A Bit of Good News

I attended the City Council’s study session yesterday. One of the items was transit, which brought out the Bus Riders Union.

For those who don’t know about the Bus Riders Union, it was organized last year by Brian Flagg of Casa Maria to represent the interests of poor and working class riders that depend on Sun Tran to go to work or shop. It isn’t a group of people that seems to have a high priority from the folks at the City’s Transportation Department or the RTA as of late.

The Bus Riders Union did not testify, but they brought in about forty members to show support for what at first seemed a minor item that Karin Uhlich was putting forward.

It gets a bit complicated, but the City’s Transportation Department (also known as TDOT) is interested in moving the payment system for the buses to smart cards, which would put it in line with plans for using smart cards for the modern street car. Part of the preliminary plan would be to charge cash customers for (currently free) transfers. It would be a while before smart cards are widely available. This would mean that many of the low income riders that are represented by the Bus Riders Union (as well as occasional riders) will be paying more for a ride than others.

Uhlich wanted to pass a motion directing TDOT not to make this part of their plan. TDOT objected, but the vote was taken anyway and it passed 7-0.

Okay, small victory, but important. First off, it’s good to see a genuinely populist, grass roots movement get a win on behalf of working people. Props to Flagg and his crew at Casa Maria for giving us all a lesson in how it can be done.

Secondly, it was a challenge to the city bureaucracy. TDOT wanted to be given authorization to formulate a plan with no direction or instruction from mayor and council, after which it would likely be presented as a fait acompli. Uhlich’s actions also allowed Paul Cunningham and Shirley Scott the room to bring up their own concerns with the city’s transit system. It was good to see the city’s bureaucrats get a reminder of who they work for, even if they don’t like the “substitute teachers.”

Something else that I noticed that is a problem I’ve seen with the way the city is run. There are some arguments against this plan. For example, the transfer system may make usage of the modern street car problematic for bus riders, and the issue of transfers may go away entirely if the city can make sure that smart cards are easy to get for everyone. The trouble is, TDOT never made these arguments. You wouldn’t make them if you think all you have to do to justify your plans is merely to say that you want to do it.

(Nearly) Entire Tucson City Council Endorses Carmona

Richard Carmona’s campaign has announced that the entire Tucson City Council has endorsed him.

And by that they mean six council members, even Republican Steve Kozachik. Here is Kozachik from the release:

I know Dr. Carmona as a man of integrity, a high achiever, a man of compassion for the underserved and a man who has been giving back to the Tucson and Pima County for decades. Since he is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, from a political standpoint, I don’t have a dog in that fight.

And yet, from the standpoint of wanting to see a person emerge from that primary who I believe would best represent us with a set of values that very much mirror my own, I most certainly have a dog in that fight. Dr. Carmona is Southern Arizona’s own local hero. I’m honored to be associated with a person of his caliber.

Karin Uhlich notes that Carmona believes that “government should not interfere with the private medical decisions between a woman and her doctor,” a statement likely made to blunt the questions raised by Don Bivens’s campaign about Carmona’s commitment to reproductive choice.

By the way, the Carmona folks don’t seem to be counting among members of the council newly sworn in Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who has yet to endorse. Maybe they haven’t read the city charter.

Full release after the jump.

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Letcher and Stuff

As of yesterday morning, the word out on the street was that Steve Kozachik would try to move to fire Mike Letcher, but it would fail because Karin Uhlich would have Letcher’s back. Further, this word on the street said that there might be a motion to remove Letcher with an effective date closer to the election, but that that one would have a hard time passing because, yep, Uhlich has Letcher’s back.

That word on the street is always accurate.

One wag told me about a knowing glance thrown Uhlich’s way by Letcher after the vote. Hey, he goes into retirement with six months severance and Kozachik was denied the satisfaction of passing the motion to fire him. Maybe he did smile a bit.

NB: You may have noticed that the vote was not 7 – 0, but 6 – 0. The non-vote was Bob Walkup, who under our neutered mayor system has barely any authority over our city’s top bureaucrat. He isn’t allowed to vote on firings like this.

It’s That One Peter Gabriel Album Where His Face is Melting on the Cover

I’ve been asked by two R-Cubed fanaticos why I haven’t commented on Humberto Lopez’s recall movement, which he will be kicking off today. Well, I’ve been busy with other politics, okay?

It’ll be interesting to see who Lopez manages to get on board with this. Part of the trouble with recalls is that because of the way the election is structured (there is no pirmary, and the election is by plurality), it makes it difficult to be successful unless the incumbent is really, really disliked. For example, think back to the recall of County Assessor Alan Lang, who only managed 8% of the vote. With numbers like that, it didn’t matter how many serious candidates were running against him splitting the vote.

Even with the troubles of the current council, does anyone think that any of them couldn’t manage at least 40% of the vote? That would likely be enough against a field of two or three candidates running against them. What organizers of the recall have to do is agree on a candidate and run a campaign that makes it clear that their person is “the opposition.” This is complicated by the fact that every person who has ever imagined his or herself running for office will be thinking of filing to run, since there is no partisan primary as a hoop to jump through. The aborted 1988 recall of Evan Mecham featured Alice Cooper in addition to several “establishment” candidates, for example.

The contradictory complaints against the council will make it hard for opponents to agree on a slate of candidates. Look at one of the big issues from the last election: Lopez was prominently against Proposition 200 while he will likely be counting on the support of the Jon Justice-TPOA alliance for his recall effort. Business organizations like the Tucson Chamber of Commerce may want to run a candidate against say, Karin Uhlich, but conservative activists led by Joe Higgins are trying to stage a rebellion against the Chamber (It’s worth remembering that there was a split between the Chamber and SAHBA in the last election too). How are they going to coalesce for a group of candidates?

All of this assumes that they will get the signatures in the first place.

What, Chip & Robbie, Nothing Happened This Week?

I was disappointed by this morning’s Political Insider column in the Arizona Republic. Yeah, most of the time, it is written too smugly (it is, after all, a “tounge-in-cheek look at Arizona politics”). This morning, the column consisted of one item, a short one too, about Rep. David Burnell Smith’s campaign finance woes. This is old news, really. The only question right now is how far along does this get before a judge orders the capitol police to clear Smith’s office. Still left unexplored by our state’s flagship paper is the connection that Smith has with political consultant Constantine Querard. Querard also did work for serveral other legislators, many of whom have also had their campaign finances scrutinized.

That would be too much to ask.

Well, I know that I shouldn’t expect incisive investigative journalism from what is, in essence, a gossip column. But, we live in a state of four million people and this week this is the only item that was worth mentioning? Egads.

Here’s an item that they could have mentioned: Rep. Jack Jackson Jr. is making noises about running against US Rep. Rick Renzi. Jackson represented a large swath of northern Arizona but didn’t choose to run for re-election last year. His candidacy would gain national attention since Renzi is in one of the few “swing” districts in the country, and also because Jackson is openly gay and Navajo.

Jackson would be the first Native American to represent Arizona should he win, but the second openly gay congressman, although Rep. Jim Kolbe didn’t come out until he had served several terms. I think that Jackson would be the only Native American in congress since Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell left office.

It is hard to know if the “gay thing” would be a problem for him. Also, in some of the areas of the district there is tension going on between anglos and native americans over water issues. If Jackson thought that either one of these things was going to sink his candidacy, he’d choose not to run at all. I don’t know him that well, although my brother seemed to enjoy working with him in the legislature. He doesn’t strike me as a guy that would just do this on a lark. If he’s going to do it, it’s only after he’s figured out a way to win.

(NB – Thanks to Jane at Arizona Congress Watch for the heads up on this. I also found an article in the Navajo Times about a possible run by Jackson.)

The candidates are now lined up for this year’s city council election. The candidates turned in their nominating petitions this week. Some of us who follow this way too closely like to look at the number of signatures and try to read something into them. The number of signatures turned in can tell you whether or not a candidate has a decent organization. It can get a bit more complex than that, for example, a candidate can pay signature gatherers and not have any grass roots support. So, take what you will from these numbers.

In Ward 3, a Democrat needs 271 signatures, and Karin Uhlich turned in the maximum, 541. Republican incumbent Kathleen Dunbar needed a minimum of 145, and turned in 245, 1 and 2/3 times what she needed.

In Ward 5, long time Democratic Councilmember Steve Leal turned in his maximum 422, he only needed to turn in 211. His opponent Vernon Walker only needed turn in 58 (!), he turned in 102, just shy of twice what he needed. Expect there to be a challenge, given the low number of signatures involved.

Both Democratic challengers in Ward 6, Nina Trasoff and Steve Farley, turned in the maximum of 872 signatures, twice the minimum. Councilmember and Oprah Guest Fred Ronstadt had to turn in at least 234, but turned in 350.

In each case, the Democratic candidates collected far more than the maximum, they just didn’t turn them in (signatures over the maximum can’t be considered for filing). This gives them a chance to go through their petitions and make absolutely sure they are only turning in good signatures. Not so with the Republican candidates. Expect their petitions to be looked over and at least one attempt to get a candidate bounced from the ballot.

Wouldn’t it be awful if Dunbar or Ronstadt couldn’t run for re-election? One can always hope.

Pack Your Carpetbags!

I spoke with Katie Bolger today, she noticed that I did not link to Karin Uhlich’s website. I could say that I didn’t because I don’t live in her ward, or I could admit that I didn’t know her URL.

There is another Rum, Romanism and Rebellion site. Go figure. They even use the same template I do. They have been up for a while. The two people that do it seem a bit more conservative than I am. I hope the fact that there are two of us will not be a problem. If it is, the only way to settle these matters will be ritual combat.

I read in this morning’s Republic that Debra “Xena” Brimhall has been acquitted of charges stemming from an incident that occurred at last year’s Country Thunder Festival. One of the few privileges that state legislators enjoy here is a sort of immunity from some traffic violations when a legislator is on the way to the capitol. Debra, or some facsimile (she claimed it wasn’t her), tried to get out of the ticket by claiming that she was a legislator an couldn’t get a ticket. This brought up three problems:

  • Florence (the location of the festival) was not on Debra’s way to the capitol.
  • The legislature was not in session
  • Debra hadn’t been a member of the legislature for two years.

In the end, she claimed that she wasn’t at the festival, because she’s a “rocker.” I would poke fun at this, but she was seen at a recent Stan Ridgway show in Phoenix. This makes her not only a rocker, but a very discerning one.

Brimhall was a rather unique legislator. She once was told to put her shoes on during a session, but refused to because she loved the feel of the new carpet on her bare feet. There was talk about changing the legislature’s rather lax dress code because of the sometimes bizarre way she would dress. Once, I was up there to watch a session. She took to the microphone durring a vote and rambled. Finally she looked up to the tote board and said, “I’m going to keep talking until more of you vote yes.” It didn’t work. I was sitting next to a lobbyist who told me that she often does this. As we know, being an oddball has never been a barrier to serving in the Arizona legislature. Brimhall is planning on running for the State House again, this time from Mesa.

Some say that Brimhall’s first election was due to people being angry that Polly Rosenbaum was no longer really living in the district. Rosenbaum was a long time (really long time…she had served since the 1940’s) legislator from Globe, but there was grousing from her opponents that she was really living in Phoenix. Her defeat probably had more to do with opposition to Clinton’s environmental policies, it was 1994.

This brings me to my other topic (I bet you were wondering about that title). Sens. Karen Johnson and Linda Gray are planning to leave the Phoenix area and run in Greater Arizona. Johnson is planning to run against Bill Kopinicki (R-Safford) because Kopinicki is not sufficiently right-wing for her tastes (we know how liberal Safford is, right?). Gray is planning to move to Prescott, supposedly because she is retiring, but she is going to run for the legislature from up there.

Johnson has been in the house before, and her bouncing back and forth probably violates the spirit of the term-limit law. Heck, I think the term-limits should be trashed anyway, so I can’t complain too much. I’m not sure that they can actually move out of town without resigning their seats. I mean, how can they file to run from another town, while they are representing someplace else? Hopefully someone will bring this up.

There is a certain arrogance here. That somehow, you can just pick up and move and that the voters there should appreciate it. What the heck does Karen Johnson know about the voters in Eastern Arizona? I think she assumes that since they are conservatives, that they will love her. What she doesn’t appreciate is that Kopinicki votes the way he does for a reason. Yeah, his constituents are conservative, but there are needs that people in rural Arizona have, and Johnson is opposed to helping them out with them.

Rural Republicans that have marched in lockstep with the East Valley crowd have had very short legislative careers (Barbara Blewster, Gail Griffin). The reason for this is simple: the rural areas of the state are actually quite dependent on state programs. The largest employer in many of these towns is a state prison, a state transportation yard or some other sort of state facility. They are often dependent on the state for health care or agricultural services. One of the issues that Marsha Arzberger was able to use against Griffin was her vote to close the health clinics in her district. Griffin voted this way because the East Valley leadership didn’t see any need for those clinics; Mesa didn’t need them.

Unless someone changes the number of districts in this state, we could soon have a situation where no rural community will truly be represented by an actual rural resident. I guess Johnson and Gray want to see that sooner rather than later.