SIGNATURE EFFORTSOnly two groups managed to file petitions with the state by last week's deadline for initiative drives: No Taxpayer Money for Politicians, which seeks to ban the use of public funds for political campaigns, and Protect Arizona Now, which seeks to ban the delivery of state services to illegal migrants.
The first proposition, which asks voters to pass a constitutional amendment that would essentially cripple the state's Clean Elections program, is facing a legal challenge. Opponents are arguing that the prop addresses too many sections of the state Constitution in a single ballot question--a technicality that, most recently, got an initiative that would have repealed the state income tax tossed off the ballot back in 2000. This one will probably follow an expedited course up to the Arizona Supreme Court. What will the verdict be? Wait and see.
The No Taxpayer Money for Politicians campaign also filed campaign finance reports last week showing that as of mid-June, the committee had raised $479,250, with all but $742 of it spent on the campaign so far. In fact, the group had to borrow $60,000 from Eric Crown, chairman of computer company Insight Enterprises, to remain in the black. Contributors to the effort include a long list of developers, car dealers, lobbyists and other industry representatives who want to keep the politicians on their payroll. Deep down, they must get turned on when the pols come groveling for cash.
Every dime has gone to Sproul and Associates, the political consulting firm headed up by former GOP state party exec director Nathan Sproul, who's running the campaign. Sproul has used the money to subcontract the political services that have put the question on the ballot.
Supporters of publicly funded elections, the Keep It Clean Committee, reported raising $178,737, with more than $57,300 coming in mostly small contributions and $109,000 coming from political action committees, including $99,500 from the Clean Elections Institute Action Fund and $9,000 from the Arizona Advocacy Network.
So will bazillionaire philanthropist George Soros start throwing in enough dough to protect the Clean Elections program he persuaded Arizona voters to pass back in 1998? Will other deep-pocketed organizations step up the fund raising? Again: Wait and see.
Meanwhile, the PAN initiative is threatening to widen schisms within the Republican Party. GOP centrists, like the congressional delegation and Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, are opposing PAN as a package that goes too far in the effort to deal with ongoing problems caused by illegal immigration. But the true believers in House of Representatives GOP leadership love the plan, as do the folks at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a D.C.-based political action committee that has dumped more than $400,000 into the campaign war chest to get the question on the ballot.
One reason the mods are upset: They fear that the initiative will result in high Hispanic turn-out in November, which could cost George W. all of Arizona's 10 electoral college votes. Count us as skeptical of that theory.
The slim number of initiatives follows the general trend of disinterest in local offices, as well as the ongoing decline in drives to get initiatives on the ballot. Two years ago, there were only four initiatives on the ballot, and three of 'em were about Indian casino gambling. (The fourth was a return of medical marijuana to the ballot.) In 2000, there were five initiatives, ranging for land management to health care.
Why the decline? Well, mostly because it costs a hell of lot of money to run a successful initiative campaign. If you're doing a grassroots effort, you might as well pack it in, as supporters of a Cesar Chavez holiday discovered this year.
But it's not as if the list of propositions will be all that short. Through the referendum process, the Arizona Legislature has loaded the ballot with a half-dozen props for the People to Decide.
And don't forget that lawmakers are hoping voters will approve their raises, up to an annual $36K from the current $24K.
LICENSE REVOKEDThe Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board has formally stripped former Tucson Police Department officer Kenneth Charles Walter of his law-enforcement certification, meaning Walters won't be carrying a badge in Arizona any time soon.
Walter was dismissed from TPD for allegedly trolling for underage girls on the Internet. Turns out SchoolGurlSallyHOT4U was another TPD officer.
Weeding out Walters is a start. But why was he offered a probation plea deal for his efforts to arrange playdates with underage girls? Isn't that the sort of thing the Pima County Attorney's Office loves to prosecute so they can deliver jail time?
Incidentally, Walter has quite the disciplinary record from his days at TPD, including a 1999 suspension that involved using TPD computers to send out sexually explicit e-mails while on duty. (Evidently, the subsequent sex addiction counseling didn't quite take.)
Walters had four other reprimands in his file since 1999, including a 2001 incident during which he stopped an African-American meter reader in a park while responding to a call regarding a burglary. According to a TPD Internal Affairs report, the TEP employee, whose name was redacted in the summary, "said Officer Walter confronted him with his gun drawn and telling him to put his hands up.
"REDACTED complied with the request and was handcuffed," the IA report continues. "REDACTED said that while he was being handcuffed by Officer Walter, the officer made the statement, 'You people are known to run so I am putting these on.' REDACTED felt that the officer made the statement because he is a black male."
The TEP employee said he was handcuffed for 45 minutes at the park until Walter let him go.
AN EVEN THINNER HERDAs if there weren't already too few people running for office: Now Democrats Linda Lopez and Tom Prezelski of District 29 have a free ride to re-election. Republican Ed Wagner, who didn't stand a chance of winning in the Democratic district, has been knocked off the ballot for turning in a batch of bad signatures.
Which is a shame, at least from where we sit. Wagner had a colorful history in local politics, starting with his bankruptcies and finishing with a stint on what was, perhaps, the most legendary Pima Community College board ever. We're going to miss the opportunity to recap all the details ...
PARTY LINEFormer Pima County Democratic Party chairman Jesse George called down to party headquarters recently looking for a phone number for Tim Sultan, one of three Democrats praying to God that Congressman Jim Kolbe somehow loses to Randy Graf in the September GOP primary so they have an outside shot at a win in November.
The volunteer who answered the phone didn't have Sultan's phone number, although she was eventually able to track it down on the Internet and pass it along to George.
George concedes he could have looked the number up himself; he says the volunteers at headquarters are undoubtedly working hard. But that doesn't belie his underlying concern: It appears the county Democratic Party doesn't even have a handy phone list for all the candidates on the November ballot. That's not the sign of a high-speed, low-drag operation.
"How are we going to win any races if this is the mentality at the county headquarters?" says George. "I was a little miffed."