MALIGN NEGLECT

Heading the project for Phoenix is deputy city manager Jacques Avent, husband of Loretta Avent, an aide to President Clinton.

The application also mentions the city's 1993 Best Run City in the World designation, and outlines how hundreds of citizens were involved in the proposal's design.

Jimmerson doesn't buy it. And neither does a significant segment of South Phoenix, which has begun to remove the welcome mat for city "assistance."

"People come in and work in this community, and don't care any more about this community than a freight train cares about its caboose," Jimmerson says. "You can tell a person what to do in your house, because you live there. You can't tell somebody what to do if you don't know them."
@rule:
@body:After years of governmental plans and do-good programs, South Phoenix is plagued by a collective self-esteem problem that keeps a good portion of its residents socially dormant.

The parts of the community that are politically active have been united on very little.

More than five established neighborhood organizations work from different agendas. And that number doesn't include the South Mountain Chamber of Commerce, the South Mountain Village Planning Committee or private organizations like the Community Excellence Project and Keys Community Center.

Housing advocates vie for affordable housing while community leaders court upper-end homebuilders. The business crowd chases development while others fight to preserve open space. All the things that make South Phoenix a culturally, economically and politically diverse melting pot also work against its consolidation.

"You've got all these different people going in all these different directions," says Hart. "And divided you can't stand."
Nearly everyone in the ten-square-block area surrounding Broadway Road is, in some way, connected to one of the 22 churches there.

Some, like Southminster, are full-time, full-service operations. Others are one-room sanctuaries open for worship services a few hours a week. "Most of the preachers in this community don't even live here," Jimmerson says. "They come in and preach and then go home."

A concentration of low-income housing brought immigrants to this community in droves; many don't speak English, and are wary of government.

Meanwhile, years of exporting its best talent has left the community with an undereducated and increasingly elderly population.

"We have fractured leadership," the Reverend Brooks says. "No one uptown would dare suggest that those who have the least training be elected to leadership."
Phoenix's African-American population was barely coming into its own, in political terms, when the Hispanic population here began to boom in the early 1970s.

Young Hispanics like Alfredo Gutierrez and Ed Pastor left the mining towns of Globe and Miami for Arizona State University and newfound activism. They formed organizations like Chicanos por la Causa. They began to gain political power.

This didn't sit well with African Americans. They'd waged war for civil rights, and felt as if they'd held the door while Hispanics came through. The two groups battled over minority political seats at every level. As the Valley grew in different directions, reapportionment threw together a burgeoning Hispanic population in what was once central Phoenix with the African-American neighborhoods of South Phoenix.

Two communities of people with great needs were made to share the same piece of the pie.

Nowhere has the tension between these two groups been more public than on the Roosevelt Elementary School Board. Roosevelt serves about 10,000 children in an area that encompasses nearly all of South Phoenix. Twenty years ago, the district was 35 percent Anglo, 34 percent African American and 30 percent Hispanic. Today, Hispanic students make up 66 percent of the school district, compared to a 25 percent African-American population. Anglo students have fallen to only 9 percent.

Roosevelt has been, for decades, the largest employer in an area with an unemployment rate double the national average. The district's low property values and vast amounts of vacant land sent taxes higher than any of its counterparts in the Valley. In July, the Arizona Supreme Court finally ruled this funding discrepancy unconstitutional after years of debate.

The stakes here are high, the resources low. And school-board seats bring power. Until the mid-1980s, the Roosevelt board was divided into two Hispanic seats, two African-American seats--one of them held by Brooks, who has been on the board for more than 20 years--and one Anglo position.

Things changed in the late 1980s. An election brought a three-member Hispanic majority to the school board, which, in turn, brought a Hispanic superintendent.

African Americans resented what they say was a power machine in control of jobs and their children's education. The power equation switched in another election in 1990, which brought an African-American majority into power. The Hispanic superintendent was ousted, and the turbulence continued.

In one particularly infamous meeting, the Reverend Bernard Black, a longtime board member, took a swing at fellow board member Carlos Avelar following ethnic slurs from both sides.

All five board members were embroiled in a recall election that divided the district. A new superintendent was hired.

Despite the dramatics, Roosevelt had by no means cornered the market on political turbulence. It's just that, while other school-district leaders were cutting deals and maneuvering agendas behind the scenes, Roosevelt's leadership fought in public.

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