Letters

It Takes a Fife
An objective observation by a 40-year Associated Press editor in three countries, now retired: A wonderful job New Times has done in covering the Symington condition. All honest Arizonans should feel pride that freedom of the press is still in the hands of us all.

Dan Tedrick
Mesa

Man! I used to think we Mexicans were the only ones with "tricky" politicians. I guess they are everywhere, or maybe Fife Symington, Sandra Dowling and Mary Rose Wilcox learned it in their vacations to Acapulco, no?

Rafael Silva
Phoenix

I'm a person who has cluttered New Times' voice mail with irate messages in the last several weeks. I probably belong to a type familiar to New Times editors--that is, people to whom New Times used to be important, who feel possessive of it, and who perhaps occasionally crave a bit of attention from their betters.

But maybe I haven't been paying enough attention lately. Because what I picked up on September 11 was a watershed issue for New Times, brimming with life, honesty and wit. The whole front of the book was wonderful. Even the cover was literature, and delightful at that. Thank you.

Clay C. Cavness
Phoenix

I wish to object to New Times' calling Fife Symington a robber baron. He is no part of the Baron family. If my attorney weren't disbarred, I would refer the matter to him. Please apologize.

A. Baron
Phoenix

Forte Brag
I wonder if New Times can toot its horn any louder. Terry Greene Sterling's column about John Dougherty ("The Indomitable Dougherty," September 11) was a waste of paper. I don't recall any other reputable paper doing feature stories on its staff reporters. Greene Sterling's ramblings about how Dougherty was "battered," "bullied" and "ridiculed" and how he managed to rise above it all to pursue his victim at all costs almost brought a tear to my eye--tears of laughter. I mean, come on, get real. Maybe Dougherty should get the Mother Teresa award for having to endure such an ordeal. I'm not denying that those things never happened, but many more reporters have put up with much more than that in the pursuit of a story.

I've disagreed with Fife Symington on many issues, including education and health care, to name a couple, but I always held a certain level of respect for him as governor. New Times' harpooning him at every turn, and the glee with which it does so, puts it on the same level of its fellow colleagues--the paparazzi. New Times will continue to lack the character and integrity to be taken seriously, no matter how hard it tries or, maybe, doesn't try.

Lorenzo Salazar
Tempe

All Wet
Terry Greene Sterling's "Spinning Westech" (August 28) passes off inaccuracies as facts regarding Scottsdale's water quality. Greene Sterling has made statements without backing them up by attribution that would have readers believe that Scottsdale deliberately served its citizens TCE-laden water.

Despite efforts of some special interests to portray a different picture, U.S. citizens enjoy the highest-quality drinking water in the world. Scottsdale's drinking water falls well within 80 federal and state water-quality standards. Scottsdale citizens drink water that is safe and healthful.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified Motorola, SmithKline Beecham Corporation and Siemens Corporation as potentially causing TCE contamination of Scottsdale's groundwater. The EPA required those companies to build a groundwater treatment plant to treat this water to acceptable levels before being delivered to Scottsdale residents.

The EPA has established a very conservative health standard for TCE. A person would have to drink eight glasses of water containing more than five parts per billion of TCE each day for 70 years to increase the risk for cancer by one in a million. Federal and state laws require that our groundwater treatment facility produce water that, on an annual basis, averages less than 5 ppb.

The plant has always produced water that is well within the national and state standards. The averages ran well below 2 ppb in 1994-95. While this was well below requirements, city, state and federal entities have continued to evaluate plant performance and make improvements that have resulted in levels today of routinely less than 1 ppb. The City of Scottsdale operates the treatment facility above and beyond normal operating procedures approved by EPA and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

The City of Scottsdale takes great pride in its water quality. Its water has been and continues to be safe and healthful. It continues to work with those responsible for cleaning up any groundwater contamination to ensure the water served to Scottsdale's citizens meets the highest possible drinking-water standards.

Roger Klingler
City of Scottsdale
Water Resources General Manager
Scottsdale

Terry Greene Sterling responds: Roger, you know very well that, on 17 days in 1994 and early 1995, about 70,000 Scottsdale residents got drinking water that contained TCE in amounts exceeding EPA health limits.

You also know that in 1995 when the EPA and the state learned of the high hits of TCE, both the Criminal Investigations Division of the EPA and the Arizona Attorney General's Office launched investigations of Scottsdale's water department and Westech, the lab that tested Scottsdale's water.

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
Tucson

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
Carefree

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
Tempe

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.

Good luck finding an attorney or a government agency to represent the tenant. You'd better have money up front, and lots of it. Government agencies will tell you you must pay rent, regardless of services and repairs not received.

Name withheld

Something's Rotten
How strange that since Sumitomo Sitix started operating in northeast Phoenix ("Sabotage at Sitix?", Tony Ortega, August 28), the people there have been smelling foul odors like rotten eggs and seeing what looks like colored smoke coming out of its emitting stacks.

Even before Sumitomo Sitix officially opened, the Phoenix Fire Department hazardous-material team had been stationed there, monitoring the chemical spills and accidents that are continuously happening.

With all Sumitomo Sitix's chemical spills and air-permit violations, why hasn't any governmental agency closed the company down? If you or I ran a business that way, these agencies, who are supposed to work for the good of the people, would have shut us down long ago. So why is Sumitomo Sitix still operating?

Mathilda Friskes
Scottsdale

Royal Pain
Regarding Barry Graham's verbose tirade against Princess Diana ("Absence of Palace," September 4), what message, exactly, is this writer trying to convey to the reader--that he is jealous of Diana because he grew up not having the opportunity to marry into royalty?

First Graham bashes Mary Rose Wilcox; now it is Princess Diana. Who's next, Mother Teresa? Was she a "media whore," too?

Talk about sour grapes. Graham's column can be summed up in one word: meow! Why doesn't Graham go back to the ghetto of Maryhill (Scotland), where such written diatribe would be indigenous?

John Parker
Phoenix

Barry Graham is such a waste of valuable ad space. Where's the point? Is New Times becoming just another tabloid?

Robert Joseph Akey
Phoenix

As a British citizen, resident in the USA and the Valley since March 1997, I find Barry Graham's "article" to be not only downright offensive but wildly inaccurate, so let's try to put the record straight.

First, Graham states that "in the late '70s through the late '80s, Great Britain was in a state of economic recession." This is simply not the case. Yes, in the late '70s and early '80s, the British economy was in a mess, as a result of five years of Socialist (mis)government by Britain's Labour party. However, after the election of a conservative government under Margaret Thatcher, the '80s saw a revitalization of Britain's economy with the attraction of foreign investment and the growth of new technologies.

Second, Graham describes the Prince of Wales as "a weak-chinned, glassy-eyed, big-eared simpleton" who "went parachute-jumping and made ignorant political comments." Okay, so Prince Charles is no rocket scientist, but at least he proved his guts through military service, and his comments on the state of modern art have more in common with the views and attitudes of the majority of the British public than the antiestablishment drivel that Graham produces.

Third, Graham refers to Princess Diana as "a media whore." Though not personally a staunch royalist, and especially not a great admirer of Princess Diana, I find the use of the word "whore" the most offensive item in the whole article. For sure, Diana knew how to use the media, but so do the likes of Barry Graham and New Times, who use this sort of sensationalism to increase circulation and, therefore, presumably, sell more advertising.

Finally, Graham states, "Her death is certainly a tragedy . . . but it isn't catastrophic . . . There are real catastrophes, things we should be crying about and praying for an end to." Finally, something Graham and I agree upon. However, whilst he just echoes shallow platitudes like this, Princess Diana, whatever her motivation, drew the world's attention to the suffering of AIDS victims, leprosy and the proliferation of land mines.

I find myself wondering what Graham's motives in writing this column were, but perhaps, considering the emphasis he puts on his own British heritage and that 10,000 British citizens live in the Valley, he merely wishes to see how many of the other 9,999 he can offend. For myself, not only will I not be reading New Times again, but I will specifically not give my patronage to anyone advertising in your "esteemed" publication, and would encourage anyone else feeling disgusted by this column to do likewise.

Tony Parkinson
Phoenix

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