I totally disagree with Tempe's proposed ordinance to prevent homeless kids from sitting on sidewalks ("Crusty Crackdown," David Holthouse, October 22). I think it is wrong and should not be accepted. I am an upper-class white male, and feel sorry for the bums on the street. They have nowhere else to go. If the people who thought of this law had any brains, they would not take the time to pass this law; rather, they would take the time to think of a nice place to build a homeless shelter to house these people. Why spend your time just trying to move the problem to another location when you could help the problem right where it is? If this ordinance is approved, I am sure you will have more problems afterward: bums breaking into stores; sleeping in the basements; sleeping in people's houses, alleyways, Dumpsters; and the list goes on and on.
Think once more before you take this any farther, Tempe.
Before I criticize, I would like to say that I really commend your paper for addressing some important issues and taking radical and honest up-front stands. I am an extremely busy college student and mother and I am inspired to take the time to write in the face of the disgusting injustice of Tempe's "sidewalk squatting laws." The picture painted by David Holthouse of the "squatter kids" shows his obvious prejudices (which I know are shared by many) and ignorance. He stated that some survey suggested at least half of them do drugs. Who did the "informal survey"? What was the sample size? There are a million problems with surveying nomadic groups. (Yes, I'm sure some of them do drugs, but what percentage of the American public in general do?)
I have an alternative picture to present. As a student of anthropology, I became very interested in this seeming subculture years ago when I befriended a "squatter" girl who was in an anthropology class of mine. I was amazed that she was homeless and in school. I learned so much from her, including my own prejudices and ignorance. She never did drugs; she would gather food to feed other homeless. She was an incredibly kind person. I once asked her why she didn't just comb her hair and dress like normal people so that she wouldn't get hassled so much, and she said, "Wouldn't it be better if people learned to not judge me based on how I look?" I developed such respect for her--I care too much how people judge me and I still am not willing to be a martyr to teach them.
I befriended another "traveler" who also did not ever do drugs. She was a multitalented craftswoman traveling around and selling her arts, which I feel much better supporting than some huge corporation mass-producing and often enslaving Third World people.
These proposed laws are discriminatory and aimed at getting rid of "undesirables" (whom, ironically, the Tempe business owners used to value as adding character to downtown). I guarantee the police and security won't be giving "normal-looking" people a hard time.
The motivation for a lot of these kids and people to travel is that (as one informant in the article stated) they don't want to participate in most of the mainstream ways. I can hardly blame them. The squatters I have talked to are intelligent and aware--often more so than the average, mainstream young Americans I know.
I propose we get rid of the bars on Mill and make the buildings into safe rest stops with clean showers and food for these travelers. They would be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing to us, and fewer bars would cut down on drinking and driving and alcohol-related crimes prevalent in our college town. But, of course, nobody would be making money.
Name withheld by request
Editor's note: David Holthouse conducted his own survey, which he described in his October 22 piece as "informal." Regarding his alleged "ignorance," earlier this year Holthouse wrote a major piece on the Tempe street culture ("Meet the Crusties," February 26). His reporting involved weeks of interviewing and observing the homeless of Tempe.
I think it's a joke to close down Mill Avenue. Sure, there's a lot of hanging out; but as long as they're not causing any trouble, leave them alone.
Perhaps you're being a bit too hard on Joke Arpaio (Flashes, October 22). Perhaps all these problems are "isolated incidents." Perhaps the only systemic problems in his jails are the "isolated incidents."
Gilbert Garcia's Soundcheck column about the liquor department and The Heat nightclub was excellent ("Hot Water," October 8). I'm glad to see that someone has the Arizona liquor department's number. And maybe someday, someone out there will do something about it.
When I told the Electric Ballroom's attorney (a former assistant attorney general for the liquor department who helped revoke more licenses than anyone else while in that position) that no matter how many polygraph tests I passed or witnesses I produced, nothing seemed to make a shred of difference toward what I thought was a pursuit of justice, he chuckled: "Justice? Who said anything about justice? Welcome to the world of Arizona liquor law!"
It's nice to have my sanity back.
Electric Ballroom (RIP)
I am disgusted by the arrogance of the officials in this city. Where does the Arizona liquor board get off using its coercive power to threaten nightclubs based on the type of music the DJs spin or the types of bands that play there? And why isn't the clubgoing community pissed off?
Instead of booking the Genitorturers, perhaps The Heat could have had the Arizona Cardinals come in for an autograph session; then the liquor board would have kissed their ass.
I found Barry Graham's column on Michael Poland ("Near-Death Experience," October 29) very one-sided, as most death-penalty-issue stories are. How touching that Poland's daughter-in-law, his paralegal and even Graham were shedding a tear. However, did Graham ever go into the victim's waiting room and see if maybe they were shedding a tear?
I stand up and bow to Barry Graham after the column about witnessing the attempted "murder" of Michael Poland. It is about damned time that the death-penalty opponents get a victory, no matter how small it is.
We in Arizona are not far behind the likes of Texas and Florida in their bloodthirsty desire for vengeance at whatever cost. And the fact that we are using capital punishment as a tool to get people to "cop a plea" makes this whole façade all the more barbaric.
If murder is wrong, why do we teach our kids that it is all right if the state commits murder? And the barbaric and bloodthirsty lust for capital punishment today is reminiscent of the Colosseum of ancient Roman times.
Graham's attorney friend who saved the life of Mr. Poland (even though it may only be temporarily) is a modern-day hero. Thank him for me, and the other silent ones out there who still believe in decency and civilized living.
Thank you for the excellent column about Michael Poland and his attorney, Dale Baich.
I'm sure that watching someone being put to death isn't something a person would want to do and remember, especially in the case of Dale Baich, who watched his client, John Joubert, die in the Nebraska electric chair. However, I was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base when Joubert committed his two known murders, working essentially right across the street from where he worked. (I say known murders because there may have been more in his hometown of Portland, Maine.) And, as chance would have it, I moved back to Omaha from Phoenix just prior to Joubert's execution.
I can sympathize with Mr. Baich for the position he was in, getting to know Joubert, defending him, etc., but I'm sure Joubert got more than fair treatment because of Mr. Baich's efforts. Unfortunately for Joubert, there wasn't anything Mr. Baich could do at that point; and the sentence Joubert received was not out of line for the crimes he committed.
Mr. Baich's being haunted by watching the death of someone he came to know is very understandable; however, Joubert got the best deal he could ever hope for. And Mr. Baich appears to be Joubert's last victim.
Hard-assed? Maybe, but only toward Joubert. But I know what happened. Mr. Baich was given a loser from the get-go, and never had a chance.
Please accept my apology for any insensitivity implied or inferred to/from Mr. Baich, as that was not my intention. It's truly a shame that someone such as John Joubert has had that effect on someone who's decided to make his career attempting to represent such people in a court of law.
Green With M.V.
Why is a Pittsburgher reading the Phoenix New Times? 1) I found it thorough in keeping me current during my last business trip to the Phoenix area; 2) it's available online; and 3) the outstanding film reviews written by M. V. Moorhead! Mr. Moorhead's reviews are insightful and entertaining, sometimes thought-provoking, and well-researched. His command of words and ability to paint mental pictures is as enjoyable to me as many of the films themselves.
Proposition 200 ("The Serene Clean Elections Machine," Jeremy Voas, October 29) is clearly a sign that ordinary citizens are trying to restore government to some kind of "by the people" status. Unfortunately, it focuses on the election process instead of the representation problem.
Jon Hinz worries that "the worst kind of stealth candidates" will be created because he won't be able to see who gave them money and automatically know how they'll vote. Meanwhile, Lila Schwartz says, "Look at their voting record and where they get their campaign contributions. . . . You can draw inferences from that." It is clear to both opponents and proponents that money is buying votes.
But we're not talking election votes here; rather, undue influence upon legislation. Proposition 200 may alleviate that problem by allowing smart and talented citizens who don't happen to be rich or have loads of wealthy friends and business contacts to run for office. Or even those who are in fact well-connected and financially comfortable, but turned off by the current political give and take centered on PACs.
Once in office, Proposition 200-backed candidates would be far more likely to be interested in serving the voters whose votes put them in office rather than having to play to the checkbooks that bought their television ads. They would likely remember that we're not electing candidates as a reward for witty and effective campaigns but rather to go to work for us.
Perhaps we'll again see the day when our votes count.
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"No, No, Janet" (October 29) was vintage Michael Lacey. It was a great column not because it was on target--and who cares, so long as she's not this state's AG--but because Lacey is sly enough to make the reader pay attention. Reading is work, and why not make it fun? Take, for example: "Instead of confronting the evil within her grasp, Napolitano has run for the office of attorney general by boldly opposing telemarketing fraud, therein drawing a clear line between herself and those public officials who support telemarketing fraud." This is so good it makes me sick . . . laughing!
Johnny Off the Spot
Open letter to Senator McCain--stop campaigning for the presidency (Flashes, October 29) and campaign for Senator Russell Feingold in Wisconsin. The Republican right wing, which you represent, is viciously attacking the Wisconsin senator; and even for campaign reform, which you supposedly support also. Why not be bipartisan and honest once in your life and stand for issues like campaign disclosure and anti-tobacco legislation, which have been a smoke screen of your presidential campaign? Use your beer money to sober up people about real issues now. Too bad the Arizona Democrats don't have the guts to stand up to you with a real candidate to take your place in the Senate.
Eugene W. Rueckoldt