Ambient Derelicts

Hey you! Mister! Gimme a buck. I need a drink.
Christ, I feel like I've got gum in my hair.
I'm feeling mentally ill and homeless.
I'm feeling like Larry Naman. Who wouldn't after watching our politicians?

I'm watching Governor Jane Dee Hull slap the snot out of kids at the same time she wants credit for helping them. I'm watching Congressman Matt Salmon bitch because Hull isn't slapping children hard enough. As if all this isn't bipolar enough, Salmon now claims he was so upset he was tempted to run against Hull with financing arranged by a convicted felon, our ex-governor, Fife Symington.

You watch these politicians bat children's health issues around like a wiffle ball and you can't help thinking of Larry Naman.

Last week in downtown Phoenix, Naman concluded his trial for shooting a politician in the rear end.

Naman wounded county supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox because she voted to impose a tax to build a baseball stadium. Outraged citizens had already rejected such a levy in a referendum.

Naman couldn't believe an elected official would just ignore the public will. So he aimed at her head and, somehow, shot Mary Rose in the behind. They say Larry Naman is a transient with a history of mental illness. Myself, I don't know about that for certain.

But I sure do puzzle about Larry Naman and what got him so upset that he would shoot Mary Rose in the ass, aside from the fact that it was the sort of target you couldn't miss even if you were drunk and homeless.

What with representing himself in trial, Larry Naman hasn't had the time to obsess on Jane Dee Hull and Matt Salmon, but you've got to think once he does focus on the governor and the congressman, he'll be setting up a machine-gun nest.

Governor Hull's so-called "KidsCare" bill would piggyback on federal legislation to provide medical coverage for children of the working poor. If the state allocated $38 million from its tobacco-tax cache, KidsCare could tap into $113 million in federal funds. If Arizona doesn't claim that money, it will go to some other, smarter, state.

There are 200,000 kids in Arizona whose parents don't make enough to purchase health insurance. These numbers don't include welfare kids, who qualify for the state's AHCCCS program. We're only talking about kids who don't qualify for AHCCCS because their parents work.

Conservative critics claim the medical coverage smacks of Hillary Clinton, a rallying cry that induces spasms in mouth breathers on the right like Congressman Salmon.

In order to appease this faction of her party in Arizona, Hull keeps dumping kids from her bill. While many states are including families who earn 200 percent of the federal poverty level, Hull is groveling down at the 150 percent level for the first year. From a pool of 200,000 needy kids, Hull's pared it down to 42,000 children who will actually benefit from her version of the KidsCare bill, year one. She still can't get the cooperation of conservatives to get the bill through the Legislature.

In condemning 158,000 kids to continue living without health care, the governor has been praised in the press as compassionate because 42,000 other kids will get to see doctors. It's a funny kind of math. Makes me want to push my shopping cart to another neighborhood.

Now that KidsCare is stalled in the Legislature's La Brea Tar Pit, it is obvious the bill needed either cold, deft political leadership or compassionate championing that would have inspired the legislative troops.

The editor of the Arizona Republic's editorial page, Keven Ann Willey, tells us that Governor Hull has proved herself "a leader" on health care for children of the working poor.

When did people like Keven Ann start thinking Hull was executive material? The fact is that Hull and Willey have shared sleeping bags for so long that when one itches, the other scratches.

Hull's press secretary informs me that Willey was consulted by the governor's staff when Hull ascended to the governorship. The governor's people wanted to know who Willey thought would make a good press secretary. Gee. Any wonder why Keven Ann finds Jane Dee so impressive?

Can I have a drink here? To the leadership of Jane Hull . . .
People forget that Hull didn't know how to get legislation passed when she was in the House. Burt Barr did that for the Republicans.

I only remember one Hull bill, and if it demonstrated leadership, it also underlined with garish red lipstick her sense of compassion.

In 1988, Hull introduced a bill to rid her legislative district of a group home. The small treatment center cared for victims of serious head trauma. We're not discussing a group home for child molestors. These are victims of strokes and car accidents.

Monica Claros remembers when her organization, now called Rehab Without Walls, was driven out of central Phoenix by the sensitive Hull.

"In the year and a half we were located on North Central, there was never an incident. The patients were never loud or raucus. But the neighbor behind us and others had an issue with patients walking in the neighborhood with a staff person," Claros says.

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