Ambient Derelicts

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Monica Claros remembers when her organization, now called Rehab Without Walls, was driven out of central Phoenix by the sensitive Hull.

"In the year and a half we were located on North Central, there was never an incident. The patients were never loud or raucus. But the neighbor behind us and others had an issue with patients walking in the neighborhood with a staff person," Claros says.

Although the staff didn't sport attention-grabbing uniforms, some of victims of head injuries did have unusual walking gaits. After all, these people were brain damaged.

Neighbors felt a business, particularly one that treated the handicapped, would drive down property values. Hull agreed.

Now I'm supposed to believe that Governor Hull cares about the children of the working poor.

Rehab Without Walls never recovered from Hull's bill. It's had to move three times. The treatment center is in central Phoenix, but the group home is now in Chandler.

According to Irwin Altman, Rehab's executive director, the residents of the group home spend almost two hours a day commuting back and forth from Chandler to the treatment center.

Maybe that doesn't bother a patient we'll call Carlos Soto. He doesn't complain. A farmhand for years, Soto was working on a piece of machinery when the tire exploded and the metal rim nearly took his head off.

Hospitalized for a year, Soto made little progress and was on his way to permanent institutionalization when Rehab Without Walls took him in. After 15 months of therapy, Soto now volunteers at the Desert Botanical Garden and restores bicycles for St. Vincent de Paul. He is ready to go home to his family.

The old facility on North Central accommodated 12 patients before Hull intervened. The new place in Chandler only takes five.

Like I said earlier, this funny math you get with Jane Hull makes my head ache. Still, folks with brain trauma fare better with Hull's heart than, say, prisoners, whom Hull once suggested could suffocate in Arizona's summer heat for all she cared.

No, if health care for children of the working poor was going to fly at the statehouse, it would not be a result of Hull's use of the bully pulpit of compassion. She is more Mommy Dearest than Mother Teresa.

The legislation's success hinged on Hull's leadership.

Matt Salmon wasn't buying Keven Ann Willey's theory that the governor is a great leader. Conservatives floated his name to run against Hull in the Republican primary. Salmon encouraged speculation but said he must consult with God before making a final decision.

God wrestled with the prospect of Salmon reportedly taking a quarter of a million dollars from the criminal wing of the Republican party.

No one seemed to mind that former governor Luca Brazzi and his minions wanted to raise $250,000 from a prison cell to finance Salmon's campaign against Hull. No problem for me, either. Have some Muscatel.

What Salmon caught flak in the press for was daring to run in a primary against Hull, who wasn't elected but inherited her post as governor when Symington was convicted of high-stakes bank fraud.

You see, we don't mind the crook's continued influence peddling and fund raising; it's Salmon's loyalty that's the issue. And you wonder why crazy people pick up guns?

On Monday, God told Salmon to stay in Congress.

While Hull's KidsCare legislation has ground to a halt amid cries from Salmon and his brethren that the governor is foisting Hillary Clinton-style health care upon us, a conservative legislator told me of a compromise solution that demonstrates what's wrong with Hull's leadership.

Acknowledging that some members of the conservative caucus will never help kids of the working poor as long as the nefarious federal government funds the bulk of the program, Representative Laura Knaperek nonetheless thinks a solution is in sight.

But she points a finger at Hull's leadership to explain the current impasse.
Knaperek is a thoughtful critic. She has worked for years on health-care issues, first as the director for the Arizona Consortium for Children With Chronic Illness, and for the last four years as a legislator.

She and her allies began planning for expanded health-care coverage for the working poor when Arizona instituted welfare reform.

As a conservative, she was an advocate for a pilot program called premium-sharing in which the working poor pay up to 4 percent of their income for health coverage. She shepherded this program through both houses of the Legislature last year. In fact, Knaperek's pilot program is more generous than KidsCare, whose federal rules allow states to charge the working poor up to 5 percent of their income for medical care.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey