CITY HALL PASS: Remember City Hall's secret enemies list of 25 undesirables who were banned open access to a public facility without a specific appointment? You know, the list that had no criteria to determine who was included?
Well, City Manager James Keene has basically extended the list to include the entire population. From now on, if you want to visit City Hall, you'll make an appointment first.
Stop right there. According to the city charter, the mayor and council make policy and the appointed bureaucrats like Keene just "implement" it. Who gets in the door at City Hall and the criteria for it is clearly "policy." The power to make that decision, along with many others, clearly rests with the mayor and council. Unfortunately, those we elect have abdicated--and those we don't elect have usurped their prerogatives.
The shabby, proto-fascist methodology promulgated by Keene both with the original secret "enemies list" and the present paranoid follow-up is totally antithetical to a free and democratic society. Forget the PATRIOT Act and its sequel, PATRIOT 2--this crap is happening right here. Keene, a direct appointment of the mayor and council, should be canned for his conduct, while Mayor Doofus and the council majority who support him should be formally charged with mis, non, and malfeasance in office.
In the meantime, make sure the parks staff continues to water them.
MINORITY REPORT: The City Council's minority threesome of Steve Leal, José Ibarra and Shirley Scott threw budget discussions for a loop on Monday by unveiling an alternative to the budget recently proposed by City Manager James Keene.
The Democrats' proposal avoids Keene's proposed property tax hike, garbage fee and program cuts by selling off some city properties, cutting back on PR expenses, dipping into reserve funds and implementing impact fees, a use tax and higher court fees.
Is it a feasible plan? We imagine it's flawed in places. Leal concedes "there are probably problems with this." But it's nice to see council members actually digging through the budget numbers rather than being spoon-fed by the bureaucracy.
If nothing else, it may slow down the council's budget approval, which Keene had hoped to wrap up next month.
BLOODBATH AT TUSD: Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Stan Paz last week broke out of the straightjacket he'd been in since returning to lead his hometown district in June 2000. The tip of the iceberg of his "reorganization" was exposed with the elimination of three top jobs in the wildly top-heavy, poorly run district. Gone, if Paz's votes hold firm, are Associate Superintendent Rebecca Montaño and regional superintendents Larry Williams and Gene Benton.
Montaño, the highest ranking Mexican-American woman at TUSD, has got to be wondering about the value of the $250 in contributions she made to Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva, a former TUSD board member and Pima County supervisor and proud daddy of new TUSD board member Adelita Grijalva.
Young Grijalva professed total ignorance of the Paz reorg when it blew up on Thursday. Right. We've got déjà vu.
At the beginning of his second term on the Board of Supervisors 10 years ago, Raúl Grijalva also expressed surprise and shock and outrage when Republicans canned County Manager Enrique Serna and replaced him with Manoj Vyas, who then canned or demoted 12 top county officials in a famously costly "reorganization." The truth was, Raúl was the only Democrat to get a full briefing on what the county reorganization would yield.
Hey Adelita, if you didn't know about it, we suggest you get off that goddamn cell phone, quit checking your hair in mirror, and start asking Paz the right questions. We agree he is a master of obfuscation.
Adelita has got her hands full trying to answer to her Mexican-American constituents for the loss of Montaño, although Patty Lopez remains in Paz's top tier. Benton also is Mexican-American.
TUSD also will hear from African-American constituents because Williams was the district's top African-American. But he was as confused and confusing as Benton was sleepy.
Besides the Daily Star, which had enough lead time to crank out a huge editorial condemning Paz, the chief whiner is the Star's little darling, board member Mary Belle McCorkle. It's impossible to be sympathetic. In fact it's kinda fun to see her get a taste of her own dirty-little-secret-meddling medicine.
It is clear that Paz shopped his plan and got support, primarily from Joel Tracy Ireland. His top dog, Legal Counsel Jane Butler, comes out a big winner and consolidates power. This is troubling for a number of people, including those on the key desegregation committee, the Independent Citizens Committee.
Paz also boosted Marla Motove, an expected move given her eagerness to be a good soldata.
More shocking is the promotion of TUSD PR woman Toni Cordova as Paz's chief of staff. Chief of staff? Even critics of Montano, Williams, and Benton realize they had deep education backgrounds. But Cordova is related to Paz through marriage.
Paz promises more changes for the new fiscal year that begins July 1. Nearly all require board approval, although he claims contracts won't be renewed for those targeted.
A tad presumptuous, perhaps. The humor in all of this will be found in the Daily Star, where editorial page boss Jim Kiser has a vested interest with his wife on the TUSD tit in a superfluous job. The Star believes most action by elected officials to be meddling and micromanaging.
TEFLON CHAIRMAN: Peter Eckerstrom looks more like Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York, than Bruce Cutler, one of the tough lawyers who won acquittals for the one-time Teflon Don, the late John Gotti. But Eckerstrom worked effectively to get Tohono O'odham Chairman Edward Manuel off the hook in City Court last week.
Eckerstrom was just as brash as Cutler, boasting not long after he took the case that Manuel would beat the rap.
Tucson police busted Manuel last fall after, police say, he agreed to pay an undercover cop for sex along the Miracle Mile. A jury, under the direction of Magistrate David Dingeldine, deliberated for less than two hours before turning Manuel loose. He faced two misdemeanor counts of prostitution.
He also shook off pockets of hostile members and tribal officials who wanted him stripped of power, winning a 14-7 tribal council vote to keep his job.
You had to love some of Manuel's explanations in court, as reported by the Arizona Daily Star. TPD's undercover lure, Olivia Kennedy, was so persistent that Manuel "agreed to have sex but only in hopes she would leave him alone."
Pressed why he didn't just drive away, Manuel offered this novel defense: "I really don't deal that way with people. I could have if I was somebody else."
A GEM OF A DIVERSION: Legendary land speculator Donald R. Diamond is a master magician. He expertly diverts the attention of governments and media (doesn't take much) to get what he wants. He's done it long before this art was truly discovered in the late 1980s when he would alternate dangling of two horrid development plans--one on 470 acres in front of Pima Canyon and the other for up to 6,000 acres of the Rocking K Ranch.
While bumbling bureaucrats and salivating pols would try to bite Pima Canyon, Diamond would be off working some deal at Rocking K, the zoning for which eventually won Board of Supervisors approval in 1990. When he wanted to pull something at Pima Canyon, he would kick up dust out at the Rocking K.
He never fretted over the heat generated later by the scam of the Drachman school property deal. It gave him more room to work his federal trades for property at Saguaro National Park West.
And he misses not one wink of sleep over supposed controversy at Old Tucson, the theme park operating company that he and his super-rich partners, Don Pitt and Richard Bloch, acquired for $3.5 million in 1985. The Three Amigos have expertly exploited lease loopholes, mostly for rent credits for construction and upkeep, to chronically evade rent to Old Tucson owners--the Pima County taxpayers.
The new tactic is to withhold rent, roughly $130,000, and claim that the formerly famous Western movie set just isn't making the necessary jack. When that didn't play, Diamond hired a new gun, Terry Pollack, who is an old childhood friend of the Pitt kids. Pollack actually was better as a gunslinger Tucson High quarterback 30 years ago. The kid had an arm. Now he has a mouth, one used in the failed fight to keep CAP water out of Tucson homes. Pollack and the boys now say Old Tucson is withholding rent to force the county to rewrite and rebid the lease. Try that with your landlord.
But all the while, Diamond has been paying a bigger gun, former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, to finagle 21,000 acres of federal land for 4,300 acres of private acres that could be absorbed by the Ironwood Forest National Monument and Las Cienegas Conservation Area.
Diamond works it better than a Zulu setup. With everyone focused on the theme park, Diamond has Babbitt, secretary of the interior under President Clinton, working a land swap that will hand him a huge inventory and millions in profits.
VALUE JUDGMENTS: Our pals at the Pima Association of Taxpayers are sponsoring their annual get-together with staff from the Pima County Assessor's Office to explain how you can appeal your property valuation and possibly save a few bucks on your property taxes.
Get your questions answered from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 22, at the Sabbar Shrine Temple, 450 S. Tucson Blvd.