Hope that Rodney King wasn't nuts to think we all can get along. Hope that long-standing tribal feuds will occasionally find some resolution. Hope that agreement can be reached. Hope that peace, when given the chance, can indeed break out all over.
Then we turned to the next section of the morning paper, the one with all the local news.
And we were filled with dread.
Because Arizonans feud, too, and likely will continue to do so no matter who's doing high-fives on the White House lawn. In fact, conflict is among our proudest traditions: Kino versus the Wild Frontier, Geronimo versus the Cavalry, the Earps versus the Clantons, Phelps Dodge versus the Wobblies, Keno versus Bingo, Gary Peter Klahr versus Everyone.
We feud with each other. We feud with outsiders. We feud with nature. White people still feud with Native Americans, but now it's over slot machines. Universities feud with other universities over less trivial matters, such as football.
Face it. We're feudal. And we're that way unto death, or at least until the person we're feuding with moves to Salt Lake City. Outsiders new to the state must wonder: If Israel and the PLO can do the grip n' grin and be friends--after a century of exchanging hate mail--why can't Arizona's U.S. senators? Here's why. Presented in a concise format suitable for future scorekeeping, here are some of the state's juiciest feuds:
@body:Feuding parties: The Arizona Corporation Commission versus large utilities. Nature of feud: Regulatory. The Corporation Commission is the only entity standing between your checking account and gigantic, monopolistic utilities. The commission is ruled by a three-person panel of elected officials. The utilities are ruled by corporate greed. Recent history of hostilities: In the 1980s, the state's larger utilities became flush with cash--monopoly money, in a sense--and transformed themselves into bankers and real estate speculators. When the real estate market went belly-up late in the decade, the utilities became bankrupt bankers and failed real estate speculators. Thanks to the Corp Comm, the utilities have not been allowed to completely bail themselves out by billing ratepayers for their losses.
Status of feud: Ongoing. U S West Communications, though not the monopoly it once was, still occasionally acts like one. Its most recent request for a rate hike was somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 million, and would raise monthly home phone bills from $12.40 to $17.50, pay-phone calls to 35 cents from a quarter and triple directory-assistance charges. That whopper is still pending. In 1990, Arizona Public Service Company asked the commission for a 21 percent hike in electric rates. APS, allowed just a 5.2 percent bump then, has deferred a scheduled upcoming hike battle because of successful bond refinancing, but, notes APS boss Mark De Michele, "the interest-rate bonanza won't last forever."
Them's fightin' words: "I'm not denying that some of these things are unpalatable," said a U S West spokesman of that utility's most recent request. "But they are certainly not outrageous."
@body:Feuding parties: Linda Nadolski versus Ruben Ortega.
Nature of feud: Historical. She was a Phoenix City Council member. He was Phoenix police chief. Recent history of hostilities: Ortega, a hard guy essentially accountable to nobody, ruled the force with an iron will. He fought with the local police union and openly criticized his men. He regularly pursued kooky law enforcement endeavors, such as a desperate attempt to drug-bust several Phoenix Suns, and the manufactured-crime sting known as AzScam. He also didn't like New Times.
After AzScam, Nadolski, who would prove to be a two-term councilperson, had the nerve to suggest that perhaps Chief Ortega had a tad too much power. He freaked.
Status of feud: Happily concluded. Ortega, after 11 years as chief, quit the force (he still collects upward of $80,000 a year in pension) and has now settled in as chief of police in Salt Lake City. Nadolski has not been heard from since losing her bid for reelection last year.
Them's fightin' words: "I have no regrets about leaving my job," said Ortega after resettling in the Beehive State. "I had maxed out as far as my pension goes. Hell, I was working for nothing."
@body:Feuding parties: Karsten Solheim versus the Professional Golfers' Association Tour.
Nature of feud: Commercial. Solheim is founder of Ping, the golf-club company whose irons were banned from professional play by the PGA Tour in 1989. Solheim, an extremely rich local golf-club manufacturer, then sued the PGA, essentially a collection of extremely rich golf-club users, for $200 million. Recent history of hostilities: After racking up an untold fortune in legal fees, the feuding parties settled out of court.