MEET THE NEW BOSS—AND HIS STAFF
Democrat Nina Trasoff's term as the midtown Ward 6 councilwoman comes to an end next Monday, Dec. 7, as Republican Steve Kozachik is sworn in.
Kozachik, who doesn't plan to quit his day job—managing the facilities over at the UA Athletics Department—says a prime focus will be the city's ailing budget, which is continuing to spiral into deeper trouble. Last week, City Manager Mike Letcher delivered the bad news that weak sales-tax collections and other problems have left the city facing a $32 million shortfall in the current fiscal year.
"Far too many decisions are being made without having the numbers that make sense sitting in front of you," says Kozachik, who warns the issue is "going to be potentially contentious."
Kozachik is pessimistic about Rio Nuevo's future and concerned that with tax collections below forecasts, there's barely enough money to cover debt service for the downtown-revitalization project.
"Let's be real about that," Kozachik says. "That patient is on life support. There's no money there."
A new board will soon be controlling future Rio Nuevo spending, thanks to a law passed by the Arizona Legislature during November's special session.
Kozachik says his downtown focus will be on downtown merchants so they don't "become the forgotten few. My sense of downtown is clean, safe and activities. Let's get a bunch of activities going down there."
Kozachik has already hired aides, including Donovan Durband, who was executive director for about seven of the 10 years he worked at the Tucson Downtown Alliance. Durband did what he could with the resources at hand and remained a fierce advocate for businesses that were trying to eke out a living downtown.
But when the TDA expanded into the new Downtown Tucson Partnership and was placed under the control of Glenn Lyons, Durband quickly realized that The Powers That Be had little use for him. He walked before they made him run.
Lyons has his hands full trying to untangle himself from a political fustercluck that's erupted over the proposed sale of Fourth Avenue's Coronado Hotel, which now is home to low-income seniors. (See Page 15 for the messy details.)
Durband will be handling downtown issues for Kozachik, who praised his new aide's "knowledge of downtown and his familiarity and good relationship with local merchants down there."
We'll see if Durband's history leads to frosty relations with Lyons and his staff, who are already viewed with suspicion by some longtime downtown business owners and other Rio Nuevo skeptics.
It's certainly not going to be as cozy of a relationship as Lyons had with Trasoff's office. The DTP's marketing director, former Tucson Citizen senior editor Cara Rene, is married to Trasoff's chief of staff, former Tucson Citizen columnist C.T. Revere.
Kozachik has also hired Linda White, the former executive director of the Pima County Republican Party, as an executive assistant. Other aides include Teresa Olson, a lobbyist with the Tucson Association of Realtors, and Carmen Cousins, who has worked as an aide in the past for Bruce Wheeler, Shirley Scott, Kathleen Dunbar and Trasoff.
Ann Charles, who managed Kozachik's campaign, will be a part-time chief of staff.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
We have a political marriage or adoption or something weird and Oedipal going on over in Ward 2, where City Councilman Rodney Glassman has hired Mary Fimbres, who has managed Councilman Steve Leal's office for 16 years.
Coincidentally enough, Mary also happens to be the wife of new City Councilman Richard Fimbres, who is taking over Leal's Ward 5 seat.
Mary will be replacing Kathy Dixon, who is retiring after working in the Ward 2 office for close to a quarter-century.
When he's not working on his plan to take out U.S. Sen. John McCain, Glassman is focused on pulling together a new coalition on the council. As part of his master plan, he's throwing a welcome party for Fimbres and Republican Steve Kozachik at—where else?—McMahon's Prime Steakhouse from 5 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 16.
Mayor Bob Walkup will be on hand to take charge and lead us into the bright future. No word on whether he'll be dressed as Willie Nelson.
(If you don't get that one, see the video below. We don't have the words to do it justice.)
SCRAMBLEWATCH 2010: BREWER DOOMED!
Next year's primary is still nine months away, but we were still treated to a cascade of polls last week.
The big takeaway: Gov Jan Brewer—our "embattled Republican incumbent," as Rasmussen puts it—doesn't have much public support.
It's not exactly news, but the Rasmussen poll had Brewer capturing just 10 percent in a hypothetical GOP primary. The big winner: Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had the support of 47 percent of Republicans. State Treasurer Dean Martin came in second, with 22 percent.
Arpaio is Tweeting—yes, Tweeting—about how he might heed the call. We think he likes to be talked about as the ideal governor, but doesn't want to actually have to do the job.
There was some good news for Brewer: She was ahead of Tucson attorney John Munger and Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker, who both got 6 percent. The bad news: She's not ahead by much.
Granted, the poll wasn't the best barometer, given that Arpaio isn't likely to run, even though he polls better than any other Republican against Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Democrats' likely candidate. Arpaio had a 12-point lead over Goddard.
In other matchups: Goddard was essentially tied with Martin and had a 9-percentage-point lead over Brewer.
Those lousy numbers were reinforced by last week's Cronkite/Eight poll, which showed that 47 percent of voters support Goddard, while just 28 percent would support Brewer.
Brewer seems to be veering back toward the right in an effort to rebuild support. Last week, she signed bills that slashed spending for education and social services, even though she'd condemned similar cuts as "devastating" and "short-sighted" back in September.
"We are going to have a great Thanksgiving," Brewer told the press, promising to meet with legislative leaders this week to figure out what to do next about Arizona's financial freefall. (BTW: The latest numbers show the state has spent $1.6 billion more than it has taken in during the first four months of the fiscal year.)
When asked about her temporary one-cent sales-tax referendum last week, she didn't seem too excited about it.
"The temporary sales tax was a possibility that I thought was a solution," Brewer said. "It doesn't have to be a temporary sales tax. It can be another manner of some shape or form to increase revenue."
It's a tough time for former governors, too. The Cronkite/Eight poll revealed that only 41 percent would vote for Janet Napolitano if she came back to run against John McCain, who still had the support of half of Arizonans.
Meanwhile, only 20 percent of Arizonans wanted to see rogue barracuda Sarah Palin become president.
Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch.