Maricopa County has a critical stadium/arena shortage. Sports venues are few and far between.

At least you'd think that was the case, based on the Herculean efforts under way to exponentially expand the number of edifices where a sports buff can drop $50 or $100 or more to plant his or her considerable duff.

If voters approve Rio Salado Crossing in Mesa and the new hockey arena in Scottsdale, and if Arizona State University follows up with a bizarre plan to spend $200 million to make an eminently functional Sun Devil Stadium more "viable," we'll add another freaking $2.6 billion to the stadium/arena tab we began ringing up a decade ago. Now, not all of this lucre would be tax dollars, but most of it would be.

That's on top of the nearly $500 million already expended on America West Arena and Bank One Ballpark.

Add it all up and you've got a cool $3.1 billion shelled out or committed for sports or sports-centered facilities. This figure does not include the many millions spent to build and improve the spring-training stadia so imperative to our economic and social welfare.

The Arizona Republic, ever vigilant for its core constituency (season-ticket holders), has endorsed Rio Salado Crossing, which would actually pay the Arizona Cardinals to play in its new retractable-domed stadium. (Those genius negotiators in Mesa!) The Crossing will be a big, rumbling economic engine, the Republic and the sycophantic Mesa Tribune opined in their best chamber of commerce voodoo hyperbole--as though the stadium and convention center (projected to lose money) will magically gin up new wealth. Out of straw, perhaps.

What could the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System do with $3.1 billion?

The agency that provides health care for the state's impoverished is getting about $712 million this year from state taxpayers; $3.1 bil would cover the state's share of caring for its 440,000 enrollees for 4.3 years.

But there are another 600,000 Arizona residents--a figure exceeding the populations of two states (Alaska, Wyoming)--who have jobs but no insurance. When they get sick and go to the ER, we all make up the difference indirectly. AHCCCS pays an average of about $1,900 per year per enrollee to its contracted health-care providers. So, if we were to convert our stadium spree into basic health care, we could cover 1.63 million people for a year--or all of the state's working uninsured for nearly three years!

But such absurd and un-American altruism would rob our season-ticket holders and corporate-suite denizens of their precious bread and circuses.

And uninsured kids would be robbed of the character-building experience of rooting for pro athletes who make more in a month than some of them will earn in their lifetimes.

Rah, rah, rah!

McCain's "Dash for Cash"
U.S. Senator John McCain has again drawn the attention of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which, in the best Watergate tradition, follows the money.

In a May 3 missive, the CRP's Holly Baily writes that McCain is a surprisingly strong second place to Texas Governor George W. Bush when it comes to GOP presidential fund-raising. And--as the Flash has reported on numerous occasions--much of McCain's campaign dough is coming from sources who have business before the Senate Commerce Committee, which McCain chairs.

"According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission last month, a majority of contributions to McCain's $3.8 million presidential campaign war chest came from donors whose issues are directly affected by the Commerce Committee, including broadcasters, telecom giants and transportation interests," the CRP says. "The chairmanship, along with key McCain-sponsored legislation like Y2K liability for computer companies and airline deregulation, could prove to be a lucrative trump card for McCain's long-shot presidential aspirations. . . ."

"In fact, McCain's campaign report is riddled with financial fingerprints from interests who will be affected by legislation the senator has spearheaded this Congress. The communications industry, including cable and telecom companies, has contributed $220,850. . . . Transportation interests, including airlines and trucking companies, have given $85,300 while finance, real estate and insurance officials have given $224,950."

A March 23 dinner in Washington, D.C., sponsored by key telecom industry lobbyists raised $138,000 for Humble John's White House bid, the CRP says.

Among the Snowy Haired Senator's most notable backers is telecom giant US West. A longtime supporter of McCain, the company has given $41,600 in PAC and individual donations to the senator's White House effort. "At the same time, US West, along with America Online and dozens of online computer companies, have targeted the Arizona senator in their efforts to force phone and cable companies to hand over access to their high-speed or broadband Internet lines," the CRP avers.

Top donors, January 1 through March, in the communications business: 1. Viacom, $47,750; 2. US West, $41,600; 3. Ameritech Corp., $14,000; 3. Bell Atlantic, $14,000; 4. Sinclair Broadcast Group, $9,250; 5. Paxson Communications, $7,000.

Top finance, real estate and insurance industry donors: 1. Del Webb Corp., $19,000; 2. American International Group, $14,500; 3. Goldman, Sachs & Co., $11,000; 3. Charles Schwab & Co. $11,000.

For the record, as of April Fool's Day, the campaign sweepstakes stacked up thusly: Al Gore, $8.88 million; Bush, $7.6 million; Bill Bradley, $4.3 million; McCain, $3.77 million; and Dan Quayle, who branded the Littleton massacre an "accident," $2.1 million.

Goldwater's Silver
Here's a blurb from Al Kamen's "In the Loop" column in the May 2 Washington Post that might have Barry Goldwater (Sr.) spinning in his grave:

Barry M. Goldwater Jr., son of the Republican hero and a House member from 1969 to 1983 representing a California district, wrote us the other day with a fantastic offer. (Okay, it wasn't exactly a personal letter, just a memo to "Selected VIP's.")

Goldwater, who lost a Senate nomination race in 1982 and is director of something called the National Collector's Mint Inc., trumpets, "History is being made!" And what history would that be? "The National Collector's Mint announces the limited final striking of the 1998 $1 SILVER CERTIFICATE," he writes. "It's the first legal tender Silver Certificate in .999 Pure Silver EVER!"

Do not, for one moment, think just anyone will be able to have one of these beauties. "It's available exclusively to you," Goldwater says, "through this special release from the National Collector's Mint to Selected VIP's ONLY!"

The regular price is $39, but there's "the Special VIP Discount Price of just $19.98," with a "deluxe velvet presentation box" for an additional $9.50. That includes an easel "for upright display, so all your friends and relatives can marvel at your magnificent treasure." Hope that easel is big enough.

But wait! That's not all. "When you order," an insert says, "you get this FREE MIRACLE NUTRIENT . . . a 50 capsule bottle of this safe, all-natural, pharmaceutical grade DHEA" to fight "the aging process."

In a postscript that makes the Loop feel especially special, Goldwater, who seems to be living in his native Arizona these days, confides he's "put a hold on twenty of these incredible Silver Certificates for you. However, I can only hold them for the next three days," so "please call . . . so I don't have to release your reservation to another VIP."

Cross Dressing Down
A big swish to Echo Magazine, which listed its Pride of Phoenix awards in its April 15 issue. Under the category of "Best Female Impersonator," several popular drag queens were listed, including state Representative Karen Johnson, a homophobic Mesa Republican who's been married five times.

Feed the Flash: voice, 602-229-8486; fax, 602-340-8806; online, [email protected]

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