NYUCK, NYUCK, NYUCK: As reported here in The Skinny last week, the three Oro Valley stooges--better known as Town Council members Dick Johnson, Werner Wolff and Bart Rochman--rolled over exactly as instructed by their owners, Vistoso Partners. Mo, Curly and Larry were at least amusing and possessed some talent.
Under the provisions of this scam, in exchange for allowing Vistoso Partners to further develop (and destroy the remainder of) Honey Bee Canyon by adding 116 homes and 88 condos, Oro Valley will now be allowed to acquire 1.6 acres of land for water storage. The agreement Dick, Werner and Bart all supported states that if Oro Valley does not agree to the plan changes, they have to buy the 1.6 acres for $500,000. There's no appraisal, but trust us: it's not worth anywhere near a half-million bucks.
So why would any Oro Valley Town Council member in his right mind vote for this deal? If these three were any dumber, they'd need to be watered.
Outraged Oro Valley citizens descended upon town hall to place the matter on the ballot and allow the taxpayers to decide if they wanted this blatant rip-off. But Town Attorney Dan Dudley, the appointee of this mayor and council, has conveniently decided that the action taken was "administrative" and not "legislative," and thereby not subject to referendum.
Starting to resemble what they must have told certain folks in Alabama when they tried to vote back in the '50's, huh?
Those wanting the referendum could file a mandamus action in court and try to compel Oro Valley to play by the rules, but they lack the five grand needed for the effort. (Anybody with all or part of it or any lawyer who needs a worthy pro bono, contact Wayne Bryant at 531-9200 or 444-9359. Act quickly or kiss the rest of that canyon goodbye.)
One is tempted to think that maybe these three guys are getting bought off. Probably not. As a freshman New York assemblyman, Theodore Roosevelt filed impeachment charges against a NY state judge over a blatant ruling favoring famous robber baron Jay Gould. It ended up with only a censure against the judge TR thought corrupt. Much later in life he realized that (to paraphrase) some men just feel it is their role in life to support the actions of the rich and powerful.
Oro Valley has more than its share of those.
MONEY TROUBLES: It looks as the state's budget projections are considerably less rosy these days, with Gov. Jane Dee Hull's office estimating a shortfall of $392 million. The impacts are widespread. There's a state hiring freeze underway, most spending bills are stalled and the likelihood of another tax cut is vanishing.
The nation's economic meltdown is a handy excuse, but The Skinny's spies suggest the original numbers came right out of fantasyland to begin with, so it's no surprise the revenues aren't materializing. The alt-fuel fiasco took a chunk out of the budget, but the real reason can be traced back to the administration of Gov. J. Fife Whiteguy III, who is facing the music of his personal financial bullshit in bankruptcy court. Under Fife, the state trimmed taxes back so far that it's no surprise we're now facing a shortfall. While we like tax cuts as much as the next guy, it's clear that the results of those cuts are a shift in the tax burden, as voters had to approve a sales tax hike of six-tenths of a cent last year to boost education spending. What an approach: robbing from the poor to give to the rich.
PISTOL WHIPPED: State lawmakers killed a bill last week that would have dumped the current restriction that prohibits concealed-weapon-permit holders from carrying their weapons into bars. Booze and guns--what a great combination! Even the 19th-century frontier saloons required cowboys to check their weapons at the door. It's nice to know some of our lawmakers are at least that progressive.
Another gun bill, sponsored by Rep. Randy Graf, the Green Valley golf pro who won a House seat last year, would change the penalty for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. That would mean instead of facing a potential six months in jail and a $2,500 fine, violators would simply get a $50 ticket. Most concealed-carry permit classes costs more than that, so the move would all but legalize concealed weapons. Graf argues that states shouldn't regulate concealed firearms at all, so 50 bucks is the toughest fine that should be imposed.
WAFFLE HOUSE: Freshman state Sen. Toni Hellon spent a few years working for former Pima County Supervisor Mike Boyd before winning her seat last year in District 12, which stretches across the Catalina Foothills and Oro Valley. She seems to have learned a few tricks from the Flaky Waffleman.
A few weeks back, Hellon assured the Weekly that she supported legislation allowing jurisdictions to charge impact fees to help build new schools. Since that story appeared, a source in the Maricopa County development community informed The Skinny that Hellon had assured homebuilders that she opposed the fees. Guess she must have figured the bill was bottled up in committee, so she could say anything she wanted to us.
Speaking of flaky, state Sen. Elaine Richardson has been quite the crusader this year on the topic of lowering the legal blood-alcohol limit to .08. It's quite a turnaround for Richardson, who had previously opposed such efforts. Admittedly, the feds are blackmailing states into lowering the DUI limits by threatening to withhold highway dollars, but we've sure been amused by Richardson's complaints that lawmakers have blocked lowering the level in past years. She should know--she was one of them.
CANOA CORRECTION: The Skinny last week misstated a position of Canoa preservationist Ellen Kurtz. She spoke against county condemnation of the Canoa Ranch.
A CORRECTION YOU WON'T SEE: In the Arizona Daily Star from misleading information in a recent puff piece about horse racing at the county's Rillito Race Track. The Star quoted a Pima County Horseman's Association honcho braying about the success at Rillito and that the association was paying down the "track's debt." Taxpayers, we'd remind the Star and the Horsemen, bought down Rillito's debt of $479,000 last year. The Horseman's Association, meanwhile, is supposed to be in its final year of repayment of a four-year, $30,000 loan from county Parks and Recreation.
AND THE HORSE'S ASS: A cake was presented at the Daily Star newsroom recently, but the birthday girl or boy was a mystery. Until, that is, it was revealed that the cake was to celebrate the birthday of Editor and Publisher Jane Amari's horse.
INCORPSORATION: Voters in Casas Adobes and Green Valley killed incorporation efforts by 54 percent to 46 percent and 58 percent to 42 percent respectively. Don Burtchin outclassed all as the sensible, candid and earnest leader of the incorporation drive. But he and his troops pulled off wins in only two of the 10 Casas Adobes polling places. One combined Big Ed Moore's neighborhood with two others; the other winning precincts were west of Foothills Mall and in the neighborhoods around Cross Middle and Harelson Elementary schools.
For all the media talk about how poorly the incorporation drive did in Green Valley, the issue may not be dead. After three defeats since 1977 by margins of 2-1, 3-1, and 2-1, last week's vote was a huge improvement. Voters in three of Green Valley's 16 precincts made history by approving incorporation. No precinct had ever voted in favor of Green Valley incorporation in the previous three elections. All three were in the southern end of town, closest to Canoa Ranch. Green Valley's northern precincts, close to the perceived threat of Sahuarita, crushed incorporation by 2-1 or greater margins.
THE REVISION THING: The dream of Casas Adobes appears to have died. But another dream lives on--annexing those citizens into the City of Tucson.
In an incorporation post-mortem editorial last Sunday, the morning daily stuck by its fantasy that the citizens of Casas Adobes naturally belong within the city limits of Tucson.
The Star argued that Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup was pushing for a charter change that would create a new ward in the Casas Adobes area, which would allow them to elect their own representative on the City Council. "Walkup's attitude is far different from that of previous administrations," the Star declared.
That's a fine example of revisionist history. Walkup's attitude is close to identical to that of his predecessor, Democrat George Miller, who served as mayor for eight years before Walkup was elected. Miller was so spooked by the prospect of incorporation along the city's northern border that he pushed the same offer that Walkup now is: give the folks in Casas Adobes and the Catalina Foothills their own ward. In fact, Miller and Walkup worked together on a failed initiative to encourage incorporation after the City Council balked at supporting Miller's proposal.
Back when Miller was pushing his proposal to bring Casas Adobes into the city, then-annexation czar John Jones told the Weekly that the current convoluted process for annexing citizens moves so slowly it could take two decades to bring all of the Casas Adobes and the Catalina Foothills into the city limits.
And that's only if they agree to annexation, which people living north of the city have consistently resisted for years. Even if Mayor Quimby--er, Walkup manages to pull off some miracle that allows the city to attempt a mass annexation at the same time he gives them their own ward, we bet they would still tell the city to stick it. And why shouldn't they? As long as the county continues to provide services, where's the advantage of joining the city?