DEARTH WATCH

PHOENIX'S MAYORAL CAMPAIGN OFFERS NEITHER INSPIRING VISION NOR CONCRETE PROPOSALS. WHAT IT OFFERS IS SKIP OR LINDA.

Nadolski's reputation as a naysayer drove even her natural allies away, Dubs says. "When I was on the council, I met with so many neighborhood associations that just loathed her," says Dubs, who lost her own council seat after just one term.

No surprise--Dubs is supporting Rimsza. "Skip is so friendly, and he's so personable that he does well with just about anyone. . . . We'll probably have a Skip Rimsza sign in our front yard," Dubs says.

And as for Nadolski? "She's just not a consensus builder. There's no way she could even try to portray herself that way. She loves controversy and she thrives on pitting people against each other."

For someone reputed to inspire such wrath, Linda Nadolski has a remarkably sweet, soothing voice. She dresses in plums and teals and kicks off sensibly low black patent leather pumps in the middle of a long day, pausing for a few moments to dump her overstuffed organizer and mobile phone on a desk and wriggle around.

Her face is all uneven angles, with bright olive eyes, but it's her wise smile that gives the signal that Nadolski knows. She knows she has an uphill battle against Rimsza. She knows what people like Dubs say about her. But she thinks she can win with grassroots support. After all, she never thought she'd win her first race.

Nadolski, 49, has lived in Phoenix almost all her life, and moved to Arcadia as a young bride after she and her husband won $12,500 playing keno in Las Vegas. Like Rimsza, Nadolski's known hardship; she was pregnant nine times and gave birth to five children. When her youngest was in kindergarten, she finished her degree in communications from Arizona State University.

In 1985, a neighbor read in the newspaper that a freeway was planned nearby, so Nadolski began her activist career as so many do--fighting freeways. From there it was on to a village planning committee, and by that time, there was a small group of activists in her neighborhood.

"After a couple years, it slowly dawned on us that a seat on the council would make a difference," she says. Nadolski says she was the only one with the time, so she did it. "We didn't really believe that I would win," she says, but she wanted to send a message: "You can't do these things to people. People don't feel that they have any control over their own future and the decisions that affect them."

That's why she has proposed, during this campaign, that two at-large members be added to the city council--something Rimsza adamantly opposes.

"I don't think people want to buy more government. Matter of fact, if I had my way, I'll tell you right now, I'd cut the state legislature in half in numbers. . . . It's just more effective," he says.

But more often than not, the two front-runners sound alike. Like Rimsza, Nadolski stresses crime and neighborhoods in her public presentations. Both support community policing. Nadolski does have her own set of specific ideas, including turning schools into community centers, creating a youth job corps and developing the Papago Heritage Trail as a regional attraction. She also supports experimenting with "total quality management" at city hall.

Both Nadolski and Rimsza take credit for the infill concept--the notion that inner-city housing and services should be improved and/or built as a way to counter urban sprawl.

Rimsza boasts that he got a policy to promote infill adopted by the city council earlier this year. Nadolski insists she is the one who brought the need for inner-city redevelopment to the fore in the late Eighties.

Nadolski says, "This thing [Rimsza's infill proposal] was brought up for pure political purposes to give him a plank in his campaign. . . . [He is trying] to be the pro-neighborhood person."

Rimsza just smiles and nods when he's told that he and Nadolski sound a lot alike. "I appreciate her supporting my positions," he says.

But some agree that Rimsza is a recent convert to the neighborhood-preservation bandwagon.

Elise Roginiel, a coordinator for a north Phoenix neighborhood group called the Cactus Coalition and longtime Rimsza detractor--she challenged him unsuccessfully in 1991--says Rimsza is no friend of old neighborhoods.

At a public meeting more than a year ago, Roginiel says, "Mr. Rimsza stated that homes that are 25 or 30 years old are dilapidated. Well, I strongly find that statement offensive. My [30-year-old] home is hardly dilapidated, it's beautiful."

Her explanation for Rimsza's behavior? "He's a real estate man. You destabilize a neighborhood . . . and immediately people put their houses up for sale."

Rimsza "never said that," Schwartz counters. "He has said that some areas . . . need some jazzing up, but he would never say they were just dilapidated and tear them down."

Whenever he has the chance, Rimsza reminds voters and reporters of Nadolski's reputation as a contrarian. Often, the message is subtle--like in his campaign literature, which touts Rimsza as the candidate with "the common sense and demeanor to get results."

The difference between Nadolski and himself, Rimsza tells New Times, is that he has "the ability to get it done. To really make it happen. To really pull the community together in a real sense."

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