Murder City

Has it occurred to anyone besides this tweeter that Phoenix may now be better known for serial killers than saguaros?

Leaping lapwings, last week P-town news was all about alleged multiple murderers, whether it was serial shooter suspect Dale Hausner tryin' to OD on antihistamines and other over-the-counter meds, or Thursday's press conference by Police Chief Jack Harris and Mayor Phil "Goober" Gordon saying they believe Mark Goudeau's the Baseline Killer, and asking County Attorney Candy Thomas to file 71 additional counts against Goudeau, including nine murder charges!

With PHX psychopaths makin' headlines worldwide, city fathers might as well post signs on the city's outskirts announcing, "Welcome to Phoenix: Home of the Baseline Killer!" 2006 has seen Phoenix terrorized by crime, with Hausner and Goudeau earning bloody extra-effort awards for their killing sprees. Meanwhile, Mayor Goober's done his ostrich impersonation, pretending our megalopolis is a desert Mayberry, with all the risks of (The Andy Griffith Show character) Floyd Lawson's barbershop on a Saturday night.

If ya think this plumed pecker's exaggerating, consider two egregious examples of Mayor Goober's gross incompetence concerning PHX crime: his limp-wristed response to Morgan Quitno Press' ranking of Phoenix as the 59th most dangerous city in the country; and the fact that hizzoner's most high-profile anti-crime program remains his embarrassing front porch bench initiative.

According to Phil flack Lisa Honebrink, nearly 3,300 benches have been distributed to Phoenix residents through the program since Gordon took office in '04. Phil was too busy preening like Little Lord Fauntleroy before press conference cameras over the Baseline Killer revelations to speak with this beaker, but he sent along canned quotes asserting that public safety is job number one, and that the benches are part of this task, encouraging homeowners to park their fannies, and hopefully report anything illicit they witness.

"I established the Front Porch Bench Initiative to help bolster the Block Watch program, to further support our goal of improving neighborhoods, one neighborhood at a time," Goober claimed via e-mail.

Where's McGruff the Crime Dog when you need him? Supposedly, this idyllic porch program occurred to Goober after taking a break from mowin' his lawn one day. It doesn't cost taxpayers, since funds for the benches are "raised through private and corporate donations."

Benches be damned! Phoenix remains a dangerous-ass city. Last year, according to Detective Bob Ragsdale of the Phoenix PD's Public Affairs Bureau, there were 239 homicides in P-town; and as of Monday, December 11, there had been 238 for 2006, a jump of 20 killings compared to the same date in 2005. Unless we're very lucky, PHX's homicide rate will be higher this year than it was last year.

So what good's Goober's boobish bench giveaway done? Nada.

The state of the mayor's denial regarding Phoenix's crime rate can only be compared to that of George Duh'bya Bush's over the quagmire in Iraq. When Kansas-based numbers-cruncher Morgan Quitno assessed Phoenix as the 59th most unsafe out of 371 cities, beating out even NYC, which ranked 227th in dangerous crimes per 100,000 people, Goober pooh-poohed the results, telling reporters the same numbers could be juggled to make the PHX seem third or fourth safest.

And if you buy that one, you'll believe the number The Bird did on the hood of your car this mornin' is actually a priceless piece of modern art.

Morgan Quitno co-founder Scott Morgan pointed out to the Taloned One that the stats his company uses are the same ones P-town cops give the FBI. These show Phoenix's murder rate is nearly three times the national average, with 15 murders per 100,000 as opposed to the national average of 5.6. Our robbery rate is twice the national average — 289 per 100,000 as compared to 140.

Such numbers can serve as a red flag for a community to have an adult conversation about what's wrong and how to fix it, explained Morgan. But what do we do when we're saddled with a mayor more concerned with glad-handing, ribbon-cutting and cheap boosterism than facing tough issues? The only answer this peevish pelican can come up with is giving the goofball much more time to sit on his front porch by tossing him out on his ear next year when the soft-on-crime pol's up for reelection.

Po-Po Placards

As if the above stats weren't galling enough, along comes the report that the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association and the Phoenix Fire Fighters Union are planning some serious back-patting by installing "historic markers" on light posts near areas where officers and firefighters have fallen in the line of duty.

These orange placards will be about the size of railroad crossing signs, and will be posted as close to the scene of the tragedy as possible, even when the tragedy involved is no more than getting run over by a vehicle while in uniform.

Firefighters union prez Billy Shields was too tied up to comment. (Inquiring owls want to know: Was he tending to the sweetheart deal he got from Governor Janet Napolitano overseeing student loans? See "Bonds. Big Bonds," November 16.) However, this crafty cardinal was able to gab with Jake Jacobson, PLEA's prez, about the proposed placarding. He said PLEA hopes to nail 'em up this May in conjunction with Police Memorial Week. There would be about 30 of the orange dials for cops killed while serving the public. These include 12 who died by gunshot, 15 from traffic accidents and three from "fights with suspect."

Jacobson defended the plan, telling this fiendish falcon, "These are officers who lost life while protecting our city, and that's a historical thing."

Well, first off, the death of a cop is rarely historic, because it's a police officer's job to put his or her life on the line aiding others. That's an admirable, sometimes heroic, thing, but it's not historic. The Pueblo Grande ruins are historic. The spot where an officer was gunned down back in 1925? Uh, not so much.

Plus, people are shot and run over every day in the PHX. Does the fact they weren't wearing police blue make their deaths less significant? After all, they may have even died heroically, and the heroism of someone not getting paid to be heroic seems more worthy of recognition.

Wally Olsen, the police detective who came up with the concept, disagreed that risks to life and limb are just part of a cop's job.

"When I signed on to be a policeman, I didn't sign on to die," screeched Olsen. "My job is to uphold the law and protect people." He added: "We want to go home every day."

Sure ya do, Wally. But then so do we all in the 59th most dangerous city in the nation. It ain't like you signed up to work in the post office, pallie.

Is the shooting of a police officer less sad than some poor schmuck killed in some senseless drive-by? And what about the 196 people who died in PHX auto fatalities last year? Hey, whether a drunken driver hits a cop or a regular citizen, the grief of that person's family is the same.

Then there are those killed under questionable circumstances by cops over the years. They especially deserve markers!

Basically, this warbler thinks this proposal's dumber than Gila Bend dirt. When a member of Five-O buys it, they receive a big funeral, a 21-gun salute, a presentation of flag to the surviving family member — all totally covered by the department and the donations that come pouring in from the public (such deaths normally garner major media play). So don't come whining to this winged wordsmith demanding even more just for doing your effin' job. Not until, at least, the Phoenix PD drives that murder rate down to a livable level.

White Stepin Fetchit

Everyone's seen Michael Richards' N-word explosion at L.A.'s Laugh Factory last month, but what amazes this blackbird is the way Cosmo Kramer, Seinfeld's lovable "hipster doofus," has morphed into the white Stepin Fetchit, cowering before cameras with the Reverend Jesse Jackson behind him as if Jackson had the dood on a leash.

Not only has Richards apologized ad nauseam, first on David Letterman, then on Jackson's radio program. He's promised to sit down with ambulance chaser extraordinaire Gloria Allred, along with the two men Richards screamed epithets at while onstage (whom lawyer Allred represents) and a retired judge, to determine what financial reward the, um, "victims" will receive for their "injury." Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada told this nosy nightingale from L.A. that Richards is forbidden from performing in his club, and that he believes Richards should dole out half a million simoleons to charity for each time he said the N-word that night.

The Laugh Factory has since banned the N-word from all comedic performances, and will fine comedians $20 each time they use it onstage. Damon Wayans, who ironically tried to trademark the variant "nigga" in 2005 for merchandising purposes, was just fined $320 by the Laugh Factory for using the term 16 times during a performance, and declared persona non grata for three months.

Pardon this birdbrain, but has everyone lost their friggin' minds?

Richards' sin was not that he was a white guy who used the N-word during his act, it was that he wasn't funny while doing so. To be honest, it'd take a masterful comedian of the Caucasian persuasion to pull that one off, and Richards is no George Carlin or Lenny Bruce. He's not even to the level of ofay comics like Yucko the Clown, Lisa Lampanelli or Sarah Silverman, each of whom does edgy race humor with relative impunity.

But instead of just realizing Richards sucks goat balls as a standup, suddenly Reverend Jackson, who ironically got in trouble for using the slur "Hymietown" for New York back in the day, is partnering up with the NAACP and the Reverend Al Sharpton in calling for a ban on the word by all comedy clubs and all entertainers, black and white. This despite the fact that it would do away with the routines of legends like Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Dick Gregory, and it would consign to the trash can Richard Pryor albums like Bicentennial Nigger and That Nigger's Crazy, as well as various Lenny Bruce albums.

Oh, and then there's every hip-hop CD from those of N.W.A to Jay-Z, president of Def Jam, who's stated his opposition to an N-word ban on Inside Edition.

The controversy had this curious cockatoo scratchin' its wattle, wonderin' what our own Reverend Jarrett Maupin II, a.k.a. "Kid Sharpton," thinks about a ban. The Bird caught Maupin, now a Phoenix Union High School District board member, at the National Action Network's PHX HQ, of which he's the chapter prez (Sharpton heads the national organization). Maupin was preparing for a civil rights summit in New York on the issue of an N-word ban. He said the NAN and Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition would convene December 13 in New York, and attempt to meet with "partners in the media," such as Rupert Murdoch, to discuss the issue.

"If it's not okay for Michael Richards to use that word, it's not okay for anybody to use that word," asserted Maupin. "It's time for us to say that word's not good for anyone to use when describing our people. And we won't allow ourselves to use it."

Maupin was quick to maintain, "We don't want to censor anybody," but then went on to describe demands on artists and comedians that sound a lot like censorship to this saucy songbird. Maupin also said he hadn't dismissed the idea of approaching local comedy clubs on the issue.

Dan Mer, owner of the Tempe Improv, disagrees with banning the word outright. He said what Michael Richards did was "beyond the pale," but that an N-word ban would not work.

"Every joke is at someone's expense, whether it's a bald man, a fat person, a gay person, or whatever ethnicity," stated Mer. "You're going to get to a point where if you offend anyone, you're banned from a room."

Now, this dirty duck's not suggesting people drop N-bombs in polite company. But comedians, MCs and artists are supposed to flip the bird at society's taboos. Do you really want to live in some PC police state where they can't?

The Bird admires Maupin, and hopes to vote for him for mayor someday (maybe even versus Goober Gordon), but on this issue, he's more wrong than white leather shoes at a Baptist funeral.

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