Republic to Earth: We Matter
The Arizona Republic yearns to be considered competent, or even possessing a clue, on any given story. The Republic is brontosaurus-slow on the uptake -- and when it realizes that events have once again passed it by, it makes transparent attempts to establish legitimacy.
Such is the case with John McCain's temper. The Republic apparently discovered that Humble John had a nasty temper on October 25, when it read it in the New York Times. Then it read about it in the Wall Street Journal. The Republic actually ran the Journal piece on its op-ed page -- horrors: The WSJ piece quoted New Times' Amy Silverman.
Flummoxed by the furor McCain's temperament was causing, the Republic tried to play catch-up. It trotted out a front-page "analysis" on Sunday. It was headlined: "Differing views on McCain/His intensity viewed as strength, problem." As you can imagine from that vivid headline, the analyst felt very strongly both ways.
Freshly informed of the Snowy-Haired Senator's foibles by the New York Times, the Republic's editorial board sprang into action as well, publishing an editorial saying that McCain's temper was a legitimate issue in the presidential campaign.
The Associated Press wrote a "news" story about the Republic's bold editorial. The AP story actually got picked up and printed in Monday's New York Times. The piece in the Times stated:
"Pam Johnson, the Republic's executive editor and vice president for news, said on Saturday that the newspaper had published the editorial partly out of frustration that the electorate was not getting the whole story about Mr. McCain from the national news media."
The Phoenix AP bureau confirms that the Republic, desperate to be a player, called to pimp the editorial on Saturday, and provided an advance copy.
"They thought it [the McCain editorial] was something special," an AP staffer says. "They said we should take a look at it" as fodder for a news story. The AP bit.
It's laughable that the Republic would be considered on top of any story, let alone one that casts Humble John in anything but a flattering light. Bill Muller's October 3 special section, "The Life Story of Arizona's Maverick Senator," barely mentions McCain's temper. In fact, the word "temper" constitutes only three of the 20,029 words in the piece.
When the Flash did a Nexis search, using the keywords "John McCain" and "temper," 604 items were gathered. The first item that mentions McCain's temper is a December 1985 Atlantic Monthly article. Eight years and 54 mentions later (including multiple hits on New Times pieces), the Arizona Republic gets around to mentioning John McCain's temper. The magic moment was July 5, 1993.
If Pam Johnson is frustrated by the national coverage of John McCain, she should look closely at her own newspaper's performance. Methinks she is really frustrated at her paper's consistent failure to recognize important news stories -- and its resulting derision in journalism circles. Although Phoenix is the seventh-largest city in the nation, a new Columbia Journalism Review survey of newspaper executives fails to rate the Republic among the top 35 newspapers in the nation.
If the Republic were a newspaper of repute or vision, the rest of the nation wouldn't have had to wait for the New York Times to quote Governor Jane Dee Hull (who has a direct line to editorial-page editor Keven Ann Willey) and turn McCain's tantrums into a story. It would have been -- should have been -- common knowledge, thanks to the integrity and leadership of "Arizona's largest newsgathering organization."
And the Republic wouldn't have to act out of shame (at being once again scooped in its own backyard) by pimping its lame editorials to wire services, and logging some garbage minutes at the end of the game.
Washington Post media critic is on to the Republic's quest for legitimacy, writing on Tuesday that some have "suggested that the Phoenix newspaper is trying to win some national attention. But Republic edit page editor Willey dismissed that idea as 'ludicrous,' saying the paper's criticism was 'nothing new.'"
The Arizona Republic has never failed to enthusiastically endorse McCain's bids for public office. It's interesting that the Republic edit board finds him a perfect fit to be a senator, yet unfit to be president. What does that say about their view of McCain's behavior toward his Arizona constituents? It's okay to be a domestic ass, but we can't have him being rude to delegations from Mozambique?
Whither Los Arcos?
If backers of the Los Arcos hockey arena are celebrating today because they won Tuesday's special election, they'd better think twice.
Opponents of the redevelopment of Los Arcos are plotting their next slap shot to derail the $1 billion project if the measure passed November 2 by anything less than a landslide. (New Times went to press Tuesday before election results were tabulated.) People First, a Scottsdale campaign committee against the project, will closely analyze the election to determine the impact of about 20,000 mail-in ballots. Alan Kaufman, chairman of the committee, says he expects about 75 percent of the mail-in ballots will favor the proposal that will allow the Los Arcos Multipurpose Facilities District to collect up to $97.5 million in state sales taxes generated at the arena site and give the money to the developers.
If a plurality of voters who cast their ballots on election day are against the measure -- even though they might not overtake the mail-in ballots -- Kaufman says opponents will work to stop the project. Kaufman expects the mail-in ballots to be heavily in favor of the project because Los Arcos supporters curried voters with a carefully coordinated information and telephone campaign.
Tuesday's election is just the first step in the process to build a $185 million hockey arena that would be surrounded by retail and commercial businesses along with an 8,000-space parking garage. If voters approved the Facilities District measure, the Scottsdale City Council still must approve a redevelopment agreement with the Phoenix Coyotes and the project's developer, the Ellman Companies. The redevelopment agreement will spell out how much money -- if any -- taxpayers can expect to receive from the huge revenue stream to be generated at the project. Developers says the project will generate between $16 billion and $32 billion over the next 30 years depending on the economy. The council also must approve city funds to match the $97.5 million collected from state sales taxes generated at the project -- for a total of $197 million in public funds. The amount of public money diverted into the project will be far higher, because developers intend to sell bonds that will cost more than $351 million to repay over 30 years.
There is far from unanimous support on the Scottsdale City Council for the arena. The Los Arcos Multipurpose Facilities District was created by a 4-3 vote last winter, with Mayor Sam Campana casting the deciding vote. Three of the council members who voted yes last winter -- Campana, Richard Thomas and Dennis Robbins -- are up for reelection in March and will likely face stiff opposition, with Los Arcos becoming a central campaign issue.
Council member Mary Manross, who voted against the Facilities District, is running for mayor against Campana. Additional council candidates backed by the People First committee will be introduced at a November 11 press conference.
Hoping to avoid turning Los Arcos into a council campaign issue, Coyotes owner Richard Burke says he expects a redevelopment agreement to be signed within a few weeks, so that construction can begin by January.
Kaufman plans to slow the process down by launching a referendum campaign to challenge any rezoning of the Los Arcos site, located on the southeast corner of Scottsdale and McDowell roads. He needs only 2,000 signatures to get the referendum on the ballot, in either March or May. It's not unusual for city councils in Arizona to try to bypass referendums on zoning decisions by passing them as emergencies. However, invoking an emergency clause requires three-quarters approval by the seven-member Scottsdale council -- or at least six votes. Kaufman says he's confident there are at least two council members who would vote against the emergency clause -- especially if a referendum was under way.
Of course, all these actions would be unnecessary if Kaufman and his band of determined opponents pulled off a stunning upset. The Coyotes and Ellman Companies had spent more than $350,000 on the election by mid-October and likely spent an equal amount in the final weeks. Opponents, meanwhile, spent about $2,100.
If Scottsdale voters rejected the Los Arcos plan, the puck shifts to the Coyotes, who must scramble to find a new home. Their lease at the America West Arena runs out after the 2001 season, and their landlord, Jerry Colangelo, is unlikely to be extending a generous hand.
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