Join Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel as he brings us up to date on issues from southern Arizona.
TED SIMONS: Time again for Southern Exposure, our monthly look at stories and issues from the Tucson area and other points south. Joining us now is Tucson Weekly writer Jim Nintzel. Good to see you again, thanks for being here.
JIM NINTZEL: Good to get up here and see what it's like ahead of the big show on Sunday. A little advanced work.
TED SIMONS: Good work getting tickets. It sold out.
JIM NINTZEL: That's what I hear. I got my tickets, Ted. I'm ready.
TED SIMONS: U. of A. student, I think at Georgia Tech now, helped discover water on Mars and equipment at the U. of A., water on Mars!
JIM NINTZEL: Water on Mars, maybe life on Mars, that's what NASA, following the water, trying to find the life. This is the result of about four years of studies that they've been doing, the U. of A. has a camera in orbit around Mars called the highrise camera, it's been up there since 2006 and they started noticing those odd streaks on some of the hills and gullies as they flew overhead so they started monitoring them over a four-year period and they would grow and shrink and when things got warmer up there they would grow, and then as it cooled they would shrink and they started wondering is this possibly liquid water flowing on Mars that is making these impressions? And sure enough they did some other experiments with another device on it that measures mineral content and it sure looks like it's salty, briny water that's underneath the surface is what they're assuming and rising to the top and kind of flowing down hills.
TED SIMONS: Seasonal water there. They're really not sure about the point of origin, an aquifer maybe but you don't know.
JIM NINTZEL: They're not sure where it's coming from but I'm sure that's going to be the next step to try to track that down because following the water.
TED SIMONS: Yes.
JIM NINTZEL: Get to the life.
TED SIMONS: How much civic pride in the U. of A. space in Tucson?
JIM NINTZEL: Tremendous. Third base of A. has been part of the space program from the start. They managed the Phoenix Mars mission a few years back that dropped a probe right onto the Arctic plains of Mars and they're working on another one that's going to go out asteroid hunting in just about a year from now. They were in the midst of the one year launch window now so putting together something called the Osiris rex.
TED SIMONS: Is there much civic interest? The mayor's race is a foregone conclusion. City council races?
JIM NINTZEL: It's tough to get noticed if you're running in these off-year elections to begin with. And we have three council members up for election. It's a citywide election so everybody gets to vote for all the candidates. Democrats, you've got about 93,000 democrats and 53,000 Republicans in Tucson, 70,000 independents. So Democrats have a huge voter registration advantage. Republican candidates are running against them, they've raised 12 grand each which doesn't give you a whole lot of money to get your message out. One Democrat has been unseated on the Tucson city council in the last 30 to 40 years.
TED SIMONS: My goodness.
JIM NINTZEL: So it's very tough. They win an open seat now, and then but it's very tough to knock out an incumbent.
TED SIMONS: Are Tucson residents generally happy with their city council?
JIM NINTZEL: I think there's a split. There are people who are very unhappy with the council and there are people who are happy with the council. And I think what you have going on is the city has made some real progress in revitalizing the downtown area. They've made some progress in paving some of our roads but there's a lot of roads left to pave, and it's hard to turn people's perceptions around on something like that. So there are a lot of challenges certainly for our city. It's got about 1,000 fewer employees than it used to have as a result of the economic slowdown that we've experienced and so, you know, there are certainly fans of the city council and detractors. It's a tale of two cities if you listen to these candidates.
TED SIMONS: I'm assuming that the mood is a little brighter now that the bus strike has ended after 40 some odd days?
JIM NINTZEL: 42 days of bus strikes, very drawn out experience down there and finally, we're able to reach some kind of accommodation to give the drivers a raise but that has opened up a whole new can of worms because now, the police say they need a raise if they're going to give the bus drivers a raise.
TED SIMONS: So are there winners and losers in this dispute?
JIM NINTZEL: The losers are the taxpayer at the end of the day. The council spends about $30 million out of its general fund to subsidize the bus program and so they're going to have to either raise fares or find efficiencies or find another way to make up for the additional money that the bus drivers and the mechanics are going to be getting as a result of the contract. That's next year's budget challenge.
TED SIMONS: We can't let you go without Martha McSally defunding Planned Parenthood, and shutting down the government she's on the other side? What's going on here?
JIM NINTZEL: There are a group of Republicans in the house who definitely would want to shut down government to force a confrontation over defunding Planned Parenthood. She wrote a letter last week, our freshman Congressman, said she didn't support shutting down government over this. She has voted to defund Planned Parenthood with her fellow house members last week. She voted again this week to allow the states to shut off funding for Planned Parenthood. She's not a big supporter of Planned Parenthood but she thought shutting down government over it was the wrong way to go.
TED SIMONS: I would imagine shutting down government would be a bad thing to run on in that area in southern Arizona, the Tucson district but in other areas, as well.
JIM NINTZEL: It's a very split district. One third Republican, one third Democrat, one third independent.
TED SIMONS: So defunding Planned Parenthood, is that something you run on?
JIM NINTZEL: It's something her opponents will be hitting her on when she runs for re-election next year and there was a poll out recently that showed that voters there by a narrow margin would prefer a Democrat in that seat, but the two Democrats who are so far in the race were trailing Martha specifically. So she's got a good reputation.
TED SIMONS: Before you go, 30 seconds left here, Tucson modernism week. Historic preservation, a lot of fighting about that in the Phoenix area. Is historic preservation big in Tucson?
JIM NINTZEL: Very big in Tucson. A lot of wonderful historic neighborhoods and they're celebrating modernism which is a period after World War II, the mad men period.
TED SIMONS: Midcentury modern.
JIM NINTZEL: Midcentury modern and they've got some great stuff going on in Tucson this weekend with a vintage trailer show, they've got the firebird 3, the car of the future, the only one ever made, beautiful car with great fins on display at our museum of contemporary art and a whole bunch of talks, lectures, tours and such things.
TED SIMONS: So it's not Palm Springs but you can find some good midcentury modern homes down there.
JIM NINTZEL: They're trying to duplicate the success of Palm Springs with their modernism week and we're a few years behind them at this point.