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THE R&G SHOULD PLAY BALL

Here's some advice for Louis A. (Chip) Weil III:

Dear Chip,
As publisher of the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette, you can emerge from this stadium-tax deal as the biggest winner of all.

It's no secret your newspaper company owns that white elephant of a warehouse located right in the middle of the land Jerry Colangelo and his group must buy to build their stadium. Here's something you can do for the town:

Donate the land as a gift to the county.
Suppose the county paid your company a million or two for that warehouse.
Sure, that money would look good to your board of directors back in Indianapolis.

But in the long run, a donation of this magnitude would be something the residents of Phoenix would remember a lot longer.

Think about it for a minute, Chip.
There isn't a richer newspaper company than yours in the entire country. And this would be the best chance you will ever have to show the people of Phoenix and all Arizonans how public-spirited you really are.

Patriotically yours,
Tom Fitzpatrick

P.S. Besides, this charitable gesture will quiet all those skeptics who are whispering that your support for the stadium is based only on the profit the sale of the warehouse will bring.

@rule:
@body:Don't fault yourself if you didn't read a great deal about that warehouse in the Republic and the Gazette.

There was very little written about it in either daily newspaper. Even E.J. Montini kept away from it. When mention did appear, it was always confined to a single paragraph, deep inside the newspaper.

Are you surprised?
Here's another thing. The offer by John F. Long of a cost-free site for the stadium on the west side of town was never seriously considered by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

This despite the fact that it would have knocked millions off the cost of the stadium.

Do you still wonder why?
Betsey Bayless, one of the five supervisors, also happens to own property in the downtown site projected by Colangelo's group.

She was unable to vote because of a conflict of interest. But that conflict didn't keep her from opposing the ballpark site offered by Long on the west side.

There are rumors that the ballpark may be moved from the site originally publicized to a location south of the railroad tracks downtown. Even if that occurs, the park will be close enough to the original site that the Republic warehouse and Bayless' property will increase in value.

Colangelo's baseball dream turns Weil and Bayless into the equivalent of lottery winners.

@rule:
@body:Who else gets in on the windfall? I am always amazed by the size of the bills sent by certain law firms.

That's why the bill submitted to the Board of Supervisors by the law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy for its work in negotiating the contract with Colangelo is significant.

It turns out that the firm will be paid $485,000 for representing Colangelo in the negotiations with the board.

Why does a firm that represents Colangelo not send the bill to Colangelo instead of the taxpayers?

The bill's magnitude demonstrates that law firms truly have no conscience. And wouldn't it be nice to know what Gallagher & Kennedy's lawyers did for that $485,000?

Don't hold your breath. We probably will never know.
Gallagher & Kennedy submitted its demand for payment to the Board of Supervisors on a single sheet of paper stating how much money it wanted.

We are not told which lawyers worked on it. We are not given an accounting of their hours. There are no documented expenses.

And the rubber-stamp board quickly moved to roll the $485,000 into the tax bill so that we, the taxpayers, can foot the bill.

There is a lesson here, of course: Who cares how big the bill is as long as the taxpayers are the ones who get stuck with it?

And how many members of the public will ever even learn about it?
Search through the lengthy stories describing the meeting at which the vote was taken. I defy you to find a single mention of Gallagher & Kennedy's $485,000 bill.

At the close of the meeting last Friday, Supervisor Tom Rawles was the only one who wanted the $485,000 taken out of the tax bill.

Rawles, who also voted against imposing the tax, made a motion that Gallagher & Kennedy's fee not be sandwiched in for the taxpayers to bear.

Supervisors Jim Bruner and Ed King looked embarrassed. This was a look they wore most of the night, as citizen after citizen berated them.

Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox can't be embarrassed. You can't do it with a little charge or a big one. She simply can't be shamed.  

Arizona State University has been trying, without success, to collect a bill for tuition from her for more than ten years.

Wilcox still hasn't paid.
As a lawmaker, Wilcox seems to vote with the quickest bidder of campaign cash. She doesn't even wait for the highest bidder.

Last week, she turned petulant each time a questioner brought up the fact that Colangelo served on her election committee.

"What about your conflict of interest?" she was asked.
"I have no conflict," Wilcox replied.
There would be a lengthy silence in the hall.

And Wilcox would purse her lips like a little girl who has just been threatened with the loss of dessert.

When Supervisor Rawles tried to introduce a motion to keep Gallagher & Kennedy's $485,000 bill from being charged to the taxpayers, Wilcox stepped in.

Rawles' motion hung in the air for moments. Finally, Wilcox looked toward Rawles and glared.

"There is not going to be a second for that motion tonight," Wilcox said.
"I knew they were determined to put the $485,000 into the tax," Rawles said. "I just wanted to make them say it publicly."
In case you haven't seen Gallagher during his many appearances promoting baseball, he is the big, burly guy with the gray beard who used to pitch for Arizona State University.

Gallagher is a gregarious type.
When people stop him and ask, "How are you doing?", Gallagher almost always answers: "I'm eating pretty good."

If he charges legal fees like that all the time, I can see why.
@rule:
@body:I was for the construction of the stadium from the start. I still am. But I am uncomfortable with the way it was handled.

This Board of Supervisors--with the exception of Rawles--should be recalled. The supervisors handled the final six-hour meeting so stupidly that they made the whole thing look dirty.

They were alternately defensive and arrogant. People who didn't trust them before went away convinced they had something to hide.

They even had plainclothes police stationed around the room waiting to pounce on dissidents.

Ferd Haverly, the editor of a small newspaper titled the Current, stood at the back of the hall passing out copies of his newspaper.

The Current was opposed to the stadium tax, and the headlines on Haverly's newspaper proclaimed that fact.

Three cops grabbed Haverly. Two grabbed him by the arms. The third grabbed him by the belt. They hustled him out of the hall and into a back room.

Haverly explained that he was covering the event as a newspaperman, and had even left $3,000 worth of his video equipment on a chair in the front row. The cops would have none of that.

Haverly foolishly expected the First Amendment to protect him. The Phoenix police showed him that anything so old-fashioned as a constitutional amendment had no effect when in the overpowering presence and dignity of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

They charged Haverly with creating a disturbance. It was clear, however, to everyone in the hall that it was the cops, with their enthusiasm to display their muscles, who caused the uproar.

Haverly was eventually tossed into a paddy wagon and taken down to the South Phoenix precinct, where the police gave him a thorough body search. He was finally cited for a court appearance on Monday.

This is what the Board of Supervisors conceives to be democracy in action?
At one point, Supervisor Bruner grew testy because the crowd was making too much noise. He threatened to clear the hall.

"We'll take a vote without a crowd," he said frostily. What a joke. The vote of this group was set in stone before the meeting even opened.

Throughout the evening, Bruner was told off repeatedly by irate citizens.
"We did not elect you to raise our taxes," one man said.
"We have problems of crime, air pollution and poverty. We do not have a baseball problem. If you give us one, we can take care of that real quick."
On the day after the meeting, the editorial writers at both the Republic and the Gazette got their acts together.

They treated us to the kinds of editorials we have long grown to expect, if not respect.

The Republic told us:
"In many respects, this was the board's finest hour."
The pusillanimous actions of King, Bruner and Wilcox were characterized as being, you guessed it, ". . . a profile in courage."

The Gazette was not far behind in its enthusiasm.
Speaking of the supervisors, the newspaper lauded them for "their composure, their sincerity and their courage."  

@rule:
@body:Colangelo now says that if he knew the fire storm that would erupt, he would never have become involved.

I believe him. It will take a very long time for the terrible perceptions created by the supervisors' actions to fade.

The irony is that baseball is not as close to expanding to Phoenix as the local sportswriters would have you believe.

Baseball does not have its own house in order. It has no commissioner. It is heading into a strike situation that could close the game down.

That Republic warehouse might not be torn down until the year 2000.


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