The Barrs Factor
Facts over principle: Rick Barrs' recent diatribe, "Politics over Principle," (October 9) contains a couple of statements that cannot go unaddressed.
First, Mr. Barrs characterizes a Mormon sect's forcing underage girls into sexual slavery as "Islam with an X-rating." On what basis (besides conspicuous bigotry and ignorance) does Mr. Barrs equate Islam with the sexual slavery of children? Mr. Barrs should either explain himself, or apologize to the Muslim community for his bigoted, defamatory statement.
Mr. Barrs then goes on to characterize Lori Piestewa as "a Native American woman who made a wrong turn in Iraq and got killed." This statement is also factually inaccurate, as well as needlessly insensitive and dismissive. Lori Piestewa did not "make a wrong turn." She met a premature, tragic and unnecessary end in Iraq because she (along with the rest of her unit) followed her leader in the wrong direction, and she ended up dying in a battle that was entirely avoidable. As such, her death is an apt metaphor for our country's misguided war against Iraq, and the peak and freeway named after her should rightly serve as a reminder to us not to follow our leaders blindly into war. Of course, Mr. Barrs was not reflecting deeply on the death of Lori Piestewa, he was simply ridiculing her demise in order to attack Janet Napolitano. How big of him.
I enjoy New Times' muckraking journalism. Rick Barrs, however, needs to get his facts right, and his heart right, or give up the whole "journalism" thing and go back to watching The O'Reilly Factor.
Parking Garages 'R Us: Mike Lacey provided many great ideas for reviving downtown Phoenix. ("Exploding Downtown," October 2) Most of them are common-sense suggestions, in fact. But there's a significant problem he didn't address: downtown Phoenix is embalmed. If you look at downtown you see block after block devoted to lifeless pursuits like parking garages. There is no way to assemble enough adjacent blocks to create a simulacrum of a lively downtown.
The formula for reviving most big-city downtowns is fairly cookie-cutter: put enough attractions like sports' arenas, entertainment venues, and "festival marketplaces" and "they" will come. That is, the suburbanites whose idea of a nice downtown is Disneyland will come. Once these venues are in place, downtown is like an aging movie startlet, all tarted up but pretty much washed up.
On "game night" in downtown Phoenix it becomes inordinately difficult to park. This means that real-world retail businesses that are essential to any urban fabric cannot survive. Customers will either check the sports pages first or give up, the latter being the more likely occurrence. What survive are such vital retail experiences as tee shirt shops.
Downtown Phoenix is a Potemkin village of brightly lit dead zones. Civic Plaza will be expanded and enhanced, creating an even larger void in the heart of downtown. But it will look great on a postcard, that's the main thing. Civic leaders will decide a new nickname contest is in order because Copper Square is so lame that no one knows where it is. The winner should get an all-expenses vacation to a real city, like Portland.
Welcome back: A friend thrust Lacey's downtown story under my nose insisting I read it, knowing I'd pretty much given up on the New Times, except for the Red Meat cartoon strip. It's the best story he's ever written! (Hell, it's the only story he's ever written.)
By the way, in the reference to downtown Oaxaca, the correct spelling is zócalo, a Nahautl word I'm told, which means center. Good word!
See y'all at the Orpheum October 21.
Kid stuff: While I very much enjoyed Mike Lacey's article "Exploding Downtown" I was left with an empty feeling. It's great to talk about the best case scenarios and what would be ideal; the crux of the problem is that that doesn't serve any purpose. You can ramble on all day about what a city needs to fit in with the popular kid cities I guess. You really should focus on what the citizens of the city need. Ask a father of two working 50 to 60 hours a week who can only afford a home on the outskirts of town how much he cares if the downtown vibe is hip. Or even better, try to explain to a laborer that a slew of high tech jobs and jaunty swap meets are going to help his bottom line.
Please. I cringe at the idea of miles and miles of nail salons and Taco Bells, a city that repeats itself every five miles or so. I was sad when they tore down the Cine Capri and was angered when they put up Hooters and McDonalds where wonderful historic buildings in downtown Tempe once stood.
I also realize that the city of Phoenix needs tourists just as much as it needs hip twentysomethings. Yeah, the young set the trends but city is built on the backs of the real people, the real culture. Part of that are conventioneers and tourists. Who do you think plays the golf courses that employ the lower class, the middle class?
Mr. Lacey envisions a happy wonderland of artists and a thriving downtown stocked with clubs and galleries and upscale-stacked condos. What isn't in this wonderland are the people who park the cars, pick up litter and live the life not cool enough. Where are they? Where do they live in this utopia? I guess you could build a wall to the south and a big fence to the north and it will look so much better that way.
Growing up is hard to do: Just when you think, "Damn! This is a good newspaper!" along comes an article like Michael Lacey's on building downtown Phoenix to cater to "our" taste.
What is Lacey, about nine-years-old? He writes that Phoenix has no "essential services" downtown, like places to rent DVDs. The city needs more places like the Emerald, so people can hook up easier. And let's have an entertainment czar no older than 25 to book acts in all the bars and restaurants.
Calling the booker a czar isn't quite right, because the form of government in which the government tells private businesses how they will operate is fascism. And how, BTW, will these acts (and DVD stores) be paid for? If they could live on customer revenues only, they'd probably already be happening, so I suppose Lacey wants to divert tax dollars from whatever he feels is less important -- maybe the homeless, since they don't look like the people he wants downtown.
"Build it, and they will come," Ray Kinsella heard. It was a movie, Michael! In real life, it takes customers willing to pay, investors willing to invest, and entrepreneurs willing to dream and create. In other words, it takes a lot more than wishing and demanding.
Another wasteland: Yo! Editor, in reference to Michael Lacey's "Exploding Downtown," Phoenix is a cultural shit-hole. The most creative and interesting people are the poor brave souls who live on the brutally hot streets of Phoenix. The Salt River Valley has been home to some great ancient cultures, they had imagination from and a spiritual connection to the natural world.
The current inhabitants are arrogant and disdainful of sky, water, land and animals. Case in point, TGen, the newest publicly funded, pseudo-scientific project, promises of miracle cures from over-paid academics. The Translational Genomics Research Institute is an old, failed concept. In the late 1980s, the citizens of Baltimore, Maryland, were sold the Columbus Center, a genetic research facility, built in the harbor, at a cost of $200 million, precious tax funds.
City leaders and academics promised high paying jobs, new businesses and increased tax revenue. It failed within three years. The Columbus Center is the white elephant of Baltimore.
So, the next time you hear how great TGen is going to be for Phoenix, try using your creativity and imagination to visualize what the $400 million wasted on false premises could have been used for.
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