IN DOWNTOWN TUCSON DID BOB WALKUP/ A STATELY PLEASURE-DOME DECREEThe Tucson City Council acted quickly last week when it approved a $190 million plan to build a new arena and remodel the convention center. The plan also calls for the city to sell some tax-exempt bonds to fund the construction of a new public/private downtown hotel.
When we talked to Tucson Convention Center honcho Rich Singer on the day before the meeting, he told us the three-part city plan wasn't supposed to be considered by council members, who were scheduled to talk about a private arena plan that was put on the agenda by Councilpunk José Ibarra. But once City Manager Mike Hein realized the council members would be discussing the private plan, he rolled out the city staff's proposal, which so dazzled the council that they went ahead and approved it right quick.
Even City Councilman Steve Leal, who was leaning toward rehabbing the current arena, flipped and supported the plan. Leal tells us he was impressed by the financial projections connected to a new hotel designed to bring in more convention business.
Will it all pencil out? That's anyone's guess, but we doubt further study would have made much of a difference. The decision ultimately comes down to a leap of faith that a new arena will bring in the shows and events that the old one couldn't, and make mo' money--and the council went ahead and made the jump. Happy landings!
HAIL TO THE CHIEF--SOMETIMESPresident George W. Bush made another visit to Yuma earlier this week to check up on his new border-security effort, Operation Jump Start, and to press the case for comprehensive border reform.
Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen welcomed Bush to Arizona with a press release that included the obligatory slam against Democrats.
"On behalf of the more than 1 million Arizona Republicans, I say to the president, whether you're standing up to the Democrats in Congress who are looking to raise taxes, the Democrats who are looking to surrender to the terrorists, or the Democrats who are looking to undo what we've done to strengthen our border security, you can count on the Republicans of Arizona to stand tall with you," Pullen declared.
So what does Pullen mean when he says Democrats are looking to undo border security? We asked Brett Mecum, spokesperson for the Arizona Republican Party, who said: "Ummmm ... Let me get back to you on that." We're still awaiting that call.
What's even more peculiar is Pullen's claim to be "standing tall" with the president on border policy. Last year, when he was the national committeeman for Arizona, Pullen introduced a resolution at a national confab opposing the White House proposal for a guest-worker program because, as Pullen observed, "Any guest worker plan that allows illegal aliens to remain and work in our country will only result in more illegal immigration and increased crime in our country."
That sounds more like causing trouble for the president than standing with him. Heck, you might even say that Bush is standing with those no-good Democrats on the whole guest-worker thing, since they seem more inclined to support comprehensive reform than the GOP-controlled House was.
Bush really got crosswise with Pullen's relentless demonizing of Democrats when he said, "We'll continue to work with members of both political parties. ... I think people generally want to come together and put a good bill together."
Mecum tells us Pullen's "standing tall" stuff had to do with securing the border and shouldn't be taken to include support for a guest-worker program.
"Border security and immigration issues are two separate issues, and what we want to see is the border secured," Mecum said. When it comes to a guest-worker program, "We're not commenting at this point--we're waiting to see what the president says when he's down in Yuma and basically what comes out of that."
Let us tell you what came out of that. Bush told that crowd: "You cannot fully secure the border until we take pressure off the border. And that requires a temporary worker program."
So does Pullen remain opposed the White House plan for a guest worker program?
"You'll have to ask the chairman that question," Mecum said.
Um--that's why we called. But hey, get back to us whenever you guys sort out where you stand!
SCRAMBLEWATCH '07: DOWNGRADED EDITIONThe political gods can be cruel sometimes. Last year at this time, we were already watching a dozen or so candidates wrestle for the chance to replace Congressman Jim Kolbe. This year, it looks like we're not even going to have much of a mayor's race, which is forcing us this week to formally downgrade Scramblewatch to Stumblewatch '07.
Democrat Daniel Patterson announced last week that he wouldn't be challenging Republican Mayor Bob Walkup after all. Patterson, a local environmentalist, says he's now interested in running for the Arizona Legislature next year, when Rep. Linda Lopez reaches the end of her four-term limit. That leaves Joshua Garcia, a construction worker with no political experience, and Michael Toney, known for spouting mostly incoherent mumbo-jumbo during call to the audience at City Council and Board of Supervisors meetings, as the only Democrats in the race. We're so looking forward to seeing those two go at it at a Nucleus Club forum this summer.
Hot-dog vendor Bruce Gerowitz is still running for mayor as an independent, and last week, Dave Croteau picked up paperwork to consider running as a Green. Walkup can feel free to plan a three-month trip to Acapulco between August and November at this point.
It's not much, but we may have a primary in Ward 1, where José Ibarra is doing the city the favor of calling it quits after three terms. The presumptive favorite there is Regina Romero, a Grijalvalista who most recently worked as an aide to Ward 3 Councilwoman Karin Uhlich. A neighborhood activist, Ken Green, is the only other candidate who has filed a statement of organization, though a few others are considering it.
The race to replace retiring Ward 2 Councilwoman Carol West looks like it will pit Democrat Rodney Glassman against Republican Lori Oien, while in Ward 4, incumbent Councilwoman Shirley Scott may face Republican Daniel Spahr, a financial planner who is making his first run for office.
We may have a little excitement if former state lawmaker John Kromko can get his latest initiative on the November ballot. The Tucson Water Users' Bill of Rights has a little something for everyone, if by everyone, you mean voters who are mad about the city's garbage fee, don't like the idea of toilet-to-tap water delivery or want to stop growth.
The initiative would dump the city's $14-a-month garbage fee and ban any effort to treat and serve effluent to customers (or even recharge treated sewage water). It would also prohibit Tucson Water from providing new homes and businesses with water if the CAP supply is cut back by more than 20 percent, or when Tucson begins using its full allotment of 140,000 acre feet of CAP water.
It was smart thinking by Kromko to bundle it all together, although that stuff about banning water hookups has probably bought him six figures of trouble from homebuilders in the form of an opposition campaign.
Kromko must collect a minimum of 11,615 valid signatures by July 5 to qualify for the November ballot. His last petition effort, which would have repealed the monthly garbage fee, was tossed for technical reasons.