Now Reading
A look ahead to 2017, after Tucson's tumultuous 2016

From the archive: This story is more than 5 years old.

What the Devil won't tell you

A look ahead to 2017, after Tucson's tumultuous 2016

In a year when Cardinals and Cubs win rings, anything goes

  • cobalt123/Flickr

The year that now ends began in a big way for the state of Arizona, when the Arizona Cardinals captured their first Super Bowl title with a 34-0 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

What followed during the course of 2016 locally and nationally seemed to confirm what many football commentators long believed: the Cardinals hoisting the Lombardi Trophy would signify the End Times.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has recently denied the allegations that he is, in fact, the Antichrist for bringing a disciplined defense and high-octane offense to the Valley of the Sun.

"We won a Super Bowl because the guys worked so hard and took care of business on the field," Ariens told a Phoenix TV station. "We did not open the Seventh Seal. C'mon! None of this is our fault!"

Megachurch evangelists and political pundits see even more chaos ahead in 2017 as the world champion Cardinals are ready to defend their title, having secured home-field advantage through the upcoming playoffs. And it's happening after the Chicago Cubs' four-game sweep of the New York Yankees in the 2016 World Series. The world, indeed, seems on the brink.

So as we toast Auld Lang Syne-style to the passing of 2016, let's see what the new year seems to hold for Tucson and Arizona.

City and county

New County Administrator readies for big move: A successful Tea Party uprising and voter frustration with the status quo has handed County Supervisor Ally Miller the chairman's gavel and the new majority's first action was to not renew County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's contract.

Miller promised an end to the sort of effective administration of county business that typified the Huckelbery Era.

"Gone are the days of Lord Huckelberry telling the bureaucracy what to do and having it get done," Miller said. "We open a new chapter today on local chaos and intransigence on all levels of county government."

The new board majority hired Sun Corridor CEO Joe Snell to the post, where he will earn $3.4 million a year for 20 years without benchmarks or performance standards.

His first move is a big test of his leadership, as he works to convince Miller and her colleagues to move Pima County's government to Cochise County.

In a memo to supervisors, Snell wrote that the county should follow Tucson Regional Economic Opportunity's efforts of mobility and reinvention into Sun Corridor and shift its focus to Mexico.

"This move will allow us to achieve certain synergies with near border-infrastructures allowing us outside-the-box strategum that could yield real win-wins inter-modally and in terms of post tech work force development," he said.

Bus strike looms with contract up in just 7 months: The contract for Sun Tran employees is up July 31 and neither side is close to a deal. With just 212 days for the loggerheads to be addressed, time is running out.

Labor is demanding a starting wages for new drivers to be on par with the salary of Super Bowl MVP Carson Palmer and the French government-owned private company that runs the system for Tucson is seeking to make drivers competitive with Mumbai rickshaw pushers.

To avoid a strike similar to the 44-day walkout in 2015, the Tucson City Council is readying for efforts to prepare for a possible discussion of maybe establishing a citizen's task force, which would investigate the feasibility of — if at all doable — creating a citizen's review task force to bring stakeholders together and study changes to Sun Tran unless they make college kids feel unsafe.

Tucson attorney Larry Hecker has been named chairman of the task force and promises everything is on the table.

"By putting me in charge of something, yet again, the City Council has shown it's commitment to radical redesign if necessary and bold new ideas that don't upset the status quo," Hecker said. "I'm confident that we will ... what is it I'm in charge of now? They all seem to blend together."

Tucson City Council promise decisive action after discovering poverty sucks: Council members in 2016 were shocked to learn that when people have no money, their quality of life suffers and often face homelessness.

In a city where the median wage ranks below just about every major city in America, the news was doubly disturbing, said Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.

"Honestly, we thought they were just happy peasants, wiling about their days in local ritual and custom," Rothschild said. "This 'hungry thing' was crazy news to us. We'll get right on it. But everyone on the Council is doing well, you doing well, Paul? Paul's doing well."

He has set up a mayor's task force charged with brainstorming a blue ribbon commission that may or may not make recommendations as to whether to establish a working group to discuss the issue, while balancing local quality of life for retirees and lawyers.

Local attorney Larry Hecker will chair Rothschild's task force.

Schools and state

Tucson Unified School District seeks record: The Governing Board agreed to yet again move onto doing absolutely nothing that will make any substantive difference on the quality of education for district students.

The board will continue to discuss audits, dispute audits, sue over desegregation, fight lawsuits against them and complain about the state Legislature. It is also slated to quibble over who has what conflict of interest and why.

What isn't on the agenda is any sort of overhaul or drastic change of course for a district that continues to provide iffy results.

This will be the 39th consecutive year of bureaucratic stasis, putting the local school board in reach of the record for dysfunction and parliamentary asphyxiation. Just two more years of this and they will tie the mark held by New York's East Hampton Town Council, which last acted in 1977 to give miniature chihuahuas the vote and name R2D2 as the Town Droid.

TUSD to appeal desegregation status directly to President-elect Ted Cruz: The board thinks it has a way out of its decades-long desegregation court order. Now that incoming President Cruz has pledged to eliminate the judiciary and decide matters of constitutional law himself, district officials are hoping El Sabe (as Cruz insists he be called) can get them out of their fix.

The effort's prospects would seem favorable as Cruz soon-to-be-issued Presidential Directive No. 4 reads: "All public schools will immediately be shuttered and children instead to are to be enroll in Jesus camps, where they will learn to serve capitalism, field strip AR-15s and memorize the teachings of El Sabe, He Who Knows.

Local schools scramble for cash despite voters approving more funds. Public school districts across Arizona have been shocked to find themselves still struggling for money, after voters overwhelmingly approved Gov. Doug Ducey's plan to increase state land trust funds for K-12 education.

The Legislature subsequently voted in special session to give every dime of the funding to charter schools. A last-second amendment by state Sen. Steve Yarbrough funneled the whole of the extra $3.5 billion over 10 years to the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, which he runs. The new law is expected to earn him $350 million.

Yarbrough shrugged off claims of conflict of interest, saying: "Eh, screw it. Vote me out, suckers."

Leadership, new and old

City, TUSD scramble to find new chief executives: When former City Manager Michael Ortega moved to his new post as local administrator of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, eyebrows were raised.

Ortega faces possible immolation, crucifixion and/or decapitation should ISIS retake the city, but after a year running the City of Tucson, he said the move was best for him and his family.

In a similar move, TUSD's H.T. Sanchez quit his post in July to take the position as "the sciencey-thinger-professor guy" at Liberty University, a center for higher education established by Christian conservative Jerry Falwell.

In a statement, Sanchez thanked the TUSD Governing Board for preparing him for this step up the ladder.

"All our hard work to make TUSD a great school district has set the stage for me to teach global warming and evolution to creationists and climate deniers at Liberty."

McSally readies for second term after historic election: U.S. Rep. Martha McSally steamrolled to victory over state Rep. Victoria Steele, wining by a margin of 89 percent to 8 percent.

Low voter turnout among Democrats who saw no difference between El Sabe and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was largely seen as a contributing factor, but McSally's star is on the rise nonetheless.

Her victory-night speech will be remembered for its effusive praise of volunteers on her campaign.

"Without you, I wouldn't be facing weekly flights on crappy domestic carriers after being cattle-prodded by TSA agents making $7 an hour. It's because of you, that I return that dysfunctional institution where influence is peddled and nothing gets done. It's because of you, that my life will be showered with pettiness and egotism all for less than I would make as sales manager at Jim Click Nissan. It's because of you that I now have to grub several hours a week for dollars from every freaking sleaze-ball billionaire with a legislative fetish. My therapist thanks you. My self-loathing alter ego thanks you. And I get a lapel pin. How horrifically cool is that?"

Sports, business and entertainment

Arizona continues to fight backlash from rebranding efforts: Hoping to stem the tide of businesses fleeing Arizona in the wake of the state Tourism Office's disastrous ad campaign, Gov. Doug Ducey and the marketing folks have vowed to make changes to their strategy.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato admitted "mistakes were made" in the million-dollar TV blitz that offended Latino groups across the country.

"We are going to look at everything about the ad," Scarpinato said. "The dramatic panoramas of the Grand Canyon and Havasupai Canyon were great, we thought. The shots of the eagle soaring and grandparents playing with grandchildren were spot on, we figured. If the slogan 'Arizona: We don't hate beaners' was offensive, then we'll fix it. It's just premature to point to any one thing."

New Tucson bowl game to be a barn burner: The El Guero Canelo Roberts Pest Control Bowl Presented by Illegal Pete's at Tucson High School pits bitter rivals Old Dominion against the University of Wyoming.

Wyoming's, finished 8th in the Mountain West Conference, boasts a high-powered offense averages 11.3 points a game and Old Dominion's, last in the Colonial Conference, boasts a stout defense allowing just shy of 500 yards per game. These two juggernauts accounted for five wins between them compared to just 16 losses. Only four NCAA programs now are not invited to a bowl game.

Landing the bowl game was considered a major achievement in local economic development. Sun Corridor Inc. helped design the bid, beating out fierce competition against Scottsbluff, Neb., and Ashtabula, Ohio. Sun Corridor's estimates are that it will inject $87.35 to the local economy. 

EGCRPCBPBIP Chairman Larry Hecker promised "It will be the greatest football game ever played."

Tickets are still on sale. All tickets are still on sale.

TPD warns Star Wars fans that officers will keep peace by all means necessary: The hype for Star Wars Episode 9 has reached fatal excess even though Episode 8 is still a year away from release.

Locally, the death toll stands at 45 after East Speedway turned into a whirling moshpit of death when Force worshipers mistook a Fry's Food and Drug flyer for pages of the script to the last of the Star Wars serial.

Sunnyvale, Calif., leaders are sifting through the rubble of what used to be their city after tech geeks rioted upon rumors that Kylo Ren is, in fact, Jar Jar Binks.

TPD Chief Christopher Magnus warned padawans and Sith servants alike to enjoy the third trilogy without causing mayhem and destruction.

"And for shit sakes, stop coming at officers with the light sabers made out of wrapping paper rolls, nerf laser blasters and the Darth Vader choke finger deal. We will seriously shoot you and Black Lives Matter is OK with this," Magnus said at a press conference.

Calexico releases single copy of a 600-hour box set: In a move reminiscent of the Wu-Tang Clan, Tucson sand-yacht rockers released a 111-CD box set containing more than 1,200 songs, bits of studio dialogue, snippets of a day angling for Sonoran chub, and a continuous 30-minute track recorded at a local food truck.
With a host of in-house "musicians" who may have once air-guitared "Slow Ride," the release garnered raves from Pitchfork, which called its "sandblasted realism a haboob of desert reality that is more Radiohead than Radiohead being Radiohead. It's not good in spite of no one buying it. It's good because no one is buying it."

The lone copy ignited a bidding war of carbon-offsets between an unidentified Manhattan attorney and local scribe Jim Nintzel, who walked away with the prize.  He won't let anyone else hear it lest they like it, reducing Calexico to sellouts.

Sun Corridor moves to Guatemala: Seeking "new paradigms in the rapidly shifting post-tech landscape," leaders of Tucson's economic development engine are planning to shift goals yet again to take advantage of emerging economies in South America by off-shoring to Guatemala City.

Sun Corridor's board chairman Larry Hecker denied this move abandons Tucson as Guatemala's calling code and Tucson's area codes both contains 5s, 2s and 0s.

Sun Corridor Inc. released a statement clarifying the move and the group's relationship to Tucson: "In this new economy, even economic development corporations must be ready to flee the city they were supposed to serve. It's incumbent upon us to find more competitive opportunities elsewhere. Tucson's economic development must be realistic in this competitive world, as we seek to lure businesses where ever opportunity leads us — in this case Guatemala."

Blake Morlock covered Arizona government and politics for 15 years, including 11 in the Tucson Citizen. He also worked on Democratic Party campaigns in the field of political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t, sometimes satirically.

— 30 —

Best in Internet Exploder