Steller: Why Ally Miller makes for good copy, and more politics

2014-03-07T00:00:00Z 2014-04-04T18:21:05Z Steller: Why Ally Miller makes for good copy, and more politicsTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Why do we Tucson reporters love to cover Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller so much?

It’s a question someone put to me the other day, except it was phrased more like, “Why do you guys keep picking on Ally? She’s the only one fighting the status quo.”

It’s worth a wonder, considering we’ve had seven stories and one column focusing on her in the last couple of weeks, and on Wednesday the Tucson Weekly weighed in with an opus on her activities. Here are some of my observations:

1. She’s a new character. Let’s face it, the old board of Sharon Bronson, Richard Elias, Ramon Valadez, Ray Carroll and Ann Day — whom Miller replaced — was a bit stodgy. They got along OK. And even when they fought, they accepted the same broad parameters of discussion.

Not Ally Miller. She brings a tea-party wild-card element to board meetings, often, for example, pulling items out of the consent agenda to be discussed individually. Nothing wrong with that — it was interesting to hear her question Feb. 18 why a publicity contract was being let out rather than handled in-house by the county communications staff — but it’s a departure.

She also sometimes digs into unusual topics. The last board meeting I attended in person, on Feb. 2, featured a lengthy discussion of an agenda item requested by Miller: How to appoint members of the Pima County Fair Commission. Miller raised it because she really wants to replace a seated commissioner from her district, whose term has not expired, with a new commissioner.

A lengthy discussion ensued on what rules apply to appointing fair commissioners, which is why I’ve only watched board meetings by Internet since then.

2. Her positions are unpredictable. Of all the county spending I would have expected her to approve, I thought it would be for the rerouting of Hughes Access Road around Raytheon. This company is, of course, the Tucson area’s largest private employer, needs a buffer zone if it’s to expand locally and employs her husband, Jeffrey.

But when the decision came on whether to spend $8 million on the project, with the hopes that a new buffer zone there will become an aerospace business park, Miller voted no. She said the county would be better off spending the money on repairing its roads than rerouting that road with no guarantees of future development.

She’s right about there being no guarantees, but in my mind the risk of losing more of Raytheon’s operations to other states far outweighs the cost of the road rerouting and associated land purchase, even if it just keeps Raytheon Missile Systems here at steady levels of employment.

Perhaps her strangest argument: That because the Pima County assessor has been fighting Raytheon in court over its tax bill, the county has ruined its relationship with Raytheon. Or something like that. But doesn’t that argument work better in reverse? That is, considering the lawsuit over Raytheon’s taxes, shouldn’t the county board work extra hard to keep the company happy?

Finally, Miller said this: “As a voting member of this board, one would think that the Raytheon members who want this road moved so badly would have contacted me directly. ... None of them contacted me, and my vote counts.” That brings us to ...

3. She’s all about Ally. What other supervisor, when they saw a map that marked her home printed in a publication, would have called 911?

What other local politician would not only have requested round-the-clock patrols on her home, but also asked a 911 dispatcher to take the article down?

I can understand security concerns, but a call to, say, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s chief deputy, Chris Nanos, might have done the trick.

That 911 call, and her claim to have been a victim of political “reprisal” when other supervisors took away $872,000 of road repair money slated for her district, speak of a persecution complex. What everyone needs to remember about that incident is that the road-repair money did not go into the other supervisors’ pockets or to some other nefarious purpose — it simply went to another deserving project, repairing Colossal Cave Road.

Miller has also spread the idea that “all” of her district’s road-repair money was taken away in this reprisal against her. Actually, it was just “all” of a one-time, $5 million general-fund expenditure that she originally voted against. Over the years, the bulk of the rest of the county’s road-repair spending has occurred in her district.

But hey, if she wants to talk about Ally, we’ll talk about Ally.

Sunnyside’s 2 clans

The recall election scheduled for two Sunnyside school board members is shaping up as a contest between two political clans.

Beki Quintero, former president of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, is planning to run against board member Bobby Garcia. Former Sunnyside board member Eric Giffin is planning to run against board President Louie Gonzales.

Quintero and Giffin are old political allies and longtime critics of Sunnyside Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo and his supporters on the board. Supporters of the current board majority, led by Gonzales, consider Quintero and Giffin among their top political enemies. So this will be a serious Sunnyside clash.

Republican Mike Polak, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last year, is also planning to run in the Sunnyside race, but he faces tough odds in the heavily Democratic area.

McCain is no help

When Sen. John McCain had a chance to speak about the proposed retirement of the A-10 at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, he chose instead to talk about Ukraine and other topics. This should come as no surprise: McCain has refused to stand up for Davis-Monthan’s central mission before.

Fortunately, other senators, such as Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss, were up to the task, questioning why the A-10 would be retired quickly, not phased out as a replacement becomes available.

McCain did tweet a picture of himself with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk this week. Maybe he put in a good word for Tucson as a site for the battery plant Tesla is looking to locate in the Southwest. Nah, probably not.

Tim Steller is at tsteller@azstarnet.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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