RTA BALLOTS ON THE ROAD TO DESTRUCTION
The Arizona Supreme Court recently upheld an appeals court decision that will likely bring an end to the litigation over the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election.
The Weekly has done extensive reporting on the RTA election and the subsequent legal battles over the last eight years, but to summarize: A group of activists has maintained for years that the election was rigged, based on some sloppy election-integrity procedures that were in place when voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund about $2 billion in road and transit improvements.
The proposition passed with 57.6 percent of the vote after four previous transportation props had failed over the previous two decades.
Questions raised in the legal case, spearheaded by attorney Bill Risner, eventually persuaded former Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard to take the unusual step of organizing a recount of the ballots. The recount showed the election was not flipped.
Still, the recount was not enough for the election activists, who argued that Goddard failed to investigate whether the ballots had been tampered with during their time in storage at the private Iron Mountain facility. (While Iron Mountain may sound like a kingdom in Game of Thrones, it's actually a private storage facility used by public and private clients to store sensitive documents.)
The Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear Risner's appeal of a state Court of Appeals decision that concluded that the courts had no authority to do as Risner wanted.
The Court of Appeals decision notes that the Libertarian Party, which was Risner's client, expressed "a concern that Pima County will, it believes, 'cheat again' in future elections. But it is not at all clear how 'cheating' allegedly occurred in the 2006 special election."
Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford, who is responsible for the storage of the ballots, said she is awaiting an OK from her attorneys so she can move forward with their destruction.
"We're just waiting on the declaratory judgment that says I can destroy them," Ford said.
Ordinarily, the ballots would have been destroyed six months after the election, according to Ford, but the court battles have kept the ballots in storage (except when they were transferred to Phoenix for the recount).
Risner expressed disappointment that the courts did not provide him with a chance to prove his contention that the election was rigged.
"There's no democracy in America and the courts are not going to stand in the way," Risner said. "So that's it."
Pima County is asking voters to approve a $22 million bond this fall to build a new animal care center.
The current facility is almost a half-century old and terribly outdated. County officials hope that the new facility will have better housing for the lost and unwanted animals that pass through its doors, as well as better vet facilities and a more welcoming environment for volunteers who come to play with the critters to keep them from going stir-crazy.
They also hope to reduce the euthanasia rate, which has already been on the decline. In recent months, about four of five of the animals that come into the county's care end up getting adopted instead of put down.
If voters approve the bond package, it will result in an property-tax increase of $3.90 a year on a house worth $147,800, which is the average value for a Pima County home.
The deadline to submit pro-and-con ballot arguments for the county's proposition booklet arrived last Friday, May 30. The county got a total of 41 arguments, all of which favored the passage. Many of the statements had multiple signatories who represented a wide swath of the community, including liberals, conservatives, attorneys, real-estate operators and other animal lovers. Three of the five county supervisors—Ray Carroll, Richard Elías and Ramón Valadez—were among those advocating passage of the bond.
Among those not submitting arguments: Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller, who is one of the most vocal opponents of the proposal. Although Miller voted in favor of putting the prop on the ballot, she soon began advocating against its passage, saying that the proposed facility was too expensive.
Miller did not return a phone call from the Weekly as of deadline regarding why she did not submit an argument.
Meanwhile, if you're interested in helping out the Pima County Animal Care Center in a more immediate fashion, you can contribute to a fundraising effort for a new industrial washing machine and dryer. The current machine works around the clock every day "whittling down the mountain of bedding and towels that must be cleaned in a facility that houses an average of 600 animals a day," according to a Pima County press release.
Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson has offered to do a dollar-for-dollar match of funds raised for the equipment, which will cost about $15,000 when you include installation.
"I challenge you to give now to double the impact for our homeless pets, so we can make their stay more comfortable while they are waiting for their new homes," Bronson said.
To find out how you can donate, call (520) 243-5984.