LIMITED INTELLIGENCE: In her stultifying state-o'-the-state address, Gov. Jane Dee Hull called for a repeal of Arizona's term-limits law, which will force her out of office this year.
We agree--term limits may do much harm as rookie lawmakers fall under the sway of staff and lobbyists. We wish term limits would accomplish something besides allowing more boobs into the Legislature, but we fear that's the ultimate outcome.
Speaking of boobs in the Legislature, Rep. Debra Brimhall, the wacked-out Xena lookalike from rural Snowflake, wants to extend term limits even further. In a dopey bill co-sponsored by Randy Graf of Green Valley, the Warrior Lawmaker calls for no more than 12 years of employment for members of the media, lobbyists and state employees. Boy, that'll do a lot of good when it comes to recruiting quality teachers and top-notch university faculty.
It's a good thing there's no important business to focus on, like balancing the budget or anything.
NOTES OF RESIGNATION: Speaking of dopey reform laws that ought to be repealed, how about the resign-to-run law? This one was supposed to keep elected officials concentrating on the job at hand instead of eyeing higher office.
Hasn't worked. Instead, elected officials have just created their exploratory committees that allow them to "test the waters." Meanwhile, their non-elected competitors get a head start on them and then hack on them for their failure to abide by the "spirit of the law." What's the point?
Take Attorney General Janet Napolitano, who was running an exploratory campaign for governor until last week, when she quietly registered as a candidate. Or Secretary of State Betsey Bayless, who is expected to get into the race this week. Bayless' campaign staff actually set up a Draft Betsey Web site, as if Bayless needed the urging of Arizonans across the state to climb into the race. Puh-leeze.
Then there's state Sen. Elaine Richardson, who is salivating at a chance to leave the Legislature to run for Southern Arizona's new congressional seat. Elaine hasn't formally announced, but she's got the obligatory exploratory committee and has hired staff and a Washington media firm for the campaign. Last week, she was endorsed for the congressional seat by the D.C.-based EMILY's List, which is dedicated to promoting female candidates to national office. So she's not yet a candidate, but she's picking up endorsements.
Meanwhile, Raúl Grijalva, the Democratic boss of the Pima County Board of Supervisors who also wants the new congressional seat, is counting down to February 5. Still murky is whether that will be Grijalva's final meeting of the supes or whether he's just going to inform the group that he intends to give them a letter notifying them of his notice to give them notice that he may run for Congress.
Grijalva has suffered in recent weeks from cold feet, the stark realization that although the new district was carved especially for him and his machina, once he's in the race, he's out from the best job he's ever known: $55,000 a year, an SUV (has that front axle ever been engaged?) with driver and all the gas he can burn, plus a staff with more than a quarter of a million dollars to spend every year. Grijalva has been living large for 13 years.
And still there is no clear leader for replacement parts. Rodney Glassman, who has more money (his dad's) than sense (Gateway Ice Arena), has hit 20-something and wants to try his hand in local political office so much that he has offered to be a caretaker. He's even told Grijalva he can have the seat back if he loses the congressional race.
A bureaucrat may rise. Richard Elias has been working in the county's Community Reinvestment office for a few years at a salary of $52,047 and is a favorite of Grijalva (doesn't matter, except for appearances) and southside Democrat Dan Eckstrom, the man who is holding the marbles.
STATE OF THE SHITTY: With local job losses mounting, a murder just about every other day and the Tucson city budget squeezed so tight the specter of layoffs looms, what does Mayor Bob Walkup have to crow about in his state-o'-the-city speech this week? Well, he's asking us to tax ourselves another half-cent on the dollar so we can build more roads to keep up with our metastasizing growth.
Walkup and his big-buck boosters on the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, most whom don't even live in Tucson, are so anxious to see the city suckers pass the half-cent proposal in May that they're making plans to spend a half-million bucks on their campaign.
The campaign money will be used in the same fashion as recent past local elections: Concentrate on figuring out which voters will support the sales tax, get an early ballot into their hands and then focus on people who might support 'em on election day.
What Walkup and his wealthy pals have learned over the past few years is that elections can be bought in Tucson. This time out, they'll pull out all the stops, from using tax dollars to "educate" us to extensive telephone targeting. Smiling Bob needs this win for his re-election bid in 2003. What else has he got to show, beyond a familiarity with local sushi bars?
REGURGITATE, LEGISLATE: Long, long ago, political piranha Emil Franzi lamented the sorry state of government in Tucson, Pima County and Arizona. Spittin' but not sputtering, Franzi screamed that the "reason government sucks is because the press sucks."
Here, here. To wit: The Tucson Citizen's C.T. Revere zipped up to the Capitol 10 days ago and zipped right back and sometime before or after wrote some cliché-ridden apology for the Legislature that embarrassed everyone except his editors, who plopped it on the front page. Let's tune in for the gripping account: "Lawmakers still weary from a marathon special budget session reconvene today at the state Capitol for what is sure to be an even more painful exercise in belt tightening.
"On the heels of a 37-day session that trimmed $673 million from last year's state budget, the 45th Arizona Legislature kicks off its -- "
Still weary? Painful exercise in belt tightening?
You gotta be kidding. Weary from their own ineptitude. Painful? For whom, we have to ask the Citizen, which loves to cry for city, county and state politicians when they are forced to cut.
Why must the press cry for these hacks? Why not hold them accountable for their crummy work, or lack thereof? And why not check into the goofs in administration and the hallowed Joint Legislative Budget Committee who cannot manage to do any better than Arthur Andersen's Enron lackeys in devising state budgets?
It didn't get much better in Gannett's soon-to-be morning and only Tucson paper, the Arizona Daily Star. Rhonda Bodfield, who is what colleague Tony Davis would repeatedly call a "veteran" reporter, cried for lame duck Republican Gov. Jane Dee Hull. Poor Jane; no one is showing her the love--or fear, for that matter. Bodfield is clearly better than that story, which leads us to suspect her city desk and others in the chain ordered a puff piece they further softened.
And thinking of Andersen and Enron, anyone who was in Arizona six years ago is not surprised that the best of that Big 5 outfit lied along with Enron and then hastily shredded. Smells like the team spirit permeating Arizona during J. Fife Symington III's spin as the Republican governor.
Coopers & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers, "did" the books for the shell games that were J. Fife Symington's real estate empire. The principal, the late John Yeoman (died a few days after his federal arraignment when he drove in front of a speeding pickup truck) did the campaign finance books and personal finance sheets for Symington, whose own conviction was later overturned. (Before the feds could retry him, he was pardoned by Clinton). What got to stinking was the government efficiency contract Coopers & Lybrand then won--with inside bid information--from the state.
These accounting tricks won't end until Congress tells the accounting and business lobby no more consulting work at the companies the accounting firms are auditing.
SMOKE SCREEN: Speaking of that unbalanced state budget, Gov. Jane Dee Hull did have one good suggestion, even though it'll amount to just a drop in the leaky bucket: raiding the anti-tobacco advertising campaign for a few years until the state's financial picture improves. As she points out, we can rerun some of those old ads. And maybe the television stations can give away some time as public-service announcements. As it now stands, the money is little more than welfare for ad agencies and TV stations.
POLICE STATE: We had hoped Marana, which prides itself on growth, had grown up and out of its sleazy origins. Those origins were so bad we dubbed the town "Dogpatch" and former Mayor Ora Harn "Mammy Yokum."
Things have been relatively quiet as Marana ran its population up to 16,000 folks. New Mayor Bobby Sutton even tried to pose as somebody who actually gave a rat's ass about environmental concerns, although we always considered a Marana environmentalist to be a guy who wanted the biker bar built in the next block as opposed to next door.
We were remiss in our watchdog role. The Northwest Explorer wasn't. The paper devoted a third of its 48-page January 16 issue to the sordid story of Marana Police Chief David R. Smith's relationship with the New West Night Club, outlining the history of what it calls a "magnet for violence." The New West story resembles 19th-century Tombstone more closely than the rest of 21st-century Arizona. With one exception: Smith ain't exactly Wyatt Earp.
For years, Smith and other Marana officials, including Mayor Sutton, have defended the New West under its various names. (The place is now closed after the latest outbreak, probably to ensure that the valuable liquor license is not revoked by the state and sold off.) Under Smith's leadership, according to the superb reporting of the Explorer's Patrick Cavanaugh, the Marana PD drew more than a quarter-million bucks over the past few years as off-duty security guards through an exclusive contract negotiated by Smith. And, in a new low in tacky even for Dogpatch, Smith himself often functioned there as a $20-an-hour security guard.
The story darkens--and the conflict of interest looks more sinister--when considering the death of bar patron Westyn Hamilton in January 2000. The investigation cleared the bar of criminal complicity, but not enough to save them from settling with Hamilton's family for a purported million dollars. That investigation was run by the Marana PD, whose chief, you will note, is a part-time employee of the bar under investigation. Where was the Pima County Attorney's Office during this whitewash?
In one of the finest and most scathing editorials concerning local government malfeasance we have read in some time, Explorer editor Mark Evans rips the chief--and by implication the town. "He was seemingly more interested in protecting the interests of the New West/Gotham than protecting the people of Marana. He was seemingly more interested in making sure the bar and its employees were exonerated for the death of Westyn Hamilton than trying to find out what really happened on the morning of Jan. 2, 2000. His leadership of the Marana Police Department has been unprofessional, dishonorable and shameful. Shame on you, David Smith. Shame on you."
Great stuff, great story. We applaud the Explorer, Evans and Cavanaugh.
MEANWHILE , BACK AT DOGPATCH CITY HALL: They want to build a new town hall large enough to accommodate of all the bureaucrats they have yet to hire. And it's no big deal, because the voters approved it in a bond election.
Good. Because those voters should get what they deserve for endorsing the redneck-rich attitude that says, "When times are good, piss it away," and for keeping the current group of clowns they call a mayor and council in office.
This is one more example of the irresponsibility of Marana's leadership. Once more, we must remind you that they ran that monster annexation scam a few years back wherein they grabbed all the businesses on Ina and Thornydale roads (including the New West) but avoided taking in any of the houses whose residents pay the sales taxes they now collect. Pretty good deal--called taxation without services (or representation).
So now they will piss that revenue away, figuring, as have many state and local governments, that the growth gravy train will never end. Hopefully all those wealthy folks buying into Dove Mountain just might, at some point, notice how big an embarrassment their current political leadership really is. But we doubt it; after all, Oro Valley never has. Which means at some future point the folks in Marana will either have to do what state and local governments must do everywhere else: raise taxes or cut spending, reduce services and lay off employees. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.
GIANT KILLER: The Star last week managed to kill off onetime MCA king Lew Wasserman, printing a story that claimed his wife Edie was a widow. It took the Star five more days to resurrect Wasserman in a correction.
HEAVY WAITE: A buffoon of the first order, former Pima County Assessor and county GOP boss Rex Waite was revealed to be the sick "ladies man" we knew him to be when he was finally convicted of kidnapping and assaulting his wife, Helen G. Baldridge Waite.
A Superior Court jury last week convicted Waite, 72, and the founder of Swensen's Ice Cream restaurants in Tucson, of tying his wife's arms legs and neck to the bed of their eastside home. On that night on February 21, he forced her to have sex and left her tied for six hours, during which he threatened to kill himself and to burn her to death using a can of kerosene he brought into the bedroom.
"A scare tactic," Waite told cops after his wife talked him into releasing her. She took out a protective order, but Waite returned the next month, snipped the phone and electricity lines and sneaked in through a window. Helen Waite was able to activate an alarm and Waite was arrested.
In this sad case, it is interesting to hear Waite's political and media pals say, almost in unison: "This is not the Rex Waite I know." Right. Waite, an appointed assessor in 1991 until he lost the seat to Democrat Alan Lang, was always keen on the women. He was known to grope and paw and make comments that were utterly out of bounds. One female candidate remembers his advice to wear shorter skirts and fix her hair.