Big steel Frisbee: A rendering of the AZ 9/11 Memorial being built downtown.
Big steel Frisbee: A rendering of the AZ 9/11 Memorial being built downtown.
image courtesy of Jones Studio, Inc

Monument Valley

Last week, this park-lovin' pigeon decided to take advantage of P-town's "cold snap" of highs in the 90s and flap down to Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, right across from the Arizona State Capitol, for a summer stroll through that public promenade filled with monuments both large and small, both moving and dumb-ass.

Among the moving are the 10-ton anchor and the signal mast from the USS Arizona, the battleship so valiantly lost during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. There's also a grim tribute to Arizonans who fell in Vietnam, marked by a half-circle of black monoliths inscribed with the names of the dead. And equally stirring, a two-ton bell housed in a pagoda that honors those from the Grand Canyon State who gave their lives during the Korean War.

Then there are the rare, the odd and the downright nutty: Like one erected in 1968 to "Arizona's Pioneer Women"; a slab dedicated in 1990 to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps; the broadly worded Arizona Workers Memorial for all those who "suffered death on the job" (huh?); the Armenian Martyrs Memorial commemorating the Armenian genocide; a marker for Arizona Crime Victims; a headstone-like representation of the Ten Commandments — minus an effigy of Charlton Heston as Moses, thankfully; and even an Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Memorial, complete with a statue of a German shepherd, for those courageous cop pooches who died in the line of dog duty.


Arizona 9/11 Memorial

Right next to the Korean War Pagoda, there's another memorial under construction — and for this birdbrain's money, it's the wackiest yet.

When finished, this one will look like a Frisbee with a hole in the middle, albeit a 40-feet-in-diameter Frisbee made of steel. It's the Arizona 9/11 Memorial, the latest absurdity from our skunk-coifed Governor Janet Napolitano, aimed at nabbing yet another shameless photo-op for the Do Nothing Democrat oh-so-conveniently close to election day.

Actually, the number of photo-ops Napolitano's milked this one for would put goofy old Sheriff Joe Arpaio to shame.

First there was the press conference back in 2004 with Napolitano surrounded by firefighters and cops announcing the drive to raise $500,000 to pay for the design and building of the memorial. Then there was the groundbreaking ceremony earlier this year with Napolitano joined by Phoenix Mayor Phil "Pinto" Gordon, and political gadfly Billy Shields, prez of the United Phoenix Fire Fighters union, who spearheaded the effort as head of the Governor's Commission on the memorial. Finally, there'll be the solemn dedication ceremony this September 11.

And guess who'll be riveting us with her gubernatorial remarks?

Looking past Janet's political posturing for a moment, the problem is: We're in freakin' Arizona! This isn't Lower Manhattan, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center used to sit. Nor is it Washington, D.C., where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the side of the Pentagon. Nor is it anywhere near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 crashed. What's the point of erecting a public "memorial" when this state's connection to the 9/11 tragedy is tenuous, at best?

Unless you want to include the fact that AZ flight schools trained at least one of the hijackers or that a couple of them lived in the Valley at one time or another. The guv's not mentioning that, natch.

Both Billy Shields' office and architect Eddie Jones — whose firm collaborated on the ginormous metal Frisbee with members of the local design firm coLAB — pointed to Gary Bird of Tempe (no relation, folks), who was in Tower Two of the WTC when it collapsed, as well as a few others who had formerly been residents of Arizona, and still had family in the state.

But this isn't like Vietnam or Korea, where Arizona's loss of life was substantial, or even the USS Arizona, christened after the state itself. Hell, the link's greater between Hurricane Katrina and Arizona (there are thousands of evacuees here, as well as families of evacuees. See "Desert Storm," July 13). So why in the holy name of crawfish étouffée don't we erect an expensive monument to that tragedy as well?

Boy, was the guv's communications director, Jeanine L'Ecuyer, glad this winged wonder asked that question! She emphasized that there were "no state dollars involved," as all of the funds for the project came from corporate and individual donations. She also stressed that "a lot of other people besides the governor think [the 9/11 memorial's] important," so dammit, why not?!

"When you get a group of citizens who feel strongly this is something they very much want to do, why resist that?" L'Ecuyer said. "I may have been in Arizona, but I was profoundly affected by what I watched on TV that morning. And I'd suspect this isn't the only state outside New York that has such 9/11 memorials."

True, lots of 9/11 memorials are getting erected across the country, in Podunk towns and big cities alike. But shouldn't there be a slightly higher threshold for a memorial than it makes you feel good, or, in the case of Napolitano, scores you some fawning ink on a safe issue? The Bird's saying, everybody was saddened by 9/11, and nobody's going to complain about a pol hawking it. This is unlike, of course, the issue of doing something about the rape of young girls by fundamentalist Mormons in Arizona, which would most certainly raise the hackles of a passel of powerful Mormon lawmakers. In other words, bad politics for Janet "Jefferson" Napolitano. Once she completes another term as guv, she plans to be movin' on up!

Remember, it was Janet who pandered that Squaw Peak simply must be renamed "Piestewa Peak," after Army Private Lori Piestewa, whose Humvee took a wrong turn during the invasion of Iraq and ran right into an Iraqi army ambush. Apparently, the noun "squaw" offends the liberal thought police, though as New Times staff writer Robert Nelson pointed out during the controversy (see "Squaw Peeved," April 17, 2003), the term "squaw" comes from the Algonquin word for "young woman." But painting a minority war victim (Piestewa was a Hopi Indian) as a war hero and renaming a mountain after her is the sort of safe, calculated political gambit this governor has built a reputation on.

Piestewa Peak, the governor's 9/11 memorial — they remind this ravenous reader of a chapter from right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's controversial book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, wherein the verbal bomb-thrower lambastes Dems for being merchants of grief, hiding behind the skirts of "sobbing hysterical women" — like the 9/11 widows referred to as "the Jersey girls" who've gotten far more than their 15 minutes of fame out of their tragedy.

Now, this dodo's been a Dem since Jimmy Carter was running things, but it couldn't agree more with the GOP gun moll's description of those who share The Bird's political philosophy: "Like Oprah during sweeps week, liberals have come to rely exclusively on people with sad stories to improve their Q rating. They've become the Lifetime TV network of political parties."

Remember way back in TBR (the Time Before Ronald Reagan) when Democrats actually took decisive action, instead of handing out warm fuzzies and grinning in front of unneeded $500,000 monuments? Why doesn't Janet take some time off from cutting ribbons, breaking ground, and posing for photo-ops, and, say, really do something about Arizona's sucky public schools? Oh, right, The Bird knows she's always tweeting about programs to help the children (another safe political issue; who's not for that, for Mo Udall's sake?!), but results are lacking. Despite all the noise Janet's made about the children in her first term, Arizona schools still rank near the bottom nationally, with the test scores and dropout rates to prove it.

Speaking of offspring, architect Jones maintains the 9/11 memorial's for "the kids." And for some sort of vague grief counseling for the few family members of the fallen in AZ. But the children have schoolbooks, and the 9/11 relatives have the dignity of their private sorrow, as well as legitimate memorials such as those being erected at the sites where terrorists crashed planes.

For the rest of us, it's been nearly five years, and it's time for our mass 9/11 sniveling to be over, thank you very much!

"One has to be careful that a memorial doesn't become a cliché, just the thing to do," Jones told The Bird during a discussion on the subject. "To determine something like that, you have to take it case by case."

Well, in this case, Arizona's 9/11 memorial's not only a cliché, it's an unnecessary exercise in mawkish sentimentality, right up there with the bronze tribute to K-9 dogs. But at least this scurrilous squab will have one more place to do its business next time it flies by Wesley Bolin Plaza.

Tight-Ass Mormons

Ever since it was announced back in May that Bonneville International Corporation had purchased hip-hop station Power 92.3 FM from Emmis Communications for $77.5 million, this dejected duck has been popping Zoloft by the fistful.

See, Power's The Bird's all-time favorite Valley radio station, the one this tweeter rocks in the shower, in the car, and in the office, while it's pecking out its column. It digs the jams they play and the personalities they front, from Da Nutz and Lady La to Melissa the Midnight Mamacita and The President of the Afternoon, Mr. JX3.

But the Mormon-owned Bonneville wanted nothing to do with Power's popular and lucrative format ($13 million last fiscal year, and a guaranteed 400,000 listeners a week). The brilliant idea of the Bonneville nimrods was to do away with Power altogether and simulcast their talk radio station KTAR-AM 620 on 92.3 FM. As reported by New Times music columnist Brendan Joel Kelley a few months ago (see "Power Failure," May 18), speculation at that time was that as of September 1, Power would cease to exist, and the station that bills itself "Where hip-hop lives" would become "Where hip-hop lived. "

Yet all's not lost. There's good news on the horizon for fans of Too Short, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, E-40, Paul Wall, Young Jeezy, and all the rest: Bonneville's sold Power's "intellectual property" to the Riviera Broadcast Group, which also owns alt-rock station The Edge 103.9 FM, and sometime during the month of August, Power 92.3 FM will move up the dial to 98.3 FM, according to Bruce St. James, Power's program director, who as of last week became program director for The Edge as well.

"The tower's literally being built [for the new frequency] as we speak," St. James explained to this Lil' Jon-obsessed jaybird. "Once the tower's up and running, we will simulcast on both stations sometime between mid-August and September, at which time it will be exclusively on 98.3. Just the dial position changes. Nothing else. We don't even have to change phone numbers."

St. James declined to disclose the amount Power sold for, but he did state that the convoluted deal involved three companies, Bonneville, Riviera and Emmis Communications, which leased the building Power's in at 4745 North Seventh Street, and owned all of Power's equipment. Riviera had no space for Power to move, so it acquired the lease and the equipment from Emmis, allowing the station to stay put. St. James said the two stations will operate entirely independent of each other, with St. James being the only shared employee.

The deal finalized July 12, according to St. James, but so far Power has not trumpeted the transition to listeners, mainly because it wants the tower to be completed, and the dates of the simulcast set, before such an announcement's made.

This beak-bearer ain't no Warren Buffett, but it can't help but wonder what Bonneville gets out of throwing away Power and broadcasting KTAR on AM and FM. Sure, uptight Mormons prolly don't cotton to T-Pain crooning 'bout "You and Dat Booty," Chamillionaire rappin' about "Ridin' Dirty," or Snoop Dogg singing the praises of sticky-icky-icky. Uh, but don't they know that the money's all green, even if the hired help isn't exactly belting out hymns that mega-homebuilder Ira Fulton might hum?

"It makes no business sense whatsoever," St. James said of Bonneville's lack of financial wizardry. "They paid $77.5 million to throw away $13 million a year. Only the Mormon Church can afford to make decisions like that. They overpaid for it. But my old boss at Emmis, his line was, 'If they're stupid enough to offer it to us, we're stupid enough to take it.'"


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