THE LONG, HOT SUMMERHere we are, in those miserable dog days of August. The heat has joined forces with the humidity to make the daylight hours a sweaty mess if we venture outdoors. Even the night brings little relief, except for those few days when the rain finally falls.
And then we discover our roofs are leaking. Is it any wonder that our heads hurt?
For political reporters, it's an especially rough time. The Legislature called it quits months ago. The town of Marana has dropped its crazy scheme to seize a county sewer plant. And our city election is turning out to be a sleepy, sleepy affair, leaving us so desperate for material that we're filling out our column with notes about how little we have to write about.
Well, enough stretching. Some cranky Greens--we're looking your way, Dave Ewoldt--have complained that we don't appreciate all of their political activity this year. Which is pretty much true, although we are looking forward to our upcoming dinner with Green mayoral candidate Dave Croteau, who seems like a nice enough guy on the phone.
Hey, Ewoldt: Maybe you should spend less time writing letters to the editor (like the one you can read in next week's issue) and more time raising money for your candidate to make a viable run. Though it is probably easier to tell other people how to do their jobs rather than doing your own.
Oh, we're so mean! Still, at least we weren't among the members of Croteau's own party who were scheming to talk him into dropping out of the race. Guess we weren't the only ones who thought John Kromko would make a more lively candidate. (By the way, Kromko hasn't officially removed his name as a write-in candidate, so you can still request an early ballot and vote for him.)
Frankly, we don't think our disappointment with the upcoming election season is unjustified. The Democrats forgot to recruit a mayoral candidate, and the Republicans weren't able to find anyone to run for an open seat in Ward 1--which isn't all that surprising, given the city's Democratic voter advantage and the political zeitgeist.
This year's primaries aren't offering much excitement, either. In Ward 1, Regina Romero has all the experience, money and endorsements, putting her on the path toward steamrolling Ken Green (see "Rookie Face-off," Page 11). And in Ward 2, underdog Robert Reus flat-out admits he's not going to beat Rodney Glassman (see "Lopsided Contest," Aug. 9).
Oddly, the lack of candidates in next month's primary isn't stopping voters from ordering early ballots.
For the first time, City Clerk Kathy Detrick sent a early-ballot request mailing to every registered voter. The response has been extraordinary, especially given that there are only two contested primaries, both for the Democratic Party.
As of Aug. 18, 42,793 voters had requested early ballots. That includes 22,198 Democrats, 13,857 Republicans, 216 Libertarians (even though the party hasn't fielded a candidate) and 165 Greens. Another 6,357 voters not affiliated with those parties have also requested ballots.
That's a big jump from the 2005 city election, when only 3,613 voters cast early ballots, according to the City Clerk's Office. Even in 2003, in a citywide mayoral year, just 7,058 voters voted early.
The highest number of early-ballot requests is coming from Ward 2, where both Republicans and Democrats have candidates this year. More than 12,200 voters have asked for early ballots in the eastside ward, which typically has a higher turnout than other wards.
Coming in second is Ward 4, which has no primary race but does feature incumbent Democrat Shirley Scott against Republican Dan Spahr in November. Nearly 9,000 voters are looking to vote early there.
The third-highest return is in central-city Ward 6, where nearly 7,300 voters have requested early ballots, despite the fact that they have no races to decide. Is this a waste of postage dollars for taxpayers or a good opportunity to train voters to cast ballots even when nothing's at stake? We suppose it could be both.
Voters in Ward 1, who will decide between Romero and Green, have requested more than 5,800 ballots. It's kinda sad that a ward where there's an actual race trails a ward where there isn't one.
YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORKThe Pima County Board of Supervisors finalized next year's tax rate this week. As all good government wonks know, rising property values will lead to higher property tax bills, unless elected officials from a bunch of different jurisdictions--county, city, school districts, etc., etc., etc.--lower their tax rates to compensate. Even then, it's a crapshoot, because each individual property owner has a unique change in their property value.
But give most jurisdictions credit for at least trying to lower their rates so as to not be too greedy. The glaring exception: The Tucson Unified School District. Although TUSD can count on more money from the state next year, they still were the only school district in the metro area to jack up their tax rate. That really makes us doubt the old argument about how the largest district can save money through an economy of scale.
ANOTHER GOOD AMERICAN WORKER CLOSE TO LOSING HIS JOB?House Speaker Jim Weiers has convened a special committee to look at the employer-sanctions bill passed by the Arizona Legislature earlier this year. Weiers is saying the law may need a few tweaks, although he's not likely to support major changes.
Weiers' study group follows Gov. Janet Napolitano's suggestion that lawmakers should consider amending the law so that, say, hospitals or power plants aren't put out of business because they had an illegal worker mopping floors. She's such a softie on illegal immigration!
We imagine that Weiers isn't being driven so much by a desire to please Napolitano. He probably is more concerned about business leaders such as Mac Magruder, a Maricopa County McDonald's kingpin who is leading Wake Up Arizona, a business-backed group furious about the employer-sanctions bill.
The group is said to be specifically taking aim at Weiers, who came in ahead of a Democratic challenger by a mere 400 votes or so in his swing district, even after spending somewhere around $200,000 on the House race.
Weiers might want to step a few feet away from Rep. Russell Pearce. Seems to us that standing so close to him has put a big ol' target on his back.
LET'S BE CAREFUL OUT THEREAfter a week or so of issuing warnings, The Tucson Police Department has now deployed a photo-radar van to nab speeders who are going more than 10 miles over the speed limit. The van moves around about four times a day, but TPD has been good enough to post tentative locations on its Web site.
The Weekly will also do its part to alert motorists by posting the van's movements on our blog. Check in every day to see where the van is headed next!
TPD is still working out details for fixed traffic-enforcement cameras at four intersections in Tucson.