OH WOE IS SAGUARO RANCHJust as The Skinny was going to press, a local real estate blog reported that Saguaro Ranch owner Stephen Phinny has defaulted on the $50 million loan he received in 2006 from New Jersey-based Kennedy Funding for his high-end development in the Tortolita Mountains.
The Skinny confirmed the report, finding a "notice of substitution of trustee" that was filed with the Pima County recorder on Dec. 24. The notice appoints Katharine Burns Milliman, a Tucson attorney with Fennemore Craig, as successor trustee--an early step in foreclosure proceedings on the 1,035-acre development.
Life, however, goes on for neighbors who are suing Phinny regarding a public-easement dispute. That remains on the docket to go to court on Jan. 26.
THE LONG GOODBYEGov. Janet Napolitano could have kept her final state of the state address short earlier this week: "Good night, and good luck!"
But Napolitano, who will be abandoning her gubernatorial responsibilities for an exciting new job as secretary of homeland security, wasn't quite so concise.
She skipped the usual "the state of the state is strong" line--who, other than Stephen Colbert, could have delivered that with a straight face?--and instead rehashed her accomplishments and offered advice to lawmakers regarding the collapsing state budget.
If there was one thing that Napolitano was good at (other than vetoing GOP legislation), it was controlling the budget process. She used every trick at her disposal to outmaneuver Republicans and get her way. And when you come right down to it, control of the budget equals control of state government.
But with Republican Jan Brewer on her way to the governor's office, Janet might as well be a mom telling her delinquent teenage kids to stay away from the liquor while she's away on a business trip. Even if the GOP lawmakers now in control were in a mood to keep funding Napolitano's priorities--and trust us, they're not--they wouldn't have the money to do so. The shortfall in this year's budget is now estimated at more than $1.2 billion, and next year's picture is even worse. When Napolitano sends the Legislature her budget, it will likely end up in the recycling bin.
Senate President Bob Burns has said that he wants lawmakers to focus exclusively on the budget before they hear any other bills. He has given State Sen. Russell Pearce an Appropriations Committee loaded with like-minded Republicans who hope to produce a "pure" budget. Given Pearce's track record as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, most state agencies and the universities can look forward to a bloodbath. Hey, you gotta cut back on spending if you're going to cut more taxes!
Pearce's budget is then supposed to be hashed out further on the Senate floor, which will make for an entertaining spectacle. When all is said and done, Burns may come to realize that there are advantages to working out the spending plan behind closed doors with the governor and other GOP leadership.
BATTLE FOR THE BALLOTS, PART 154By the time this week's paper comes out, the fate of the Regional Transportation Authority ballots may have been determined.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Charles Harrington was scheduled to rule Wednesday, Jan. 14, on a request for declaratory judgment from Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford's attorneys in favor of destroying the May 2006 RTA election ballots.
Pima County Democratic Party attorney Bill Risner will be there to argue that the ballots need to be preserved. Ford's attorneys, from DeConcini McDonald Yetwin and Lacy, have told Harrington that it's his job to uphold a state law that requires the ballots to be destroyed, Risner will argue that the judge has the legal authority to not only preserve the ballots, but to order a recount.
While the RTA ballots' fate may be determined, Pima County's election-integrity battles most certainly will continue. The day before Christmas, Risner filed another lawsuit against Ford and the Pima County Board of Supervisors, seeking to inspect and copy the poll tapes and "yellow sheets" from the RTA election.
Poll tapes are printouts from each precinct's AccuVote optical scanners that are produced at the end of each election showing the results. Yellow sheets are also known as the end-of-the-day certified precinct reports. Both items are placed with the ballots when they are taken to the Elections Division, and they are now supposedly in the boxes with the ballots.
Risner originally requested the poll tapes and yellow sheets in a public records request filed on Oct. 2, 2008. About two weeks later, Risner received a letter from the private attorney hired to represent Ford, who informed Risner that while the yellow sheets are in the ballot boxes in her possession, state law prohibits her from opening the boxes to retrieve them. She was still waiting to hear back from the Elections Division regarding the location of the poll tapes.
Risner says he wants to see the poll tapes, because the Democratic Party noted in its election analysis that
during the RTA election period, many precinct memory cards were downloaded a second time days after the election. The software is programmed to delete the first download. "Therefore, the election-night precinct vote totals that should have been printed and signed by the poll workers need to be compared with the second set of numbers that replaced them because of the second download," Risner says.
JUDGMENT DAYIn December, Glenda Rumsey was convicted of manslaughter, aggravated assault and three counts of DUI for the death of 14-year-old Jose Rincon and injuries to his friend, Oscar Perez.
In response to the family's request for a larger venue for Rumsey's sentencing on Tuesday, Jan. 20, Judge Richard Fields moved it to the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting space at 130 W. Congress St. Sentencing begins at 1:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
During Rumsey's trial, the courtroom was packed with friends and family of the Rincons, and the family wanted to make sure that anyone who wanted to speak at or attend the sentencing could do so.
Rincon was struck and killed by Rumsey on Jan. 12, 2008, while riding his bike with Perez in the bike lane on East Broadway Boulevard. During the trial, prosecutors said a test showed Rumsey's blood-alcohol level was .249 two hours after the accident, and was estimated to be .288 at the time she struck the boys.
Rumsey was drinking at a local restaurant/bar from 1 to 7 p.m. before the accident, according to the police report from that night. After her arrest, she violated her release conditions twice by consuming alcohol while awaiting trial, and she is now in custody pending sentencing.
While information on how long she had been drinking and news about the violations of her release conditions were not allowed to be heard during the trial, the jury still found her guilty of five out of six counts on Dec. 11.
That would have been Jose's 15th birthday.