Remember the thrashing Phoenix got from BARRON'S a year and a half ago, and the outraged reaction to the financial mag by "civic leaders" who were insulted that anyone would say our economy is in the toilet? Well, an even grimmer story appeared in the August 10 WALL STREET JOURNAL, but you didn't hear a peep this time. Reporter CHARLES McCOY, in a story titled "Total Eclipse," wrote about "all the grandiose notions and crazy schemes and alleged fraud that have left Arizona with its worst land and lending mess ever." McCoy's conclusion, basically, is that our state's history "is defined by people's up-and-down efforts to develop livable--or at least salable--real estate out of places that are naturally hospitable only to cactus and Gila monsters." And he pins the tail on the jackasses, concluding that "all the past blowouts featured some of the same suspects that have figured in the present one: greed, incompetence and, of course, fraud." One of the sleaziest undercurrents in the Valley these days is that the "so-called hard-money crowd is flourishing" now that banks and S&Ls aren't making loans. He's talking about private investors who have the cash to make loans--"at witheringly high rates." Kind of like a black market in money. McCoy quotes Sedona real estate agent ED PRESTON: "There's an old saying about Arizona: It has more grazing land and fewer cows than anywhere, more rivers and less water, more preachers and less religion. Today you might add, more cash and less credit." . . . WILLIAM FRANKE, ex-boss of SOUTHWEST FOREST INDUSTRIES, is a finalist for this year's Fatter Cat Award. Franke, whose company was swallowed up a few years ago, still pulls down an annual minimum of $55,800 for serving as an outside director of three boards: CIRCLE K, PHELPS DODGE, and VALLEY NATIONAL, according to stats compiled by the GREATER PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL. That doesn't include the thousands more he gets for attending board meetings. . . . STATESWEST AIRLINES, which now operates under a franchise from USAIR, raised its fares by 10 percent because of the Iraqi thing. Chairman RUDY "THE SHOE" MILLER cites the high cost of fuel. There's no truth to the rumor that he meant to cite the high cost of fool. Miller, who once held a restaurant crowd at bay while searching for his lost shoe, recently bought his way out of a jail sentence when he was fined $150,000 after being convicted of criminally trying to elude cops during a high-speed chase. He probably has the 150 grand but still says he's appealing. You have to agree: He is appealing. . . . Scumbag alert: Vandals recently spray-painted swastikas, obscenities and anti-Semitic slogans on a local synagogue's HOLOCAUST memorial. Naturally, Arizona still doesn't have antibias laws that mandate special penalties for this kind of crime; a total of 33 states either have such laws or are considering them.

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Ward Harkavy
Contact: Ward Harkavy