The investigations are ongoing.
Don't crow about Scottsdale's civic-minded role in making sure drinking water is now safe.

Scottsdale's groundwater treatment plant was closed in early 1995 by the EPA because it had been producing TCE-laced drinking water. That plant stayed closed for nearly a year.

The feds and the state would not allow Scottsdale to start up the plant again until the city signed a consent decree.

That consent decree forced the city to be more vigilant and honest about drinking-water quality.

I agree Scottsdale's water is safe to drink now. But the EPA and the state had to strong-arm Scottsdale into serving safe water by making the city sign the consent decree.

When the criminal investigation of Scottsdale's water department was reported by this newspaper in late 1996, you and Mayor Sam Campana lobbied hard to make Scottsdale look good. The mayor wrote Fife Symington. You lobbied Russell Rhoades, Symington's appointed director of ADEQ. You managed to get an honest state drinking-water regulator, Mary Simmerer, off your case.

Scottsdale held public meetings to assure citizens that water was safe, without once apologizing to them for the 17 hits back in 1994 and 1995.

Docket Scientist
Michael Kiefer's article on Judge Carl Muecke was wonderful ("Misjudged," September 4). We need more jurists of his character and integrity. Arizona has lost a reasonable and empathetic federal judge. We can count on the Republicans to block any replacement unless he will toe the conservative line. As long as we elect the rabid right-wing representatives we do, we will move more and more toward a fascist state. I only wish the judge could have been the sentencing judge in Symington's case.

Theodore Bundy

Michael Kiefer's Judge Carl Muecke piece was well-written. It was creditable to a good and fair man. In the name of correct English, I must with respect take issue with the headline "Honest Truth." Truth, by definition, comprises honesty--so the headline's a tautology or pleonasm.

Geoffrey Platts

Hey, Landlord!
I applaud Howard Stansfield for presenting a reasonably comprehensive, accurate rendering of events surrounding Tempe's derailed proposed rental-housing code ("Code Blues," August 14). Several issues, however, require clarification or rebuttal.

Why were letters for Tempe's election pamphlet submitted without original signatures by deadline? Because the City Clerk's Office gave the letter-writing campaign's organizers, of which I was one, wrong instructions.

Unfortunately, Fritz Tuffli and his ally, the landlord special-interest group Arizona Multihousing Association (AMA), weren't satisfied. Consequently, Tempe voters were deprived of their right to express their views on the ballot referendum, and now there is no election and no code.

Tuffli and AMA lobbyists spout fear-mongering lies that rents will increase with the code. Rents will rise and fall according to market conditions. Actually, based on data supplied by the City of Tempe, rents for four-plexes and smaller rose 88 percent from 1991 to 1996; for larger apartment complexes the increase was 48 percent. All without a rental-housing code having been enacted!

If AMA landlords truly believed that rents would rise because of the code, then, out of self-interest, they would rejoice if rents skyrocketed throughout Tempe and so would support the code. They only want to keep raking in the monies with minimal reinvestment back into their rental properties.

AMA lawyer James Rees calls for a grandfather clause that will exempt older structures. This amounts to nothing more than an attempt to stall the code's implementation. A grandfather clause would establish two competing classes of rental landowners: existing landlords free from having to comply, versus all new owners immediately required to bring their dwellings into compliance. It could kill Tempe's market for buying and selling rental properties.

While Rees maintains, "We had no problems with the code's intent," meanwhile AMA in court opposed ballot language that explicitly stated the code's intent. This doublespeak is no different than AMA's domineering participation on Tempe's citizens' committee that helped draft the code's language, on which AMA representatives successfully fought against providing specificity in the code.

The real question is, who is AMA? Its representatives claim that 13,000 of Tempe's 28,900 rental units are AMA registered. Perhaps. But where do these AMA Tempe landlords live? My sources indicate that less than 10 percent are Tempe residents. And none of the financial contributions for AMA's aborted referendum campaign came from Tempe. My conclusion: Outsiders wealthy from Tempe rents scuttled Tempe's rental-housing code.

There are around 160,000 tenants evicted every year in Arizona, around 7,500 in Tempe. Add in poor maintenance and other abuses, and the number of landlord-tenant incidents per year jumps to about 400,000, with tenants invariably getting the short end of the stick. Arizona Tenants Association has more than 300 paid members and receives in excess of 50 telephone calls per day from renters in distress.

Ken Volk

Undeniably, Arizona is a landlord state. A judgment against us was entered in court and we satisfied it in eight weeks. The landlord, however, would not enter the satisfaction of judgment, and it took 14 months before he did so! Even now our credit report reflects the judgment against us, but fails to show we satisfied the judgment!

This landlord does more of a background check on prospective tenants than on the people hired to "manage" those tenants. The last manager had a criminal record for felony theft and burglary and was on probation (a matter of public record), yet had the keys to every apartment and access to every tenant's personal files. In the real world, failure to disclose a felony conviction at the time of hiring would end one's job when the employer learned of it.

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