Unpleasantville

"There are a lot of wonderful attributes" to Hayden, Clinch says. "It's like taking a trip in a time machine, to a life several generations away. Kids still play in the streets and parents don't worry about them not coming home."

What does worry people around Hayden is the threat of unemployment, Clinch says.

"In the memories of any working adult here, there are memories of layoffs," he says. "It weighs on them. You only need one of those every 15 or 20 years to remind people that, stable as life may seem, a lot depends on the whims of the corporation and the global economy."

Carlos Galindo-Elvira's job as the town's economic development coordinator is to make Hayden a little less dependent on the whims of a single corporation. Galindo-Elvira was elected to Hayden's town council when he was 20, then worked in the Phoenix office of former U.S. senator Dennis DeConcini before returning to his hometown. Galindo-Elvira chats happily about the new projects the town government is paying for, including a batting cage next to the abandoned school.

The only time a cloud passes over his relentlessly cheerful features is when he talks about the chance of litigation against the company. A batting cage can't take ASARCO's place on the tax rolls.

"It comes down to a lot of people's bread and butter," Galindo-Elvira says. "Most people here think there's a direct link between the lawsuit and their jobs." A lawsuit against ASARCO could be "a wet towel" on the town's economy, he fears, driving away jobs and families.

Mayor Jose "Joe" Aranda is also worried.
"That's a lot of people's livelihood there," Aranda says. "To some of these guys, it [the lawsuit] is a threat."

Neither the mayor nor Galindo-Elvira sees the same problems other Hayden residents do. Aranda says that the smoke from the smelter gets really bad "maybe once a year," with very rare problems with dust from the tailings piles.

Galindo-Elvira can't remember ever seeing the smoke from the smelter get that bad. He has no memory of dust blowing onto cars or buildings. He has a dog, he says, and the dog kicks up a lot of dust in his yard.

Aranda says the town depends on the federal and state authorities to safeguard its health and environment; if there's a problem, he expects they'll let him know.

But you're not going to hear a lot of complaints from the townspeople themselves, says a retiree who still lives in the area. He is signed up for the lawsuit, but he asked that his name not be used because he has family members working for ASARCO.

"These people are scared," he says. "They're never going to speak up around here. They're not going to talk about nothing. They've got their lives here."

The Olmos and Amparano families say they've seen a different side of that fear--harassment from other people in town.

Teresa Olmos says she's received crank calls, including one from a person who told her, "I bet I can help you spend all that money you're going to get." She's had to call the police and change her number.

Olmos also says Galindo-Elvira confronted her angrily last fall when he saw her and Betty with a cameraman from Don't Waste Arizona. She says Galindo-Elvira yelled at her, "Who's done more for you? Jill or me?" Betty Amparano and another witness confirm the incident. Galindo-Elvira denies it ever happened.

The residents' work with Don't Waste Arizona has also attracted attention. Last fall, Brittle and Meyer were videotaping, hoping to catch some of the nighttime smoke. Jill Corona, Betty Amparano and Teresa Olmos were with them. Then they saw what they call "the emergency town council meeting"--a group of townspeople drove by, one after the other, checking out what they were doing.

"Everybody's scared," Olmos says. "With copper at 79 cents a pound, everyone's scared that the plant's going to close down and they're going to starve."

Amparano also says she's been harassed by the police. She claims Hayden Chief Eric Duthie came by her house last year and told her to "keep her mouth shut," and since then, police cars have frequently driven by her home.

"They would go around my house five or six times a day," Amparano says. "They would park right across the street."

Duthie denies this, saying he hasn't spoken to Amparano in almost two years, and that time about a law enforcement matter. As for the drive-bys, Duthie says, "Have you driven around here much? We have two streets. I don't see how we can avoid driving by her house."

Duthie says he can understand why Amparano might feel threatened, however. "This is a company town," he says. But, he emphasizes, his police department "doesn't answer to the company."

The people who have complaints about the smelter are entitled to their day in court, Galindo-Elvira says. Until then, a lot of other people in town are just waiting to see what will happen.

"But I will tell you this," he says. "There are citizens out there bracing for impact."

One of those people watching from the sidelines is Annie Hinojos. She is 47 and the mayor of Winkelman, another little town just a mile down the road from Hayden. She's also the director of the Hayden Senior Center. She's a cousin of Betty Amparano, and one of the few members of the family who is not signed up for the litigation against ASARCO.

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