After 42 Years, Pima County Attorney Still Won’t Admit a Mistake

One would be hard pressed to meet an old-timer in Tucson who believes that Louis Taylor was guilty of setting the 1970 Pioneer Hotel Fire. One friend of mine who was raised in Barrio Viejo and knew Taylor growing up described him as a guy who would stick up for neighborhood kids who were getting bullied. He was hardly a model citizen, however. My friend, who later shared a cell with him at Florence, also told me about how he and Taylor used to shoplift from Woolworth’s and steal sneakers from another Downtown store.  Likewise, Taylor was hanging out at the Hotel that night in the hope of sneaking away with some dessert or liquor from a Christmas party. None of this, of course, speaks to a pathology which would lead one to set a fire that killed twenty nine people.

Tucson was a different place back then. Though the legendary Tom Price was leading a small band of reformers in the bureaucracy who were out to modernize city government, an old boy network was still in control and hostile to change. This was a city where building codes were often ignored and the fire department was ill-equipped to handle a blaze in an 11-story building. The same local leadership also wanted to find someone to blame for what happened,  and a black kid from Connie Chambers, even one who helped rescue people that night, was a convenient scapegoat.

The Old Pueblo has largely changed for the better since then. Unfortunately, some things remain the same.

Today, comes the news that Taylor is to be set free after forty two years in prison. Doubts have been expressed by people involved in this case from the very beginning, but it took over ten years of work by the Arizona Justice Project, Barry Scheck, and former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman to get this result, largely because of the lack of cooperation and occasional stonewalling by the prosecutors. One wonders, at this point, why they would even bother.

This story provides a window into the special pathology of the insular decades-old political machine which is called the Pima County Attorney’s office. The insistence, for example, that “victims” be consulted on any deal in a case that dates to the Nixon Administration is not only absurd, but speaks to the same disturbing attitude that got Taylor arrested in the first place, namely that something bad happened, so someone, anyone, has to pay for it. Barbara LaWall’s own embarrassing performance on 60 Minutes, wherein she seemed unclear on the concept of reasonable doubt, she was unwilling to admit that her office or her predecessors might have gotten something horribly wrong, even in the face of questions about whether the fire was an arson at all.

There may be a good reason for this. It could be argued that they are simply looking out for the Pima County taxpayer in case Taylor decides to sue for the fact that we basically ruined his whole life. If this were true, then it would have been best to simply say nothing rather than sticking to a story which was discredited years ago. This is an office which has always been far more concerned about winning than justice. LaWall’s attitude in this case makes one wonder how many other Louis Taylors are stewing in prison because of her inability to admit that sometimes the wrong guy gets accused.

This community owes Taylor an apology, at the very least, and that includes LaWall along with the rest of us.

Signing Off

Well, I start my new job a week early…sorry for the lack of warning. I’ll be starting today, so this will be my last post for a while.

But, parting shots are always necessary:

  • The “Rosemont Referendum” never materialized, but we still see the ads telling us how pulverizing a mountain is good for the environment. I suggest that Rosemont change the closing titles on their ads to better show what their improvements will do:

    It’s just a rough draft, but I’m sure they have pros who can work on that.

  • Samuel L. Jackson’s um…creative…GOTV video got some buzz last week. Not among it’s fans is Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash, who had this level headed response on his Facebook page:




  • Yeah, Pima Bunch…clever. But the knocks about cronyism would probably be better delivered if not financed by a shadowy group led by a guy who desperately wants his own stop on the local government gravy train.

    By the way, how did they get permission to use the Brady Bunch theme? Or, is there some obscure part of the BMI licensing agreement that allows fair use if you sing the song in a really irritating falsetto?

Okay, enough of that.

Thank you all for the support and yes, even opposition, over the last seven years.

Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.

That’s Certainly Odd

Hat tip to Poco Bravo.

It will go down as the most head scratching news of this election cycle.

You remember Brian Miller? He was Pima County Republican Chairman until he was ousted after he wanted to modernize their operations and, even worse, his veins didn’t pop out of his neck when talking about presidential birth certificates.

Well, his latest move won’t bring him back into the good graces of local Republicans:

Brian Miller, immediate past chairman of the Pima County Republican Party, has endorsed Green Party Dave Croteau as his choice for Pima County’s next sheriff. Mr. Miller, who is employed at Davis-Monthan as an A-10 instructor pilot with the Air Force Reserves, will serve as a spokesman for the Croteau campaign.

“Dave’s platform of ending the failed war on drugs and redirecting resources to help homeowners remain in their foreclosed properties is the bold vision we need in these critical times. The two major party candidates will uphold a failing status quo, and we can no longer afford to follow that path.”

Croteau, who has lived in Tucson his whole life, knows the community and the challenges we face. “People I’ve talked to say the current law enforcement standards leave them feeling less safe instead of more secure, especially following the Pima County Sheriff-led SWAT team raid to serve a search warrant on US Marine Jose Guerena last year, that left him riddled with bullets and dying an innocent man in the presence of his wife and child. We need new leadership,” says Croteau.

Mr. Croteau began his political career in 1999 as a Green Party write-in candidate for Tucson’s mayor, running on a pro-marijuana platform. The following year, he garnered 16% of the vote for Pima County sheriff, again running on a cannabis-friendly platform. Dave observes, “The ongoing War on Drugs has failed, and it is time to stop fighting it. Profits from the hemp plant and this war on it are killing people and violating our values. We are criminalizing young men and women for smoking an herb while people are being thrown out of their homes and into the streets by banks executives that are unwilling to work with the homeowners to reduce the principal owed on their underwater homes. The job of the Sheriff is to preserve the peace. That mission is misdirected when for-profit prisons are allowed to set our law-enforcement agenda.”

Croteau is a local craftsman who restores historic homes. He belongs to numerous community groups including Oath Keepers, Veterans for Peace, Trinity Presbyterian Church Elders, and TUSD site council at Roskruge School. He was a Board member of the West University Neighborhood Association for 14 years. He was a founding member of the City of Tucson Citizen Police Advisory and Review Board, working directly with Tucson Police Chiefs Richard Miranda and Roberto Villaseñor on Community-based policing. “I’ve long been interested in how to best serve Tucson and make this a better community,” he said. “In the current highly-polarized political climate, a third-party candidate like me can offer bold new solutions that neither Democrats nor Republicans will advance, for fear of alienating the big money interests controlling their political agendas right now.”


The funniest part of Gabrielle Saucedo Mercer’s response to the kerfuffle over her racist comments in an interview she did for a far right website is her assertion that the video was doctored by Raúl Grijalva’s campaign. It’s funny because the video that’s circulating is the one that was posted by the publication that interviewed her.

Along those lines is Ally Miller, who also was interviewed by the Western Free Press. In the video, Miller proclaims her pride at being a Tea Party member. You’d think that that isn’t nearly as inflammatory as GSM’s statement, but according to David Safier over at Blog for Arizona, she’s going back on that one:

Ally Miller went on the Bill Buckmaster Show August 30 and said it was “name calling” and “juvenile behavior” to call her a Tea Party member. She even said people who refer to her membership in the Tea Party are “willing to fabricate just horrible stories and lies about me.”

Remember, she’s the one that termed association with the Tea Party a “horrible story,” not me.

She’s dialing back on, nay running away from, her affiliation with the local Tea Party, whose enthusiasm won her a primary, because she suddenly found out that in a tough general election, she might need to get the votes of people who don’t think the circumstances of Barack Obama’s birth were part of a scheme worthy of a Richard Condon novel.

Geez, if Teismo won’t fly on the Northwest side anymore…

Checking out Gonzales’s Finance Reports

I realize that Rosemont hasn’t yet gone all out in our Board of Supervisor races, but I’m already thinking that maybe this “Rosemont Referendum” has fizzled. And it’s not just because Ray Carroll mopped up the floor with Sean Collins.

Take Fernando Gonzales (apologies to Henny Youngman). Outside of Gonzales’s immediate family, I doubt there are many that are giving him much of a chance to win. But, if he runs a strong campaign, he can tie Richard Elías down and possibly serve as a warning to make politicians think twice before opposing Rosemont.

Of course, he needs to run a strong campaign. Checking out his finance reports, it doesn’t look like he’s even running a credible one.

His last report shows that he raised a shade less than $9,000. $2,500 of that was a loan from himself, with another $3,000 coming from his sister Elizabeth Gonzales-Gann. He hasn’t exactly built a broad fundraising base.

And how is he spending what little he’s got? The lion’s share of the money he’s spent so far, $4,213.64, going to the local go-to firm for the right wing, Tagline Media. He’s also accumulated $7,968.58 in outstanding debt to Tagline.

It’s quite a bit of money given all anyone has seen from the Gonzales campaign are a few yard signs on street corners.

Keep in mind that Tagline is embroiled in a bit of a controversy because Ally Miller used them, and the firm was also working for an ostensibly independent committee run by local developer Mitch Stallard that sent mailers that echoed her message. “Ostensibly” understates the problem; it is illegal for independent committees to coordinate with candidates.

Deb Weisel from Tagline told the Tucson Weekly that her firm cut off the campaigns in July so they could concentrate on independent committee work. The last expenditure Gonzales lists with Tagline is on July 24th, which would bear that out. However, there is still that $7,968.58 debt. There is no indication of when the work that still needs to be paid for got done.

I haven’t heard of the committee that helped Miller weighing in for Gonzales, but Tagline is also doing work for Arizonans for a Brighter Future, a nonprofit incorporated in Delaware that is spending money against local incumbents.

Which brings us to an entry in Gonzales’s report on June 1st: $500 to Tagline for “Start Up Pac [sic].” Start up PAC? A campaign giving money to start a PAC? I don’t think you can do that.

Which PAC is it? It’s not Arizonans for a Brighter Future, is it? Stallard’s committee?

I’m just asking…I mean, no one is coordinating, right?

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post conflated the work of Stallard’s committee with the work of Arizonans for a Brighter Future. We regret the error, but it also shows the problem.

Quote of the Evening

Unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination in Supervisor District 1 Mike Hellon, quoted in the Tucson Weekly:

If the sun comes up tomorrow, everything is good. If I don’t win I’ll be able to work on my golf game, which has been lacking.

The thing about the sun coming up is cribbed from Henry Fountain Ashurst when he lost his primary to Ernest McFarland in 1940, but we’ll spot him that one.

Final Darts Thrown Before the Primary: Supervisor District 1

Admittedly, Nancy Young Wright’s chances of getting elected depend on whether the Republicans go full on Tea Party in their primary. And by full on Tea Party, I mean whether they nominate Ally Miller.

I only know Mike Hellon and Vic Williams by reputation, but I’ve actually met Stuart McDaniel a couple of times. I would agree with little any of the three of them would do, but they at least have some notion of what the county actually does and what’s been going on the past couple of years.

Miller has been claiming all sorts of odd things about county finances and how bond money is being spent. I guess she’s got the same source for the goings on in the county as Terri Proud does.

I wonder what’s going to happen if she gets elected and finds out how much road money is spent in her district?

Anyhow, Richard Elías posted a take down of many of the claims. Yeah, it’s a campaign document. Hmm, what about Jim Nintzel’s piece pointing out the problems with the claims?

Oh yeah, that’s the liberal Tucson Weekly. Of course, much of Nintzel’s reporting was an echo of facts already presented by Inside Tucson Business and local Republican consultant Emil Franzi.

If you think the editors of Inside Tucson Business and Franzi are a bunch of commies (say it to Franzi’s face, please), then maybe the ratings by Fitch and Standard and Poors, both gave the county a AA rating, might make you think twice about the notion that the county is heading to fiscal ruin.

Hey, if the argument is that Pima County wastes money, great, say it. But if you make stuff up, it calls into question your ability to govern.

Final Darts Thrown Before the Primary: Collins v Carroll

I’m not always the biggest fan of Ray Carroll, but count me as one that will be glad to see him dispatch his opponent, Sean Collins, tomorrow. Collins’s campaign has been mostly centered around the Rosemont Mine. From talking to local Republicans, Collins hasn’t been very good in public appearances. “Dull and inarticulate” is how one put it to me. Word to Rosemont’s other put up candidates (I’m looking at you Fernando Gonzales and Tanner Bell), if Rosemont is going to be your one issue, you may want to learn how to talk about it.

The best indications that Collins is going down are the attacks on Carroll’s supporters. It’s funny to watch him go after county treasurer Beth Ford of all people, but having his supporters call out Bruce Ash as a “RINO” for his support of Carroll is, by far, the most entertaining dumb-ass name calling of the cycle, possibly the decade.

Word to local RINO hunters: if you really believe that Ash, the staunchest Republican you’ll meet and the person responsible for some of the nastiest IE campaigns against local Democrats in recent years, is some sort of crypto-liberal, you really, really need to get out more. The stale indoor air is doing something to you.

James Burke Has Nothing to Worry About

A piece from Vic Williams that’s hit mailboxes:

Given we aren’t in Boston or Chicago, I don’t know what local “corrupt government” is coming down on Chick-fil-A. Some local bozo harassing whatever minimum wage employee happens to be available is not the government, sorry Vic.

By the way, what’s it got to do with Rosemont?

So,”corruption” is the reason for county opposition to Rosemont? Here I thought it was concerns raised by area residents and environmental groups about the company and its pie-in-the sky promises about remediation.

It’s got to be “corruption” because, Heaven knows, there is so much money to be made by siding with environmentalists.

I’m glad Williams has cleared that up.