BEWARE OF STAMPEDING ELEPHANTS: Republicans rushed the city's early-voting headquarters last week, dumping thousands and thousands of requests on city staffers, who spent the weekend getting the ballots in the mail.
If those early voting numbers are any indication, the Democratic slate of Gayle Hartmann (who is seeking to unseat Republican Fred Ronstadt in Ward 6) and Paula Aboud (who is battling Republican Kathleen Dunbar and Libertarian Jonathan Hoffman in Ward 3) is in real trouble this November. Although Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than 3-to-2, the GOP has a well-oiled early-vote machine that is kicking Democratic ass. Of the 14,385 early ballots received through October 14, more than two-thirds--10,511--have come from Republicans, compared to a mere 3,301 from Democrats. There's little comfort for Dems in the fact that they still lead Libertarians (13 requests) and Greens (37). A total of 523 voters not registered with the other four officially recognized parties had requested early ballots as well.
Unless the Democratic team can--bam!--kick it up a notch, the only chance they have to win is a massive turnout on election day. What are the odds of that in an off-year city election in which there's no presidential race, no gubernatorial race, no mayor's race, no pressing ballot issues and little press coverage?
Request your own early ballot by phoning 791-5784.
SCHOOL'S OUT: UA President Peter Likins made a smart decision last week when he announced he was shutting down Arizona International Campus. Since it opened in 1996 way the hell out at the UA's tech park, the school had all kinds of problems, from weak leadership to a lack of tenure for its professors and an inability to meet even modest enrollment goals. Even after Likins moved the school to the UA campus in 1998, students didn't flock to the institution. Two-thirds of them were taking classes at the UA at the same time they were attending AIC. Last year, all of 15 students graduated from AIC's inaugural class.
The AIC student body is fighting to save their school. We admire their tenacity, even though we disagree with them. But we have to laugh at their complaint that they were underfunded after getting $2.2 million this year. On a per-capita basis, AIC got more money than the UA itself ever received. Throwing more money at the institution would have bordered on criminal.
ON THE MAP: When the state's new redistricting committee finished its work earlier this week, there was little argument that the GOP came out the big winner. Republicans will now control 17 of Arizona's 30 legislative districts and five of its eight congressional districts. Tucson has lost a legislative district, which means even less clout in the next decade.
GOP officials are gleeful over the new lines, but some Democratic bigwigs are considering a court challenge. Good luck--Hispanic Democrats won't back that effort, since they got the heavily minority districts they wanted, at the cost of more competitive districts elsewhere.
We wonder if Jim Pederson, the shopping-center developer who poured more than $650,000 of his own money into the ballot initiative to strip lawmakers of the power to draw districts, thinks he got his money's worth. Pederson, now state chair of the Democratic Party, has a hell of job ahead of him if he wants to push a Democratic agenda--whatever that is--in this state. Hell, it looks like the Democrats are on the verge of losing two races right here in the liberal stronghold of Tucson. What is the state party doing to help? Absolutely nothing.
TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE: The combined budgets of Pima County and the City of Tucson approach $2 billion. Those in charge of both governments are so paralyzed, stratified and unimaginative that they cannot find a lousy five million bucks to prevent Level One trauma care from ending in Southern Arizona. (See "Trauma Drama" in this issue.)
Meanwhile, the federal government can spend a billion bucks preparing for biological attack while stiffing local hospitals on the bills for illegal immigrants. (Make no mistake: We're all for preparing for biological warfare now that we're under attack, but we still think we're more likely to end up in a car wreck.)
At least state Sen. Sue Gerard is proposing a solution--a slight hike in telephone taxes. We're not sure what the connection is between telephone service and trauma care, but we'll take just about anything at this point.
Everybody has been pointing at everybody else and saying, "Not my problem." Well, gang, it's everybody's problem--and here's one other part of that problem they have yet to figure out.
We are always told by the Growth Lobby how closely our internal affairs are monitored by companies and even some individuals planning on moving here. Watch out! Don't say that, don't elect that tree-hugger, don't pass that restriction on big boxes--it'll scare folks away.
So how many corporate chieftains will now consider another location for that new plant/office/computer center/phonebank when they discover that this community has regressed two decades in the area of emergency medical care? Think we might lose a few new outfits after the brass decides it doesn't want to land somewhere where they and their families are at higher risk of not surviving an accident--or maybe even a terrorist attack?
Maybe GTEC needs to think that one over and then try pulling Mayor Walkup's chain. Human life may not be that big a deal, but growth sure as hell is!
WILL GTEC RESPECT TAXPAYERS IN THE MORNING? After 12 long years, the answer is no. GTEC woos and seduces taxpayers every year via the pimps on the City Council and Board of Supervisors. It begs, promises, pouts, threatens and then promises more. And then it gets what it wants: huge handouts from both the city and county--more than $1 million this year. From the county, GTEC sprinted away with $810,000, or nearly 20 percent of all the money provided to outside agencies. And for what? Call centers? A new $160,000-a-year boss from San Diego?
It is interesting that Steve Weathers is the third GTEC CEO and the third to come from elsewhere. After the huge flop that was GTEC's first boss, the fat Andy Flores, we thought we could pick some Tucson talent. No, GTEC returned to Texas to import Robert Gonzales--though he was infinitely better than Flores--and finally Weathers from the Golden State. Most insulting was the full-page ad in Sunday's Star that GTEC used to thank its paid-up members. Left out of the list were the biggest benefactors--taxpayers who have historically given GTEC most of its budget. Hell, even Dogpatch and Caddy Shack contribute.
QWESTIONABLE SERVICE: Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano has aimed at a richly deserving target: Qwest Communications International, the local phone company formerly known as U S West.
Napolitano, who is eyeing a run for governor next year, filed a consumer-fraud lawsuit that says, basically, that Qwest screws its customers.
The Skinny had personal experience with Qwest's service department some time ago, when our home phone service went on the blink. We called Qwest, but it was a weekend, so they couldn't do anything until Monday. When Monday rolled around and the phone still wasn't working, we wandered down to the corner payphone to call back and were told the problem was inside the house, which wasn't covered by our service agreement. They suggested we unplug the phone and plug it back in. We did just that and--violà!--service was restored.
Imagine our surprise when we got a bill informing us we owed Qwest $80 because they had come to the house and not done anything. Company policy: If Qwest workers have to check the line, you owe 'em money, even if they don't fix the problem. What kind of bullshit is that? And why didn't they just suggest the highly technically unplug-plug solution to us days earlier?
As you might suspect, we applaud Napolitano's effort. Qwest needs to change the way it does business.
Qwest officials say they care about everyone and wouldn't think of doing anything wrong.
CARPETBAGGER FOR JUSTICE: Daniel Seth Jurkowitz is a nice enough kid who wants to be a judge before he grows up. He had a brief career in the Pima County Attorney's Office before moving on to strip people of their driver's licenses as an administrative law judge for the state Motor Vehicle Division. Although he started that job just this year, Jurkowitz has set his eyes on a black robe and a bench as Justice of the Peace in the foothills Justice Precinct 1.
Problem is Jurkowitz, 29, lives and is registered to vote well outside Justice Precinct 1. He and his wife, Lisa Amy, paid $119,900 four years ago for a place on the far east side, in the 10000 block of East Rushlight Drive.
They'll have to call the movers, because Dan has announced his campaign for the Republican nomination for JP in Precinct 1. He has a Web page up and has filed papers at least for an exploratory committee.
Perhaps he'll be able to use the folks' address. Dad, you see, is lawyer Harvey Jurkowitz and his spread on East Fieldstone Place is at least in Justice Precinct 1.
This is the type of issue that doesn't bother young Jurkowitz. As a deputy county attorney in 1998, he was assigned to elections and voter matters. It was then that he could not be moved to do anything about another carpetbagger, Malcolm Escalante. A member of the Indian Oasis-Baboquivari school board in Sells, Escalante had for years lived more than 50 miles away from the district in a Tucson residence so his kids could go to Amphi schools. Despite longstanding complaints from Sells parents, neither the county attorney nor county schools superintendent did anything about Escalante.
It's fitting that Barbara LaWall, the Democratic county attorney, is listed as a Jurkowitz supporter, at least for next year's primary.
That precinct, served well by Republican Bob Gibson since 1987 and Tom Rallis before him, will be better off with James Angiulo. He won't have to move. And Angiulo has much more experience. He has long served as a justice of the peace pro tem and now is a Sahuarita magistrate, an appointed, not elected, position. Some may remember Angiulo as the longtime head of anesthesiology at Kino Community Hospital. And unlike other doctor/lawyers (can you say Osterloh?) we've run across, Angiulo, 54, is humble. As the gun sounds to start this GOP race, we'll go with the resident Angiulo and the experience he brings.
ODDFELLOWS: Republican Mayor Bob Walkup recently strolled to the International Order of Odd Fellows Hall, 135 S. Sixth Ave., to proclaim the winners of his $850,000 pot of Back-to-Basics cash. The venue was chosen to underscore one of Walkup's more sly moves in an otherwise pedestrian term.
Looks like Buyoff Bob is trying to smooth his path to re-election.
Walkup previously gave the building owners, Tim Fuller and wife Robin Hiller and Barbara Grygutis and husband Lawrence Evers, $70,000 from his share of Back to Basics for a facelift. We didn't think that Walkup was that savvy. Fuller and his wife are tight, tight, tight with Molly McKasson, the Democrat who was defeated by the Walkup forces in 1999. Fuller, who has a studio in the IOOF Hall, was the official Molly photographer, as he was for her two successful City Council campaigns. Hiller served as one of Molly's aides in the Ward 6 office.
Grygutis, a revered local sculptor, also is a Molly girl. Evers, meanwhile, has his hands full as head of the UA English department.
Fuller and Grygutis bought the building more than a dozen years ago. They created a corporation, Odd Hall LLC, last year to hold the building that also provides space for an Etherton Gallery and Barrio, a trendy little bistro. Fuller and Grygutis are corporate managers and Hiller and Evers are members, according to the Arizona Corporation Commission.
It gets a little tacky when you consider that the city gift, $70,000, was nearly half of what this corporate team claimed the building was worth. Seeking to reduce their property tax bill last year, the group petitioned the Pima County Assessor to lower the value from $153,133 to $142,390. That nearly $10,000 cut would have meant a savings in city property taxes of a mere $28, but a savings on the overall tax bill for the foursome's Odd Hall of roughly $470.