ARRESTING REPORT: Normally when the Skinny mentions other media, it's to rip them a fresh newshole. However, there are rare occasions when they deserve praise, which we'd like to heap upon Channel 13 news anchor Kris Pickel for her 14-minute special last Friday, August 3, which focused on April's Fourth Avenue riot.
Pickel did what is generally lacking in local (and much national) news coverage. She followed up on a story. The interviews with those business owners and employees and media who were wounded by the TPD leave only two possible conclusions: that some cops were either (a) inept, (b) bigger thugs than the rioters or (c) both. There is no way one could view that 14-minute presentation and not come to the simple conclusion that something went drastically wrong. It should be mandatory viewing for Mayor Bob Walkup and the rest of the potted plants on the City Council, who are rushing to the aid of an obviously inadequate police hierarchy. Check it out before you give them more money, dummies.
Besides Pickel, the rest of the KOLD news staff should get some points, particularly News Director Bob Smith, who had cajones to allow her to have enough time to make a real presentation to the community that will not sit well with many TPD idolaters.
HARD TO SWALLOW: Marana's town motto is "Come Grow with Us." The town council hands out rezonings like candy. Council members want no part of Pima County's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.
And now they've made book with the State Land Department to expand by another 42 square miles using the same putrid technique that allows annexations by surrounding those landowners who don't want in by a bigger area of property owners who do.
Based on a big hunk of state land containing prime endangered pygmy owl habitat, the area also includes Pima County's Tortolita Mountain Park (Hey! Why not convert it into a golf course?) and two square miles of the Town of Tortolita, yet to be unincorporated and still fighting for life in federal court.
This quiet little deal between Marana and the State Land folks didn't occur yesterday. It must have been in the works for some time, which proves that all the Open Meetings Law "reformed" were decisions made by people we get to elect. It left the bureaucrats unhampered and with more power than ever to cut these kinds of deals.
We suspect that the deal was based on the assumption that Tortolita would have folded by now and the state courts would've issued orders of disincorporation. They still might, but the whole principle of local self-determination is back on the front burner in federal court and could upset Marana's rather gross apple cart.
And this illustrates once more why establishing Tortolita was in the self-interest of not only the citizens who live there, but Tucson. There's absolutely no benefit to converting low-density Tortolita to high-density Marana and Oro Valley.
SIGNATURE SABOTAGE: Last week's edition reported on the latest petition drive in Oro Valley ("Petition Repetition"), which seeks to reverse a recent town council vote to consider a deal that would allow Vistoso Partners to develop 90 luxury homes in areas now reserved as open space, with the developer possibly agreeing to preserve portions of Honeybee Canyon and allow trail access to Tortolita Mountain Park.
An Oro Valley political committee, Citizens for Open Government, is in the process of collecting at least 545 valid signatures by August 20 to force a public vote on the proposed deal.
Now the Oro Valley council majority is trying to screw the referendum effort by voting to reconsider the proposal. If council members do change the terms, activists will have spent their hot summer days collecting signatures for nothing. And there's nothing stopping the council majority from returning a tweaked deal down the road.
Despite the council's dirty tricks, the group is pressing forward with signature collection. "They voted to reconsider their vote, but they didn't rescind their ordinance at the same meeting. We're not sure that's enough to nullify the action," says Hector Conde, a leader in the referendum effort. "Unfortunately, it appears that this was done to sabotage our efforts and confuse the citizens. The council seems to be determined to continuously assault both the open space at the canyon and the rights of the citizens."
If you want to sign a petition, head over to Riverfront Park on Lambert Lane or Jim Kreigh Park (formerly Dennis Weaver Park), 22 W. Calle Concordia, from 6:30 to 10 a.m. or from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, August 10, and Saturday, August 11.
Just don't be surprised if the whole thing ends up in court, or if they're looking for your signature again in September.
CUTTING CLASS: When Amphi High School opens for the 2001-02 school year today, it will do so in near-crisis mode. The school has been beset on all sides by budget cuts, teacher layoffs and administrative attrition. All that's left is the plague of locusts.
District budget cuts brought on by the opening of long-delayed Ironwood Ridge High School cost Amphi nine teaching positions and caused the elimination altogether of the position of athletic director/assistant principal. Then, Principal Ramon Paz jumped to Desert View (reportedly just ahead of the ax) and another longtime administrator retired. Assistant Principal Adrian Hannah moved up to the position of principal at Wilson Middle School, leaving just two administrators, including one with one year's experience.
Then, last week came the most crippling blow. Controversial administrator Angela Julien, who has strong boosters and detractors, was considered the odds-on favorite to succeed Paz, but she accepted the job of principal at Rincon High in TUSD. District policy requires a multi-step process for hiring a principal and Paz's--how shall we say?--abrupt exit caused that process to remain largely dormant throughout the summer. At best, the district won't be able to hire a new principal until several weeks into the school year. And with Julien out of the picture, it might take considerably longer than that.
In the meantime, retired Amphi District honcho and Acting Principal Jim Fogltance has been supplying a steadying influence. However, his is not an enviable task. In the next few weeks he will have to oversee the day-to-day operations of the school, attempt to fill several vacant coaching positions, hire an athletic trainer, perhaps fill a couple of teaching positions, and help ease the transition for a new administrative team, none of whom will have any experience at Amphi High.
And he will have to do so while allaying parent fears that, in a district with two high schools (Ironwood Ridge and Canyon Del Oro) in affluent areas, the middle-class anchor school, Amphi, is being relegated to ugly stepchild status.
OUT OF BOUNDS: The Amphi School District has signed an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Town of Oro Valley to provide a D.A.R.E. officer to the new Ironwood Hills High School--which happens to be in the aforementioned, still-incorporated Town of Tortolita. Should Tortolita be disincorporated, the school will be in unincorporated Pima County.
An earlier flap in the neighborhood occurred over Oro Valley's ability to provide a school resource officer to Wilson Middle School, which is also in Tortolita. All the players agreed to that arrangement, so we suspect that's the reasoning used by Amphi district officials who are now somewhat aware of the problem, as Amphi School Board President Ken Smith is married to Tortolita Councilwoman Barbara Smith.
Only one complication that the brilliant legal staff at Amphi may have missed: The job of the Oro Valley D.A.R.E. officer will involve more than the cop stationed at Wilson. He'll be handling traffic violations, which tend to be steep with all those crazy teenage drivers.
So where will the perp pay the fine? We hear it's in Pima County Justice Court. So here's our suggestion: Anyone who gets a ticket in the area oughta challenge it, so the Oro Valley cop will have to spend half a day in court over a fine that OV won't even collect.
And, incidentally, isn't there an outstanding court order telling Oro Valley cops to stay out of Tortolita?
DAILY DISPATCHES: Work hard and fast for the anemic Tucson Citizen and get screwed. Loaf, talk big, swagger while filing an occasional story, and get treated like a prince or princess at the Citizen and even get plucked by the big sister, Arizona Daily Star. That's the sad story of David J. Cieslak, a soon-to-be 22-year-old, soon-to-be University of Arizona graduate who busted his butt for the Citizen, working nights and weekends and often single-handedly filling the local news pages.
It was Cieslak who kept alive coverage of the Tucson police failure and screw-ups at the Fourth Avenue riot in the days after the melee. His reward? Stiffed by the Citizen, which claims it can't afford even to send UA/higher ed reporter Eric Weslander to Flagstaff for a Board of Regents meeting.
So Cieslak gave the Star a try. After all, the Star has now hired away a steady stream of Citizen stiffs who will never rise to average. And what happened at the Star? After encountering a waste-of-time battery of editors and self-important bosses, Cieslak was offered a job. Then Star City Editor Tim Konski, who will never know as much as his predecessor Ann Eve Pedersen will forget, called to tell Cieslak he had to rescind the offer.
Colonial Governor Jane "Avatar" Amari forced Konski to piss backwards, claiming the Star was too broke. In her own tender way, Amari told Cieslak, who dared call her majesty to get an explanation, that she didn't want to hire him only to lay him off later.
Meanwhile, Carol Ann "Award-Winning Reporter" Alaimo will be leaving her place in the Star newsroom for an interim spot in editorial. Wonder if she'll have to write more often than once a quarter? The most amusing aspect of Alaimo's "three-month investigation" of United Way is that the wily Mark Kimble, an associate editor at the Citizen, scooped her in a day. Alaimo will be filling in for Margo Hernandez, who is off to some fellowship.
BETTER THAN WWF SMACKDOWN: Wanna get a look at those knuckleheads seeking the north-central Ward 3 City Council seat being vacated by incumbent Jerry Anderson? A gang of Ward 3 neighborhoods is hosting a debate at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 15, at the Woods Memorial Library, 3455 N. First Ave.
All five candidates are scheduled to appear. Democrats Vicki Hart and Paula Aboud are duking it out in the September 11 primary. The winner will advance to face Republican Kathleen Dunbar, Libertarian Jonathan Hoffman and Green Ted O'Neill in the November 6 general election.
As long as you've got your palm pilot out, take note: All five Ward 3 candidates will also appear in a League of Women Voters debate from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, August 28, at Quincie Douglas Neighborhood Center, 1101 E. Silverlake Road. They'll be joined by Ward 5 Councilman Steve Leal and his challenger in the Democratic primary, Jesse Lugo, as well Ward 6 Republican Councilman Fred Ronstadt and his Democratic opponent in the general election, Gayle Hartmann.
BALED, BAILED, JAILED: The story of onetime Tohono O'odham tribal judge Mary Audrey Juan now includes a year-and-a-day sentence in federal prison following her conviction in U.S. District Court in Tucson on reduced charges stemming from a marijuana bust at her Sells home in May 1999.
Juan, who saw plenty of pot cases that hit close to home while presiding over the criminal bench, took a plea in late June. She'll have two years of supervision after she gets out of prison. She faced up to $2 million in fines and between five and 40 years in prison.
Juan, 46, was off the bench at the time of her arrest, when U.S. Customs agents found 15 bales of marijuana totaling 365 pounds in her 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix and a storage shed. Although she was released on $20,000 bond, the arrest interrupted her campaign for a seat on the tribe's legislative council.
Justice was delayed by plea negotiations that broke down right before U.S. District Judge John Roll was to send her away in January. Juan claimed duress. A codefendant, Miriam Johnson, a tribal government employee, faces trial on September 25 unless a plea agreement can be reached.
PREMATURE PROPAGANDA: The City of Tucson sign code prohibits campaign signs from going up earlier than 30 days before an election. The City Clerk's office notifies every candidate for local office about this restriction, so nobody has any excuse for ignoring it.
Campaigns traditionally cheat by a few hours. But this year, at least three candidates put up signs well in advance of the starting gun. We've already seen propaganda billboards for Vicki Hart in Ward 3 and both Councilman Steve Leal and challenger Jesse Lugo in Ward 5. Naughty, naughty, gang. What would you do if billboard baron Karl Eller were doing that kind of thing?