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The Skinny

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ASH HOLES: No one paying attention to City Hall between 1987 and 1991 remembers Bruce Ash, a Tucson Country Clubber who stepped into a family business that manages rental property.

But Ash, who wants to jumpstart a career in politics, fancies himself an expert on everything that happened at City Hall during the term of Democratic Mayor Tom Volgy. As Volgy seeks to reclaim the seat, Ash is hoping to tear him down by blaming him for everything that went wrong with city government. Ash is chairman of the Independent People Like You committee that is working to save Republican Bob Walkup.

Besides hammering Volgy and City Councilman José Ibarra on the light rail issue, Ash, with help from the crew at Moret Advertising, is using a wildly deceptive direct mail campaign aimed at discrediting Volgy.

The campaign has been paid for by the community's power structure, which is becoming increasingly desperate to keep Walkup in office. The bling for this campaign--$42K between Aug. 21 and Sept. 29, and how much do you want to bet they'll break the six-figure threshold by Election Day?--is coming from bigshots like auto dealer Jim Click and family ($5,540), legendary land speculator Don Diamond's posse ($2,850), developer David Mehl and his wife Bonnie ($3,000), developer Bill Estes ($1,500) and auto dealer Don Mackey ($1,000). (For more details on the funding, see "Blood on the Tracks" in this issue.) Most of the folks, like Ash himself, don't even live in city limits.

Armed with the fat checks, Ash is relying on skewed data to perpetuate a number of myths about Volgy:

· Ash claims that when Volgy was in office, Tucson household income dropped 8 percent and poverty shot up 37 percent.

Volgy is more attuned to the poor than all but a few politicians. He has studied the working poor and underclass, and has documented their struggle in an acclaimed book he co-authored with University of Arizona political science colleague John Schwarz.

Ash's figures are exaggerated. And--surprise!--he neglects to note that Volgy was sworn in less than two months after Black Monday, the Oct. 19, 1987, stock market crash.

At the time, many of Ash's land-speculatin' pals were taking a dive--and dragging down Tucson's economy--after tax law changes, ended their sweet deals on blade 'n' grade subdivisions, condos and apartment homes.

There was a whole lot of Resolution Trust Corp. property here as a result of the cascading S&L failures--and a lot of those folks who profited from it all are Ash's neighbors. Moreover, Tucson's economy took another major hit when IBM announced it would slash all but a few jobs at its Tucson facility, about seven months into Volgy's term.

Volgy responded with the creation of a unified economic development agency to end the fractured, competing and often failed efforts. The result was the Greater Tucson Economic Council.

When the city's revenue base took a beating, Volgy and the council didn't raise fees for bus service, pools, parks and libraries. They didn't impose a fee to pick up garbage. They even managed to cut property taxes, something Ash should appreciate since he consistently petitions Pima County to pay lower taxes on his Tucson Country Club mansion that is on the tax rolls for $437,519. In fact, records show that Ash is trying to skate away from 20 percent of his property tax burden, from $6,248 to $5,055.

Ash's troops are attempting to sell the absurd notion that, under Volgy, the city was one small claim from bankruptcy. Good thing no one tripped on the City Hall steps!

In reality, Volgy and the council relied heavily on Joel Valdez, the Tucson city manager who was in his last few months of his lengthy tenure when the 1990-91 budget was put together. Valdez appeared at one session and "magically" erased a $5 million deficit by dipping into reserve funds. Ash would have voters believe that Volgy unilaterally spent down city reserves.

Although the city's bond rating took a subsequent hit, the ratings slips from Moody's and Standard & Poor's were minor.

Ash, or whoever is feeding him, also inaccurately suggests the city's contingency fund was the only cash the city had in Volgy's last year.

· On water issues, Volgy pushed for the city and private well users (such as Tucson Country Club residents) to stop draining the aquifer that had supported stately cottonwoods in eastside riparian areas.

Ash wants us to think that Volgy alone turned on the spigot to allow crappy CAP water into city pipes and our homes untested. The results of Tucson Water's no-trial, big-error strategy were burst pipes, ruined appliances and dead fish.

But that disaster happened after Volgy left office at the completion of his term. Sure, Volgy and the council took a series of votes to use the city's CAP allocation, but his administration never locked the council into a specific option. And recharge was out of the question then because city voters had rejected that option--thanks to a campaign funded by the same Growth Lobby greedheads who are now blaming Volgy for the CAP mess that resulted when Tucson Water bureaucrats bungled.

The disgraceful irony is that the Walkup administration has done next to nothing to resolve all those claims filed by those who suffered damage from CAP water.

· Ash wildly misses the mark again by trying to blame Volgy for the fuel leaks at the Thomas Price Center on the southside. Valdez's handpicked successor, Tom Wilson, and other city officials including Fire Chief Dickey Moreno, were at fault. They lost their jobs. And all that--the revelations, the attempted cover-up, etc. --happened after Volgy was out of office.

· Finally, Ash and his "independent thinkers" assert that Volgy supported three failed transportation plans from 1986 and 1990. There were two; the sinking of Speedway north of the UA was not a "plan." The 1986 and 1990 plans were county-wide plans funded by a half-cent sales tax. Volgy was quiet on both. They failed 57-43 and 61-39.

Here's something Ash doesn't know: Volgy voted against light rail in the 1990 plan, a scheme that was chiefly driven on the city's side by then-Councilman and Volgy successor George Miller.


EARLY TRENDS: Local Democrats have been promising an aggressive early ballot campaign in this year's city elections--and after a slow start, it looks like they might deliver after all. As of Oct. 13, the Democrats had taken the lead over the Republicans, with 11,172 early ballot requests to the GOP's 10,251.

A total of 23,515 early ballots had been requested, which has already topped the 20,611 early ballots cast in 2001.

To get your early ballot and vote from the comfort of your home, call the City Clerk's Office at 884-VOTE before Friday, Oct. 24.


MORE METRO GOV, WALKUP-STYLE: Months after Walkup sought to deflect attention away from his record with a state-of-the-city speech in which he "discovered" metro government, Andrew "Deputy Mayor" Greenhill trashed Pima County for supposedly not fulfilling obligations on Freedom Park upgrades.

He couldn't be more off the mark.

At roughly $2 million, the project was included (after City Council whining) in the county's 1997 bond package overwhelmingly approved by voters. But just as things were to get moving, obdurate city staff and the mayor's City Council majority put on the brakes because the low bid came in $280,000 more than estimates.

Democratic City Councilman Steve Leal, whose ward includes Freedom Park, tried to quell the nervous staff and explained he could easily adjust budgets to cover the increase.

Greenhill, meanwhile, took to the press, with a snotty condemnation: "Let's keep in mind that this was a county bond program. The county has not followed through on promised projects to those people."

Really?

The county, records show, ponied up $1.36 million for the project, which is to be built under city direction. When cash was needed fast this summer, Supervisor Dan Eckstrom, a Democrat, released $25,000 from the county. Eckstrom, who retired three weeks ago, worked well with Leal on Freedom Park and other projects, like Quincie Douglas, that are in shared political territories.

The city also must kick in for construction costs and then run the new facilities at Freedom Park. Sure hope those pool-emptying $3 swimming admissions that the mayor and his majority pushed through will generate that kind of bread.


CADDYSHACK MOOCH: Oro Valley officials were so impressed by Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton's State of the Town speech that they asked for a copy. They were so mesmerized by the two versions--one presented to a business group and the other for general consumption--that they adapted it for Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis.

All the themes that worked so well in Marana also were hits in Oro Valley. Loomis received slobbering coverage in the Arizona Daily Star, which failed to give credit to those skilled writers from Marana.

We love it. The snobs in Caddyshack can't even get started with their homework without borrowing from their less-privileged neighbor. But why did they had to lift phrases, passages and themes from Marana? We thought Wolfswinkel branch manager--er, Oro Valley Town Manager Chuck Sweet could have had the home office send one.


ADIOS TO A TOWERING TORTOLITAN: Howard Fredric Smith III was a grand fellow. He was a Marine, a talented executive chef, lover of dogs (Rhodesian Ridgebacks), devoted husband, son and brother. Best of all, he was unpretentious and full of humor. Smith was struck down by cancer, but not before outliving projections by nearly a year. He was a stellar steward of Tortolita and patrolled against the horrid desecration of that territory with his ultralite and his ultra-heavy Grand Wagoneer, cruising washes as if in a Toledo-made boat. We were honored to know him. He will be missed. Condolences to family and friends.

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