SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: The sheer arrogance of the State Land Department is something to behold. The bureaucracy, which reports to Gov. Jane "Delight the Developers" Hull, is responsible for managing about a million acres of state land, which is supposedly held in trust primarily to benefit schools.
Under the Arizona Constitution, the land must be managed for "highest and best use," which has generally been defined as selling it off for high-density residential or commercial development. Unfortunately for Arizona's kids, the result of that high-density development is a whole bunch of new families moving in, leading to overcrowded schools, underpaid teachers and rising property taxes. Not such a good deal in the long run for Arizona's little schoolchildren.
Under the leadership of Land Commissioner Michael Anable, the Land Department has been aggressively pushing development of state land. It's happening north of Phoenix, despite the protests of residents in the area. And now it's happening south of Tucson, where Land Department staffers are planning the Southlands project, which could eventually be home to 320,000 people in and beyond the Rincon Valley. And the Land Department touts this sprawling blob as an example of "new urbanism." Yes, spreading out to Benson will certainly lend itself to improved mass transit.
Last week, the Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission asked Land Department staff to discuss the Southlands project. Anable told the county to go blow, saying it was premature to include local jurisdictions in the planning efforts. Yeah, since when did the citizens of a community have anything to say about its future? This matter is between Phoenix bureaucrats and the state's biggest developers.
And make no mistake: The biggest developers are the only ones who get to play this game under these rules. The current policy creates plans so large that only big wallets have the juice to bid on them.
Here's something else to think about: When the state sells land off in chunks that big, it gets less per acre than if it were to sell it off in smaller parcels. So only the big boys get to play, and they get to play at a discount. Maybe we're not looking out for the kids after all.
PORK, THE OTHER WHITE MEAT: In TUSD, the new dumping ground for political hacks, political protection and pork barrel employment is alternative education. Suzanne Ashby, ousted from her job as principal at Rincon High School, is the latest addition. She'll get to keep her big salary, which TUSD's public-relations army is illegally keeping a secret, while moving to the Southwest Alternative Middle School and High School.
Ashby racked up a pile of complaints in her seven years at Rincon and TUSD Superintendent Stan Paz wanted to can her. Her biggest screw-up: mishandling, some critics contend, the case of government teacher Patrick Woods, who was accused of fondling a student. Woods, complainants said, also was a teacher with a penchant for thong underwear. He was accused of playing thong show & tell with Rincon girls. He resigned in May while the slumbering, lumbering TUSD prepared to fire him.
But Paz enjoys playing politics. And Ashby had political protection from TUSD board members Mary Belle McCorkle and Joel Ireland. Ashby counted on Ireland so much that she gave him $25 (a big sum for cheapskate TUSD employees) for his last re-election campaign, even though Ireland was unopposed, and records show the contribution came after the election. She was allowed back into Rincon recently to electronically shred a bunch of documents. She did so with impunity. Paz will do nothing.
Alternative ed also provided refuge for another Ireland favorite, Linda Schloss, who greatly mismanaged Catalina High School.
It also is interesting that the same ménage à trois (Ireland, McCorkle and Carolyn Kemmeries) that is bringing you TUSD's son-of-blubber budget to jack up desegregation spending is the same bunch that voted to retain about two dozen essentially all-white law firms. Not one in the list was a minority firm or had a minority as a named partner. (Ireland stresses that Richard Davis, an African-American, is a partner at Mesch Clark & Rothschild and that TUSD's prime firm, DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy, has a Hispanic.) For a district that not long ago stopped being predominantly white, it seems a little strange that this board could not retain minority law firms or sole practitioners who are minority. Jane Butler, who heads TUSD legal services, and her friends in TUSD purchasing made no real effort to attract minority lawyers. Pima County government often is derided for being backward, yet it has had a Minority and Women Business Enterprise program in place for about eight years.
AND THEY STILL CLAIM TO PUT THEIR READERS FIRST: Many readers have been wondering why their Sunday Arizona Daily Star is being delivered in two trips. A recent Sunday insert explains it--well, sort of.
"Dear Subscriber," it reads. "In an effort to get the Sunday edition of the Arizona Daily Star delivered to you earlier, beginning this week, you may be receiving your Sunday newspaper in two parts. The first will contain all the advertising supplements and special sections and the second will include all the main news content."
The plan calls for advertising supplements and special sections to be delivered by 3 a.m., with the main news arriving by 7 a.m.
Interesting that "advertising supplements" are mentioned first. And that, we suspect, is the real reason for the double delivery. Hey, screw the news (and sports)--it can wait. They don't run that much of it anymore anyway, particularly on Sunday. The ad stuff has to get out plenty early to cover early risers who may be planning their day around shopping. And they even have the audacity to call this an "improved level of service."
They also have the audacity to bitch about automobile pollution and advocate reduced driving for the rest of us, and they're really nasty about the peasants driving around in trucks and SUVs. So how many extra miles does making sure ad supplements get out by 3 a.m. cause? How much gas does it burn? How much more pollution does it create? Newspapers haven't been delivered by a kid on a bike in years.
Next Sunday, check out what kind of vehicle you see dropping the Star in your neighborhood. And then score one more hypocrisy to the fraudulent regime of Colonial Governor Jane Amari.
TUNE IN: If you missed last Wednesday's radio debate between Ward 5 Councilman Steve Leal and Jesse Lugo, who hopes to unseat the incumbent in the Ward 5 Democratic primary, you missed perhaps the most perspicacious forum of the political season. Moderated by Inside Track host Emil Franzi and the Weekly's Jim Nintzel, the hour gave listeners a chance to hear both candidates share their vision of the community's future while fielding insightful questions from the hosts and listeners.
This week, the two Democrats vying in the Ward 3 primary, Vicki Hart and Paula Aboud, will join Franzi and Nintzel. The winner of the September 11 primary will go on to face Republican Kathleen Dunbar, Libertarian Jonathan Hoffman and Green Ted O'Neill. The program airs from 1 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, August 8, on KTKT, 990-AM.