INTO THE DRINKThe Southern Arizona Home Builders Association may have won a victory by forcing the Tucson City Council to back off demands that builders in the Rincon Valley agree to sign pre-annexation agreement in exchange for water service. But builders may come to regret taking a hard line against the policy, because it has triggered an unexpected response from city officials.
As part of the council's agreement to step away from the pre-annexation agreements, city officials said they would only allow approximately 3,500 water hook-ups in the Corona de Tucson area, because that's all the well field in the area would allow. With roughly 1,300 current customers and 1,700 units already approved for new service, the new plan allows only 500 more hook-ups--far short of the 6,000 or so homes planned in the area. The limit is sure to put a spoke in the wheels of future development until the city agrees to build a pipeline to deliver more water.
The brewing storm may break up before delivering any more political damage, but City Councilman Fred Ronstadt has asked Tucson Water Director Dave Modeer to update the city's water delivery policies, which ought to include a look at whether the city really has the 100-year assured water supply required by state law.
"Water is blood," Ronstadt said at a recent council meeting, arguing that Tucsonans should only share our precious fluids if we get something in return--namely, an agreement from far-flung communities to agree to be absorbed into the city limits.
But as Ronstadt pushes the question of how much water we can afford to promise, he's starting a long-overdue conversation that links water supply to growth--which is a topic that developers would probably be happy to sidestep.
COP LANDCity Councilwoman Shirley Scott, a southeast-side Ward 4 Democrat, wisely forced a delay in a vote to change the way magistrates and special magistrates are selected for City Court. With Republican Mayor Bob Walkup and Democratic Councilman Steve Leal absent, Scott defeated an attempt by Republican Councilwoman Kathleen Dunbar to change the selection process.
The plan pushed by Dunbar, from northside Ward 3, would have given power to a member of the Tucson Police Department to probe backgrounds of magistrates and magistrate candidates. That's a wild conflict of interest. Scott said that such recommendations or comments should come from neutral, but experienced voices in law enforcement.
Even though it was clear that she would not get the four votes necessary, Dunbar petulantly pressed for action on her plan. She lost when only Republican Vice Mayor Fred Ronstadt and Councilwoman Carol West, a Democrat from northeast side Ward 2, joined her. Westside Democrat José Ibarra stuck with Scott, a move that sparked a hiss from Dunbar. She complained that Ibarra voted for the changes in the council's oxymoronic Good Government Committee. Hey Kathleen, nothing matters until the vote is taken at the council dais.
This was spiked with politics. Rich Anemone, a TPD sergeant who is the boss of the cop union, the Tucson Police Officers Association, wanted his troops to have a say on who wears the black robes at City Court. Anemone is front and center in Republican Roland Youngling's hopeless run to unseat Democratic Sheriff Clarence Dupnik in the Nov. 2 general election. Dupnik, a former longtime Tucson cop and former chief of detectives, has been in county office since 1980--the year Mount St. Helens blew--and has been elected six times.
HERODOTUS HANSENFinally, a house ad in the Arizona Daily Star we can stomach! Star sportswriter Greg Hansen was chosen for a spot in the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame. Bravo for well-deserved recognition for Hansen, who started at the Star 23 years ago. He was beat reporter and then grew into producing fine columns.
We don't agree with everything Hansen writes, as we noted when we selected him for a spot in the Best of Tucson™ in 2001. Recent case in point: Hansen's column advocating expansion of the Pacific 10 Conference to include Utah and Brigham Young. The Pac got Wac-ky (Western Athletic Conference) enough with the inclusion of the UA and ASU in 1978.
Hansen is a gifted storyteller. Plus, he researches and has a grasp of history like no one since Abe Chanin left the Star in the 1970s. He covers the biggest events, yet is not too full of himself to write about Tucson preps or even younger athletes.
The Pima County Sports Hall of Fame is growing with 11 inductees, among them the great amateur golfer Armen Dirtadian, who picked up his early skills from Tucson's legendary Swindle Brothers, the late George and Mike Borozan.
ORVILLE FAUBUS IRELANDLeave it to political opportunist Joel T. Ireland to chair long-delayed hearings on the sorry but costly efforts of the Tucson Unified School District to desegregate. Ireland, seeking a fifth term on the TUSD board, actually was pushed, with his feet-dragging, tax-addicted colleagues, into conducting hearings on what TUSD can do--if it is ready--to get out from under a 26-year-old federal court order to eliminate vestiges of its former officially segregated school system.
Ireland pandered at the first hearing, held incongruously at eastside and predominantly white Sahuaro High School.
He's got a problem--if voters and the daily media pay attention. It's a quarter-of-billion (with a B) problem. That's the amount that TUSD has spent and misspent on deseg--with pitiful results. Ireland has told the daily press that he would like to get out from the court order. Gee, he's never really done anything to accomplish that. And he certainly has not voted to trim TUSD's ruinous tax levy for desegregation. It's bounced between $57 million to $63 million annually in recent years.
A final note to the Arizona Daily Star: Please, that $57 million does not "come from the state." Most of it is generated by local taxpayers, particularly commercial properties. Several million--which, by law, cannot be charged to homeowners within TUSD--comes from the state general fund. Isn't it great that the nice folks of Sun City and Lake Havasu City help pay for Ireland's operations? And, dear Star, one of the lawyers for desegregation plaintiffs is Rubin, not Ruben, Salter.
SWEET RELEASE?Several of the newly elected members of the Oro Valley Town Council would like to replace current Town Manager Chuck Sweet. Sweet, who has been arrogant in his handling of many council members, is tight with development interests, particularly Vistoso Partners and the Wolfswinkel family.
To shore up Sweet's incumbency, his pals are circulating a letter of support among Oro Valley town employees. This wretched abuse of power has Sweet's tacit approval, if not his encouragement.
Civil service systems were created to protect employees from this type of political intimidation. Does anybody believe that the average OV employee is honestly expressing support for their boss when asked to sign?
The OV council should immediately pass an ordinance outlawing this form of employee harassment. And then they should seriously question the need to keep a town manager who would allow it to continue for his personal benefit.