By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
I don't know of a more astonishing failure in the present Congress than Representative John J. Rhodes Jr.
Rhodes' decision to avoid playing a role in the Indian School land swap is beneath contempt. It is a clear act of expediency compounded by cowardice.
The amazing thing about Rhodes' sorry behavior is that the voters of his district haven't found an opportunity to hang him from a tree on the Indian School property, preferably on a spot close to Central Avenue so that passers-by could see his body dangling in the breeze.
Here is a man who was vaulted into Congress only because of an accident of birth. Rhodes succeeded his father, John Rhodes Sr. This fact alone, you would think, would make him give the appearance of performing energetically--at least for a while.
But Rhodes demonstrated from the start that he had no shame. He went to Washington, D.C., and settled in like royalty. He hasn't done a solid day's work since leaving on the airplane from Sky Harbor.
His latest failure to stand up for Phoenix in the battle for parkland is so blatant an abrogation of duty that voters should be talking about a recall election rather than voting him back for another term.
Rhodes has left the voters of this city in the lurch. By doing so, he has demonstrated, for all to see, his clear unworthiness to hold the job.
What can Rhodes be thinking of as he trods his craven path in a year when he is up for re-election?
Can it be he is so dimwitted that he doesn't realize the Indian School land is actually in his district? Doesn't Rhodes understand these are the very voters he promised to represent?
And of all the members of the Arizona delegation, Rhodes should take the lead in this matter. He is, after all, a sitting member of the House Interior Committee. No member of the Arizona delegation is in a better position to make a difference.
This is the very group that is handling the land-swap deal with the Florida development company.
And yet Rhodes acts as though he had no knowledge that a civic crisis exists here that will affect the future of Phoenix for the next century.
Incredibly, Rhodes was actually willing to stand by and allow the Baron Collier Company of Florida to come in here with a sweetheart deal and build enough office buildings to smother the city forever.
This is one of those turning points that has the power to make or break a community.
If Phoenix cannot succeed in getting another sizable area of parkland for the central city, there is no way it can continue to grow and still be livable.
But Rhodes stands by and says nothing as more than 100 acres are about to be swallowed up. One wonders what his reaction would be if there were 100 acres in Mesa that were endangered?
Total incompetence may be the kindest view to take of Rhodes' stewardship of the family congressional seat. He cannot be so ignorant nor so insensitive that he doesn't understand what he's doing. Does he think no one notices? Does he think that because Burton Barr is willing to give away the city that no one else has the energy to cry foul?
The only other alternative would be to think that he has somehow suffered a brain tic that has caused him to decide that he was sent to Washington to represent the Baron Collier Company and the Everglades swamp.
Rhodes' lack of intelligent input in this matter should not really be surprising. His speeches and appearances thoughout his tenure rank him on the same intellectual level with Congressman Bob Stump, the Birdman of Buckeye.
To date, it would appear that Rhodes' chief energies have been devoted to taking congressional sightseeing trips, downing cocktails at Capitol Hill parties and lining up donations from political action committees for his next campaign.
Rhodes' father went to Washington with little money and came back to Arizona as a millionaire after thirty years on the Hill. But at least the elder Rhodes established a record as a congressman who paid attention to his district.
This present bearer of the Rhodes name brings little else to the table with him other than the family name. He is not representing anyone in Washington but himself.
Why should we be surprised at his abject failure and his insensitivity?
Before running for Congress, young Rhodes was a lawyer of indifferent accomplishment.
Thanks to his father's money, he went off to Washington moderately wealthy and this fortune has grown every year he has been there.
Rhodes' ducking out on this crucial issue doesn't surprise close watchers of the congressional scene.
The Indian School land swap is one of those matters that doesn't seem to have a side that can make a congressman a clear winner.
No matter which side he takes, there are some votes that might be lost.
So Rhodes has decided there may not be enough real interest in the Indian School matter to take a risk.
But this makes one wonder about him. Doesn't he believe in anything?
So he has made the spineless decision to walk away from the most crucial matter affecting his constituents since he has been in the Congress.