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A Ballot Box in Every Living Room

Say "adios" to your neighborhood polling place! The Tucson City Council voted to go to an all-mail ballot for the 2007 election cycle. Advocates, including City Councilman Steve Leal, who first proposed the idea late last year, say the new system of sending every registered voter a ballot will save money, increase turnout and eliminate problems associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Critics say the new program is fraught with potential fraud and destroys the proud tradition of visiting a polling place to cast a vote. The majority of Tucsonans shrugged, just like they do every Election Day within the city limits.

Meanwhile, Fred Taylor, statewide coordinator for Your Right To Vote, says an initiative drive to ask voters to approve mail-in ballots statewide has surpassed the minimum 122,263 signatures required to put the question on the November ballot. The effort is being funded by radio-station magnate Rick Murphy, an unsuccessful congressional candidate.


Fuel Crisis

Gas prices continue to rise, with AAA of Arizona reporting that prices climbed more than 15 cents per gallon last week, bringing the average Tucson price to more than $2.76 a gallon for unleaded regular. Last year's price at this time was a mere $2.31 a gallon. AAA spokeswoman Yvette O. Lopez says prices statewide have risen 20 percent in the last six weeks, with more increases on the horizon, because Iran is busy chasing a nuclear bomb and threatening to wipe Israel off the map, while unrest continues in Nigeria.

In other driving news: A government study showed that roughly eight out of every 10 collisions or close calls are caused by--big surprise!--distracted drivers who were engaging in such activities as talking on cell phones, fooling with their stereos or eating Big Macs, according to The Associated Press.


Snafu

Congressman Jim Kolbe criticized the U.S. Army following news reports that more than 400 Marana-based National Guard troops who are facing an eight-month training session at Fort Hood, Texas, would not be eligible for roughly $800 a month in per-diem payments. Several families had made plans to relocate to remain together until the soldiers shipped out to a one-year combat tour in Afghanistan, only to learn that they would only be eligible for $200 a month.

"If the Army made a promise to these soldiers, the Army needs to live up to its word," Kolbe said in a statement. "These men and women are fighting for our freedom, and they deserve to be treated fairly."


Detention

Santa Cruz County School Superintendent Robert Canchola resigned as part of a plea agreement to resolve an investigation by Attorney General Terry Goddard. Canchola, 49, pleaded guilty to conflict of interest charges related to payments made to his wife's consulting firm and agreed to pay up to $42,000 in restitution. Canchola, who faces up to two years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1.

In other Nogo-related news out of the AG's office: Goddard announced charges of kidnapping and sexual assault were filed against a former Nogales policeman. Ramon Fernando Borbon, 36, stands accused of restraining and sexually assaulting a woman while in his police uniform in September 2005.


Wall Mount

Chris Simcox, leader of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, announced his organization would start building a border wall if the federal government wouldn't. Simcox--who offered a drawing showing the 50-foot-wide barrier would include two 15-foot chain-link fences, a dirt road with buried motion detectors, a trench and surveillance cameras sandwiched between two 8-foot piles of barbed wire--said the construction work would begin next month on private land.

"On Memorial Day weekend, the American people will exercise their God-given rights to protect their lives and property by initiating construction of fencing along the border on private land unless President Bush immediately deploys National Guard and/or reserve troops along the breadth of the Southwestern border line with Mexico, thereby retaking the region from the international criminal cartels who presently are in operational control of the border," Simcox delusionalized. "Additional support is available from military units presently training to guard the borders in other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and they should immediately relocate their training to the Southwestern border."

Simcox says the fence will be built with private donations. Low-end estimates for a wall along the entire border were $2.2 billion last year.


Crime Spree

Tucson Police Department detectives announced they had arrested Victor Lee Lobato, who is suspected in a string of 12 robberies of Tucson businesses--including a Gamestop, two Radio Shacks, a Pep Boys, a Circle K, a Yokohama Rice Bowl, an IHOP and Plato's Closet--since March 16. After using "witness information, crime scene site analysis, crime scene forecasting and COPLINK crime analysis software," police were able to identify Lobato and arrested him without incident during a traffic stop. Police said Lobato committed the robberies to support his drug habit.

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