Some believe Mayor Terry Goddard lost his backbone during his education at Harvard. Others believe a spinalectomy was performed on Goddard during the many years the silver-spooned bicyclist spent unemployed. Yet a third camp claims the problem is genetic, pointing to the mayor's dad, woolly Sam, the eccentric state chair of the Democratic party.
The truth is that no one can pinpoint when the mayor became a hoop-skirted hysteric. But that is what he is.
On March 7 Goddard orchestrated the 9-0 Phoenix City Council vote to kill the Zev Bufman amphitheatre. Terrified of the neighborhood opposition, Goddard flip-flopped and spiked the proposal. At one point the outdoor arena had Goddard's hearty support. On three different occasions the entire council stood publicly behind the concept. But the boy mayor had no idea how to bring the concert facility into this world. In the end Terry Goddard was seen dithering through City Hall, screaming like Butterfly McQueen in Gone With the Wind: "I doan know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies."
Terry's support evaporated when incensed neighbors of the proposed arena promised a referendum to put the amphitheatre on the ballot.
Worse, nearby residents of the open-air facility vowed an initiative drive that would force all municipal projects to a public vote. This last idea is clearly a stupid proposal championed by Luddites, know-nothings and average folks frustrated by a City Hall that is incompetent. The mayor of Phoenix should have stood up to this blackmail.
Instead, Goddard collapsed in the face of these threats.
Goddard secretly offered to vote against the amphitheatre if the neighbors would withdraw their threats of initiatives and referendums. This is called negotiating with terrorists.
The opponents of rock music told the mayor, "No."
Having won not an inch of concession, the mayor ran up the white flag and actually organized the council to give the neighbors everything they wanted.
None dare call him leader.
And what do you think the message is to everyone else in Phoenix? That's easy: If you don't like what Terry Goddard is doing, just threaten him, because the boy's a punk.
Goddard turned tail because he is hungry for higher office and his advisers said the amphitheatre was too controversial.
One of the people Goddard listens to is lobbyist Alfredo Gutierrez.
Gutierrez and his firm were hired by the city, ostensibly to work behind the scenes in support of the Bufman project. At the same time Gutierrez represented Jerry Colangelo and his proposal for a downtown arena for the Phoenix Suns. Perhaps you think it is a conflict of interest for Gutierrez to represent two competing venues before the city. Keep in mind, however, that at least Alfredo wasn't drinking and chasing skirts, which is the current standard by which we must judge the public sector.
The only clear signal from Goddard during the amphitheatre fiasco was a signal of incompetence. When was the last time Goddard generated anything other than controversy or ridicule?
Just think back for a second. Goddard led the riot that gave Phoenix Mountain Preserve land to developer Bob Gosnell; the mayor championed the infinitely ugly Patriots Square; he helped the Phoenix Cardinals so much that they located in Tempe; Terry has not stood up to Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo's plan to have taxpayers subsidize the new arena; the mayor gave us fake rocks at Encanto Park; he abandoned a world-class design for a new city hall in favor of a raffle among competing developers; and now Goddard is staging a downtown Grand Prix that will cost millions and was sent packing by Long Beach, Dallas, and Detroit.
After Goddard mauled the Bufman proposal, it is small wonder that paranoid citizens have proposed an initiative that would force a public vote on every civic expenditure of more than a million dollars. This harebrained idea would cripple city government. But no one thinks Terry Goddard can tie his shoes, let alone spend one million dollars. The sort of dizzy-eyed waffling we've seen at City Hall has got to stop.
Goddard had two choices at the start of the Bufman deal. Since Goddard and City Hall sold Bufman on the idea of locating in north Phoenix, the mayor could have treated the amphitheatre like Richard Daley might have in Chicago. The arena would be rammed through and rich neighbors who wanted to ban rock 'n' roll would be steamrollered.
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Or, Terry Goddard could have acted as if he were the sensitive star of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. The mayor could have worked the deal thoughtfully, slowly and with an eye for the concerns of nearby residents.
Instead, Goddard vacillated wildly. At first the neighbors were extravagantly abused by City Hall. The amphitheatre was a done deal. Then, overnight, Terry Goddard wanted to remind furious voters that he was a warm, fuzzy kind of guy. Unable to decide if he was Richard Daley or Mr. Rogers, the mayor ended up sounding like Pee-wee Herman.
And now Pee-wee wants us to trust him to lead us through the multibillion dollar mass-transit nightmare of ValTrans.
Pee-wee says to vote on March 28.