Local apartment kingpin Bert Lopez seems to be having second thoughts about his half-baked scheme to recall Mayor Bob Walkup and Tucson City Council members Regina Romero and Karin Uhlich.
When you tell the morning daily that you're thinking about calling the whole thing off after hearing Walkup deliver another State of the City speech filled with platitudes and unfulfillable promises, it's pretty obvious you're looking for an exit strategy.
We hear Lopez is meeting with Walkup and the targeted Democrats to see if there's a way out of this that doesn't leave him looking like a clown—or more of a clown than he already appears to be.
Let's face it: Lopez doesn't have the business guys behind him. He doesn't have the builders—or what's left of them—behind him. He doesn't even have the Republican Party behind him.
That just leaves the people who are flat-out mad at government—namely, the local Tea Party guys.
Robert Mayer, one of the leaders of the Tucson Tea Party, says the recall effort is still simmering on the stove, although Lopez's mixed messages have caused them some heartburn.
But we have to wonder if it isn't running out of steam.
Even Mayer says he and fellow Tea Partier Trent Humphries may call the whole thing off if the city takes steps to become more business-friendly, although Mayer's not really sure what that means, other than changes to some of the red tape that businesses have to deal with when they open. Mayer, who admits he's no expert in matters regarding the land-use code or the granting of a certificate of occupancy, says he just really wants to see something happen.
He'd also be happy if the Tucson Museum of Art started paying market rates in rent or got evicted from its downtown digs. The same goes for other museums, arts groups and business organizations that have sweetheart lease deals.
Here's what Mayer and Humphries really need to worry about: Will Lopez go down to City Hall and formally disband his political committee? If that happens, the Tea Party guys would have to start the recall all over again.
Looks like they might just end up as two more guys who are sorry they decided to do business with Bert Lopez.
The Tucson City Council is facing a big decision about whether to accept a package of recommendations regarding water policy in our region—and there's a good chance they may be too cowardly to do the right thing.
A bit of background: For nearly two years, the city and county have been conducting a joint analysis of water resources so that, for the first time, we might have some idea of exactly how much water we have, and what kind of shape our infrastructure is in.
To that end, a bunch of citizens have dedicated a lot of time, attending 36 meetings, compiling solid data and developing a list of policy suggestions regarding where we should go from here.
The city and county both were expected to approve those policy recommendations from their citizen committee last month—but only the Pima County Board of Supervisors followed through.
The Tucson City Council, saying they hadn't had enough time to digest the information, put off the vote for an extra 30 days. The council is now scheduled to take that vote next Tuesday, Feb. 16, although they were also planning on discussing the report at their council meeting this week. That meeting may give some clue as to where they're headed, but unfortunately, it happened after our deadline, so we'll have to bring you the details at our daily dispatch, The Range, at blog.tucsonweekly.com.
From what we were hearing before deadline, the City Council may be prepared to use some slippery language to "accept" the recommendations instead of "adopt" the recommendations.
That's a little esoteric, but it basically means the status quo would remain in place, which would delight the Growth Lobby. Developers and their allies in the business community have been bombarding the City Council with letters that focus on one of the recommendations—namely, that 10,000 acre-feet of treated effluent be used for environmental purposes annually.
The concerns about that particular element of the plan strikes us as weak sauce, given that the city and county agreed to set aside that 10,000 acre-feet 10 years ago in an intergovernmental agreement.
The citizen committee merely suggested that the city and county actually follow through on that plan—which, by the way, both governments are on the verge of doing by agreeing to start using treated effluent on a variety of environmental projects.
The Growth Lobby's worry that some treated sewage water might be used to keep desert plants and the critters that depend on them alive is bizarre, because right now, the county is pumping more than 50,000 acre-feet of effluent into the Santa Cruz riverbed every year, because they don't have any other plan for it. We suppose that water might one day have another use, such as being treated and served back to us Tucsonans, but we're a long way from that, and we imagine that's a pretty unpopular notion among most members of the public.
The City Council is worried about kissing up to the business community these days, so we wouldn't be surprised to see a majority take a dive rather than stand up and say it's time to make some changes in how and where water service is extended, so homes are built in areas where it actually makes sense to develop.
If the council does chicken out, the members of the committee can know that they've pretty much wasted two years of their lives, because they were dumb enough to believe that City Council members actually cared about what they had to say, instead of what legendary land speculator Don Diamond thinks.
Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic Party, is rolling out several proposed changes to the city of Tucson charter.
Rogers, who calls the program "Strong Voter," wants an election later this year to create a "strong mayor" form of government, which would mean the mayor would essentially take over the job of the city manager.
"I think it addresses the need for accountability," Rogers says. "You have a strong mayor; you pay him a real wage—maybe not as much as a city manager, but there's probably somebody who would be willing to do it for $90,000 or something."
Rogers would also like to see ward-only elections; the city is now in court fighting a new state law that mandates both ward-only and nonpartisan elections. (Rogers wants the city to keep partisan elections.)
Finally, Rogers would like to scrap the current staggered elections every two years and elect the entire council for four-year terms in the same year.
Rogers says he hopes the City Council agrees to put the charter changes on this November's ballot, but he says an initiative campaign is not out of the question.
Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch.