BEHIND IN THE COUNTThe Chicago White Sox managed to buy their way out of Tucson when the Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 18, told them they could leave Tucson Electric Park early for a mere $5 million.
The second strike could be coming soon, given that The Arizona Republic reported the next day that the Diamondbacks are now looking for a new home. And with the Colorado Rockies demanding about $20 million from the city for improvements at Hi Corbett Field at a time when tax revenues are tanking, we get the sense that strike three for spring training in Southern Arizona is coming down the pike. Southern Arizona, yer out!
There's a chance that lawmakers will swing into special session soon to address the state's growing budget problems and come up with the framework for some sort of baseball authority for Pima County. But the odds are long that local voters will approve some sort of sales tax to help support millionaire baseball players and the even-richer team owners at a time when the economy is tanking and we can't even afford to support the Community Food Bank.
Pima County really lost spring training years ago, when lawmakers didn't prohibit Maricopa County from using its special sports authority--which gets a big ol' subsidy from the state's general fund--to poach teams from us.
After that, it was only a matter of time before we got outbid by cities that can offer more than we can. Look at what the White Sox got: A new stadium, plus a better deal for concessions and even options on land that they can buy someday in the future.
We wish the nascent Pima County Sports Authority lotsa luck, but the only bright side we see to any of this is the return of the Tucson Toros to Hi Corbett Field next summer. Granted, the new Toros will be a low-level independent team, not a Triple-A club. But in today's low-expectation world, maybe that's enough.
MS. NAPOLITANO GOES TO WASHINGTONOur last edition was just hitting the streets when the news broke that Gov. Janet Napolitano had emerged as Prez-elect Barack Obama's top choice to head up the Department of Homeland Security.
We're not sure it's much of a prize: You basically inherit a border mess, a half-built fence and a color-coded threat program. Plus, if and when terrorists do manage to strike us again, you go down in history as the person who failed to stop it from happening.
That sounds way worse than bickering with state Sen. Bob Burns and dealing with a billion-dollar shortfall, but we guess some folks just can't stop themselves from answering The Call from D.C.
Last week, the talk was that Obama might want to keep Napolitano in Arizona, because she would be a strong candidate against Sen. John McCain in 2010, which could help Democrats hang on to control of the Senate.
This week, the opposite theory is being floated, at least on Daily Kos and The New Republic's blog: Obama took Napolitano out of Arizona so she wouldn't run against McCain. This conspiracy theory sees it as a peace offering to McCain in the hopes that he will return to being Mister Moderate, at least on immigration and environmental issues.
We're not sure what to think of that one, but we will note that McCain met with Obama last week and then took the first steps toward running again in two years.
Whatevs. More important than the motivation is the reality: A Napolitano departure would be the ultimate game-changer at the state Capitol. The Legislature, already tilting to the right after the November election, will no longer have to worry about madcap legislation getting vetoed if Secretary of State Jan Brewer ascends to the ninth floor. That means that bans on texting while driving are out, while new laws allowing guns in bars are in.
Meanwhile, you can pretty much kiss Arizona's property tax goodbye. The upside: Property taxes won't increase for the average homeowner by, oh, $10 a month. The downside: Losing the revenue will blow another $250 million hole in the budget.
The payday-loan industry, which is slated to go out of business in 2010 without an extension from the Legislature, may have a new lease on life. We suspect that Brewer will be much more amenable to striking a deal with the loan sharks than Napolitano would have been.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?Here's one preview of how the incoming Senate president, Bob Burns of Peoria, is different from outgoing Senate President Tim Bee of Tucson: Last week, Burns released a list of Senate chairmanships, and Burns himself will chair the Rules Committee, through which every bill must pass to determine whether it is constitutional and proper. He has turned over the Appropriations Committee to Senator-elect Russell Pearce, who chaired Appropriations in the House.
Burns has cut back the number of committees, which has led to some reorganization. The Education Committee will now be the Education Accountability and Reform Committee. The Health Committee will be the Healthcare and Medical Liability Reform Committee. The Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee will be the Natural Resources, Infrastructure and Public Debt Committee.
These sound less like names and more like policy positions to us.
Only one Southern Arizona lawmaker will be chairing a committee in either the House or the Senate: Senator-elect Jonathan Paton, a Republican, will be heading up the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.
SCRAMBLEWATCH '09: SPECIAL REPLACING-RAUL EDITION!So is ol' Raúl Grijalva really up for secretary of the interior?
Rumors are flying that our local congressman, who signed on with Barack Obama after John Edwards flamed out, is among the candidates under consideration.
Grijalva, who was just elected co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, certainly has environmental cred, but he might prove to be a little radical for Obama, who seems to be making relatively conservative picks as he rolls out his team.
But a little skepticism there shouldn't stop us from speculating about his possible replacement, should it?
Members of Congress can't be appointed by the governor, so we'd have to have a special election--and the thought of that makes political junkies like us all itchy at the thought of an extra fix.
When this seat opened up in 2002, it attracted a dozen candidates. We bet a special election would pique the interest of any number of the usual suspects, including at least two members of the Pima County Board of Supervisors--Democrats Richard Elías and Ramón Valadez--as well as five City Council members--Rodney Glassman, Nina Trasoff, Karin Uhlich, Regina Romero and Steve Leal.
While we're at it, let's add state lawmakers Phil Lopes, Olivia Cajero Bedford, Jorge Garcia, Linda Lopez and Steve Farley. Then there are former state lawmakers Elaine Richardson and Ted Downing. And just for the hell of it, we'll throw in John Kromko's name.
Thanks to Arizona's resign-to-run law, we could clean out this whole town with one election.
And, as AZW88 observed at the TW blog, Republican Joe Sweeney gets a bonus round for another crazed congressional campaign.