More like Don Quixote than César Chávez, pro-immigrant activist Salvador Reza is laying siege to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's downtown Phoenix fortress. This plumed pecker means the Wells Fargo building at 100 West Washington Street, where Nickel Bag Joe surveys his kingdom from his upscale digs, high above us all.
See, Reza wants Wells Fargo to toss Maricopa County's power-crazed top cop and his minions from the space reserved for the MCSO in the building — the 18th and 19th floors. Since the beginning of this month, Reza and his merry band of Joe foes have paraded before the edifice, decrying "Arpayaso" (payaso meaning "clown" in Spanish) for his anti-brown sweeps and raids throughout the county.
Weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the protesters descend on the office building carrying banners and signs, saying things like, "Joe Go from Wells Fargo," "No More Celebrity Sheriff," and "Just Another Mussolini." Reza and his troops have even served an eviction notice of sorts, a letter to Wells Fargo President and CEO John Stumpf demanding, politely, that the bank kick Nickel Bag out on his can.
"Wells Fargo Bank benefits from our business as customers," reads the letter from Reza's organization PUENTE, "yet it permits Sheriff Arpaio to utilize its facilities to persecute, harass, and violate human and civil rights of brown people."
As County Attorney Andrew Thomas also has two floors, paid for by the county, in the posh pad and because Candy is an enabler of Joe's Hispanic-hunting patrols, PUENTE wants Wells Fargo to boot the pasty prosecutor, too.
"Specifically, we request you seriously consider terminating your current lease with these two tenants," reads the missive, "and refuse any proposed extension of their lease."
The timing couldn't be worse for our dyspeptic sheriff. This new protest blossoms during Joe's battle for re-election against nemesis Dan Saban. Also, the 10-year lease for the MCSO's two floors is technically up September 30, though according to Maricopa County Real Estate Manager Dennis Lindsey, the Board of Supervisors approved a five-year extension of the lease in February. Ditto for the two floors occupied by Candy's peeps, 'cept that lease is up at the end of November, says Lindsey.
Currently, Maricopa County forks out $50,000 a month, or $600K a year, for the sheriff's two floors. And when rent's adjusted to market value at month's end, as required by the lease, it will rise to $56,250 per month, which comes to $675K a year. That means the next five years of rent for the sheriff's offices will cost taxpayers $3,375,000. And if you add the price tag of Candy's floors, which cost the same in rent according to Lindsey, we're talkin' a cool $6.75 million. That's a lot of green bologna, matey.
Reza ain't suggesting the sheriff put up a tepee next to Tent City. He's just asking, why does law enforcement require a frickin' suite of corporate offices?
But Reza's argument also is an ethical one: By housing the sheriff, Wells Fargo is complicit in Arpaio's dastardly deeds. If Wells Fargo doesn't sever its business connection with the sheriff, Reza's threatening to take his protest to the next level.
"We want a response from Wells Fargo first," Reza told The Bird. "If they choose to keep Sheriff Joe Arpaio there, then the next step is that we're going to ask people not to do business with them."
Before you write off Reza's protest against the ginormous bank, keep in mind that by focusing on the Wells Fargo building, he's giving outraged citizens a place to assemble next time Joe does a sweep of corn vendors or landscapers. Reza's also recruiting activists from outside Arizona to assist with the effort. Groups in Chicago and San Francisco are promising similar protests, and have already written letters to Wells Fargo muckamucks.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Marjorie Rice responded to this warbler's query for comment with a terse statement explaining that the bank doesn't discuss its relationships with tenants. But there are signs that the sheriff and the bank are concerned.
First, the MCSO issued an angry press release shortly after Reza's press conference announcing the action. (Not long after it was posted, it was jerked down, but not before The Bird's blogging bro, Feathered Bastard, got hold of it.)
"These people did the same thing when they protested against the Pruitt Furniture Company [sic]," Arpaio harrumphed in the statement. "They have no respect for private business and could care less if their political agenda disrupts private citizens or businesses."
The statement asserted that Pruitt's "suffered a near year long disruption by many of these same protestors which badly hurt their business."
It also alleged, "The city of Phoenix took no action against the protestors forcing the owners of the business to turn to the sheriff for help."
Actually, Phoenix cops kept the peace at Pruitt's last year, brokering an agreement by both pro- and anti-Arpaio demonstrators to stay on their respective corners. Arpaio, for his part, showed up at the Pruitt's demos and practically incited the crowd, once walking down one side of Thomas Road to annoy detractors.
Ultimately, Pruitt's owner Roger Sensing acceded to the protesters demands that he not hire off-duty deputies to patrol his property. When the MCSO vamoosed, the protesters halted their demonstrations, and the Pruitt's standoff ended. The sheriff was routed.
Could it be that someone at the MCSO thought better of Arpaio flack Paul Chagolla's press release, realizing that it highlighted a Sheriff's Office defeat and suggested that Wells Fargo could soon be facing a yearlong confrontation with activists? Or did someone at the bank take a look at the belligerent document and yank Arpaio to heel?
The press release stated that the MCSO would be patrolling the protesters, but as of this column's writing, the only security visibly keeping an eye on things has been Wells Fargo's guards. As for the Phoenix PD, Sergeant Brian Murray, of the department's Community Response Squad, says it's leaving crowd-control duties to the Sheriff's Office, because of the press release's insistence that the MCSO would take charge.
Some nativists have bird-dogged the protest, riding 'round it, taunting activists. But so far there's been no repeat of Pruitt's. Just the other day, Joe himself descended from the 19th floor, trying to shake Reza's hand.
"We may have a difference of opinion," Joe told Reza. "But at least you're a gentleman."
Reza did not accept Joe's proffered paw, and eventually the sheriff slithered away after a few more passes at schmoozing the activist. Wells Fargo may be in for a long siege.
Seventy percent of Mesa Republicans were willing to overlook Russell Pearce's embrace of neo-Nazi J.T. Ready. They weren't troubled by the anti-Semitic e-mail Pearce forwarded to supporters in 2006 or by his support for a return of the Eisenhower-era program "Operation Wetback," where brown folk were rounded up indiscriminately. Arpaio's sweeps are close enough to that policy, so what's the big deal?
What about the allegations of domestic violence Pearce's wife, LuAnne, leveled at him in a 1980 divorce petition? Or the 1974 police report detailing Russ busting through the door to the apartment of his first wife, Karen Pearce? Ancient history, bubba. Plus LuAnne said the 1980 petition was incorrect, even though her sworn, notarized signature is on the doc.
Then there's all the sleaze from Pearce's tenure as the head of ADOT's Motor Vehicle Division. That's where Pearce was caught altering the DUI record of a politically connected Tucson woman. The corruption was so brazen that then-ADOT Director Mary Peters, now Secretary of Transportation in George W. Bush's administration, fired Pearce. Republican Sith Lord Nathan Sproul dredged this up again in direct-mail fliers to likely primary voters, as well as most of the other incidents mentioned above. Mesa GOPers were unmoved.
Hell, if they'd caught Pearce in bed with a pig named Lucy Lardass, they would've looked the other way.
"Yeah, if they'd have caught him in bed with a pig, it would have been, you know, Russell likes the other white meat," Pearce's vanquished foe Kevin Gibbons wryly put it while chatting with this beak bearer.
In The Bird's eye, Mesa Republicans voted for Pearce because they dig his bigoted legislation and attempts at same. Everything from the Employer Sanctions Law, which might as well be renamed the Ethnic Cleansing Law of 2007, to even more sickening stuff, like Pearce's attempt to strip children born of undocumented parents of their Arizona birth certificates, or his proposal to prevent American citizens from marrying non-citizens in the state.
In other words, the vast majority of Mesa Republicans must be closet racists. Or at least the majority of those willing to go to the polls the day after Labor Day. Gibbons blames low voter turnout and Clean Elections for his defeat.
"I mean, like, what, 9,500 people voted?" he asked rhetorically. "I've had that many people in my pool at once."
As for Clean Elections, Gibbons is challenging the system in federal court along with the Goldwater Institute, arguing that a traditional candidate such as himself has to spend time raising money while a government handout-taker like Pearce need only sit at home and await his matching-funds check.
Gibbons called the system "a breeding ground for extremists," and he's partially right. On his own, Pearce was unable to raise enough green to challenge Gibbons' brother-in-law Jeff Flake in a run for Congress. But a run for state Senate? That's a piece of cake with all the free money the state offers.
"If you're crazy, you don't have the ability to go ask sane people for money," said Gibbons. "This is a recipe for success for crazies."
Of course, folks other than crazies take Clean Elections cash, too. One of them being 30-year-old newcomer Judah Nativio, the Democrat challenging Pearce in the general election. The clean-cut Nativio likes to compare himself to Alex P. Keaton. You know, Michael J. Fox's character in Family Ties. Nativio explains that he plans to keep it positive. And faced with a leathery leviathan like Pearce, Nativio's freshness has a definite appeal.
"It could be like a Harry Mitchell race, where I have a high turnout of independents," said Nativio, referring to Mitchell's win over Congressman J.D. Hayworth two years ago. "It could be that these independent expenditure groups attacking Pearce have helped me. Voters are not only getting my positive message, they're getting the anti-Pearce message."
Wishful thinking? Not entirely. Registered Republicans dominate LD18, but there are a buttload of Independents in the district, and if Nativio can get them to the polls, an upset is possible. The fact that a hotly contested presidential contest is upon us should aid turnout as well.
Such an upset would go a long way toward redeeming the district, proving it's not the exclusive province of far right, Pearce-worshipping a-holes. Otherwise, Mesa might as well paint a KKK on the welcome sign and call it a day.
Democratic prez hopeful Barack Obama must be really desperate if he's calling on our lame-duck, do-nothing Governor Janet Napolitano to campaign for him, as was announced last week.
Nappy's endorsement was zero help to Obama in the Arizona primary. And if he thinks our mullet-headed guv is gonna do the trick with female voters in battleground states, he must be smokin' the really good ganja. Like the kind he used to score back in his high school days.
"I've still got a very busy day job," Napolitano told Fox 10, adding, with all the enthusiasm of a soggy Saltine. "But to the extent I have some extra time, I'll campaign for him."
"Extra time"? Who does she think she is, Sarah Palin? Nappy's got nothing but time. In fact, she's been idling her Volvo for the past six years, pretending that she's actually driving us somewhere. Now she's waiting around with her chunky pumps up on her desk, hoping Obama makes it in and she can score a cushy Cabinet post in D.C.
Plus, just days before, Nappy was actually defending McCain's veep choice Palin, a.k.a the Wing-nut from Wasilla, telling lapdog journo Howie Fischer that Palin's getting a raw deal 'cause she wears a skirt sometimes.
Whose side's this dumb wench on?
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Remember how she similarly came to the defense of Russell Pearce? And, of course, Pearce won his primary. Guess you owe the guv a bouquet of roses, Russ.
Here's a news flash, Nappy: Palin's garnering fans and face time with the press in large part because she's a woman. She's a woman who's sassy, sexy and can hold an audience of pseudo macho-male GOPers in thrall. Unlike, the Napster, who makes everyone who hears her wanna take a nap.
The Bird also thinks Palin's a hypocrite and a dangerous religious fanatic. But she also has charisma, albeit the charisma of a hot real estate agent looking to sell you a run-down condo. The Dems shouldn't counter her with yawn-inducing nudniks like Nappy.