MORE DIRT ON CLEAN ELECTIONSIt was a hot-an'-heavy week for the effort to dismantle the state's Clean Elections program.
First there's the news, curiously underreported south of the Gila River, that onetime Libertarian candidate Yuri Downing was indicted for theft, fraud and perjury for his 2002 publicly funded campaign for the Arizona Legislature. (Wait a minute: We thought nobody was ever indicted on perjury charges!)
Fun-lovin' Yuri--son of Tucson's state Rep. Ted Downing--got a couple of his buddies together to run a Libertarian slate of candidates for the House and Senate. The trio had a good ol' time blowing about $100,000 while campaigning in Tempe and Scottsdale hot spots and nightclubs.
Yuri's accomplices agreed to pay back half their campaign funds, but Yuri insists he did nothing wrong and ran a legitimate campaign. See ya in court!
Nathan Sproul, the political consultant spearheading the effort to flush Clean Elections by blocking the use of public funds for campaigns, calls the case "Exhibit A in why taxpayer-funded elections are a bad idea. Here you had three people who ran for no other reason than having a three-month-long party."
Doug Ramsey, spokesman for Keep It Clean, spins the case as proof the system works when someone abuses it.
"Bad people are going to do bad things, and passing Prop 106 is not going stop that," Ramsey says. "What it's going to do is amend the Constitution to give developers more power and the rest of us less."
Meanwhile, a poll by KAET-TV showed that 57 percent of those surveyed supported the Clean Elections program, while 18 percent said they'd vote to repeal it.
Sproul dismissed the poll as rigged.
"It was probably the most biased wording of a poll that I've ever seen in my life," says Sproul, who complains that pollster Bruce Merrill "inserted every inflammatory phrase he could come up with to make people have a favorable opinion based on the question."
Sproul, whose ballot initiative includes a long list of inflammatory phrases designed to turn the public against Clean Elections, makes a good point: How you describe Clean Elections makes a big difference in how the public reacts to it. That's why supporters of Clean Elections, unhappy with a description that will be in publicity pamphlets mailed out to voters, sued last week to force changes.
Ramsey says the current description "doesn't tell voters that the purpose of this initiative is to repeal Clean Elections. There's a line in there about taking money away from the Clean Elections Commission, but it doesn't say anything about de-funding or eliminating the Clean Elections process."
The group also wants to swap out the term "taxpayer money" in exchange for the less-inflammatory "public money," as well as include a mention that the program was originally approved by voters in 1998.
Sproul complains that supporters of Clean Elections want to "make it as complicated and make it as much legal mumbo-jumbo that they possibly can in an attempt to confuse voters." He adds that he had "serious problems" with some of the language in the description, but it wasn't enough to warrant legal action from his team.
On another legal front, the Attorney General's Office, headed up by Democrat Terry Goddard, is unhappy with ballot wording that was produced by the Secretary of State's Office, which is run by Republican Jan Brewer. Who'll end up on top? We're not sure we want to know.
A court hearing on whether the proposition violates the state Constitution on technical grounds is also pending.
ANOTHER LOAD OF RUBBISHWith our brand-spankin'-new, $14-per-month garbage fee comes a new push to eliminate alleyway trash collection within the city.
City officials have plenty of reasons to dump alley collection, ranging from the fact that ever-bigger trucks are constantly running over gas meters to the recurring problem of irresponsible fuckheads who unload construction materials in the unmonitored containers.
The roughly one-third of Tucsonans who enjoy alley pickup (including The Skinny) have a couple of reasons for wanting to keep the service: It's mighty convenient, because we don't have to roll the stupid barrel out to the street, plus it spares us the sight of ugly containers on our street once a week. OK, sure, we're more worried about our quality of life than the efficiency of government services. We're kinda selfish that way.
But there's a downside to alley collection: You gotta share a container with your neighbors. And with Environmental Services transforming into a break-even "enterprise department," the city has a proposal for those who want a can of their own: You can have one, but you have to move to roadside collection. If enough folks on your block agree to the move, then you're all taking it to the street.
The city may make the deal even more tempting when it goes to a pay-as-you-throw system, which will allow you to pay less if you order a smaller bucket. The transformation to a sliding-scale system will take a few years to complete, and we plan to hang onto our backyard bin for as long as we possibly can.
By the way, the staff at José Ibarra's Ward 1 office will not be accepting payment for your bills for garbage collection.
PILL POPPEDWere the recent busts of Americans who take their prescriptions to Mexican pharmacies across the border in Nogales the result of a crackdown by Mexican authorities in a rare attempt to enforce their convoluted drug laws?
That's the official spin. The Skinny's been fed a different story.
Seems some of the pharmacies may have been a little slow paying off the local Nogales cops. So to encourage them to pony up, the cops brilliantly decided to enforce one of their chickenshit laws about having to get a Mexican prescription to go along with your 'script from up here.
It evidently never occurred to them that the publicity generated from busting an American senior citizen might scare off tons of customers, including tourists who are in town to buy a poncho or eat in a restaurant.
We're told the Nogales prescription drug business has been cut in half, while travel by Americans is down roughly 30 percent. That's what corruption, greed and stupidity will get you.
BUSCAPADE!Mayor Bob Walkup announced last week that he now wants to see downtown's Greyhound Bus terminal located at Sixth and Toole avenues. The station's relocation is holding up construction of a new Fourth Avenue underpass, which in turn is holding up a number of downtown renovations.
Walkup's decision means the Greyhound station will have to find a temporary home for a year while the permanent station is built at Sixth and Toole avenues. Some paranoid types suggest the temporary location will become the permanent home once Walkup stumbles across some "new information," but surely His Honor would never do a thing like that. Would he?
Staff seriously screwed up the Greyhound move by deceiving Greyhound staffers and failing to check with the South Tucson City Council when they were pitching the idea of moving the station over to 25th Street and Interstate 10. Once the South Tucson council members balked, Walkup decided keeping peace within the shiny new Regional Transportation Authority was more important than getting the station out of downtown.
The big question: Did someone on staff screw this one up enough to actually get fired?