LOADS OF GARBAGEP.J. O'Rourke once remarked on the differences between the two major political parties: "Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then get elected and prove it."
Perfect example: The City Council's bumbling over creating a pay-as-you-throw garbage fee. As you're painfully reminded whenever you open your water bill, you're now being socked with a $14 monthly fee to cover the cost of picking up the trash.
The fee was pushed through on a 4-3 vote, with the support of Mayor Bob Walkup and council members Fred Ronstadt, Carol West and Kathleen Dunbar. The vote was particularly embarrassing to Dunbar, who campaigned for office four years ago promising, as an example of her GOP bona fides, to oppose charging us to pick up our garbage.
Just weeks before casting the deciding vote to implement the garbage fee last year, Dunbar assured us she remained opposed, because she'd made a promise and intended to keep it. "When does your word mean something?" she asked us.
Evidently, not when you're talking trash.
Dunbar attached her flip to the condition that the city create a sliding scale so people who generated small amounts of trash wouldn't pay as much as those no-good consumers who toss out a couple of big ol' Hefty bags every day.
Sounds great on the grandstand, but now that the city is crunching the numbers, it's coming up with a sliding scale that estimates that as many as nine out of every 10 households will pay more than they now do--and the estimaged 10 percent that get a break will be saving a whole $2 a month, according to a report from Joe Burchell in last Sunday's Arizona Daily Star. Big whoop.
How come? To begin with, to put the system in place, the city needs hand out new containers in three sizes, which determine how much you pay. Officials estimate, based on averages in other communities, that between 10 and 30 percent will ask for a 35-gallon can.
Buying all those new cans is gonna eat a big wedge of cheddar. And on top of that upfront cost, the city still needs to collect $20 million a year or so to cover the cost of collection and have a few bucks left over to run the landfills and resolve lingering problems at old dumps.
So if you're gonna give someone a break, it's gotta be made up on the other end. The latest estimate replaces the current $14 monthly fee with a $17 fee for a big can, $14.50 for the medium size, and $12 for a little one.
This does not strike us as progress.
Granted, some city officials muse that once the initial investment of paying for those new cans is paid off, rates might drop. Please pardon our skepticism over that preposterous notion.
And don't forget the other downside: About 40 percent of Tucsonans now enjoy alleyway pickup, meaning they don't have to drag the cans out to the street. It's one less hassle in our harried lives and makes for a better streetscape, even if we do still have to look at the blue barrels once a week.
You can kiss that alley service goodbye once this pay-as-you-throw system in place--which, by the way, has been the goal of the solid-waste crew for years, because they don't like driving their trucks down the narrow alleys.
Let's review how Dunbar's pay-as-you-throw shakes out: Most of us pay more, and we lose our alleyway collection. Plus, we create an incentive to get a smaller can and then dump our garbage elsewhere when it fills up. And we add a new bookkeeping expenses to the city budget.
Any council members who support this lunacy deserve to get taken out to the curb by voters this November.
CLEANED OUT?One of the hottest topics of gossip currently making the rounds at the Legislature--besides who's going to get Rep. Ted Downing's seat after he's appointed to Sen. Gabrielle Giffords' seat after she resigns to run for Congressman Jim Kolbe's seat after he resigns to take President Bush's appointment to U.S. Trade Representative--revolves around whether we'll see a gang of five conservative lawmakers who used Clean Elections dollars booted out of office.
Press reports have revealed that the Clean Elections Commission is investigating Sen. Ron Gould and House members Collette Rosati, David Burnell Smith, Rick Murphy and Pamela Gorman. All five are among the most right of the far right--and we don't mean correct--in the GOP caucus. Several of them also used political consultant Constantine Querard, who was last seen in The Skinny when he was under fire from the Maricopa County Republican Party and the AG's office.
In that affair, Querard hatched a diabolical scheme to use GOP icons to lure voters into turning over their early-ballot requests to him--and then held on to many of them almost until the day of the primary election while mining them for his political consulting efforts.
Querard is also quite adept at milking the Clean Elections system, with a stable of conservative candidates tapping the public dollars and paying him to run their campaigns, including David Gowan, a nitwit magazine salesman who lost a GOP primary in District 30 last year.
But now it appears there are questions about how Querard's clients actually spent that money--and how much they may have spent beyond the legal limit. Tongues are wagging that there may be some heavy charges coming down the line, including the possibility that some might even get booted from office.
Clean Elections Executive Director Colleen Connor has officially recused herself from the case, declaring a conflict of interest. The official word is that she has relatives involved in pro-choice activism, but one of our spies tells us she was shooting off her mouth so much about the investigation that the AG's office had to tell her to shut up and get off the case.
WHAT A RIOTAnd now the rest of the story in Tucson Police Department's December loss in Superior Court that resulted in a $56,000 jury award to Lynda Canfield, a victim of TPD's thuggish attempt to control the North Fourth Avenue crowd after the 2001 NCAA basketball championship.
City Hall stubbornly and unwisely agreed to defend TPD and its poor-judgment, bad-shot cop Peter Kouratou, who blasted Canfield, now 57, with rubber pellets as she tried to ride her bike away from the scene. Canfield was visiting a friend near Fourth Avenue and had not a thing to do with the young UA students and others who spilled out of the bars after the UA's loss to Duke.
City records show the city paid its prime cop-defending lawyer Daryl A. Audilett $47,384, plus another $8,988 in fees, including a charge for an expert witness. That's $56,372 for the lawyer and ineffective testimony in a case that could have been settled for $15,000 or less and an apology.
Audilett collected $160,915 and the city paid another $68,114--for $229,029 in total--to defend TPD "riot control" that resulted in the loss of an eye for Jeffrey Knepper, then a 21-year-old UA student. A Superior Court jury awarded Knepper $765,000 in 2003.
SOAKING TAXPAYERSThe Tucson City Council has voted to go ahead with a bond election this May to fund projects for Tucson Water. We have to ask, given the city's financial pinch: Why spend at least a half-million dollars for a special election in May? Why not put it on the November ballot, when the city will already be springing for an election?
The reason, of course, is the conventional wisdom that a May election brings light turnout, which increases the likelihood that the bonds will pass. But with no organized opposition, the bonds would probably pass in November as well--and save the city at least $500,000.