Patients and Prudence

Club med: I just want to commend you on your excellent series on the so-called rent-a-patient fraud ("Hypocritic Oath," Paul Rubin, December 18). I am a financial planner based here in Phoenix and in Hartford, Connecticut. The stories as written were entertaining and extremely informative, and should serve as a road map for law enforcement and the insurance industry to follow in the next months.

Rolf Simpson
West Hartford, Connecticut

Dollars and Sense

Scam I am: Congratulations on an excellent piece of analysis showing that the $1 billion in proposed Civic Center and supporting expenditures is a major waste of money ("Big Scam Theory," Michael Lacey, December 18). Unfortunately, there are many other local examples, including our taxpayer-funded Bank One Ballpark, America West Arena, public school "Taj Mahal" facilities, ASU's research expansion, Sky Harbor's renovations, light rail, the county hospital's renovations, Tempe Town Lake, the Central Arizona Project, and ever-expanding jails and prisons for minor-drug offenders. It turns out that government runs the biggest "con game" of all.

Loyd Eskildson
Via e-mail

Memory lane: Reading Michael Lacey's accounts of downtown brought back 20 years of memories, of a time when everything west of 57th Avenue was cotton fields, of birthday parties at KiddieLand, of ice skating lessons at Metrocenter Ice Rink.

In the midst of this amazing diary, the most important point he makes is one that is critical of the downtown art scene. As he states, the issue to me is critical: Either we get our act together or we will forfeit our opportunity to change Phoenix forever.

I grew up here. Transplanted from New York by my parents, I am a product of public high school arts, and it was my ceramics teacher and arts director who went on to found the very first charter arts school, New School for the Arts.

I complained for 15 years that I lived in a cultureless city, and escaped to Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. I returned five years later and everyone insisted that I go to Scottsdale, because that's where the art was. And if I'd been in the business of ceramic chile peppers, perhaps that might be true, but I was convinced I should be in downtown Phoenix.

And now, as I joke to my friends, there is a downtown scene, I'm just not part of it. But there's good reason, too. The scene is soulless. The power players are mostly young, dyed and angry-looking. I often want to remind people that simply moving downtown does not an artist make. There is no homage downtown, because there is no older generation to pay homage to.

There was a time when I was convinced I would leave Phoenix for a "real city." One with actual skyscrapers, no parking and where they actually understand what a creative director does. And I watch, from the sidelines, as things develop downtown . . . waiting.

Amanda Blum

Acquiring assets: My first office after college was downtown on the mezzanine of the Old Adams Hotel. On the First Street side, we drove our cars into a room that could hold two or three cars. An attendant would then drive the car onto a one-car elevator and take it upstairs to be parked. The process was reversed when we needed to get the car back.

The Adams was soon sold. Our little operation was ordered out, even though we had three years to go on our lease. We said no. There was talk about going outside to settle the issue. We settled with an agreement that allowed us to loot the place in exchange for tearing up our lease -- after all, the plan was to blow the old building up. I will not even mention how many truckloads of furniture it took to move our small three-room office over a period of days. But I still have a carved table from Mexico that once occupied a place of honor in the Old Adams. The building was soon blown up and replaced by today's hotel with its many incarnations over the years.

I have been south of Palm Lane for most of the last 30 years, in the same place for more than 10 years now. Your story brought back memories of great places and great hopes, never realized. Maybe tomorrow.

Tom Irvine

Bland ambition: My wife and I currently reside in Washington, D.C. (I work for the government and do photography on the side; she is a student), a town with vibrant downtown neighborhoods and a solid nightlife. My wife will be graduating with her MBA in May and she was offered a job with Intel in Chandler. We're seriously considering taking the offer, but it's plans like the ones detailed in your piece that make me think twice about making the move. There's nothing worse than a soulless, commercial downtown area à la any of the "citywalks" (Orlando or L.A., take your pick). We like city life and would love to hear of plans for a downtown that included bars, quality restaurants, cafes, art galleries, lofts, row houses, etc. I guess all I have to say here is that I would like to know that there's a ray of hope for Phoenix that would make me more confident of the move, at least with the idea that it could be more than a two-year stop for us on the way to a more exciting city.

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