It's become a local holiday tradition, just like Santa Claus, Hanukkah candles and massive traffic messes near Tucson Mall: our annual Get Out of Town! issue.
For the uninitiated, here’s what this is all about: Tucson Weekly staff and contributors huddle over a warm yule-log-fueled fire, sip some bourbon-infused holiday nog, and compile a naughty list. Then, as our present to the entire city, we kick the people, places and things on that list out of town.
Figuratively, of course. We don’t actually have the power to remove the people/places/things on our list from the area. (It’s a serious flaw in the system, we acknowledge.)
Next week, in an effort to prove that we Weekly folk aren’t simply a bunch of cynical pricks, we’ll come back with our nice list, in the form of our annual Local Heroes issue.
But in the meantime ... here’s the naughty list.
When Rio Nuevo was first proposed, Bob Walkup was one of its main spokespeople, claiming that the project would bring about an amazing new era for Tucson.
Maybe it isn’t fair, but our American sense of culpability means someone has to take the blame ... and how has Mayor Bob avoided a public shaming so far? Sure, the nature of the mayoral office in Tucson doesn’t give Walkup much actual work or power, but it would be nice if he at least pretended to have a backbone on occasion. Count up the unanimous votes by the City Council in the last five years; occasionally, someone will step out with a protest vote, but it won’t be Walkup.
The vote on the convention-center hotel proposal showed off the worst tendencies of a weak mayor doing his job weakly: Walkup spent the entire meeting defending the need for a hotel and trying to rally support for the city to keep the project alive, but when it was clear that neither the audience nor the council were on his side, he ended up voting to kill the project—therefore preserving unanimity.
When a mayor’s “leadership” consists of little more than inaction and acquiescence, he might as well just get out of town.
COFFEE-SWILLING APATHETIC HIPSTERS
You’ve scene seen them around: those boot-, vest- and vintage-button-up-shirt-sporting young people who ignore you at super-hip art receptions and music shows. They undoubtedly rode their fixed-gear bike to the venue, and most likely took a handful of wistful puffs on a cigarette before trudging down the busy downtown sidewalk.
All right—I concede: I also wear fashionable clothing, ride a bike and bum American Spirits off my equally fancy-pants friends. We all can appreciate existentialism, intellectualism, good coffee and indie music, but damn, there is so much more out there in this big, wide world in which we live.
If the news makes you sad, we understand. Yes, there are some terrible things happening, and sometimes it seems like too much to handle. But living in the depths of classic American style is not going to save the starving babies in Asia or keep Sarah Palin out of the White House.
So listen, overly apathetic coffee-swilling hipsters: It is OK to care about something bigger than your self. In fact, your apathy is what gives us young people a bad name. Go ahead and wear your old-ass clothes; shop at thrift stores; and feed on your contradictory diet of cigarettes and organic foods ... but give a shit about something, or get out of town!
One of the most annoying life forms that a newspaper editor must deal with is the conspiracy theorist.
On the plus side, conspiracy theorists are passionate. They care. They’re willing to take action. And sometimes, they even manage to uncover something that needed to be uncovered.
On the minus side ... many of them are completely bonkers, and cannot be convinced, no matter what evidence arises, that they are wrong.
Consider some (emphasis on some) of the local election-integrity activists who have been hollering since May 2006 that the Regional Transportation Authority election was flipped. While I truly appreciate the hard work that some of these activists (like Bill Risner and John Brakey) have done to expose bad practices at the Pima County Elections Division, some folks just can’t be convinced—despite a full recount and the existence of pre-election polls showing the measure comfortably ahead—that the RTA proposition passed.
Then there are the “truthers,” the people who insist that the attacks of Sept. 11 were an inside job. At one point, one local “truther”—who, surprise, is also one of the more annoying and illogical members of the election-integrity crowd—during a discussion on our website of the collapse of WTC 7 (which “truthers” insist must have been demolished on purpose, because it wasn’t hit directly by a plane) went so far as to accuse folks at Popular Mechanics of using faked pictures in their thorough, definitive debunking of WTC 7-related conspiracy theories.
You see, the pic had to be doctored, because it didn’t conform to his imaginary version of reality.
Now it’s the “chemtrails” people who are calling me. Claims that planes are secretly and purposefully spraying the public with some sort of dangerous and/or behavior-altering chemicals are nothing new—I’ve been hearing them for a decade and a half—but today (at the times when they’re not calling me), a local group is running around and putting up signs around town claiming that all those white airplane contrails in the sky are actually part of some big plot.
FOURTH AVENUE PAVEMENT
Fourth Avenue is lined with eco-minded local shops. Its surrounding neighborhood teems with bike-friendly liberals. Its sidewalks host scores of inviting, artistic bike racks. It’s near one of Tucson’s best bike shops and hosts the annual Greater Arizona Bicycle Association (GABA) bike swap meet. It’s heavily frequented by cruiser-riding hippies, biking collegiates and hipsters with fixie fixations. And Fourth Avenue is neither pleasant to drive a car down (thanks to its narrowness and slowness) nor convenient to drive to (thanks to the lack of free parking). We could go on and on about why Fourth should be a bicyclist’s haven.
But it’s not.
The most fundamental part of making a street bike-friendly is to make the damn street bike-friendly—that is, the pavement. We’re not sure when any part of the street was last repaved, but we’d guess it was sometime during the Eisenhower administration. Because thanks to a topography resembling the Himalayas, Fourth Avenue—especially the part between Fifth Street and Speedway Boulevard, which rides worse than a six-block-long cattle guard—sucks to bike on. Not only does it make biking uncomfortable for anyone with a backpack (or a back, for that matter); it also makes biking dangerous for people who already have to avoid commercial trucks, trolley tracks, oblivious pedestrians and drunk-driving youths.
Yet instead of investing in fixing up Fourth Avenue’s pavement, the city is building a brand-new parking lot where it hits Congress Street. Bicyclists lose yet again.
Apartment magnate Humberto Lopez, already famous for allowing at least one of his properties to become so rundown that it was a top call generator for the Tucson Police Department, started 2010 by suckering the Tucson Tea Party crowd into launching a half-baked recall election against Mayor Bob Walkup and two Tucson City Council members. Later, he threw in the towel and left them holding the proverbial teabag.
Lopez finished the year by trying to convince the City Council, along with the new Rio Nuevo board, to rent his dumpy downtown hotel.
Check out the terms of this deal: The city borrows $17 million to fix up Lopez’s hotel, and then leases it from Lopez for $1.6 million a year for 99 years. Taxpayers get to keep whatever money the city gets from running the hotel for the next century, and then turn the keys back over to Bert’s heirs.
Are you kidding us? Get bent, Bert Lopez! And then get out of town.
INCONSISTENT PARKING METERS
Metered street parking is a hassle. Not only do you have to master the skill of parallel parking; you must also have a good sense of time, unless you plan on keeping an eye on your watch every minute of the day.
For those parking at and around the University of Arizona, there is an added hassle: The meters are inconsistent.
UA-operated meters are located on campus. While all of the university’s meter rates are consistent—a nickel buys you two minutes; a dime buys four minutes; and a quarter buys you 10 minutes—the city’s meters are not, and have different rates from the UA meters.
For example, south of Sixth Street behind the Student Recreation Center, the city controls the long strip of gray meters. These meters have a two-hour limit and provide you with 15 minutes for each quarter. But at other city parking meters—like the meters downtown—50 cents buys you an hour.
Why all the confusing inconsistency? These contradictory meters should all just go.
JESSE KELLY’S THUG BODYGUARDS
When Jesse Kelly strolled into the Republican Party fiesta on Election Night, he was surrounded by hundreds of friends and supporters in the Doubletree Hotel ballroom. While Kelly smiled, waved, shook hands and beamed as he addressed the crowd, he was surrounded by a posse of bodyguards.
The four men who surrounded Kelly were all tall like the candidate, all white like the candidate, and all seriously protective of the candidate ... but why did Kelly feel that he needed a group of bodyguards? When he went to each TV crew to answer questions, the bodyguards would stand in front of each camera area, evenly spaced with their arms in the same position. For a moment, it looked like we were witnessing a visit from the new leader of Mogadishu.
Two days after the campaign, while votes were still being counted, there was an interesting contrast at Epic Café on Fourth Avenue: U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords strolled in alone, sans makeup, wearing a T-shirt, yoga pants and sneakers. She said hello to a group of guys who had been talking abut the election before she arrived. Even as she took a bite out of her bagel, she was nice enough to answer a reporter’s question: “What are you doing here?”
It was time to take a break, she said.
Kelly probably has a coffee place he likes, and we have to wonder: Does he bring his bodyguards there?
One bit of advice, Mr. Kelly: Leave the thugs at home during the next campaign. Having them around doesn’t look as cool as you think it does.
Indefatigable blogger Andrew Sullivan, in a piece reflecting on “The Dickishness of the GOP,” recently noted: “What we’ve observed these past two years is a political party that knows nothing but scorched-earth tactics, cannot begin to see any merits in the other party’s arguments, refuses to compromise one inch on anything, and has sought from the very beginning to do nothing but destroy the Obama presidency. I see no other coherent message or strategy since 2008. Just opposition to everything, zero support for a president grappling with a recession their own party did much to precipitate, and facing a fiscal crisis the GOP alone made far worse with their spending in the Bush-Cheney years. There is not a scintilla of responsibility for their past; not a sliver of good will for a duly elected president.”
That pretty much sums up the actions of Sen. Jon Kyl these days (and, for that matter, Sen. John McCain, who we kicked out of town way back in 2005).
Kyl has been increasingly naked in his partisan scheming. He opposed the New START Treaty, because he wanted more money to update America’s nuclear arsenal, but when the Obama administration offered him more than he had asked for, he came up with new problems, including the excuse that there was not enough time to attend to his concerns—concerns which, by the way, aren’t shared by the likes of Colin Powell, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft.
Good Christ, even Pat Buchanan says the U.S. Senate should pass the treaty. Can it really be that bad?
Since the election, Kyl has vowed to swear off earmarks—and then he earmarked $200 million for a water-rights court settlement with Arizona’s tribes. He’s insisted that the deficit be reduced—and then blocked all action in the Senate until Democrats agreed to borrow another $700 billion from the Chinese to a finance a tax cut for the top 2 percent of earners in America. He’s argued that spending has to be brought under control—and then announced that he wants to increase spending on Medicare by dishing out more money to private insurance companies.
We call bullshit on this. Jon Kyl, get out of town—and take John McCain with you.
When we teach our children about democracy and how the U.S. system works, we say that in order to fight injustice, you have to protest, get people on your side and perhaps even collect signatures. Do that, and the powers that be may learn that they have a moral obligation to take a different road.
Maybe we aren’t telling our kids the truth. Maybe we need to remind them that in this democracy, money usually wins. The proposed Marana dump—er, landfill, as the folks in the town administration like to call it—is a good example.
The dump is no longer a mere proposal; the Town Council approved the project after 11 months of wrangling and opposition from residents who will literally see the dump from their backyards.
Residents near the proposed site, community members in the area, environmental organizations, state agencies and even Pima County practically begged the Town Council to change gears. It didn’t matter that the landfill will be built over a rising aquifer, potentially contaminating residential wells. Oh, yeah, and the aquifer just happens to be near a Tucson Water well, too.
The owner of the property is a town councilman—in his defense, he always excused himself from the landfill votes—who is going to make a lot of money by selling this land to DKL Holdings, the dump developer.
The plan still needs to go through state and federal reviews, so maybe there’s still hope for the neighbors. But as far as we’re concerned, the Marana dump and DKL Holdings can get out of town right now.
NEAR-NUDE CLUB GIRLS DURING THE WINTER
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Women want it—well, at least, some women do. Others don’t even seem to have it for themselves.
Yes, slutty club girls, we’re talking about you.
Contrary to your apparent belief, winter does exist in Tucson, and normal people wear a jacket—or at least a sweater, or at least long sleeves—when the temperature dips below 40. You, on the other hand, refuse to even wear pants, walking the streets in December wearing only a miniskirt, lingerie and sandals (with 6-inch heels).
Perhaps you’ve been grinding with such fervor against so many bodies on the dance floor in one of Tucson’s posh newish downtown dance clubs that you had to remove your real attire, because it was drenched in sweat. Perhaps you’ve recently snorted such a quantity of illicit stimulants that your revved-up metabolism forbids the suffocating confines of a T-shirt. Or perhaps your body-fat percentage is high enough that you could live naked in the Arctic and still be fine.
Still. Could you put some clothes on?
Yes, maybe we’re a little jealous of you hot ones. And maybe we’re being a little mean to you chubby ones. But we’re also looking out for your own well-being.
PEOPLE THREATENING TO MOVE TO PORTLAND
Portland, Ore., is a nice place. You can ride the bus for free downtown; they have a professional soccer team, actual seasons and Powell’s Books.
It’s understandable why people would want to move there ... but if you’re telling everyone how wonderful Portland is compared to Tucson, it’s time for you to go ahead and pack up your stuff.
Nobody’s making you stay. Break the lease; dump the mortgage on someone else; find a new job ... do what you have to do. We’re sick of hearing you talk about how much better it will be there, how you’ll finally be appreciated by a city, how no one in this town has the good sense to give you a high-paying job. Just go. We won’t be mad, and maybe we’ll even feel a twinge of jealousness that you might start running into Stephen Malkmus at Stumptown Coffee—but you’re either in, or you’re out. Pick a side, and either shut up or get out.
PEOPLE WHO DON’T PAY LIBRARY FINES AND PARKING TICKETS
Your hard-working city employees are taking furlough days. The least you could do is decrease their workload, and maybe help pay the light bill at City Hall by coughing up on those overdue parking tickets.
Thirty percent of Tucsonans require city follow-up before they pay their fines. If people don’t pay when the city asks nicely, yet more costs and fees are incurred by enforcement programs. Some 15 to 20 percent never pay, usually because they’ve left town.
The library is in better financial shape by virtue of having the county tax base. Still, at any given time, 100,000 books are overdue, and more than half of the library’s cardholders have some kind of fee on their accounts. Even with the fines averaging less than $15, that money collectively would buy a lot of Kindles. Meanwhile, the library already has forgiven you: If you don’t have the cash, they’ll take canned food. Kids can read off their fines.
The point is that deadbeats are disrespecting an institution that wants nothing more than to encourage people to read. Pay up, or get outta town.
PET STORES THAT BUY FROM PUPPY MILLS
If you’ve ever been to a pet store, you know how hard it is to resist those cute and miserable baby animals in their tiny cages. And if you’re like me, the urge to liberate and cuddle is overwhelming.
However, those dogs and cats are just a few of the millions that need homes. According to the Humane Society of the United States, each year, 6 million to 8 million animals enter shelters.
And those puppies you see in pet stores? Many of them come from horrendous establishments called puppy mills.
A puppy mill (or a kitten mill) is an institution that mass-produces puppies or kittens to sell to pet stores for cheap. The animals are often kept in wretched conditions: They’re cramped in tiny wire cages and very rarely, if ever, are let out to play or exercise. After the breeding animals are no longer fertile, they are killed, abandoned or sold to another breeder in an attempt to get one more litter.
If you buy a pet from a mill, not only are you supporting animal abusers; you’re disregarding the hard-working, compassionate workers and volunteers at animal shelters, and the loving pets they help. There are millions of shelter dogs and cats in the U.S. that need homes. Instead of contributing to pet overpopulation, get your furry friend from a great shelter in Tucson like FAIR, Casa de Los Gatos or Cold Wet Noses.
Help shut down pet mills by kicking cruel and dishonest pet stores out of town.
The flirtation between Arizona and the private-prison industry should be over, after the hoax Sen. Russell Pearce and Gov. Jan Brewer pulled on voters was exposed in late October by an NPR investigation revealing a connection between the private-prison industry and SB 1070.
TV news reporters in Phoenix and Tucson were the first to question the odd relationship between Pearce, who sponsored the bill, and the private-prison industry, which wants to grow in Arizona, but needs a steady flow of clients, i.e., prisoners.
The NPR story points out that private-prison companies preying on Arizona have a new business model that strategically targets suspected illegal immigrants. Why not keep them at a private prison? Part of the new business model is Arizona’s SB 1070, which, as written, would allow law enforcement to pick up anyone who is suspected to be an illegal immigrant.
The local office of the American Friends Service Committee is working to call attention to our great state hoax, yet the Arizona Department of Corrections just released a request for proposals for 5,000 beds from a private prison. The AFSC recently held public hearings in Tucson and in Kingman, where three inmates escaped from a Management and Training Corporation prison and later allegedly murdered an elderly couple in New Mexico.
There are 11 prisons in Arizona operated by private companies. Corrections Corporation of America has its eye on a parcel of land in southeast Tucson.
But really, now that the hoax has been exposed, isn’t it time for private prisons to get a swift kick out of town?
RIGHT-TURNING DRIVERS WHO ONLY LOOK LEFT
One day recently, I was biking on a designated bike path. When I came to an intersection, I cautiously stopped, dismounted, hit the button for the “walk” sign, and waited for the light to turn green. It did. I could now cross the street.
Or could I?
A guy in a sedan pulled halfway into the crosswalk, ready to turn right. He looked forward (kind of in my direction), then left at oncoming traffic, then forward again. Forward, left, forward, left. He was wearing sunglasses. Did he see me?
Seconds ticked by. The pedestrian on the “walk” sign became a blinking red hand. The turner had missed several opportunities to go. He must’ve seen me, I thought, and I crept into the street—just as he accelerated, missing me by inches.
I screamed long and loud—directly into his rolled-down window—as he completed his turn (and still didn’t notice me). Other drivers nearby honked with displeasure or in ridicule. I barely got across the street before the light changed.
Did I overreact? Here’s where I tell you that I was run over two years ago by a right-turning 18-wheeler whose driver failed to see me. The truck nearly took off my left leg.
Please, drivers: When turning, consider possible pedestrian proximity. Watch where you’re going. It could save someone’s life (or leg).
SIXTH AVENUE UNDERPASS
When I walked through the newly completed Fourth Avenue underpass the first time, I wondered just how long it would take for it to lose its luster. Not so long, it turned out. A Fourth Avenue underpass wall was recently home to the lovely sentiment: “U stink, take a bath.”
However, the Fourth Avenue underpass is far superior to its neighbor, the Sixth Avenue underpass.
That tunnel is not only filthy and covered in stupid graffiti; it’s sketchy and often smells like pot, beer, urine or a truly delightful combination of the three.
I’ve never had a pleasant experience here. I constantly have to navigate past mysterious sticky puddles and broken glass. And I often have to awkwardly walk past a group of suspicious-looking kids who are all standing around and smoking a joint and/or giving me mean looks, next to giant, cartoonish renderings of penises and badly misspelled tags (like “tryk” instead of “trick”).
Worst of all is when I’m midway through the god-awful trek—and the driver of a car honks the horn for fun. It’s loud, scary and unpleasant.
Now that we have the Fourth Avenue underpass, we should just give up on the Sixth Avenue underpass and give it a good, swift punt out of town.
This admonishment is offered as a holiday favor, not a Grinch-like putdown: For many younger people, Tucson isn’t the place to be anymore.
This town has depended too much and too long on low-wage jobs, failed leadership, lackluster educational systems and a sole reliance on sunshine to attract new residents. That model appears to be broken, perhaps irreparably.
The question to ask is: How much lower can Tucson and Arizona go? We’re already at the bottom of many social indices, and next up is a probable widespread shrinking in the standard of living.
Tucson’s better days are certainly behind it. Besides, what does this community have to offer? For dropouts and even recent high school graduates, there are few worthwhile jobs. In the future, because of the construction bust, there’s likely to be even fewer. That leaves cleaning toilets as a career choice.
Many recent college grads won’t fare much better. Most can anticipate holding down a couple of part-time jobs. With fewer businesses looking at locating here, that prospect doesn’t look to change.
So if you’re in your 20s, think seriously about moving. Follow the example of so many others who want a better life—and get out of town!
VOTERS FOR BOTH PROPOSITION 203 AND JAN BREWER
What on earth were you thinking? You want less government in general ... but you want more of it all up in your weed?
You want people with extreme illnesses to be able to use pot for comfort ... but you only support the privately insured? No, wait: You must have been playing the biz booster, trying to bolster Arizona’s economy and spread what’s left of the tax burden while creating much-needed new jobs in the new, clean marijuana industry. Plausible, but unlikely. Maybe you’re so paranoid about undocumented immigrants that you’d legalize contraband to stop them from bringing marijuana over the border?
If Terry Goddard had been running against Mary Jane last month, he’d have lost by 16,234 votes in Pima County, or, as progressives like to call it, “Baja Arizona.” Progressives can dream, but when even our enlightened, pot-altered consciousnesses are putting conservatives in power, it undermines our cred.
Wienerschnitzel is a strange outlier in the realm of fast-food joints: Someone must eat there, although no Tucsonan is likely to stand up and declare their allegiance to Wienerschnitzel hot dogs. We have our own hot dogs, after all, and there’s a Sonoran-style stand seemingly on every street corner and in empty lot across town.
I can’t fault Wienerschnitzel for jumping on the Sonoran-dog bandwagon, after El Guero Canelo and BK were featured on several cable food shows. However, I can fault them for thinking it would be a good idea to try out their take on the bacon-wrapped delight in Tucson. They have a bunch of locations in Texas and California, where the novelty might be a bigger deal, and where the customers might not know better.
If you live in Tucson and have any interest in a Sonoran hot dog, yet haven’t been to BK or El Guero Canelo, you probably should get out of town, too, but you certainly shouldn’t try one at a chain-joint first, second or possibly ever. Wienerschnitzel’s dog isn’t even wrapped in bacon; the bacon is laid adjacent!
Sell them anywhere else, Wienerschnitzel. But not in Tucson.
Some time ago, the Arizona Daily Star reported on a Regional Transportation Authority board meeting at which they discussed a controversial issue. “Marana Mayor Ed Honea,” the newspaper stated, “said the RTA Board had no option but to approve the staff’s recommendation, since, ‘We hired the staff.’”
More recently, residents of the Catalina Foothills School District were frustrated in their dealings with school board members concerning a contentious topic. When the issue initially surfaced, the elected officials refused to even meet with the residents, instead referring them to district staff members.
As these examples demonstrate, Tucson has far too many elected officials who see their primary job as rubber-stamping the recommendations of their staff.
That’s not why we have elections. Politicians are supposed to be our representatives in overseeing the operation of government, not cheerleaders for the staff. If the elected officials don’t hold the staff accountable, who will?
Politicians who see their job as simply approving staff recommendations need to ask themselves: Why should anyone even be in an elected position if that is all they do? Why not just let the staff run the entire show themselves?
Tucson would be a lot better off if we had more elected officials asking tough questions. Instead, we seem to be inundated with politicians who politely approve whatever is put in front of them. Those people should do us all a favor and hit the road!