BOARD BALLOT: Voters returned incumbents Raúl Grijalva and Sharon Bronson and added Republican Ann Day to the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
In District 1, Day, who is wrapping a 10-year career in the state Senate, easily defeated Democrat Byron Howard, capturing 56 percent of the vote to Howard's 37 percent. Day, who positioned herself as a fiscal conservative concerned with environmental protection, was the favorite in the Republican-dominated Catalina Foothills district. She'll take the seat now held by Republican Mike Boyd, who choose not to run for re-election after serving two terms.
In District 3, Bronson narrowly held out against Republican Barney Brenner to win her second term. With 99 percent of the vote counted, Bronson won with 48 percent of the vote, compared to Brenner's 46 percent.
In District 5, Grijalva whipped challenger Rosalie López, winning 63 percent of the vote to López's 30 percent. Republican López was outnumbered from the start in a district where 56 percent of the voters are Democratic. She had hoped to follow in the footsteps of Republican Bob Walkup, who managed to defeat Democrat Molly McKasson in last year's Tucson's mayoral race despite Tucson's Democratic registration edge. But López is no Bob Walkup. While she's well-spoken, López often ends up bruising relationships with her allies. On top of that, a live radio attack on Bronson scared off many potential supporters and helped sideline a potential independent campaign committee that could have gone on the attack against Grijalva.
CAPITOL COUNT: In legislative races, Democrats had a pretty decent night. In the District 13 Senate race, where registration numbers are even between Republicans and Democrats, Republican Kathleen Dunbar had the lead as early ballot numbers were released. But a strong turnout on Election Day allowed Democrat Andy Nichols to take a lead in the most hotly contested local legislative race. Nichols ended the race with 48 percent compared to Dunbar's 45 percent.
Nichols simply had deeper political connections than Dunbar in District 13. That's not surprising; he's represented District 13 in the state House for eight years, while Dunbar was just finishing her first term.
In Districts 9 and 12, Republicans held off challenges from Democrats in two open state Senate races. In D9, which includes southeastern Tucson, Green Valley and Sierra Vista, Republican Tim Bee defeated Democrat Kathy Ramage-White with 53 percent of the vote in the race to succeed incumbent Keith Bee, Tim's brother.
In D12, a Republican district covering northwest Tucson, Oro Valley and the Catalina Foothills, Republican Toni Hellon defeated Democrat Mark Osterloh with 48 percent of the vote compared to Osterloh's 46 percent.
Although Democrats didn't make inroads in those districts, a stunner in Maricopa County has left the state Senate split 15-15. House Speaker Jeff "Alt-Fuel" Groscost was crushed in his effort to move to the Senate by political neophyte Jay Blanchard. Groscost, running in overwhelming Republican District 30, lost by a two-to-one margin.
Meanwhile, in state House races, Republican Ed Poelstra pulled off an upset in central Tucson District 14, a Democratic stronghold. Poelstra won a narrow victory over Democrat Demitri Downing, primarily because Green Party candidate Mary "Katie" Bolger, armed with funds from the Clean Election program, ran a strong campaign that captured almost 20 percent of the vote. That allowed Poelstra to beat Downing by less than a percentage point, winning by 138 votes. Incumbent Marion Pickens easily cruised to re-election with more than 43 percent of the vote.
In the hard-fought District 13 race, voters went with the women, picking Democrat Gabrielle Giffords (43 percent) and Republican Carol Somers (39 percent) over Democrat Ted Downing (37 percent) and Republican Jonathan Paton (36 percent).
THE WRIGHT STUFF: In the Amphi School District, senior board member Nancy Young Wright won re-election with 46 percent of the vote in a five-candidate race.
Two other candidates elected to the board in last May's recall election also held onto their seats: Mike Prout won 37 percent of the vote, while Kent Barrabee squeaked by with nearly 36 percent.
The three beat challengers Jeff Grant, who captured almost 34 percent, and Ken Hegland, who finished last with under 24 percent.
IT'S A FEE COUNTRY: Are you one of the million-plus people who like to visit Sabino Canyon each year? The Skinny hears it may soon dent your wallet.
We're told the Forest Service is drafting a plan to expand its fee demonstration project on Mount Lemmon to include the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Every car entering the parking lot would be charged $5.
Smokey has been collecting a $5 fee from cars traveling up Mount Lemmon highway since September 1997. The fee was implemented after Congress authorized fee demonstration projects across the country in 1996. The push to charge for entry to Sabino's parking lot comes as the controversial program approaches its expiration in September 2001, although Congress could vote to extend it.
Wilderness advocates have been battling fee demonstration programs across the country. They argue that timber and cattle interests continue to enjoy federal subsidies, while federal agencies seek to nickel-and-dime taxpayers who enjoy access to public wild areas.
In some areas, prosecutors have dropped charges against violators because they feared the defendants would successfully argue that the fee program should be voluntary, undermining the Forest Service's ability to collect the fee.
In September in Tucson, four defendants who were in federal court facing criminal charges for failing to pay the $5 Mount Lemmon fee were not allowed to argue their political opposition to the fees. Nevertheless, the case was dismissed because U.S. District Court Judge Frank Zapata ruled that the Forest Service didn't have enough evidence to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
If Forest Service administrators go ahead with the program, expect them to start by building support among Arizona's congressional delegation. Then they'll spin the mainstream media with stories about how successful the Mount Lemmon fee project has been and how the money will help maintain the natural wonder of Sabino Canyon.
Sure hope this bulletin doesn't upset that timetable--
A NOTE OF RESIGNATION: When a battered woman seeks help from the law, she's usually already traumatized by her troubled relationship. Whether she's seeking a restraining order or testifying against her attacker, the tangled legal maze can often add to the trauma.
Until last week, domestic violence victims had a program that was specifically designed to help guide them through that courtroom labyrinth. Since opening in January 1997, the Domestic Violence Advocacy Program has helped provide legal aid to more than 6,000 women. Among the other services it offered, it was the only domestic violence program in town where a battered woman could ask a judge to issue an order of protection seven days a week.
The program shut down last Friday, November 3, when all four employees--one administrator and three advocates who worked with battered women--quit because financial problems were threatening the program's future.
Launched as a partnership between the Tucson Police Department and the Brewster Center, the program fell under the auspices of the Domestic Violence Commission in March 1998. The Domestic Violence Commission is funded by $210,000 from the city and county.
Two former employees who requested anonymity say they were told on October 18 that the program had serious financial problems, including a $16,000 debt to the IRS that was accruing interest daily and a $16,000 debt to a downtown hotel for a canceled conference that was scheduled last month. As a result, the ex-employees say, they were told the Domestic Violence Commission would not be able to guarantee paychecks after October 23.
When the employees asked what would happen to the program's clients should a financial meltdown occur, they were told no plan had been developed, but were paychecks to dry up, the advocates could continue to work a few days "out of pocket" to find new caseworkers for the battered women they were helping.
Smelling the disaster on the horizon, the employees chose a different route: They resigned en masse and spent their final two weeks finding new services for their clients.
"With no plan of action, I did not have an option but to leave," says one advocate. "It's not something I wanted to do, it's not something I was happy about doing; I felt I didn't have a choice."
The resignations have triggered a closer look at the Domestic Violence Commission by the City Council. Emerging from a closed-door meeting earlier this week, council members ordered an audit of the commission and cut off its funding.
Recently resigned program administrator Tamara Crawley, who helped launch the program in 1997, says she's disheartened by the shutdown.
"I'm extremely disappointed," she says. "It has been a traumatic month. We've served over 6,000 victims in the short time we've been in operation and I know we made a difference in this community. And I am extremely saddened that the unique concept of this program had to end the way it has this last month."