Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s Term Ends in 2012, but a Dastardly Plot Would Let Him Get Around That Limit

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is supposed to leave office in January 2012. Okay, not just "supposed to" — he has to. At that point, the four-year term we elected him to will be over. Because Phoenix has term limits and this is his second term, he's barred from running again.

But a plan now in the works wouldn't just allow Gordon to hang onto his seat a little longer. It would essentially hand him another two years, without the pesky business of actually facing an opponent.

Never mind that we elected him to a four-year term. This plan would retroactively make it six years, instead. It would do the same for a trio of newbie council members: Maria Baier, Thelda Williams, and Michael Nowakowski, along with veteran Claude Mattox, who is also set to be forcibly retired by term limits.

Mayor Phil's our guy — but really, does it have to be 'til 2014?
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Mayor Phil's our guy — but really, does it have to be 'til 2014?

I've been talking to people about this for the past few days. (City Hall began buzzing last week about the proposal, and I broke the news on our Valley Fever blog on January 16.)

What I keep hearing in response is this: "They can't do that, can they?"

As it turns out, no, they can't, not outside of Castro's Cuba anyway. But we the voters can. And I'm predicting this now: We'll be bombarded with propaganda begging us to do so and, ultimately, we probably will.

To change up elections in Phoenix, I'm told, the powers-that-be have to submit a charter amendment to the voters. But the people pushing this idea have a great selling point: Skipping the 2011 election would save the city $1 million.

Who needs democracy during a financial crisis?


The news of this particular plan couldn't have come to my attention at a worse time. We had a three-day weekend, followed by the grand pageantry of Barack Obama's inauguration. Suffice it to say very few politicians were sitting around waiting to take my phone call.

But here's what I managed to piece together. The "election consolidation" plan — and yes, they really have given it that Pravda-esque name — has been discussed for a while among the sort of civic types who discuss these things. Currently, council terms in Phoenix are staggered, with some members up for re-election at the end of this year, and the others (including the mayor) due to face the music in 2011. The new idea is that Phoenix could save money by putting every seat up for the vote at the same time. Since the city's financial woes have been big news lately, backers thought the timing was right for a charter amendment on the fall ballot.

The backers insist that they aren't doing this to hand Mayor Gordon an uncontested two-year bonus. Jay Thorne, a political consultant who's serving as the group's volunteer spokesman, said the issues are saving the city money and cleaning up an inefficient system. (Thorne, of course, is a longtime Gordon ally, as are the committee's likely co-chairs, former councilman Tom Milton and Roosevelt Row activist Greg Esser.)

"Look, if the mayor wanted another term, he'd say, let's change the charter to let the mayor serve 12 years, like everybody else, instead of eight," Thorne says. "That's not the goal here."

Thorne also claims that the consolidated plan would make it easier for grassroots groups to gain influence. "If there's an issue on the table, neighborhood groups can take it on when everybody's running and everybody's focused," he says.

No offense to Thorne, but I can see this plan working just the opposite.

The city changed to district elections in 1982 to make it, in part, easier for neighborhood voices to be heard. When council members were elected citywide, it was all too easy for the Phoenix 40 to line up several pro-business candidates and run 'em as a slate.

Despite what Thorne told me, I think that could be a very real outcome of consolidation. Just look at what happened in District Seven last year, when the city's entire "in crowd" lined up to support Laura Pastor, a political neophyte whose dad just happens to be a congressman. Michael Nowakowski, a far superior candidate and (not coincidentally) the choice of the district's neighborhood activists, was badly outspent — but Nowakowski managed to squeak into a runoff. At that point, the mayoral race had already been decided, and Nowakowski managed to win on the strength of his superior get-out-the-vote effort.

Mark my words: That kind of genuinely grassroots campaign will be much, much harder if all seven council members plus the mayor are running at the same time. Instead, we'll see Donald Trump types doing mass mailings for a group that likes higher density. We'll see a much bigger role for the Chamber of Commerce. Forget firefighters going door to door; in a race in which everyone runs at once, it will be about money far more than personal contact.

But that's not the biggest problem with this plan.

Six years is too long to run things without accountability. I voted for Gordon last time around and, without term limits, I'd probably vote for him again. But I'm not sure the rest of the city feels the same way.

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7 comments
The Class West
The Class West

This response/opinion applies to both Sarah fenske's article and to the Bird Man Lemons's jail visit:

Despite our differences with "The Caustic Crane," Stephen Lemons,we thank him for alerting us to Barry Ostrager, New York shark lawyer who's involvedin the CityNorth scam engineered by Gordon, et. al. Let us know if Ostrager has somehow included Gordon in the lawsuit. Our gal Cocozza in NYC may make arrangements to meetpersonally with Big O.

Here's contact information (you probably have it) for Mr. Ostrager -see http://pview.findlaw.com/view/... . If this isn't the Ostrageryou wrote about, please clarify. Of course, we have tentatively nicknamed him "OSTRANGLER"in these cases.

Additional - please advise Sarah "Too Nice" Fenske that we are researching federal remedies to stopGordon from getting that extra two years. It appears that many municipal rules/regs are in violation offederal law. Possibly OSTRANGLER can apply a chokehold to Gordon/Phoenix on that one too.

It's over, Bird, especially when "The Class West" can call Joe Arpaio as a witness re: gross negligence of Phoenixin enforcing immigration laws. Of course, we have other claims to fall back on, unrelated to immigration.

Tally Ho, Beakster!

Sincerely,

/s/

The Class West, spokespersons for the plaintiffsin the pending class action against Phoenix.

Proposed class Plaintiffs against Phoenix:

JASON OKONELIZABETH OKONALBERT FERNANDEZRICK GALLEENERBILL STOLLERANONYMOUS, et. al.

The Class West
The Class West

Please pass this on to Sarah Fenske, who politely asked to be taken off our mailing list. Fine, Sarah, now you can join Ray "The Runt" Stern on our subpoena list.

In her current article about Gordon, Sarah "Too Nice" Fenske says,the "...Arizona Supreme Court struck down the massive $97 million subsidy Gordon and the council handed to a Chicago-based developer." Thanks, Sarah, even though you were way "Too Nice."

Well, we aren't "Too Nice" and will give this bit of information to New Yorkshark lawyer Barry "JAWS" Ostrager, hoping that the circling Great White decides to devour Gordon/Phoenixlike an appetizer in his lawsuit. Possibly the "Big O" from NYU will take The Class West's case, even thoughwe'll do fine on our own. Regardless, we'll give O some good "inside" on Phoenix and its shit mayor. Keep you posted.

The Class West, Ray and Ted Medina, TheClassWest@gmail.com

Online and On Time

The Class West
The Class West

In her current article about Gordon, Sarah "Too Nice" Fenske says,the "...Arizona Supreme Court struck down the massive $97 million subsidy Gordon and the council handed to a Chicago-based developer." Thanks, Sarah, even though you were way "Too Nice."

Well, we aren't "Too Nice" and will give this bit of information to New Yorkshark lawyer Barry "JAWS" Ostrager, hoping that the circling Great White decides to devour Gordon/Phoenixlike an appetizer in his lawsuit. Possibly the "Big O" from NYU will take The Class West's case, even thoughwe'll do fine on our own. Regardless, we'll give O some good "inside" on Phoenix and its shit mayor. Keep you posted.

The Class West, Ray and Ted Medina, TheClassWest@gmail.com

Online and On Time

TommyC1
TommyC1

This is just silly.

The reason for the staggered elections is plain as the nose on a Clydesdale. With staggered elections you normally don't stand much chance of losing all of your EXPERIENCED council and/or mayor in one election. Having been a council member at one time in another city, I can tell you that even with six months of attending meetings prior to election, I was not up to speed on the issues and was very ignorant of many of the processes needed to do the job. It took another six months for me to feel comfortable with the issues coming before council and having a good idea of what my vote needed to be for the good of the city and the people. During that time I leaned heavily on the experienced members of council to learn the nuances of the position.

There is no way on God's green earth that we should consider not having staggered election cycles.

I see this as a nothing more than a ruse for keeping Mr. Gordon in office until another, loftier position at state level becomes available. I don't think the people of the City of Phoenix deserve the responsibility of floating him for another two years past his LEGAL term limit.

I will gladly speak long and loudly in defiance of such a move.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Nice hatchet-job, Sarah.

"In the 12 months since Gordon was sworn in for his second term, everything in Phoenix has gone a little haywire. The police union has become publicly, and virulently, hostile toward Gordon and his police chief..."

Um, isn't this the same police union, PLEA, led by Mark Spencer, who went on the Valley's right-wing talk-radio airwaves to spread the hysterical and erroneous claim that the Mexican Army was invading Phoenix?

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com...

And isn't the "virulent hostility" merely Spencer's wacky anti-immigrant criticism of Mayor Gordon and the chief of his own police department, Jack Harris, for failing to be sufficiently gung-ho on the anti-Mexican immigrant front? Which leads us to the next item.

"The city did a 180 on its carefully drafted plan for illegal immigrants who commit crimes � and now asks drivers at routine traffic stops about their immigration status."

The Phoenix Police Department had always questioned felony suspects as to their naturalization status. The new policy caved in to pressure from PLEA, from rabid nativists threatening (hollowly, we now know) a recall of Mayor Gordon, and from a society of professional, right-wing, Washington, D.C. meddlers calling itself Judicial Watch, which had threatened to sue Phoenix unless rules governing the Phoenix Police Department were modified to permit greater targeting of illegal immigrants.

The new policy applies to misdemeanor suspects, but only those arrested, which does NOT include "random traffic stops". It does allow officers who suspect that someone not arrested for a crime is here illegally, to forward information to their supervisors about their suspicions.

I'm not sure how the first two items make your case, Sarah. If Gordon made PLEA angry by failing to persecute suspected illegal immigrants, then surely he mollified them by changing the PPD operations order.

Also, I'm not sure whether your description of PLEA as "the" Phoenix Police union is accurate. Aren't PPD members eligible for other union representation?

In any case, PLEA has a longstanding reputation as a right-wing, reactionary body (or rather, as a body led by right-wing, reactionary individuals, to the dissatisfaction of is rank and file membership). See for example the dissatisfaction regarding PLEA's leadership stance in the case of burned PPD member Jason Schecterle, which outraged the rank and file:

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com...

"Gordon came out against Sheriff Joe Arpaio."

So, are you actually saying that this was bad?

"And the city's financial stability has been badly shaken..."

So has the financial stability of most major cities. There's this little thing called a major recession and another little thing called a housing industry collapse, Sarah. Maybe you've read about this?

So, what are we left with? Gordon opposed Arpaio's racial profiling (good for him) but caved to special interest pressure in making (largely cosmetic) modifications to PPD policies regarding the questioning of criminal suspects as to their immigration status. To me, this sounds like Gordon is providing much needed leadership, while being enough of a political pragmatist to throw the troglodytes a bone once in awhile.

"As it turns out, no, they can't, not outside of Castro's Cuba anyway. . . But here's what I managed to piece together. The "election consolidation" plan � and yes, they really have given it that Pravda-esque name � has been discussed for a while among the sort of civic types who discuss these things."

Why are conservatives so absurdly imaginative when it comes to what they fancifully term "socialism" or "communism"?

My standard answer to this is that it's because they're fucking morons. Unfortunately for this thesis, Ms. Fenske has in the past demonstrated herself to be a talented and intelligent writer.

My second answer to this is brainwashing. I doubt that Ms. Fenske listens much to talk-radio (except as a guilty pleasure), but it is possible that she was the recipient of yet another brain-fart by one or another of the prolific, right-wing paper mills that are forever trying to influence the mass media by distributing their "studies" and "opinion papers" and "analysis" to journalists and editors.

My guess is that Ms. Fenske was the recipient of such a gift, saw in it a chance to indulge her conservative partisanship (tongue in cheek, I believe), while using ready-made material to create an easy "story" -- or rather, non-story.

Enquiring minds want to know, Ms. Fenske...

Impeach Gordon
Impeach Gordon

"We elected Gordon, Baier, Nowakowski, Mattox, and Williams to four-year terms � no matter how bad the economy, that's all they should get."

Correction - less than 100,000 voters elected corrupt, cowardly Gordon and crew. So using the collective "we" as in "We The People" is incorrect.

Impeach this bum atall costs. I've heard there are plans in the works. Hooray!

Jimmy Dorazio, Phoenix

Chris Long
Chris Long

Corrupt and dirty politics at its worst...

Aggrandizing behavior by corrupt and self-serving politicos who want to keep raking the ea$y ca$h for a while.

Sleazy.

 
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