By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"The less pressure, the fewer problems, the better," said Usdane. "Too much pressure will kill it. Goudinoff's move, that will go farther to kill the bill than anything else. It was not smart under the circumstance."
Representative Peter Goudinoff, a Tucson Democrat, attempted to get the King holiday into the open for a vote by attaching it to a high-priority economic development package which would have finessed Stump's blockade and, it was hoped, forced a couple of Republicans to accept the King holiday in order to pass the economy booster.
Republicans came unglued, arguing that the King holiday had nothing whatsoever to do with Arizona's financial well-being and, therefore, under state law, it was unconstitutional to attach the civil-rights legislation to the economic development bill.
Interpreting the danger of hardball politics as played by anyone other than himself, Usdane explained, "I want that economic development bill, too. What happens if I get angry (at the King attachment), what happens?"
What is startlingly odd about this reaction from Usdane and other Republican leaders is that while the King holiday is indeed symbolic, it is also a dollars-and-cents issue.
To date, Arizona has lost almost $26 million in conventions and hotel reservations because of groups that canceled in protest to Governor Mecham's killing of the holiday. Industry experts agree that the $26 million number must be multiplied by a factor of at least 2.4 to arrive at the total of dollars conventioneers would have spent if they'd come. Compare the reaction of the hotel-motel industry to the loss of this $62 million in business to their reaction when Phoenix proposed a $2 million bed tax on innkeepers to finance the Phoenix Suns' new arena.
When politicians suggested the bed tax, spokespersons for the hotel industry went off like Roman candles. Public meetings and the media were laced with the outraged cries of the hospitality industry.
But these same spokespersons have been invisible on the King issue.
The president of the Valley Innkeepers Association, Michele Eckert, blames the organization's absence of visible support on confusion.
"We're not that organized yet," said Eckert. "We're separate from the state organization. Our board is all general managers [of major hotels], and we've only got a part-time secretary. Our position is let's get it resolved. Let's let the people vote on it."
Eckert acknowledges that getting the issue "resolved" is not the same as getting it passed. But her position is that the state organization can say little more than what it has.
"Within the state group there are varying opinions, pro and con," said Eckert. "This is stupid that it keeps coming up every six months. There are conventions that are in a pending mode, waiting to see what will happen. There are just different feelings [within the state organization]. Some are against it. (She refused to identify the opposition.) I personally might think it should pass, but the people I work for, Holiday Inn, may not give a hoot, or they may agree, or they might not have an opinion."
"I've never quite understood this," said Representative Art Hamilton. "The Chambers of Commerce, the economic development people, the hotel-motel industry, the tourism lobbies, none of them has argued the issue to the extent you would think. They have resisted to the very end making a public noise about Martin Luther King when the only responsible thing to do was to come out publicly for the holiday. Instead, they've engaged in a little whisper campaign. They have asked us to call off the boycott, but they clearly do not want to become visible. When I ask why not, they say that quiet diplomacy is better. They don't want to antagonize."
The hospitality industry is afraid of antagonizing the Mechamites and the fundamentalist Christians. Insiders say they fear if they overtly support the King holiday, they'll be targeted with another bed tax in a state desperate for new sources of revenue.
Goudinoff's common-sense attempt to attach the King legislation to the economic development bill proved so explosive, even Hamilton was forced to backpedal.
"A number of people who supported the King bill came to me and said this move had the potential to become divisive," said Hamilton. "Their point was, `Look, we voted with you on MLK, but we now have a lot of interests pressuring us for this economic development bill. We have paid the political price for supporting the holiday, but if the economic development bill is killed to prevent the King holiday from taking effect, then we will have paid the price twice.'"
ON MONDAY, APRIL 24, there was a small demonstration in behalf of the King holiday at the State Capitol organized by Arnie Zaler.
Working as a representative of the Jewish Federation, Zaler has reaffirmed the historic link between Jews and blacks in the struggle for civil rights at a time when that alliance is under extreme duress nationally.
The next night, Tuesday, Usdane returned a phone call just as NBC was concluding a controversial news special that examined whether or not blacks are genetically superior to whites in athletics. He thought the demonstration was a success because there was no real pressure or uproar.