Big Scam Theory

Downtown Phoenix has always had its high points, but the Civic Center boondoggle isn't one of them

Now this is a mighty assumption, but let's not be argumentative.

Ernst & Young then took seven categories: the number of downtown hotel rooms; the reputation of the convention hall; nightlife and shopping; the appeal of the city and its weather; accessibility of flights; downtown dining; and airport access. They then assigned a number based upon how important these categories were to a number of anonymous convention planners they interviewed. A second number was assigned based upon how well Phoenix did in each category.

The appeal of Phoenix was charted out as if this were actually a mathematical formula, the numbers were calculated and then multiplied by the earlier number calculating the square footage to delegate ratio and, guess what, 375,000 delegates.

We're spending about a billion dollars in taxpayer funds for Civic Center expansion  to attract the likes of these nametag-wearing conventioneers.
Jackie Mercandetti
We're spending about a billion dollars in taxpayer funds for Civic Center expansion to attract the likes of these nametag-wearing conventioneers.
The Phoenix Civic Center.
The Phoenix Civic Center.

Yes, you're right. This isunbelievable.

To the casual reader, this does not appear to be the sort of science that launched the successful Mercury space shot but rather the cross-your-fingers-and-hope-the-loose-tiles-aren't-important science of the space shuttle Columbia.

1986 Booker T. Washington School

For 10 years, New Times rented office space downtown at the Westward Ho Hotel, the San Carlos Hotel and the Arizona Title Building. In the mid-'80s, we found a boarded-up structure at 1201 East Jefferson, the old Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Once the all-black grade school when Phoenix was as legally segregated as the Deep South, the historic, though dilapidated, relic looked wonderful.

There was a problem: Five developers, all intent on tearing down the building, were after the Booker T. property, and the school board had a deal in place with one of them. We went to the neighbors and secured their backing by promising to restore the stately edifice and create a museum honoring the school's unique history. The night the board met to vote, State Senator Alfredo Gutierrez made a rousing and persuasive speech on our behalf. Mayor-elect Phil Gordon, who at the time specialized in historic properties, acted as our developer and, with local architect John Douglas, the grade school was brought back to life.

Our neighbor, Pastor Warren Stewart of First Institutional Baptist Church, led the statewide struggle to secure a paid Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the late '80s and early '90s. The school parking lot served as a staging area for protesters gathered behind the New Times banner on the annual marches through downtown. It was an ugly chapter in Arizona's history made outrageous when the newly elected governor, Evan Mecham, rescinded the holiday as his first official act. Mecham would go on to defend the term "pickaninnies" as a reference to black children.

Pro-holiday protesters filed past downtown's Tanner Chapel A.M.E., the church where Rosa Parks signed copies of her book in 1992 in support of the movement. That same year, Public Enemy's fictional video "By the Time I Get to Arizona" detonated across the state, inflaming sensitive editorial writers and the bombastic hosts of talk radio. The rappers showed the poisoning of an Arizona official and the car-bombing of a governor for refusing to honor Dr. King. On January 20, 1992, following the MLK march, Nightline devoted an entire broadcast to the MTV video. State voters finally enacted the holiday later that year.

2003 -- Ernst & Young Covers Its Tracks

I found the 18-page report used solely to gin up the number of 375,000 convention delegates to be wholly unconvincing.

Apparently, Ernst & Young agreed.

In its preface, the firm wrote: "Neither our report, nor its contents, nor any of our work were intended to be included, and therefore, may not be referred to or quoted in whole or in part, in any registration statement, prospectus, public filing, private offering memorandum, loan agreement or other agreement without our prior written approval, which may require that we perform additional procedures. . . . [N]one of the contents of this report shall be disseminated to the public through advertising media, news media, sales media, Securities and Exchange Commission or any other public means of communication without prior written consent. . . . [S]uch estimates and assumptions are subject to uncertainty and variation. Accordingly, we do not represent them as results that will be achieved. . . . [T]he actual results achieved may vary materially from the estimated results."

1993 Phoenix Suns/2001 Arizona Diamondbacks

Jerry Colangelo orchestrated the two great public parties that blew up downtown. In 1993, the Phoenix Suns and Charles Barkley played the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan for the NBA championship. In 2001, with America reeling from September 11, the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in the World Series. After each of these unforgettable athletic confrontations, Colangelo turned his stars loose downtown for mobbed-out parades.

I loved it.

Many in the arts community so routinely fault Colangelo that it is hard not to suspect the resentment surfaces because crowds prefer basketball and baseball to pictures on gallery walls. That's not my issue. My problem with Colangelo is that he let Charles Barkley get away.

Phoenix had the edge of unexpectedness when Barkley ruled the glass. Friends would call you up from the other side of the country to ask: Did he really say that?

Yes, he did.

Barkley was accused once of throwing a midget out of a bar. You have a problem with that? Little people can be annoying. Two of them once beat up author John O'Hara.

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