Pol Pot Luck

Carr Crash

The Arizona Democratic party's downward spiral continues. While party chairman Mark Fleisher was making national headlines with the news that Arizona will be the first state to use Internet voting in March's presidential primary -- a terrible idea, in my opinion, given that the party can hardly get a statewide candidate elected, let alone make history -- the party's new executive director, Gwen Carr, was quietly resigning.

I couldn't find Carr, but both Fleisher and party vice chair David Eagle claim she quit. Carr follows veteran director Melodee Jackson, who left earlier this year after disputes with Fleisher. All Fleisher will say is that Carr was unhappy that her job was more administrative than political. Ever the Pollyanna, Fleisher boasts that the party is only $40,000 in the hole as the year ends -- thanks to a record-breaking party fund raiser Carr organized at the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation this fall.

Carr must have been pretty miserable. After all, she left a plum political organizing job at the Democratic National Committee to come to Arizona, and reportedly left the state party post without another job lined up. Carr's been gone for about a month, but party officials are waiting until next month to launch a search for her replacement.

Meanwhile, the feud persists between Arizona newcomer Fleisher and old guard state party members. Eagle says Fleisher is hiring a professional mediator and inviting Dems to a summit in January to patch things up. A more fitting setting may be Springer.

Vapid Transit

Transit 2000, the group supporting a Phoenix ballot initiative to bring light rail to the city, sent out a beautiful two-sided, four-color brochure this month. Too bad there was nary a word about why Phoenix needs public transportation. Instead, the brochure showcases -- what a shocker -- Mayor Skip Rimsza's triplets.

In fact, Transit 2000 literally paid for Mayor Skip's holiday card this year. One side features Skip, the wife and the kids in front of two Christmas trees and the message "Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings From the Rimsza Family"; the other side shows those adorable moppets dressed as Santa, playing aboard a choo-choo train. (Get it? Transit good!)

Not illegal, but undoubtedly tacky.

Weighing in with his own dubious Yule message is Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who sent a campaign -- er, I mean, holiday -- letter of his own, at taxpayer expense. On December 17, on the city's official stationery, Sal wrote a form letter to Phoenix police officers, thanking them for their bravery in the face of colleagues' deaths and wishing them well, ending with:

". . . We have had a year of tragedies and even though these painful events have touched all of us, you have had to deal directly with the losses and injuries. My prayers are with you and your families always. To you and your families -- HAPPY HOLIDAYS -- and may the coming year be one of peace, health, happiness, and prosperity."

Yeah, and lots of police endorsements for DiCiccio, who likely will run for Congress in 2000.

Apple Polishing

The Maricopa Community College District is expected to announce finalists for its chancellor position early next year. The semifinalists are top secret, but for months I've heard that Maricopa County Schools Superintendent Sandra Dowling might be in the running.

As county schools superintendent (an elected position), Dowling serves as the one-member board that presides over the Maricopa County Regional Schools District. The district doesn't get a lot of attention, but inside things are pretty wacky. Here's an e-mail the district superintendent, Ed Wilkosz, sent to district principals on February 1:


I would like for one principal to say something nice about Dr. Dowling during the 'Good News' portion of each future board meeting.

Wilkosz then assigns each principal a month, and continues:

If a principal can not make a meeting then an assistant principal can take their place to say something nice about Dr. Dowling. The statements should be about 3-6 sentences and should not take more than 5 minutes to develop before board meeting presentation. Mrs. Christ can remind you to be ready if you ask her to do so!

The statements could express:

a. appreciation
b. gratitude
c. congratulations
d. positive feelings
e. professional respect
f. or whatever is comfortable and upbeat!
Please keep the statements brief and positive.

Dowling hasn't had such a hot reputation among her staff. She was the target of a vain recall attempt last year ( and has a long history of infuriating employees (

Word has it that if Dowling doesn't get the community college gig, she'll run for reelection in November. She recently named Ben Arredondo -- a former Maricopa County supervisor and current Tempe vice mayor -- as her chief deputy, reportedly with the idea of keeping him from running against her.

Short Cuts

Don't blink. You might miss the next session of the Arizona Legislature. Legislative honchos have announced they want a 75-day session -- even shorter than the usual 100-day goal. They say that things should go quickly this year because -- with the first biennial budget passed last year -- there's no money to deal with this year. Au contraire. Along with the $3 billion tobacco tax settlement that needs to be doled out, there's a budget surplus of at least $177 million and multiple requests for supplemental appropriations for everything from schools to health care.

Money aside, there are other issues that must (or at least should) be dealt with this session, like Growing Smarter and air quality. I hear that many matters likely will wind up in the hands of the voters, in the form of initiatives on the November ballot. That's good news; I trust the people much more than our elected officials!

Legislators are eager to get out of the House and Senate and onto the campaign trail. With term limits kicking in, many will be running for new positions in 2000, and they can't raise money from lobbyists while they're in session. Instead of limiting the number of bills a member can introduce, our leaders had a better idea: Two weeks of the session normally devoted to committee hearings have been whacked. The losers? The public. Some hearings apparently will be held before the session starts, but notices have been scant for legislators and nonexistent when it comes to the public. So if you think there's going to be a bill you'd like to weigh in on, call your legislator (you can find him or her at or by calling 602-542-4900) and speak up!

Most legislative sessions bear all the dignity of an episode of South Park, but this one promises to be the worst yet. The John McCain/George W. Bush primary battle will put House Speaker Jeff Groscost (a McCainite) and his minions up against Governor Jane Dee Hull (a Bushie) and hers -- and nothing will get done.

Happy New Year.

Contact Amy Silverman at 602-229-8443 or at her online address: [email protected]

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at