THE WRESTLER

Coulda been a contender: What an astounding resemblance between Phoenix wrestler Billy Graham and Hulk Hogan ("Death Star," Gregory Pratt, March 31). No wonder Graham went crazy over the years thinking about what should've been: "I coulda been a contender."

The prudish old man [Vince McMahon Sr.] cost Graham mega-millions, which he would've blown, I guess, just like Hogan did. All it takes is one pissed-off wife.

Your story was interesting in that it didn't fawn over "Superstar," but put him in human terms. As the story noted, he is much like the character from the movie The Wrestler — only, I think, more so.

The toll that the pro wrestling life took on Graham personally is what this story is all about. If you live in that insane world long enough, your whole life becomes a "work."
Greg Mendez, Tucson

Coulda been a movie: Too bad the movie The Wrestler already has been made, because this is movie material, for sure. Wait a few years and submit it. Hollywood forgets in a hurry. Sheesh, they're already remaking Arthur, which was bad enough the first two times they made it.

Seriously, though, there's an Academy Award in it for the actor who nails the "Superstar" Billy Graham character. Jeez, Superstar proves that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
Sarah McMillan, Los Angeles

Few bigger scumbags than Graham: Good reporting on a lousy, loathsome man. "Superstar" Graham is sterile, but he still has sizable stones.

After the defamatory lies Graham told about Pat Patterson, Graham had the gonads to sue innocent ambulance drivers and a museum. Graham made the McMahons look good, and perhaps they are.

Vince McMahon gave Graham work after Graham lied to a national TV audience about witnessing a sex crime in McMahon's company.

Scumbags rarely come bigger than Superstar. His inflated ego is bigger than his pythons ever were.
Wayne Diamond, city unavailable

Garbage like Graham?: The BS started in pro wrestling when it became less about how you could work in the ring and more about whether you have the "right look." Vince McMahon Jr. uses people and then throws them away like last week's garbage.
Terry Callen, city unavailable

All about taking responsibility: This article should be required reading for all fifth-graders, with the moral of the story being that each of us is 100 percent responsible for each and every decision we make.

Personally, I think this knucklehead Billy Graham can't be swept off the planet fast enough. He has earned each and every second of his miserable existence.
Jon Came, city unavailable

Billy mistreated Greg Price: The black-and-white action figure in question is not bootleg, nor illegal. It was made by Jakks Pacific and WWE as a special-edition exclusive.

I've met Mr. Graham a number of times and found him cordial, but his treatment of Mr. Greg Price, as mentioned in the article, was repulsive. Mr. Price is a man of character.
Josh Watco, city unavailable

God bless Valerie: Steroids or not, this guy is a piece of shit. The only one I feel for is his wife, Valerie. God bless her; I don't know how she has endured the last 34 years with this guy.
Jim Collins, city unavailable

Human side of wrestling: A very interesting article from the world of professional wrestling. The reporter gave a close-up window in which to catch a glimpse of the real and human side of pro wrestling.
Kay Anderson, city unavailable

BUS BUSINESS

Get the feds involved: I believe that the Federal Transit Administration has a duty to us taxpayers to look into what has happened here ("Veolia Gets Free Pass," Monica Alonzo, March 31).

Public agencies have been claiming poverty for too long while at the same time awarding fat contracts to companies that can also fatten the pockets of local leaders. If anyone remembers, the city lost federal funding just a few years back for transit due to another Veolia contract. The same mayor, along with virtually the same City Council, gave Veolia a "no bid" contract, which was unlawful.

While our elected city leaders are helping their Veolia friends make millions (about a half-billion dollars here) of our taxpayer dollars, who suffers?

Well, the citizens who actually count on transit to get them to work, to get their kids to school, to help our disabled community to get out of their homes and be mobile.

It is sad, it is pathetic, and our mayor and City Council should be, at least, ashamed and, at most, thrown in jail.

Thankfully, our corrupt mayor is term-limited and will not be able to run again. However, Peggy Neely and Claude Mattox will both be seeking the mayoral seat, and they both were on the council when this Veolia fiasco played out.

I am so upset, as a taxpayer, that our city has wasted so much of our money in making their friends wealthier — while screwing over the people who elected them.
Michael L. Cornelius, Phoenix

Worst in the country: I read your story about the bus system and just had to let you know how much I appreciated it. Phoenix has the worst public transportation system I have ever seen.

I've used public transit in three major cities in this country before moving here, and I've never experienced anything like this.

It's hard to believe that they continue to contract with these people. At a time when the U.S. economy is in so much trouble, wouldn't it make more sense to keep the money at home and hire an American company? [Veolia Transportation Services is a French firm.]

I think the officials' motives for renewing this contract again and again are for some personal gain, not for the good of the community. Raising the price of tickets was a slap in face to the people who are putting up with the incompetence. Buses are often late, drivers are frequently rude, and bus seats are usually dirty. [Since this is taxpayer money], it's as if we, the public are forced to reward them for treating us like crap. Top this off with the city giving them a free pass on the fines after imposing a sales tax on groceries.

Personally, I find Arizona to be a very cold and unfriendly place, unless you have plenty of money.

I've recently waited at bus stops for as long as an hour. It is a major reason why I've been unable to find employment.

The corruption in Arizona is unbelievable, and we need people like those at New Times to keep digging and exposing the truth. Keep up the good work.
Sarah Cartier, Phoenix

City lays on the bureaucratese: I wanted to make clear to your readers that Phoenix Public Transit values its customers and the public trust, and we do not give contractors "a free pass" in regards to quality bus service.

We are implementing a prescribed plan of action for addressing contract issues, as negotiated with Veolia Transportation Services in the settlement and release agreement that was recommended by Phoenix city staff and approved by the Phoenix City Council in May 2010.

This new bus-operation contract dramatically changes the way we do business and saves money for the city and our residents. We impose liquidated damages for a variety of reasons that help us ensure buses arrive on time, are well maintained, and are clean and graffiti-free. The inclusion of liquidated damages requires our contractor to keep performance and customer service clearly in the forefront of every aspect of their work to ensure service quality. The limited moratorium on liquidated damages in the agreement was provided to allow for transition into a large and complicated new contract with detailed performance requirements.

As we work to conclude our analysis of bus performance data, we will be invoicing Veolia Transportation Services for six months of liquidated damages retroactive to November 1, 2010. Unfortunately, the available documentation quoted by the New Times reporter contained estimates and incomplete analysis, because the exact amount of liquidated damages is yet to be finalized.

The Phoenix Public Transit Department is focused on providing cost-effective, reliable public transportation for our residents.
Debbie Cotton, Phoenix Public Transit director

How many times?: We can't make those responsible for regulating these offices do anything. We wait while they rob us blind and laugh at us behind our backs.

For instance, the judicial investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio's actions. How long has this been going on? And the Arizona Attorney General: "We don't have enough evidence." How many times have we heard that cowardly horseshit?
Walter Concrete, Phoenix

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12 comments
Union Insider
Union Insider

Sarah, the same bus drivers you are complaining about being rude and late are the ATU 1433 Union drivers not Veolia. Veolia does not drive the buses, the ATU 1433 drivers operate those buses. Mike - the 27.5 million dollars you are complaining about is the same 27.5 million dollars that is feeding your pension, and your complaining????

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Michael L. Cornelius
Michael L. Cornelius

@Ms. Cotton:

I for one can respect the opinion of others, even when I do not agree. I respect your opinion, but do not agree. I also respect that you are an employee of the City and therefore are responsible to put a positive spin on these types of situations. I know that if you do not, the City will simply find a replacement. I will however explain why I disagree, which is my right as a resident and taxpayer. It actually appears that Veolia used it's influence with the Mayor and certain council members to make sure that they were able to put language in this contract that protects them as your contractor more than it protects the people who rely on public transit. Somewhere along the way, the City forgot who they were actually responsible to. They are not responsible to this foreign company, they are responsible to us, their constituents. When the mayor urged Veolia to walk away from the contract to get the additional 27.5 million, the City actually started negotiations with another contractor, First Transit. When you do the math, it was First Transit who should have had the contract anyway. After all, they were the responsible low bid. I know that you will challenge that and say that Veolia's bid was the lowest at $388,000,000 and First Transit was second at about 412,000,000. Well, can you do some math with me? If you take the $388 million and add $27.5 million, that is $415.5 million and not the low bid. No one at the City is willing to address this. The mayor declared a conflict (dating Veolia) and after doing so, talked Veolia into walking away from bargaining as a tactic to get the additional $27.5 million that the other contractors were told not to include in their bids. When will the City get their heads out of the clouds and start doing the responsible thing for the taxpayers and public transit users? How many times will you allow Veolia to muscle you around? Why did you send a letter, Ms. Cotton, to Las Vegas Transit NOT recommending Veolia to be awarded the contract there? When will the City wake up and end this foolishness with Veolia and boot them out of the City? I am not saying other providers are better or worse, but this is exactly the problem with privatizing the transit systems, eventually the contractors get the city in strangle holds and the city's can't get out of them.

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LeslieFish
LeslieFish

It’s grimly amusing to watch the Republicans and Democrats fight over how to reduce the budget by goring each other’s oxen. Which program, they argue, shall we cut? Social Security or the military? Planned Parenthood or tax cuts for the rich? And it’s all pointless!

The single biggest expense of government is waste. I’ve worked for government in two states and I’ve seen this for myself. It was Senator McCain who noted, in public, that the Bureau of Indian Affairs spends 90% of its budget on its own bureaucracy and only 10% on the Indians. I can tell you from observation that the Welfare departments of the states spend 50% of their income on their own bureaucracies and the remainder on the poor. If we could just eliminate government bureaucratic waste we could save at least 40% of the budget, right there. And that’s saying nothing about waste caused by deliberate corruption.

Bureaucratic waste begins with the very language in which bills are written. The impenetrable legalese by itself creates excessive regulations. The excessive regulations create excessive paperwork to keep track of them. The excessive paperwork creates excessive numbers of clerks to deal with the paperwork. The excessive numbers of clerks create excessive numbers of managers to keep track of the clerks. That’s how bureaucracies are created, and grow, and gobble up our tax money.

Corruptive waste is caused by legislators and bureaucratic managers who create unnecessary departments and projects for the express purpose of spending money on their cronies. Who was it that made the Bradley Fighting Vehicle into a 17-year and multimillion-dollar boondoggle? Who votes for construction of unnecessary bridges while our existing bridges degrade? Whose idea was it to bail out the very same CEOs of banks and mortgage companies who created the current Depression? Who was it that looted the Social Security system, which was paying for itself before then, so that Social Security is running bankrupt now? This is how politicians themselves waste our money.

Yes, there’s much that can be done to prevent this.

1) Let every government – municipal, state and federal – in the United States go out and hire a lean, mean, clean and completely private forensic accounting company. Let them give those companies complete authority to go anywhere, question anyone and look at everything, with no complaints about “national security” to stop them. Order those companies to look specifically for both bureaucratic and corruptive waste, and bring reports and recommendations for reducing that waste back to the local, state or federal legislature – and then make the legislatures act on those recommendations.

2) Pass a simple law stating that no government agency, department, bureau, etc. shall print, use, maintain, etc. more than ten (10) separate and distinct bureaucratic forms. I’ve seen for myself that all the services performed by, say, the Welfare system could be performed for no more than ten forms, rather than the hundreds it currently employs. Less paperwork means fewer clerks, and therefore fewer managers. If we don’t want to fire those clerks and managers outright, let’s transfer them to more necessary and productive work – say, the Border Patrol – with reduced salaries.

3) Cut the salaries of all elected and appointed officials by 15%. It’s rather unfair to cut the numbers and incomes of the government’s foot-soldiers without asking the generals to share the sacrifice.

4) Pass a simple law which restricts government departments to no more than three levels of management. With the exception of the military, which has seven levels of officers, there is no organization which needs more than three levels of management to function efficiently. To eliminate waste we must stop having too many chiefs per Indian.

5) Do not allow legislators to pass regulations regarding any industry until those proposed regulations have been examined and approved by relevant civilian engineers. Most legislators know nothing about, for example, nuclear reactors; they should not write safety regulations for such reactors based on the glib claims of power-company managers rather than nuclear engineers.

6) Eliminate an old injustice by abolishing all laws restricting the possession of marijuana, or any other products of the hemp plant, and then tax all such products 5% at the point of sale. Also, “influence” all those “financial institutions” which are “friends” of government to “assist and encourage” start-up businesses processing and selling all the products of the hemp plant. Marijuana was made illegal in the first place precisely to stop hemp-industry development which otherwise would have created serious rivals to existing chemical, timber and pharmaceutical companies. We need those rivals now to restart our floundering economy.

7) Overhaul our tax system so that the poor are not taxed more than the rich. End the tax exemptions which allow the richest 1% of our population to pay no taxes at all, and raise the minimum-income level which obliges to poor to pay 15% of their income in taxes.

Following these policies would cut at least 40% out of the governments’ budget, create new industries and new sources of income, without destroying any necessary programs.

Now, will any of our squabbling legislators support them?

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish

Clif Freedman
Clif Freedman

Peggy Neely will NEVER be elected Mayor of Phoenix. As a trusted representative of District 2 she violated her fiduciary obligation to her electors. She has "sold out" to commercial interests like Westcor. She has a clear conflict of interest by having Paul Gilbert, a zoning attorney for Westcor on her campaign staff helping to raise money for her failed bid for Mayor. As head of Transportation for the City of Phoenix as a City Council memeber, Peggy Neely gerrymandered Sonoran Blvd, a road that was supposed to link the new 303 loop east to Route 51. Upon information and belief she was paid off by Westcor with the help of attorney Paul Gilbert to not only change the name of Sonoran Blvd but to actually build the road so that it aligns with Westcor's property in Northern Phoenix and NOT Route 303. This, of course, enhances the value of Westcor's 80 acre commercil parcel of property. Why is this important? Because now motorists who are traveling on the new extension of 303 won't be able to travel east of I-17 to get to Route 51. Peggy Neely for political purposes "broke" the loop and has caused motorists irreperable harm. Not only that but because of her blind ambition to become Mayor, the road Peggy Neely is building, the NEW Sonoran Blvd., will dead end in a Phoenix residential community causing massive traffic and confusion for NOT only the local residents but for the folks who will be traveling WEST from North Scottsdale, Cave Creek Road area, and Carefree who think they are going to I-17 or 303. They will dead end at the intersection of North Valley Parkway and the NEW Neely Sonoran Blvd. This is called the Road To Nowhere. However, there a simple solution, build the Road To Somewhere. The Road To Somewhere is where the road was originally supposed to be built. This road is ONE mile south of the Neely-Westcor Road and perfectly aligns with the new Route 303. In fact, there is funding for this road and not for the Neely-Westcor Road. I am President of the Sonoran Citizens Improvement Association. My name is Clif Freedman. See www.sornorancitizens.com

 
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