Autograph Hound

Derrick Lee is the most powerful political figure you've never heard of

If it passes, Musgrove explains, redistricting would be overseen by "a committee or . . . a group of people that aren't getting paid. In other words, I hate to say it, but we sure would hate to see our officials get paid for it. That's already happened with that Arizona Scam." (Better known as AzScam.)

The man signs Healthy Children, Healthy Families and skips some of the others, including the deregulation initiative, explaining that his sister works for US West.

"That's okay, too," Musgrove says as the guy walks away. "That's the good thing about America. You don't have to sign anything you don't want to."

Derrick Lee: "I was really rude to people [who circulated petitions] before I ever went out and gathered."
Derrick Lee: "I was really rude to people [who circulated petitions] before I ever went out and gathered."
Derrick Lee: "I was really rude to people [who circulated petitions] before I ever went out and gathered."
Casey McKee
Derrick Lee: "I was really rude to people [who circulated petitions] before I ever went out and gathered."

He says he started gathering signatures for pay in 1980 in California, working on an automobile-insurance initiative. He also worked here in Arizona on the 1992 Martin Luther King holiday initiative and recruited people to go to the polls on Election Day.

With five petitions paying between 50 cents and $1.50 a signature, Musgrove says he's already made about $100 this afternoon, with a couple of hours to go. Not bad.

He first met Derrick Lee in 1994, when he answered an ad in the paper for signature gatherers.

"It said 'petitioner.' And when they said 'petitioner,' I already knew the terminology. At that time I was looking for something else to do part-time. Also I wanted something that didn't have a lot of pressure on it. Look at what we're doing right now. This isn't pressure."

A young woman with a toddler and a baby passes by.

"Hello, are you a registered voter? Could you take a minute to sign our initiatives? We're trying to get these five initiatives on the November ballot. Do you have telephone service?"

"Telephone?" She nods.

"Okay. We want US West to be deregulated. We think they have a monopoly. They're the only local phone company in the Valley. We'd like to see another phone company come in, give them a little competition, drive the prices down. This one right here we'd like to get on the ballot. It's called gerrymandering, redistricting. That's where they can go into a district, change the boundaries, and actually change the votes in that district. We'd like that practice to stop. This one right here deals with personal income at the state level, state taxes. We would like to phase it out over the next four years. In other words, tax the snowbirds! I live here, don't penalize me. See that snowbird just look at me real crazy? (He laughs, pointing at an elderly woman who is, in fact, staring.) Now, you remember, we broke away from England, you know, taxation without representation. And too much taxes -- you know, I work hard for my nickels and dimes and every time I turn around, there goes a quarter. And this one right here is probably the most popular one, because most people are aware that there is a tax on tobacco products. I do puff on cigars myself, and my concern is, where's this money going? So our legislators have let us know in the past that they're good about misdirecting funds, reappropriating them, putting them in something else. Basically, these are nonpartisan petitions, they're initiatives, your signature's not for, against or indifferent. We just wanna get the signatures so we can get them on the ballot and you can vote on it in November. Go ahead and have a seat."

She sits.

"Okay, this right here deals with the marijuana. If you've got a terminal illness or something like cancer, you can get a prescription drug now for marijuana. It's called Marinol. Some people are for it, some people are against it. All we're trying to do is get it on the ballot and let everyone make their mark. And whichever one is the majority, that's the way we go with it. What's the baby's name?"

"Brandon." She starts signing.

A man stops at the table, asks what Musgrove's got, says he's already signed the Healthy Children petition.

Musgrove keeps going. "The one dealing with marijuana? Legal prescription? If you've got a terminal illness like cancer -- "

"Yeah, but you know what, we already passed that once, and we overturned it," the man says.

"Well, we're trying to do it one more time. You know how it is, you keep trying."

"Okay."

"Go ahead and have a seat."

Musgrove's biggest problem, he says, is that people keep walking off with his pens.

Three young African-American men walk by.

"What's up fellas? You all registered voters?"

One is, one isn't, but they all keep walking. No time, one calls over his shoulder.

"You all old enough? Now look, I'll be here 'til Saturday. Now we don't want Malcolm and Martin Luther King to turn over in their graves, brothers! We need to register to vote.

"Sometimes I get parental on 'em. Our youth today just don't understand -- "

Musgrove interrupts himself to stop an Asian woman as she walks by.

"Sushi. Make me one. I want you to make me a $3 plate of sushi," he tells her. They've obviously been through this schtick before. ". . . And give me a lot of ginger. Here, I'll give you the money. You go get it ready. Yes, c'mon, Sunny. I only want to spend $4. No more. Four dollars."

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