Flashes

By

published: November 20, 1997

For Steve, a Door?
In recent days, Arizona Republic managing editor Steve Knickmeyer has busied himself doing in-house damage control. By the end of last week, he was spinning from desk to desk in the newsroom, struggling to dispel rumors that ranged from his termination to upper management's call for him to receive psychological treatment. As usual, you can count on The Flash for the real story: Apparently the Harwood Group--Phoenix Newspaper Inc.'s management consultant du jour--recently took an employee survey to determine why newsroom morale was so low.

The near unanimous reply: Steve Knickmeyer!
PNI immediately ordered psychological testing in the form of a quiz to determine what career best fits Knickmeyer. (This is a long-standing PNI tradition. A recent test-taker is onetime managing editor for presentation Don Henninger, who seems to have flunked, since he was fired earlier this year.)

Knickmeyer must have been proud of his results, because he's been racing around the newsroom bragging that the test showed he has the perfect attributes for a career as a cartographer--that's a mapmaker--because they work alone. Hmmmm. That may explain why Republic stories are so often accompanied by a map.

There's talk that Knickmeyer may be yanked from the newsroom and put in a room by himself, but it's unlikely he'll be fired or demoted. Knickmeyer goes way back with Republic publisher John Oppedahl. They worked together at the late Dallas Times-Herald. And the Knickmeyster was Oppedahl's chief executioner when the Republic purged scores of journalists early this year, many of them Uppity Women. He was also the editor who huddled with statehouse reporters after J. Fife Symington was reelected in 1994 to say there would be "no more gotcha" stories about Fife the felon.

In other Republic news:
* Page 2 columnist Steve Hairboy Wilson is rumored to be the front runner for the position of editor of the editorial page. Hairboy--whose Flash-inspired moniker spread through the Republic newsroom like head lice through a preschool--is best known for his insightful retelling of stories he's read in Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal.

If hired, Hairboy has promised to get John Kolbe a salon makeover, and to make each member of the Republic editorial staff write weekly synopses of Time magazine's cover story and recount their lunch experiences.

* The Republic has been making news in national journalism publications--but it's not the kind of stuff you'll see repeated in the Republic.

The November issue of American Journalism Review printed the following e-mail from the aforementioned Knickmeyster to the Republic staff:

We are trying to figure out how many task forces we have going on at the moment. Please message me if you're on a task force. Just need your name and subject of the panel. Thx.

* The November/December issue of the Columbia Journalism Review gave a "Dart to the Los Angeles Times and writer Ruben Navarrette . . . for failing to mark their words. In a July 6 op-ed piece, Navarrette persuasively showed why Latinos could and should support the 'English Language Education for Immigrant Children Initiative,' a referendum slated for June 1998 that would effectively end bilingual education in California public schools. The article noted that one of the sponsors is former gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz. It did not note that Navarrette was Unz's paid media consultant."

Navarrette has since been hired by the Republic.

Skippy to the Rescue
It seems that Mayor Skippy Rimsza isn't getting enough exposure with those gallant folks of the Phoenix Fire Department.

A series of city e-mails [obtained through ingenious hacking] reveals that City Hall is simply beside itself with anxiety over Skippy's lack of prominence at Fire Department do's.

This message went from deputy city manager Marsha Wallace to Bob Khan, the Fire Department's spokesman, on October 16:

Bob, how are we doing on getting the Mayor out to events? I noticed that there were a lot of great things you've been doing the past week or so. Is there anything Halloween-safety-related that he might get involved in? Just a thought, maybe that's not a good idea. thanks, Marsha

Khan responded on October 17:
Marsha,
We haven't done very well in all honesty. I mentioned a couple of ideas to Andrea [Tevlin, Rimsza's chief of staff], but I didn't get much of a reaction. Much of what we are doing is so last minute it would be difficult to incorporate the Mayor.

I know the UK-AZ has been time consuming for all parties, but I would think any parent with triplets would be a natural for Halloween safety.

We may have a couple of events coming up towards the end of this month. Let me firm things up a little and I will E-mail you directly. There is always a chance things won't come together, but we can try.

Sincerely,
Bob.
Wallace appealed to PFD again on October 28:

I need your help!!! Andrea inquired as to why the Mayor was not invited to the memorial event on Sunday. I understand that the Governor was invited. I also don't know if the Mayor was invited to the Family Day event on Saturday.

The Mayor's office keeps asking us to include him in events. He wants to be supportive of Fire activities, but his staff relies on us to keep him in the loop. We should extend courtesy invitations to all events. I recognize with his schedule that he will not be able to attend most events; but that shouldn't deter us from extending the invitation.

Should we meet again on this? I know that Andrea met once with us and she said she also met over a year ago on this before I started working with the Department. How can we best honor this request? I am open to all your ideas.--Marsha

This time deputy fire chief Chuck Kime responded to Wallace:
Marsha,
If the Mayor was not notified it was just an oversight. I should have thought about it and we could have gotten it on his calendar. We understand his calendar problems and that he cannot attend everything. I don't think we need to have another meeting since we know and understand the issues. We will do a better job in the future of keeping him informed of these events. If the Governor was invited the invitation probably came from her staff since Mike Bilecki is there now. We would not invite the Governor and then not invite the Mayor.

Thanks for your patience with us.
Chuck
Coming next week: a series of e-mails in which City Hall inquires as to whether Hizzoner can play a quarter with the Suns. The Flash has his nickname already: Skippy "Above The" Rimsza.

Examining Emma
Our Lady of the Mystery Lights Frances Emma Barwood may be bowing out as a Phoenix City Council member--when her term expires, she's resigning to run for Secretary of State--but the city isn't done cleaning up after her.

She's so much more than a lame duck. A paralyzed loon, perhaps.
The city--and, of course, its generous taxpayers--are footing the bill to defend Barwood in a libel suit brought against her by environmental activist Steve Brittle, head of Don't Waste Arizona. The two clashed during the controversy over the city's rubber-stamp approval of the Sumitomo Sitix plant. Brittle says Barwood defamed him in a letter to the city's development director, damaging the generally lofty reputation an environmental activist customarily enjoys here in Phoenix. The case is now on appeal after a judge ruled that Barwood wasn't properly served with a complaint by Brittle.

In the letter, the pistol-packin' mama called Brittle a "professional flimflam man" and said, "the truth never gets in his way." Unlike Brittle, Barwood prefers to get in the way of the truth and be run over by it, as she was by the city's secret negotiations with Sumitomo Sitix.

Barwood also accused Brittle of squeezing polluting companies for cash and then moving on.

But in a deposition taken earlier this year, parts of which are attached to court pleadings, it turns out Barwood meant those things in the nicest possible way.

Asked by Brittle's attorney, Howard Shanker, if being called a "professional flim-flam man" was a negative statement, Barwood replied, "Not necessarily. To me, a flim-flam man is someone who can sell anything to anybody. . . . It could be good."

Asked where she got her info about Brittle, the woman revealed the secrets of her stunning enlightenment and exactitude:

Hearsay and talk radio.
"There have been people that have told me that he does that . . . and you know, I can only go by what is told to me," Barwood said.

Asked if she'd ever bothered to talk to Brittle himself to verify anything she'd heard about him, Barwood copped the talk radio defense.

"I've not talked to Steve Brittle directly on that," she admits, "but it has been stated many times on the radio by different people, and you know, it's kind of common knowledge out there."

Other than talk radio, Barwood relies on several informants.
"Did you ever make any kind of investigation into the truth at all?" Shanker asked.

"No . . . other people have and they told me. . . . Since enough people had told me the same thing, I just assumed it was valid."

In her deposition, Barwood, unfortunately, couldn't remember who any of her mystery informants were. Memory failed her again when asked to come up with the name of a company which she said Brittle tried to shake down for $35,000. After a brief conference with her lawyer, she remembered where she'd heard that--in executive council session, and refused to answer the question.

Barwood did recall with crystal clarity at least one occasion when she talked to Brittle about the protest against Sumitomo. But darn the luck, she didn't remember when or where.

"It was in a patio with trees and it had to do with alternative fuels, and I don't remember which event it was," Barwood said.

Allow the Flash to refresh your memory, FEB: The patio and trees were at Lowe's Heaven's Gate Resort on the planet Zoloft, the alternative fuel was Jell-O, and it wasn't Steve Brittle you met. It was Doe.

Feed the Flash: voice, 229-8486; fax, 340-8806; online, flash@newtimes.com