Flashes 04-13-2000

Power Hungry

One day this week, the Flash and about a dozen other peons were waiting patiently for a table at Crazy Jim's restaurant downtown during the lunch-hour rush. One party of four, however, swept in and was immediately waved to a table. That was Mayor Skippy Rimsza and friends, who apparently are too important to stand in line even though many of those slouching against the wall probably work for him (the eatery is popular with the City Hall crowd).

Also dining at Crazy Jim's that very day was Department of Corrections director Terry Stewart, whose bodyguard kept a wary eye on the room from the back of the waiting-for-a-table line.

All these important people prompted one diner to remark, "Big day for celebrities, eh?"

To which a Crazy Jim's employee replied, "If you consider the mayor a celebrity."

How Much Is Enough?

The Flash doesn't have a golden parachute. The Flash doesn't even have a golden bandanna. So, naturally, the Flash is kindred to working people. And naturally, the Flash's blood boiled upon surfing to www.responsiblewealth.org -- a Web site dedicated to seeing that average Americans share in the incredible economic growth this great nation is experiencing.

Such a movement is long overdue. Consider:

• The financial wealth of the richest 1 percent of U.S. households now exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom 95 percent.

• The 1999 compensation of the average large company CEO is 419 times that of the average manufacturing worker, up from just 42 times as recently as 1980.

• The median weekly wage is 7 percent lower than in 1973 on an inflation-adjusted basis; yet between 1969 and 1994, the typical work year expanded by 184 hours, representing four weeks of lost leisure.

• Despite a record stock market and strong economic growth, one out of five U.S. children live below the official poverty line in the richest nation on Earth.

• The federal minimum wage, which in 1968 stood at 86 percent of the wage necessary to lift a household of four to the official poverty line, today represents less than 64 percent of that "living wage." The minimum wage, currently $5.15 an hour, would need to be raised to $8 an hour simply to meet the federal poverty level.

• Since 1990, average worker pay has increased 28 percent, just slightly more than inflation, while CEO pay rose 481 percent.

• According to recent Census Bureau data, women earn just 74 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

• Average CEO compensation jumped 23 percent, to $11.9 million, in 1999. "Thanks to stock and options from previous years," the New York Times reports, "the average corporate leader has squirreled away holdings worth an additional $75 million." Average full-time worker pay, meanwhile, rose a mere 3 percent in 1999 to about $33,000.

Responsible Wealth, a nonprofit organization, is encouraging shareholders to demand equitable compensation policies. It also promotes businesses that are spreading the wealth to their workers. Members of the group have filed 14 shareholder resolutions to encourage companies to share profits more widely with employees. Some resolutions call on companies to link CEO compensation to worker compensation and freeze CEO pay after layoffs.

One such resolution is aimed at Valley-based Honeywell. RW reports that Honeywell CEO Michael Bonsignore made almost $54 million in 1999 while 11,600 workers are being laid off worldwide because of Honeywell's merger with AlliedSignal. A shareholder resolution asks Honeywell to establish a maximum ratio between the pay of the CEO and the lowest-paid worker.

A resolution targeting Disney notes that if only half the more than $1 billion CEO Michael Eisner has reaped from exercising stock options since 1992 had been divided among Disney's 117,000 worldwide employees, they would have received, on average, more than $4,200 each. Alas, this would have left Eisner with the paltry sum of just $500 million. Would this qualify as Mickey Mouse management?

Fair Is Foul, and Foul Is Fair

The Flash admires M.V. Moorhead, the estimable film critic and calendar guru for New Times. He's a human repository of pop culture, cinema lore and factoids, the theater (both popular and classical), music. He writes like an angel and possesses a similarly sweet disposition. He's a media Renaissance man, conducting a talk radio show, Another Saturday Night, in the late afternoon each week on KTAR-AM 620. (On the radio, he goes by Mark Moorhead. Don't ask me why.) The radio show is intended to explore entertainment options for that evening, but the gig can best be described as freewheeling. He's open to talk about pretty much anything.

He's also shameless.

He spent much of his airtime last Saturday pimping that night's production of Measure for Measure, the play he directed for the Southwest Shakespeare Company.

The Flash cannot let such a blatant conflict pass unremarked. The conflict is heightened by the fact that no fewer than five New Times employees/contributors are involved in the play.

At least he was specific about disclosing his interest. And he was also touting other Shakespeare shows currently in production in the Valley.

So of course the Flash attended this production, widely viewed as one of the Bard's most bizarre and herky-jerky. The darkly comedic theme revolves around politics and power and sexual harassment, and the production is set in contemporary times. The Flash must concede that with the possible exception of the NT interlopers in the cast, the acting/directing is quite good. Actually, the stagecraft of Maren Mclean, James Ward, Randy Messersmith, Owen Kerr, Dan Good and Billy Gunn is exceptional. The show plays Thursday, April 13, through Saturday, April 15, at 8 p.m. at Mesa Amphitheatre.

So perhaps the Flash will over time forgive Moorhead his indulgence. As a great playwright once jotted, "Self-loving is not so vile a sin, my liege, as self-neglecting."

Feed the Flash: voice, 602-229-8486; fax, 602-340-8806; online, flash@newtimes.com


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