Gas Bag Man

Great toucan turds, people! With all the pathetic blubberin' that's busted out over the past couple of weeks due to the demise of former Arizona House Speaker Jeff Groscost, you'd think the long-disgraced Mesa Republican was the second coming of JFK. Um, instead of the scandal-dogged sneaky bastard whose shenanigans bilked this state to the tune of $150 mil in the outrageous alt-fuel scam of Y2K.

That brazen boondoggle, in which the now-croaked Mormon pol shilled for his pals in the natural gas industry, might've GrossCost (get it?) the Zona a whopping $1 billion if then-governor Jane "Are you sure I signed that?" Hull hadn't stepped in to put a halt to AZ subsidies for brand-new monster trucks and SUVs converted so they could run on propane or natural gas instead of gasoline. That's assuming owners were willing to drive 30 minutes to one of the few alt-fueling stations extant.

Basically, the program did diddly for the environment as the greedy pebble-skulls in these state-promoted urban assault vehicles kept their steel behemoths suckin' unleaded like they owned oil derricks in their backyards. All the same, these alt-foolies made out like bandits while the swindle lasted, garnering themselves 30 percent to 50 percent discounts off the sticker price at the expense of Ma and Pa Taxpayer. $20K off an alt-fuel-converted $60K Cadillac Escalade? No sales tax, and you get to ride in the HOV lane solo? As Cartman on South Park'd chirp, "Sweeet!"

One of those rushing to cash in was none other than House Speaker GrossCost, who slipped the stealth legislation into an unrelated bill as an amendment during the state's 2000 lawmakin' session. GrossCost had lobbied for the natural gas industry two years before in Utah and Wyoming, receiving a $10K fee for his efforts, and the industry helped GrossCost draft his Y2K alt-fuels-conversion law. After the legislation passed, the Mesa manipulator purchased three autos from a vehicle conversion company, and lied to the press about his connections to said company until paperwork for the deal proved otherwise.

In fact, as far as this gimlet-eyed kestrel can see, GrossCost never stopped working for natural gas interests over the interests of the Grand Canyon State. The House Speaker quietly and successfully hit up the Environmental Protection Agency to drop its opposition to converting vehicles to run on both gasoline and alt-fuels. And shortly after the start of the program, when the director of the state energy office started squawking about how the cost of the cash giveaway was already exceeding estimates, GrossCost browbeat and threatened the state employee into silence.

The conservative Mormons in his own heavily Republican district became so fed up with the stench of GrossCost's corruption that they voted him out and voted in a Democrat instead. You'd think GrossCost would've ended up a prison-striped jailbird for the mess he caused, but none other than our own Governor Janet Napolitano, then AZ's attorney general, declined to prosecute, saying that GrossCost was not grossly criminal, just grossly incompetent.

Incompetent like a fox. In 2005, GrossCost returned to the gas-passing fold, becoming president of Mesa's AFV Solutions, Inc., an alt-fuels-conversion company. Earlier this year, he penned a six-years-late apology for the 2000 disaster that left many auto owners holding the bag when the state reneged on its GrossCost-composed promises of rebates. His cynical mea culpa appeared in the Arizona Repugnant in May, and, ever the slippery scoundrel, GrossCost took the opportunity to — you guessed it — pimp the alt-fuels industry to fellow Arizonans.

Hey, you can't keep a good con man down. No doubt GrossCost's busy selling alt-fuel hybrids in Hades. But what's really gotten this seagull's goat is how everyone from Senator John McCain and KKNT's wing-nutty radio hosts Liddy & Hill to's Greg Patterson and Governor Manet herself have joined the rush to memorialize the heart-attacked 45-year-old as a master pol.

Manet ordered flags flown at half-staff over the state Capitol in GrossCost's honor. McCain eulogized GrossCost as a great leader. And the Repugnant called GrossCost a "rare talent." Not rare enough, as far as The Bird's concerned. Single-handedly, GrossCost torpedoed his own alt-fuels cause for all time by linking it to a fiscal black hole that would've bankrupted the state if left unchecked. Talk about a man of vision. If GrossCost'd shafted the AZ taxpayers any more, his fellow pols'd be building a statue to the dood on Wesley Bolin Plaza, and naming grade schools after him. To borrow a line from the Apostle Paul, "Oh, death, where is thy sting?"

Tempe Town Tame

Hold on to your feathered caps for this one, fellow fowls, but 'tards at the City of Tempe are out to ban a rock concert because of — gasp — bad language and heavy beer consumption.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons