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El Chisme

Would you buy a wall from this man?, plus: Pima Dems dither on putting house in order

Welcome to El Chisme: Actually factual tidbits, gossip, rumors and alternative truths about politics and public life in Tucson. Lovingly compiled and artisanly curated by a small group with widespread sources, who keep an ear to the ground and will let you know what chatter is an omen and what's just for the birds.

Not fake news, but sometimes not the kind of stuff our tipsters really want their names connected with either — let's go panning for gold among the nuggets of information kicked our way.

Can't fence Bannon in

Steve Bannon — you've heard of the guy: former advisor to the president, ran Trump's campaign, gave himself a seat on the National Security Council, used to run Tucson's Biosphere 2 — bothered to show up for a local event. He skipped out on accepting his being named the recipient of the inaugural "Tricky: The Dick Tuck Award for Wit and/or Cunning in Politics" a few weeks back. After speaking at events that have attracted literally dozens of participants (barely), Bannon's making a splash by pimping the conceit of privately funding a border wall, and headlined a "town hall" about it in the gated Quail Creek community down behind Green Valley.

You'd think his experience with the Biosphere and the attendant drama would've taught him a thing or two about the effectiveness of walls, even air-tight ones.

At Bannon's side on stage was the man behind the much-touted and hundreds-of-millions-short-of-its-goal crowdfunding campaign for a border wall. You might recognize Brian Kolfage as the man who was also at Gabby Giffords' side the night she declared victory in her first run for Congress.

Family affair

In other Bannon news, the brother of the Great Conspiracist, Chris Bannon, is a University of Arizona staffer — he worked at the Biosphere 2 hothouse after Steve wandered off to foster the growth of neo-fascist populist political parties around the world. Chris Bannon and his wife, Cynthia, were just appointed as Republican Party precinct committemen (yeah, the gender-specific term is the legal nomenclature) up in Precinct 12, on the Northwest Side.

No word on how comfy Steve finds his brother's couch.

Leaky roof, clean accounts

A recent meeting of the Pima County Democratic Party Central Planning Committee for the Leftist Subversion of America and Bernie Sanders Birthday Party Decorating Team garnered a bunch of internal gnashing of teeth by featuring Sheriff Mark Napier as a public speaker.

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He's a Republican, for those keeping score at home. With a Q&A period, Napier's appearance took up about a half-hour of the Dems' Executive Committee business meeting.

The powers that be managed to spin the heated criticism into a press release a couple days later, featuring quotes blasting Napier from the very same party activists who'd knocked the committee for letting him speak. Well played.

Pointedly ignored during the business meeting — which also featured a feisty discussion about a leaking roof and a mold problem that essentially ended with a "we'll look into this" determination — was the fact that the county party was damn near broke at the time. The Dems' recently elected chair, Alison Jones, told the several dozen members of the committee that the county party had "about $7,000" in the bank.

In reality, the Dems had just $236 in one account and about $750 in another, several little birdies whispered to El Chisme. They also had the expected $1,000 monthly contribution from the Nucleus Club on hand, in an uncashed check.

Several members of the committee were aware of the discrepancy, but not eager to press the matter because of the presence of a couple of reporters.

Schooled by a cub reporter

The marshal of the town of Patagonia, south of Tucson, just got a quick lesson in constitutional rights from a girl who's not even a teenager yet.

Hilde Kate Lysiak garnered a good deal of media attention back in 2015, when she was eight years old, for founding a monthly newspaper in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pa. A year later, a scoop about a murder had her breaking the story ahead of all of the competition — and a series of "Hilde Cracks the Case" mysteries published by Scholastic.

Lysiak is not only still at it at the grizzled age of 11, but she's reporting from the field — from Southern Arizona.

Peddling her bike down the street this week in pursuit of a story for her Orange Street News, Lysiak was stopped and threatened with arrest by Marshal Joseph Patterson, who reportedly told the girl "I don't want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff."

"I could have you arrested, do you understand?," he asked the young reporter.

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Lysiak captured the incident on video and wrote a news story about it. She knows, although perhaps the crack law enforcement in Patagonia wasn't yet aware, that the Constitution affords the right to report on police activities — including taking video of officers performing their duties.

Yet unknown by your Chisme scribes is why a local reporter from the Susquehanna Valley is reporting from Patagonia. Presumably Lysiak's here on a family visit. Last week, she produced a video report about border security.

We generally look down our noses at "parachute journalism" 'round here; reporters who drop in for a day or two just to add some quotes and color to their predetermined narratives about "the border" usually produce total crap. But we'll make an exception for Lysiak, who's busy holding power accountable no matter where she roams.

Let me check my schedule

Nikki Lee filed to run for the City Council back on January 4, but the Ward 4 Democrat — who word is will face a primary contest — hadn't yet held a public campaign kickoff. She picked a Tuesdaynight  to hold that event — at the same time as a Council meeting was taking place. Your Chisme crew is well aware that Council meetings are interminably dull affairs that are best avoided, but shouldn't a candidate keep up with what goes on at them?

Tense situation

As expected, Randi Dorman joined the Democratic mayoral scrum this month. (Is three a scrum? Or merely a tussle?) As noted in TucsonSentinel.com's news report, Dorman joined the race with a rhetorical flourish that builds on the signature line of one of her opponents, Steve Farley.

For years, Farley's been winding up his speeches with "We did it, together!," while having varying degrees of success in getting audiences to repeat the line in unison with him.

Dorman ended her campaign announcement email with the rather similar "Let's do it together."

Utopia, out

Every election attracts a tidy list of literal also-rans. Count one fewer in the race for Tucson's next mayor. Iman-Utopia Layjou Bah withdrew from the race last month. But there's still time for the character list to expand.

Can't find it with a map....

The really smart folks in the Trump White House tweeted some supposed facts and figures about how a border wall has lowered crime rates in a place called "Tuscon."

Thanks for playing, kids. Here's a copy of the board game to practice at home.

About some of your Chisme crew: Nobody knows Tucson better than Hugo O’Conor. After all, he founded the place back in 1775. A. Nonie Maus needs little introduction, as she’s everywhere and nowhere, always. And John Behan? He’s was sheriff of Cochise County during a small incident at the OK Corral, but was also later the business manager for the Tucson Citizen — once taking over the newsroom for several days, armed with a pistol, as he demanded payment from the owners. Dylan Smith’s some guy who recently bought a pack of pens.
Got a juicy bit of info? Keep those cards and letters coming: chisme@tucsonsentinel.com
Correction: An earlier version of this column named the wrong Alison as the current chair of the Pima Dems. We’re going to go listen to some Elvis Costello on endless repeat for a while to repent for the error. Our aim was true.


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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Bannon, Kolfage and crew in Quail Creek.

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