By Amy Silverman
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Like Johnson, Rimsza has had little difficulty filling his campaign coffers. Rimsza's 1991 campaign-contribution report consists almost exclusively of developers and attorneys who regularly do business with the city, and his fellow realtors. He spent $80,000 in the 1991 race, against challenger Janet Hemmerle, who spent $3,000, and Elise Roginiel, who reported no expenditures.
And like Johnson, Rimsza has been criticized for possible conflicts of interest. Just weeks after Rimsza's 1989 election, the new councilmember took credit in the daily press for a rezoning case sought by Howard Covey, a car dealer who owned property on Bell Road that had not been zoned for his business. Covey and his employees had made a $400 donation to Rimsza's campaign and, after the case was resolved, dropped another $720 into a fund to retire Rimsza's campaign debt.
Schwartz later responds: "You know what? They've been friends long, long, long before he [Rimsza] even ran or thought about running for city council."
Then did the friendship have anything to do with Rimsza's actions on behalf of Covey? "That's totally unrelated," Schwartz says.
Covey didn't return a call from New Times.
When the hot-button topic of public art is pushed, Rimsza tries to distance himself from Johnson--even though he looked on in amusement when Johnson took a hammer to a pot in symbolic disapproval of the controversial Squaw Peak pots. "I think you'd find that myself and maybe my family are much more interested in the arts than maybe Paul was," Rimsza says, but he then goes on to share a favorite Johnson sentiment--that public dollars are better spent on the performing arts than fine art.
Rimsza would rather incorporate physical art into permanent structures than erect individual pieces. "Even in my own house, individual pieces of art, I get bored with," Rimsza says.
When questioned about his favorite artists, though, Rimsza gets defensive. "I'm not so much into specific artists. I'm not quite that affluent to be able to afford that, but I like watercolors."
With the half-hour ticking to a close, there's just one question left on the list. It's a throwaway, a time waster--and, given the candidate's stiffness, sure to be a dud: Who's your hero?
The Eggery is crowded and noisy, so at first it seems as though Rimsza has missed the question. He's staring straight ahead. Then, softly, from between pursed lips, he says, "I know who it is." Seconds pass, then a minute, and he's still sitting there, motionless. Finally, he pushes away the uneaten bagel and tries to speak, his eyes brimming.
"It's my son."
Slowly, through tears, he explains that 13-year-old Brian has had 13 or 14 operations throughout his life to correct facial birth defects. The candidate sobs, wiping his face with a paper napkin.
"I'm sorry. I got emotional. . . . I just see from him how hard it is to be different. And people are trying to be nice. I can remember taking him to a Suns game. He didn't have any eyelid muscles, so he always looked through slits, and people would lean over and say, 'Why don't you take him home, he looks so tired.' It just made me realize how tough life can be."
Rimsza's mother died when he was 16, and he played parent to younger siblings, but it was "nothing--nothing even close" to what Brian's endured. "I must admit I'm hard on him. I push him," Rimsza says, proud of his son's scholastic achievements and that he recently bagged an elk with a bow and arrow.
There's an awkward pause, but Rimsza's softer, more open now. Unfortunately, it's time to go. As he rises from the table, pausing to wink and wave at a tableful of well-wishers, he turns to Merkel and asks, wryly, "Are more people going to ask me who my hero is? You're supposed to warn me."
In 1987, Linda Nadolski was Linda Sue Nadolski, a former PTA president from the Arcadia neighborhood. New Times called her maiden city council race against conservative, prodevelopment lawyer Mark Dioguardi "so crucial to the entire city that things are going to boil."
Neighborhood activism triumphed over big, bad development, and Nadolski's win was big news. In the two terms she served, Nadolski left her mark. Fans say she refused to play along with special interests, often finding herself the lone dissenter in an 8-1 council vote.
Rich Goldsmith, who served on the Phoenix Arts Commission during Nadolski's time on the council, says, "She refused to play all of their little games. I mean, they [fellow councilmembers and lobbyists] had this image of her that she wasn't particularly bright or that she was stubborn. I don't think either of those are necessarily correct, but she would question some of the things that they were doing, and she wasn't motivated by the same electoral and other concerns that all of them were."
Nadolski infuriated neighborhood supporters by voting in favor of expansion of the Camelback Esplanade in 1988 and antagonized then-police chief Ruben Ortega by publicly stating that he should be held accountable for his actions.
Although she outspent her challenger by more than four to one, in 1991, Nadolski lost her seat to another former PTA president, Kathy Dubs. Pundits attributed Nadolski's loss to redistricting and to her comments about Ortega. Her district was reconfigured that year to include portions of South Mountain and other communities she hadn't dealt with.