Every December since 2003, those of us at Weekly World Central have put aside the holiday cookies and brandy-infused eggnog for a bit to ponder how we could make our humble, dusty town just a little bit better.
There's a lot of stuff we could add to Tucson to improve things: More rain. A downtown, nontaxpayer-funded baseball stadium. A Fatburger, perhaps.
However, Tucson could improve by getting rid of a lot of stuff, too—hence our annual naughty list, aka our Get Out of Town! issue.
Here's our 2011 list of 21 people, things and groups that we wish would pack up and exit stage left. (Or stage right ... it doesn't matter, as long as they exit.) However, keep in mind the Tucson Weekly has no power to actually kick anyone or anything out of town. Sorry about that.
If you think this whole exercise is too negative, we have two pieces of advice: Develop a sense of humor, dammit; and pick up next week's Local Heroes issue, in which we say nice things about nice people. So there.
"Are You Prepared to Die?" Bus-Stop Ads
"Are you prepared to die?" is not a particularly polite question, especially when you're slapped in the face with it while trying to maneuver through a Tucson traffic snarl. Yet the question was boldly plastered on at least two bus-stop shelters around town in the form of what appeared to be an ad for a life-insurance company.
One was on the north side of Fort Lowell Road between Alvernon Way and Columbus Boulevard; the other was on the east side of Swan Road between Grant and Fort Lowell roads. Neither ad remains in place, giving us hope that whoever is responsible for the obnoxious ads has, in fact, gotten out of town—or was perhaps run out of town for killing someone.
Both ads were, after all, placed in such a way that they blocked the view of oncoming traffic while you were trying to turn from a side street, making it incredibly easy to be fatally sideswiped by a speeding pickup.
Blocking the view of the street was not the only hazard created by these ads. The "Are you prepared to die?" question could also cause motorists to abruptly slam on their brakes, creating a pileup, as they pondered the question: Would I be happy if I died this instant? Have I fulfilled any of my dreams? Why do I need life insurance if I don't even have a wife and kids? Who gives a flying squirrel about life, anyway?
For the last few years, some of us at Weekly World Central have wondered where Bruce Ash lives, because it just can't be Tucson.
That's what we told ourselves when the Republican National Committee member, who runs a property-management company, was jabbering on about downtown being dead—no one goes downtown, he said, poking a stick at downtown revitalization.
Maybe Ash was deeply confused and happened to be visiting another city. On weekends and some weekdays, it is obvious that downtown Tucson is far from dead: There are concerts at multiple venues, movies at the Screening Room, busy restaurants and a couple of packed playhouses.
But that's the way Ash operates—on lies.
Another example of Ash's technique is his questioning of Gabrielle Giffords' faith—asking: Is she Jewish enough?—in a letter posted on a Christian blog. Ash, who is also Jewish, was berated by some members of the Tucson Jewish community, who condemned the idea of questioning someone's faith, all in the name of politics.
But Ash hit an all-time low on the Nov. 21 Buckmaster radio show while doing the Republican-vs.-Democrat deal with political counterpart Paul Eckerstrom: He outright lied about the late Judy Burns and her involvement in the April 26 student takeover of the Tucson Unified School District governing-board meeting.
Ash said that not only did Burns plan the takeover; he also said she orchestrated it from the dais in the board room. That didn't happen, folks. She was not involved; instead, she stood at the dais in support of the students from UNIDOS who were protesting to save the district's Mexican-American studies classes.
Eckerstrom called out Ash on the lie. It's disgusting that those within Ash's party don't bother to call him out on lies like this, too.
He burst onto the scene in 2008 when, with only a couple of years of experience in law enforcement, this Joe Arpaio protégé ran away with the Pinal County sheriff's election, becoming one of the few Republicans to gain office in what had largely been a Democrat-run county.
Since then, it seems as if Babeu has burst onto the scene in every place but his own jurisdiction.
The Babeu Express gained full steam in April 2010 when one of his deputies was apparently shot—in Maricopa County, mind you—by suspected drug-smugglers. Sheriff Paul began popping up anywhere a camera, microphone or notepad was spotted, and declared himself to be in charge of a border county. (Pinal County is a good 80 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, but who's counting?)
Since then, Babeu has made appearances on countless national television programs, and has made dozens of public-speaking engagements across the state. This out-of-his-area exposure has grown exponentially since Oct. 24, when he announced an "exploratory committee" to look at his chances of winning Arizona's District 4 congressional seat.
It's only fitting that Babeu chose this district, since hardly any of it will likely be in Pinal County. (Congressional maps have yet to be finalized for the 2012 election.) But the part that is in Pinal County as of now includes the Republican-dominated communities of Gold Canyon and San Tan Valley.
What it doesn't include, thankfully, is any of Pima County, so there's no reason for Mr. Babeu to make any more trips down here.
—Brian J. Pedersen
Gov. Jan Brewer and the GOP Members of the Senate
We've seen plenty of rotten politics in the state of Arizona, but Gov. Jan Brewer's effort to kick Colleen Mathis off the Independent Redistricting Commission—with the support of every Republican in the Arizona Senate—might be the most-astonishing abuse of power we've ever witnessed.
The Independent Redistricting Commission has the job of redrawing the state's political boundaries, setting the playing field for a decade of politics on both the federal and state levels. If you have competitive districts, you have a chance of defeating particularly loathsome politicians (of which we have no shortage in Arizona). If you have lopsided districts, politicians—no matter how wretched they are—feel free to act with impunity, because they know they are safe at the ballot box as long as they pander to the most-extreme elements of their party so they can win primaries.
When Arizona Republicans realized they weren't going to be able to control the Independent Redistricting Commission, they did the next-best thing: They whipped up a campaign to destroy the reputation of Mathis, a former Republican who had registered as an independent because she could no longer stomach the rightward lurch of the party.
That disgraceful campaign reached its lowest point in early November, when Gov. Jan Brewer tried to fire Mathis based on a bunch of trumped-up charges that she had committed "gross misconduct" and "substantial neglect of duty" for supposedly violating the state's open-meeting laws and violating constitutional requirements on the drawing of maps.
Of course, all the plotting by the Republicans regarding the alleged violations of the open-meeting laws was done behind closed doors, as Brewer and GOP lawmakers huddled out of public view to determine how to remove Mathis.
As for the charges that Mathis had somehow violated the Arizona Constitution: Well, it turns out the people who broke the law and violated the Arizona Constitution were Brewer and the GOP lawmakers—a point that was hammered home when the Arizona Supreme Court stepped in and told Brewer that she had no cause to remove Mathis. The justices reinstated Mathis as chairwoman and re-established the rule of law in Arizona.
Thank God there's at least one branch of government left in this state that's not completely corrupt and rotten.
When did it become acceptable for 20-something-year-old guys to wear tank tops? Not just any kind of tank top, mind you, but the homemade, jaggedly cut kind of tank top, often referred to as a "bro tank."
The arm holes are so large that the wearer's entire chest is exposed, nipples and all. It's unacceptable and not something to be worn in public. If you didn't want to wear a shirt, then why did you even bother putting on what looks like an oversize cotton bib?
The worst part: The sleeveless atrocities are always worn by guys who think they are super-cool—the dudes who use hair gel and work on their tans a lot. Although most bro-tank wearers are found in gyms, a substantial number can be found in more-public places.
Undoubtedly, the bro tank is an apparel strategy to showcase muscles, the male equivalent of the push-up bra (another bad fashion choice).
We get it, bro: You work out, and you look good. But, please, put on some clothes. Young children do not need to see your nipples while shopping at Safeway.
Complainers Who Say Gabrielle Giffords Should Resign
Many of us in Tucson are still recovering from broken hearts suffered in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shootings.
Most of us don't have the deep psychological and physical wounds that survivors like Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her aide Ron Barber continue to deal with. But for those who love Tucson, the shootings came during a time when we were already dealing with many divisive issues in Arizona, including the increasing anti-Mexican sentiment that's exemplified in SB 1070 and HB 2281, the anti-ethnic-studies law targeting Mexican-American studies in the Tucson Unified School District.
The day of the shootings, some of us were asking each other and ourselves: "How much more are we supposed to take?"
It's hard to deal with broken hearts—and while they are still mending, it hurts even more to hear the idiocracy calling for Giffords' resignation, with people complaining they aren't being represented. Everyone deserves time to heal, especially if they were injured on the job, as Giffords was.
The lack of statesmanship from some politicians after Jan. 8 has been stunning. One fine (or is it foul?) example is state Sen. Frank Antenori, who announced his interest in running for Giffords' seat if she decides not to run again.
"The voters need to make a decision, and how do they do that without information? They can't make an assessment of her ability because her staff have denied access to the media," he said.
Then there was the spectacle of the local GOP raffling off a Glock, the same brand of handgun used on Jan. 8.
Maybe we haven't learned anything from that awful day. Or maybe there is a lesson there: We should give the boot to callous politicians such as our dear friend Frank. Find some other city to torture, people. We've been through enough. Get. Out. Of. Town.
Derechos Humanos (for supporting the Sound Strike)
Derechos Humanos has done essential work for the civil rights of Southern Arizona's Latino population, but it made a self-destructive misstep by encouraging the Sound Strike to silence the potentially powerful leadership that music and musicians could provide in the wake of SB 1070.
Most Sound Strike artists rarely appear in Arizona, anyway, which only makes them look cynical—especially when new releases find them scrambling for loopholes. Anyway, artists need to eat, too. And by facilitating the artists' boycott of Southern Arizona, Derechos cut off a much-more-leveragable benefit: The empowering sound of music to motivate and mobilize widespread action.
The power of easy-to-sing, instantly memorable and instinctively resonant music is ageless, from "We Shall Overcome" to "Give Peace a Chance" to the union songs of the '30s and the grave-diggers' movement in 17th-century England. The canticle known as "Magnificat," for example, spoke for the disenfranchised in Biblical times, but also empowered the Sandinistas. Imagine it today, with or without a few "bitches" and f-bombs: "Casting down the mighty from their thrones / and lifting up the lowly / He has filled the hungry with good things / and sent the rich away empty."
It's time for Sound Strike artists to step up and do what really needs to be done to help Arizona—and for Derechos Humanos to send its naïve involvement with the music business outta town.
If I were a stalker, Foursquare would be the best gift on Earth, but I'm not ... so it's just annoying. Why does your entire social network need to know your whereabouts at all times? Chances are, your "friends" don't give a shit, and you shouldn't, either.
Thanks to social-media linking, Foursquare updates can pop up on Twitter and Facebook, even if you are not a stalker-square member, therefore clogging up your minifeed with a bunch of URL links preceded by the phrase, "I'm at ... (insert a place you don't care about here)."
The worst of it, though, is being with one of these people. Without fail, he or she whips out a phone—which seems to be surgically attached to a hand—when he or she walks into a new establishment. I've actually been silenced at times with a, "Hold on; I need to check in."
Call me archaic, but I firmly believe that leisurely using one's phone while in the presence of friends is incredibly rude. So to all of you badge-earning, mayor-boasting geo-prey out there: Either give it up and keep your phone in your pocket, or get out of town.
"Blinded by the Light" is a bad-enough song, but it's even worse as a phenomenon that hits Tucson as soon as dusk arrives: The blindness comes from those headlight abusers who drive around with their brights on.
Headlight abusers drive every size, shape and make of vehicle. They are especially common in big-wheeled trucks that pull directly behind you, with the brights blazing steadily into your rearview mirror.
Brights are meant for safety purposes, such as improving night vision on unlit, winding mountain roads with 900-foot drops, black bears scampering to and fro, and a lack of guardrails. But turning on the brights to piddle-paddle down straight-as-an-arrow Tucson streets is absurd. Make that really absurd. And it's also unsafe.
Motorists suddenly blinded by brights might veer off the road, or even run head-on into a headlight abuser. Brights also endanger the folks who walk their dogs after dark, especially if their dogs are prone to lunging at large, white, blinding things that rumble down the street.
As a caregiver for two autistic boys who are constantly working on their coping, social and communication skills in their natural (and, yes, that sometimes means public) environment, I find myself frequently encountering judgmental mothers.
The boys are both almost 10. When they act unruly, it launches them, and me, into a world of pitying glances and clucking tongues.
I once encountered a woman while shopping at Bookmans who told me to take the child I was caring for outside, because he was bothering her.
Hey, judgmental moms: Your kids may be silent, but that doesn't mean they are perfect.
One of the kids I work with is nonverbal, and he uses loud cries and screams to relay his feelings. Just because we happen to be shopping at Target doesn't mean he can change the way he communicates.
Believe it or not, shushing doesn't work. So to all you older folks who don't understand autistic kids because they were in insane asylums when you were growing up: Please keep your mouths shut. Your ignorance doesn't help me or the child you're complaining about. Teach your own children compassion by leaving the parent or caregiver alone while he/she is dealing with an already-difficult situation.
After taking care of the two autistic boys, I get to go to my own, quiet home at night, which helps me deal with the feelings of embarrassment and frustration. But most mothers with special-needs kids don't have that escape.
So, judgmental moms: If you encounter a child exhibiting socially unacceptable behavior, show some compassion, and just deal with it—or get out of town.
Lazy Shopping-Center Managers
A recent trip to the Grant/Swan neighborhood in search of sustenance turned into a frustrating voyage full of broken promises, thanks to shopping-center managers who are either unwilling or unable to take down the signs of long-gone tenants.
As we drove past Crossroads Festival, on the intersection's northeast corner, our taste buds kicked in as we saw the sign for Quiznos. But as we pulled in front of the building, we encountered an empty storefront.
We also happened to need some info on new-home developments in Tucson, so we figured that the KB Home Studio on the southeast corner would be worth checking out. Although the KB Home sign was still up, the business had been replaced by a Halloween Express.
How hard can it be for the people who manage shopping centers to keep signs up to date? Is it just pure laziness, or do they hope that people lured into the complex by the promise of a no-longer-in-existence store or restaurant will end up patronizing adjacent establishments?
These bums need to get out of town. We'd recommend hitting Carlota's Authentic Mexican at Foothills Mall before hitting the road, but even though the sign is still up, that place moved months ago.
Loud Salvation Army Bell-Ringers
The holidays are hard to miss. There's the sight of Christmas trees in stores, the smell of pine needles and the taste of fruitcake. But there are also long lines to wait in, crazy shoppers to contend with and too many things to buy. Our senses of sight, smell and taste are almost overwhelmed.
But wait: I haven't mentioned the sounds of the season. Santa's sleigh bells? No. Bells ringing so angels get their wings? Nope. The ear-shattering sound of Salvation Army bells ringing at store entrances? Yes.
I certainly can't speak ill of the Salvation Army's good deeds. The organization offers disaster relief, homeless services, youth camps and an array of other services and programs. But those bell ringers ... some ring the bell gently to announce their presence. That's fine. However, others shake their bell fiercely, sending out a shrill, piercing sound. I know you are there. I see your red kettle. Must I hear you at the outer edge of the parking lot? I think not.
Pack up your things, loud bell-ringers, and get out of town!
Modern Streetcar Tracks (for Screwing Up Tucson Events)
I have high hopes for the modern streetcar. Maybe, just maybe, it can be the first step in a comprehensive, modern public-transportation system for the Old Pueblo. It should be a boon to downtown by making it easier for UA students to get to and from the heart of our city. Really, the streetcar will be a good thing, I think. I hope.
However, the tracks (metaphorically speaking) are already causing a big problem for Tucson (literally speaking).
City officials are telling organizations that sponsor events on Fourth Avenue and Congress Street that from now on, those streets will be unavailable for closure (with the twice-a-year Fourth Avenue Street Fair being the only exception)—and not just during construction of the tracks and stations along the streetcar route. No, folks, the city is saying that Fourth and Congress will be unavailable for events-related closures forever.
This means that Fourth Avenue events that close portions of the avenue—like the car shows, for example—will need to move or die. Same goes for The Event put on by the Centurions; the parties held in front of the Fox Tucson Theatre; the Tucson Weekly's very own Club Crawl® events; and numerous other functions that bring thousands of people to downtown and Fourth Avenue throughout the year.
So ... in the name of improving downtown and Fourth Avenue, the city and the feds are jeopardizing events that have brought, and would otherwise continue to bring, millions of dollars in revenue to downtown and Fourth Avenue.
Here's hoping that saner heads prevail as this reality sinks in. In the meantime ... get out of town, streetcar tracks!
Non-Tucsonans Who Whine About the City of Tucson
Every morning, out-of-towners drive into our city, clog our streets and deepen our potholes, before retreating back into the mountains as night falls.
Yes, I'm talking about you, residents of the Catalina foothills and Casas Adobes—and all of the other people who live outside of the Tucson city limits and gripe about, but work in and enjoy, the city of Tucson.
It's all in a day's work for more than 100,000 people who live on the outskirts of the city—many with property values that are exponentially higher than that of the average Tucsonan.
The next time you complain about how terrible the roads are in midtown, gripe about the traffic, or cry about Rio Nuevo: Zip it—literally. Change your ZIP code.
Tired of crossing rivers during monsoon flash floods because the entire city is a slope of doom that funnels water down main streets? Maybe if you forked over some of that property-tax revenue, and/or agreed to annexation, we could level some streets.
Getting road rage because you have to wait an hour in traffic to get from downtown to Grant and Wilmot roads during rush hour? You're a part of the problem.
You could be a part of the solution, but since you'd rather keep your money (a lot of which you make in Tucson) to yourself, keep your complaints out of town, too.
People Who Use Automated Carts as Toys
A recent blog post at Discover Magazine's website outlined the findings of an informal survey regarding the behavior of 500 supermarket shoppers.
The results were not pretty.
When acquiring a cart at the store entrance, 69 percent dumped any leftover trash into another cart. Only 7 percent of shoppers observed the item limit in the express lane. And only about one in five shoppers returned the cart to the proper depository.
Other poor shopping behavior is commonplace at the supermarket—including children and young adults using the automated carts as a form of entertainment. It's shocking to see parents unaware of or uninterested in the fact that their kids are playing around with the carts, especially when there are few carts to begin with. The carts are there for people who need them, and the carts should not be used otherwise. One kid's joy ride can prevent a disabled person from shopping.
To the inconsiderate kids and parents: Take a hike out of town!
Politicians Who Can't Gather Signatures Properly
Earlier this year, those of us at Weekly World Central were kinda, sorta looking forward to the chaos that would have been the 2011 mayoral race.
It would have featured the always-entertaining Shaun McClusky battling Ron Asta (Hey! I have meat in my pants!) in the Republican primary for the chance to face former major league pitcher Pat Darcy (an independent), lawyer Jonathan Rothschild (a Democrat) and the winner of the Mary DeCamp/Dave Croteau Green Party primary in the general election.
Problem is, McClusky, Asta and Darcy proved to be complete political morons by not gathering enough signatures to get on the ballot.
That's Politics 101, folks: You can't win if you can't get on the ballot. And these three candidates failed Politics 101 with an F-.
Some supporters of these candidates then had the nerve to whine about the local Democrats who successfully challenged invalid signatures. Really. Instead of criticizing the candidates for not getting enough valid signatures—which, if you have something resembling a legitimate campaign, is not that difficult—people criticized the folks who pointed out the invalid signatures.
So, who were the real losers (aside from McClusky, Asta and Darcy)? Tucsonans.
Thank goodness for Republican write-in candidate Rick Grinnell (Note: That may be the first time those eight words were ever strung together!), Rothschild and DeCamp for offering some semblance of a public discussion about the issues that matter to Tucsonans during the mayoral race (even if that discussion devolved into insane topics such as decreasing trash collection and using vacant storefronts for citizens to swap things they don't want).
However, it was nowhere near the fruitful debate Tucsonans may have gotten from a legitimate four-candidate race.
Rio Nuevo Board
The history of Tucson's downtown-revitalization efforts is long and troubled. There's little argument that too many of the Rio Nuevo dollars the city received were squandered on planning for projects that were never built.
But there's also little argument that downtown is now on the upswing. Thanks to the Rialto and Fox theaters, there are a lot of people out on the town. Thanks to a blossoming club scene, there's more nightlife downtown than we've seen in our lifetime. The dining opportunities are spectacular: Janos is back downtown; 47 Scott is creating innovative cocktails to accompanying fine plates; Maynards has finally found a way to bring the historic train station back to life. And have you tried to get a table at Hub without a reservation on a Friday night?
Tucson Electric Power has a mammoth new building downtown. Small galleries like Etherton and Dinnerware, and museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Tucson Museum of Art are presenting astonishing shows. Developers are building student housing, and the modern streetcar will create a new connection between the UA and downtown, allowing the university to set up shop. Festivals like Club Crawl®, the All Souls Procession and Tucson Meet Yourself are bringing people downtown by the thousands.
In the worst economic times since the Great Depression, downtown Tucson is a place where people are investing money and having a good time.
What has a "reconstituted" Rio Nuevo Board done to help? Well, it's threatened to sue the city of Tucson for an absurd $47 million. It's refused to invest any money in the Tucson Convention Center so that we might hold on to the economic engine of the Gem Show—and convention business in general. It's laid claim to a bunch of land, making it that much more difficult to actually get anything built there. Heck, when a nonprofit group actually managed to get enough money to start planting trees at the Mission Garden, the birthplace of our community, the board threatened to take legal action!
In short: The Rio Nuevo board is doing its best to kill any momentum and chill any investment in downtown, while spending what money it has on lawyers and accountants. Nice job, fellas.
Here's our message to the Rio Nuevo board: Get on board, or get out of town. Quit trying to get in the way of getting something done.
First, credit where it's due: During his five years as University of Arizona president, Robert Shelton waged spirited budgetary battles with flat-Earth Arizona legislators. He didn't always win, of course, as the university endured funding cuts of some $100 million. The former president didn't create the situation in which the school is ever-more dependent on outside money from often-mysterious sources.
Still, he apparently did play dirty—and put faculty members in a untenable position—when he allegedly arranged a sweetheart deal with a Mormon bishop who had pledged $1.2 million to the philosophy department's controversial Freedom Center. In exchange for the cash, Shelton reportedly promised the anonymous bishop veto power over whoever was hired with his money. When an atheist was picked, the bishop balked—and he ultimately walked with the cash when Freedom Center director David Schmidtz refused to go along.
The donor had "worked out a deal with President Shelton, the details of which I don't care to talk about," an irked Schmidtz told the Tucson Weekly back in September.
By then, of course, Shelton was already settled into his new gig as executive director of the scandal-ridden Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix. And he didn't return repeated calls from the Weekly concerning Schmidtz's allegation.
For being so ethically challenged, Robert Shelton should get the heck out of town.
Tucson Appliance Guy (aka Chris Edwards)
Hokey commercials are a staple of any community. Just ask Jim Click, at least when he's hawking cars and not representing banks as his more-esoteric alter ego, James H. Click Jr.
But Chris Edwards takes corny and cheesy to a new level with his Tucson Appliance Company commercials. Whether he's dressing up like the Incredible Hulk, Superman, Indiana Jones or a Blues Brother, or just being himself, no one has made the make-both-of-your-hands-into-a-gun-and-point-them-toward-the-camera move more ridiculous than Edwards.
If you've somehow managed to avoid these 30-second bits of ham sandwich—if ever there was a reason to record shows and skip the commercials, this is it—you can view 77 clips of cable-access-level product at tacappliance.com/Tac/commercials.aspx.
If this routine were limited to commercials and YouTube, we wouldn't need to kick him out of town. But Edwards, bless his effort, this year took his shtick to the giant, new video boards at Arizona Stadium, where his mug (leaning far back and down, so as to eliminate his neck, another trademark of his look) screams out to fans prior to each and every kickoff.
Nothing ever made us wish more for low-scoring football games than this.