to our water supplies, wildlife and economy is so serious that the Forest Service should have listened to its partner agencies and issued a new or revised analysis instead."

No matter what happens in the next few months, we have a feeling this one is headed for the courts.


Looks like Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller's act isn't appealing to some of the Republicans in Green Valley.

Miller had been invited to serve as the emcee at the Republican Club of Green Valley/Sahuarita's annual Lincoln-Reagan Day luncheon.

But at the end of October, the GOP's club vice-president, Richard G. Newman, told Miller that her services would not be needed.

"Regretfully, I must withdraw our invitation to serve as mistress of ceremonies at the Lincoln-Reagan luncheon in February," Newman wrote. "This was a difficult decision for the board to make and took several heated discussions to resolve."

Newman didn't get into details: "Please excuse this rather enigmatic letter, but the deliberations of the board on this matter are best not discussed."

Miller didn't return a phone call asking for comment.


Former Tucson Weekly contributor and longtime political operative Emil Franzi underwent surgery this week in his battle against esophageal cancer.

Franzi, who now hosts a weekend radio show on KVOI-AM and runs the Southern Arizona News-Examiner website, told The Skinny doctors were optimistic about his chances.

"They put me in the pile of 'we can cure you' instead of the other one," Franzi said.

The Skinny extends our best wishes for a swift and sound recovery.

By Jim Nintzel

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