THAT DIAMOND TOUCH
When new campaign finance reports get turned in at the end of this week, we hear that there will be some interesting names from the business community handing out contributions to Don't Handcuff Tucson, the political committee battling against the Public Safety First Initiative.
Among the expected contributors: legendary land speculator Don Diamond and Humberto "Bert" Lopez, the local apartment-building magnate.
Neither one has much love for the Democrats on the City Council; Lopez is even planting signs for the GOP candidates around his apartment buildings, next to the "No on 200" signs.
But both apparently recognize the recklessness of passing Prop 200, which will mandate staffing levels for the Tucson Police Department and response times for the Tucson Fire Department.
It's not all that often you see the business community teaming up with the libs from the Pima County Interfaith Council and the Sierra Club. But you're seeing it with Prop 200 because everyone besides the core of supporters recognizes this is a recipe for fiscal disaster.
We're all for hiring more cops and firefighters, but this ill-considered proposition—which is being pushed primarily by the Tucson Association of Realtors—is going about it the wrong way. Enacting Prop 200 will cost the city an estimated $160 million over the next five years and somewhere around $63 million annually after that, according to an independent audit committee that has studied the impact of the proposed city charter amendment.
That big boost in spending will mean the city will have to slash spending elsewhere or enact higher taxes—and the city doesn't have many tax options available beyond a tax on residential rent payments, which explains Lopez's opposition to the tax.
Lopez and Diamond—who dismissed the City Council as "dysfunctional" after the dismissal of City Manager Mike Hein earlier this year—join the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Multihousing Association and the Metropolitan Pima Alliance in opposing Prop 200.
Speaking of Prop 200: KUAT-TV's Arizona Illustrated is airing a one-hour special on the initiative from 6 to 7 pm. on Monday, Oct. 26. The show will be taped live at the Leo Rich Theatre, so if you want to join the audience—and maybe ask your question—come on down. It will be streamed live at azpublicmedia.org, and broadcast live on Cox channel 83 and Comcast channel 203.
The panel will include supporters and opponents of Prop 200, along with Arizona Illustrated anchor Bill Buckmaster, Skinny scribe Jim Nintzel and the Arizona Daily Star's Ann Brown.
SLASH AND BURN
State agencies are responding to Gov. Jan Brewer's request that they consider the impact of 15-percent cuts to their budgets.
The picture ain't pretty. Not every agency has reported back, but those that have are predicting considerable calamity if they are forced to move forward with cuts. The Department of Corrections says it will have to release prisoners. AHCCCS says it's going to have to eliminate health-care coverage for kids. Universities are going to have to hike tuition again or lay off thousands of workers. The Department of Public Safety is going to have to lay off a lot of state troopers.
Some GOP lawmakers say that the agencies are exaggerating the impact of budget cuts; others are saying that it may get even worse next year, when stimulus money is gone and the state is facing an even deeper shortfall between revenues and expenses.
Meanwhile, Brewer still hopes to get lawmakers back in for a special session to fix a few of the kinks that were created when she vetoed portions of the budget in September.
The main obstacle: Some Republican legislators insist that any special session also include the repeal of the state property tax, which would blow a $250 million hole in a budget that already has a projected deficit of $1.5 billion.
JUST ANOTHER WAY OF MAKING PRESCRIPTION DRUGS AFFORDABLE
A few weeks back, TW reported that trace amounts of pharmaceutical contaminants were spotted in a Tucson Water well serving Marana back in 2008. But Tucson Water has now found them in several others.
Tucson Water Director Jeff Biggs reveals in a memo that traces of drugs have been found in five of six wells tested near Marana.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate-PSOS, an ingredient once found in 3M Scotchguard products, was found in low levels in all the wells. The anticonvulsant, mood-stabilizing drug carbamazepine was found in four of them.
The other two—fluoxetine, an antidepressant, and sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic used to treat urinary-tract infections—were each found in one well.
Only one of the contaminants—perfluorooctane sulfonate-PFOS—has a water-quality standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The highest amount found locally was at about one-third of that danger level.
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