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Next Stop: Central Avenue

When is a deal with the Phoenix City Council not a deal? Apparently when the public finds out about it.

Bonnie Bartak, aide to Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard, is unhappy New Times reported earlier this month that the city council had approved a deal with the owners of business properties along Central Avenue to keep an elevated rail line off that street. She insists there is no deal.

Yes, she concedes, the council did vote in November to approve an agreement with the Central Avenue Property Owners Association to have the landowners set up an improvement district.

And, yes, the property owners said they wouldn't form the district--and tax themselves--if there was going to be an overhead rail line.

And, yes, the agreement specifically states that the only way a rail line would go on Central Avenue is if it is underground.

But maybe the council really didn't mean it, Bartak says.
"I'm not saying they didn't accept the point [about no elevated line on Central Avenue] in concept, because they did," Bartak explains. "What I'm saying is it's not final."

Technically, the agreement between the council and the property owners does have to come back for a final roll-call vote. Bartak says this final vote allows the council to change its mind, even if it did give its "conceptual" okay to the accord.

"They may change their mind," she says. "They have a right to, particularly if they have a public outcry on that."

That "public outcry," Bartak admits, may be coming after the November agreement was disclosed. The pact--or, as Bartak would have it, the "concept"--leaves ValTrans planners with two options for running the elevated rail line through the center of the city. But the mayor says that one of those options--having the trains behind buildings on the east side of Central--is really not viable. That leaves only an alignment along First and Second Avenues and running through or adjacent to neighborhoods where those streets do not exist.

Bartak says the people in these neighborhoods have known the grim possibilities. "Anybody who is living along First and Second Avenues knows they were designated as a commercial buffer." But, she continues, if they're really upset about the trains, they can complain to the council. And the council could reject the "concept" it approved with the Central Avenue business owners.

Bartak's analysis comes as a bit of a surprise to Larry Landry, consultant to the Central Avenue Property Owners Association, who helped draw up the agreement with the council. "It's existing policy," he says of the November vote to keep an elevated rail line off Central. "They did vote to adopt it."

Landry acknowledges that this policy, like any council policy, can be changed by a majority vote. But he says that his group took the proposal to the council in good faith. "The council made a conscious choice," Landry says. "It was thoroughly discussed. They knew what they were doing."

Well, did the council know what it was doing and mean what it said in November when it voted for the agreement and all its provisions?

"Yes, it did at that time," Bartak says, but it may have had a change of heart since then.

And would the "concept" have been formally signed without further ado if there had been no publicity?

"Maybe," she says. "I don't know."

ATTACK OF THE GIANT FUND RAISERS It's only been three months since voters selected members of the Arizona State Legislature. But some politicians already are out raising money for the next election.

Senator Jan Brewer will be the beneficiary of a fund raiser tomorrow night (February 23) at the University Club. For $50 a head the politically savvy--and the lobbyists who tend to be the chief attendees of these functions--can have the pleasure of knowing they are helping the Glendale Republican put some money aside for her 1990 race.

Brewer had no foe in last year's GOP primary. And she had no trouble knocking off her Democratic opponent by a margin of nearly 2-1 in the heavily Republican district. As a result, she spent only about $9,100 of the more than $13,400 she raised. Brewer says the $4,300 left over is not enough of a cushion to make her feel comfortable.

"I'm a very orderly person," Brewer says. "I'm getting prepared."
Brewer says that not only are the races getting tougher but, since voter approval of Proposition 200 in 1986, it's becoming harder and harder to raise money. "One never has enough time to be organized. You have to plan ahead."

Anyway, Brewer points out, senators like Republican Jeff Hill and Democrat Carolyn Walker already have had fund raisers this year. In both cases, however, the re-elected incumbents were paying off campaign debts from last year's race.

(Walker's effort to pay off campaign debts caused a stir in and of itself when it was disclosed that US West--her employer--helped organize the affair and used its own resources to mail invitations and take reservations. Walker said she was unaware of what the company did and reimbursed the company for its expenses out of the proceeds from the fund raiser.)

But Brewer is not alone in her efforts to put some money in the bank for a politically rainy day.

So far, the biggest bash planned is by House Majority Whip Chris Herstam. It will cost $150 to be a guest at his March 7 affair. But those who attend will have the satisfaction of knowing they won't be hit up again for bucks by the northeast Phoenix Republican this year or next.

"I have one fund raiser every election cycle," Herstam explains, saying that's done in part to aid less financially fortunate GOP lawmakers. "I do it the first year [after the election] because everyone else does it election year. This way you don't compete with your colleagues." Herstam also had one of the more expensive campaigns, plunking down more than $50,000 to assure himself another two-year term.

House Speaker Jane Hull has a $100-a-head bash set for March 21 to restore her depleted war chest, which is down to less than $3,000 after spending nearly $45,000 to get re-elected last year. "Under the guidelines of Proposition 200, fund raising is almost a full-time job," she says.

All the talk about needing funds to defeat well-heeled challengers is only part of the reason behind having a large nest egg. Consider the case of Representative Karen Mills, who has only $934 left after her own $17,000 campaign. The Glendale Republican is hoping that lots of folks pay $100 to attend her March 15 fund raiser--and that would-be opponents take note and think twice before getting into the race. "You know, it's the old idea: You build up enough money and keep people from running against you."

Republicans aren't the only ones who believe that.
Democrat Jaime Gutierrez hasn't had a serious challenge in his last three outings. Last year the Tucson senator didn't even have an opponent in either the primary or general election. As a result he spent just under $6,000 for his re-election effort while taking in more than $13,700.

That surplus brought Gutierrez's war chest to more than $23,000. But Gutierrez still isn't comfortable.

"I figure one of these days somebody is going to come after me," Gutierrez says. "If I was to have a tough primary and a tough general [election], I would go through $40,000 to $50,000 very quickly."

Gutierrez acknowledges that any opponent would have the same restrictions on contributions that he faces under Proposition 200: No more than $220 from any one individual and no more than $1,110 from any one large political action committee. Overall, no candidate can accept more than $5,500 from political action committees. But he still doesn't think his $23,000 head start is enough. "I'd like to raise another $7,000 to $8,000 this year." And the election isn't until next year.

Gutierrez says that his $23,000 would be enough "if I could be sure an opponent would spend only $5,000."

But isn't a guaranteed margin of more than 4-1 asking for quite a lot?
"I want to make sure I come back."

"They may change their mind," she says of the city council. "They have a right to, particularly if they have a public outcry on that.

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Howard Fischer