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The Skinny

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PARKS AND RE-CREATION

Hey, remember when the all-new Democratic Tucson City Council called for a reduction of all park fees to 2002 levels in one of their first get-togethers back in December?

Turns out the Democrats--with Republican Mayor Bob Walkup and Independent Carol West dissenting--may have acted a bit hastily, mostly because they didn't realize they were also reversing reasonable policies, like charging more for commercial events and sticking non-city residents with higher rates. Whoops!

Now, council members are considering using a more surgical approach than the sledgehammer they originally started swinging. City Parks Director Fred Gray has submitted a new proposal that rolls back some fees (such as swimming-pool admission and ramada rentals) while keeping other increases (such as beer permits) in place.

The council is also planning to keep modest fees in place for KIDCO, the after-school program for school kids, despite the fact that both Karin Uhlich and Nina Trasoff complained mightily that the fees were unreasonable while on the campaign trail last year.

But they also plan to spend more on KIDCO to eliminate a waiting list. The biggest challenge is finding space for the program. Wouldn't it be great if some of those Pima County Interfaith Council churches that pressed for the program were willing to open their doors to host it?


HOME WRECKER

Here's the problem for Democrats who want to talk tough on immigration: They're never going to be able to out-crazy state Rep. Russell Pearce.

Gov. Janet Napolitano and state Sen. Bill Brotherton can talk all they want about big fines for companies that hire illegal immigrants. But when it comes right down to it, they just can't match the wackadoodle stuff Pearce is dreaming up, such as his latest proposal to fine landlords that rent to illegal immigrants.

The bill, which would also ban banks from lending money to undocumented migrants who want to buy homes, essentially deputizes every landlord in the state--from big apartment managers to the family that owns a second home--as immigration-enforcement agents. Hey, not everyone wants to be a member of the Minutemen, Russell.

Next week at the Legislature: Making it illegal to sell food and clothing to undocumented migrants!


BACAL WITHDRAWAL

Special report from the ScrambleWatch '06 desk: Democrat Eva Bacal, who was the Democrats' nominee against U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe in 2004, has dropped out of the race to replace the retiring 11-term congressman. Bacal urged the sliver of the electorate that would have supported her to instead back Gabrielle Giffords, the former state senator seeking the Democratic nomination alongside former KVOA anchor Patty Weiss, Jet Blue pilot Jeff Latas, TUSD board member Alex Rodriguez and the retired Francine Shacter.

"Now, more than ever, we need integrity in Washington," Bacal press-released. "Gabrielle Giffords has integrity beyond question. She also has the legislative experience to develop sensible approaches to the problems facing our country."

Meanwhile, Latas, a former Air Force fighter pilot, is back in D.C. this week for a meeting of Veterans for a Secure America, a group of 50 Democratic former military types who are running for federal office this year. Latas was scheduled to meet with the likes of John Kerry, Max Cleland, Tom Daschle and Wesley Clark to talk strategy and raise money.

Latas hasn't pried open too many wallets yet. Although his end-of-year campaign finance report wasn't up on the Federal Election Commission Web site last time we checked, his campaign tells The Skinny that he's raised somewhere around $10K--which is technically less than peanuts for this race. But Latas has built a good rep among a crew of passionate progressives who are providing the obligatory grassroots support.

As we've already reported, Giffords busted out of the gate with a big lead in the dash for cash. Her FEC report shows she raised $247,637 by the end of the year and spent just $5,513.

Most of her Democratic opponents didn't formally enter the race until this year, so we'll have to wait another quarter to see what kind of cash they'll be able to bring in. But if we were handicapping the race, we'd bet the first-quarter results will be: Giffords, Weiss, Latas, Rodriguez, Shacter. See you in April!

On the GOP side, Republican Randy Graf, who has been running for months, had raised only $68,381. He's already spent $55,600 of that, so he doesn't have much in the bank. But we're sure Randy will be able to persuade Jim Click and Don Diamond to start writing checks. Won't he?

His various/potential GOP opponents--Steve Huffman, Mike Hellon, Mike Jenkins, Wayne Peate and Frank Antenori--are just getting started, so (like most of the Democrats) they weren't required to file.

By the way: A-Rod, who won his first election to the Tucson Unified School District board, tells us he has a formal campaign launch planned for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Viscount Suites, 4855 E. Broadway Blvd.


PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES

Republican activist Randy Pullen has been out collecting signatures for an initiative that would require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their budget in the classroom. Sounds good, until you consider that it doesn't include the cost of guidance counselors, librarians or even buses that get the kids into the classroom, which can be a considerable expense for large, rural districts.

The proposed proposition is really a cynical ploy cooked up by a national group, First Class Education, to make it appear as though Republicans are increasing education spending without actually, y'know, increasing education spending.

A memo obtained by Education Week magazine last year noted that the initiative would allow Republicans to "have a viable answer to 'in the classroom improvement of education' without the need to call for a tax increase."

The memo also points out that "Every day and every dollar the education establishment uses to defeat this proposal is a day and dollar they cannot spend on other political activities."

Officials from First Class Education refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the memo, which makes us suspect it's legit. (Check out the story yourself by entering "65 percent solution Republican ploy" in Google.)

State Sen. Toni Hellon, a Republican who represents Tucson's northwest side, has countered with her own ballot proposal which mandates 75 percent of district budgets be targeted for classroom spending--but uses a less-restrictive definition of classroom spending.

Hey, one cynical ploy deserves another!


BARBER CUT

The latest Republican purged for failing the new GOP purity test: Longtime activist and former county chair Linda Barber, who lost a race to retain her seat as a vice chair of the state party at a recent party confab.

Despite the loss, Barber had both congressional candidate Randy Graf and state Sen. Toni Hellon supporting her--which should give you a clue about how well she's respected by both the yin and the yang of the GOP.

The same knuckleheaded activists who deposed Barber elected another local to a vice chair position: Parralee Schneider. Wonder if they realized at the time that Parralee is a pro-choice mod?

Barber is a class act who deserved better from her party, which is falling increasingly under the control of the loony wing.

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