ROAD TO NOWHERE: We're regularly amazed by the things our local elected officials say, but last week was a particularly astonishing week, what with the re-discovery of the Pima Association of Governments as a regional transportation group.
For those of you who weren't paying attention during the recent mayoral election (which, judging from the turnout, includes most people in town), Mayor Bob Walkup campaigned on the notion of creating a regional authority to take over transportation planning.
Last week, during a high-profile meeting of the Pima Association of Governments, Sunshine Bob and his loyal sidekick, Councilman Frodo Ronstadt, got a newsflash from Tanis Salant, the Ph.D. who is the UA's supposed expert on municipal government. Turns out we already have the framework for regional authority: The Pima Association of Governments itself! With just a few tweaks, PAG could become a regional transportation authority Bob has promised.
The word "duh" comes to mind.
There are two possibilities at work here, and neither one is pretty: Either Bob and Fred are trying to bamboozle us, or they themselves are hopelessly bamboozled. Anybody who has examined the local transportation tangle in any kind of depth is well aware that PAG has been plugging away at regional transportation planning for the last three decades or so.
The problem isn't that we don't have a plan; the problem is that we don't have the money to implement the plan.
And that's where strange revisionist history comes into play. Walkup, Salant and their new pal, Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis, now say PAG once had the authority to enact a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects, but that lapsed somewhere along the way.
Listen up: PAG, a regional council of governments created 30 years ago, has never had taxing authority. Sure, voters smashed two PAG transportation plans in 1986 and 1990, but those would have been funded by a Pima County sales tax. The Legislature gave Pima County--not PAG--authority to seek voter approval for a sales tax for roads and transit.
That aside, transforming PAG into the regional authority has certain pitfalls. First of all, under the current makeup, the little hamlet of Sahuarita has the same voting power as the city and the county (although the city and county do have veto power). That needs to be jiggled if the organization is going to work.
Secondly, the organization still needs a plan that the voters of Pima County will support--and so far, nobody has come up with that. Lotsa luck!
ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM: Meanwhile, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who is batting 0-for-3 on sales-tax attempts, touched a few nerves when he pitched anew a county-wide sales tax of a half-cent per dollar.
Huck would have the county collect the money and dish it out to the municipalities based on population numbers. But he knows as well as anybody that taking a half-cent sales tax to the ballot is a fool's errand.
So what's really going on here? We suspect Huckelberry is still pissed about the city's push to hijack the county's upcoming bond election. As you may recall, the county wants voters to approve roughly $450 million in bonds next May. City officials are demanding half the money and sent a wish list of $650 million in projects to the committee reviewing bond requests. If the county doesn't play ball, the city is promising to make trouble--in the form of opposition to the bonds.
If the city can muddy the county's waters, then the county can muddy the city's waters as well. The city will be going to the Arizona Legislature in January to pitch a plan for a beefed-up Pima Association of Governments with taxing authority; looks like Huckelberry would like the county to be there as well, kicking around its own transportation legislation. And don't forget: The Chamber of Commerce has its own plan to create a tri-county authority through Santa Cruz, Pima and Pinal counties.
Confused? You can bet lawmakers will be, too, unless the locals down here get on the same page.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Eleven days after the final tally confirmed Democrat Tom Volgy's failure to unseat Bob Walkup, Sharon Bronson, the Democratic chairwoman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, appeared via a letter to the editor of the Daily Star to whine that her 1991 quote trashing Volgy was taken out of context during the independent campaign that pounded Volgy.
Bronson, a product of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson, didn't think much of Volgy when he was mayor from 1987-1991.
So when he tried to get bumped up to Congress, in the special election that Ed Pastor won to succeed the then-ailing Mo Udall, Bronson was part of the group that enticed Virginia Yrun to play spoiler.
Bronson poured this fuel on Volgy's 1991 pyre: "He was never there on the tough votes. Sure, he was there when the vote was easy, but every time he was the tie-breaking vote, Volgy found some reason why he couldn't support us."
That quote was bounced this year around by Independent People Like You, Democrats for Walkup and the Walkup campaign itself.
It took Bronson until Nov. 20--16 days after Election Day--to get the 170-word response in. But why rush? There had to be some hand-wringing followed by consultation with top advisers, multiple drafts and a focus group.
Volgy this year was counting on support from Bronson and her former Democratic protectors on the Board of Supervisors, Raul Grijalva and Dan Eckstrom. What he got was a reality check that support from that trio was illusory.
THE BUTLER VENDETTA: Jane Butler, the chief legal counsel to the rotten Tucson Unified School District, leads an improbably charmed life as a crummy lawyer protected by a monumental budget that funds the best lawyers in Tucson. (The smartest move by the City Council in the past 10 years remains the vote in 1994 to hire Tom Berning and not Butler, then fleeing Coconino County government, as city attorney.)
Once again, Butler is spending your school taxes, running up the meter with Richard Yetwin, of DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy, to keep Mike Tully from representing Mexican-American representatives in the 25-year-old TUSD desegregation case.
Butler hates Tully, a hard-working lawyer who served TUSD in the legal department (until Butler engineered the 1999 move to dump him) and in the district's previous equal opportunity office (until Butler helped engineer Superintendent Stan Paz's reorg that re-styled the office while dumping Tully on June 30).
Now she has the skillful Yetwin filing papers in U.S. District Court in Tucson that tell Judge David C. Bury that Tully has a conflict of interest because he worked on the TUSD side of the desegregation matter, including attending meetings of deseg-monitoring Independent Citizens Committee. He didn't. But so what if he did attend a meeting? Anyone can wander into those meetings that are, by law, always open to the public.
Yetwin uses an affidavit from Butler to buttress his opposition to Tully's appointment as counsel for the Mexican-American plaintiffs. In it, Butler claims that Tully was "privy to discussions and confidential and privileged information regarding (TUSD's) legal position and strategies to be pursued" in the deseg case.
Tully, in court papers, says he has no conflict and that he was neither TUSD's man on the deseg case or even a liaison to the Independent Citizens Committee.
Butler's affidavit, Tully wrote, "contains statements that are either partially untrue, or completely untrue." Those are as fundamental as Butler's assertion that Tully attended meetings of the Independent Citizens Committee as part of his duties.