KINGFISHER SAVED!It appears The Skinny's favorite watering hole, the Kingfisher Bar and Grill, may survive the Grant Road widening, although it may have a new drive-thru window when the controversial corridor gets widened, beginning in 2013.
We are, however, likely to lose Bookmans and the Bay Horse Tavern--along with a lot of homes--with the new Grant Road alignment that was unveiled earlier this week.
What's remarkable to us is the low number of commercial properties that are getting snatched up by the city for the $166 million project, which will widen Grant Road to six lanes between Oracle and Swan roads. The final project will also include bike lanes, sidewalks, medians and landscaped buffers.
City transportation planners are also hoping to introduce a new feature: the so-called Michigan left turn. No, that's not a maneuver from a recent Savage Love column; it's a new traffic feature that supposedly improves traffic flow, reduces accidents and even saves gas, making it a very sustainable option.
You'd no longer be able to make a left turn at Oracle Road, Stone Avenue, First Avenue, Campbell Avenue, Country Club Road, Alvernon Way or Swan Road; instead, you'd drive past the intersection into a special lane with its own stoplight about 600 or 700 feet past the intersection, where you'd have to make a U-turn and then head back to the intersection to make a right turn.
At first blush, the Grant Road plan looks about as sensitive as you can get when building a six-lane road; even the little antique stores near County Club Road aren't getting demolished, although they'll still have to survive the big road-construction project.
But many folks are bound to dislike the proposal. Your chance to learn more and weigh in is coming up at three open houses:
• 4 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15, at Executive Inn and Suites, 333 W. Drachman St.
• 4 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 16, at Salpointe High School, 1545 E. Copper St.
• Noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 18, at Catalina Magnet High School, 3645 E. Pima St.
SLOW COUNTPima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has released a thick report letting us know that all the votes aren't likely to be tabulated before midnight on Election Day.
The key holdup: Officials with the Democratic and Libertarian parties worry that transmitting the vote via modems could allow hackers to intercept and alter the data.
So the voting machines from each polling place have to be hauled down to the county's elections headquarters on South Mission Road, where they'll go through a security process before the data will be uploaded into the central tabulating machine.
For what it's worth, Democratic activists say they're not the ones slowing down the count; they say it's the incompetent Elections Department officials who can't get the data processed faster.
The county, meanwhile, is taking some steps to speed up the results. Officials will have multiple lines for the security checks instead of just one, which is all they had in the primary. They'll also leave the tabulation of votes on touch-screen machines until the following day, since hardly nobody votes on those.
Here's the good news: Most of the early votes will be tabulated by about 8 p.m. on election night--and for all intents and purposes, once those are released, we'll have the results of everything except the really close races. That's because there doesn't tend to be a huge difference between voters who cast early ballots and voters who cast votes on Election Day.
There will be some close races--but those won't even be decided after all the votes cast in polling places on Election Day are counted. We're willing to bet that somewhere around 20,000 early voters won't bother to drop off their ballots until Election Day, and those ballots will need to be signature-checked by Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez and her crew before they're counted--a process that will likely take a couple of days.
SPEAKING OF DELAYS...There's no excuse for Pima County's failure to post campaign-finance reports on the Web, as now required by state law. The Arizona Secretary of State gets the reports online on the day they're due; the city of Tucson gets the reports online the day they're due. But the county continues to fail to post the reports in a timely matter. As of our deadline, the reports--which came in last week--have not been posted online.
The cavalier attitude about finance reports does not fill us with confidence in Elections Director Brad Nelson.
VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTENOne small detail from the primary election, during which 76,000 people cast an early ballot: Several hundred people actually voted twice by mailing in a ballot and then going out on Election Day.
Some of them may have been folks who merely forgot they had already voted when Election Day rolled around. But some of the others--well, there's been a request to the Pima County Attorney's Office for an investigation.
MONEY TROUBLESThe state's worsening financial picture has lawmakers calling for a special session and Gov. Janet Napolitano coming up with some savings around the margins.
The most recent financial report showed the state was $180 million behind the forecast--in just the first two months of the year.
And that was before total economic calamity hit Wall Street. We can't imagine that the housing market is going to rebound anytime soon, which will have to happen before the state's economy gets back on track.
And by the way: Those increased lottery sales that are supposed to pay back most of that billion-dollar construction package for the universities? That might have been a bad bet. Lottery revenues are down 13 percent in the first two months of the year, but state officials say they've got some plans to increase TV advertising after candidates are done running all of those campaign ads.
Another tidbit from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's monthly update: Arizonans are driving less and buying fewer cars, which means we're collecting less money in road taxes. For the first time since 1992, the state actually saw a drop in highway user revenue funds, which are a collection of gas taxes and various fees, such as your car-registration fee.
In the fiscal year that ended in June, those HURF revenues were down 2.7 percent from the previous year, and 6.6 percent below the Arizona Department of Transportation's projections. That means fewer dollars are available for fixing or expanding our streets.
Given the ongoing worldwide economic collapse, it's probably just as well that the TIME initiative, which would have increased the state sales tax by a penny per dollar to fund transportation projects, didn't make the ballot; it would have been crushed by voters.
But if we plan to keep driving, we're still going to have to find more money for our roads soon.
BUT WAS IT A BIG SOMBRERO?Joe Sweeney, the perennial congressional candidate who has been disowned by the Republican Party this year because of his loony racist and anti-Semitic mutterings, is now a GOP committeeman.
Sweeney, who is challenging Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva, ended up in a tie in the September primary for a precinct committeeman slot with Daniel P. Szewczyk. Both men got six votes.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors drew Sweeney's name out of a hat to decide the winner. Yes, you read that right: They drew his name out of a hat.