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The Skinny

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GET OFF OUR BACKS! On Tuesday, voters in Casas Adobes and Green Valley go to the polls to decide whether to incorporate. Here's hoping they do what is right and vote yes.

The greedy geezers of Green Valley have turned down incorporation several times before. They are happy to have the residents of Tucson and other cities subsidize their police protection, their planning and zoning process and their library service. It is time that welfare stop and the wealthy retirees of Green Valley pay their own way.

In 1997 the people of Casas Adobes, of course, supported incorporation. But the courts threw the decision out and now some area residents are raising the fear of higher local taxes if the measure passes again. Let's get one thing straight: Yes, local taxes will go up if Casas Adobes incorporates, but they should go down accordingly in Pima County. At the same time, residents of Tucson, Marana and Oro Valley, who now pay for many county services they don't receive, will get a little bit of tax relief.

So those of you in Casas Adobes and Green Valley, listen up. Vote yes on incorporation. It is time you stop receiving tax welfare from the rest of us.


BORDERING ON REFORM: Few pay attention to what occurs in the neighboring community of Nogales, Ariz., just 60 miles to the south. We tend to ignore their politics, just as Phoenix media ignore ours. But make no mistake--that community is undergoing a political revolution.

Under the leadership of their new "boy Mayor," the 24-year-old Marco Lopez, the newly elected council is implementing the major charter changes that also passed in last November's election. The old "strong mayor" system, where all the department heads were named by and served at the pleasure of that official, was converted to a city-manager form vesting the appointment power there.

And you should be able to hear the Nogales citizenry's many screams in Tucson without the need of artificial amplification. The new city manager is former Nogales Public School official and 30-year resident Sue Nielsen, making the cultural break even larger. Nielsen has canned all but two department heads so far and has replaced them with a variety of folks, many of whom are not Nogales residents, such as the new police chief, retired Tucson Police officer Victor Marmion. Some of her other choices aren't even Hispanic. This has raised the decibel level of many of the locals who are watching the crumbling of the old patronage system many had a piece of.

Even if they ultimately succeed in bagging Nielsen, which they're vociferously attempting, they'll be stuck with other new charter provisions that allow department heads to be canned only for cause.

Nielsen would like us up here to know that the days of quaint--and corrupt--politics in Nogales may finally be winding down as the city of 22,000 residents enters the 21st century.


DOWN IN THE DUMPS: For years, everybody--including its competition--assumed that Waste Management Inc. was hauling its locally gathered trash to the landfill it has owned for years in Maricopa County. That would make sense, as owning a landfill allows the company to avoid paying tipping fees, which run between $15 and $20 a ton to Pima County and the City of Tucson.

But it seems Pinal County has been in the act for some time with WMI, cutting the trip north in half by using a county-owned landfill just outside Florence. In December, the Pinal County supes made a deal to sell that currently unmarked-as-to-ownership landfill to WMI, contingent on the company getting a rezoning (from them, as the Pinal County Board) to quadruple its size.

Looked like the fix was in for WMI, which uses Pinal as a literal dumping ground not only for Pima County waste but portions of the balance of Southern Arizona. Only a funny thing happened to the rezoning on the way to the supes.

The Pinal County P&Z Commission voted against approval. That Pinal County is actually making it harder for anybody to rezone anything is news in itself, but the locals are evidently getting tired of being the Southern Arizona dumpsite of choice.

WMI responds that without the rezoning, the current landfill has only three to five years left and the cost of trash pickup for locals will skyrocket if they have to haul it further. We suspect that's mostly WMI garbage.

The Pinal landfill will last much longer if the only trash in it is local, and the costs of hauling to the Maricopa site the company owns are not exactly prohibitive--they're supposed to be hauling Tucson waste there now, which is twice as far. Some suspect the real reason WMI is using other dumpsites is to preserve its Butterfield location up north so it can dump massive loads hauled in by train from other states, including Colorado and California.

In the meantime, the zoning change is on hold while WMI is trying to persuade the neighbors to drop their protests.


GARCIA Xs 2: The Garcias, George and Mary, left quite a legacy. The king and queen of local education split last year from their respective jobs as superintendents of Tucson Unified and Sunnyside Unified school districts. Their replacements, Stan Paz at TUSD and Raul Bejarana at Sunnyside, are left to clean up the messes of this onetime Tucson power couple. As Poli Corella pointed out in the Arizona Daily Star this week, more than a third of freshmen in TUSD and SUSD flunked math last semester.

Funny, we always thought the Garcias were good at math. Both ran up impressive expense accounts and were quite good at the numbers in their contracts. Mary was adept at steak frys and George showed great prowess at dining at public expense at Vivace, Presidio Grill and the Ranchers Club.


A BRIDGE TOO FAR: You'd think it was the Golden Gate, hearing Pima County's Transportation Department mouthpiece Mary Lou Johnson backpedal about the $559,000 pedestrian bridge spanning Ajo Way at the county's baseball complex. Johnson, who makes $50,739 a year, learned how to ride the wave of political pork--she was a secretary to Supervisors Iris Dewhirst and Greg Lunn before taking her current post--and learned doublespeak as well. She was proclaiming the structure ready to open for spring training, but now it appears the bridge, built with federal transportation-related project money, won't even be ready until the minor-league season is six weeks old.

Lil' Mary Lou is blaming bad weather.

This failure is a prime example of the county's overall failure to do the job right at the baseball complex and stadium. It's a huge money loser that three inept and gutless Boards of Supervisors have failed to rectify. Supervisors' priorities are sad, indeed. Necessary cuts at adjacent Kino Community Hospital that included closure of OBGYN, elimination of full-time anesthesiologists, and renegotiation of physician and other contracts were made while baseball was allowed to drive the county $6 million in debt.

Kino succeeds because of its dedicated docs, nurses and other staff despite bumbling interference from every Board of Supervisors since the hospital opened in 1977.


SOAK THE RICH: Looks like you're going to need that $1,600 windfall the average family of four is gonna get with the Bush tax cut. You're getting socked with higher water bills, higher sewer bills, higher gas bills, higher phone bills, higher property taxes, higher sales taxes, higher insurance premiums, higher home prices -- it's getting so you can hardly afford that computer upgrade. Meanwhile, your portfolio value is plummeting because you loaded it up with Priceline and Sockpuppet.com.

By the way, you know that big surplus everyone is talking about in Washington? Congress is spending it already. And even if lawmakers managed to stay within the spending caps--which they probably won't--the federal budget is set to explode in about a decade, when the boomers start collecting Social Security and qualifying for Medicare.

Don't forget that the HMO system is steadily collapsing. Insurance companies are hemorrhaging dollars and madly merging. Premiums are rising. Seniors can't afford prescription drugs. Doctors are miserable. Patients can't get appointments and referrals. Maybe Hillarycare wasn't such a bad idea after all.

So what's the Bush plan? How about a big fat tax cut for the richest people in the country? The White House tax cut gives more than 40 percent--40 percent!--to the richest 1 percent of the country.

In particular, the GOP remains bent on eliminating the estate tax, which Republicans have successfully maligned as the "death tax." It's a matter of simple fairness, say Rep. Jim Kolbe and Sen. Jon Kyl.

What's so fair about inheriting money? The tax only hits 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans and doesn't touch the first $675,000 that folks inherit. Congress could easily raise the threshold to protect small-business owners (who are getting clobbered by the big boxes) and family farmers (who are struggling to survive against gene-splicing, pesticide-spraying megagricultural corporations that get better tax breaks in Washington).

This appalling giveaway comes at the expense of paying down the national debt so we can prepare ourselves for the budget-busting boomers. And it's based on projected surpluses that may not even appear, especially if the economy continues to cool.

Cut taxes for average families--they'll need the money to afford the steady increase in local taxes, fees and utilities. But don't pour more money into the pockets of the people who have made their fortunes by swallowing other companies, peddling the product of slave labor, laying off workers, squeezing the bottom line, playing ball and dodging cinematic fireballs.


CORRECTION: The Tucson Weekly retracts and regrets a report in the February 15 Skinny regarding purported improper use of a company computer by Randy Wright, assistant managing editor of the Arizona Daily Star.

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