Before Governor J. Fife Symington III seized power, state retirees knew their $13 billion nest egg at the Arizona State Retirement System was safely invested by reputable Wall Street money-management firms.
But Symington, whose real estate development company once borrowed--but did not pay back--a six-figure loan from the Retirement System, has long campaigned to bring that egg back to Arizona.
Unfortunately for retirees, the Fifester is getting his way.
A group of Symington lackeys appointed to the Investment Advisory Council, which decides how the money is invested, has voted to allow Retirement System officials in Phoenix to invest $2 billion themselves.
Sounds risky, doesn't it? Makes you wonder how long it will take real estate developers, brokers, con men and other Arizona business tycoons to get their mitts on that $2 billion.
Only one member of the Investment Advisory Council, former Maricopa County supervisor Jim Bruner, had the good sense to vote against the in-house scheme. Bruner urged his fellow council members to be more cautious with the retirees' money, saying that state workers "really haven't had any experience in the systems and procedures" related to investing $2 billion.
But Bruner was outvoted by other members of the Investment Advisory Council: real estate developer Karl Polen, Sedona investment gadfly Robert Eggert and former state treasurer Ray Rottas.
Hey, guys, Charlie Keating is out of prison, and he's bound to be looking for investors.
Fife Goes Bowling
Arizona taxpayers forked over $1,629.36 to fly Governor J. Fife Symington III, his wife and two of their children to California on New Year's Day to attend the Rose Bowl.
State records show Symington used the state Department of Public Safety's King Air turboprop aircraft en route to the game between Arizona State University and Ohio State.
The First Family was joined by a Mr. and Mrs. Mejia. DPS security guard Ken Goodall was along as well, also at taxpayer expense.
Political Rehab 101
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.
Former Maricopa County supervisor Tom Rawles and his wife--failed 1994 congressional hopeful Linda Rawles--are both lawyers, but they've found a new line of work: teaching.
Both are offering classes this semester at Grand Canyon University, a small, Southern Baptist institution.
Hey, if Dan Quayle can teach at the American Graduate School of International Management, Tom and Linda can surely get tenure at GCU.
We're not sure how a college gig will enhance Tom's run for governor in 1998. Then again, look what it did for Newt Gingrich.
The Flab Four
Politically speaking, life at the Arizona Legislature is far from harmonious. But four lawmakers just started singing a happy tune. Four Republican senators--Rusty Bowers, Tom Patterson, David Peterson and Gary Richardson--have formed a quartet called The Singing Senators. (The Flash had favored Men II Boyz.)
Fittingly enough, the a cappella group is under the direction of a lobbyist--Salt River Project backslapper Russell Smolden.
The Singing Senators have already performed "America the Beautiful" for their colleagues and are working on an Irish medley--including "My Wild Irish Rose" and "Danny Boy"--to be performed around St. Patrick's Day.
Here's hoping the senators break a single and go on tour--permanently.
If that sheriff's deppity who pulls you over looks exhausted and cranky, there's a reason. For several weeks now, deppities have tried to get used to their new schedule: 12-hour shifts served three days at a time, plus an extra eight hours every two weeks.
And now, on top of the long hours, news of Deputy Chief Dave Hendershott's bountiful boost in pay has deppities rubbing their bloodshot eyes in wonder.
Sheriff Joke has anointed his right-hand man with a new title: Director of Operations and Development. He's also given Hendershott a $13,000 raise.
Meanwhile, deppities are still waiting for the pay increase Arpaio has been promising them for years.
In 1995, Mayor Skippy Rimsza's remedy for urban sprawl was an infill program that provided $2,000 subsidies for rich people who build homes in ritzy neighborhoods like Arcadia and North Central.
Skippy's populist juices are gurgling once again. His latest mission is to save what he believes to be a valuable Phoenix landmark--a golf course.
Not a Course of the People, mind you, but the Adobe course at the tony Arizona Biltmore resort, which is in peril of turning into tract homes on steroids.
Suspecting that Mayor Skippy may fail in his attempts to save the fairways--and hoping to get a round in before the bulldozers close in--The Flash inquired about prices at the Adobe links; $112.40 for a round seemed a bit steep until The Flash learned that includes tax and a golf cart.
Hmmm. Wonder if the course will still be around in July, when the price drops to $40?
Arpaio's Butts Showing
The Flash saw Sheriff Joke Arpaio on the telly-vision, blabbing about how much he despises cigarettes. The Crime Avenger ranted about how he had outlawed smoking in "his" jails and how he was going to crack down on merchants who sell cancer sticks to youngsters.
Let's hope Joke's campaign against teen smoking is more successful than his jail-smoking ban, which is so effective that each morning inmates at Tent City are assigned to pick up all the cigarette butts discarded the night before.
Prattle Hymn of the Republic
The Flash has yet to recover from nausea induced recently by the Arizona Republic's front-page story titled "Disregard of voters in vogue; Elected officials go their own way."
The story was comprehensive by Republic standards, which is to say it included charts and graphs. Its prominent play suggests that it has now dawned on Republic scribes that Arizona's elected officials have the darnedest habit of ignoring the public will. Among examples cited: state and federal reactions to voter approval of Proposition 200, the marijuana medicalization act; imposition of a sales tax to build Bank One Ballpark; the city's planned $43 million parking garage, which, of course, is intended to serve the human throngs poised to storm the new Arizona Science Museum, not the ballpark.
If the reporters truly yearned to learn how government officials get away with such deeds, they should have started by examining the role of the Republic itself.
The sales tax to create Bank One Ballpark is the biggest, most carefully orchestrated public rip-off in state history--and the Republic, more than any other institution or individual, made it happen. (Why not? It's a partner in the Arizona Diamondbanks.) The newspaper treated foes of the stadium tax as though they were cranks, failed to report that stadium-tax levies in other cities were approved by voters, and obsequiously endorsed the tax grab. "When the question of a stadium tax comes before the supervisors . . . they should keep their focus solely upon baseball and the economic stimulus that it surely will provide," the Republic opined on the eve of the heist. What the supervisors should not focus on, the editorial stated, were such picayune problems as the county's hemorrhaging budget, law enforcement needs, health care for the poor and county jobs. The Republic tried to reward Jim Bruner, the supervisor whose vote sealed the deal, with a seat in Congress. The will of the people was otherwise.
As those Republic reporters pondered how the city could get away with building the $43 million garage (in violation of an ordinance forbidding such projects without voter approval), they might have perused a Republic editorial from the preceding week. Titled "That costly parking parage; time to move forward," the editorial impaled city councilman Sal DCCO for daring to question the cost and wisdom of this public rip-off. (The story of "the Taj Mahal of garages" broke on Page One in February, only 10 months after New Times wrote it.) The editorial accused DCCO of carping and "grandstanding" (a Freudian tic?) about the "seemingly excessive" cost of the garage. It stated that the council had (get this) "a moral and ethical obligation" to build the garage--but no obligation of any kind to obey city laws.
Dan Quayle (who sits on the board of the Republic's parent company) wrote this in the wake of the passage of Proposition 200: "All Americans, from the president on down, need to be ready to help convey the message that marijuana is a dangerous drug that is not appropriate for medicinal use."
Actually, Danny Boy, the people had just conveyed their own message, by a margin of 2 to 1.
And when the Fifester threatened to veto Proposition 200 and the Indian-gaming initiative, the Republic could barely bring itself to stand up for voters, editorializing, "While the public will should be respected, the governor has a role in assuring that the initiatives are implemented intelligently."
Respected? How about obeyed?
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