Crossing the Line
Border patrol: The Amy Silverman article on Proposition 106, the independent redistricting commission initiative ("What's My Line?" October 5), beautifully made the point that incumbent members of the Legislature are so conflicted by their own desires to be reelected that they cannot create fair district lines. In the states with truly independent redistricting commissions, the district lines are sensible and competitive. Half the state Senate seats went uncontested in Arizona in 1998 because the districts are so wildly configured to favor the incumbents.
Proposition 106 will inject fairness into Arizona's elections. That's why it has the support of Republicans including Grant Woods and Sue Gerard, and independents and Democrats like Eddie Basha and Pete Rios.
The incumbents hate Proposition 106, as Amy Silverman's article described, but that alone should be reason for the rest of us to give it two thumbs up.
Dennis Burke, executive director
Arizona Common Cause
Splitting the difference: Amy Silverman did an excellent job of describing what a bloody mess redistricting has been in Arizona and laying out the reasons for reform of the process.
Unfortunately, the article did not spell out the citizens' aspect of Proposition 106, the Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative. Proposition 106 was conceived and written by members of the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. We studied the best processes used around the country, consulted the best experts in Arizona, and drafted an initiative that is best for Arizona. It is unfair to Jim Pederson, campaign chair, to paint the initiative as an attempt by one man to impose his will on the people.
Most of the measures on the November ballot were placed there by the Legislature, unable to make its own tough decisions. Other measures were placed there by narrow special interest groups. Only three come from community groups.
Proposition 106 is the one that will fundamentally improve Arizona politics -- making it fairer for every candidate, every party and every citizen. A diverse group of politicians, citizens and organizations recognizes this and is supporting the campaign. The tent for this most important reform should be a big one. It is.
Ann Eschinger, president
League of Women Voters of Arizona
Line dance: Thanks to Amy Silverman for an in-depth yet very coherent look at Proposition 106. The accounts of legislators of the past actively and seemingly capriciously manipulating district boundaries was alternately amusing and disturbing. However, one question wasn't answered. If (as Republican legislator Sue Gerard said) any arguments against the "fair districts" measure would be "transparent or hollow, or make you look like a damn fool," why are some Republicans still fighting? Just to gather more like-partisaned voters? Shortsightedly lame.
Elbridge Gerry would be pleased that self-serving politics (of which his name has become partially emblematic) lives on, even though he doesn't!
CPA 101: I read with interest your recent article describing Arthur Andersen's deception and fraud for the benefit of its client and, of course, to maintain its continuing fees ("Half-Baked Bean Counters," Terry Greene Sterling, October 5). Based on my 35 years as a management consultant, 12 of which were spent with three different major public accounting firms, I am never surprised when I read these reports. The quote from AA's partner stating "we believe we took appropriate action and followed our professional guidelines . . . ," I have heard many times describing audit reports that were well known to be, at best, erroneous, and, at worst, phony.
What precipitates these situations, which appear to be increasing in frequency and severity? Honest mistakes are made, and mistakes are not malpractice. The real public accounting malpractice stems from the overriding importance in the public accounting firms of retaining the almost guaranteed annual fee income/profit generated by performing the audit (known in the trade as the "audit annuity"). This focus on retaining the audit fees at all costs generates the massive damage awards we read about frequently and eventually even drives accounting firms out of business.
Accounting firms sometimes write the audit report to make the client's financials look good despite the facts. This scam includes classifying material weaknesses as immaterial, including assets on the balance sheet that don't exist, and failing to objectively and completely document negative "going concern" issues like product quality problems and R&D failures.
This problem cannot be solved as long as clients select the auditor and pay the audit fees. The public is at the mercy of the ethics of each firm and of each partner and associate in the firm. And, based on many recent press articles and my own experience, the weakness of these ethics on the part of many in the profession is well reported and recognized.
Another issue is the objectivity and professionalism of consulting work done for clients. Clients should recognize that a consulting report prepared by the audit firm's consulting group is going to be a "good news" document containing nothing that would upset the client or in any way jeopardize the all-important audit fees. The client will be told what he wants to hear -- not what he needs to know. The client must be kept happy so that the audit fees will continue year after year. Many times, based on my experience and that of others on the consulting side of the house, consulting findings were changed or deleted from the report by the accounting firm if this information might upset the audit relationship. This action was taken even though everyone involved agreed that the findings were objective, accurate, material and professional. It would be interesting to determine how many consulting projects were undertaken by AA for BFA and the fees associated with these projects.
And finally, I agree with Janyce Dawson that money damages from the public accountants are not enough. As she indicates, nothing is likely to change until the courts duly convict and begin sending that group of "professionals" responsible for these situations straight to jail.
Fredric J. Kessler
Be prepared: The drama we've watched play out in Tempe over the exclusion of gays from the Boy Scouts of America is an issue that will continue to command the national spotlight ("The Not So United Way," Patti Epler, September 21). I would like to add my voice and perspective to what has been said.
As a young Boy Scout, I was sexually abused by my scout leader. I carry the pain of that abuse to this day. It has deeply and negatively scarred my life. As a current scout leader, I am grateful for the direction we have received that two adults must be present at all activities with the boys to ensure their personal safety. Their safety is paramount. This policy isn't prejudicial against me or other scout leaders, it is just wisdom that I wish had been in place to protect me.
I can't imagine any parents feeling comfortable about sending their daughters on outings alone with two heterosexual men. Are the parents biased against heterosexual men? No. Could these men abuse or become involved sexually with their young daughters? Perhaps.
Wisdom prevails and we avoid this situation for the protection of our children, not for the discrimination against heterosexual men. We understand that these men are sexually conditioned to the opposite sex, so we wisely avoid this situation for everyone's mutual protection. It is the same with scouts.
Will a gay scout leader abuse or become involved sexually with one of the boys? Perhaps. It happened to me, and I know, from litigation against scout sponsors when abuse has taken place, that it does happen. And because it does, it is wisdom -- even if it protects but one child out of a thousand -- to err on the side of safety.
I know from firsthand experience that the homosexual lifestyle is not a self-contained unit. The lifestyle of some homosexuals extends to active conquest outside the ranks. As a teenager and an employee in a department store, I was ruthlessly stalked by a young gay predator and finally had to involve the store's security to remove the individual from the store.
As a young designer in New York, I was repeatedly propositioned and harassed by gays. Once, while contemplating in St. Patrick's Cathedral, I was even approached by a gay Catholic priest. As a young married father with three children, a client on a business trip, with full knowledge of my situation, asked me to come to his room and he would "change my mind." He has since died as a result of AIDS.
These were terrible and insulting experiences. I pray that no man or woman, boy or girl should ever suffer these invasions of their personal freedom by someone of any sexual persuasion.
After all I have experienced, do I hate gays? No. My wife and I cared for a gay friend in our home after receiving a desperate phone call from him after he had been the victim of rough sex by someone who had picked him up. There are wonderful gay people. I have enjoyed their company and have been enriched by my association with them. But wisdom must guide where any of us, gay or straight, male or female, must act in society.
Just as it would not be wise to place an active, recovering or abstaining alcoholic or drug user in charge of a liquor store or a drug store, why would we place an individual who has openly expressed his or her homosexuality in charge of our young and impressionable children? Just as wisdom requires that a nurse be present during a woman's examination by a male doctor, so our children deserve to be protected by wise standards and guidelines.
Miles E. Abernethy
The G spot: Time to pull the plug on City of Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, Tempe's Town Lake and the United Way.
While Giuliano was just a tyke in short pants, I was strongly protesting against City of Phoenix managers and particularly police supervisors who tried and still are trying to crawl up the career ladder by intimidating subordinates into giving to the United Way. The United Way is a classic example of white-collar crime in action. Its corporate staff lives in the lap of luxury while babies die at the doorstep of the organization.
Giuliano's sexuality is as unimportant to me as his religion. He can be a homosexual Christian or a heterosexual Muslim. What is important is that Tempe city employees get to give freely to any charity they desire or not to give to anything, without repercussions from their employer.
The reason Giuliano should go is because he tried to push his personal brand of philosophy onto the backs and minds of others. This is just as wrong as holding prayer meetings on duty in a municipal facility.
Giuliano should also go because he has destroyed a great college town and made it a tin-pan alley of tinsel merchants. Trading a Changing Hands bookstore catering to real people of flesh for a Borders tomb of tomes for shallow-breathing snobs is heresy in my book.
Giuliano should go because, like golf course developers, he wants to make the great Sonoran Desert look like Mission Bay in San Diego. Giuliano's dreams of turning the Salt River bed into a lake is not my dream. I regularly have visions of bulldozing all urban development in the Valley of the Sun and sowing cactus seeds and raising rattlesnakes.
It's time to ask Harry Mitchell to take over Tempe's dominion with Edward Abbey as his administrative assistant.
Scouts' honor: We are the parents of an Eagle Scout whose project raised food for Tempe's needy families. We are disturbed by the comments at and following the Tempe City Council meeting on October 5. All is not well with the Tempe City Council, and Councilman Dennis Cahill reinforces our concerns.
Cahill continues to state that the United Way and the Boy Scouts should not be funded through Tempe city employee donations. Cahill has obviously taken the same attitude as Neil Giuliano that he is no longer responsible for representing the public but has a higher personal agenda.
We should add Dennis Cahill to the same recall initiative that the public has for Neil Giuliano. It is time for families to step up and no longer accept what is being foisted upon our communities and children, but to set those standards ourselves.
Ray and Lynna Naugle
Make my gay day: There's nothing like a shining example of yet another well-intentioned heterosexual person's ignorance to make my gay day complete.
Chris Acuma writes to New Times (Letters, October 12) to whine about what gay-as-a-picnic-basket Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano allegedly doesn't get when it comes to the government and anti-gay discrimination. But it's Acuma who, indeed, doesn't have the first clue as to what he or she is talking about.
For Chris' sake, here's a brief intro course in Gay 101:
It is perfectly legal in Arizona (and about 35 other states) to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. Wanna know what else? Our federal constitution also allows it. Gee. And you thought all this harping about "gay rights" only meant we wanted to get married in cute little chapels and hold a parade on Pride Day.
Coming out to an employer in this state can (and not infrequently does) lead to one's being fired without recourse. Look up the case of Blaine v. Golden State Container and see in whose favor an appellate court ruled the last time some schmuck filed charges after getting axed for being gay in our proud little desert democracy. I'll give you two hints: Blaine ain't working there no more, and no lawyer has touched a case like it since.
Coming out to a landlord in Arizona can lead to eviction from one's home or apartment. Same-sex couples can be ignored on new-car lots and asked to leave real estate offices. We can be kept waiting in lines, seated in the back of restaurants when there are plenty of up-front tables, kicked out of hospital rooms where our loved ones lie ill or dying, and have our inherited possessions yanked from under us by the parents and/or siblings of whoever intended to leave them to us.
The above examples are absolutely legal in this state and throughout most of the U.S. They all occur far more often than many people -- gay or not -- realize. And, as long as the likes of the Groscosts, Burnses, Johnsons and Blewsters control the legislative process here, bills that offer Arizona citizens like me the same rights and recourses granted to racial and religious minorities will stay buried in committee or otherwise fail to pass.
Personally, I appreciate your basic anti-discrimination sentiments, Chris. You probably think of yourself as pretty liberal, and no doubt get a big kick out of Will & Grace. But next time, do a little research into gay reality before stating your uninformed opinion as fact.
Flamenco road: Oh, puhleeze spare us the adolescent drivel posing as criticism churned out by Gilbert Garcia in "The Tao of Estéban" (September 21). It's all too sadly clear that Garcia loves the hatchet and the hatchet loves Garcia.
I've seen Estéban at the Hyatt while visiting friends in your area, and have enjoyed him for what he is: a pop guitarist with flamenco flourishes. That's what he does, and he does it very well.
So, what is the point of endless speculation about just how much time he spent with Andrés Segovia, or whether the master was a bit generous in his praise of the disciple? That would hardly be unusual. (Elvis told Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Tom Jones that they were better than he was; when you're obviously the best, you can afford to be generous.)
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And if Estéban has embellished the Segovia connection a tad, so what? Who hasn't overplayed his contact with greatness? (I once spent a wild night with Janis Joplin, and variations of that tale have earned me free drinks in bars ever since; it's the least of my sins.)
And why the constant snide references to Estéban's age, referring to him as "middle-aged," "aging," "his 52 years" and "squinting like an old man"? Or the numerous quotes from less successful musicians, their sour grapes dripping with envy? Is any of this relevant?
None of this would've gotten past the blue pencil of my junior high school journalism adviser. How in the world did it get into the pages of New Times?