Letters

From the week of March 4, 1999

Discombabulated
Excellent article on the BOB ("If You Spend It, Will They Come?" John Dougherty, February 18). As the scandal begins to erupt over the money, let's not forget the "enablers," the fat cats and political types on the fringes who aided and abetted the gigantic baseball rip-off.

We need a good recap of all the events along with the names and pictures of the weasels who plowed headlong, with other people's money, into a "world class" sports venue that was consistently promised to make money from "people all over the Southwest who [would] come to see major league baseball." Bet that revenue stream is prominent on the (negative) balance sheet.

And please don't forget to remind us again of lofty promises and huge benefits to be derived of having the Big Three sports represented in the Valley and folks in other states looking enviously upon the sports dynasty in Phoenix and deciding, gee, let's go there for all the great teams.

And jobs. Remember all the jobs? Now, these weren't going to be your garden-variety, hamburger-flippin', juice-bar type jobs. These were going to be JOBS WORTH HAVING (Arizona Republic-type emphasis). Heck, a quick stroll on any of the mezzanines quickly shows all the smiling faces behind the service counters humming through the day, preparing hot dogs, salads and (ouch) hamburgers. Those sorts of JOBS WORTH HAVING are a little tough, but they do have a nice 401(k)/health benefits package, don't they?

And the MAGIC OF BASEBALL! Remember the magic and how it would utterly transform all the children after attending even one game, the ambient resonance of the American Pastime being sufficient to produce many family golden moments and enduring memories to grow up with? Why, the relationship revolution between parents and children alone justified the cost, so the logic went. The magic was promised to extend to the city's poorest residents with low-cost tickets available.

Now, read about the mounting crisis and take a good look at the balance sheets. Does it still feel world-class and magical, with a lot of great jobs?

Chris Long
Columbus, Georgia

The sidebar ("Stadium District Riding High," John Dougherty, February 18) to your article about Jerry Colangelo's Diamondbacks is quite baffling. In it you claim that the Stadium District "appears to have been a good deal for the county." This is despite the fact you report that the taxpayers' expected income during 1999 will be only around $1 million. When we consider that taxpayers have "invested" $238 million on the stadium, our return is less than one-half of 1 percent per year. You mentioned in the Colangelo article that his partners expect a 5 percent return on their investment--why should we be happy with a return only 10 percent as great as theirs?

You quoted the ballpark's booking agent (who's hardly an impartial source) as saying that the "Stadium District negotiated a phenomenal deal." While our deal may not be as bad as others (such as Pittsburgh's or Cleveland's), it is still a bad deal for the taxpayer, and is a worse deal than some others, such as San Francisco. You obviously think that since we got screwed less than some other citizens around the country, we "negotiated" a good deal. Private businesses such as the Diamondbacks should not receive corporate welfare for their playgrounds. Unfortunately, your misguided statements can only help the Cardinals and Coyotes in their efforts to get huge public subsidies for their proposed stadium districts. I hope you plan to present both sides of the debate regarding those two stadium districts before the public votes in May.

Gary Tredway
Scottsdale

Editor's note: The letter-writer mischaracterizes what Dougherty reported. Dougherty did not report that the "Stadium District appears to have been a good deal for the county." He reported, "[T]he agreement forged to build the ballpark now appears to have been a good deal for the county, for a number of reasons." There is a distinct difference, implicit in which is the knowledge that the Stadium District already had been created and the sales tax levied.

Wily Peyote
I read with interest your cover story on peyote ("A Vision Gone Bust," Terry Greene Sterling, February 18). I thought you might be interested in some Arizona history.

In 1963, I investigated and eventually defended in court a Native American who was accused of using peyote. In those days, there were no exceptions to the criminal law for religious use; if you used peyote, religious rationale or not, it was a felony.

The defendant was named Mary Attaki. She was Navajo. The contact was the Native American Church. As you are aware, this is a church transcending tribes. The individual who was the head of the church at the time was a Crow named Frank Takes Gun. The trial was in Coconino County. It was a judge trial with no jury, presided over by Yale McFate, a Superior Court judge in Maricopa County who sat there expressly to try this case.

My agreed-to expert witness was Aldous Huxley. His then-recent book dealt with the effects of peyote, and he was prepared to testify as to the religious significance, on a historical and contemporary basis, of peyote and peyote rites. Unfortunately, just before the trial, he died; however, as it turned out, I had a first-rate, marvelous expert, a professor and scholar from Colorado named Omar Stewart.

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