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That's why she has proposed, during this campaign, that two at-large members be added to the city council--something Rimsza adamantly opposes.

"I don't think people want to buy more government. Matter of fact, if I had my way, I'll tell you right now, I'd cut the state legislature in half in numbers. . . . It's just more effective," he says.

But more often than not, the two front-runners sound alike. Like Rimsza, Nadolski stresses crime and neighborhoods in her public presentations. Both support community policing. Nadolski does have her own set of specific ideas, including turning schools into community centers, creating a youth job corps and developing the Papago Heritage Trail as a regional attraction. She also supports experimenting with "total quality management" at city hall.

Both Nadolski and Rimsza take credit for the infill concept--the notion that inner-city housing and services should be improved and/or built as a way to counter urban sprawl.

Rimsza boasts that he got a policy to promote infill adopted by the city council earlier this year. Nadolski insists she is the one who brought the need for inner-city redevelopment to the fore in the late Eighties.

Nadolski says, "This thing [Rimsza's infill proposal] was brought up for pure political purposes to give him a plank in his campaign. . . . [He is trying] to be the pro-neighborhood person."

Rimsza just smiles and nods when he's told that he and Nadolski sound a lot alike. "I appreciate her supporting my positions," he says.

But some agree that Rimsza is a recent convert to the neighborhood-preservation bandwagon.

Elise Roginiel, a coordinator for a north Phoenix neighborhood group called the Cactus Coalition and longtime Rimsza detractor--she challenged him unsuccessfully in 1991--says Rimsza is no friend of old neighborhoods.

At a public meeting more than a year ago, Roginiel says, "Mr. Rimsza stated that homes that are 25 or 30 years old are dilapidated. Well, I strongly find that statement offensive. My [30-year-old] home is hardly dilapidated, it's beautiful."

Her explanation for Rimsza's behavior? "He's a real estate man. You destabilize a neighborhood . . . and immediately people put their houses up for sale."

Rimsza "never said that," Schwartz counters. "He has said that some areas . . . need some jazzing up, but he would never say they were just dilapidated and tear them down."

Whenever he has the chance, Rimsza reminds voters and reporters of Nadolski's reputation as a contrarian. Often, the message is subtle--like in his campaign literature, which touts Rimsza as the candidate with "the common sense and demeanor to get results."

The difference between Nadolski and himself, Rimsza tells New Times, is that he has "the ability to get it done. To really make it happen. To really pull the community together in a real sense."

Keenly aware of this, Nadolski is obviously trying to tone it down. She refuses, for example, to badmouth her opponent--much. As a result, she loses her no-nonsense edge, which many say has always been her best feature. The kinder, gentler Nadolski sounds like a candidate for the mayor of New Age Sedona:

"I'm so convinced that part of what's wrong today is violence, and I'm also pretty convinced that a lot of the violence comes out of our own mouths. And that's what we're handing our children," she says.

"I would really like to talk about, more than anything else, that in order for us to move forward, it has to be a complete and total willingness to begin to recognize that we have to begin to work together for the good of us all. And it sounds so pappy. And I know that. And it's what I've really struggled with. But it's really the way I feel."

This new attitude has not gone unnoticed. Ferd Haverly--a civic naysayer and former editor of the fringe publication The Current, who himself considered running for mayor--complains Nadolski isn't aggressive enough.

The tough-talking Haverly is prone to comments like, "Skip Rimsza's part of the problem. He's the problem, he's tied right into the movers and shakers that want to run this town without regard for the public interest," and, "The futures forum got trashed under Johnson, all levels of real citizen participation got trashed under Johnson, and Skip was right there when he did it."

As for Nadolski? "She wants to win," Haverly gripes. "She doesn't want to piss everybody off.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.