The Tucson Weekly proudly announces its annual Phoney awards.
For the fifth year in a row, these prestigious honors (or dishonors) are presented to local elected officials, government employees and civic leaders who demonstrate excellent--or awful--interest in communicating with the people they serve.
Returning to its original theme (See "The Envelope, Please," March 7, 2002) for 2006, the crack investigative team telephoned various city of Tucson and Pima County office holders, along with two high-ranking governmental staff members, about an important issue. A personal callback from the politician or bureaucrat was requested, and a total of 21 individuals were phoned to determine their responsiveness.
Without further fanfare, the winners and losers by category are:
An impressive six of those contacted returned the phone call the same day it was made. The nominees, and the time they took to call back, are:
· County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, less than 2 hours.
· Clerk of the Superior Court Patricia Noland, 15 minutes.
· Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, less than one hour.
· County Assessor Bill Staples, 36 minutes.
· Tucson City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff, just more than one hour.
· Tucson City Councilwoman Carol West, less than four hours.
THE WINNER IS: Patricia Noland. Also having won an award in 2002 for paying close attention to constituent phone calls, Noland continues to demonstrate that responding to people's questions is important to her.
JUST NOT QUITE THE SAME
Even though the official was asked to personally return the call, a few of them had staff members handle the responsibility, albeit on the day the message was left. Those in this category are:
· County Supervisor Ann Day. Instead of giving the message to Day, her assistant passed the buck by instantly referring the caller to their own district supervisor.
· Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich. A staff member explained that Uhlich was just too busy to be able to personally return the constituent's call.
· Mayor Bob Walkup, whose aide had to try a few times because of busy signals before getting through to provide a response.
THE PHONEY GOES TO: Bob Walkup. Four years ago, Walkup received a Special Achievement Award, because no one in his office even bothered to answer the phone. The current service, despite not being what was requested, was a noteworthy improvement.
A DAY LATE, BUT NOT BAD
Two of those receiving telephone calls returned them the next day. They were:
· Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford, who had a reasonable excuse for the delay--she was attending an important function on the day of the call.
· Chief Deputy County Administrator Martin Willett, who was checking to ensure Huckelberry had answered the constituent's questions.
THE AWARD IS PRESENTED TO: Beth Ford. In 2002, Ford didn't respond at all to the Phoney's telephone calls. So, like Walkup, she has come a long way in paying attention to constituents.
SECOND TIME'S THE CHARM
It took a second phone call to get their attention, but three officials did come through in one fashion or another. They are:
· County School Superintendent Linda Arzoumanian. Her assistant steadfastly refused to forward a message to her, instead referring the caller elsewhere.
· County Supervisor Richard Elías, who had a staff member call back.
· County Supervisor Ramón Valadez personally returned the message.
THE PRIZE IN THIS CATEGORY GOES TO: Ramón Valadez. Even though it took a second try, he took the time to call himself.
THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM
Undaunted by being ignored, the Weekly's caller tried one last time to reach the remaining government officials, and three of them finally responded:
· Tucson City Manager Mike Hein, who had a staff member call.
· Tucson City Councilman José Ibarra, who took several days to return the message.
· Tucson City Councilman Steve Leal, who called back himself.
THE WINNER IS: Steve Leal. He not only phoned, but actually asked the constituent what they thought about the issue being discussed.
FORGET ABOUT IT
Despite three tries, an embarrassing five office holders didn't bother to return the calls. They are:
· Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson.
· Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll.
· Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
· Pima County District Attorney Barbara LaWall.
· Tucson City Councilwoman Shirley Scott.
THE DISHONOR GOES TO: While all of them are constituent-service losers, the dubious distinction of winning the Phoney award in this category goes to Ray Carroll. Back in 2002, he also didn't bother to return calls from the Weekly's phoner. So, for the second time, Carroll has shown his disdain for the people he is elected to serve.
That attitude is truly deserving of a Phoney.