Fitz column mug

David Fitzsimmons, Tucson’s most beloved ink-stained wretch.

I was staring into my empty coffee cup at the Arroyo Cafe when Sour Frank nudged me. ”Ever hear of APS?”

“Sure. APS? Had it when I was a kid. It cleared up.”

“Your burrito’s shy a few beans, boy. APS stands for Arizona Public Service, which happens to be Arizona’s biggest power company and they spent $10 million of their ratepayer’s money to stack the Corporation Commission with hacks who’d do everything they could to slow down solar and renewable tech.”

Lurlene frowned. “No news there, Frankie boy. Another bunch of fat cats looking out for themselves trying to rig the system.”

I nodded. “Sounds like what’s going on now in our Legislature, Lurlene.”

“What’s that darlin’?”

“They’re pushing a law to raise the vaping age to 21. This law will also ban cities, towns and counties from regulating vaping. And e-cigarettes.”

Rosa shook her head. “They’re always trying to tie our hands. The same way they stopped Bisbee from banning plastic bags. The same way they stopped Tucson from disposing of the guns folks turned in. These are the same hypocrites who cry ‘State’s rights!’ when the feds try to tell them what to do, but they’re more than happy to tell the cities and counties what to do . They ain’t worth a spittoon full of Gila monster spit.”

Lurlene had an I-told-you-so look on her face. “Yep. Rattlesnakes in suits. I told y’all. The system’s rigged. Can I get a refill, Rosa?”

“Absolutely, darlin’. Speaking of which, do you all like the way the Trump administration rigged the Rosemont thing?”

Lurlene gagged. “Ugh. I can’t stand it. It’s sickening.”

“I’ll say. Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers completely blew off the EPA’s warnings and gave that stupid mine the go-ahead. That reminds me. Hey, Carlos, did you clean the toilets this morning?”

“Si. They were disgusting.”

“Thank you, sir. “

“De nada. One of them must have been used by Hudbay because there was a toxic lake left behind.”

Rosa winced. “Gross, Carlos.”

Rosa summarized the situation for us: “Come to Tucson. Carve up our scenic mountains, guzzle our water, kill our fragile rivers, decimate our amazing wildlife, make zillions and leave behind a toxic toilet bowl a half a mile deep and a mile wide, surrounded by mountains of dead ugly earth. What’s not to like?”

From the back of the kitchen Carlos shouted, “Plenty. I have an idea. We should put Lake Rosemont to use. I suggest we host an Olympic diving competition for mining executives.”

I told my pals I’d support Rosemont under one condition. “I’d support Rosemont if each Hudbay big shot would ferry the toxic wastewater loaded with cadmium, copper, zinc and selenium out of here to a toxic dump site in Canada, in gel cap suppository form, gel cap by gel cap, one by one. It would take centuries, but it would protect our aquifer and our wildlife. I think it’s a fair deal. They claim it’s safe, right?”

Lurlene wasn’t laughing. “If copper were found under Mount Rushmore this country would jackhammer it to bits if the money was right. We’ve lost our soul. I’m telling you, the system’s rigged.”

With that, Lurlene stood up. “I got something to else to say. You all know about the proposed highway, right? The feds and the state are calling it Interstate 11. They want to build this zillion dollar interstate from Nogie to Wickenburg, for all the semi-trucks that’ll be hauling goods back and forth from Mexico. And they want to send it right through Picture Rocks, west of the Saguaro Monument. They could make I-10 a double decker, but they’d rather slice up our beautiful desert.” Lurlene took a deep breath. “I live out there. Because I love our desert. And let me tell you something, darlin’. The West is disappearing in front of our eyes and it ain’t right.”

Lurlene paused to fish around in her purse. “I know it’s in here! I put it right next to my old copy of ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang.’ She took a worn flyer out of her purse, unfolded it and read this notice aloud: “Members of the public are encouraged to review the draft environmental document and provide input beginning April 5 through May 31.”

Lurlene said she thought the phrase “provide input” was too polite a description for “what I’d like to tell ’em. I can’t wait to enjoy the view from the Desert Museum of semis barreling down their big highway. I got nothing against trade or against big rigs. But this time I ain’t letting nobody rig this one. As my man Ed Abbey once said, ‘The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.’ To that I say, Amen.”

David Fitzsimmons: