You have to hand it to Steve Emerine and Judy Abrams, the turncoat Democrats who backed Tucsonans for Responsible Leadership. Their independent campaign launched a ceaseless attack on McKasson's intelligence and capability in the final weeks of the campaign, proving again that negative campaigning works. It'll sure be fun to see who paid the bills for that shadowy campaign when the finance reports are due. We're betting the Growth Lobby was happy to pour funds into the effort, since they had the most to lose in a McKasson administration.
Even though she lost, however, it's a testament to McKasson's vision that Walkup did his best to tailor his platform to mirror hers. Walkup insisted he was opposed to the direct delivery of CAP water. He backed the Council's recent restrictions on big-box megalomarts. After initial waffling, he opposed construction of a new City Hall. And he talked about the importance of neighborhoods, even to the point of claiming he had the endorsement of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson's "candidate endorsement committee," although no such committee exists, according to the NCGT. By the end of the campaign, Walkup was virtually Molly-lite.
The real question now is whether Walkup adopted these positions based on polling to win the election, or if he really believes in them. If it's the latter, then we'll soon find that the new boss is the same as the old boss.
CLINICAL DEPRESSION: The battle over El Pueblo Clinic continued this week, with the City Council voting to create a new health-care entity to work out of the clinic's southside headquarters.
The vote capped three weeks of controversy that began when El Pueblo's Board of Directors swore in some new members, whose first move was to fire clinic director Hector Morales, a former Tucson councilman who was credited with lifting morale at the clinic. Once Morales was ousted, the president of the clinic's board, Alfred Dicochea, stepped down from the board and was hired to run the clinic, for $60,000 a year. Although his background in the medical arena is limited to his two-year stint on the clinic's board, Dicochea also got a severance package as part of his contract that guaranteed him $65,000 if he were to be fired -- a clause which was not part of Morales' contract. Do you suppose the fix was in?
The move smelled bad right away -- and the stink got worse when most of the clinic's 25 employees quit to protest Morales' dismissal.
The city and county acted quickly. The Board of Supervisors, which provides $250,000 of the clinic's $1.2 million budget, voted to suspend funding for the clinic unless Morales was rehired.
The City Council doesn't provide funding for the clinic, but it does own the building which houses the clinic and provides free maintenance and utilities. Councilman Steve Leal proposed creating a new entity to run the clinic so the current El Pueblo gang could be evicted. As it turns out, the clinic, has no long-term lease with the city. Which means as soon as a new group can be assembled to provide health care for southside residents, the crew now running the clinic will be out on the street, where they deserve to be. Playing politics with a clinic serving about 3,000 low-income southside residents is reprehensible. El Pueblo's current Board of Directors should be ashamed of its pathetic coup.
SMOKED OUT: Doesn't the Tucson Police Department have better things to do than bust restaurateurs who allow smoking in their establishments?
Sure, it's against the law -- a few months ago, the City Council outlawed smoking in restaurants, leading some owners to announce they wouldn't observe the ban when it went into effect last month.
So last week, City Prosecutor Bill Call sent detectives to stake out Molly G's, 903 E. Fort Lowell, in hopes of catching someone puffing on a cigarette. A few suspects lighted up and the cops made the bust, citing owner Molly Grezaffi for allowing smoking. Nice work, Columbo.
Grezaffi is going to fight the charges in court, claiming her restaurant is a private club and exempt from the ban. We wish her luck, although we're skeptical she'll prevail in court.
But we're left to wonder: aren't there real crimes in this community to combat? But then, it's easier to snuff out smoking at a struggling restaurant than to stop gang gun-battles on the southside.
MAD McCAIN: Here's a stunning revelation for ya: Sen. John McCain has a temper.
This newsflash came courtesy of The New York Times, which ran a story last week on McCain's rising presidential hopes. In an interview with the Times, Gov. Jane Dee Hull, who has endorsed Texas Gov. George W. Bush, mentioned that McCain had a tendency to yell and holler when he didn't get his way.
McCain, of course, responded angrily, accusing Hull of being a pawn of the Bush campaign, which he said planted the story about his temper. We don't know if the story was pushed by the Bush camp or not, but we're sure of one thing: it's true, so why is he whining about it?
HOME DEATHTRAP: The City of Tucson has received a report from Scott Grainger of Grainger Consulting, Inc., which basically states it would be a bad idea to approve the mega-merchandiser's current plans for an El Con store.
The report makes these key points, and we're quoting:
· Home Depot and/or El Con have failed to address the related building and fire code issues that would arise as a result of the Home Depot being built on, or adjacent to, the existing mall.
· There are significant fire and safety deficiencies in the submitted plans, including, but not limited to, the use of improper/unsafe construction materials, as well as inadequate fire sprinkler plans and coverage.
· The Hazardous Materials Inventory Statement (HMIS) submitted by Home Depot as required by law is inaccurate and misleading.
· The submitted HMIS reflects that Home Depot plans to have toxic and/or hazardous materials in excess of allowable limits.
· In several Home Depot stores operating in Arizona, inventory of hazardous/toxic materials are far in excess of HMIS plans Home Depot appears to have submitted to the City of Tucson. The excess hazardous materials are in thousands of pounds and of such quantities to possibly require reclassification of Home Depot buildings so as to preclude general public access.
Gee, with this dire official warning in hand maybe city officials should also be looking at whether to shut down existing Home Depot stores within the city limits.
SKINNY MIXES CONSULTANTS: An item last week about the Pima County health system misstated the firm that previously audited Kino Community Hospital. It was Arthur Andersen. The item also listed an incorrect amount of a new audit contract for PricewaterhouseCoopers. It is $201,000.